Sensory “Salads”

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We found an old play set with components to make a pretend salad: fake lettuce, croutons, olives, etc. Veronika loved it so much I thought it would be fun to help her make a few more “salads”. These two methods were quite different, but both so enjoyable.

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For the first version, I put together odds and ends from the craft bin that she could toss like the ingredients of a salad. We had tissue paper “lettuce”, cotton ball “croutons”, strips of ribbon (bell peppers perhaps?) and pieces of crepe paper.

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I gave her toy tongs as well as real tongs to toss the ingredients around. The tongs were arguably as interesting as the sensory materials!

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Then we moved on to an edible sensory version. The night before, I made a batch of Kool-Aid dyed pasta. To keep it edible, just in case Veronika wanted to take a nibble, I diluted each pack of Kool-Aid in 2 tablespoons hot water (as opposed to rubbing alcohol). Place 1 cup of cooked spaghetti in a gallon-sized zip-top bag for each color that you’ve prepared. Pour in, seal, and shake to distribute the color evenly. Open the bags and let the pasta dry out overnight.

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In the morning, I heaped together all the colors of noodles in a craft bin for a big “salad”, and once again handed over the tongs.

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This was an instant hit! She needed a little help at first since the noodles were sticky, but then loved scooping them into a smaller bowl.

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Big brother immediately needed in on the action, too. He soon had created a big spaghetti “cake”!

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Then he wanted to try snipping the spaghetti with scissors, which is how bits began ending up all over the floor.

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Veronika, meanwhile, was narrating her play, something about trucks and cars. She was pleased as punch with whatever she thought she was “making”.

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And then she discovered the joy of simply throwing the spaghetti on the floor to make it go splat.

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My two crazy sous-chefs did then decide to sample the salad. “It’s tasty!” Veronika announced. They told me blue was the yummiest. I was glad it was just a few nibbles.

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Clean-up was a bit more of a pain than usual. Next time I would probably do this activity outside and hose down the patio afterward, or lay an old shower curtain liner on the floor if doing it indoors. But worth it? Yes!

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Summer Bucket List Part II

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About a month ago, we came up with a bucket list of activities to enjoy before summer ended. Turns out it didn’t take us long to tick through the whole list – we already have ideas for next summer! But before I get ahead of myself, here’s a run-down of the fun we had.

June 4 – Catch a Minor League Sports Game

Thanks to discount tickets through our local library, we were quickly motivated to check this one off the list, taking in a minor league baseball game. The game didn’t start until 7 p.m., meaning this was a treat to stay up late, drink lemonade, and watch some ball while the sun set!

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June 6 – Dye Your Hair with Kool-Aid

The final week of nursery school featured “crazy hair day”, so how could we not try out the kool-aid method? We followed the instructions from Down Home Inspiration, which unfortunately didn’t work quite as well on short boy hair as on long hair.

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But we got a hint of dark color that lasted just long enough for the school day, and Travis got a kick out of it!

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June 9 – Go Berry Picking

Travis was officially out of school for the summer, and we celebrated with berry picking at a local organic farm.

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Since we picked blueberries last year, this year was all about strawberries!

June 9 – Eat Dinner al Fresco

We capped off a busy summer day (see berry picking above) with food and drinks on the patio. Eating al fresco for kids always feels slightly taboo, slightly invigorating, and definitely full of summer.

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June 16 – Spot Shapes in the Clouds

One of our favorite words from the recently-published Big Words for Little Geniuses is nephelococcygia¬†or “finding familiar shapes in clouds,” so we were psyched to spot shapes over a weekend vacation with big cousins. Some of the kids thought this was a man o’ war or a fish.

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We even spotted a T for Travis!

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June 16 – Temporary Tattoos

Having the whole family together meant everyone got a temporary tattoo – moms, uncles, aunts, and kids included!

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June 19 – Play Hopscotch

When I first pulled out the chalk, Travis wanted to do his own thing, drawing buildings and then spritzing them with water.

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Meanwhile I drew us a hopscotch board. I finally coaxed him into tossing little tokens and jumping his way to them, at which point he declared, “I didn’t think I’d like this game, but now I do.”

