Six Thanksgiving Games

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We’re celebrating Thanksgiving without extended family this year, and no doubt your family is, too. But don’t think little… Think big! To make the holiday special for the kids, I still wanted a big feast, special recipes, the parade on TV, and lots of silly or thought-provoking games. While recipes simmer in the kitchen, treat your kids to the following:

Turkey Feather Float:

For this first game, we took turns blowing a craft feather up in the air. The player than shouts out a Thanksgiving food (Sweet potatoes! Cornbread!) and then gives another huff to keep the feather afloat.

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It’s a lot trickier than it sounds!

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Kernel Counting:

Candy corn isn’t vegan, but we had some in the house for non-vegan family and it was the perfect seasonal candy for this activity. Give each player a bowl or plate filled with candy corn as well as an empty plate and a plastic spoon.

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Set the timer and see who can transfer the most kernels in one minute. Bonus parent move: you’re sneaking in some math, too! If you have big kids and want to make it trickier, have players hold the spoon in their mouth, instead.

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Potato Roll:

You’ll earn super-silly points for this one: Take a few extra potatoes from your mashed potato pile (round red potatoes worked best), and have kids move them across a room using only their nose. First one across is the hot potato!

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The kids not only got a kick out of this, but then wanted to play potato toss and potato soccer. On a rainy Thanksgiving day, why not?

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Thanksgiving Menu:

Print out a colorful menu template and and then talk your kids through the meal, everything from apps to dessert. It was fun for Travis to see it all written up, and older kids might want to write out the recipes themselves!

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Thanksgiving Poll:

While chatting with relatives (whether in person or over Zoom!) poll them on their favorite Thanksgiving foods, whether during the main course or at pie-time. Travis then tallied up the results in two ways.

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We used a bar chart for the main course answers and a pie chart (ha) for the dessert answers. More sneaky holiday math!

Thanksgiving Chatterbox:

This classic origami game is easy to adapt for Thanksgiving. We used a template from Raddish Kids with funny suggestions hiding behind the numbers like “Pretend it’s windy for the next 5 minutes” or “Make up a song about pumpkins and sing it”.

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Your kids can easily come up with their own actions, too. Needless to say, the chatterbox had us giggling around our dessert table. The above link has a reminder on the rules of the game, as well as a how-to for folding the chatterbox paper.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Butterfly Migration Map

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As a final component of Travis’s Raddish Kids about the Day of the Dead in Mexico, he learned about the connection between the festival and the annual arrival of monarch butterflies. This made for a neat lesson on a day off from school.

We started with a read-aloud of Uncle Monarch and the Day of the Dead, helping Travis understand how the festival and butterflies were linked.

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We then printed a map of the migration paths and Travis drew red arrows for the different flight routes. Older children can draw their own map showing the United States and Mexico, rather than simply coloring a template from online. You might also consider watching a nature show or Wild Kratt’s episode on the monarch migration to help kids appreciate the dangers undertaken on the journey!

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Of course there was no better way to explain the migration than to make it hands-on. We’re lucky enough to live not far from a butterfly garden, so we took a special trip!

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The kids marveled as they watched the delicate wings of the butterflies, or paused to see them sip nectar from flowers and soft fruit.

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Travis’s favorite was whenever a butterfly landed on him!

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He even brought wings home from the gift shop for further exploration  under the magnifying glass!

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Now he could really appreciate what it meant for this delicate wings to fly 3,000 miles.

Dia de los Muertos Artifacts

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The lesson plan to go with Travis’s “Frightful Fiesta” recipes was all about Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. As a parent, I appreciated the cultural lesson, as well as the inclusion of crafts and entertainment, all rolled into one lesson plan.

We started with a sort of pop quiz. I printed out iconic images that go along with other holidays (Santa for Christmas, hearts for Valentine’s Day, etc.) and asked Travis which holiday each represented.

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Then I showed him a provided image of a sugar skull. Having learned briefly about the holiday before, he guessed Dia de los Muertos right away!

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As he colored in the sugar skull, we watched a read-aloud of a wonderful children’s book that helped explain the holiday.

The lesson plan suggested drawing along to everything as your child listens to the story, focusing on the bright colors and happiness associated with the holiday, rather than grief.

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Little sister Veronika wanted to color, too!

