Crumbly Coconut Dough

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With about 2 feet of snow outside, we needed something tropical around here! This easy sensory dough was the perfect indoor amusement.

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In a shallow bin, combine 1 cup coconut milk with about 2 cups cornstarch. You may have to adjust the ratios slightly; at first I had something similar to ooblek, but dusting the mixture with just a bit more cornstarch made it perfect. I crumbled it between my fingers and it began to look – and smell – like tropical sand!

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Add any fun items that will heighten the tropical vibe. I had a few bright purple flowers, as well as some star fish from the craft store. Veronika enjoyed plucking the flowers out, and testing their texture.

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More than anything, she loved simply stirring at the “sand”. This was a great way to keep busy and feel warm on a winter day.

How to Build a Snow Fort

 

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It’s only the third day of December and Travis is on the second snow day off from school. That meant we had to test out Highlights magazine’s tips for making the best snow fort!

Highlights recommended first delineating an area for your fort with a stick. We used a shovel instead, making a big square on our patio and then mounding up the walls to give us a base.

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To make bricks for the walls, fill a rectangular container with snow. Drizzle with a little water, than add a final layer of snow on top.

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Depending on the consistency of your snowfall, you may or may not need that extra water. We soon found that we did not – today anyway! Continue building until you have several layers of “bricks”.

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We even tried adding windows.

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Simply twist an empty soup can to drill a little peephole.

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Even more fun was adding food color to a spritz bottle; now we could decorate our fort’s walls with art (though I wish Travis hadn’t opted for orange!).

 

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Travis loved being in charge of the “moat”, shoveling a long path away from our fort.

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And we even armed ourselves with ammo, in case enemies (i.e. neighborhood friends) happened to storm the castle!

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Don’t forget a side door to sneak out of! What special activities to you do on a snow day off from school? Please share in the comment!

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Chickpea Noodle Soup

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Of all the vegan variations helpfully provided by Raddish Kids, this one deviated most from the original ingredients and purpose of the recipe Travis received in his kit. Based on a Turkey Noodle Soup recipe intended to use up Thanksgiving leftovers, the vegan variation was a chickpea soup. There was no vegan suggestion for the egg noodles in the original, so we opted for elbow macaroni. Now we had more of a classic broth and bean soup cooked over a mirepoix. But it was perfect timing for a boy home from school with a cold on a snow day!

Ingredients:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 celery stalk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained and rinsed can chickpeas
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups elbow macaroni
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  1. Peel and chop the onion. Chop the carrot and celery, and mince the garlic. Set these vegetables as in a bowl; they will be your flavor base.Chickpea Noodle Soup (1)
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the vegetable mixture, along with the salt and pepper; cook for 10 minutes.Chickpea Noodle Soup (2)
  3. Add the broth, water, and chickpeas. Bring to a boil, then stir in the pasta. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Stir in the parsley, then spoon into bowls to serve.

This was the first recipe that’s ever gotten Travis to enjoy chickpeas, so a big winner!

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Your kidsĀ  can enjoy information about other flavor bases from around the world (this one uses the French mirepoix) as well as some turkey trivia as you dine.

Create Holiday Cards

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This holiday season, I’m trying to help Travis understand the meaning of charity a little more deeply. It’s never too early to model charitable giving, especially around the holidays, but you also don’t want to alarm young children with issues like illness and poverty.

One action that’s just right for kindergarten age kids is to spread holiday cheer through cards. Cards for Hospitalized Kids accepts letters all year long, but you can easily tailor it with a holiday message in December.

Travis has a cold right now, which helped him sympathize; he was alarmed to learn that some children have illnesses that last much longer than a cold, and need to live in a hospital. He was immediately excited to make a card for these boys and girls.

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Following the organization’s guidelines, we designed a card and Travis wrote his own Merry Christmas message. We thought happy face stickers were just right for adding a bit of cheer.

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We added just a touch of glitter. When I asked him if he wanted me to draw a Christmas tree on the inside, he insisted on drawing it himself!

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I was proud of the generosity that went into this one project. More to follow as the lead-up to Christmas continues!

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Santa’s Sleigh Automaton

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I originally purchased this special holiday crate from Kiwi Co thinking it would be fun to put together with Travis. It turns out that it was so complicated even mommy had trouble with it! But we now have a very cool decoration to last until the holiday is over.

The sleigh works as an automaton, a machine that is pushed into motion, and the instruction booklet included neat STEM learning about other examples of automatons (think jack-in-the-boxes or vending machines), and also a detailed explanation at the end about how you’ve built a “cam”. Here’s a rough outline of what we did:

First we made a frame, slotting together the provided wooden pieces and foam stickers to help hold them in place.

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We then needed to build the crank part of our cam by attaching wooden circles to a crank in the proper order.

Next up was the part of the cam that would go up and down. This required fitting plastic rods into the wood stand, securing them onto a paper square at the base, and adding a paper straw and foam donut to hold them in place. Here is where the machine seemed a bit faulty, with the paper squares not staying firmly on the wheels of the crank. Hmmm…

But we forged on, adding the felt reindeer, Santa and sleigh (quite tiny!) to each of the plastic rods. Secure them all with the provided string for a leash.

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There is a decorated backdrop with felt houses and trees to attach. Now Santa’s sleigh and team are ready to fly!

