Curried Lentil-Stuffed Green Peppers

Lentil Stuffed Peppers (3)

Any meal where you can eat the bowl is exciting for kids. These hearty stuffed bell peppers ensure that the “bowl” will be healthy, too, down to the last bite!


  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 2 and 1/4 cups water
  • 2 medium carrots, chopped
  • 1/2 cup green lentils
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 4 large green bell peppers
  • 1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheese
  1. To start, combine the rice, water, carrots, lentil, bouillon, curry powder, and olive oil in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, spoon 1/3 cup sauce into the bottom of an 8-inch baking dish; set aside.
  3. Remove the stems, seeds, and membranes from the bell peppers and place in the sauce. Divide the lentil mixture evenly among the bell peppers, then sprinkle evenly with the cheese cheese before pouring the remaining sauce on top.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes.

Lentil Stuffed Peppers (4)



We’ve been having fun with super-simple homemade instruments lately, and this one is a riff on an oldie but goodie.

To make a “kazoo” that sounds nearly like the real thing, simply use a hole punch to make a hole down the side of an empty toilet paper tube, as far as the punch will reach.

Apply glue on the opposite rim of the tube, and place on a square of wax paper. Let dry completely. Once the glue dried, I invited Veronika to decorate the kazoo! She added purple marker and some stickers before declaring it complete.

Now, I showed her how this little creation could make music. Hum any favorite tune into the tube, as you would with a regular kazoo, and the vibrations against the wax paper will make a fantastic kazoo-like sound.

Veronika couldn’t quite master the art of humming into the kazoo, but certainly loved singing down into it, or listening to my hum! This was a great way to add to our musical play.

Animal Sandwiches, 2 Ways

Veronika recently loved helping make her own lunch so we tested out a few other fun ways to involve her with sandwich prep! For the first version, we made butterflies. Cut slices of bread in half so they form two triangles, then turn the points together to make them look like outstretched butterfly wings.

From here, the toppings are really entirely up to your child! We tried two versions: a savory and a sweet. For savory, I spread the “wings” with non-dairy cream cheese, and Veronika added slices of pickle. She ended up adoring the pickle and eating almost all of it straight off the wings, though!

For the sweet version, I spread the bread with peanut butter instead. This time she had raisins and banana slices for decorating, and even helped slice the banana with a butter knife.

This was a great chance for snacking, tasting, combining new tastes, plus squeezing in science since we could talk about the symmetry of the butterflies as we decorated and enjoyed.

A few days later, we turned to bigger animals for our sandwich play. First we used an assortment of cookie cutters to make animal shapes from slices of whole wheat bread. Veronika chose a cat, turkey, and owl.

She then helped spread non-dairy cream cheese on the animals, which was white “fur” on the cat, white “feathers” on the owl, etc., and a great way to talk about animals’ different coverings.

You can then add features like eyes or beaks with raisins and mini chocolate chips!

To be honest, Veronika never dined on these sandwiches, since it was more about sensory play, but she loved the experience!

Yarn-Wrapped Vase

This quick toddler-friendly craft makes a beautiful vase to keep around the house, or would also be a nice gift for Mother’s Day.

To start, you’ll need an empty plastic bottle. (Preschoolers or older kids could alternatively use a glass bottle). Because the bottle was already a bit sticky from where I had peeled off the label, our first strand of yarn adhered nicely. I added a piece of tape just for extra security, then showed Veronika how to begin twisting the yarn around the bottle.

We have a great skein of yarn that changes colors every few inches, so she was able to make a multi-colored vase with no effort at all! If you have single colors of yarn, simply snip off strands and knot them together every time you switch colors.

Veronika’s little toddler hands grew tired when the bottle was about this full…

…so I filled in the gaps with additional yarn. When the bottle is covered, simply tuck the final thread under another strand to hold it tight. I then made a second version on a small glass jar, which meant we could have a neat multi-height arrangement of flowers on our Mother’s Day table. All the vases need now is to be filled with special flowers to make any gift recipient smile.

Make Homemade Scented Play Dough

I love this play dough recipe because it come together quickly, and because even a toddler can help out with some of the steps. That means double the play: half the fun is in making it, and more fun is to follow once the play dough is complete.

The first part of the recipe is definitely a grown-up step, though. In a saucepan, combine the following:

1 cup water

1 cup flour

1/2 cup salt

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon cream of tartar

Cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly. It will begin to stick together and pull away form the sides of the pan, and that’s when you know it’s ready. Knead a few times as the play dough cools down, adding a little extra flour as needed.

Once the play dough was cool enough for Veronika to handle, I divided it into two portions and set them down on wax paper in front of her. Now you can customize it, in terms of both scent and color! We made one portion that had a few drops of vanilla extract and red food coloring…

…and a second version that had almond extract and yellow food coloring. I was delighted to find that the recipe is incredibly forgiving, too. I accidentally spilled out way more almond extract than needed, and worried the dough would become sticky and unworkable. But with a little kneading, it was still just fine!

