Snow Skeeball

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Finally! It took until March for us to receive our first real snowfall of the season, and we were so ready to play. Last weekend we were indoors at an arcade, so today we decided to replicate one of our favorite games in snowy form.

I fashioned a ramp out of the snow, making it lower at the bottom, and higher up top – good thing we had perfectly packable snow.

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We wedged three buckets into the snow at intervals, and then I handed Travis a few golf balls.

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Time to toss! We decided the first bucket was worth 1 point, the second was 2 points, and the third was 3. We even had tickets to use from a pretend-play carnival game!

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The game was admittedly hard – next time we’d use bigger buckets. (Note: we’d also use colored balls, for rather obvious reasons!).

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So here’s hoping for one more storm before spring. We’ll be out there playing skeeball… or should I say “ski ball”?

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Gingerbread Pancakes

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These pancakes, redolent with ginger and other spices, are the perfect version to make on a winter morning.

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They’re especially nice around the holidays, but you can’t go wrong with them on any dark winter morning!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  1. In a large bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Set aside. (Note: we didn’t have ground allspice, but the pancakes were plenty spiced without it!).
  2. Whisk together the vinegar and milk, and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the milk mixture in a bowl with the molasses, Ener-G eggs, and canola oil
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  4. Heat a griddle coated with cooking spray and add about 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes on the other side.

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We liked these with just a pat of Earth Balance butter, but optional toppings include sliced banana, powdered sugar, or sauteed pears.

To continue the fun, Travis and I also explored ginger in all its forms. I presented him with ground ginger, crystallized ginger, and a fresh ginger root.

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He loved taking little nibbles of the crystallized  ginger, delighting in how it was sweet and spicy all at once.

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The ginger root was a big hit. First we smelled it…

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…then tested what would happen when we grated it.

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He marveled at how the firm root became soft and wet, in just moments.

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This is a great way to talk kids about using all the senses with an ingredient, since they can touch, taste, see, and smell the varieties. You can even add pickled ginger to your exploration, if you like!

Finally, this recipe makes a great gift. Just layer the dry ingredients in a pretty jar, add instructions for adding wet ingredients at home, and present to a party hostess, friend, or family member.

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Pretend-Play Hot Cocoa

fake cocoa (6)Ok, so this cute little craft won’t really warm the kids up during the polar vortex, but it will get their imaginative juices flowing! We loved this pretend play idea from High Five magazine.

I set up a table for Travis with all the materials we’d need: newspaper, brown paper, cotton balls, and big mugs for our “cocoa”.

First we needed to wad up a piece of newspaper for each cup.

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Stuff in a mug to make a base.

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Next, rip brown construction paper into pieces; smaller is better. Once you have a lot of pieces, crumple each up.

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Add these pieces to your mug, and you’ll have a chocolaty cup of cocoa!

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Travis loved adding “marshmallows” (soft cotton balls).

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We thought it would be neat to trick his dad with this one, telling him we’d made him cocoa. Surprise! It wasn’t really meant to drink.

We also set up a little cafe for a few stuffed animal friends.

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Travis did tire of the game rather quickly after that, but some kids may want to run their “hot cocoa stand” for a while. Have fun serving up drinks, making a full cocoa cafe, and more. I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Rosemary Focaccia

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The second recipe from Travis’s “Fireside Feast”¬†Raddish kit was for focaccia – a true, yeast bread. I was quite impressed, since I didn’t make bread with yeast until I was in my twenties, and here I was coaching my four-year-old through the process!

The recipe said to start with warm water, and from my own baking days, I always make sure that the temp is between 100 and 110 degrees F before adding yeast. Travis loved helping use my thermometer, watching it inch up to 100.

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We put the warm water in a bowl and added 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 packet yeast, and 2 tablespoons olive oil. This was a great chance to talk about yeast: that it’s actually an alive microorganism. Travis couldn’t believe it, and loved learning that the yeast eats sugar, and then dies once it’s heated in the oven.

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Next we stirred in 4 and 1/4 cups flour and 1 tablespoon salt to the yeast mixture.

