Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox Pie

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This chilled dessert feels just right on a hot night, just layers of vegan whipped topping and chocolate chip cookies. For something truly decadent, use double the ingredients listed below, and repeat the layers!

Ingredients:

  • 1 (10-ounce) container frozen non-dairy whipped topping, thawed
  • 6 ounces vegan chocolate chip cookies
  • Mini chocolate chips, for garnish
  1. Spread half of the whipped topping in the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. Top with the cookies, breaking into smaller pieces as necessary to evenly cover the surface.
  2. Top with the remaining whipped topping. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 6 hours, and up to 12 hours.
  3. Just before serving, decorate the rim of the pie with mini chocolate chips.

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Jel Dessert Sensory Bag

I enjoy making squishy bags for the kids, but don’t always love going through bottles of hair gel (a convenient base of choice) to do so. A great alternative, with the added bonus of the leftovers being edible, is to make a squishy bag from your favorite jel dessert!

The night before, I prepared a batch of the orange flavor from Simply Delish so it was chilled and set by morning. Fill small zip-top plastic bags with some of the jel, then add something fun to squish around in it. We used a mix of beads and bottoms. Note: For something a bit more gruesome around Halloween, use wiggle eyes instead!

Veronika loved the cold and squishy texture on her hands, which she could feel even through the plastic.

We hung it in the window where the sun made it almost like a suncatcher, too. She would press both palms against it so intrigued…

…and also enjoyed pushing individual beads around.

A simple way to keep little hands busy.

Watermelon Pizza

This is a great recipe for kids to tackle solo, since it involves steps for early slicing and knife skills in the kitchen. Travis proudly made the whole “pizza” himself.

To start, I cut a section from a mini watermelon that was about 1 inch thick. First Travis needed to put on the pizza “sauce”. He slathered on raspberry jam, very carefully making sure to smooth out any lumps.

Next he cut a banana into slices and green grapes in half. These fruits are great for early cutting, since both are soft enough to cut through with a butter knife.

We pretended the bananas were mushrooms and the green grapes were broccoli! Place on top of the “pizza”, then cut into 4 wedges to serve.

Shaving Cream, Inside and Outside

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Veronika’s fun with sensory materials continues, first inside a bag, and then out! Today, it was shaving cream’s turn as the starring material. To start, squirt a little shaving cream into sandwich-sized zip-top bags, then add a bit of food coloring to each.

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I used just green for one bag, but combined yellow and red in a second for some coloring mix. Seal tightly and add duct tape across the top for security.Veronika loved helping disperse the colors in the bags by squishing them. These were as soft as pillows to hold!

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But now it was time to get messy. I placed a few toys in the bottom of a craft bin. Choose items that will be easy to wash off, like plastic dinosaurs or animals, or toy cars. Now fill the container with shaving cream! I used about 1 and 1/2 bottles of shaving cream to completely bury the items.

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Veronika’s job was to dig! Your kids might want to immediately get up to their elbows in the stuff.  Veronika preferred to start with a wooden spoon, daintily stirring to uncover items.

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When she found the first car, she wanted to rinse it, so I gave her a separate small bucket of water.

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Now she wasn’t afraid to get soapy! She would dip her hands in the shaving cream, transfer a toy or her hands to the water, rinse, and repeat. “Now giraffe will be all clean,” she said proudly. Sometimes she wanted to dunk a toy right back in the shaving cream after rinsing it off!

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The messier the better with this one, because all said and done, your child is really playing with… soap!

Sweet Potato Fries

These easy homemade fries have a great crunch from the panko coating!

Ingredients:

  • 3 sweet potatoes
  • 2 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup Italian-seasoned panko
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut into matchstick pieces. Place in a pot and cover with water, then bring to a boil. Continue to cook for 5 minutes; drain and immediately rinse with cold water.
  2. Meanwhile, whisk together the flaxseed, 6 tablespoons water, and garlic powder in a bowl. Add the sweet potatoes and toss to coat.
  3. Working with one sweet potato piece at a time, dredge in the panko and transfer to a baking sheet lined with foil. Repeat with the remaining sweet potato pieces.
  4. Bake at 450 degrees for 14 minutes, turning over halfway through.

Sensory Paint, Inside and Outside

Lately, Veronika has loved sensory play where we begin with a material contained in some way (a bottle, a zip-top plastic bag) but then take it out of the container for something much messier! To wit, today we started with paint in the bag and then moved it out.

For the inside version, I squirted a generous amount of hair gel into sandwich-sized zip-top plastic bags, then added bright neon colors of tempera paint to each. Bright food coloring gel would work, too. I deliberately chose colors that felt just right for a hot sunny day: think neon oranges, pinks, and yellows. Press out most of the air, then seal the bags. You can add a little duct tape at the top if you’re worried about curious fingers opening the bag.

Veronika briefly squished the vibrant colors all around, and liked tossing them to the floor with a splat.

They were also fun to stomp on with bare toes! But, as I anticipated, they didn’t hold her interest long.

Neither did a second sensory bag for writing practice. For this one, I used a gallon-sized zip-top bag and only a thin layer of paint so that the squiggles and shapes she made would show up clearly.

I showed her a few letters like V for Veronika, and we even could make hand prints. Still, she lost interest after a few swirly lines.

It was time for something decidedly messier. Lay down a piece of cardboard to protect your patio or lawn, and place sheets of white paper on top.

We made blobs of paint on the paper and then covered each with a cotton pad. (Note: You could also apply the paint directly to the cotton pad, and then set down on the paper). Now whack with a wooden spoon!

Similar to fly swatter painting, whacking the paper is sure to be irresistible for kids. The clear winner once more? The outside messy way!

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

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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