Galactic Pancakes

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You’ll start your kids’ day on a stellar note with these pancakes from Raddish Kids. This was the final recipe from Travis’s Cosmic Cuisine kit, and he declared the taste out of this world!

First we needed to make a few vegan substitutes. For buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon cider vinegar into a measuring cup. iIll with soy milk to equal 1 cup; let stand for 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed into 6 tablespoons water in a small bowl to make 2 vegan eggs; let stand for 5 minutes.

To prepare the pancakes, Travis measured and combined 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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In a second bowl, combine the flax eggs, the vegan buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Preheat a skillet for about 2 to 3 minutes over medium-low heat. We placed in the provided moon and star silicone molds. (Note: you could also use cookie cutters). Coat the skillet and molds with cooking spray.

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Add about 2 tablespoons batter to each mold – an ice cream scoop worked perfectly for even measuring. Gently spread the batter to the edge of the molds with a spatula and cook for about 3 minutes, until the tops are covered with bubbles.

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Remove the molds with tongs. Flip the pancakes and cook for an additional minute.

Drizzle with syrup and serve!

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You’ll have enough batter for about 12 pancakes.

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Exploring Stars Kiwi Crate

Kiwi Stars

The topic of Travis’s Kiwi Crate this month (stars and the solar system), is one of his favorite topics, so I had no doubts he would enjoy the projects. The crafts themselves proved to be a little faulty, but we still had galaxies full of fun. What a perfect coincidence that his recipes from Raddish Kids were star-themed this month, too.

First up: a Constellation Lantern. Travis knows quite a bit about constellations, so happily set about making a few pretend versions with the provided black star stickers on the lantern paper.

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I made a few real star patterns for him, including Leo the lion (his astrological sign) and some funny ones (Darth Vader’s helmet!).

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He popped open the paper lantern frame.

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Insert the slots at the bottom of the frame into the provided paper base; fold and then tape to secure shut. Open the paper lantern insert and put this inside the first frame. The pages he had decorated with stars now fit in between these two.

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“I can do it myself!” he said confidently, not wanting any assistance.

Adhere the provided foam circle into the bottom of the lantern. Insert the provided tea light (make sure it is on!) and then add the paper lantern lid. A pipe cleaner threaded through holes in the top makes a handle.

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From here, we were off to the darkest room we could find in the house to check it out!

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Travis loved being in the dark and seeing the stars “glow”.

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Next up was a Solar Spinner, a kid-friendly version of an orrery.

Two interlocking wooden gears are inserted into the provided base and secured with brads. As with the lantern, Travis loved doing all these fine motor skills by himself.

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Once the gears were between the two base plates, Travis screwed them together with kid-friendly plastic nuts and bolts.

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He gave the machine little test, and watched the wooden gears spin around together. Now we just needed to add the provided sun, Earth, and moon. There are teeny tiny green stickers that kids can add to the blue Earth circle.

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The “sun” is a light inserted into a plastic case.

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All three orbs attach to the orrery with sticky foam dots.

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Travis was smitten with the model he’d made! It also fantastically illustrates to children why sometimes it’s day and sometimes night, as well as why sometimes we see a full moon and sometimes no moon (a new moon). Full moon…

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New moon!

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Finally, we put together a Making Moonlight model. Stick the sharp end of a pencil onto a Styrofoam ball (not provided in the kit); this will be your moon. Turn on a flashlight; this is your sun!

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Now we headed into a dark room and I had Travis spin while I held the “sun.”

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When the flashlight hits the ball, it appears to glow; but of course it’s not really glowing, just reflecting the flashlight. The idea is to show that the moon doesn’t make its own light, but looks “full” when the sun shines on it, and looks “new” when sunlight does not hit it.

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Travis loved adding lots of “craters” to his moon before he was done with it.

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As mentioned at the top of this post, the projects were a little faulty in this kit. In order to turn off the lights in both, you had to disassemble them a little. This constant take-apart-and-put-back-together-again meant that neither project lasted long. The top of the lantern and pipe cleaner were soon crumpled and broken, and the model sun no longer adhered to our model solar system.

But we at least got to enjoy both for a short while!

Oddly, there were no suggested books this time around, but it was easy to find some fun reads at the library, including Whose Moon is That by Kim Krans and Zoo in the Sky by Jacqueline Mitton.

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Meanwhile, we can’t wait to explore further with Travis’s real telescope on an upcoming vacation. Our plans include making up our own pictures with what we see in the night sky; comparing how the sky is way out in the countryside versus near a city; and looking for craters on the moon!

Sidewalk Constellations and Mini-Books

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It was a beautiful morning for sidewalk chalk art, and to add purpose to Travis’s art, I decided to throw in a little STEM learning, too!

We headed outside with our book of constellations, and I challenged him to lay out shells (rocks would work well, too) to represent each star in the pictures. We started with the Big Dipper.

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Could he now connect the lines, following along with the picture in our book? This was a bit of a challenge for Travis, who had to consult the picture between each line, but he ended up with a great dipper.

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The Southern Cross was next. He loved using big shells for two of the stars, and had an a-ha moment when he figured out which way he should draw his chalk lines.