Turn the dough out onto a surface and knead for 8 minutes; the recipe helpfully featured kneading directions on the back. I was so proud of Travis getting the little heels of his hands right in there! This was definitely a messy recipe, but so worth the fun we had!

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Set the dough aside to rise for 1 hour, loosely covered with plastic wrap. Not in the recipe but a helpful tip: coat your bowl with cooking spray so the dough doesn’t stick.

Coat a baking sheet with 3 tablespoons olive oil, and turn the dough out onto the sheet. Flip over so both sides are coated in oil, and pat to the edges of the pan. Use your fingers to make holes in the dough, pressing all the way through to the pan.

Next we needed to explore rosemary. Your child can help strip the rosemary leaves from the stalks, and you can talk about the smell and appearance of it. Then mince to equal 1 tablespoon.

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Sprinkle the rosemary over the dough, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles. Bake at 400 degrees F for 17 minutes.

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The recipe was done, but not the fun! The card suggested truly making this a fireside feast, but failing to have a fireplace in our apartment, I drew one on craft paper, and set up tealights and a picnic blanket.

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Travis loved that this was where we had dinner! We even added ambient sound from the internet for a crackling fire, and talked about how gathering at fires is one of the oldest human traditions alive. I asked Travis about other traditions he could think of, and we settled on singing songs.

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To continue the “fireside” fun, we returned at dessert time. This was super cozy, with mugs of hot cocoa, plus roasted chestnuts and marshmallows, even though we didn’t actually roast them over our fire.

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We played a round of Charades, and read a winter book (Jan Brett’s The Snowy Nap) for extra hygge points. Once again, I’m quite impressed with the depth of each lesson and recipe in Raddish Kids. Stay tuned for the final Fireside Feast recipe soon!

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Picture Frame Winter Scene

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Here’s one of those crafts that didn’t exactly turned out as I imagined! My little artist had his own plans, but the whole point was the fun and the crafting moment together, not perfection.

To start, you’ll need a simple frame (you can find these cheap at a craft store, measuring about 5×7 inches). Travis loves the mechanics of removing the back off a frame, so was delighted to discover our project enabled him to do so.

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Cut a piece of leftover holiday wrapping paper to fit the glass of the frame, and insert.

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I set out acrylic paints and invited Travis to draw any winter-themed scene that would fit nicely with our Christmas tree background. He chose white for snow, and I encouraged him to paint a snowman, thinking of how the body is made up of various circles.

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Travis had his own plans, making a big snowy blanket of white. “It’s covering the trees,” he insisted.

 

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Luckily at this point I snapped a pic, because he soon decided he needed to “snow” over the trees completely with white paint. I laughed but didn’t tell him this rather negated the point of having wrapping paper inside the frame.

He then wanted to mix other colors over his white. “I’m an artist!” he declared, doing swirls of paint.

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Well, we didn’t end up with a winter scene, but we did end up with a good time!

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I encourage you to have fun with these, though. Your children could paint something quite beautiful in front of the wrapping paper background, whether snowmen or ornaments or anything else that fits the season. I’d love to hear what they come up with in the comments!

Movie Pillow Fort

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You’ll score points as the coolest parent on the block if you trot out this idea on a cold winter afternoon. Arm yourself with this idea for the winter school break ahead, and you won’t get cabin fever!

I told Travis that we were going to make a fort – not necessarily an unusual occurrence – but this time for a special purpose. He was so intrigued, and trotted about gathering pillows, blankets, and stools for his special fort.

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We made it bigger than we ever had before, with an entire bed sheet for the ceiling. Soft pillows made the perfect floor.

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He loved testing a flashlight inside. Neat shadows!

Now for the big reveal – I brought in a computer so we could watch a holiday movie right inside the fort.

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Of course you could do this with a regular movie any time of year, but something about it felt so cozy and right for the holiday season. Don’t forget to arm yourself with yummy snacks!

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The fort was just the right size for a boy and his movie – peek-a-boo!

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Even better, make it big enough for the whole family, and you can all snuggle in there together, matching holiday pajamas optional of course.

