Winter in a Bag

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Veronika loves glitter but I confess I’m not always in the mood to deal with the sparkly mess it leaves behind. This sensory bag is a great way to enjoy all the sparkle and ice of winter, without a single bit of that mess!

To start, I squirted about half a bottle of clear hair gel into a large zip-top bag. Add any items that are fun to squish and resemble little snowballs or snowflakes. To wit, we used white pom poms and large Dandies marshmallows!

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For snowy sparkle, I then poured in blue glitter and a few silver star-shaped sequins that looked roughly like little snowflakes. Veronika wanted to get hands-on with the bag right away!

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The marshmallows in particular are fun to squish, even through the bag. As a bonus, there’s no sticky mess left on fingers. She also loved spotting the silver snowflakes in the mix.

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She then decided to stand on the bag instead, delighting in how squishy it felt beneath her toes.

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The bag didn’t hold her interest for very long, truth be told, but it was sparkly, wintry fun while it lasted.

Marshmallow Snowman Stamping

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If your toddler loves dot markers, then edible dot markers are even better! To wit, all you need to make this craft are large marshmallows. We love the vegan ones from Dandies.

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I set out a plate of the marshmallows along with a dish of white paint and black construction paper. I showed Veronika how to dip one end of a marshmallow in the paint and then onto the paper. It made a perfect circle!

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Indeed, this craft was all about circles. The marshmallows make little circle prints, and if you help your toddler slightly, you’ll end up with three circles for a snowman: small, medium, and large. I highly recommend having a few marshmallows on the side just for eating so you can avoid paint on little tongues. Veronika loved snacking while we crafted!

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The craft was easiest for her if I stamped an outline of the snowman first, which she then could fill in with her marshmallow stamp.

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Once the paint dried, I cut out a few features from construction paper to glue down, like top hats, carrot noses, and tree branch arms. Add any final details with marker.

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Why did we paint our snowmen on a black background? Because we finished the day with a read of Snowmen at Night, a book about all the silly things snowmen might get up to after dark. Hot cocoa and snowball fights? Yes please!

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Marshmallow Treats

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Okay, so this treat isn’t healthy and it’s only redeemable value is that your toddler will have an absolute blast with it. But sometimes that’s what snacktime calls for on a cloudy day!

I sprinkled the powder from raspberry-flavored vegan jel dessert (try Simply Delish) into a zip-top bag, and folded the edge down slightly so  Veronika could reach inside more easily.

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Then I handed her big marshmallows!

These were a novelty, since she’s only eaten the minis before. I showed her how to dip a marshmallow into the powder and then take a taste. On the first dip, your child won’t be terribly rewarded. But once the marshmallow is sticky, each dip means more dessert powder in the next bite.

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Yum!

Pool Noodle Marshmallow Poppers

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Travis’s latest issue of Highlights magazine featured tons of ways to craft with pool noodles. With summer mere days away, we decided to test out the first of the lot: a marshmallow launcher! This is similar to a project we made in the past using a cup, but the pool noodle makes a much sturdier version.

To start, cut 3-inch pieces of pool noodle, one for each popper.

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Tie a knot in a balloon, then cut off the top end of the balloon. Stretch over one end of a pool noodle piece.

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Secure with duct tape, and add other strips of tape for fun pops of color, if desired. Now fill the cavity of the pool noodle with mini marshmallow (we love Dandies of course!). Pull down on the knot of the balloon and… launch!

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In addition to great fun trying to catch the marshmallows and eat them, the poppers led to lots of silly marshmallow wars. Travis loved being pelted with them, or pelting me with them, or hiding around the corner waiting to ambush each other.

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You might just find yourself acting like a kid right alongside your kid! This craft is sure to add a sweet note to any summer day.

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Marshmallow Launcher Redux

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Every once in a while, it’s fun to repeat an activity at one- or two-year intervals, and see the differences in the way your children play at different ages. Travis and I first made a marshmallow launcher nearly two years ago, but with some extra Dandie’s marshmallows in the pantry, today we decided to do a repeat!

First, cut the bottom from a few paper cups, one for each launcher you want. At nearly 5 years old, Travis can handle the scissors himself, unlike at age 3!

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I tied the end of a balloon into a knot, then had Travis help snip off the top of the balloon.

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Stretch this balloon over the cut end of the cup, and secure with an elastic.

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Place 1 marshmallow in the cup; pull down on the knot of the balloon and release. Boom!

Needless to say, we soon had marshmallow bombs all over the apartment, and an eager little boy who had to run and grab all the ammo.

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For some experimentation, we tested what happened when we put multiple marshmallows inside, but unsurprisingly, they didn’t launch as far. Then we tried to hone our aim, using some unwitting Ninja Turtles as target practice. Here’s a quick clip:

All in all, what fun!

