Kitchen Tool Bath

Veronika loves bathtime, but has seemed bored of her usual toys lately. So for novelty, we threw in the proverbial kitchen sink… almost literally! Because it turns out that old items from the kitchen can make fantastic bath toys.

Plastic utensils such as whisks were perfect. I also added silicone measuring cups and an old ice cream scoop. Veronika quickly switched into her bathing suit and hopped in for some fun.

The whisks were great for stirring through the water. If she whisked fast enough, it even made bubbles!

She spent some time pouring from one measuring cup to another. Then she began pouring water over other items like the whisk or ice cream scoop, and was amazed that the water trickled straight through, nothing to hold it in. The scoop was also great for ladling up a little bit of water, then pouring it over knees or elbows or toes. Be sure to name body parts as your pour over each one.

Mostly, though, I just let her splash around and have fun until the water started to get cold, and then it was time to come out.

Vanilla Maple Rice Pudding

Here’s the perfect warm dessert for those evenings that need just a little dose of extra coziness.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups plain unsweetened soy milk
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • Blueberries, for serving (optional)
  1. Combine the soy milk, maple syrup, and vanilla in an oven-proof pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, then stir in the rice.
  2. Cover the pot and transfer to the oven; bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour, stirring about halfway through.
  3. Serve warm, with blueberries on the side if desired!

Make a Sailboat

Travis has been tackling projects that hone his fine motor skills as he completes the academic year for first grade. For this one, he made a floating sailboat with just a few common household items.

First up was making the sail. Since he chose black paper, I suggested he use white crayon so his drawing would show up well. He loved decorating it with an imposing figure.

I then drew lines so he could cut the paper into a triangle.

Apply glue to the non-decorated side of the sail, then fold in half over a straw in the middle (as the mast). Let dry completely.

For the hull of the boat, wash and dry a Styrofoam tray. Travis used a blob of clay to secure the mast in the center, then it was time to set sail! This boat proudly braved the waves of Baking Dish Sea.

If kids want to get scientific, they can test out different sized sails and see if the boat floats better or worse!

Rainy Day Recycled Rainbow

Veronika loves rainy days lately, because she’s on the hunt for a rainbow! While we waited for a real one to appear, we made this upcycled version at home, the perfect use for the last few sheets from a pack of construction paper. If you don’t have construction paper, use up any leftover bits of scrapbook or patterned paper from your craft bin. We actually didn’t have any green paper left, so thinking quickly, we scribbled green marker onto white paper.

Tear the paper into pieces (and invite your child to help!), then draw the outline of a rainbow on a large piece of cardboard.

Working with one color at a time, Veronika helped dot glue all along that color, then press down the paper bits that matched.

She loved the process, whether shouting out “gluey gluey!” as we dotted the glue on first, or proudly selecting which paper piece to add. She enjoyed sliding the paper pieces through the glue, too, watching the way this smudged the marker line underneath.

We worked our way up from purple, and she was thrilled when she had to step across the rainbow to work on yellow, orange, and red at the top.

When the rainbow was complete, she wanted to keep going. I gave her a sheet of paper and the remaining paper scraps to design her own rainbow. I loved this toddler-take on the craft!

Pretty soon we’ll head outside to find a real rainbow for the perfect finish to a rainy day.

Frog Pond Game

We set out to make this game after spotting it on Kiwi Co’s website… Only after saving up enough lids to make the playing pieces, I could no longer find the post. That meant we improvised, but still created a fun game!

To start, use bottle lids (from cider or lemonade jugs), and trace onto green craft foam. For each “frog”, I hot glued two lids together, and glued a circle of craft foam to the outsides. We made enough to have two playing pieces each.

For the game board, we headed outside on a gorgeous spring day to draw the pond with chalk. I added green lily pad targets, and Travis liked adding black fish to the water, too. Oh no, potential hazards!

Finally, we labeled the pads with points; smaller, further away ones were worth 10 points and nearer, bigger ones worth only 5. Take turns rolling or flinging your frogs at the lily pads and see who accumulates the most points!

This was a cute game to play in spring sunshine, and now we have plans to take a walk to our local pond and listen for real frogs!

Tic-Tac-Toe

I’ve always felt that tic-tac-toe is a great first turn-taking game for toddlers. Simple to follow, and easy to win (especially if a grown-up “doesn’t notice” the three-in-a-row about to happen), the game is sure to be a hit. This particular version from High Five magazine even allows toddlers to craft the game before they play it!

