English Muffins with Cinnamon Butter

English Muffin Cinnamon Butter (1)

This cinnamon-laced vegan spread works great on just about any breakfast bread (toast, waffles, pancakes), but we especially love it on toasted English muffins!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • English muffins
  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the Earth Balance butter and agave nectar until well combined. Add the cinnamon and beat to incorporate.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the English muffins (or other bread of choice), and spread with the desired amount of cinnamon butter. The butter keeps well in a glass container in the fridge, ready to be used for breakfast all week long!

English Muffin Cinnamon Butter (2)

Indoor Dinner Picnic

Picnic Dinner (2)

If the winter weather or the lack of safe indoor restaurant options has your family feeling a little down, here’s the perfect hack: conjure up sunny summer weather and have an indoor dinner picnic!

You can go all out with this or keep it simple or anywhere in between. The key elements are a good meal, a picnic blanket on the floor, and a little bit of novelty.

To wit, I set out our favorite summer picnic blanket in the living room and told the kids we’d be eating a picnic dinner on the floor. The excitement was immediate! For props, we pulled out the picnic blanket (even though we didn’t technically pack dinner up in it), and also pulled out a few toys that would normally be played outside in a meadow (think soccer bolls, wiffle bats, or jump ropes). Your kids can even play a few of these sports before dinner, if there’s room!

Picnic Dinner (1)

We set out a build-your-own-baked potato dinner spread that the kids could mix and match, and set a movie on in the background, and everyone forgot for a moment that the weather outside was frightful!

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Looking for other ways to mix up dinner during the long winter? Consider breakfast for dinner, eating while the family plays a new game, dining on finger foods only, or preparing a top-your-own-pizza night! What would you serve at your picnic dinner? Please share in the comments!

Story-Starter Maze

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Travis loves to play with his Lego minifigures, but let’s face it; after a long cold quarantined winter, he’s in a bit of a story rut. If your child is similarly lamenting a lack of new ideas for the same old toys, try this story-starter maze idea!

We spotted the idea in Highlights magazine, where threads led from starting characters (a chicken! a bagel!) to ideas (“becomes a super hero,” etc.) The idea is that if kids mix and match the threads (the magazine version had 5 characters and 5 plot lines), then over 25 stories appear.

Story Maze (1)

Travis immediately wanted to make his own version. We came up with 4 starting characters and printed out pictures of each to glue at the top of a large piece of poster board.

Story Maze (2)

Next, he came up with 4 plot twists, and we drew lines connecting his starting characters to each idea. I was proud of his inventiveness, for example making a “pyramid” one of the starting characters. Encourage your kids to get equally silly; the main character can definitely be a thing, and not a person! Now he had 16 directions in which his Lego game could go. Little sister Veronika wanted to help connect all the dots, too!

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The poster board perfect for adding ideas as they came to him throughout the afternoon, marking off additional branching plot points and connecting it all in a big spidery maze.

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So the next time Travis tells me he’s not sure what story to act out, I need only point him in the direction of the story maze poster hanging on the wall!

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Banana Marshmallow Slime

Banana Marshmallow Slime (6)

I’ve long known that Jell-O is not vegan, so we don’t bring it into our kitchen for projects. But believe it or not, the company’s pudding contains no gelatin! I was so glad to learn the fact since it meant we could put together this amazing edible slime from Crafts4Toddlers. The banana smell is fantastic, the texture is so fun, and it will no doubt lead to lots of slime play in the kitchen.

To start, combine 1/2 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup banana pudding mix in a bowl. Add 1/3 cup warm water, stirring to combine, then add an additional 1/2 cup cornstarch, mixing with your hands. Note: I found I needed to add just a touch more water, too, or the mixture was too crumbly. Once you can squeeze it enough to come together, you have banana slime!

Banana Marshmallow Slime (1)

For a final touch, stir in a few mini Dandies marshmallows. I then set the slime down in a tray, along with little cups and spoons, and a few extra mini marshmallows. These double not only as an extra sweet treat to nibble on, but also a fun element to add into the slime as your toddler plays.

Interestingly, our mixture was almost like ooblek, going back and forth between solid and liquid states depending whether we squeezed it…

Banana Marshmallow Slime (2)

…or let it ooze down into containers. Crafts4Toddlers appears to have a mixture that was closer to playdough, so fool around with water-to-cornstarch ratio and see where yours ends up! Meanwhile, Veronika adored the stuff and loved spooning it up…

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…and then watching it dribble back down.

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She kept quite busy pouring it from container to container.

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The marshmallows were great because she could press them into the slime, leaving an indent, then lift up and watch the indent quickly close back up again.

Banana Marshmallow Slime (5)

Inevitably, she wanted a nibble. She looked so confused after trying the slime, which no doubt tasted strongly of cornstarch, but a marshmallow quickly solved the yucky problem!

Banana Marshmallow Slime (8)

Sorting Blocks as a Graph

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Veronika made her first graph today! Okay, so there was lots of mommy help involved, but large building blocks and a large sheet of butcher paper make this particular graph quite toddler-friendly.

First, I taped down a long piece of paper to the floor with painter’s tape, then marked off 4 columns using washi tape. At the bottom of the graph, I traced 4 of her block shapes. I chose ones that are newer to her (archways, semi-circles) now that she’s mastered early ones like triangles and squares. And of course you can include more than 4 categories if you’re doing this activity with a preschooler.

Block Graph (1)

Now it was up to Veronika to place each block in the right column. “Where does the semicircle go?” I could prompt her. “With the semicircles!” she chimed in. It wasn’t an activity that she was motivated to complete on her own, but if I asked a leading question for a block, she knew where to put it.

Block Graph (2)

Then we flipped over the paper and repeated the activity, but this time making a graph by color!

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This version was even easier for her to complete. “It goes with the yellow,” she might say, picking up a yellow block and adding it to the yellow column.

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Did she entirely understand that we were making a mathematical graph to compare the amount of blocks by shape or color? Not yet, of course, but it was a great early intro to sorting and graphing. The large visual at the end was neat to see.

Block Graph (4)

After that I challenged her to stack her blocks by shape, too. Preschoolers can get really creative with this part, perhaps attempting a tower all out of triangles, or all out of semicircles.

Block Graph (8)

One thing is for sure: this was yet another great way to get novel play out of our blocks!

Block Graph (9)