White Chocolate Fudge

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This creamy treat is a great alternative to dark chocolate fudge. Online hubs like veganessentials.com sell vegan white chocolate chips from companies like Pascha Organic. Or simple chop up a non-dairy white chocolate bar, available from numerous companies!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  • 3 cups non-dairy white chocolate chips
  • 1 (11-oz) can sweetened condensed coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Rainbow sprinkles
  1. Combine the butter, chocolate chips, coconut milk, and vanilla in a heat-safe bowl.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil and set the bowl on top to make a double-boiler. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the chocolate is melted.
  3. Spoon the mixture into an 8-inch square baking pan lined with foil. Press the sprinkles into the top and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

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The fudge wasn’t quite as set as we hoped, but the creamy gooey taste still got a big thumbs up!

 

Spinach Tomato Scramble

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Make this hearty tofu scramble for breakfast or dinner. Either way it’s a crowd-pleaser!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1 pound) package firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup frozen spinach, thawed
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomato
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya mozzarella
  1. Combine the tofu and milk n a bowl and mash with a fork until the mixture looks like scrambled eggs.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the tofu mixture and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes, until the liquid has mostly evaporated.
  3. Stir in the spinach, tomatoes, and cheese, and cook a final few minutes until heated through.

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For variation, you can use 1/2 cup mild salsa in place of the fresh tomatoes. You can also substitute collard greens or kale for the spinach.

Go to a Boat Show

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It’s been quite a while since we did a “field trip” with Veronika, but today we had the opportunity to take her to her first boat show!

Don’t shy away from crowded places like these with a toddler in tow. My best advice: bring a small stroller, not the bulkier kind that goes with a travel system. This allows for storage of diaper bags and lunch bags and coats without making it tough to navigate the crowds. Then hit the show! Just the vantage point from above was exciting.

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Once inside the show, there is so much about boats for little hands to love. Wheels to turn and buttons to press..

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…soft seats to scamper over, and hidden berths below decks to explore.

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Pontoon-style boats were a favorite; from a parent’s point of view, these are great because there are no tricky stairs or ladders to navigate.

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Boat shows often feature hands-on activities for kids, too. Veronika loved watching the older children splashing in kids-only paddle boats!

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Next she got to paint a wooden boat to take home.

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In sum, the event was a splash!

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Not Your Average Paper Clock

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It may be true that analog clocks are gong the way of cursive writing and the dodo bird, but I still hope to teach Travis the valuable skill of telling analog time. This paper plate clock is the best way I’ve found yet to visualize hours and minutes!

Most of the prep is grown-up work. If you have two different colored paper plates, simply use those, one atop the other. I solved the problem of having only white plates by coloring the rims with crayon, yellow for the hours and orange for the minutes.

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Hot glue the hour plate on top of the minute plate, making sure to glue only the center of the plates, not the rims.

Number the hours, and then cut the rims of the plate so each hour becomes a flap. You might want to make sure you’re numbering at more even intervals than I did in a hurry – whoops!

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Now lift back each hour flap and write the corresponding minute on the bottom plate. I cut out two hands in corresponding colors of cardstock, yellow for the hour and orange for the minute. Insert these into the center of the clock and attach with a brad.

It was time for a time telling lesson!

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Travis loved how intuitive this clock was! First we practiced skip counting by fives, just to familiarize him with how the minutes would read around the bottom rim.

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Then we had a few practice rounds. Once he latched on to how the yellow hand lined up with the yellow plate and orange with orange, he could answer almost any “pop quiz” I gave him.

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At various points throughout the day, I asked him to read our analog clock on the wall.

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“1, 10,” he said, but I reminded him: “Lift up the 10 and see what’s underneath!”

Aha! “1:50,” he said proudly. I can see how this will be an incredibly useful teaching tool.

 

Love Latte

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This pink-tinged kid-friendly take on a grown-up treat is sure to have your littlest Valentines smiling this Valentine’s Day! It’s the perfect way to warm up after school.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups almond milk
  • 3/4 cup non-dairy white chocolate chips
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 to 8 drops red food coloring
  1. Combine the milk and chocolate chips in a saucepan; cook over medium-low heat until the chocolate chips melt.
  2. Stir in the vanilla and enough red food coloring drops to tint the mixture pink.
  3. Pour into mugs, or clear glasses for a pretty presentation.

My kids aren’t a fan of it, but top with non-dairy whipped cream if desired!

 

Ball in Balloon

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Take your toddler’s balloon play to the next level with one single addition: rubber golf balls! These small bouncy balls will make the balloons move in unexepected ways, delighting your little one with a new surprise at each moment.

First, I showed Veronika the two materials we needed. I stretched out the balloon necks dramatically (which will help the balls fit inside) and bounced the balls a few times, in order to set up the playful moment.

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Next, I inserted one ball into each balloon.

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See-through balloons might have had a better effect so she could actually see them rolling around inside, but opaque balloons were still enjoyable! First I shook it, so Veronika could hear the ball inside.

