Dinosaur Dig Sandbox

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Yesterday the kids were construction workers in the sand, today they were archaeologists on a dig!

For this version of an at-home sandbox, I added a few new elements to a big storage bin already filled with sand and small pebbles from outside. I added dried black beans for texture (perhaps these were fossils, or chunks of cooled lava from the dinosaurs demise!). Then I buried plastic dinosaur toys. You could also use plastic dinosaur skulls or bones, if you have toy parts like this.

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Finally, for my budding paleontologists, I added paint brushes to gently brush away the sand from their finds, and a magnifying glass.

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Both my kids loved it, each in their age-appropriate way! Veronika just loved all the sensory elements, including running the paintbrush through the sand.

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She also enjoyed the dinosaurs for play, roaring and marching them through the sand.

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“Ooh! Dinosaur!” she said, peering through the magnifying glass.

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Big brother Travis understood the imaginative element of being on a “dig” much better.

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He loved carefully using the paintbrush’s bristles to unearth dinosaurs, then named them (“This is the badabasaurus”) before moving them over to a “museum” on the side.

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The sandbox bin kept them entertained for ages!

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Cover your storage bin with the lid when you’re done and it’s ready to pull out soon for more adventures.

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Sunflower Seed Butter Cookies

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With a leftover jar of sunflower seed butter in the pantry, I threw together these protein-packed cookies.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 cup sunflower seed butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking powder. Add the sunflower seed butter, canola oil, brown sugar, and maple syrup.
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.
  4. Drop the dough by spoonfuls onto baking sheets, 12 cookies per sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 12 minutes.

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Leaf Masks

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If your toddler has recently collected leaves on a nature walk, here’s a simple way to turn them into a costume for make-believe: make a leaf mask!

I cut a paper plate in half and held it up to Veronika’s face so I could mark the location of her eyes and nose.

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Cut out eye holes, then snip two sides of a triangle where the nose is (this will help it sit better on your child’s face). Next, Veronika helped glue down the leaves we had collected. She loved painting on the glue with a paint brush while I arranged the leaves in overlapping rows as best I could. If you prefer less mess, you can attach the leaves with tape, too.

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Once the glue dried, I punched a hole on each side, and added string.

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Tie around your child’s face and let their imagination do the work from here! Veronika immediately began humming Darth Vader’s theme song and doing his deep raspy breathing.

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Clearly this was a Star Wars mask in her view! But perhaps your toddler will pretend to be a woodland fairy, or a tree, or anything else that fires up the imagination.

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One way or another, this is a beautiful way to tie together a nature walk with a little bit of arts and crafts.

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Air Science

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Having recently prepared a recipe reliant on air to cook (a.k.a. a recipe that needs a leavener), today Travis played around with two different kinds of leaveners to see which worked its magic faster.

In one empty water bottle, combine 1 cup warm water, 1 packet active yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Put on the lid and shake, then remove the lid and place an uninflated balloon over the opening. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, fill a second empty water bottle with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup baking soda. Add a balloon as fast as you can over the top of the bottle; it will immediately inflate with air.

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This was fantastic fun for Travis, since the second bottle will be exploding a volcano of vinegar as you attach the balloon.

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The results were immediately obvious; baking soda acts much faster than yeast. In fact, our yeast balloon took longer than the 20 minutes we had set on the timer, but after about an hour the balloon was beginning to inflate.

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I explained to Travis that this was part of the difference between a slow (yeast) bread and a quick bread (like banana bread), which comes together must faster. Now he understood why!

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Stayed tuned for more elemental food science soon!

Paint Chip Scavenger Hunt

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We’ve played with paint chips outside on color hunts outside, but never used them inside before! This activity was a great one to pull out today the second that Travis declared, “I’m bored!”

I told him I had a hunt for him since we’ve been learning about pirates and treasure hunts lately. I have a pile of paint chips from the hardware store, so I punched holes in the corner of each and secured five together with a rubber band. Could he find an exact match for each of the five?

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Some were easy, and he proudly held up his sample right away. Ta da!

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Some I challenged him when the color didn’t seem close enough. Was that really the right shade of red? He hunted on until he had it right.

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When he’d finished the first five, he immediately wanted another 5-pack of colors!

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I gave him trickier shades this time.

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We really had to ponder when it came to a certain pink.

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But wouldn’t you know, when he placed his final chip down on the table at the end, he looked over at his plate and it was a perfect match!

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We’ll definitely play more rounds of this game in the future. You can also make it a race to see who finishes their 5-pack first, if two or more kids are playing.

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