God’s-Eye Key Chains

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The god’s eye symbol is a traditional votive object from Mexico. But minus the religious symbolism, the pattern is an excellent early weaving technique for grade schoolers, and a classic camp-style craft for a morning here at Camp Mom.

To start, I hot-glued pairs of toothpicks together so they crossed in the middle, and made several sets so we could weave multiple key chains. You can use regular glue if you prefer, but if so you may want to do it the night before so the glue is dry by morning.

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I showed Travis how to wrap yarn around the center to secure, then to start weaving around the toothpicks in a circle, wrapping the yarn around each toothpick before moving on to the next. The mechanics of this were a bit complicated for him, but I was so proud that he stuck with it in his own way.

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“Look, I’m wrapping!” he declared. When he had achieved the look he wanted, he decided it was finished.

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Meanwhile, I wrapped one in a more exact fashion to achieve the god’s eye look.

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You can then finish these with fun details, whether pom poms or beads. My craft bin is low on supplies but I had a few wooden beads which looked lovely glued to each toothpick point. Be sure to thread one of the beads through a final piece of yarn (use a needle, if needed), and tie this yarn securely to a key ring.

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These key chains would also make excellent gifts!

Limeade Sorbet

Limeade Sorbet

This sorbet needs just two ingredients and it’s perfect on a hot day. For a little variation, you can add fresh grated ginger to the mix, too.

Ingredients:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups limeade
  • 3/4 cup frozen green grapes
  1. Combine the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.
  2. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze. Every 2 to 3 hours, fluff the mixture with a fork, and repeat until ready to serve.

Colored Ice Cube Bath

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Veronika has loved playing with ice this summer, so tonight we brought the fun inside. If she thought ice melted fast on the patio, just wait until she saw how fast it would melt in the warm bath tub!

To make everything more fun (plus more obvious visually), I froze water in the compartments of an ice cube tray with a little food coloring added to each. Dark colors like reds and blues will work better here than soft yellow.

Once Veronika was in the tub, I popped out the ice cubes one at a time. Be prepared for fast action, because that ice isn’t going to last long!

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She loved watching the food coloring swirl out into the tub as the ice melted almost instantly. She also enjoyed taking the cubes from my hand, a momentary shocking sensation of cold.

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When we had about half the ice cube tray left, I dumped them all in at once for a grand finale. This game was – obviously! – quick, but made for a joyful end to a hot day.

Patio Fun with Water

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Veronika has played with various kitchen utensils to keep busy in the past, but today we added a few twists to this classic toddler activity.

The first change was that we moved the whole game outside. I laid a towel on the patio and filled a large kitchen bowl with water, then added measuring cups, a whisk, a pastry brush, measuring spoons, and a few sieves.

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The sieves were great for pouring water into and instantly watching the water trickle back out!

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The other big novelty here was adding a funnel. I showed Veronika how we could place a funnel over an empty sparkling water bottle and fill it, then watch the water trickle down. She concentrated so hard on reaching way up with a measuring cup to fill the funnel.

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Then she loved dumping the water bottle out!

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She also enjoyed brushing water onto a strainer with a pastry brush.

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Whisks were fun to swish in the bowl.

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And of course there was the obvious appeal of pouring water right onto her skin, since the morning was already hot. Knowing this would be tempting, I’d dressed her in a bathing suit, so you might want to do the same!

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At the end when we had a big puddle of water on the patio, it was time for a splashy puddle dance.

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Garage Raid Obstacle Course

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If your kids need to get out some quick energy, look no further than your garage for inspiration. Old sports equipment, old toys, or anything else that will promote gross motor skills is perfect for this activity.

To wit, we pulled out Travis’s old scooter, an old play tunnel, leftover pool noodles, bouncy balls, a cornhole backboard, and a Frisbee. I arranged them in such a way that the items could be moved through as an obstacle course, then challenged Travis to the following:

Ride the scooter up to the tunnel.

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Whack the ball through the tunnel with the pool noodle, then follow it to the other side.

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Once through, toss the Frisbee at the cornhole backboard.

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The reward was bubbles! Travis loved popping them with the pool noodles.

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Little sister wanted to work her way through the course, too!

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We were glad we got out in the morning sunshine for this one.

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Sixth Birthday Party: Star Wars

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I was unsure if we’d be able to throw a birthday party for Travis this year, in the era of Covid-19. Luckily things in our state have reached a place where it was safe to invite a few close friends and hold a largely outdoor party. I was thrilled we could make this happen, not least because of all the parties I’ve planned, this was by far the most fun. Even grown-ups can geek out to Star Wars!

Of course things all start with the invitation. For a boy who loves the Dark Side, there was no doubt that this invite had to feature Darth Vader. We found the perfect template on Etsy.

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Next we needed our intergalactic outfits. The birthday boy had a t-shirt from the new ‘Mandalorian’. A Baby Yoda print dress was just right for little sister. Meanwhile I decided to avoid the obvious route (cough: Leia buns) and be the whole galaxy instead, in a dress also from Etsy.

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Dad’s shirt even featured Boba Fett!

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Decorations were easy because Star Wars spans entire aisles of party stores. We had black and silver balloons, and a franchise tablecloth and plates.

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For lightsaber napkins, I purchased a downloadable template (also Etsy). Wrap these around blue and red napkins as lightsaber hilts!

