Very Sticky Play and Recycled Sculpture

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It’s near the end of the month, which is when I sort through my craft bin, think about stocking up for the month ahead, and don’t mind getting rid of leftovers. With the end of a roll of contact paper left,  the morning was ripe for some sticky play! We combined a few old favorite ways to play with this material with some fantastic new finds.

First up was a classic “sculpture” on the wall. Veronika loved helping me sort through the craft bin as we filled a tray with leftover odds and ends like yarn, pieces of ribbon, cut up straws, small pom poms, and strips of crepe paper.

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The favorite turned out to be leftover wiggle eyes! ” A little eye!” she said with delight, and she promptly trotted over to stick this on the contact paper.

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To add a little learning, you can talk about all your various materials: textures, size, 3D versus flat ones, etc. If siblings are working together, it can also be a great lesson in collaboration.

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But honestly Veronika was so interested in the wiggle eyes that we didn’t end up with too much decoration on this wall version.

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So next, I taped the final piece of contact paper down to the ground, which is always fun for stepping on. “Sticky feet!” Veronika said.

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Encourage your kids to lie down too, or crawl across it for a novel sensation.

Here’s where the novelty kicked in; we decided to see if stuffed animals could stick and soon had dinosaurs stomping through swamps.

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Hmm, what about toy cars?

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Well now Travis discovered that if he wound up the car tires, they still could move forward on the sticky contact paper… but as slooooowly as a snail.

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This led to an hour of “racing” play. Even I thought it was neat!

Little sister Veronika wanted to add her tractor and bus to the mix.

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When the races were done, we used up all those remaining leftover art supplies. This time, tiny beads were the biggest hit, which the kids sprinkled by the handful over the paper.

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Travis asked for glitter. Oh heck why not, it was already such as mess that I handed it over.

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Travis loved this even more than Veronika!

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Although of course she loved it too. You know you have a happy toddler when they start rolling around in glee.

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And then I folded up their sticky “sculpture” and the mess was gone.

If you do have leftover bits of glitter on the floor, here’s a quick hack: a lint roller gets them up much easier than a dust broom. You’re welcome.

Taco Dinner

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This recipe is perfect for the whole family because it can be adapted to suit everyone’s tastes, from little toddlers to the grown-ups!


  • 1 pound meatless crumbles (such as Gardein)
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar
  • Hard taco shells
  1. To prepare the filling, heat the meatless crumbles and corn in a skillet coated with cooking spray for 8 to 10 minutes, until the crumbles are lightly browned.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the taco spice: in a small bowl, stir together the chili powder, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, cumin, paprika, and salt.
  3. Remove any portion of the filling for family members who don’t want spice (e.g. my kids!). Add the taco spice to the skillet with the rest of the filling.
  4. Warm taco shells according to package directions. Serve with the filling, tomatoes and cheddar shreds.

My 1st grader loves the filling stuffed into taco shells with lots of cheese, but omits the tomato.

Meanwhile I serve a sort of deconstructed version to my toddler with the taco shell broken into “chips”, cheese on the side, and a mixture of crumbles, corn, and tomato on her plate.

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And the grown-ups get spicy tacos with all the fixings!

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Water Play

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We suddenly had a day that was 60 degrees and rainy and felt more like fall than summer. And truth be told, I wasn’t ready for it! What do you do when you suddenly can’t head outside for water play, like you’ve grown accustomed to all summer? Bring the water play in.

I wanted Veronika to play for a while as I worked in the kitchen, so all I did was drag in the baby wading pool from our patio and place it on a towel on the kitchen floor. I added toys from our indoor bath, as opposed to beach toys, which instantly made the pool seem novel. Then it was simply a matter of putting her in a swim diaper and putting her in!

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She was initially hesitant to sit, until I added slightly warmer water.

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Once that was taken care of, she was happily scooping and pouring with cups, and enjoying other bathtub favorites like toy frogs and bath books.

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Next time I think I would add her plastic teapot and teacups, too! This is a great way to pass some time when those rainy days start to feel extra long.

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People Blocks

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Veronika hasn’t shown much interest in her building blocks lately. But you can add novelty to any set of blocks by adding family pictures. Suddenly each block has a name and a face!

I cut up old calendar pictures for this game, but you could also have a set printed cheaply at the drugstore. Cut out faces until they fit on your child’s blocks. I think classic rectangular wooden blocks would have worked best, but the game was fine on our foam blocks.

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I attached one relative’s face per block, using clear contact paper to stick them on, while Veronika was napping. She woke up to discover her family!

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This game was great for building of course, encouraging her to use the blocks for quite some time.

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It was also great for putting names to faces, especially for family members we haven’t seen recently due to coronavirus.

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All that aside, there was a definite silly factor. “It’s the daddy block!” she said, stacking the block with her dad’s face. “It’s the Travis block!”

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Her favorite was of a baby cousin, and she almost lovingly carried around the block for a while, cradling it and giving it the best spot in her creations.

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“Let’s but the baby right here,” she narrated as she played.

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This activity was a great way to make an old toy new again. We might have to try it on something other than blocks soon.

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Colorful Clothespins

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Toddlers often fixate on a category when they first learn it (animals, body parts, a new song, etc), practicing endlessly. And then just as suddenly, they drop it! I noticed that Veronika doesn’t name her colors often anymore, so thought that a quick review might be fun. A bunch of empty coffee canisters were the exact tool I needed!

I originally intended to make three sets of coffee can + matching clothespins in the primary colors of red, yellow, and blue. But I had no blue paint or paper! Instead, I painted two cans (red and yellow), and covered the third in purple construction paper. Either method works fine.

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Then use paint or marker to color craft clothespins (i.e. the kind with no spring) in corresponding colors.

