Frosting Flags

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This craft-turned-snack is meant to let toddlers make “flags” in the run-up to the 4th of July. Will your toddler really be able to make a snack that looks like an American flag? Most likely not, but it’s never too early to introduce a little patriotism and show your child that our national colors are red, white, and blue!

Scoop vanilla frosting into three paper cups. Add a few drops of red food coloring to one cup, blue to the second, and leave the third as is. Stir and repeat with more food coloring until you have the desired hues of blue and red.

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I gave Veronika these cups along with craft sticks as “knives”. Ideally, have your child then paint the frosting onto graham cracker sheets. Because the store was all out of vegan graham crackers, we used saltine crackers instead!

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It turned out that Veronika was way more into snacking on the crackers than spreading the frosting!

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To capture her attention, I scooped the frosting out of the cups and let her spread the colors around this way. Now it became more like edible art!

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All in all, a delicious first lesson on our flag.

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Patriotic Balloons

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Even if your family can’t wave balloons at a real parade this year, I loved this idea (spotted in Country Living magazine) to make easy patriotic balloons for fun at home.

I blew up big blue balloons (and red or white ones would obviously also work), then added the letters U, S, and A out of star stickers.

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You can use small office star stickers, but we found big sparkly ones that added to the fun.

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While I decorated a few balloons in this way, the kids loved adding stickers to a few extras. Stars all over!

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We can’t wait to wave these at home while we watch the virtual fireworks.

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Fireworks Printing

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We’re busy decorating for the upcoming 4th of July, and this was a fantastic way to make prints that looked just like exploding fireworks!

I had a few plastic scrubber sponges which I knew would be perfect for the craft. (Note: look for these in the cleaning supplies aisle of the supermarket).

I set out black construction paper for the night sky, along with paper plates containing red, white, and blue paint. Using one scrubber sponge per color, dip in the paint and then press to the paper.

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“Pop!” I said, as I demonstrated to Veronika. “We made a firework!” Saying “pop!” was half the fun of the game, and Veronika proceeded to pop pop pop her fireworks all over.

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In this way, we  filled up the black paper rather quickly!

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That meant this was a great art project, but definitely not a way to keep your toddler occupied solo.

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Even though we can’t watch real fireworks this year, at least our home will be spangled with them!

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Stars and Stripes Sponge Painting

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We’re gearing up for the 4th of July, and today Veronika got to make her first patriotic craft! She was too young for crafts last year at Independence Day, but there are so many fun red-white-and-blue projects that she can do now as a toddler.

For this one, we needed sponges in the shape of stars and stripes. You can cut these yourself, but I knew my scissor skills aren’t quite that deft when it comes to cutting sponges. Luckily we have a set of shape sponges attached to handles; I used the rectangle for “stripes”, along with the star.

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I showed Veronika how to dip each sponge in a plate of paint (use red and blue of course) and then press onto white poster board.

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She very quickly got the hang of it and loved it!

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“Stripes” were far easier for her to accomplish than the star, which needed even pressure along all 5 points, so I helped with those.

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It turned out that big brother Travis wanted to try, too! So after officially making our stars and stripes artwork, we dipped and painted with other shapes for a while. I love seeing the work of an almost-2 and almost-6 year old side-by-side.

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This was a great craft to fill a rainy morning.

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Homemade Rocket Pops and Picnic Celebration

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Travis and I originally intended to make these homemade rocket pops for the 4th of July, but we were short a couple of ingredients. But there’s no better time than a summer afternoon to declare a random family celebration. Prepare these fun popsicles, set up a picnic, and celebrate… whether it’s a true holiday, or just a hot afternoon! That’s precisely what we did today. Read on for the recipe… and a fantastic chance to win $1,000!

First up: Making the rocket pops:

In a blender, combine 1 cup strawberries, 1 tablespoon sugar, and 1 tablespoon water; blend until smooth. Pour into the bottoms of popsicle molds or small paper cups. We tried it both ways since I had a hunch our molds would work better and our 9 oz cups seemed too large. Small (5 oz) dixie cups would have been ideal!

