Green Time: Plant a Vegetable Garden

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Yes, here we are planting seeds with our winter coats on. Hopefully from here on out April feels like April, not January! Needless to say, we were eager to turn to this month’s Green Time from Ranger Rick Jr. without waiting for the weather to cooperate!

Ideally, you’ll have a plot of land in which you can truly plant vegetable seeds. Those of you who have followed this blog for a long time know that we used to only have a balcony, and how excited I was when we graduated to a patio with access to a small patch of grass. We still have no true yard, so our “garden” for this project is in a shoebox… which means likely our plants will crowd one another and not grow very tall. Still, I wanted Travis simply to enjoy fresh air and the tactile feeling of dirt and seeds, even if we don’t end up with edible veggies. If you have a real garden, please share your results in the comments!

So, back to our shoebox garden… First we needed to buy seeds. We headed to the garden store for one pack each of the magazine’s suggestions: tomatoes, beans, carrots, zucchini, and peas.

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The first novelty for Travis was seeing the difference in size – pea seeds much bigger than tomato ones, for example.

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Even mommy didn’t know what carrot seeds looked like!

We filled our shoebox with a nice layer of soil.

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Next, we carefully dug a small hole for each veggie and placed two or three seeds in each hole.

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Travis loved the planting, and patting the dirt back over the holes.

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A little bit of water (which we’ll do each morning), and now we wait!

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Travis had so much fun with it that I let him play indoors with the leftover bean seeds with his shovel and some old flower pots.

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I’ll update this post if our veggies manage to sprout in their shoebox conditions!


Splashy Birdbath

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We’re always hoping to attract birds to the yard, whether with bird feeders or a birdhouse constructed recently at a Home Depot workshop. So we loved this idea from our April Ranger Rick Jr.!

To make the birdbath, you need a clay pot and saucer from the craft store. Lay down old newspapers to cover your work surface and set up some paints – I like making Travis a “palette” on wax paper these days, so he can choose from multiple colors.

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He loved painting the clay base in gold the best!

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Meanwhile, we added simple stripes to the pot, which will be the bottom of the birdbath. But get as creative and decorative as you like, adding patterns or dots.

Leave the pot upside down to dry. Paint the bottom of the saucer as well, and position on top of the pot – this paint will actually help the two pieces fuse together as it dries.

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We waited out a couple rainy days, then headed out on a sunny morning to find the perfect spot for the birdbath.

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Travis proudly added a small layer of water, and we added a decorative stone and shell.

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Can’t wait to see what visitors we attract!


Space Goggles

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We recently decided that books about space demanded special space glasses to go with them – the better to blast into the universe! These space goggles from High Five magazine fit the bill perfectly.

First, upcycle an egg carton from neighbors or relatives (we don’t buy or eat eggs). You only need to cut out 2 segments of the carton for the goggles, but we painted a full six segments just for a larger surface.

Travis pretended his yellow paint was really banana puree, which made for some silly fun during the painting process.

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We added a few drizzles of puffy paint for good measure.

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Once the paint dries, separate the egg carton into segments. Add pom poms with glue.

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Here is what Travis preferred to do with his glue and pom poms – my threenager!

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One more round of drying, then I poked a hole in each side of the goggles and threaded through a pipe cleaner. These are the pieces to go behind your child’s ears.

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Time for blast off! Add a jet pack and you’re ready to fly. Or, to read anyway!

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Make a Nest

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Here’s just a quick little idea for the next time you’re out in the yard – make a springtime reading nest!

We wanted a well-defined base, so I saved some brown packing paper and wound that into a nest shape. If you prefer, even the outline of your nest can come from nature!

On top we added finds from nature – sticks, a few dandelions, and leaves. Add pine cones, pine needles, or anything else you can find as well.

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We lined our “nest” with blankets and added our favorite book about on nature. Now sit in the sun and enjoy!

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Early Explorers Transportation

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Boy was this month’s theme from our Little Passport’s subscription right up Travis’s alley – the blog title says it all! The booklet was chock-full of info on some of Travis’s favorite things in the worlds (trains, planes, firetrucks) plus fun new ones like tuk tuks and tobaggans.

Transportation Craft:

Without a suggestion for an art project in this month’s booklet, we turned to Little Passport’s blog to further our exploration about cars. Bigger kids can truly tackle a Lego Technic car, but we had fun simply designing cars with our Duplo. Travis created this hybrid train/bus.

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Transportation Science:

Next up we tried out balloon-powered racing. Much as with the juice-pouch stomp rocket we made recently, this project runs on compressed air. That’s the science behind it; now here’s the fun.

First, cut a paper towel tube in half; set aside.

Tie two lengths of string (about 4 feet long) to the back of one chair. Position a second chair about 3 feet away, but don’t tie the second end of the strings yet.

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Next inflate two balloons. Instead of tying off, secure with clothespins.

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Tape each balloon to half of the paper towel tube and slide the tube onto one string; tie to the other chair, making sure the strings are taut.

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To race, position the balloons near one chair. Release the clothespins, and watch them fly forward. Does one balloon win? We found this worked best when the balloons were inflated big to begin with, and when you release the clothespin very quickly.

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Transportation Keepsake:

The souvenir for this kit was a puzzle featuring a track that a wind-up car can zoom about. The wind-up car was a huge hit.

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The puzzle was a little uneven in places – a fact I’ve noticed with several of the keepsakes from Little Passports – so the car didn’t run on it very well. That didn’t stop Travis from vrooming it all about the floor!

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Transportation Field Trip:

We had to double-dip on transportation-themed excursions, since there was so much to do! First, I recommend visiting any transit museum near you, whatever is closest – a car museum? Plane museum? Fire station? We opted for the New York Transit Museum since it focused on a type of transportation not in our booklet – the subway!

