Squash Spirits

Use butternut squash to make this adorable family of ghosts for your front porch this Halloween season! The novel shape is a fun twist on a standard round pumpkin.

Since butternut squash come in a pale peach color, though, first we needed to make them a ghostly white. Veronika loved helping paint the “baby” squash while I painted two larger ones. Just use caution, as you will need to use acrylic paint for this project rather than washable tempera paint.

We let the paint dry before adding a second coat of white, then let dry completely again.

To set up the squash squad, one received a top hat to wear and another got glasses. (Note: Our accessories were care of Mr. Potato Head, but doll accessories would work, too!). Finally, Baby Squash got eyes with permanent black marker, and the family was ready to haunt our steps.

BOO!

Teach Your Child…To Memorize Your Phone and Address

Have you paused recently to make sure your child knows his or her address and phone number by heart? In this era of cell phone speed dial, a reminder on these necessary facts can be fun, thanks to these cute suggestions in Parents magazine.

The first two methods were just right for my toddler to learn the basics. While shouting out my cell phone number we clapped to the first three numbers, stomped to the second three, and clapped to the final four. Veronika thought this was a blast and was soon parroting along!

Then it was time to teach her our address. To the tune of Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone, we sang, “Where oh where does Veronika live? Where oh where does she live? At [insert address here] that is where she lives”.

Now it was Travis’s turn for some advanced learning! There’s no better way to learn a number than to dial it (remember all those old numbers you could dial from muscle memory?). So we played restaurant! He “called” my number on Veronika’s toy phone, and she was the restaurant owner proudly bringing our delivery.

Order up!

For a final challenge, I wrote the numbers of my cell phone on post-its and scrambled them. Travis got them in the right order on his first try. There’s great peace of mind knowing your kids can reach you in an emergency, so give these fun and important activities a try.

Sandwich Roll-Ups

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One of the biggest changes for Veronika this fall is that she now eats lunch at school. We love these rolled sandwiches for two reasons. A) kids can help put them together, which lets them take ownership of packed lunches and B) they’re just the right size for small hands!

To start, trim the crusts from whole wheat bread, then use a rolling pin to flatten out and stretch each piece slightly. Veronika loves this part!

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Next, spread the bread with a sticky spread of choice. We tried both lemon hummus and vegan cream cheese, both of which were declared yummy.

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Top with your filling of choice. We made a veggie version with shredded carrots and chopped baby spinach on the first day…

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…and filled them with tofurkey, vegan cheese, and olives on the second.

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Thanks to Veronika’s latest issue of High Five magazine for suggestion this perfect lunch treat.

Balloon School Send-Off

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Help your kids soar up, up, and away into the new school year with this picture-perfect backdrop for first day of school pix. I spotted the idea in Parents magazine, and instantly knew we needed balloons in green (the school color!) to start the year off on a high note.

Bonus points: if you start the day blowing up balloons, it means that any back-to-school grumbles will instantly turn to glee! I then arranged the balloons in an arc against our garage door, attaching with painter’s tape.

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All your kids need to do is stand under the arch and smile big. Wishing all families out there a safe, healthy, and fantastic school year ahead.

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Mail Truck Craft

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Veronika loves when the mail truck arrives each day, so we made this cute play version at home, thanks to a suggestion in her High Five magazine. Now she can be in charge of all the mail deliveries!

To start, cover an empty cereal box with white paper, gluing or taping as needed to hold in place.
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Next, I added a strip of blue duct tape for the windshield. Blue construction paper would also work for this part.
Add additional stripes with blue washi tape or markers. We used marker for details like headlights and wheels, but for real wheels, simply glue on old juice bottle caps!
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I purposefully left the back of the box with the flap open, so that Veronika could really insert mail and take it out again.
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We used index cards as letters, and she loved scribbling messages with crayon. Big brother Travis even ran over to write a few pieces of correspondence!
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Even more fun than writing out the mail, though, was chugging her mail truck around the room before making each “delivery”!
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Silly Face Rice Cakes

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Kids love to eat food when it’s presented in the form of something else (think rainbows or boats), and it’s particularly fun to eat food that looks like… faces! Rice cakes are the perfect backdrop for this adorable snack idea from Veronika’s latest High Five magazine.

