Sticky Foam Birthday Cake

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Veronika turns two years old tomorrow! To get in the mood for all things birthday, we made a giant cake on the wall today… from paper and foam stickers that is.

This is a fun way to engage siblings in celebrating a younger child. I cut a large square of craft paper and taped it to the wall, then invited everyone to add stickers. We had a huge bin of foam ones in heart and flower shapes.

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Veronika liked the littlest foam stickers best, and placed them all over the paper in a haphazard way.

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Big brother Travis loved proudly adding a piece here and there. If you’re doing this activity for a preschooler’s birthday, it would be the perfect opportunity to practice early patterning.

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I attempted to make stripes across the paper like “frosting”, although of course I knew not all of the rows would be neat and even.

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Once our cake was “frosted”, I added candles made from construction paper. Two candles for my two-year-old!

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Note: If you have foam craft shapes that aren’t stickers, you can do this activity right on the window. Just brush with water and they’ll stick. But definitely don’t use the window if you have sticky ones, or clean-up will be more than you bargained for

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Halloween Countdown Day 28: Watch a (Sorta) Spooky Movie

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No matter what your kids’ favorite cartoon or show is, chances are there’s a Halloween special to go along with it. These seasonal episodes are fantastic for kids because they tend to be a little bit spooky, but tame enough for even toddlers to handle. That means the whole family can enjoy the fun!

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Here’s a roundup of what Travis and Veronika have watched this month:

Wild Kratt’s: Creepy Creatures

If you Give a Mouse a Pumpkin

Daniel Tiger: Dress Up Day

Ready Jet Go: Jet’s First Halloween

Word Girl: Tricks and Treats

Peg + Cat: The Halloween Problem

The grand finale was the most classic of all, cuddled up on the couch for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

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Other ideas, though we didn’t watch them, include a spooky Paw Patrol (try Pups and the Ghost Pirate) or Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat.

Meamwhile, if you need the perfect snack during all those scary episodes, it turns out that October is (no surprise) National Popcorn Poppin’ Month!

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In celebration, we tested out 5 new popcorn toppings over the course of our viewings:

Melted Chocolate

Ranch Dressing

Vegan Parmesan sprinkles

Taco Seasoning

Cinnamon-Sugar

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The verdict: Taco seasoning was too spicy for everyone; Veronika liked melted chocolate best; and Travis preferred plain old melted (vegan!) butter.

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Fall Hair Gel Sun Catchers

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I wanted to make a couple of orange sensory bags for Veronika this morning, with Halloween and autumn in full swing, only to realize I didn’t have any orange food coloring! I didn’t have yellow, either, which meant I couldn’t even mix red and yellow to make orange.

On a whim I decided to see if I could dye things the old-fashioned way (spices!) and there was orange turmeric in the spice rack. The result wasn’t perfect, but adding the spice turned out to be half the fun.

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I squirted a generous amount of clear hair gel into each of two small zip-top bags to start. In the first, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and mushed around until it was orange. Veronika loved the smell of the turmeric, and wanted to help measure out the spoonful!

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Then I added orange leaves we’d brought home from the playground yesterday. The turmeric did make the bag slightly cloudy and hard to see the leaves, but it worked fine if in direct sunlight.

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For the second version, I drew jack o’ lantern features directly on the plastic bag with a black sharpie. Again I added 1 teaspoon turmeric, along with 1 drop of red food coloring. This made a great orange!

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Because the black features were on the outside, the graininess of the spice didn’t matter this time. Veronika loved playing with this squishy bag where I taped it against the window.

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These turned out to be so fun, and spot-on for the season, too.

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Spooky Treat Holders

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These easy treat containers are a great way to hand out Halloween candy this year without kids reaching into a communal bowl. Make a few or a lot, and leave on a patio or table where kids can easily take a single serving. They’re a fun alternative to a standard treat bag.

To assemble, first wrap empty toilet paper tubes in crepe paper or ribbon. I made one version with orange ribbon and another with white crepe paper. Other fun ideas include: green (for Frankenstein!), blue (for silly monsters!), black (for bats!) or even tricolor white-orange-yellow for candy corn.

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As you wrap, you’ll need to work carefully, wrapping one side of the paper or ribbon and then applying glue before wrapping the next section. Wrap, glue, wrap, glue, repeat until the tube is completely covered.

Now add details with pieces of cut construction paper or marker. For example, add wiggle eyes to the blue monster, if you’ve used blue crepe paper or ribbon. Our orange ones became pumpkins and white became ghosts.

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You can then use either cellophane treat bags or regular zip-top bags to stuff candy inside. I filled baggies with a few treats (make sure the stuffed bag is narrow enough to fit inside the tube), and insert into your spooky creations.

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We’re ready for contact-free trick-or-treaters!

Hearty Vegan Meatloaf

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This recipe takes a bit of time to prepare, but it’s a beautiful way to share the love (literally!) with your family. Bonus points for the hidden veggie puree you can sneak inside.

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Ingredients:

For the veggie puree:

  • 1/2 onion
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 handfuls fresh spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley

For the meatloaf:

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup plain soy milk
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup grated vegan Parmesan (such as VioLife)
  • 2 (12-ounce) packages meatless crumbles

For the topping:

  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  1. To prepare the veggie puree, combine the onion, carrot, garlic, spinach, and parsley in a blender and process until mostly smooth. Transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Whisk together the flaxseed and water to make 1 vegan egg. Add to the veggie puree, along with the oats, soy milk, 1/4 cup ketchup, and Parmesan. Add the meatless crumbles and work with your hands until combined.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large baking sheet and shape into a heart.
  4. To prepare the topping, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup ketchup, balsamic, and brown sugar. Spread over the top of the heart.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.

