Paper Cup Drums

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A kitchen band never gets old; everyone loves clanging on pots, tapping together spoons, and banging on old pans, from toddlers to big kids. But sometimes I don’t want to clean out all the pots after the kids have played with them… and that’s where these clever paper cup drums come in, this month’s craft from High Five magazine. Travis got to use kitchen items for his instruments and I had no pots to wash – a win-win! You’ll also get to teach a little science, thanks to the different tones the drums make.

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First, set out 2 large paper cups and 2 small ones. Cut one large cup and one small cup in half, leaving the others whole – great scissor practice!

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Travis decorated the cups next, using marker on the outside and then coloring inside them, too, which I wouldn’t have thought of!

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We glued down our drums as a “drum set” on a piece of cardboard, then waited for the glue to set.

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Once dry, it was time to play! Use a spoon to tap on the “drums” – first we just enjoyed the sounds.

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But to be more educational about it, I asked Travis what difference he noticed between the big cups and small ones. Tapping first one, then the other, he could hear the difference – a low tone, then a high tone.

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I challenged him to guess how the medium cups would compare. Lower or higher than the big? He initially guessed lower, but then amended his guess once we played the tone. Interestingly, your intact small cup and cut-in-half big cup should now be nearly the same size, and thus sound quite alike.

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Note: We originally tried using a metal spoon, but found that the difference in cup size/tones was much more apparent when tapping with a plastic spoon.

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Thanks for the musical play, High Five!


Bright Bean Salad

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This main dish salad from the December issue of High Five magazine is just gorgeous – bright indeed! The dominant colors of red and green would make it right at home in a Christmas holiday spread… or just make it any night with your kids!

Travis loved that the recipe involved kids every step of the way, including actions he’d never done before like washing the vegetables, chopping (!), and draining cans of beans. This was definitely a “next level” recipe in his cooking skills. I did a bit of the tough chopping (the green onions, cilantro, and spinach) ahead of time; judge accordingly for your kids.


  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans
  • 1 (15-ounce) can corn
  • 2 large red potatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
  • 1 bunch chopped cilantro
  • 2 and 1/2 cups chopped baby spinach
  • 1 (16-ounce) jar mild salsa
  1. Adults: Ahead of time, cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender; let cool.
  2. Drain and rinse the cans of beans. This was Travis’s first time using a can opener – he loved learning how the mechanism works! Use half of the beans for this recipe (about 1 and 1/2 cups) and reserve the remaining beans for another use.Bright Bean Salad (1)
  3. Drain the corn.
  4. Wash the bell pepper, then cut the bell pepper and the cooked potato into pieces. I let him help me with the knife the whole time, so couldn’t snap a picture, but he was so proud.Bright Bean Salad (3)
  5. In a large bowl, combine the beans, corn, potatoes, bell pepper, green onions, cilantro, and spinach.Bright Bean Salad (4)
  6. Stir in the salsa until well combined.Bright Bean Salad (5)

We served this over tortilla chips the first night for easy “nachos.”

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It would also be great wrapped up in soft tacos…

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…or served over scrambled tofu!

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Paper Bag Village

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There was a bonus activity in Travis’s latest issue of High Five magazine:¬†doors, windows, and awnings to cut out and affix to paper bags to make a whole paper bag town. All you need to supply are the paper lunch bags.

This was quite similar to a little village Travis and I put together recently, but oddly this time he was way more into it – I think because the doors and other building details came ready-made and he loved the way they looked!

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Cutting along the dotted lines is great practice for little hands, though I had to help with some of the trickier shapes like awnings.

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Travis preferred taping on the features rather than gluing, so that we could play right away.

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Pretty soon we had: a library; a shoe store; a school; a toy store; and a bakery.

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The instructions recommend stuffing with newspaper so the buildings hold their shape, before taping closed, but Travis insisted that he be able to open and close the doors. I made a cut out in the bag around each taped door so that he could swing them open and closed, and let Duplo people go inside.