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Let the strawberry layer freeze for 30 minutes. Travis was quite intrigued about this layered method of preparation.

Meanwhile, make the blueberry layer; puree 1 cup blueberries, 1 tablespoon lime juice, and 1 tablespoon sugar. Set aside.

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Spoon 2 tablespoons vanilla non-dairy yogurt over each layer of strawberry mixture. Add 2 tablespoons blueberry mixture to the top of each pop. Insert the handles (or, if using cups, cover with foil and insert a popsicle stick). Return to the freezer for at least 6 hours.

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Now it was time for the picnic! We headed to a local national park, laid down a blanket and enjoyed our pops. Okay, so they got a bit melty on a 90 degree day, but that only added to the amusement.

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We decided ours were Bastille Day pops, since our picnic coincided with France’s day to celebrate red white and blue instead of America’s.

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Whatever the reason to celebrate, your child will love being involved in the picnic from start to finish, first by preparing a special recipe and then by helping to clean up at the end!

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I love projects like this that inspire kids to learn without even realizing it; they use their own creative process and enjoy tangible results. How does your child love learning while having fun? I’m so excited to announce the Limitless Learners Contest through Education.com, where your child can win $500 toward college, $1,000 for a school library, and a lifetime free membership to Education.com by explaining just that!

Children must be entering kindergarten through grade 5 and will think creatively about what education means to them. Using art or writing (depending on age), entrants describe a time they had so much fun they didn’t realize they were learning. A winner will be chosen from each grade level.

I hope my readers will tap into this amazing opportunity. Entries must be received by October 31, 2019. Further details are available at https://www.education.com/contests/

Fourth of July Paper Pinwheels

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Just in time for a Fourth of July parade, we threw together these quick pinwheels! This is actually a project we’ve tried in the past but only had brads on hand to attach the paper to pencils. This time, I had proper straight pins on hand!

Draw patterns on paper with markers to start. For today, we knew we needed blue and red markers on white paper of course, but really you could tailor this craft for any holiday – or any day of the year!

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Older kids can concentrate on making their drawings and patterns symmetrical. Or even use patterned paper in a pinch! Make sure to also color in small circles on a separate sheet of scrap paper, which will be the center of the pinwheel.

Cut your paper into a 6-inch square; cut a 3-inch slit diagonally in toward the center from each corner, and cut out the scrap circle.

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Poke a straight pin through the paper circle, then begin folding in the corners of your square, alternating corners and poking the pin through each layer as you go. This was a mommy step!

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Poke the pin through the center of your square and down into the eraser of an unsharpened pencil.

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Your pinwheel is ready to twirl in the wind as the parade marchers go by! Baby sister loved it, too!

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In addition to this fun craft, we set the stage for the holiday with a few other activities. First we needed a playlist of Fourth of July tunes.

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Think of bandstand favorites like “You’re a Grand Old Flag”, then add anything with America or U.S.A. in the title! We made our own list, but relied on this one from Raddish Kids for inspiration.

Then we struck up some table talk, also suggested by Raddish Kids; we tackled intriguing questions like who is your favorite president (Travis chose Washington!), how many states can you name, and what is a favorite family 4th of July tradition?

Finally, I showed Travis a red, white, and blue flag quiz. For big kids, make it a true quiz or competition – winner gets a prize! For Travis, it was more of a teaching moment. He liked Great Britain’s flag best, and was intrigued to learn so many other countries use the same color trio as we do.

Happy 4th!

DIY Burlap American Flags

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We have little American flags for Travis and Veronika to wave at tomorrow’s Fourth of July parade, but with a roll of burlap in our craft bin, we thought it would be fun to bring homemade ones along as well.

Cut burlap into little flags; these can be square, rectangular, or triangles, whatever your little crafters would like!

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I set out red, white, and blue paints, and Travis jumped right in.

