Rocks-to-Gems Treasure Hunt

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Here’s a fun at-home camp activity, if your kids can’t get to real camp this summer! It starts as an art project, and ends with a hunt outside.

To start, we gathered lots of tiny rocks, and then used shiny metallic paints to turn them into gems. Because Travis doesn’t love to get his fingers messy, the painting did end up being mostly a mommy step. But he loved the shiny blues and greens and purples we had as a result.

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While he was distracted, I hid clusters of the “gems” around the yard.

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Little sister Veronika was my accomplice to hide them! Then it was time for a treasure hunt.

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Veronika is of course too young to get in on the hunt in a truly competitive way, but if you’re playing this game with more than one big kid, you can assign point values for different colors, and make it a true competition.

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Travis, meanwhile, enjoyed the hunt and the satisfaction of finding all the sparkling “gems” and bringing his treasure home.

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These were so pretty we decided to leave one out as a lucky find for a neighbor!

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Tape Collage

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If your toddler is at all like Veronika, then he or she loves tape. Sticking it onto things, making roads from it, you name it. The only problem? She gets impatient waiting for me to tear off a new piece for her!

Today, to head off the problem, I made her a tape holder of her very own. I used an empty frozen juice can, which are nice for kids because they have no sharp edges. Any similar can or container would work fine. I stuck pieces of colorful tape all around the rim, using tape with different textures, such as washi tape in several colors, masking tape, and duct tape.

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Then I gave Veronika her new tape dispenser and a piece of construction paper, and it was time to create.

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She looked so pleased that she could pull the pieces off solo! Occasionally she still needed a little grown-up rescue when a piece of tape get stuck on her fingers.

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She concentrated hard on where each strip of tape should go on her paper, and then she jumped up and declared, “Markers!” I love that she had decided all her on her own what her artwork needed next.

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A little blue marker and her masterpiece was finished.

Mango Cole Slaw

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Mango adds a fun tropical note to this summery side dish. If your kids are older, you can prepare it raw like a traditional coleslaw. I like to cook the cabbage mixture first, though, so it’s easier for my toddler to chew. For an added nutrition boost, stir in chopped collard greens, too.


  • 5 cups packaged coleslaw mix
  • 1/4 cup chopped red onion
  • 3 cups chopped mango
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon agave nectar
  1. Heat a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add the coleslaw mix and red onion; cook for about 10 minutes, until tender. If desired, add the mango in the last 5 minutes of cooking.
  2. Combine the coleslaw mixture with the remaining ingredients in a large bowl, tossing to coat. Chill until ready to serve.

Mango Coleslaw

Tissue Paper Collage

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You won’t get a lasting piece of artwork with this toddler project, but you will introduce your little one to interesting materials and novel methods of making art!

First, lay a long sheet of aluminum foil down on the ground. This immediately caught Veronika’s attention, and she wanted to walk across the shiny sleek surface.

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Then I gave her a little cup filled with oil. Baby oil would work well, or any neutral kitchen oil like canola. I showed her how to use a paint brush to smear this on the foil.

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I started tearing bits of tissue paper for her (although your toddler might prefer to tear these him- or herself!), and showed her how it instantly stuck to the oil on the aluminum.

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She liked sticking them down and picking them back up again, and looking at the smears of oil left behind.

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Trial and error showed that flat pieces of tissue paper adhered to the foil much better than crumpled pieces, although the crumples did add fun texture.

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She also loved dropping bits of the crumpled tissue in her cup of oil and stirring them around!

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In sum, there was lots to like about this one, both in terms of texture and creativity.

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