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Travis does indeed enjoy turning the crank, so there is holiday magic (and science!) to be had in the final product.

 

Frozen Treasures

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Ice play is fascinating for babies and it doubles as a first science lesson on the states of matter (water into ice or vice versa). This little activity is also a puzzle for your little one to figure out!

You’ll need to prep the night before you want to play the game. I cut an old soy milk carton in half, and cleaned it out. Fill with water, then add a few plastic toys. Toy farm animals were perfect! Place in the freezer until completely solid.

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The next day I presented the little cube of ice to Veronika. She touched it immediately, then withdrew her hand, quite surprised. It was cold!

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I removed the outer carton layer, and posed the question to her of how we could free piggy and the other animals. Big brother immediately swooped in and wanted in on the action.

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We tried pouring warm water over the ice first. Veronika loved the cup, and wanted to be a part of every pour!

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This made the game great for action words (pour, tip), and great for talking about what was happening. I asked Veronika about how the temperature of the water was changing, from warm to cold once the ice touched it, to warmer again when we poured more from the cup.

Travis wanted to try a little chisel, too, but we decided we liked the warm water method better.

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Finally, the animals were free!

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Honestly by that point Veronika was more into the tools we had used than the animals themselves, but she was busy and happy, which meant mama was too.

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We took the final chunk of ice up to bath time to watch it dissolve – good fun!

Musical Nursery Rhyme Dance Party

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We’re filling a snow day today, which made it the perfect day to set aside some quality time for musical play.

Of course you can always just grab an instrument and play, and in that vein, I laid out every instrument we had at home.

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For some more structured fun, I went through a repertoire of nursery rhymes with Veronika! We started out with Where is Thumbkin. I held up my fingers for the verses, as she played along on the maracas.

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Next up was Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes. Make sure to touch each body part, and shake an instrument in between verses!

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The Itsy BItsy Spider was fun with a rain stick for the rain.

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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star was beautiful on cymbals.

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You’ll probably find that there’s a perfect instrument for each song! For example, bang or rub on a drum for Pat-a-Cake. Or you can simply get up and dance, as I did for The Hokey Pokey while she looked up at me and laughed!

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We added other favorites like Wheels on the Bus, If You’re Happy and You Know It, and I’m a Little Teapot.

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Whatever instrument strikes your little one’s fancy is just fine; there’s no wrong way to play this game. Or simply pick him or her up and dance! This is a great way to pass some time with a one-year-old at home.

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Let’s Count

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Counting out loud might seem silly when you play with babies who don’t have many words yet, but it’s never too early to learn! At one year old, here are some fun ways Veronika and I count.

First off, little fingers and toes practically beg to be counted.

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You can simply count them out with a touch or a tickle, or recite a classic rhyme like “This Little Piggy”, but add numbers for a twist. (“One little piggy went to market, two little piggies stayed home…”)

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Stairs are another fantastic place to count. Chances are your little adventurer loves climbing up these days. Counting helps cement the notion that numbers go in order, plus helps keep grown-ups patient since those little feet take longer than yours on steep steps!

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We also play with toys that involve counting, like a veggie farm set or Duplo blocks.

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Consider counting bubbles as you blow them. Or pop them!

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You could also try counting when you’re out and about, such as when you wait for a green light to change. Finally, read fun counting books together, especially ones with tactile elements.

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Before you know it, Veronika will be counting along! Once your baby does reach this milestone, don’t worry if he or she counts out of order. “One, two…five” will still mean he or she is learning these new words and concepts!

 

Strawberry Banana Yogurt

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This easy yogurt mixture is perfect for babies to spoon up themselves. Or serve it the way we like best – spooned over pancakes!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup chopped strawberries
  • 1/2 cup sliced banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, and stir to combine.

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Apple Crumb Pie

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We had a pumpkin pie at Thanksgiving this year, but that didn’t stop me and Travis from whipping up this apple pie at home a few days later! He loved preparing this recipe from his Thanksgiving Table Raddish Kids.

To prepare the crust, combine 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 1 teaspoon sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Cut 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter into small cubes. Add to the flour mixture, using your fingers or a pastry blender to cut in until the mixture is like small flakes. Raddish recommended the fingertip method, but Travis preferred using a tool for less of a mess on his hands.

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Add 4 tablespoons cold water. Stir with your hands and form a ball, then wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes

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Meanwhile, prepare the apple filling. Travis single-handedly peeled all 2 pounds of Granny Smith apples. He loved this part!

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As he finished each apple, he handed it over and I thinly sliced it. Combine the apples in a bowl with 1 tablespoon fresh-squeezed lemon juice, 1/3 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

To prepare the crumb topping, melt 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter in a microwave-safe bowl for about 30 seconds. Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 1/3 cup brown sugar, and 1/3 cup sugar. Stir with a fork until combined.

Roll the dough into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer to a pie plate. Press into the pan, and trim any overhanging edges. The recipe card featured two options for decorating the edge: pressing with a fork, or crimping. We chose crimping!

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Spoon the apple filling into the crust. Sprinkle the flour mixture on top, and bake at 375 degrees F for 1 hour. The recipe card also had the helpful suggestion to check the pie after 40 minutes and tent with foil, if the top was getting too brown. So we did! The resulting pie was perfect.

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As he enjoyed a slice, we checked out the recipe card’s other features, including information on harvest festivals around the world and about the life cycle of an apple.

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