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First he smeared lots of blue over his flag, but then remembered to include the other two colors from Old Glory as well. By the end, his flag was a pretty mix. Meanwhile, I made a sort of reverse-color American flag for him.

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Once the paint dries, hot glue onto dowels. You can leave the dowels plain, but we decided to paint those blue as well!

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History of the Flag

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In anticipation of the 4th of July, Travis and I had a lesson about the American flag today, thanks to our Backyard BBQ unit from Raddish Kids. Recipes will follow soon, but for today, we had fun learning about the flag’s history and getting creative. Read on!

First I gave Travis a riddle: “I’m red, white, and blue, and starry too. What am I?” He had peeked (little cheater!) so knew I meant the flag. It’s fun at this point if you have a little flag that your child can examine and hold.

We made a chart known as a K/W/L graph with three columns: Things I Know; Things I Want to Know; What I Learned.

I asked him what he knew for starters, and he rattled off facts: the colors, the inclusion of stars and stripes, and that it’s our American flag, not another country’s.

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Then we discussed what he wanted to know. I encouraged him to go deeper: why are there thirteen stripes or fifty stars, for example; why do we fly the flag. Now it was time for videos suggested by Raddish!

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We looked through a few flag books, as well, for further facts. It was useful to have a world map handy so I could point out where other flags were from.

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Now he could fill in the final L column. I was so proud that Travis had learned about the thirteen colonies, for example, or nicknames for the flag like Old Glory.

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So now for the crafty part: designing his own country flag. Being only 5 years old, Travis’s grasp of the project was limited; his was a very fantastical flag for a “snake country.”

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We used cardstock as the background, and of course a coiled yarn snake needed to be in the center. Using stencils was an artistic way to add “symbols”. Big kids can go more in depth into which symbols exist on real flags, and why.

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A tin foil canton (vocab word)!) in the top corner added shine, though soon this was embellished with an old train ticket and construction paper.

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I loved watching his creativity even though his final result was quite busy for a flag. Please share about your own kids’ creations in the comments!

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Red, White, and Blue Berry Shortcakes

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It’s not Independence Day until we make a flag-colored recipe from High 5 magazine! To wit, see our recipes in the past for Flags for Breakfast or Red, White, and Blue Nachos.

This year’s candidate: easy shortcakes in the colors of the American flag. We made a few vegan substitutions from High 5’s original recipe, but stayed true to the spirit of the dish.

Instead of refrigerated biscuit dough, purchase frozen pie shells (such as Wholly Wholesome) or make your favorite pie dough recipe. Use a star-shaped cookie cutter to make 12 stars from the crust (you’ll have to re-roll your scraps a few times to have enough dough).

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Travis loved playing with extra dough!

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Place the stars on a baking sheet, brush with about 1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter, and sprinkle with sugar. Bake at 400 degrees for 5 minutes; cool completely.

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Meanwhile, combine 2 cups blueberries, 2 cups raspberries, and 2 tablespoons agave nectar in a bowl. Set aside.

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Rather than make our own yogurt cream from scratch, we purchased a can of SoyaToo whipped cream. (Note: there are vegan substitutes that whip up like dairy cream, but I didn’t have enough time to plan in advance and order online).

To assemble each dessert, place one star on a plate, along with a heaping spoonful of berries.

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Add a dollop of whipped cream to taste, and enjoy!

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Patriotic Popsicles

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Need a red-white-and-blue snack for this Fourth of July – or any day this summer? These adorable popsicles fit the bill!

First up was using a small cookie cutter on slices of melon. Ideally, we would have used a small star for truly star-spangled popsicles, but a heart was just as cute.

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Travis was so proud of the shapes he made! Cut out enough so you have 2 watermelon slices per popsicle mold, and add to your molds.

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Fill the molds nearly all the way with lemonade, then top off with a few fresh blueberries.

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Freeze completely before serving. Ha, he seems to be asking, “Hey Mom, how do I get to the fruit?”

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