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We had so much fun using Travis’s collection of Star Wars toys among the decor. Taller action figures held the balloons, while smaller ones dotted the empty spaces on the table.

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The biggest expense for the whole party was a printed backdrop (again from Etsy), with the Death Star and Travis’s name. This was perfect for photo ops for each guest in front of the evil empire!

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Star Wars also lends itself to lots of fun with food. For a late afternoon party, we served only light snacks (which was also much easier to manage while adhering to social distancing). We included Jabba Juice…

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Boba Fruit…

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and “Chew”bacca Candy

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For dessert, we served chocolate cupcakes from Rubicon Bakery (available at Whole Foods), in Dark Side dark chocolate of course. I also baked Darth Vader cookies using this recipe. You’ll need to invest in a Vader cookie cutter for this one, but if your kids love Star Wars as much as mine, you’ll get ample use out of it.

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Now on to the games!  When the guests arrived, I welcomed them seriously to Jedi training academy. Each guest colored in a cardboard tube with markers for a light saber.

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Oh no, they were under attack! I had invested in a bubble machine and it was time to pop those bubbles, er, buzz droids.

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I then handed each guest a super battle droid (a.k.a. a balloon inflated with air, not helium) with the goal to keep it afloat with their lightsaber. Now that their training was complete, it was time to hit the Death Star.

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This homemade cornhole was thanks to an artistic set of grandparents! See Darth Vader peeking over the top?

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Next, for the perfect, socially-distanced version of tag, the kids played Jedi splash tag. To play, give one player a spritz bottle. He or she is the Jedi. The rest of the guests are Sith. Stand in the center of the playing area and have an adult say, “May the Force be with you!”. The kids scatter and the Jedi tries to spritz the others. Last player to get wet is the winner!

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We headed inside for refreshments and more games. You can download Star Wars bingo cards for free and then print with vivid colors on thick cardstock at a local print shop.

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Then it was Pin-the-Ears-on-Yoda! Again, many thanks to grandma for this one, with ears cut from green cardstock.

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Winners of the games received a Mandalorian coloring book.

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Don’t let guests leave without their Star Wars goodie bags. We used 16 oz kids’ cups as the packaging, and included Star Wars Pez dispensers, franchise stickers, additional “chew”bacca candies, and an inflatable lightsaber.

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Now may the Force be with you!

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Puppet Pop-Up and Theater

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Puppet play is always fun for a toddler, but here are two ways to specifically involve an older sibling in the action!

For the first game of the day, we made a proper puppet theater. Decorate the outside of a large box, big enough that an older sibling can crawl inside. After the kids were done coloring with markers, I cut a large “window” in one side.

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Veronika wanted to be the first one inside with our set of puppets! She loved that it was like a little house.

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It was fun to trot the puppets along the ‘roof’!

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It only got better once I hot-glued fabric along either side of the window as curtains. Now she could peak through with delight.

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Then it was big brother Travis’s turn to crawl in and put a puppet on his hand… for a real show! Veronika delighted in seeing the puppets perform.

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Plus she loved peeking inside the box to see what Travis was up to!

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For a simpler version, you can nix the big box and just play puppet pop-up at the highchair. Because kids can’t see over the rim of their highchair tray, it’s the perfect spot for a game like this.

Simply have a big sibling (or grown-up) hold a puppet just below the tray.

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Then pop up for a performance. Hello!

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This one is sure to elicit giggles every time.

Watermelon Agua Fresca

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A water-based drink was the perfect bonus recipe for Travis’s Edible Elementskit from Raddish Kids, and that’s exactly what agua fresca (“fresh water”) is; a refreshing blend of water and fruit.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 mini watermelon
  • 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup water
  1. Cut the watermelon into cubes and discard the rind.
  2. Add the watermelon to a blender. Cut the lime in half and juice; add to the blender.
  3. Add the sugar and water, then puree until smooth.
  4. Serve over ice!

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Animal Sort

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Veronika loves playing with her stuffed animals (a favorite lately has been simply to climb in the crib with every single “stuffie” and have a blast in there). Today when we pulled out the stuffies, I decided to make it a little educational, too.

I encouraged Veronika to make two piles. Could she divide the animals into big and small? The idea of sorting is still tough for a 20-month-old, but she can identify whether a single stuffed animal is big or small.

So I started the two piles for her as an example, and then held the others up one at a time. “Where should this one go?” I asked her. “Is he big, or small?”

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She made a little effort at this, but she was honestly more interested in making the sounds of each animal – hoots for owls, growls for bears, etc. So we decided to sort them differently: loud animals versus soft ones! Again I had to help with much of the sorting, but it was fun to make the noises for each animal as our piles grew larger.

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Older toddlers and preschoolers will love this to, and maybe think of other ways to sort the animals. And of course, you’ll have a giant pile of stuffed animals to play in at the end.

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Pool-Noodle Hockey

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We needed to get outside at “Camp Mom” this morning, and I knew just the silly summer sport for the kids. Pool noodles for hockey sticks and a giant blown-up beach ball for the puck made the perfect summer props to play an outdoor version of hockey.

Simply set up orange cones as the goal markers and then divide into teams. (In our case, it was Travis versus mommy and little sister).

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Then take turns whacking the beach ball down the field toward your opponent’s goal. First team to 10 points wins!

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Or you don’t even have to keep score. Kids will no doubt just have fun with the mechanics of chasing the beach ball around with the pool noodle, which is sure to elicit delight.

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