Rainbow Shape Mobile

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Travis has been a big helper decorating our new home, and this project was a fantastic way to continue recent projects where we talked about exact rainbow order. It’s also a great review of shapes before he steps into pre-k in a few weeks!

Sorry grown-ups, but this one’s a little labor-intensive on your part at the front end. Using construction paper in all the colors of the rainbow, I cut out a square, rectangle, triangle, and circle from each.

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While I was busy cutting, Travis got in some practice with safety scissors:

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Your child might also like to try tracing or drawing shapes of his or her own as you work.

Once the shapes were ready, we needed to sort! Travis has been very into sorting lately, so loved helping separate the pieces into four piles by shape.

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For each group, we snipped a long ribbon and then glued the pieces on in rainbow order, singing the order of the colors as we went: “Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Makes a Rainbow.” (My apologies to indigo and violet).

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When we had finished with the rectangles, Travis excitedly asked, “Are we going to do another one??” He chose triangles next, and so on until all our shapes were glued.

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This project was gorgeous even while drying on the counter!

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While the shapes dried, we made the finishing touch – white cloud shapes with puffy cotton balls glued on. We added these below the purple shapes on our ribbons.

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To assemble your mobile, glue two jumbo craft sticks together at the middle. Note: You can have your child color on the craft sticks with marker if they’d like to, but since this part of the mobile will hang up on the ceiling, it’s not necessary.

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Glue one strand of shapes onto each of the four craft stick ends, then use a length of yarn or ribbon to suspend your mobile.

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You’ll have a rainbow to cheer you every day in your home, whether you’ve just moved in or have been there for years!

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Eclipse Viewing

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Apologies that I did not post this blog before today’s amazing eclipse – but tuck this post away for a mere 7 years from now, when the next total eclipse comes to the U.S. Not a terribly long wait…

We made sure we were out there today for the viewing, even though we were in an area with a 71% eclipse. We came equipped with two homemade viewing techniques.

The first is very simple to put together, tho the results weren’t fantastic. Cut a square in one piece of cardstock, and cover the square with aluminum foil. Prick a hole in the foil with a pin, then project onto a second piece of white cardstock. Here’s the sun with the fun just getting started!

Eclipse (1)The box pinhole projector we made was much more effective, though a bit more labor intensive. Cut two holes into one short side of a shoebox or cereal box. Cover one hole with foil; leave the other hole open (this is what you’ll peer into). Prick the foil with a needle or toothpick.

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Stand with your back to the sun and peer in – you’ll see the eclipse projected onto the inside wall of the box. The effect will be clearer if you line that side of the box with white paper, although this step isn’t necessary. In fact, we could see the shadows of the clouds on the inside of our box.

Of course, nothing compared to the look we got through the special viewing glasses of some friendly neighbors (who managed to buy theirs before every place under the (eclipsed!) sun sold out).

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Needless to say, we’ll be watching again on April 8, 2024.

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Salt Painting with Liquid Watercolor

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My impish three-year-old doesn’t need an excuse to pour a huge pile of salt out of the container – but this project turned the result into beautiful art! If you don’t have liquid watercolors, mix watercolor from a tube with a little water in a bowl before your child starts to paint.

Make sure you cover your work space well for this craft; it’s a messy one! To start, we squeezed a bottle of glue onto watercolor paper to make designs.

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Although Travis normally loves squeezing out glue (which is also excellent fine-motor skill practice), this time he preferred to watch me make designs of actual things. We ended up with a flower and an ant, alongside a few more abstract designs.

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Now for the best part: Place your paper in a tray, and cover the glue with salt; shake any excess salt off into the tray or bin. Repeat with the remaining pictures and let dry for at least 20 minutes.

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I set up several bowls of watercolor for Travis after the glue was dry enough, and he quickly got to work. Encourage your child to dab the color on with a paint brush (a pipette would also work very well), and to watch the color spread along the salt crystals in the most beautiful way.

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At first Travis was making strokes with his brush, but once he got the hang of it, he began dabbing more carefully.

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Here was our abstract take on the solar eclipse!

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Note: This project won’t be a great candidate for hanging on walls or fridges when finished; there is too much potential for extra salt to flake off.

 

Hiking on an Ant Trail

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This adorable idea came to us from Barefoot Books’ Kids’ Garden kit. All you need is a 3-foot length of string, magnifying glasses and your imagination to have a magical moment.

Our new home has a patch of grass – a novelty after years with a balcony that overlooked a dumpster – so when I asked Travis if he wanted to pretend to be an ant outside just after breakfast, the answer was an enthusiastic yes!

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I cut a length of string about three feet long and we placed it in the grass with a few loops and coils. Using our magnifying glasses as we walked, we went inch by careful inch to try and see the world from an ant’s point of view.

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Some of our best finds were little roots of a bush:

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Tiny plants popping up from the soil:

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and dew drops sparkling on a spiderweb.

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It was fantastically fun to slow down and move so carefully, especially in this fast-paced world of ours.

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Do your child and yourself a favor and try this game soon!

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Chunky Monkey Cookies

Chunky Monkey cookies

We pretty much never tire of banana + chocolate + nuts around here. If you prefer your chunky monkey in liquid form, head on over to my smoothie recipe. These cookies will satisfy anyone looking for something a bit more toothsome.