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This meant we left the bags un-stuffed, so they were a bit flimsier, but he had such a blast it hardly mattered!

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Cute idea, thanks High Five!

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Turkey Napkin Holder

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We put together this cute craft from High Five magazine just in time for Thanksgiving. In our vegan household, we love adorning our table with turkey-themed crafts, not a real turkey to eat.

But as we sat down to make these napkin holders, Travis and I discovered that we had every color construction paper except… the brown that we needed! Some quick thinking and we decided to color white paper in with brown crayon. Travis declared this so fun, and seemed so proud of our improvisation.

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Next we needed to cut the brown paper into kite shapes. This was a bit tricky for Travis, so I trimmed things up into neat diamonds while he had fun with safety scissors and extra paper.

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Armed with our kite shapes and a few recycled toilet paper tubes, we glued the tubes to the center of each piece, and folded up over the tube.

Next we glued on facial features, a good chance to talk about shapes – circle eyes, triangle beaks, and a semicircle for the wattle.

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Travis favorite part was the feathers at the end. Add dots of glue to the paper behind the head.

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Crumple bits of fall-colored tissue paper (we used reds and yellows and pinks) and attach each to a dot of glue.

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Slip in a Thanksgiving napkin, and enjoy the feast!

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Hide-and-Seek Map


Travis has been into maps lately (a bit of a throwback to our Dora-the-Explorer-watching days), so I was thrilled to see our October project from High Five magazine lined up perfectly with his interest. Put together this neat treasure map, and your kids will love both creating it and hunting with it!

First, tear apart a brown sandwich bag along the glue seam in the back. If you’re worried your child will rip the paper, adults can do this step. Cut off the bottom of the bag, and now it should open up and lie flat.

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Now for arguably the best part: crumple it up to make it look old! Travis couldn’t believe this was the direction I gave him, and loved it.

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Smooth your map back out, and fill it in any way you please! Be sure to make an X for buried treasure, and a route to get there. Travis’s art was still very, well, abstract, so I put together a second map that could become a true hide-and-seek hunt.

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To make the maps look even older, we then brushed over them with a paintbrush dipped in water. Another “whoa Mom I can really do this?” moment. Let dry completely.

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On the reverse of the map, we drew the treasure that would await the finder.

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I taught him how to roll up the map and he loved that it was just like an old pirate’s one!

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Totally optional, but you can turn this into a real hunt. While Travis was at school, I actually buried a few little “jewels” at a nearby park, marking the spot with an X.

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We headed off with our map in hand, and he was thrilled to find real treasure waiting for him.

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Seasoned Pretzels

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Kids will love shaking up this snack… literally! Prepare the pretzels in the morning, and they’ll be ready after school for an afternoon nibble.

You’ll need a 2-gallon zippered plastic bag to make the pretzels. I only had 1-gallon bags on hand, so we divided the pretzels into two portions, and for all of the quantities below, we divided in half among each bag.

Place the plastic bag (or bags) in a large bowl, and fill with 1 (16-ounce) bag mini pretzels.

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Add 1/2 cup olive oil.

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Sprinkle in 2 teaspoons garlic powder, 2 teaspoons dried dill, and 4 teaspoons ranch-dressing seasoning (note: try the Saucy Ranch Seasoning from The Vegetarian Express). Travis loved smelling each herb!

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Now the fun part: seal the bag and shake!

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Leave the pretzels to marinate at room temperature for at least 8 hours before snacking.

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Thanks for the great snack idea High Five magazine!

What’s the Weather? Frame

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Chances are, if your child is in preschool or kindergarten, circle time in the morning involves checking the weather and talking about what it’s like outside that day. This make-at-home frame, care of High Five magazine, is a great way to keep up the routine on weekends or holidays.

To start, peel the backing off 2 magnetic sheets (available at craft stores), and cover with paper, trimming the edges of the paper to fit if necessary.

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Cut one sheet into 4 long strips. These will be the 4 edges of your frame. Travis and I sat down and talked about different kinds of weather. He enjoyed drawing a “sun,” and what he decided was a “purple storm cloud” and some “raindrops” before hurrying to affix them to the fridge. (Kids will love the magnetic component of this project!)

