Fake Piped Frosting

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Grandma and Grandpa, also known in our house as G-Ma and TD, are here for a long visit and we decided to make some tangerine ginger curd-filled cupcakes to welcome them to town. Our grocery store carries this amazing curd, and it looked like the perfect thing to pipe into our vanilla cupcakes. They were SO addictive!

After we piped the filling into our cupcakes, N thought that piping was SO MUCH FUN that I decided to make a whole activity out of it. I knew she’d want to squeeze gallons of frosting all over everything, and couldn’t bear wasting the good stuff, so we concocted a fake frosting recipe that worked great. So great, in fact, that grandpa thought it was the real deal and almost ate a huge spoonful of it.

I pulled out all of my cake decorating tips so that N could choose the ones she wanted to work with.

I have some lovely cloth bags, but with little kids I’m all about keeping it simple and pulled out the disposable bags. If you don’t have piping bags and/or tips, you could fill Ziploc bags with frosting and then cut off the tip of a corner like this.

I thought that a think finger paint recipe would work well for our “frosting,” and tried one made from flour, water, a little bit of salt, and food coloring. Why salt? I’m not sure, but it shows up as an ingredient in just about every homemade paint recipe I’ve encountered. Does anyone have an answer to this?

I showed N how to hold the piping bag, and she was off! And man, do I know my kid — she squeezed every last bit of frosting out of those bags!

Why it worked

  • My daughter expressed an interest in learning more about piping frosting, so I followed her lead. As a result, she was wholly invested, wanted to be a part of each step in the process, learned new vocabulary words, and her skills with filling and squeezing the bags improved by the end of our session. In the school world, the design plan behind creating lessons that follow a child’s interests is called an emergent curriculum.
  • N LOVES squeezing things.
  • We made the frosting pink. Her choice. In the words of our blog friends Sherry and Donna, it was irresistible.

What we used to make it happen

  • Disposable piping bags
  • Cake decorating tips
  • “Frosting”: Flour, water, salt, food coloring
  • Surface to squeeze frosting onto

Recipe for fake frosting

This recipe is a work-in-progress as I’m not completely satisfied with how it turned out.It turned out a little lumpy, and a bit of extra water and vigorous stirring seemed to make it work better. Regina at Chalk In My Pockets devised a brilliant recipe using soap flakes that looks absolutely edible and creamy. Next time we’ll have to give that a go. If you come up with another recipe, I’d love to hear about it!

  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 1 cup hot water
  • Food coloring

Pour flour and salt in saucepan. Add cold water and beat with whisk until smooth. Add hot water and cook over a medium-low heat until mixture is smooth. Color as desired.

Resources

How to Make Bathtub Puffy Paint (for piping) from Chalk in my Pocket

How to pipe icing tutorial from TLC

A non-piping frosting that I’m dying to try called “The Best Frosting I’ve Ever Had.” Mmmmm. From The Pioneer Woman.

How to decorate cookies with Royal Icing. From Sweetopia.

 

 

 

Spring Sink Mat Prints

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I spend a lot of time at the hardware store. And last week I spotted this flower mat — the Blumz Sink Mat! — I love that exclamation point! — It’s an exciting sink mat! — and it looked like something that could be fun to print with!

In honor of Spring’s inevitable arrival (yes, it WILL get warmer) and St. Patty’s Day (I married a “Doorley”, after all), we used green and yellow paint. The green is Biocolor and the yellow is tempera, for no other reason than that’s what was handy. Oh, and wait ’til you see the Leprechaun at the end of the post…

I also found a bag of ten foam brushes for one buck, so the luck of the Irish was clearly with me. I covered the work space and then my daughter painted the mat with our fresh Spring palette.

And then we added a sheet of paper, pressed it down with the palms of our hands, and pulled our first print.

Ooooooooh!! This was an experiment that worked!

We pulled three prints, which frankly was more than I had bargained for, and then the real fun began! If you followed our Jello experiment, you’ll recognize a common thread here…

And maybe you picked up on the addition of an apron. I love that focused expression.

There’s a leprechaun in my house!

What we used to make it happen:

  • Rubbery plastic sink mat
  • Paint
  • Foam brushes (roller brushes or wide brushes will also work)
  • Paper (I like the 80# sulfite paper from Discount School Supply)
  • Palette (Dinner plate covered with foil)

How are you getting ready for Spring? And have you printed with any unexpected materials lately?

Happily shared with Kids Can Craft, Made by you Mondays, Marvelously Messy

Making Wheatgrass Juice

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After growing a HUGE amount of wheatgrass a couple weeks ago, I wasn’t sure what to do with it. Move it into our garden? Eat it? Share it with friends? Carissa, one of our readers, suggested folding some of this vitamin-packed juice into a toddler-friendly smoothie, so I did what any sane person would do and bought a wheatgrass juicer. I also want my children to understand the process of growing a plant from seeds to, ahem, eating said plant. But have you tried wheatgrass juice? I wasn’t even sure how much I could handle!

We harvested the grass by cutting it about 1″ above the soil line, and then we fed it into the little hand-cranked machine. My daughter has been a devoted and obsessed fan of cutting things with scissors, and welcomed the opportunity to cut the plants. She tired of it after five minutes (did I mention there was A LOT of grass?!), and then she wanted to man the machine. That was the fun job, after all. She got very good at telling me just how much grass to feed into it for the perfect spin, and admired the juice as it dripped into the collection bowl.

Despite my effort to mix the dark green juice into orange juice (she’s not a big fan of smoothies), it never made it into the toddler’s mouth. If she hadn’t been part of the juicing process, I may have been able to sneak it in, but she saw my not-so-sneaky plan coming from a mile away.