Ingredients:

  • 6 pitted dates
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed ripe banana
  • 1 Ener-G egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup vegan chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  1. In a blender or food processor, combine the dates and water and process until very smooth, to make a date paste. You should have about 1/2 cup. Set aside.
  2. Combine the oats, salt, and baking soda in a bowl; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, mashed banana, and date mixture until smooth. Stir in the Ener-G egg and vanilla.
  4. Add the oat mixture to the peanut butter mixture and stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips and pecans. Let the mixture chill for about 10 minutes while you preheat the oven.
  5. Using an ice cream scoop, drop the dough by generous portions onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees F for 14 to 16 minutes, until set.

If, like me, you’re a little tired when you make these cookies and end up doubling the amount of chocolate chips by accident, so much the better!

Night Sky Mobile

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How perfect that our September issue of High Five magazine included this decoration for a child’s bedroom – we’ve just moved to a new home, and making this craft not only made Travis so proud to decorate his new space, but also feel safer at night in the unfamiliar setting.

To start, I drew a crescent moon and two stars on white craft foam and cut them out.

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No pinterest worthy shapes here, but Travis didn’t mind an askew star or two, plus wanted to try doodling his own!

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Then came the novelty factor of the project: glow-in-the-dark paint! The only non-toxic version I could find was actually face paint, but it seemed to do the trick.

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Travis loved painting on a layer before we let the shapes dry, and then repeated with a second layer.

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In fact, he thought the paint was so neat that he wanted to make a glow-in-the-dark picture before we put it away.

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Next up was punching a hole in the top of each shape once they were dry.

I mostly did the final assembly solo, threading string through each shape and attaching to the perfect stick we had found on a walk in the new neighborhood. This step would be great knot-tying practice for little fingers.

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Finally, tie a long piece of string to both ends of the stick, and hang from a peg in your child’s room. Ideally, it will be some place that the sun hits during the day, for optimal glowing at night.

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Sweet dreams!

Rainbow Coloring

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We’ve always loved rainbows around here, but now Travis is really starting to latch on to the idea that there is a rainbow order, instead of a random array of beautiful colors. This easy crayon trick will help your child remember which order the colors are in!

Ready for how easy the set up is? Adults: Use masking tape to make 2 batches of crayons – one red/orange/yellow and the second green/blue/purple.

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That’s all there is to it! Now use the red batch on top and the green batch on the bottom to make a beautiful arced rainbow.

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Travis loved the novelty of the crayons, which are also simply great for drawing pretty pictures and squiggles.

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Balloon Painting

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When plain old paints and paintbrushes have grown a bit stale, look no further than this novel project! This time around, a balloon itself is your “brush.”

To start, blow up balloons just slightly (you want your little one’s hand to be able to grab on).

I set Travis up with the balloons and several colors of paint on a well-covered surface. You can stick to a color palate (we used various shades of green), or go wild with vibrant primary colors or any shade in between.

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It was neat to see the different effects we could produce with the balloon as our brush, whether making big blobs by pressing or streaks from rolling.

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The marks almost looked feathery at times, very neat!

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In complete honesty, Travis decided he didn’t like the activity much, since the balloon got his hand very messy with paint. His favorite part though was looking at the dried painting afterward, and discussing how we had made it!

Balloon Paint (4)For kids who do love making a mess (and being a mess), this is sure to be a huge hit.

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Marshmallow Launcher

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After a full day in the car, I wanted to do something for Travis that was pure joy. This project is sure to earn you cool parent points!

Cut the bottom from a disposable cup – kids can help with this step if you have paper cups on hand, but since ours were plastic, I did the scissor work myself.

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Next, knot the ends of several uninflated balloons and snip off the tops.

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Fit a balloon snugly over the cut end of each cup (you can add an elastic band for extra security). Now it’s time to load up your marshmallow ammo!

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One to two marshmallows at a time will work best (more than that and it’s really too heavy). Travis couldn’t get enough of seeing the marshmallows fly toward the ceiling!

Or of the slightly-verboten ability to eat the marshmallows off the floor after they landed.

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He wanted to see if his launcher would work with pennies as well. (Hint: Yes, it will – just not as yummy an experiment!) Needless to say, the project involved lots of hearty giggles and tons of fun.

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Sweet Strawberry Pizza

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Pizza for dessert? Yes please! We absolutely had to try this recipe from High 5 magazine. It can take some searching to find frozen pizza dough that is vegan, but Wholly Wholesome and Gillian’s both fit the bill. Be sure to thaw the dough ahead of time, or you’ll be caught with frozen dough when you promised your little chef that it’s pizza time!

Adults: First line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Next, I enlisted Travis’s help to roll our dough into a large oval. The dough was a little finicky, but between rolling, patting, and stretching we got it into a rather free-form oval/rectangle on our baking sheet.

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Travis loved the next step – brushing 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter over the top of the dough – this was like painting with butter!

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I had sliced 12 strawberries for him ahead of time, so all Travis had to do was arrange them over the top of the dough. I stepped in just to make sure they didn’t overlap too much, but otherwise left this step up to him.

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Finally, we combined 2 tablespoons coconut sugar and 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon in a small bowl, and sprinkled evenly over the strawberries.

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Adults: Bake the pizza at 375 degrees F for 23 minutes. Dessert is served!