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A quick confession: I was briefly disappointed that Travis didn’t take more care in his coloring, perhaps trying to draw ovals for raindrops, or more of a proper cloud or sun. That said, he was proud of his work, and it was a reminder that “imperfect” art projects are still a great source of learning and creativity for our kids.

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Meanwhile, I drew 4 pictures on the other magnetic sheet with different kinds of weather we might see. Travis asked for: sun, storm, rain, and snow.

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Cut out the weather magnets, and then head to the nearest window to see what it’s like out there. Hang the right magnet inside your frame for the day. Don’t forget to check the weather tomorrow!

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Which Is Heavier?

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We loved this idea for an easy, at-home balancing scale from the September issue of High Five magazine. To make it, you’ll just need a few items you likely already have lying around the house. Then the weighing fun begins!

To set up the scale, punch holes in the sides of two plastic cups – one brand in our cupboard was actually too tough to punch, but we managed to get holes in a second brand – phew!

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Thread pipe cleaners through the holes, then loop the pipe cleaners onto a hanger with hooks. Place on a door so the cups hang evenly.

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Now it was time to play scientist and test out a few combinations. For each pair of the following, I asked Travis which he guessed would be heavier before we actually weighted.

1 stuffed animal vs. 3 toy cars

5 markers vs. 5 crayons

1 toilet paper tube vs. 4 quarters

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When a small toilet paper tube didn’t balance the quarters, he suggested trying a longer paper towel tube – a much closer balance!

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He loved it so much he was soon running around the house to test combinations. A rock from his collection was by far the heaviest thing, and we had fun trying to guess what might balance it out. A big set of old car keys came closest.

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In sum, a great way to introduce balancing scales to your child, without any complicated work involved. Thanks High Five!

Cold Peanutty Pasta

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I love getting my little chef into the kitchen for each month’s recipe from High Five magazine, and this month featured a perfect summer pasta, meant to be eaten cold or at room temperature. The recipe was a great chance to hone skills including whisking and chopping with a butter knife. Plus, we got to use neat ingredients like fresh ginger root! Here’s my chef, excited to start.

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Adults, cook 8 ounces spaghetti according to package directions. Reserve about 1/2 cup pasta water, then drain the remaining pasta water and rinse the spaghetti well with cold water. Set aside.

Meanwhile, have your little chef help you combine the following in a bowl:

1/2 cup chunky peanut butter

2 tablespoons tahini

1 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 teaspoon sugar

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Add about 6 tablespoons reserved pasta water to the mixture, and whisk until combined. If the sauce is still thick, add another tablespoon or two of the water.

Travis was so excited to try his hand at a butter knife for the next step. I cut a cucumber into rounds, and let him cut each round into quarters.

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In a large bowl, combine the cooked pasta, chopped cucumbers, 1/2 cup chopped peanuts, and the peanut sauce, tossing well to coat.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Note: To make the recipe nut-free, simply omit the chopped peanuts and use all tahini in place of the chunky peanut butter.

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Create Your Own Constellation

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Late summer nights are the perfect chance to star gaze, look for shooting stars, and teach your kids a little about the constellations (although my own knowledge pretty much ends at the Big Dipper and Orion!).

We took the fun inside the next day with this cute idea from High Five magazine, using some recent rocks from a day of collecting at the beach. Wash and dry your rocks before beginning.

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Paint the rocks black, and let dry completely.

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Once dry, we painted on white stars. Although Travis didn’t quite master the shape of a star, it was fun to teach him how to draw one.

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We let the white paint dry, then added a layer of glow-in-the-dark puffy paint.

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Leave your rocks in the sun to activate the paint.

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At night, move your rocks to the darkest spot in your house (that meant our bathroom, away from any windows!) to see them glow. I encouraged Travis to arrange them in fun shapes and make his own constellation.

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A cute new way to “star gaze.”