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Next came the most beautiful part of the lesson: setting up an offrenda for a loved one. We looked at National Geographic Kids for inspiration, then brainstormed some items that would be dear to our loved one (Travis’s grandfather).

The next day, we put together the offrenda! It included an old sweater of Papa’s, his photo, flowers from the market, battery-operated candles, a sugar skull lantern, and some of Papa’s favorite foods, including cashews, chips, and plantains.

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I loved watching the children interact with the display joyfully (especially stealing the chips to eat!). Having never celebrated the Day of the Dead before, it truly was a moving experience.

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Note: You could also have your children create an offrenda for a deceased pet or a historical figure, if that is more appropriate in your home.

To extend the lesson, we made two crafts. First up, was a Paper Bag Pinata. Fill a sandwich-size brown bag with candy, then fold the top over and tape shut. Cut 6 (18-inch long) strips from tissue paper, and then fringe the edges with scissors.

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Tape the first strip to the bottom of the bag. Continue taping on the strips, overlapping them so the fringe dangles over the one below.

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We suspended the pinata from the ceiling, then… Fiesta time! Travis and Veronika loved taking turns whacking at it.

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Inflatable light sabers weren’t strong enough, but a wiffle ball bat was. Candy!

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Next we created Papel Picado. This is a fun tissue paper craft that is normally strung up during the festival, and the process is similar to making paper snowflakes. Fold a square of tissue paper in half twice, and then into a triangle. Fold one side down like you’re making a paper airplane fin. Begin making little slits and shapes with scissors. Travis loves fine scissor work like this, so was thrilled that this was the “assignment”.

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Open up for the big reveal!

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We taped them to a string so we could suspend them across one archway in our home, where they looked especially gorgeous when the sun was shining through.

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We finished by watching the movie Coco. This was a fantastic way for Travis to understand the nuances of the holiday. The film is highly recommended for those who have not viewed it.

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Intro to Entrepreneurship: Apple Cider Stands & Donut Shops

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Raddish Kids changed their lesson plan format recently, from one lesson to correspond with each recipe into more of an overarching theme for each month’s package.

The change hasn’t worked well for Travis. The scope of the lesson now seems aimed at older kids, and it’s difficult to engage a first grader in the activities. This month’s theme was: what is an entrepreneur and how do you turn an idea into a business. Here’s I engaged Travis in that!

As a warm up, I asked him to imagine his favorite restaurant and describe what he liked best about it. But since we don’t go out often, he couldn’t come up with much more than that it was fancy. The idea is that kids now take their answers and design a donut shop, in conjunction with the Apple Cider Donut recipe.

We watched an online read of The Donut Chef, a cute book, but Travis couldn’t really translate that into creating a shop or flavors of donuts. Older kids can use the provided Brainstorm Bubble Map (in the shape of a donut of course) to write out ideas for a store name, logo, menu, and more.

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Kids can also lay out the shape of their store using tangrams on grid paper. I simply had Travis use dollhouse furniture to create a little restaurant diorama.

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We also watched a quick clip on the history of the donut, and scrolled through images of successful donut chains around the country. Big kids can learn about innovations in donuts (the cronut!), or imagine a “donut of the future”.

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But I knew Travis needed something more hands on. So… we decided to open up an apple cider stand and put entrepreneurship into action.

Once we had the idea, Travis couldn’t wait for the big day. First we talked about a logo, and came up with a shiny red apple. This went on all of our cider stand materials, including an announcement poster, a price poster, and the jug we’d use to pour the cider. His color scheme was red, green, and brown.

He also watched Raddish’s provided clip of a child entrepreneur to get fired up for his own “business”.

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Kids can brainstorm what snacks to sell, or even invent one. We kept it simple with store-bought packets of candy corn. Time to open up shop!

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To put it simply, this was amazing. Travis was dismayed when the first few cars drove by without stopping. But once he had his first customer, the floodgates opened up. Within one hour he’d served ten customers, and we’d sold nearly all the cider.

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He loved waving down cars. And little sister Veronika helped!

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We finished with apple cider at home, warm with mulled spices. The perfect reward.

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School Milk Flipbook

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Travis helped make several lunches this month thanks to his Raddish Kids Lunchtime Love crate, a perfect theme for back-to-school in September. We finished up with this lesson plan.

To start, we played “I’m going on a picnic” to get thinking about different foods in a lunchbox, particularly those that travel well. A basket of toy food as prompts helped initially, but Travis was bored after a few rounds of back-and-forth. Instead, we turned to the web for the next part of the lesson.

