Fourth Birthday Party: Princess Jasmine

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Veronika chose a Princess Jasmine theme for her 4th birthday party, having fallen in love with the Magic Carpet scene and song! That meant a palette of turquoise and silver, and a big surprise in store on party day!

The birthday girl opened her first present of the day – a chance to look just like her favorite princess.

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To start, we sent an easy fill-in-the-details Aladdin invite (amazon.com). Decorations included a Jasmine-themed set of plates, cups, tablecloth, and napkins. We added turquoise balloons in bundles, as well as a few Jasmine dolls!

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I kept activities super-simple for this age group. Kids could draw or write a wish and put it in the magic genie lamp…

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Or decorate an armband “bangle” (cardboard tubes snipped open) with jewel stickers for a Jasmine-worthy bracelet.

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Since the party was at the park, food was quick snacks like pita chips with hummus, clementines, dried fruit (apricots and dates), and veggie sticks. Add mint iced tea for the grown-ups!

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The big surprise of the day was an arrival from Princess Jasmine herself. We used a local party production company who couldn’t have been more helpful getting us the perfect Jasmine. She read stories, sang songs, played parachute games, and blew bubbles for the birthday girl and her guests!

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The birthday girl blew out candles on her vanilla cake before guests had extra time to play at the local playground and then head home!

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Turquoise gift bags included princess slime, a sparkly bouncy ball, pop-it bracelets, and sweets for the magic carpet ride home!

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Eighth Birthday Party: Avengers

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For Travis’s eighth birthday, he requested his first slumber party. We went with a Marvel-ous sleepover theme, for a Marvel-tastic night of fun for him and a few friends!

The invitation was a printable template from Etsy, which was helpfully customized to include the sleepover aspect and all the details. Don’t forget to suggest that friends bring their best Superhero pajamas!

Decor was easy with this theme, with many readily available Avengers items (Party City) including plates, tablecloth, napkins, cups, and hanging decor.

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Continue the theme with easy sleepover-ready snacks. Red Vines or Twizzlers quickly become Iron Man’s lasers, and pretzels rods with Marshmllows (Dandies) were Thor’s hammer. We served pizza and fruit salad – in the shape of Captain America’s shield of course!

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The activity of the evening? A Marvel movie of course. Based on the age of your birthday child, you can find a ranking of appropriate Avengers movies here.

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Face masks added to the fun!

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After that the superheroes were free to stay up as late as they liked (full disclosure: 2.45 in the morning!).

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Send them home with Marvel-ous loot, including Avengers wrist bands, bubbles, slime, tattoos, and pencils.

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Mini-Muffin Pancake Bites

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You may have heard of the cronut or cruffin, and now you can thank High Five magazine for inventing your next favorite hybrid breakfast food – Muffin Pancakes! Puffins? Mufcakes? Whatever you call them, kids will love helping bake up a batch of these for breakfast!

Start with your favorite pancake mix, and add the wet ingredients as directed. We love Annie’s vegan pancake mix. Stir in about 2 cups mixed berries. We used frozen ones, but next time I would use fresh, since the frozen tinted our batter blue. Small berries (blueberries, raspberries), will work larger than big ones like strawberries.

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Divide the batter evenly among 24 mini muffin cups. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Let cool about 10 minutes before removing form the pan

Add a bowl of syrup on the side for dipping!

Planter Friend

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Veronika has been so excited for spring because it means gardening! “We get to water the flowers!” she keeps telling me. Finally we’re getting around to some flowers for our patio, and Veronika helped create her own planter “friend”.

To start, rip a colored napkin into small pieces (which is great for fine-motor skills), and use mod podge to adhere around the bottom of a clean and empty soda bottle. Let dry.

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Your child can use felt, construction paper, and wiggle eyes to make any animal friend they want. Veronika chose an elephant, so I cut a trunk, eyes, and ear shapes from construction paper.

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We had purchased a small plant at the market and Veronika very carefully helped transfer dirt and the plant into her new planter.

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Be sure to add water! This is a great and easy intro to gardening for preschoolers.

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Butterfly Pasta

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Butterfly-shaped pasta is perfect for springtime, and this recipe is simple enough for even a preschooler to help. It’s a great activity for talking about all the verbs that go into a recipe, too.

Scoop peas into a bowl of cooked pasta.

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Spoon in pesto.

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Mix it all together.

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Sprinkle with your favorite non-dairy cheese!

Thanks to Veronika’s latest High Five magazine for this interactive cooking lesson!

Recycled Bird Feeder

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With Earth Day coming up, it’s a great time to remind kids about the importance of recycling. Hands-on lessons always help drive a point home, as with this recycled bird feeder. So don’t toss that empty orange juice carton the next time your family finishes it up!

Starting with a cleaned and dried carton, cut a small doorway in the front (grown-up step).

Veronika helped cover the carton with duct tape. Any color will do, but she loved that we had a mix of green and orange for beautiful pops of color.

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Add stickers if desired!

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We then hot glued a clothespin to the bottom of the feeder as a perch (a jumbo craft stick would work, too).

Finally, tape a string to the top of the carton and hang from a branch. Veronika proudly poured in our first cup of bird seed! Make sure to check what birds are in your area, and buy the appropriate kind of food. We can’t wait to watch for feathered visitors from our window!

Valentine Plane

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This cute Valentine craft gives a whole new meaning to a message in a bottle! Your preschooler can help design the plane, then slip a sweet Valentine inside.

To start, we wrapped an empty water bottle in pink construction paper. Add oval shapes for wings cut from additional construction paper, either in red or pink.

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Next, I cut a propeller shape from craft foam, and Veronika helped tape this on to the bottle cap. You can use dot stickers for windows, or draw on with marker. Let your child scribble on other marker decorations if desired for their Valentine airline!

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Finally, we wrote out a sweet message for big brother Travis, then rolled it up and popped it inside.

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Veronika loved flying her plane around. Special delivery!

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Cucumber Boats

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Sleet and winter weather have us dreaming of tropical islands these days! One fun way to bring summer into a winter home is to play with your food, so we loved this recipe from Veronika’s latest High Five magazine.

In a bowl, combine your favorite fish-less tuna with sweet relish, chopped carrots, and vegan mayo to taste.

Hollow out cucumber halves, and then fill each “boat” with some of the tuna mixture. We added a carrot sail on a toothpick as the finishing touch!

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Note: If your kids aren’t fans of fish-less tuna, use mashed chickpeas instead.

Caterpillar Crush Valentines

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Travis helped make these critter cards for class valentines this year, and we hope his classmates won’t mind getting bugged at all!

To start, cut squares from cardstock that are 4×5 inches. We chose pink and blue shades for the background.

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Cut a green leaf template from green cardstock, then trace to make the desired amount of leaves and cut out. For a fancy effect, cut out with pinking sheers instead of regular scissors! Glue one leaf onto each cardstock square.

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At this point, you’ll want to write the message on each card. Ours said: “Just thought I bug you to say…” on the front and “Happy Valentine’s Day!” on the back. I was proud of Travis signing his name a full 20 times for all classmates.

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Now it was time to add our pom pom caterpillars. Use hot glue to attach caterpillars that are 5 to 6 small pom poms long. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can also glue on tiny wiggle eyes.

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Your critters are complete, and so cute! Not into these buggy Valentines? Check out our past creations like mustache pops or punny tacos.

Teach Your Child To… Play Chess

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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.

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

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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).

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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!

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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.

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

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