Halloween Countdown Day 30: Reverse Trick or Treat

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We’ve reached the penultimate day in our month-long countdown to Halloween! That meant it was time to teach the kids about giving back this year, not just taking all the treats for themselves.

This is a project we actually started two weeks ago. Since Travis loves animals, we decided to host a cat food donation drive (get it, for black cats in honor of Halloween?), but truly you can pick any charity or cause and start collecting donations toward it.

We printed up a flyer and distributed it in Travis’s grade at school.

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Within one day, the donations started pouring in. His teacher even made a donation bin decorated to look like a black cat!

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We were overwhelmed by his schoolmates’ generosity. In ten days, Travis collected 172 cans of cat food (plus one huge jar of treats!).

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Now all we needed to do was deliver. We bagged the cat food (while listening to our favorite spooky tunes of course), turning it into a whole family affair.

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The next afternoon, we drove over to make the delivery. The sign on each bag read Happy Halloween to the cats!

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This activity was so purr-fectly rewarding that we might just make it an annual event.

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Which organization would you reverse trick-or-treat? Please share in the comments!

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Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

If you’re looking for new pumpkin recipes to add to your seasonal repertoire, this savory recipe is a nice alternative to sweet pumpkin desserts.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup Arborio rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  1. Heat the olive oil and butter in a 3-quart casserole dish over medium heat. Add the sage and garlic; cook for 1 minute.
  2. Remove the pan from heat and stir in the remaining ingredients. Cover, transfer to the oven, and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour.
  3. Stir before serving!

Birthday Memory Book

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Veronika’s birthday has come and gone, so we thought it would be fun to put together a memory scrapbook. Not only is this a perfect art activity for toddlers (markers! glue! glitter!), but you’ll have a wonderful keepsake at the end.

I put together several sheets of construction paper and folded in the center to make a crease. Together, Veronika and I went through all her cards and photos from the day and we taped them into the book.

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She loved looking back at party images. “There’s the sheep!” she said, remembering her tractor-themed tour at a local farm.

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Now it was time to decorate each page. Don’t worry about making this scrapbook look professional; messiness is encouraged here!

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Veronika then wanted to dribble glue all over the cover. “More glue!” she kept insisting.

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When we had a nice big goopy layer, we sprinkled glitter on top. Shake off any excess and let dry.

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A few more stickers and scribbles inside completed the book.

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I love knowing that she can leaf through this booklet for fun memories in the years to come.

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Video Time Capsule

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Veronika turned 2 years old today, and it was a fun reminder to look back on the videos we took last year when she turned 1. We had footage of the expected big moments (blowing out the candles, opening up her first present), but also a birthday dance party with dad and big brother Travis that I had forgotten all about. We loved it so much that we decided to make it a tradition!

So we staged a fun dance video to the same music as last year. The goal is to make this a tradition so eventually we can string together a video time capsule over the years.

Similarly, you can pick anything big or small on your child’s birthday (a tour of your child’s room, asking him or her what their favorite toy is, blowing out candles) and take a clip each year that becomes a time capsule over, well, time!

We also filmed snippets throughout the day, which we know will be fun to look back on. These included opening up gifts…

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…a special trip to a local children’s museum…

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…and of course, cake!

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What are the go-to birthday traditions in your family to film? Please share in the comments!

Happy Birthday Sensory Bin

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For toddlers who don’t entirely understand what it means to have a birthday yet, here’s a beautiful way to greet them the morning of their big day and introduce some of the items they’ll be seeing now and in years to come!

I filled a craft bin with bright and birthday-themed items. Birthday goodies included cupcake liners and candles, lots of bows and ribbons, and birthday-themed stickers. I also added neon pipe cleaners and a huge pile of pom poms, just for pops of color.

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Veronika barely let me finish setting up before getting her hands in the mix! She loved pouring the pom poms from one cupcake liner to another. Then we started baking pom pom cupcakes! Fill the liners and add a candle in the center for an introduction to the tradition of making a wish.

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The ribbons were so fun for to pull at or twist apart.

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Or to place on Veronika’s head like a birthday crown!

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At one point, she realized she could walk all the way around the apartment while unraveling a strand of gold ribbon, which was a pure delight to watch.

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I also set down some construction paper so she could peel off stickers (in fun shapes like cupcakes and balloons), and sticker all over the paper at will.

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In sum, you’ll have a very happy birthday boy or girl on your hands if you start a toddler’s birthday with this activity!

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Jack-o’-Lantern Quesadillas

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Spook your little ones for Halloween lunch with quesadillas carved to look just like pumpkins! The filling ingredientsbelow can be used as a guide. Swap in roasted bell peppers for the zucchini, for example, if your little monsters prefer.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tortillas
  • 2/3 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar
  • 1/4 cup chopped vegan chick’n
  • 2 tablespoons black beans
  • 2 tablespoons shredded zucchini
  • Salsa, for serving
  1. Place two of the tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle each with 1/3 cup cheddar.
  2. Divide the chick’n, black beans, and zucchini evenly among the tortillas.
  3. Using a sharp knife, cut jack o’ lantern features out of the remaining two tortillas; place on top of the filling.
  4. Bake at 450 degrees F for 5 minutes. Serve with salsa on the side for dipping!