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Raddish provided links for a read-aloud about how common lunch foods get on the plate. Because the book was heavy on dairy, we also watched vegan-friendly videos about almond milk and soy milk.

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Next Travis got to be an author! The assignment was to make a flipbook about the journey of an almond from the tree to the carton at the store. I encouraged him to put on his imaginative cap and pretend the story was from the point of view of the almond, although this was a bit of a stretch for my first grader.

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He concentrated more on just drawing the pictures, and I added words.

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There were also fun videos to watch on school lunches around the world. Big kids can extend the lesson much further, here, perhaps by designing an international menu for their school cafeteria

For a hands-on extension, we returned to an old favorite: growing new vegetables from kitchen scraps. This works fantastically with green onions, so after we used a bunch from the store, we placed the bulbs in a small dish of fresh water. You should see new growth by morning!

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Finally, Travis was in charge of designing his own perfect after-school snack in Raddish’s Create-a-Snack Challenge. I showed him the list of possible ingredients, and he selected: hummus, cheese slices, tortillas, strawberries, and tomatoes. The possibilities were growing already.

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After a trip to the store, he created the following: Hummus-Cheese-Tortilla Bites.

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I loved watching him turn into a little chef as we layered hummus on small squares of tortilla, topped each with a piece of Violife cheddar, and then topped that off with tomato.

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He got fancy and added strawberries to a few. An interesting flavor combination!

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I haven’t seen him enjoy snack so much in ages, so this was a great activity on the part of Raddish.

Japanese Travel Guide

Japan Travel Brochure (4)After preparing a Japanese meal for dinner, Travis got to learn more about Japanese culture today. This lesson plan from Raddish Kids was a fun extension to the culinary journey we’ll be on this month.

First up was locating Japan on a map. Once Travis pinpointed that it was an island, we discussed how geography can influence culture. Raddish provided talking points like how this has given Japan a strong sense of identity, and a unique culture.

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Now it was time for fun videos; Travis loved one about the shinkansen (high speed trains) so much that he insisted on watching the full thing, even parts I thought might bore a 6 year old!

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You can extend the lesson by looking at a map of the rail system, or even turn it into a math lesson for older kids by calculating costs or distances between stations on a pretend journey.

Next up was a video clip of Japanese baseball, and we discussed similarities and differences to games we’ve attended in the U.S.

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Finally, we learned about the popular genre of anime. Travis picked one to watch before bed, and chose Pokemon! You might also consider renting a classic from your library like My Neighbor Totoro or Ponyo.

Or check out how-to books to draw your own anime!

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I was so proud of Travis following along with one we checked out.

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Now it was time for Travis to pretend he was a travel writer explaining this country to another person, and he put together a travel brochure. He was so proud spelling out Japan on the cover. Inside, he drew high speed trains…

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…baseball players (I thought this one resembled a Japanese calligraphy character!)…

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…and lots of noodles of course.

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Earth Science Pudding

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Is this project a healthy snack for your kids? Absolutely not. But when Travis declared mid-way through the activity that he was in paradise, I knew I’d brought some magic into a summer morning.

The idea was to show all the layers of the earth, using just about the most amount of sugar imaginable.

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I laid out a tray with all of the supplies, and we talked about each layer of the earth as we worked, filling clear plastic cups with each step. First up, we needed bedrock, which I explained was the solid rock deep underground. We used a mix of mini chocolate chips and crushed ginger cookies. The crushing is half the fun; place the cookies in a zip-top bag and smash with a rolling pin until you have big crumbs.

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On top of this, we spooned the “subsoil” (a dense layer of clay and and iron). Chocolate pudding was perfect of course.

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You’ll notice my taste testers had wasted no time and were busily crunching into cookies and spooning into pudding. They couldn’t believe I was letting them have this free-for-all!

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Next we needed topsoil. I explained that this is the dirt we see as we play: dirt, bugs, and minerals. Now we needed oreo cookies, but not the creme filling. I showed the kids how to scrape out the creme with a craft stick so we could crush the chocolate cookies.

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“Can I eat the frosting?” Travis asked. I nodded. “Plain??” This is when he declared the activity paradise.

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We sprinkled on our crushed “topsoil” and then added a few “worms”. It’s easy to find gummy worms at the store but most contain gelatin. Instead, we sliced pieces of licorice in half to be our worms.