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Halloween Countdown Day 27: Doll Trick-or-Treat

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The kids won’t actually be knocking on doors and shouting out “trick-or-treat!” this year, so I wanted a way for them to at least simulate the fun. An easy alternative? Have all the dolls in your house stage a practice round before the big day!

This was a fun way to show Veronika, especially, what the holiday normally looks like since she’s too young to remember last year. We used a pack of Smarties (the perfect doll-sized treat) and sprinkled a few behind the door of her dollhouse.

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The kids were having so much fun with the charade that we set up a whole neighborhood. Soon there was a castle and a stable in town, with treats behind each door. Knock knock!

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I loved watching the kids play this simple game together as our countdown nears the grand finale.

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Halloween Countdown Day 26: Pumpkin Power

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It turns out that October 26 is Pumpkin Day, as if the gourd needs one specific day in a month that seems to be all about it! But we took the opportunity to test an unappreciated ability of pumpkins: to generate electricity!

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Much like those old potato or lemon experiments, you can hook up two pumpkins to make a clock run or an LED light turn on.

I originally tried to follow online instructions, but had to maneuver things a little differently to line up with the particular items that came in a fruit-battery kit we purchased. The set-up looks like this: lnsert a cooper strip and a zinc strip into each of 2 small pumpkins.

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Use an alligator clip wire to attach the copper strip from one pumpkin to the zinc strip from the second pumpkin.

Now, use a second wire with alligator clip to attach the zinc strip from the first pumpkin to the negative node of either a multimeter, clock, or LED light.

Use a third wire with alligator clip to attach the copper strip from the second pumpkin to the positive node of the multimeter, clock, or LED light. Hopefully the photos in this post make all that clearer!

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Your circuit should be complete.

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Travis was wowed watching our clock blink on. At one point we left it running for over an hour.

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Why does this work? Pumpkin flesh has acid (though not as much as lemons), which means the zinc strip will start to lose electron ions. Those ions travel over to copper, which generates electricity.

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Now that’s pumpkin power!

Chick’n Nacho Box

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This is a fun bento box-style lunch to put together for kids. The homemade chips are fun, but you can skip that step and use store-bought tortilla chips to save time.

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Ingredients:

  • 6-inch corn tortillas
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 (9-ounce) package Gardein chick’n strips
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 cup frozen yellow corn, thawed
  • 2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
  • Shredded non-dairy cheddar
  • Store-bought salsa
  • Store-bought guacamole
  1. To prepare the chips, use a 3-inch cookie cutter to make circles from the tortillas until you have the desired amount of chips.
  2. Turn a mini muffin tin upside down and coat with cooking spray. Nestle each tortilla circle in the space between muffin cups, to form tiny bowl shapes. Coat with cooking spray and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Meanwhile cook the chick’n according to package directions. Chop and set aside.
  4. In a bowl, whisk together the sour cream, lime juice, chili powder, and cumin. Add the chick’n, corn, and cilantro, stirring to coat.
  5. To serve, place the chick’n mixture alongside the tortilla chip cups with your favorite vegan cheddar, salsa, and guac on the side!

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Harvest Word Games

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To finish the fun with Travis’s Harvest Party Raddish Kids, it was time for harvest party games! These were fun to play just with our family, but would also be the perfect games if you’re able to safely social distance with extended family. Perhaps over a tractor harvest-themed party?

First up was Autumn Doodles. Shuffle a pile of harvest word cards. (Note: Raddish provided these, but you could also make your own.

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Write an autumn word or phrase on each slip of paper, such as “apple picking” or “hay ride”).

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Select a card (we got “scarecrow”) and everyone in the family then draws their interpretation! We simply had fun laughing and checking out each other’s different takes on the same topic. Older kids might want to make it a competition, in which case you can appoint a judge who picks the “best” drawing.

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Next up: Fall Danger! One player picks a card and then has to describe that harvest word, but can’t say three danger words listed below it (e.g. for “apple cider” you couldn’t say “juice” “drink” or “fruit”). This one was a little hard for Travis to grasp, but he caught on after his dad and I demonstrated a few rounds! If you’re playing with a larger crowd, make teams.

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You won’t be able to play the final game with anyone outside of your COVID-19 bubble since this one does involve leaning in close, but get ready for… Farmer’s Telephone!

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This one had us roaring with laughter. For example, “I like the smell in the kitchen when I’m baking a pie” turned into “I like the smell of witches while they’re drinking rye” turned into “I like smelly witches!”

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Halloween Countdown Day 25: Spider Countdown

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We’re one week away from Halloween, and it was time for a countdown-within-our-countdown! With only a few days left, I had to up the ante on the anticipation for the kids.

I had originally planned to hang plastic spiders on a large piece of black felt for this activity, adhering them with Velcro sticky dots. But I couldn’t find a large enough piece of black felt, so had to improvise a bit.

I painted a piece of poster board black, then added Velcro dots (and some hot glue for extra security) to attach white yarn in the shape of a spider web.

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o make the “spiders”, first fill plastic Easter eggs with a few small candies (we love Giggles, an organic alternative to Skittles), or other Halloween trinkets, then close tightly.

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Use hot glue to add pipe cleaner legs and a Velcro dot to the back of each spider.

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Add the other halves of the Velcro dots to your poster board (or felt, if using) and then stick on the spiders. Now mark each spider with dots in permanent black marker. The first spider gets one dot, the second gets two, and so on up to seven.

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In the morning, the kids came down and discovered this web of delights. I asked Travis to find the spider with only one dot, which he then proudly pulled off and opened up for a surprise.

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Needless to say, candy before breakfast meant happy kids.

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Tomorrow they’ll move on to spider #2. This should tide them over until the big day!

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