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He got a kick out of watching mom jump, too!

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June 30 – Visit a Local Farm

For us, a farm has to mean a sanctuary, the perfect way to show vegan kids (or any kids!) that animals can live out their natural lives under human care. We’re lucky enough to have one just 15 minutes up the road. He loved the turkeys best.

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June 30 – Catch Fireflies

The suggestion to go backyard camping from Ranger Rick Jr. was a perfect excuse to cross another item off our list – fireflies! We didn’t catch any that night, but we loved watching them from the tent, and I even managed to catch a spark on film.

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Wouldn’t you know, a few weeks later we had a firefly in the house, and got a chance to observe it before sending it back outside.

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July 3 – Enjoy an Outdoor Concert

Check your town’s local listings; there is almost certain to be music or kids’ entertainment somewhere in a park near you before the summer is over. We had a magical evening at a local park, including a fun performance from a Grammy-winning kids’ song writer, Italian ice, and warm summer breezes.

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July 8 – Paddle a Canoe

Alas, this one was not a hit. We canoed across a beautiful lake in New Hampshire, and here’s Travis excited before we began!

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Soon, though, he was terrified, so it turned into paddling across as fast as we possibly could.

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July 8 – Skip Rocks

Better than that darn canoe was skipping rocks once we reached the pebbly beach at the lake’s other side! A moment of peace with Daddy and one of life’s simpler pleasures.

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July 13 – Plant Something and Watch It Grow

The final notch in our summer belt was to do some planting. We love ladybugs (and are firm believers that they bring good luck) so thought these ladybug seed bombs would be perfect on our patio.

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We also planted a few flower bulbs into recently decorated pots, and Travis sported his new kid-sized gardening gloves. Our patio has never looked prettier!

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Pasta & Beads Bracelets

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Using that big batch of Kool-Aid dyed pasta we made, Travis helped put together beautiful food art jewelry over the weekend!

When our batch of pasta was first dry, he simply loved stirring through it with his hands, so I let him have fun that way for some time before even introducing the notion of bracelet making.

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When the novelty wore off, I asked if he wanted to thread the pasta onto pipe cleaners. I made a small loop on one end of each pipe cleaner so the pasta wouldn’t slip off.

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To my surprise, he was very deliberate about choosing which items to use. Our blue pasta came out a little funny (the Kool-Aid powder sort of clumped together), but that turned out to be Travis’s favorite, so he wanted to make an all-blue bracelet!

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He loved threading the pasta so much that he wasn’t that interested in the beads I had laid out until the very end; your jewelry maker can alternate pasta and beads as much as they like!

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When the bracelets are done, simply twist the end of the pipe cleaner around the loop you created to start (you can tuck the pokey bit inside a ziti tube to avoid any metal pricks for the wearer).

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Travis also made up his very own creation – a “headband”!

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Overall, this kept us busy for quite some time – a great weekend family project.

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Kool-Aid Dyed Pasta

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We don’t drink the stuff, but I did purchase little packets of Kool-Aid powder to make this vibrantly hued pasta. The dyed pasta is fun all on its own for sensory play, but for even more games featuring our creation, stay tuned for blog posts in the coming days!

Kids will love helping mix up the dye. First, pour about 1 cup of ziti into each of 5 zip-top plastic bags (or more, depending how many colors you want to make, but I find that one box of pasta divides nicely into 5 portions).

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Next, Travis helped sprinkle a powder packet over the pasta in each bag. We used one each of red, orange, green, blue, and purple.

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The next step (just for grown-ups!) is to add 1 tablespoon of rubbing alcohol to each bag. Now seal and smoosh it all about with your hands to coat the pasta evenly.

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Let the mixture sit for at least 20 minutes, before transferring to a pan to dry overnight. To contain any mess, make little packets of aluminum foil for each separate color.

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When the pasta dries, it makes for great sensory play just to mess about with in a bin. Or you could use it for a sorting game by color! As mentioned, stay tuned for future posts with even more ideas.