Exploding Sodas

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We’re late the to the game on this one, but better late than never! Apparently big kids and science teachers have been exploding diet soda with Mentos for years now, but this activity was definitely new to my 4-year-old, and the perfect summer science experiment. Get outside – some place with lots of room – and then watch the geysers explode!

For the most fun, purchase several large bottles of diet soda in different varieties, so you can compare the height of the geysers (big kids may want to be more scientific about this, measuring off the heights, but we simply had fun).

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Line up the bottles, and drop five Mentos (very quickly!) into them one at a time. Note: You can drop in as many as seven Mentos, but by five, I had to run in the other direction.

 

Now here’s the important step – move back! The geyser is going to happen fast, and high.

The diet root beer took me so completely by surprise that I only had time for a picture of the aftermath.

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By the diet Coke, I was ready with my camera.

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Interestingly, diet Mountain Dew only gave us a small fizz.

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Travis loved hosing off the driveway in the aftermath!

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Which sodas did you try? Please share in the comments!

Granola Muffins

Granola Muffins

My preschooler doesn’t like granola stirred into his non-dairy yogurt, so I wanted a sneaky way to get this nutritional powerhouse into his diet. These muffins are the perfect fix; he has no idea the granola is there, but I know he’s eating muffins with an extra dose of hemp and flax and other granola goodness.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup granola
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Scant 1 and 1/2 cups vanilla almond milk
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  1. In a large bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, salt, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and granola; set aside.
  2. Place the lemon juice in a measuring cup and fill with the almond milk to equal 1 and 1/2 cups. Let stand for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the almond milk mixture in a bowl with the oil and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix just until combined.
  4. Divide the batter evenly among 12 greased muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Let stand in the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rick.

Note: For true granola lovers, sprinkle the tops of the muffins with a little extra before baking.

Stamped Garden Gloves

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As camp season comes to a close, we’re thinking about gifts to thank Travis’s counselors for a wonderful few weeks in the sun. In keeping with all that outdoor time they’ve spent with your children for the summer, consider these kid-painted garden gloves as a parting gift!

To make the project extra fun, we bought puffy fabric paints in pretty pastels, and instead of using paintbrushes, we turned pencil erasers into our tool of choice.

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Squeeze out the paints onto a paper plate.

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Dip a pencil eraser in a color, and stamp onto the gloves.

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Travis made a set decorated with multi-colored dots.

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Meanwhile I showed him a slightly more deliberate method of painting: purple dots in bunches of three to be purple grapes. A little brush of green paint for the leaves completes the look. Older kids will love making this version.

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To present as a gift, simply wrap up the gloves with a seed packet of herbs and some twine. They would make a wonderful hostess gift for any summer friends you visit, as well.

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Game of Stones

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This is the most beautiful game to take to the beach or poolside this summer! It’s easily portable, fun for all generations, and also a cinch to put together.

It all starts with a trip to a park or the beach to collect stones. Travis was convinced some of the rocks we found were shark’s teeth, which made the collecting that much more fun!

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Use a paint pen or acrylic paints and a small paint brush to mark half of your stones with x’s and half with o’s – you’ll need 5 of each.

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I had two old muslin bags around the house, one small and one large, so we made two copies of the game, one for our smaller rocks, and one for the larger.

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Paint the bag with a tic tac toe cross-hatched board. Let dry.

Travis thought our new poolside game was a delight!

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The bag now serves not only as your board, but also as the means to clean up the stones when you’re done playing!

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Raspberry-Lemonade Slushie

Raspberry Slushie

My son loves Italian ice, particular lemon flavored, but I don’t always feel great buying him a treat so loaded with sugar. This homemade version has no added sugar at all, and gets its sweetness from raspberries instead. Mama and kid approved!

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cups ice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until slushy and smooth.
  2. Pour into cups and freeze for one hour before serving.

 

Nature’s Palette

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This beautiful activity from High Five magazine combines a craft and a way to get outdoors. It’s quite similar to a rainbow hunt we did late last summer, but sometimes it’s fun to repeat an activity as your children age; they’ll reap different rewards from it each time!

This time we started by making a proper artist’s “palette,” which immediately had Travis excited. Cut a palette shape from a file folder (I did this step for Travis, since he wasn’t sure of the shape).

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Next, cut paint chip samples (available for free at paint stores or home good stores) into pieces, and arrange on your palette. Travis was thrilled to use grown-up scissors, with a guiding hand.