Veronika was involved in all these steps, first smelling the extracts, and then picking the colors. Then I invited her to get her hands right in there. “I’m getting red!” she said with delight, peeking down at her hands.

We’d already had so much fun, but now playtime could begin! Veronika quickly brought of lots of plastic toys, and delighted in seeing their footprints.

We decorated a play dough snowman, made play dough tea party cookies, and more.

You can store the play dough in an air-tight plastic bag so it doesn’t dry out between uses. That said, no sooner had I packed it away than Veronika was asking me to take it out again!

Pudding Cookies

Thanks to sneaky shortcuts like pre-made baking mix and instant pudding, these cookies come together in a flash. You still have to wait for them to cook, though!


  • 1 tablespoon flaxseed
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup baking mix (such as Simple Mills pancake mix)
  • 1 (3-ounce) package instant vanilla pudding
  • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • White sugar
  1. Whisk together the flaxseed and water in a small bowl to make 1 vegan egg. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the baking mix, pudding mix, peanut butter, canola oil, and flaxseed egg. Stir in the chocolate chips and raisins.
  3. Shape the mixture into 18 balls and arrange on baking sheets. Fill the bottom of a small dish with sugar. Press the bottom of a wet glass into the sugar, then press down onto the cookies. This will definitely be a favorite step for kids helping out in the kitchen!
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F for 8 to 10 minutes, until set.

Toddler Triangle

This musical idea (from the Toddler’s Busy Book) was one of those reminders that sometimes the best ideas are the simplest ones. It can be hard for Veronika to make beautiful pinging noises on our triangle instrument, because she always holds the metal of the triangle itself, which stops the vibration. But this at-home version is the perfect hack for making beautiful music!

Simply tie a length of colorful yarn to a three-inch long screw. (Note: You can use nails of the same length, too, but be sure to tape over the sharp end).

Now hold onto the yarn, and tap the first screw with a second one. Ping ping ping!

This brought instant delight to Veronika’s face. She even wanted to help her toys “play” the triangle, showing them how to make music on it just as I had shown her! This was the perfect way to make music on a rainy afternoon.

Building a Bird’s Nest

This beautiful activity can help toddlers (or older kids!) engage with nature in springtime, in particular the way birds build their nests. After gathering nature treasures, seal the whole “nest” together with mud, talking all the while about the amazing way birds construct their homes with just beaks and feet…no thumbs!

Of course first up is the chance for a nature walk, collecting items that a bird might use for a nest like twigs, grasses, and flower stems. Once home, we arranged all these in a couple of shallow cardboard boxes.

I told Veronika that birds also used mud for the walls of their nests, to hold everything together, and that now it was her turn to make mud! You can use dirt from the yard, but we actually used potting soil mixed with water until it was nice a goopy. Veronika loved stirring with a stick!

We poured the mud all along our sticks and flowers, resulting in beautiful little nests.

It turns out these nests didn’t just stay for the birds! It wasn’t long before Legos and other toys were playing in their springtime nests, too.

Simple Shakers, Two Ways

Veronika and I made two versions of homemade maracas today, all from upcycled items!

The first suggestion came from the Toddler’s Busy Book, where the author originally suggests filling old film canisters with beads, buttons, or similar small items (pebbles, dried beans, etc.). But who has film canisters anymore? But the toy medicine jars from Veronika’s vet set are nearly identical to this throwback, in terms of shape, size, and color. The perfect vessel to be our shakers!

I filled one jar with beads and another with buttons, for contrast, and put the lids on firmly. We loved having an early morning dance party and shaking along!

The second version was the perfect way to upcycle plastic Easter eggs. I used six eggs total and three different items (beads, buttons, and pennies), adding each item to two eggs. Hot glue the eggs shut, then set out. Now it was a bit of a guessing game! The trick is to see if your toddler can find the “match” for each egg by listening to the different sounds. To make the task easier, both eggs with buttons were blue, both eggs with beads were pink, and so forth.

The easiest for her to distinguish were the pennies, since they made such a loud clang. Buttons and beads were harder to tell apart.

But no matter what was inside, these sure were fun to shake!

Painted Toast

Here’s a cute way for a toddler help make his or her lunch! Before assembling a sandwich, your child gets to “paint” their own toast.

To set up, I poured 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk into each of two small dishes, and added food coloring to each. Veronika chose blue and green.

Using clean cotton swabs (or a clean paintbrush, if you have one), we dipped in the milk mixture and then onto slices of bread. Veronika loved seeing colors appear! I encouraged her to make dots and swirls. Meanwhile, I showed her how we could also draw more detailed pictures, like a smiley face.

Or a letter V for Veronika!

Once the design is to your child’s liking, toast the bread for 1 to 2 minutes in the toaster and the image will set. Prepare your tot’s sandwich of choice, and set out this happy lunch!