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Then I tossed it forward. Instead of floating gently as she might have expected, it wibble-wobbled back and forth and came to the ground quickly.

She needed to hug them…

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…bounce them…

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…chase them…

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… and hold them by the tied-off knot to shake them. What a great morning of balloon fun!

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Vikings

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A lesson that came with Travis’s Swedish recipes from Raddish Kids aimed to debunk stereotypes about the Vikings, and to help kids understand stereotypes in general. Travis knows next to nothing about the Vikings, so the lesson was a bit lost on him! Still, I tailored the lesson plan for my kindergartner, and here’s what he learned:

Start out with a question, asking your kids what comes to mind when they think of the Vikings. Your kids might draw this, or write about it, or act it out. Travis listed a few ideas, based solely on his knowledge of Thor in the Avengers cartoons.

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I praised his observations, but told him that today we were going to look beyond the stereotypes, which we defined as “a fixed belief about a particular group of people”. It was time to find out more!

He listened attentively to a few library books, including National Geographic’s Everything Vikings and What a Viking! by Mick Manning. We then watched an informative 10 minute clip with lots of details and a fun quiz.

Travis could see now that there was more to the Vikings than the warrior stereotype, though to be fair this was still his favorite aspect of the culture! We looked at a map to trace some of the routes the Vikings took.

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Now it was time to create a Job Positing for a Viking using his new knowledge. Because Travis loves to color, I gave him two computer images and asked him to pinpoint which was the stereotype. He was correct, although this horned-helmeted version was the one he preferred to color for his ad!

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Still, now his job posting included other aspects, like needing to be a farmer and shipbuilder. There is lots within the lesson plan, too, about the role of women and children, and a provided worksheet for older kids to jot down new vocabulary they have learned. If your kids are into it, continue the lesson further have them research Viking Runes, too!

 

Chocolate Valentine’s Fruit

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For Valentine’s Day this year, I treated the kids (and husband!) to decadent chocolate-dipped fruit. You can make these easy treats with the kids as a project, or without them as a sweet surprise!

Chocolate Banana Bites

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Ingredients:

  • 2 bananas
  • 1 and 1/2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • Shredded coconut
  1. Peel the bananas and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the chocolate chips and canola oil in a bowl; microwave at 30 second intervals until smooth and melted (about 1 and 1/2 minutes total).
  3. Use a fork to dip each banana slice in the chocolate, and then dip into the coconut. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Freeze for 6 hours.

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries

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Ingredients:

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 and 1/2 cups non-dairy chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • White sprinkles
  1. Cut the tops from the strawberries and set aside.
  2. Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl at 30 second intervals, until smooth (about 1 and 1/2 minutes total). Stir in the canola oil.
  3. Use a skewer or fork to dip each strawberry in the chocolate. Let the excess drip off, then dip into the sprinkles. You can also use red or pink sprinkles, in place of the white!
  4. Transfer to a plate lined with parchment paper to dry.

Which version did your little Valentine’s like best? Please share in the comments!

 

 

Mix ‘n’ Squish Heart Sensory Bags

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Here’s a Valentine’s heart activity that even the youngest toddlers can enjoy without making a mess These hearts get “painted” inside a zip-top bagQ

There’s a little color mixing lesson thrown in, too, and although toddlers won’t yet grasp the difference between primary and secondary colors, kids are never too young to marvel at how yellow and blue make green, red and blue make purple etc.

I drew a heart with sharpie on each of three snack-sized zip-top bags. These were the perfect size for little hands, although you could make a large version in gallon-sized zip-top bags.

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Carefully squeeze two primary colors of paint into each heart. We had one each of the follow:

  • red + yellow
  • yellow+ blue
  • blue + red

Aim to line these up so that each color fills half the heart. Now it was up to Veronika! She immediately loved squishing the bags in her hands.

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She most likely didn’t notice the “hearts” she was filling in, but she clearly delighted in the texture and colors.

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When she tired of the beautiful green she made, it was time to make purple!

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The red and yellow squished together and resulted in a pretty peach for her to see.

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In sum, it’s safe to say that Veronika loved this little Valentine’s Day activity.

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Blowing Games

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Teaching your child to blow helps strengthen the lips and tongue which in turn helps with language and speech. Although Veronika was on the young side for the activities we did today, it was nice to lay a foundation for these oral-motor skills.

First, I used a toy horn to give a few short toot toots! The immediate response was giggles of course.

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Then it was her turn to try. She lifted the horn to her mouth, and although she couldn’t produce a sound, she gave a little puff of air. She was definitely trying!

Next up: party blowers! Leftover ones from birthday parties make for fantastic blowing practice.

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I showed her to make one pop open, a delight both visually and audibly. Again, there were lots of little huffs of imitation.

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Get silly and blow one against your toddler’s tummy for some ticklish fun.

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Of course the most classic game of all to teach blowing is just to pull out the bubbles. Instead of blowing them yourself, encourage your toddler to dip the wand and then huff.

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At fifteen months Veronika isn’t quite there yet, but these blowing games were all about exploration.

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When did your child learn to blow a horn or party blower? Please share in the comments!