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Little drops of color!

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Travis immediately seized upon the fun to be had with the remaining paint chips and extra file folders, and was soon making collages and creations.

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He mostly cut squares and rectangles, but I helped him cut a few nature shapes like leaves and flowers, and we arranged them in pretty nature pictures.

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Then came the real nature walk! Instead of going into the forest, I detoured us to a local botanical garden, knowing we’d find the full rainbow of colors there. Travis loved seeking out different shades on his palette.

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We thought we might have to use the sky as our blue, until stumbling upon the perfect hydrangea!

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In sum, this activity served as the prompt for a perfect mother-son summer afternoon.

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Rainbow Density Cylinder

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Here’s a neat visual way for even young kids to grasp the concept of density. You’ll get messy in the kitchen, mix up some colors, and sneak in some science to boot!

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While Travis was napping, I set up paper cups and all of the liquids we’d be using for the project, in this order of density:

Corn syrup (or carob syrup)

Maple syrup

Water

Almond milk

Vegetable oil

Dish Soap

Rubbing alcohol

Note: Feel free to adapt this list, depending what you have at home, including agave nectar or honey for non-vegan families.

Travis was so intrigued at the set-up, and we talked briefly about how some liquids sit on top of (are less dense) than others. Was he ready to see how it worked? Yes!

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We tinted a few of our liquids with food color for a better visual effect: green for the water, red for the dish soap, and blue for the rubbing alcohol.

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Carefully help your child pour the liquids, in order of density, into a glass container. Thinner containers will work better, such as a recycled jam jars or an old dressing jar.

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It may take your layers a few minutes to settle, making a rather goopey mixture at first!

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After we gave it a moment, our layers were more apparent – we loved the hit of bright blue from the alcohol at the top!

Oddly, the blue alcohol layer disappeared when we returned to the jar about an hour later, but here you can see some of the layers even more clearly.

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Travis had so much fun that I gave him extra cups and additional food color to mix up for some time.

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A fun afternoon in the kitchen!

Cold Peanutty Pasta

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I love getting my little chef into the kitchen for each month’s recipe from High Five magazine, and this month featured a perfect summer pasta, meant to be eaten cold or at room temperature. The recipe was a great chance to hone skills including whisking and chopping with a butter knife. Plus, we got to use neat ingredients like fresh ginger root! Here’s my chef, excited to start.

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Adults, cook 8 ounces spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the remaining pasta water and rinse the spaghetti well with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, have your little chef help you combine the following in a bowl:

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

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Add about 6 tablespoons reserved pasta water to the mixture, and whisk until combined. If the sauce is still thick, add another tablespoon or two of the water.

Travis was so excited to try his hand at a butter knife for the next step. I cut a cucumber into rounds, and let him cut each round into quarters.

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In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chopped cucumbers, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, and the peanut sauce, tossing well to coat.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: To make the recipe nut-free, simply omit the chopped peanuts and use all tahini in place of the chunky peanut butter.

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Melted Crayon Art

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My son loves appliances, which he loves to play with (unplugged) under careful adult supervision. So when I saw this craft involving a hairdryer, I knew we had to give it a try.

I purchased a small canvas (8×8 inches) at the craft store, and cut the wrappers off a rainbow of crayons. You’ll want new crayons with nice pointy ends for this project, so it’s not the best option for recycling broken ones.

We arranged the crayons along the top of the canvas in roughly rainbow order, singing a rainbow song as we worked, and glued them down. Let dry completely.

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Then it was time to make some art! Cover your work area with newspaper, aim the hairdryer at the canvas, and turn on to the highest setting. He couldn’t believe I was letting him down this!

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With a guiding grown-up hand, we got right up close to the crayons. Now they were really starting to melt!

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Let the wax cool, then find some place to hang your work of art!

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Black Bean Burger Chili

Bean Chili

Here’s a chili so savory and delicious it will have meat-eaters going back for seconds, thirds… even fourths. Warning – it’s spicy!

Ingredients:

  • 4 frozen black bean veggie burgers (such as Gardein)
  • 3 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, drained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, undrained
  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 teaspoons dried basil
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregno
  • 2 teaspoons hot pepper sauce
  1. Thaw the veggie burgers and coarsely chop.
  2. Combine the burgers with all of the remaining ingredients in a slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 7 to 9 hours, for flavors to blend.