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Just be careful; we thought these looked even creepier after we cut them up for serving!

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Halloween Countdown Day 29: Do the Monster Mash

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If you need to pump up the volume in the final stretch before Halloween, then simply queue up the Halloween tunes! It doesn’t matter what spooky song your crew listens to, as long as everyone does the boogie(man) boogie!

Veronika was soon obsessed with the Ghostbuster’s theme song and paraded around singing “ghost busters!” at the top of her lungs. Monster Mash was also a fast toddler favorite.

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Travis wanted super spooky, which meant we had to dig deeper into the Halloween vault. Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the overture from Phantom of the Opera upped the ante!

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We soon decided we needed ghost dancing partners, so put together classic ghosts: wrap a cotton ball in a tissue and secure with yarn. Add marker eyes and an 0 mouth to each, and then break out the spookiest dance moves you know!

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Sticky Foam Birthday Cake

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Veronika turns two years old tomorrow! To get in the mood for all things birthday, we made a giant cake on the wall today… from paper and foam stickers that is.

This is a fun way to engage siblings in celebrating a younger child. I cut a large square of craft paper and taped it to the wall, then invited everyone to add stickers. We had a huge bin of foam ones in heart and flower shapes.

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Veronika liked the littlest foam stickers best, and placed them all over the paper in a haphazard way.

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Big brother Travis loved proudly adding a piece here and there. If you’re doing this activity for a preschooler’s birthday, it would be the perfect opportunity to practice early patterning.

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I attempted to make stripes across the paper like “frosting”, although of course I knew not all of the rows would be neat and even.

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Once our cake was “frosted”, I added candles made from construction paper. Two candles for my two-year-old!

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Note: If you have foam craft shapes that aren’t stickers, you can do this activity right on the window. Just brush with water and they’ll stick. But definitely don’t use the window if you have sticky ones, or clean-up will be more than you bargained for

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Halloween Countdown Day 28: Watch a (Sorta) Spooky Movie

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No matter what your kids’ favorite cartoon or show is, chances are there’s a Halloween special to go along with it. These seasonal episodes are fantastic for kids because they tend to be a little bit spooky, but tame enough for even toddlers to handle. That means the whole family can enjoy the fun!

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Here’s a roundup of what Travis and Veronika have watched this month:

Wild Kratt’s: Creepy Creatures

If you Give a Mouse a Pumpkin

Daniel Tiger: Dress Up Day

Ready Jet Go: Jet’s First Halloween

Word Girl: Tricks and Treats

Peg + Cat: The Halloween Problem

The grand finale was the most classic of all, cuddled up on the couch for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.

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Other ideas, though we didn’t watch them, include a spooky Paw Patrol (try Pups and the Ghost Pirate) or Pinkalicious: Pink or Treat.

Meamwhile, if you need the perfect snack during all those scary episodes, it turns out that October is (no surprise) National Popcorn Poppin’ Month!

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In celebration, we tested out 5 new popcorn toppings over the course of our viewings:

Melted Chocolate

Ranch Dressing

Vegan Parmesan sprinkles

Taco Seasoning

Cinnamon-Sugar

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The verdict: Taco seasoning was too spicy for everyone; Veronika liked melted chocolate best; and Travis preferred plain old melted (vegan!) butter.

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Fall Hair Gel Sun Catchers

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I wanted to make a couple of orange sensory bags for Veronika this morning, with Halloween and autumn in full swing, only to realize I didn’t have any orange food coloring! I didn’t have yellow, either, which meant I couldn’t even mix red and yellow to make orange.

On a whim I decided to see if I could dye things the old-fashioned way (spices!) and there was orange turmeric in the spice rack. The result wasn’t perfect, but adding the spice turned out to be half the fun.

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I squirted a generous amount of clear hair gel into each of two small zip-top bags to start. In the first, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and mushed around until it was orange. Veronika loved the smell of the turmeric, and wanted to help measure out the spoonful!

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Then I added orange leaves we’d brought home from the playground yesterday. The turmeric did make the bag slightly cloudy and hard to see the leaves, but it worked fine if in direct sunlight.

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For the second version, I drew jack o’ lantern features directly on the plastic bag with a black sharpie. Again I added 1 teaspoon turmeric, along with 1 drop of red food coloring. This made a great orange!

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Because the black features were on the outside, the graininess of the spice didn’t matter this time. Veronika loved playing with this squishy bag where I taped it against the window.

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These turned out to be so fun, and spot-on for the season, too.

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