Digging for Treasure

Today Veronika helped make “gems” at home to take to the sandbox… A beach-sized sandbox that is! Although you could do this activity in a backyard sandbox (or inside!), there was something about being out on a real beach that doubled the fun.

To start, Veronika helped gather some special rocks from outside, and then we made them even more special with silver and gold paint. I assumed she would use a brush to paint the rocks, but she loved dunking them right into cups of paint!

This gave them a beautiful coating, although admittedly they took longer to dry. To speed up the process, I used a hair dryer on low, because we couldn’t wait to get outside.

It was time to head to the beach and see if X marked the spot! While Veronika wasn’t looking, I dug a hole and buried the rocks, along with a few other treasures from home like plastic gemstones and fake coins. If you’re burying items like this, make sure you keep track of them so you don’t leave any trash behind.

I handed her the shovel and encouraged her to dig. She was so delighted when she uncovered her first find, a golden coin.

We kept digging and used a toy colander to “pan” for the gold. She loved scooping sand into the colander, as well as watching it sift down.

When all the treasure has been collected, you can even leave the natural rocks behind for the next lucky pirate to find!

Spinach & Ricotta Pasta Bake

A small shell pasta (such as orecchiette) topped with creamy vegan ricotta and marinara sauce makes a toddler-friendly alternative to large stuffed shell pasta.

Ingredients:

For the ricotta:

  • 1 (14-ounce) package firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

For the remaining ingredients:

  • 1 pound orecchiette pasta
  • 1 (16-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cup vegan Parmesan shreds
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 (25-ounce) jar marinara sauce
  1. To prepare the ricotta, combine the tofu, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic powder in a blender; process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. To prepare the pasta, cook the orecchiette according to package directions. Drain and transfer to the bottom of a 9×13-inch baking dish. Set aside
  3. Meanwhile, steam the spinach for about 2 minutes, until wilted, then drain and chop.
  4. In a bowl, stir together the spinach, prepared ricotta, vegan Parmesan, and nutmeg. Spoon the ricotta mixture over the pasta, then top evenly with the marinara sauce.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes. Serve with a green salad to complete the meal!

Berry Basket Printing

There are many items around the house for making perfect circles, but it can be harder to find an item that’s just right for dipping in paint to make perfect squares. The solution? Berry baskets! Because the market is bursting with fresh berries right now, this activity had a nice seasonal feel, too.

To start, I poured out several colors of paint directly onto a tray so we had a surface large enough to dip in our pint-sized berry basket.

I showed Veronika how to press the basket into the paint, then lift up and transfer to paper. A perfect square!

She loved mixing colors, too, for a beautiful blue-green hue on some of them.

We let the paint dry, then finished the fun with markers. I challenged her to think about what we could turn our squares into. While I drew a house and a window box as examples, Veronika loved scribbling beside me.  Overall, this is a berry cute craft in the merry month of May.

Fishy Necklace

Fishy Necklace (7)

It was our first beach day of the season, and Veronika loved spotting fish in the water. At home, we decided to continue the fishy fun with this cute necklace, which counted towards the day’s arts & crafts, plus worked her fine motor skills!

To start, I cut simple fish shapes from construction paper and Veronika helped punch a hole near the top of each as the “eye”.

For a few extra necklace beads, we painted penne pasta. I expected Veronika to brush the paint on, but she loved dunking the pasta right in cups of paint! This gave us great saturated colors, although it did mean they took longer to dry.

Fishy Necklace (2)

Once the pasta was dry, it as time to thread. I showed Veronika how to alternate adding a fish and then a pasta “bead” onto a lacing string, working in this way until the lace was full.

Fishy Necklace (3)

She absolutely loved the process, picking each color bead to add, delighting in the way we could pull the thread through, and eagerly selecting what item should go on next. Then we knotted it off for a fashion show!

Fishy Necklace (4)

She loved it so much that we made a second version; this time, I didn’t knot the lace so she could remove the beads and put them on again to her heart’s content.

Fishy Necklace (6)

In sum, there was nothing fishy about this craft, just lots of good fun!