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Then we got silly and made up new constellations. I let his imagination run wild, and soon we had a snake constellation:

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And a ninja constellation:

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Make sure you take pictures of all your artwork before you head inside! I then had these printed so we could put them into a booklet.

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Add one picture per page, along with a fact or two about that constellation.

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We left a page blank, for future imaginative additions!

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These mini-books will serve both as a memory capsule of your day and for storytime down the road.

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Early Explorers Space

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Travis’s penultimate package from his Early Explorers subscription was all about space and – forgive me for saying it – he had a blast with this one!

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The activity booklet this month was heavy on tracing (letters, shapes, names of planets), but I considered that a good thing, since it reinforces lessons Travis is getting in preschool. We might have liked to see a more detailed space craft or science project, though, since the topic lends itself so easily to both.

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Space Craft:

The craft was actually playing with the included keepsake this month (see below), a set of space-themed stamps and ink pads. The activity booklet included a blank page simply for “stamp fun.” Travis was thrilled seeing the images, including Jupiter, an astronaut, a solar system model, and more.

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Once that page was filled, he needed more paper!

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I loved watching his creativity as he stamped and then cut some of them out to play with.

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Space Science:

As mentioned, it was a bit of a disappointment that the booklet didn’t feature a scientific experiment. But for “science,” we headed out to look at constellations. We also headed out one night to glimpse the International Space Station, You can check out when it will be in your area here. Travis got to stay up late (a treat!) so we could catch an 8.34 fly by. Looking, looking…

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We think we saw it!

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Space Keepsake:

These were the space stamps, of course! See my notes above in the craft section.

Space Field Trip:

Although not recommended as a further activity, it seems only natural to visit a planetarium near you during this unit. Since Travis had done so recently on a school field trip, though, we headed to a fantastic local museum all about aviation, and focused on the final stretch of the museum: space travel.

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Travis has never shown much interest in this section before, but now he was enthralled. He got to simulate landing a space shuttle, see a real moon lander, explore a model of a future space station on Mars, and more.

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Space Further Activities:

First, we checked out NASA’s website to see what astronauts are currently up to. Travis is captivated by the rovers on Mars!

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Then, we found a blog post on Little Passport’s website about World Space Week. First we made a comet: attach aluminum foil around the tip of a craft stick to form a ball.

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Cut metallic-colored ribbon into pieces about 6 inches long; attach to the stick.

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Travis loved making his comet soar!

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Then we designed an alien. Let your kid’s imagination run wild here!

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Travis’s alien was green; he started with its belly, and said it had a belly ache which made it a mean alien – oh no!

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I took him in front of his Little Passport’s map and had him close his eyes and point (you could also do this with a spinning globe). His finger landed on Africa, and his challenge was to describe Africa to an alien who’d never been to Earth. This might be easier for younger kids if you default to having them describe their hometown.

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You can also bring space into your home with fun decorations. We traced stars and moons using a cookie cutter on construction paper, and also added glow-in-the-dark stars.

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I sent a secret loving message on one section of wall. Travis made a “comet” and the “big dipper” in his area!

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For some final learning, we went to the library for a books about space (he loved one about Mars, and another about the gas giants), and also found links online to learn more about comets and meteors, including this kid-friendly video.

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As I said, what a blast!

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Starry Night Constellations


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Our star-themed fun continues, here in the dark days of winter. January is a great time of year to talk with little ones about stars, because the sky gets dark so early; in the summer, it’s still light when Travis goes to bed, and he hardly ever gets a chance to star gaze!

Tonight, we had flashlight fun with some of our now-familiar constellation forms. Ahead of time, I used permanent marker to make a dot for each star on construction paper, making the shapes of favorites like Orion, Canis Major, the Big Dipper, and the Southern Cross.

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Now it was up to Travis to punch out the holes, using a pen (or a sharp pencil would work).

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I was quite impressed with how exact he managed to be, puncturing the paper only where I’d made dots. He loved the challenge!

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Now stand in a dark room, and shine a flashlight through the holes onto the wall. Voila, you’ll see the starry sky suspended before you! Travis loved being the one to hold the flashlight, and line up the beam so a particular constellation appeared.

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Indeed, he loved it so much he had to punch holes all over a second sheet of paper. Now it looked like the Milky Way was flooding our wall with stars!

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Painted Star Jar

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The quest to quell Travis’s fear of the dark continues, and today we put together this great nightlight. Agency over the project and final product hopefully will help a four-year-old (or a child of any age!) feel safe in their room at night.

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First, we covered a mason jar with star stickers. Foam star stickers worked great, and peeled off easily when the time came. I’m not sure how well other stickers would work.

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Travis enjoyed this step so much that he insisted on covering a second jar in stickers, even though that one wasn’t going to be a nightlight!

We then covered the jar in a coat of pretty blue paint. We used tempera paint; make yours acrylic if you hope it will last a long time.

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Let dry completely, then peel off the stickers to reveal beautiful star shapes left behind.

At bedtime, slip a battery-operated tea light into the jar for a beautiful glow. Here’s to a good night’s sleep!