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Finally, top with green sprinkles for grass, twigs, and leaves. I wasn’t able to find green sprinkles at the store, but a few drops of food coloring on white sprinkles was a quick fix.

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Now it was time to dig into the Earth.

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Veronika plunged her spoon right in and began snacking. It made her so happy she began to do a sugar-fueled dance around the kitchen.

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Travis loved working his way carefully down the layers, almost like he was excavating. He wanted to stop and talk about which strata we were in, and carefully selected which bite should come next. He was ecstatic when he’d gone deep enough to reveal the pudding under the topsoil!

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Welcome to paradise on Earth, and thanks to Raddish Kids for this great lesson.


Fire and Flavor

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Travis has been exploring how to cook with different elements (air, ice) thanks to his latest Raddish Kids, and today we did a quick test: would the same ingredients taste different, if cooked using 3 different “elements”? We chose corn on the cob for the experiment and tested out the following: air (roasted in the oven), water (boiled on the stove), and fire (cooked on the grill). Unfortunately we weren’t truly using fire for the last, since I only have an indoor grill pan. But we still had interesting results!

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Of course first comes the fun of shucking corn. Then for “air”, roast the corn in a 400 degree F oven for about 30 minutes. Boil the “water” version for about 5 minutes in boiling water. Grill the “fire” version over your barbecue or grill pan for about 10 minutes.

Once the three methods of corn had cooked, Travis first wanted to smell them. I had never realized how different these three cooking methods smelled, but it was so apparent when they were lined up on the plate! The oven method had roasted caramel notes, the boiled one smelled sweet and fresh, and the grilled one had a toasty aroma.

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Once they cooled, it was time for a taste test. Travis far and away preferred the sweet tenderness of the boiled corn. Air (oven) was his second favorite. “It’s sweet and tart!” he declared.

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He decided he didn’t like the grilled one, which may again be the fault of the grill pan versus a real grill. Which method do your kids prefer? Please share in the comments!

Air Science

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Having recently prepared a recipe reliant on air to cook (a.k.a. a recipe that needs a leavener), today Travis played around with two different kinds of leaveners to see which worked its magic faster.

In one empty water bottle, combine 1 cup warm water, 1 packet active yeast, and 1 teaspoon sugar. Put on the lid and shake, then remove the lid and place an uninflated balloon over the opening. Set a timer for 20 minutes.

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Meanwhile, fill a second empty water bottle with 1/2 cup water and 1 cup white vinegar. Working quickly, add 1/4 cup baking soda. Add a balloon as fast as you can over the top of the bottle; it will immediately inflate with air.

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This was fantastic fun for Travis, since the second bottle will be exploding a volcano of vinegar as you attach the balloon.

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The results were immediately obvious; baking soda acts much faster than yeast. In fact, our yeast balloon took longer than the 20 minutes we had set on the timer, but after about an hour the balloon was beginning to inflate.


I explained to Travis that this was part of the difference between a slow (yeast) bread and a quick bread (like banana bread), which comes together must faster. Now he understood why!

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Stayed tuned for more elemental food science soon!

Smokey Bear

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Heading in to summer, it was fun and informative to lead Travis through a lesson on Smokey Bear and outdoor fire safety today. This little lesson plan was the kick-off to Travis’s “Edible Elements” kit from Raddish Kids; we’ll soon be making recipes that rely on elemental power (think fire and ice!) during preparation.

But first up: the fire safety lesson. I provided Travis with pictures on index cards as we talked about safe ways to use fire, both indoors and out (the oven, a campfire). Older kids can come up with a list without this parental prompt.

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We then watched a video from Smokey Bear, and I read facts about Smokey’s origins. Turns out he was based on a real rescued cub!

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Travis enjoyed activities including a dot-to-dot…

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…and forest puppets to color.

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Then it was time for a puppet show! Oh no, Travis’s sneaky fox stole the water to douse the campfire. He then decided the skunk could spray it out! I loved that these puppets fired up (ha) the imagination and the learning.

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Big kids have so many options for extension here, whether creating their own PSA about fire safety on poster board or video; learning about the fire alert system; writing a letter to Smokey; or even learning about a historical fire like the Chicago Fire of 1871.

But for my kindergartner, we kept things light and not scary… and he earned a certificate to boot!

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