Teach Your Child To… Play Chess

Chess (4)

Travis has been learning the basics of chess, but I confess I’m a poor teacher; I simultaneously try to beat him and let him win, which results in a lot of stalemates and missed opportunities. That’s why I was delighted to find a feature in Parents magazine with tips and tricks to help your budding chess master; we couldn’t wait to test them out!

The first trick will help a child remember the moves of each playing piece by making up a story about why it moves the way it does. It helps that Travis’s chess is Star Wars-themed. So the “castles” (droids in our case) can only move in a straight line because they have rigid robotic movements.

Chess (2)

The duo of Fett “knights” (Boba and Jango) can leap in an L-shape because of their jet packs of course.

Chess (3)

And the queens (Rey and Kylo Ren) can move however they like because they use the Force! This tip will work whether your kit has a theme or not (think of leaping knights on horseback or scared kings who only limp forward one square at a time).

Chess (6)

You can also coach your child to watch your eyes before each turn, then see if they guess which piece you intend to move. Travis practiced some deep eye-gazing!

Chess (5)

After playing a few matches, we turned to chesskids.com. Travis had a blast playing against a robot, which turned out to be a far better opponent than mommy! There are also many videos on the site to give kids a deeper understanding of the game.

Chess (7)

What tips have you used to teach your kids a classic game like Chess or Go? Please share in the comments!

Chess (8)

Breakfast on a Stick

It’s a truism that food on a stick just tastes better, right? This fun tweak on weekend brunch is perfect for little kids; even preschoolers can help assemble the items onto the skewers, once you’ve prepared all the different foods. If you’re worried about little ones pricking their fingers, considering using straws instead of kebab sticks.

Our breakfast stick included:

Berries

Mini waffles

Vegan breakfast sausage

Just Egg

Sweet potato tots

Drizzle with maple syrup as the finishing touch.

Winter Flower Garden

Winter Garden (6)

Snow is always a bit less fun after that initial fluffy white turns to muck and slush outside. Here’s one beautiful way to bring the snow play indoors and prolong the fun!

The first step is to scoop some relatively fresh snow onto a tray and bring it inside. Next, simply set out the snow along with mini flower pots and a few flowers. (Note: You can use fake ones or real but we chose the latter to add a hint of future spring to a frigid day!).

Winter Garden (3)

The kids loved filling the little pots and making pretty arrangements.

Winter Garden (5)

There’s the added tactile element of playing with cold snow in a cozy indoor room.

Winter Garden (4)

In fact, the kids thought the little flower pots were so cute that they continued playing with flowers and pots long after our indoor snow had melted!

Winter Garden (8)

Celebration Sponge Cake

A sleety winter day had us craving a colorful celebration inside, so Veronika threw a birthday party for her stuffed animals!

To make a cake worthy of this celebration, we started with kitchen sponges. I cut them into triangles that could be stacked into a “layer cake”. Our cake was two layers high, but you can make yours three or four layers tall for a big splash!

For frosting, we colored pieces of paper and glued on top; triangles cut from colorful craft foam would work great, too. Small pieces of sponge were perfect for sprinkles on top, and Veronika was so proud to squeeze out the glue all by herself and press these down.

For a rim of frosting, I suggested we add cotton balls, but Veronika declared these too fluffy. Our candles were snipped pieces of straw with a little bit of yellow sponge sticking out from the top for the flame. I think her turtle loved his cake!

She kept so busy with this even after I stepped aside, gluing down small pieces of sponge continuing the fiesta. Thanks to her latest issue of High Five magazine for this neat idea!

Snow Fun for Little Kids

Snow Fun (13)

As a big kid, Travis loves big drifts of snow (more on that later!), but all that powdery white stuff can be a bit intimidating for little sister Veronika. Here are a few fun ways we played off our patio when we got the first storm of the season!

First, carve out a maze. Use a wide shovel to make paths through the snow, bonus points if they connect in multiple ways…

Snow Fun (5)

…or go up a hill! This allowed Veronika to safely tramp around without being up to her knees in the stuff!

Snow Fun (4)

Next, we made a snowman with a twist. Pile a little snowman together, then use the accessories from a Mr. Potato Head to add features.

Snow Fun (6)

She loved the cuteness of this, and how easily she could poke the eyes and other items into the snow.

Snow Fun (7)

Next up, it was time for some sneaky snow science. Make a big mound of snow, then hollow out a crater in the center. We dumped in baking soda (nearly a full box), followed by a few drops of red food coloring.

Snow Fun (11)

When the kids are ready, add white vinegar and watch it explode.

Snow Fun (9)

Travis also loved filling in the crater of the volcano, after!

Snow Fun (1)

As for those big kids, the bigger the hill the better! We got a head start thanks to the neighborhood snowplow, then piled on extra snow so Travis could be king of the mountain!

Snow Fun (3)