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Was this the coziest winter afternoon ever, or what? A big hit!

Make a Speedy Bobsled

Bobsled (6)I love how timely the craft in our monthly issue of High Five always is. This month, Travis learned how to make a bobsled just in time for the start of the Olympics!

Of course it made no sense to put together a bobsled when Travis had no reference point, so first we watched a few videos of past teams. He was then super revved up to create one at home.

All you need is an empty toilet paper tube to be the bobsled, and a long piece of cardboard for the track. Ideally use a three foot long piece of cardboard as your track; I only had two feet in length, which worked just fine, but it meant our bobsled couldn’t race as far downhill.

Cut the tube open along one side, and then paint.

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I asked Travis if he wanted to paint his sled in the colors of a particular country. Actually, the red white and blue here isn’t America but Australia – he’s big into an Australia phase.

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I suggested making the track white for ice, but Travis wanted an Australian-flag colored track as well.

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We left the track and bobsled to dry while he was at school, and returned to an afternoon of Olympic fun!

To finish the sled, simply tape two plastic straws on the bottom (decorative washi tape was pretty, though not a must), with the bent parts of the straw pointing upwards like sled runners.

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Woosh! Action shot!

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We took turns launching the bobsled and rating its runs on a scale of 1 to 10. We give a gold medal to this craft, thanks High Five!

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Cotton Swab Snowflake Craft

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I’ve never been a fan of cut-paper snowflakes as a craft. Quite frankly, I’m no good at it, and mine end up looking like circles with a few holes in them, instead of lacy flakes! But with pretty sparkling snowflakes outside our window, we wanted some indoor craft to bring the snow inside, and this cotton swab version was much easier to pull off.

To be honest, Travis was a little young for it. Older kids may be much more into shaping and designing their six-pointed flakes, and can really get creative with the process. As to Travis, he still had lots of fun, just in his own preschool way…

…starting with ferrying the cotton swabs over to me by “forklift.” Shipment received.

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He thought it was fascinating to watch me clip the cotton swabs in half (which, fyi, is not easy to do, the stems are tough; adults may want to help even older children with this step).

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Next I showed him how to arrange the cotton swabs into six-pointed shapes like snowflakes.

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We adhered ours to circles cut from blue constructions paper, but if you prefer, glue them together over wax paper and lift them off the wax paper once the glue has dried.

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Travis set about adding lots of glue and cotton swabs to his “snowflakes.” I loved watching his creative process, including smearing on the glue with a cotton swab at one point.

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As mentioned, older kids may want to create increasingly complex designs, and can cut the swabs into even tinier components.

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After the glue dried, we hung the snowflakes in the window.

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What beautiful flakes falling down!

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Snowy Road

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You’ll be the coolest mom or dad on the block if you give this simple twist to outdoor snow play: give your kids permission to bring their toy cars outside to join the fun! Travis was hesitant to venture into the cold, so I headed out first with a shovel and made a road in the snow. Once he saw what I was up to, he couldn’t resist.

He was very into the process of making the road itself, and started to shovel his own route next to the one I had created before he even turned his attention to the cars. Let your civil engineers take over the road building, too, if they prefer!

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We found that this game works best with bigger toy cars; little ones get bogged down in the snow.

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The best vehicle was our big dump truck, which of course had the added benefit that we could load it with snow…

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…zoom it to the dump, and then unload.

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What’s your favorite novel way to play in the snow? Let us know in the comments!

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Snow Ice Cream

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My mother recently reminded me of this activity from my own childhood, the process of taking fresh-fallen snow and turning it into a marvelous melty cupful of snow ice cream. I couldn’t wait for the next snowy day to share it with my son!

To start, we needed to collect snow of course. Make sure you head out when it’s first tracks and the snow has just fallen glistening from the sky – otherwise you’re not going to want to eat it.

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My “recipe” here is in exact, and you’ll want to vary the amounts according to taste. We took our full cup of snow inside and saturated the top with almond milk until it was a bit slushy. Next we stirred in about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons maple syrup.

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Travis didn’t stop until he reached the bottom of the cup!

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