Mini Bots

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Travis built a robot today! Armed with a few specially ordered items, even younger elementary kids can do this project. My kindergartner needed adult hands for a lot of the steps, but could understand the process behind creating a simple circuit.

To start, we used sandpaper to smooth one side of a cork so it would sit flat once the robot was complete.

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Using an Xacto knife, I made a slit in one end of the cork; this was for a 3V battery to slot into. Initially I made the slit such that the battery would sit horizontally, but we later changed it to vertical for ease of attaching the wires.

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On the opposite side of the cork from the battery slit, I cut a square large enough to fit a pager motor. Hot glue the motor in place for security.

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Attach two wires (about 3 inches long), one on either side of the pager motor. Secure with masking tape. I used a thin floral wire for this step.

Now poke both ends of an LED light into the cork, taking note of the longer (anode) side and shorter (cathode) side. Wrap the wires that extend from the pager motor around each leg of the LED, and continue along until they reach the 3V battery. Tape it all securely in place with masking tape.

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Every time you touch both wires firmly to the battery, it will kick into action. The light lights up and the motor starts whirring! If you have trouble, go back and check that all your + sides are aligned, as well as all your – ones.

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Your child may want to decorate their mini bot with wiggle eyes or pipe cleaners for personality, but Travis loved it just like this! Here it is in action:

A Box to Extend Train Play

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Chances are you have lots of extra boxes these days; certainly we’re having more items delivered in this time of social distancing, and are so thankful to the fearless delivery folks out there! We put one such box to good use this morning by making it a tunnel for Veronika’s trains.

The set up was simple (although you could get really detailed and crafty with this if you have the time). First, I cut a few holes to be tunnel entrances and and exits.

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Next, I placed a strip of masking tape on the top as a road. Little bits of orange tape down the center served as the lane divider.

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I put the box on the ground and showed Veronika how she could make a train enter through one hole…

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…and pop out through another!

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She loved it, although she seemed mildly disappointed that she didn’t fit in the tunnels herself. Soon she was happily chugging trains to and fro.

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The road on top was a big hit, too!

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The box happened to be the perfect height for her to stand and zoom her cars around, which interested her almost more than the trains.

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This is a great way to keep your toddler busy, even if trains aren’t necessarily his or her “thing”!

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Banana Yogurt Milkshake

Banana Milkshake

This milkshake uses non-dairy yogurt and almond milk for creaminess, instead of ice cream. It’s the perfect healthy treat for after (home) school!

Ingredients:

  • 1 banana
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 8 ounces vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth.

 

Bear in the Basket

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This simple game is pure delight for a toddler! I put Veronika in her crib, which startled her momentarily since it’s not a place she normally plays. Surprise turned to excitement when I added all her stuffed animal friends.

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I placed a basket below the crib (a laundry basket would be perfect, or any old storage box like the one I had on hand), and then showed her how drop in a stuffed animal. “One, two, three, whee!” I counted. The first animal jumped in.

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Well she had to see what this was all about!

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She was eager to copy me, parroting my words and holding an animal over the railing. Sometimes she didn’t realize she needed to let go with those little fists; there’s a cognitive step of cause-and-effect here that’s great for motor skill development.

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Here goes reindeer!

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Once the basket was full, we tossed the animals back in the crib…

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…and played again.

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She was happy to play so many rounds of this game.

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Or sometimes to pause for a hug.

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Just for the heck of it, we extended the stuffed animal play with a dry animal bath tub!

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This oldie-but-goodie never grows old. Simply throw all the stuffed animals in for a soft landing and add one toddler.

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Graphite Circuit

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Did you know that graphite conducts electricity? Neither did Travis and I until we set out to light up an LED bulb with a 9V battery. You can create some serious wow factor with this easy STEM project; even grown-ups might be amazed!

Make sure you have graphite pencils or the project won’t work; check the art section of the craft store, not the kids’ section, to be sure.

On our first try, we drew a  bus shape for our circuit. Be sure to leave two gaps, about 1 cm wide, on each side of your drawing. Label them + and – as well. Travis loved making our graphite line nice and thick, and added bus windows.

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Tape the LED light down on one side of the gap, aligning + to + and – to – and making sure the two filaments are firmly on the graphite line. (Note: the longer end of the LED is positive).

Now place the 9V battery upside down across the other gap, making sure the + and – nodes align once more.

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Hmm… our light didn’t light up!

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We did a little research and found out that the longer your graphite drawing, the less strong the current will be that reaches the bulb. So we made a very small rectangle and tried again.