To start, spread rice cakes with your kids’ favorite sticky spread of choice, whether peanut butter or another nut or seed butter.

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Then raid the snack cabinet for tidbits that can turn into facial features! We had an assortment of o-shaped cereal (great for eyes, noses, or mouths), raisins, dried apricots, and pretzels. The pretzels in particular were great for spiky hair.

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The other big winner for hair was rainbow sprinkles!

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Don’t stop there: strawberry halves make adorable ears, blueberries are perfect for eyes, and chocolate chip noses would also be super cute. Veronika thought that eating up this yummy face was an absolute delight.

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Build a Mini Sprinkler

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With a gentle, less intense stream of water than most store-bought sprinklers, this DIY version is just right for toddlers!

To start, I first cut a pool noodle in half (save the remaining half for another use), then cut a 2-inch section off one end. Cut this small section into 6 strips. Stuff three of the strips into one end of the pool noodle to create a very secure seal; you’ll have to wedge them in quite firmly, and can add masking tape or duct tape to hold it all together.

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Next, poke a series of holes along the pool noodle, making sure they’re wide enough for water to shoot through. Now just head outside with bathing suits and sunshine and attach a hose to the open end of the pool noodle.

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Turn on the water gently and watch the water spurt forth!

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This turned out to be exactly the right gentle trickle for Veronika, who loved that she could dip her toes or fingers in and enjoy the cold spray without her whole body getting soaked.

Most likely, splashing in puddles once the hose is off will be half the fun!

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Foil Moon Art

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Making craters in a fake moon is always fun, but even more so after a night of star gazing! Today, Veronika and I made this quick version using a few items from around the house.

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I cut a circle from aluminum foil, then gave it to Veronika to crumple up. Squish!

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Carefully smooth the circle back out, then place coins underneath, pressing down around each one to form an outline. We used a quarter, dime, and penny so we could have many craters of different sizes, which was also a nice reminder on the names of each different coin.

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Flip the foil back over and now there will be a “crater” everywhere you pressed around a coin. Veronika thought this method was so neat and wanted to keep going by herself for a while, including pressing the coins down on top of the foil.

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When you’re done, your child can glue the circle to black construction paper and add star stickers for pretty artwork. We skipped that step, but we do plan to head back outside soon to see what else is happening in the real night sky this month!!

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Pretend Play Lemonade

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If your child is too young to host their first real lemonade stand, you can set the stage for future endeavors with this cute role-play version! To set up, I got out yellow tissue paper, cotton balls, and a few cups. We used both plastic and glass, but you might want to use only plastic if you won’t be supervising closely. The more important thing is that the cups are clear!

I showed Veronika how to crumple pieces of the tissue paper to form the “lemonade” in each glass.

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Don’t forget to add a few cotton ball “ice cubes” to each cup to keep those drinks cool! Your child might want to add straws, too,

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Time to invite guests to the party!

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Whether dolls, stuffed animals, or action heroes show up, this lemonade party is sure to be a hit. Thanks to High Five magazine for the adorable, imaginative prompt.

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Paper Plate Numbers

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Veronika loves to bring her toy phone in the car, which has proved a great way to learn simple number recognition of the numerals 1 through 9. Here’s a great activity to build on that and emphasize that each number goes with a certain amount of things!

I labeled ten plates with the numbers 1 through 5, making two of each. I then added stickers to one set, with a corresponding number of colored dot stickers, but left the second set blank.

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For each number, I first asked Veronika what it was. Sometimes she recognized it from her phone, and sometimes she sweetly confessed, “I can’t remember.”

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Once we said the number out loud, we counted out the correct number of dot stickers to go on the plate. One, two, three!

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Continue with as many pairs as you like, based on your child’s age and understanding… or just until you run out of paper plates!

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Once all the plates have the right number of stickers, you can then play a matching game. I held up the plate with a 1 and Veronika’s task was to find the other.

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Preschoolers can use these more than once for review, but don’t be surprised if your toddler turns it into a sticker free-for-all after the first round of the lesson.

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