Music Crate

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I was thrilled when I spotted our latest Koala Crate – a music-themed kit awaited us! Music is Travis’s favorite thing in the world, so I knew this one was sure to be a hit.

As always with Koala Crate, you can recreate most of the crafts below after a trip to your local craft store.

The first project was a make-it-yourself xylophone, made from a cardboard box, elastics, and wooden slats. There were some interesting learning components to explore as we put together the xylophone; for example, first he had to arrange the wooden pieces from longest to shortest.

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Each wooden slat then needed to receive a color-coded dot from the provided dot stamps, which would become its “note.” This was a bit of a hard concept for a three-year-old, who simply wanted to dot his stamps all over the wooden pieces any which way. So it became a good lesson in restraint!

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Threading the four xylophone pieces through the rubber bands required grown up hands, but Travis loved the end result.

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“You sing and I play!” he instructed me, and was off and running with games pretending to be a music teacher. I was pleased with the sound, very similar to a marimba or other African wooden xylophone.

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Now it was time to compose our own song with the provided “musical composition” sheets. By filling in each circle on the sheet with a dot stamp, kids can play a tune in order on their xylophone. All this was a bit beyond Travis’s interest – he simply had fun composing a “song” that was nearly all blue…

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And testing out how the stamps looked on his arm…

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Luckily the kit came with two blank sheets, so I made one with a pattern Travis would later be able to play.

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In a neat twist, you can also remove the four wooden slats any time, reposition the elastics, and turn this toy into a “guitar.”

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Next up was a homemade tambourine. The kit came with a cardboard (koala-shaped, very cute) tambourine base, bells, and elastic thread. Travis easily did his best threading yet as we pulled the elastic through a hole, added a bell, then looped back down again.

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This one was quick and easy, and enjoyable to shake along to a beat.

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The final project gave Travis a chance to go wild with the dot stamps as he’d hoped to do on the wooden xylophone pieces. Simply dot all over the provided ribbon fabric, then let dry.

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Once the stamps were dry, I looped the ribbon onto a wooden mallet and it was now a musical prop to wave around.

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We had fun exploring tempo (fast and slow), wiggling the ribbon like a snake, holding it overhead like a rainbow, and more.

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We couldn’t stop there, of course. The kit came with a suggestion for one final DIY instrument – a drum upcycled from a soup can! We decided to make two sizes of drums, so painted both the soup can and an empty oatmeal container.

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Once the paint dries, snip the narrow necks from balloons, and stretch the wide part of a balloon over each container as the drum skin. Secure the balloon with masking tape. We covered a piece of construction paper with the dot stamps and added that to the middle of our drums as decoration.

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Now it was time for a drum circle!

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Or a drum stack?

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Needless to say, a huge hit – pun intended!

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As a final note, it’s fun to watch Travis’s brain grow with this subscription. This was the first month in which he was interested in the games in our Imagine magazine, following along maze trails with his finger and more. One storyline in the magazine even prompted us to test a water glass xylophone!

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I love watching this boy grow, and love the ways in which Koala helps us do it!

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Help the Helpers

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Kids love the iconic figures who can be found around every town – policemen, fire fighters, mailmen – even librarians! But how often do we think to give back to these community helpers? Instead of just watching their neat vehicles go by or talking about what they do, here’s a simple idea for giving back to your community.

Now felt like the perfect time for us to do this activity, since we’re in a new town and could introduce ourselves. But whether you’ve lived in your town for ten days or ten years, there’s never a bad time to get to know local police and other helpers.

So to start, bake a batch of brownies (full disclosure: we simply used a packaged mix!) then stop by your nearest fire station, police station, post office, or library – whichever one your child likes best.

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Making the brownies in the morning got the fun started. Whether you’re using a mix or brownies from scratch, invite the kids to pour and stir!

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We wrapped the brownies in foil and added a card that Travis had decorated with crayon before heading off to the station!

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The fireman who let us in looked pleasantly bemused that we showed up bearing brownies, but happily accepted them into the kitchen. I thought perhaps we’d get a glimpse at the trucks on the way out, but Travis didn’t waste any time asking if he could sit inside them – and he was not disappointed!

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Firefighter Luke took him into every vehicle in the station before our time there ended, and let Travis look at equipment I never even knew existed.

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It was a beautiful and private behind-the-scenes peek, all for giving back a little.

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What community helpers would your child enjoying visiting the most? Please share in the comments!

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Tofu and Bell Pepper Fajitas

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We adapted this recipe from a Family Fun version with shrimp as the protein – an easy vegan swap!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 red bell peppers, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu, cubed
  • 1/2 lime
  • 6 small flour tortillas
  • 1 avocado
  • Non-dairy sour cream
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, cumin, and chili powder; saute for 5 minutes. Add the bell pepper and saute for an additional 6 minutes, until the peppers are soft; transfer the mixture to a bowl.
  2. Heat the remaining tablespoon oil in the pan. Add the tofu and juice from half a lime. Cook for a final 6 minutes.
  3. Warm the tortillas according to package directions, and top each with about 1/2 cup tofu mixture. Slice the avocado and divide the slices evenly among the servings. Top with non-dairy sour cream if desired!