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Homemade “Marshmallows”

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Okay, so the following recipe won’t really make marshmallows… To achieve that, we probably need to get trendy and try using aquafaba. But really we just had a leftover box of vegan jel dessert in the kitchen and wanted to play with it – Travis has loved the wobbly dessert ever since I amused him with fake juice cups. The result was a goopy sugary mess that he adored eating by the spoonful!

To start, dissolve 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of your favorite vegan “gelatin” dessert in 1/3 cup cold water; let stand for about 10 minutes. We used peach flavor, which meant our “marshmallows” had a peachy tinge.

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Meanwhile, combine 1 and 1/2 cups sugar and 3/4 cup water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Add the gel mixture to the sugar, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Let boil for 15 minutes, without stirring.

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Remove from heat and cool slightly, then beat with an electric mixer on high speed until frothy. We were under no illusions that our mixture was going to get as thick as a real gelatin mixture would have, but we do love the mixer!

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Pour into a 9×9-inch baking dish coated with cooking spray and let stand overnight.

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The dessert won’t set, but it will be wobbly and thick. We dusted the top with 1/4 cup cornstarch and 1/4 cup powdered sugar before eating it right from a spoon!

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In sum, you’re going to stop eating after a couple of spoonfuls because this is pure sugar, but really the point is to savor moments together in the kitchen. I loved watching Travis whisk, stir, sift, and more. My favorite sous-chef!

Engineering a Dinosaur

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This adorable suggestion from Little Passports allows kids to plan and construct – the basics of engineering! For my three-year-old, the activity was equally about the fun of squishing straws into marshmallows (and eating a couple along the way), as it was about building a dinosaur… But nothing wrong with that! It was a neat exercise in getting him to think more deliberately about how to build a structure.

We started by setting up two of our dinosaur toys as models (if you don’t have dino toys at home, consider looking at a picture online), and gathered our materials – Dandies marshmallows and straws.

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I asked Travis if he thought T-rex’s head should be a marshmallow or straw, to which he replied the former, and we went from there. As we added each piece, Travis loved helping decide what should come next, and was also fascinated by how we could shape the dinosaur by trimming the straws into smaller pieces (a grown-up or big kid job).

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He especially loved figuring out how tails, arms, and legs attached.

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The fun didn’t end when our dinosaurs were complete – we had lots of leftover marshmallows which he wanted to play with. This one became a “snowman” with a firefighter’s hose.

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It also turned into a neat lesson on fractions, since as I cut the straws into halves, thirds, or quarters, he helped me count the pieces. Overall, great STEM-based fun!

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Marshmallow Launcher

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After a full day in the car, I wanted to do something for Travis that was pure joy. This project is sure to earn you cool parent points!

Cut the bottom from a disposable cup – kids can help with this step if you have paper cups on hand, but since ours were plastic, I did the scissor work myself.

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Next, knot the ends of several uninflated balloons and snip off the tops.

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Fit a balloon snugly over the cut end of each cup (you can add an elastic band for extra security). Now it’s time to load up your marshmallow ammo!

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One to two marshmallows at a time will work best (more than that and it’s really too heavy). Travis couldn’t get enough of seeing the marshmallows fly toward the ceiling!

Or of the slightly-verboten ability to eat the marshmallows off the floor after they landed.

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He wanted to see if his launcher would work with pennies as well. (Hint: Yes, it will – just not as yummy an experiment!) Needless to say, the project involved lots of hearty giggles and tons of fun.

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Marshmallow Sculptures

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Travis and I had some gooey fun attempting to make sculptures from marshmallows last November, but I confess our attempts were foiled by using large marshmallows and unsteady straws as construction materials.

This time we used toothpicks and the small marshmallows from Dandies, and were able to create much sturdier constructions! Note: I recommend playing this game soon after your child has had a meal or a snack – that way the marshmallows will be viewed more as building material, and less as a treat to eat… Although we did sneak a few bites along the way!

Already compared to November, Travis was much better at construction. He loved adding a marshmallow to either end of a toothpick, and loved that they looked like Q-tips!

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I then helped arrange these into more complex structures, whether two-dimensional shapes…

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Or three-dimensional creations.

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The project was a great way to discuss shapes and dimensions! We even tried a double-decker hexagon.

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In sum, sticky fun for everyone.

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Marshmallow Straw Buildings

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What better way to introduce engineering and building design than with marshmallows? We use the large marshmallows from vegan brand Dandies, for great gooey fun.

Simply provide your toddler with marshmallows and straws cut in half, and let the building begin! I didn’t even need to show Travis what to do before he speared the first straw into a marshmallow base.

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Young toddlers will likely need to connect flat constructions, but older kids can aim for 3-D structures, making their straws and marshmallow several layers tall.

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I demonstrated a tall version for Travis which he loved…

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…especially when our marshmallows sagged over and crashed!

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Don’t be surprised if the game ends with a request for an ooey gooey marshmallow snack.

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Thanks for the idea, Parents magazine!