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Travis loved it, that and “driving” NYC buses.

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Finally we couldn’t resist a trip to the NY Auto Show – taking the train there to double up on transportation!

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Transportation Further Activities:

The booklet suggested a family bike ride, which would have been ideal, but my husband and I don’t have bikes! We settled for the next best thing, taking a walk while Travis used his tricycle.

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Calmer, at-home activities included inventing our own mode of transportation. Travis dictated as I drew: a double decker car with a propeller, which he made sure included carpets on the floor.

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You can also have fun coloring in pictures of your favorite transport modes (that meant trains over here!) or drawing the pictures if your kids are older.

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Next up, we made a tally of what transportation modes we saw in our neighborhood – coming up with a list of 8. No tuk tuks or toboggans though!

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Finally, we checked out books from the library to continue our exploration, on everything from snow plows to race cars.

Asparagus Fried Rice

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I more aptly call this recipe “picky preschooler fried rice” because it has only three ingredients – asparagus, rice, and soy sauce. Older kids and adults might like a few additions: Add a teaspoon each of garlic and fresh ginger to the mix while it cooks, and a drizzle of sesame oil at serving time.


  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bunch asparagus
  • 2 cups cooked and cooled white rice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
  2. Chop the asparagus and add to the pan; cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Stir in the rice and soy sauce; cook for a final few minutes, until warmed through.

King of the Castle

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I first spotted this homemade castle in Family Fun magazine months ago, and knew it was something I just had to make for Travis eventually!

Parents, it may seem like a lot of work, but the castle comes together remarkably easily in very few steps. My advice is to tackle one portion per day, so that it never seems overwhelming.

First, purchase (or reuse!) three large boxes. Use large (about 20×20 inches) for the two sides, and extra large (22×22 inchesĀ  – or more!) for the center portion.

For the center section, trace a drawbridge shape onto craft paper, and tape down to the largest box. Cut out the shape.

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To attach the drawbridge cutout, you’ll need two lengths of plastic chain (ask them to cut these to size at Home Depot) about 2 and 1/2 feet in length. Poke a pipe cleaner through the end of the cardboard further from the castle, and thread the pipe cleaner through; attach to one end of a chain. Repeat on the other side. Make two small holes next to the drawbridge cut-out in the castle box, and thread each chain through, securing with hot glue or tape.

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For the two side pieces of the castle, cut out window shapes, leaving the “shutters” attached. Peek-a-boo!

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You can use scissors or an x-acto knife to crenellate the tops of all three boxes. We taped one roof flat with the anticipation of adding a “bell tower” down the line – if we do, I’ll update this post!

Cut a side door in each side section so your kids can crawl from “room” to “room” within the castle; now tape all three sections together with a few pieces of duct tape.

Next up, we needed to apply a coat of paint!

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For some fun extras, we didn’t stop there! To make banners, attach pieces of triangular cardstock or poster board to dowels, and tape at the top of the castle.

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For ivy, hot glue leaves cut from green tissue paper or construction paper onto twine.

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For a torch, hot glue the bottom of a paper towel tube shut. Stuff with tissue paper, and then add gold or white tissue paper up top to stick out as flames. Position a battery-operated tea light just behind the tissue paper and your torch will really light up!

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That’s as far as we went, but there’s so much more you can do! Consider painting old shoeboxes and positioning below the windows as sills, stuffing with additional green tissue paper as greenery. You can also hot glue an old blanket or piece of cloth into the drawbridge opening, or hang strips of crepe paper as a “portcullis”.

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Inevitably, games in the castle involved Travis’s sword and our homemade shield. What else will you add to the castle for your king or queen? Please share in the comments!

Juicy Blueberry Smoothie

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This month’s recipe offering from High Five magazine involved lots of fun equipment. Juicers and blenders and spoons, oh my!


  • 1 orange
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1 cup white grape juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Plain non-dairy yogurt
  1. Adults, cut the orange in half, and then help your child squeeze on a juicer to extract 1/4 cup fresh orange juice – definitely my son’s favorite step!Blueberry Smoothie (1)
  2. Combine the orange juice in a blender with the blueberries, white grape juice, water, and cinnamon. Process until blended.Blueberry Smoothie (3)
  3. Pour the smoothie into cups. If desired, spoon a dollop of non-dairy yogurt on top just before serving.

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Green Time: Counting Walk

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Well, here we are in April but we’re just now getting the chance – a sunny, warm day! – to go on our Green Time adventure from March’s issue of Ranger Rick Jr. – a counting walk!

The magazine included a list of suggested things to count as you take a walk outside, including mailboxes, fire hydrants, and squirrels. We wanted a nice warm day so we’d be more likely to see a couple items on the list like dogs (out for a walk) and bicycle riders.

As we kept a tally of each item, I helped Travis decide what number was one higher than the number we’d said before.

By far we found the most mailboxes – 10!

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Meanwhile Travis loved spotting hydrants – 2!

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We nearly thought we’d end the walk with zero bicycles until a man went cycling past us. Travis was very proud to make the tally.

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And because he loves them, Travis decided we needed to count pickup trucks in driveways as well – for a grand total of 7.

Overall, this was a great exercise – not just for the legs but for the mind as well!

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Ribbit Ribbit Toast

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We brought a spring pond in to snacktime today!

Toast one slice of whole wheat bread; meanwhile, mash half of an avocado. Spread the avocado evenly over the toast.

Cut two round pieces of carrot for the frog’s front legs, and a carrot ribbon for a smile.

Add circles up top for eyes – cucumbers or green olives work well!

Finally, for the big back legs, slice pieces from a green bell pepper and place one on each side.

This recipe hopped very quickly into my son’s tummy!