Gingerbread People

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Gingerbread cookies are the perfect baking project with a toddler. There’s messy dough to mix up, wonderful spices to smell, adorably-shaped cookie cutters, and little people to decorate. In sum, Veronika had lots of floury, sticky, sensory fun with this one!

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To start, we needed to make the dough. She loved smelling each spice before we added it into the dry ingredients!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 cup shortening
  • 3/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 cup molasses
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 5 cups flour
  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flaxseed and water; let stand for 5 minutes.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the shortening, agave, molasses, and flaxseed mixture; beat until combined.
  3. Combine the baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and flour in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and stir until combined. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.

Veronika loved watching the dough mix up in our stand mixer!

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And as you can see, she also loved taste-testing right from the bowl!

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She marveled at how sticky the dough was as we wrapped it in plastic to chill in the fridge.

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Once the dough had chilled, we rolled it out on a generously floured surface, then used gingerbread man cookie cutters to cut out our little people. I gave Veronika a plate filled with decorating goodies: raisins, almonds, licorice strips, and small jelly bean candies. It was up to her to decorate!

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She thought this was delightful! She loved giving the people eyes and a “skirt”.

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Since I knew her cookies risked getting broken or mashed, I worked alongside her to ensure we had enough people for a few real batches of cookies.

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Big brother Travis thought it looked so fun that he needed to join in the action!

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He was so proud of this very ornately-decorated fellow, with almond shoes and licorice shirt sleeves.

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Once the people have been fully adorned, bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes. And then comes the best part of all; it was time for a taste test!

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You might consider ending the day with a read of the classic Gingerbread Man tale.

No Mess Paper Plate Snowflakes

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Last week, Veronika painted snowflakes with q-tips, a great toddler method with very little mess. Today’s version meant even easier clean-up, since all the paint was inside a zip-top plastic bag!

To start, I cut out snowflakes from paper plates. I folded each plate in half, then in half again, and snipped out triangles, ovals, and heart shapes. Open back up to reveal the “snowflake” to your child.

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In retrospect, I would have scalloped the edges, too, for a prettier result. Veronika sure thought this was neat, though, and loved sitting beside me with her own pair of safety scissors!

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Place each plate in a large zip-top bag and add a little bit of silver and blue paint. You can also add a little glitter to each bag, but since we happened to have glitter paint, everything went in all at once! I sealed the bags and showed Veronika how to mush the paint around with her hands until the plate was painted.

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She was so surprised when she first reached down and realized she could touch the paint but not get messy. And then she just really enjoyed it! I helped a little to spread the paint to the edges of the plates.

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It took a little trial and error to figure out the right amount of paint to use. Too much and the plate was so saturated that it ripped upon removal from the bag. Too little and you won’t be able to spread the paint far enough. So my recommendation is to start with less than you think you need and work your way up.

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Next time, I would use a little white paint, too, since the blue dominated over the silver. Still, they turned out pretty!

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Let the plates dry completely, then hang the snowflakes around the house for a winter snowstorm.

Puppet Engineering Kiwi Crate

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Puppets are the perfect STEAM-style blend of engineering (simple machines, gravity) and art (decoration), which means it was the perfect subject matter for Travis’s latest crate from Kiwi Co.

The crate featured two types of puppets, and first up was to Make a Marionette. Travis helped assemble the control bar by attaching two wooden sticks with a rubber band.

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The puppet’s body is a piece of cloth, and we threaded wood beads onto each corner through pipe cleaners. The pipe cleaners are then left at the top corners to become the strings for the arms. This was a wise choice on the part of Kiwi Crate, as there was no risk of strings tangling and frustrating your child! A final wooden bead and pipe cleaner go on for the head, and the pipe cleaners then loop onto the control bar.

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There are foam headpieces and stickers in the kit to make three different animals: a lion, a rabbit, and a bear. Travis chose the lion first. Roar!

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It was nice that these pieces are interchangeable so your little puppeteer can vary the plot of the story. Next up was Talking Puppets, which were completely different to put together. Travis first decorated two paper templates, the bird template with feather stickers and the crocodile template with scale stickers.

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We assembled the handles, which are made of three wooden frame pieces per puppet attached to a strip of paper with a brad. The middle piece slides up and down, allowing the puppet’s “mouth” to open and close. Travis added on his decorated bird and alligator bodies with the provided Velcro strips and then the puppets were ready to go!

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After all that, the puppets needed a stage, so it was time to make a quick Puppet Theater. Kiwi is great about suggesting ways to upcycle the crate itself, and that’s exactly what was going on here. Cut a rectangle from the lid of the crate (or a similarly-sized shoebox) with scissors. Poke the pointy end of a pencil into each side of the box and then tape the eraser end up into the top corners, so the box is now propped open.

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If your kids are feeling artsy, have them decorate the crate with markers or other craft supplies. I suggested we make a Puppet Theater marquee sign, but Travis skipped ahead into having the puppets put on a show.

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It was time for imagination to take over after all that scientific engineering!

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To finish the fun, Travis checked out this kit’s Explore booklet, including mazes, more about the science of how puppets move, and cultural facts about puppets from around the world.

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We also read Balloons over Broadway (all about the invention of the puppets in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade), and 10-Minute Puppets by Noel MacNeal.

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