I wanted Veronika to have lots of ownership over this project, so after I cut up the compartments of an upcycled egg crate, I asked her what color we should paint them. She chose purple! Make sure to paint only half of your playing pieces (5) and leave the other 5 blank.

Give the egg cups a generous two or three coats of paint and let dry completely. In the morning, I asked her if she wanted to be Xs or Os, and she chose the former. She watched me mark her 5 pieces with an X, and preschoolers can do this step by themselves in paint.

Then she wanted to help out to mark the Os. As a result, our O team was a bit scribbled, which was just fine!

To make the playing grid, tape four straw together with two vertical and two horizontal.

At first, she simply thought it was fun to stack the pieces together.

But once I started to coach her step by step, but she started to get the idea of placing an X piece in one of the squares, then watching me place an O and so forth. She soon had three in a row.”Tic-tac -toe!” we said in delight.

This was a great intro to a classic.

Chicky Chili

My kids have dubbed this “chicky” chili, thanks to the combo of chick‘n and chickpeas in every bite!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 minced garlic cloves
  • 1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 (4-ounce) can mild green chiles
  • 1 cup Gardein chick’n, cooked and chopped
  • 28 ounces vegetable broth
  • Shredded non-dairy jack cheese, for serving
  1. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic; saute for 5 minutes.
  2. Add the corn, cannellini beans, chickpeas, chiles, chick’n, and broth. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Ladle into bowls and top each serving the jack cheese to taste.

Quickie Cookies

Similar to a one-dish recipe like Dump Cake, these are cookies the whole family can help make! To wit, Veronika loved helping stir the ingredients, and big brother Travis took over for the final steps.

To start, combine just these three ingredients in a bowl:

1 package yellow cake mix

1 Ener-G egg

1/2 cup Earth Balance butter, softened

Veronika loves stirring everything together with a big spatula, although you’ll probably need some adult muscle power to combine the ingredients fully.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and arrange on baking sheets. Bake at 350 degrees F for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, there’s always just enough dough left over for Veronika to practice rolling and cutting. I hadn’t expected how proud Travis would be to swoop in and show Veronika how to make heart- and tree-shapes with cookie cutters, though. He insisted we bake these shapes up as a final batch!

You can leave the cookies plain or add decorations, as we did with a few Unreal candies.

Cardboard Flower Prints

Don’t toss those latest bxoes from Amazon just yet! Flaps of corrugated cardboard curl up to make a print that looks just like a flower, letting even a toddler paint a full spring bouquet or garden! This trick from The Toddler’s Busy Book is so simple to put together, with lovely results.

To start, cut flaps from boxes that are ideally about 10 inches long by 6 inches tall. Rip the cardboard slightly to reveal the corrugated ribs inside, if needed. Don’t worry if it isn’t exact; as long as the corrugated groves are evident along the 10-inch edge, the project will work.

Roll up tightly and secure with a rubber band. You can see already how the cardboard is now the shape of a pretty rose!

I set out paint for Veronika in red and purple, and then showed her how to dip the rolled edge of the cardboard in the paint before pressing onto construction paper.

“Flowers!” she said with such delight. She experimented with one color or mixing them, and soon had a field of blossoms.

Once the paint dried, I connected them together with green marker for flower stems, and she was so proud to see the garden take shape up on our fridge.

 

Pond Play Dough Redux

This is an activity I did when Travis was a toddler. Today it was Veronika’s turn, but it looked so fun that Travis wanted a repeat, too!

To make the play dough, place the following in a bowl (do not stir):

2 cups flour

1/2 cup salt

1 and 1/2 tablespoons cream of tartar

3 tablespoons canola oil

3 drops tea tree oil

Add 1 cup boiling water, pouring directly over the salt. Knead the dough until smooth, adding about 2 tablespoons more flour if it feels too sticky.

We divided our dough into 3 portions to color it the various hues of a pond landscape. Some was green for grass, some was blue for the water, and some was a yellowish-brown for stones or earth.

I set out all three colors on a tray, adding a few plastic frogs and lizards, and Veronika immediately came to see what it was all about. And Travis too!

Veronika loved just moving the toy animals around on the dough.

She clearly enjoyed the sensory elements, whether the way it smelled (the tea tree oil is so authentically earthy!) or the feel of pulling large portions of play dough into small pieces.

Travis enjoyed the imaginative elements that this particular play dough lends itself to. He made little “rocks” from the yellow dough, and set out the turtles and lizards to “sun”.

Next, he built a tree for a frog to hop up! I loved seeing his creativity.

In sum, this simple homemade play dough will be a hit for all ages.