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I gave Veronika a whole jumble of the clothespins the next morning, and first she just wanted to play with them for a while.

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Then I asked her, “Where does your purple clothespin go? Purple goes in the purple can!”

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“Purple in purple!” she said with delight. After that, I really didn’t have to guide her on this; she loved matching the clothespins into the can of the same hue.

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Although of course sometimes there was a rogue yellow in the red, for example.

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I left the cans open, with no lids, so she could easily drop in the clothespins. That kept the focus on the color aspect of the game.

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That said, don’t forget that clothespins and coffee cans are also great for practicing precision (dropping through a hole in the lid) or for honing the pincer grip (if you use spring-type clothespins).

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To remind her of this, we did momentarily place the clothespins around the rim of a paper plate, which then became another fun activity all on its own.

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Chopstick Challenge

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After preparing a meal of homemade sushi, Travis was eager to learn how to use chopsticks. I remember learning this same skill as a child, and how tricky it can be! Here were a few fun games (hint: there’s candy involved) that honed his skills.

First up was simply showing him proper form, with the chopstick wedged between thumb and pointer finger. Then I showed him how to place the second chopstick between thumb and forefinger and to use the middle finger on top like a little lever.

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It was tricky, but he was a good sport about it! For the games that followed, he did revert to a typical first-timer move, pinching the items between two chopsticks with one in each hand instead.

His favorite was Color Sorting because of course we used candy.

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Choose any candy with multiple colors and move them from a jumble into color-sorted piles.

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The reward of course was eating them.

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Next up was a Pick-Up Relay. You can play this as a true competition, moving items from a full bowl to an empty one and seeing who’s fastest, but Travis and I worked as a “team”. He tackled the easy item (mini Dandies marshmallows) and I handled the hard one (marbles – tough even for grown-ups!)

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Then we played a Passing Game. Using chopsticks, we passed a rubber band back and forth. Travis loved this one!

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Finally, we played Chopstick in the Hole. Tie a string to a chopstick and then the other end to a player’s wrist.

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The goal was to lower the chopstick into an empty water bottle. There may, in fact, have been some cheating involved.

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But Travis was still so proud!

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Hummus & Mango Sandwich

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You can introduce new flavors in kid-friendly sandwich form with this fun, easy lunch. It’s a great one for school lunchboxes, if you’ll be packing those up again soon!


  • 2 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 tablespoon hummus
  • Mango slices
  1. Spread the hummus on one of the bread slices. Top evenly with thin mango slices to taste (you’ll probably want about 1/8 cup per sandwich).
  2. Top with the remaining bread slice, and cut into triangles to serve.

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Japanese Edamame

Japanese Edamame

Here’s the perfect quick side dish to complement your next homemade sushi night!


  • 1 (10-oz) bag frozen edamame in the pod
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the edamame and salt, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander.
  2. Heat the sesame oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the edamame and cook for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the soy sauce and cook for a final minute.


Homemade Sushi Rolls

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I didn’t make sushi until I was in my thirties, so needless to say, I was impressed and thankful to Raddish Kids for introducing this recipe to my 6 year old in this month’s Ticket to Tokyo kit. Travis was so proud to receive a bright red sushi mat as this month’s souvenir, and absolutely adored both the making of and eating of this recipe.


  • 2 cups sushi rice
  • 3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 6 sheets nori seaweed
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/2 English cucumber, julienne-cut
  • 1 avocado, julienne-cut
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, julienne-cut
  • 1/2 cup hearts of palm, chopped
  • Soy sauce, for serving
  1. To make the rice, combine the sushi rice and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
  2. Spread the warm rice on a baking sheet. Stir in the rice vinegar with a fork and let sit for about 10 minutes to cool.Homemade Sushi (2)
  3. Meanwhile, prep all the vegetable fillings. Travis loved the mise en place, as well as taste-testing all the veggies! Homemade Sushi (1)
  4. Place a sheet of nori on the sushi mat. Add 1 cup sushi rice, and use moistened fingers to press into an even layer, leaving 1 inch at the top.Homemade Sushi (4)
  5. Select your fillings, then roll the mat up over the nori until the bottom edge meets the rice. Homemade Sushi (5)
  6. Tightly roll up by hand, then roll the mat over the completed sushi roll one last time to squeeze it tightly into a cylinder. Cut into slices, and repeat with additional nori, rice, and fillings.Homemade Sushi (6)
  7. Serve with soy sauce on the side for dipping!

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The recipe card featured fun extra tidbits, including various types of sushi and sights to visit in Tokyo. To complete the immersive experience, we listened to a playlist of Japanese music as we cooked!

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Even little sister Veronika was eager to try out chopsticks, and devoured this recipe.

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Fly Swatter Painting

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This art project is messy, so you’re going to want to take it outside. But I can happily report that it’s worth the effort!

I placed a long sheet of craft paper on our back patio, securing the corners with heavy rocks so it wouldn’t blow away. (As an alternative, you could clip craft paper to a fence or other outdoor surface that is upright).

Then I set out a tray with several different colors of metallic craft paint. You’ll need a nice puddle of paint for this project to work well, so don’t worry if the colors mix together.

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I dipped our fly swatter in the paint, making sure to coat it evenly, then showed Veronika how to say “Whap!” and slap it down hard on the craft paper.

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Well of course now “Whap!” was the most fun thing in the world to say.

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Dip and whap, dip and whap, dip and whsp.

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She loved every bit of this project, both dipping the fly swatter in paint, and seeing the marks she made.

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She wanted to whack the fly swatter against the rocks, too!

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Her little feet paraded all around the craft paper, making sure she covered her big canvas.

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As a bonus, our fly swatter happens to be flower-shaped, so it made beautiful prints!

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This project likely won’t get you a lasting work of art. But Veronika sure loved the process!

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