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Map the Stars

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Travis has been a bit afraid of the dark lately, and we’re working on making his room feel safe at night. These glowing star pictures were the perfect activity to make the dark less scary!

First, we needed to paint backgrounds for a night sky, on sturdy watercolor paper. I suggested a mix of blue and black, but Travis insisted on using only black for his backdrop. “Because I made it too late, Mom! It’s not twilight, it’s pitch black.” I couldn’t argue with that!

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We left our backdrops to dry while he was at school. When he returned, I set up a page from Usborne’s Big Book of Stars and Planets showing constellations. We selected Orion, and I had him count the stars in each portion (the belt, the shoulders) as I added a drop of glue for each.

Affix a glow-in-the-dark star to correspond to each point.

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To finish each picture, we drew lines in white chalk connecting the stars.

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Now we had beautiful starry pictures for his wall! Make sure to leave a bright light source near the pictures until just before bedtime, then turn them off and watch the room glow.

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Cardboard Tube Star Garland

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January always feels so sad after the holiday decorations come down – so why not leave some sparkle up in your home to brighten the dark winter days? To wit, this glittery star garland added shimmer and shine to the wall that held our holiday cards, up until a few days ago. Enlist your kids and you’ll have a fun afternoon project before school starts back up again!

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You’ll need paper tubes to make the garland, either toilet paper rolls or paper towel rolls; for the latter, cut the tube into thirds.

Travis helped use grown-up scissors to make five slits in each tube, nearly to the edge. Fan out the slits and you have a star shape.

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We smeared a glue stick on each of the five arms, and pressed into a plate of glitter, one at a time.

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Set aside to dry. Because we used a glue stick instead of white glue, it dried fairly quickly.

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Travis got to use his new one-hole punch on one arm of each star.

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Thread a string or twine through the holes, and mount on a doorway, window, or wall for sparkly decoration.

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Happy January!

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Edible Constellations

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Travis and I put together this super smart snack on the heels of fun starry night exploration. Your kids get a sweet treat plus an astrology lesson – a win-win!

Using Dandies mini marshmallows and pretzel sticks, we mapped out what the Big Dipper would look like. Attach 1 marshmallow to the end of a pretzel stick for each star.

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Repeat three times to make a square.

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Stick a fourth “star” into the marshmallow at the upper right corner to begin the Dipper’s tail.

Break a pretzel stick in half, and add two smaller pieces of pretzel + marshamllow to complete the constellation.

Travis watched as I tested out a couple of others, too, including Cassiopeia (the Queen)…

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… and Cepheus (the King). These didn’t last long before they were gobbled up!

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I noticed he wasn’t eating the Big Dipper, and asked if he wanted more of his snack. He said he didn’t want to ruin our constellation!

If your kids want to get even more creative, test out Cygnus (the Swan) or Canis Major, too.

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Travis wanted to know if we could make Orion (which he calls Bow Hunter), next, and I was so proud he remembered that constellation without any prompting.

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Happy snacking!

Starry Night Crate

Starry Night Crate

The Starry Night crate will be Travis’s very last Koala Crate; I can’t believe my baby is going to be a “graduate”! I considered this crate a real test, then, to make sure he’s mastered the Koala and is ready for Kiwi (aimed at 5- to 8-year-olds).

He immediately knows when a crate has arrived, and needs to get his hands on the materials. When I told him the air-dry clay inside was for the moon, he noticed bubbles in it and declared, “Look, craters!”

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So along those lines, first up was the Glowing Moon. Press the air-dry clay over the surface of a provided ball, until it’s as even as you can get it. As a slight flaw, the clay was very sticky. I’m not sure it was supposed to be – Travis may have warmed it up in his hands through the package! But it made the spreading quite difficult. We did then use the provided hard ball to make “craters.”

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This was a neat science lesson for kids, since real space debris hitting the moon makes real craters, in imitation of their miniature version.

Next dab on glow-in-the-dark paint.

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We waited for the moon to dry, then hung it on the provided cardboard stand and watched it light up in his room. Very neat!

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The second activity was a Meteor Toss; Travis was super excited to learn there was a game in this crate, not just crafts. All you need to do is drape the provided fabric over a small ball, gather it up, and tie with a ribbon.

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Travis has just recently begun lacing up shoes, so proudly did this step alone. Now set up the cardboard “galaxy” and take aim.

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Travis enjoyed the challenge of making the universe successively smaller, or standing further away. If you like, keep score!

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Finally, we put together the Galaxy Bottle. First, squirt blue glue into the bottom.

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Next add pom poms and space objects (planets, stars, etc.). Then it’s time to add two colors of glitter, which Travis loved.

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I filled the bottle about two-thirds full with water, and we could play the suggested activity. Use the spinner, then tilt the bottle to find the objects floating in space.

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This was another neat science lesson, since I pointed out to Travis how hard an astrologist’s job is, to locate far off things like galaxies and supernovae among all the black of outer space.

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As a cautionary note, you may want to glue the lid on the bottle – it is very brave of Koala to assume kids won’t try to unscrew the cap!

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Again, this was our farewell crate. Stay tuned for the first post on Kiwi Crate in the new year!