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And success! Travis was thrilled when we saw it light up.

 

Surprise-Inside Muffins

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There’s a sweet swirl of peanut butter and jelly hiding just below the crumb topping of these muffins. If you prefer your PB&J savory, check out the cheddar meltswe made earlier this week!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt + dash, divided
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon, divided
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, divided
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 3/4 cup vanilla almond milk
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup strawberry jam
  • 3 tablespoons Earth Balance butter
  1. To prepare the batter, combine 1 and 1/2 cups flour, the oats, baking soda, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 cup brown sugar; set aside.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the oil, almond milk, Ener-G eggs, and vanilla. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until combined.
  3. Fill the muffin cups about half way with batter. Drop 1 teaspoon peanut butter and 1 teaspoon jam over each, swirling slightly with a toothpick if desired.
  4. To prepare the crumb topping, combine the remaining 1/2 cup flour, 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and a dash of salt in a small bowl. Add the butter, and use your fingers to mix until combined. Sprinkle over the muffins.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 23 minutes. Cool in the pans and store in an airtight container.

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Paper Towel Drawing

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Here’s an easy art hack for toddlers, especially if you have a child who wants to get into an older sibling’s art supplies. Give them a paper towel to mark up instead! Because the paper towel has absorbency, the colors blur and bleed in fascinating ways.

I gave Veronika four different color markers and showed her how to make thick lines across the paper towel.

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She didn’t need to be shown twice! Soon she was coloring avidly, clearly interested with how the markers felt on the slightly bumpy surface.

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Next I showed her how to press in one spot and make a dot (almost like dot markers). “Dot dot dot!” she started saying happily as she imitated.

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She also said the names of the colors as she drew, parroting back “pink!” or “yellow!”

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Eventually, I taped the paper towel pieces down so she could keep going without direct supervision.

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Even when the paper towels slipped, I didn’t have to worry since the washable markers wipe clean from her high chair tray in a pinch.

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Note: You can also try this activity on coffee filters, which we did later in the day. They have a similar absorbency for a similar effect.

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Who Do You See?

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For toddlers who are forming a firm sense of “me”, the chance to see themselves in a mirror is especially exciting. This little project lets your toddler play peek-a-boo with him- or herself!

To make a mirror box, I used a wooden box with a hinged lid that Veronika would easily be able to flip open and closed. You can also find boxes like this at the craft store.

Use hot glue to attach a small flat mirror inside the lid of the box.

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I decorated the outside with pretty wrapping paper, purely for the aesthetic. And of course she loved playing with extra wrapping paper as I put it together!

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We started with just the mirror inside. You can tell from the photos that she was smitten.

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She tried playing peek-a-boo with her reflection, and said “hello” to it and paraded around so proudly with the box.

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And of course tried climbing in it!

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I later added a few photos of family member’s faces, thinking to make the surprise inside the lid different each time. You can mix this up by taping in pictures of animals or other favorite items from magazines, too.

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Even once the surprise of the mirror wears off, this makes for a special box to store little keepsakes in.

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Peanut Butter and Cheddar Melts

PB Cheddar (1)This gourmet sandwich is the perfect marriage of two kid classics: PB&J and grilled cheese. It’s sure to bring a smile to kids’ faces at lunchtime! Use your favorite jam for this recipe. Cherry would taste nice, as does mixed berry.

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 4 teaspoons Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup shredded Daiya cheddar
  • 4 teaspoons creamy peanut butter
  • 4 teaspoons berry jam
  1. Spread one side of each bread slice with 1 teaspoon butter; set aside.
  2. Place two of the bread slices, butter side down, in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle each with 1/4 cup cheese. Cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, spread the remaining two slices of bread with the peanut butter and jam, on the opposite side from the butter. Place over the cheesy bread in the skillet; flip and cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

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Let’s Build a Flashlight

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Kids will feel like real electricians with this easy project! All you need is a cheap flashlight, the kind you’ve probably picked up at a drugstore or dollar store check-out in the past and have lying around.

I disassembled the flashlight into all of its components and arranged them on a tray so it felt very official, then called Travis over.

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He was so excited when I challenged him to put it together again! At first he was twisting together just the body and the screw cap, without a thought for coils or batteries or other pieces that might need to go inside.

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Hmm… it wouldn’t turn on. What was missing? Now he worked hard to figure out where the coils should go.

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Being allowed to handle the batteries all by himself was super thrilling!

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It took a few tries before he had everything arranged in the right direction.

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He was so proud once a push of the button turned it on!

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This is a great introduction to battery power that even young children can grasp.

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