The plants produced three hefty shots of wheatgrass that her dad and I devoured. Not really, but we did get a huge vitamin hit that day! Yum. I learned that you can get two batches of wheatgrass out of a set of seeds, so we’ll harvest more in a couple days. And maybe after drinking wheatgrass becomes the norm around here, my daughter will join the revolution and enjoy a glass with us. Cheers.

How do your children participate in garden and/or kitchen activities?

Recycled Sculpture

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How to make a recycled Sculpture with kids

What you see here is one of the most successful art projects that’s hit our household thus far. And it was free! What was the allure?

  • Working on a large scale
  • Low heat Glue Gun.
  • Piles of imagination-building materials
  • Collecting objects
  • Autonomy with decision-making
  • A novel project.

Supplies for Recycled Sculpture

  • Recyclables
  • Low-heat glue gun. We use the Cool Shot – it’s fantastic for little kids and we haven’t had an incident yet. Be sure to get a few packages of extra glue sticks too.
  • Paint (optional). We used washable tempera, which is great for enjoying the process, but will not last over time (it flakes off). For paint with a more permanent bond, use acrylic paint.
  • Paintbrushes (optional). These brushes from Melissa and Doug are nice for preschoolers.

It all began when we unearthed these very cool cardboard pieces that protected our new ice-cream maker (mmmm, thank you again danielle and dave!). So we decided to paint them. This carried on for a few minutes and then we moved on while they dried.

Collect some Recyclables

 

Later on, we started an art-recycling bag full of more materials to paint. But the pile kept growing and growing until I guess the materials were suggestive of a new idea altogether…

Stack and Build a Sculpture

Building!! It quickly became a challenge to balance the boxes, tubes, and bottles without toppling it all over.

Making it really, really tall. You can see the painted ice cream box piece way up there. And then the fun part…

I bet you saw that coming :)

And then, finally, we glued pieces together to make a more permanent sculpture.

 

Glue Gun Tips for Kids

This is where you get the low-heat glue gun out and share a few tips on safe handling:

  • Don’t touch the tip of the glue gun
  • Don’t touch the hot glue right after it comes out of the gun.

Attach the sculptural pieces together

The learning opportunities were so rich: we talked about sculpture as dimensional art, learned about how a glue gun works, made compositional choices, and embraced decision-making skills through the selection of objects.

Although I used a low-heat glue gun (these are amazing for kids), I still manned the gun and N told me where to glue. It was great! She would select a piece and then decide where she wanted it. There were a few moments where we collaborated to discuss placement, but she was mostly in charge. You can see her pointing to where she wants that toilet paper roll glued down.

In fits of inspiration, she bolted in and out of the room to find more treasures for her sculptures. I especially like that red ribbon. Don’t you? Oh, and if anyone ever wondered what we eat in our house, wonder no more!

We made three of these sculptures that afternoon, and got very good at working with the variegated materials. Throughout the week, N collected sticks and other natural materials during our walks and would say, “Let’s take it home to make art with it!” I love this kid!

How do you or your family like to use recycled materials? Feel free to add a link or photo in the comments section!

Creative Experiment #3: Legos

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Make something with Legos.

Legos are great for building, but what else do you or your children use them for? Have they surprised you with a clever repurpose, used them for painting, or pretended they were play money? Or maybe they use them to build, and have really pushed the envelope of Lego possibility?!

What can you do with Legos, or what HAVE you done with Legos? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in on the Experiment

  • Use Legos, Mega Bloks, or similar toy, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

  • Next time you’re painting, try stamping with Legos.
  • Show your children art by Lego artists Nathan Sawaya or Sean Kenney as inspiration.
  • As a provocation, give them Legos with another material like fabric, dollhouse dolls, blocks, or toy cars and see what they come up with.

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button

Happily shared with Science Sunday

Winter Gardening

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Although it’s winter, we were hit by a glorious warm spell about a week ago and I was overwhelmed by the planting bug. Now that the rain is back, what’s especially timely about this activity is that it’s all about bringing the outdoors inside. So, for my snow-bound friends out there, this easy gardening project may make you almost believe that Spring is right around the corner.

We started with a bag of wheat berry seeds that I got from a local farmer. You can also find them at just about any health food store. These are the ones they use to make wheatgrass, and I chose them because I heard they grow fast. This is no joke, they sprouted up almost immediately, and the grass was 7″ tall after just one week!

Day 1

We soaked the seeds in water overnight (about 12 hours), and then dried them out for another 12 hours.

Day 2

I poked drain holes in the bottom of a clean clamshell salad container (go recycling!!) and then filled it with some organic seed starting soil that I found at our neighborhood Hardware store. I love this little store, and all of the good people who work there. Is your hardware store the same?

Filling the container with soil and watering it really well. The spoon is for mixing. This may have been THE BEST part of the activity for my two and a half year old. Following this picture, there was dirt EVERYWHERE!

Filling little biodegradable pots (similar to these) with planting soil, and moistening the pots really well. Once the seedlings are strong, the whole container goes right into the ground. I’ve since found tutorials for making our own seedling containers from newspaper and cardboard egg cartons. They look really simple and incorporate recycled materials! Needless to say, I can’t wait to try both methods next time around.

N distributed the seeds amongst the pots.

So that you could barely see the soil.

And then watered them. I think the seeds can sit right on top of the soil, but I covered them lightly with a little bit more dirt.

She distributed the extra seeds all over our sad winter garden, hoping some of the seeds would catch. We watered our indoor seeds for one week, this is what our garden looks like…

Day 7

I swear, I’ve never seen anything grow this fast! We sprayed twice a day, to keep the soil nice and moist.

And often got impatient, and far preferred POURING water on our plants.

So I devised this much more elegant solution.

I just discovered that the fabulous Marie at Make and Takes experimented with growing grass in tons of different pots and planters — lots of good ideas there for planting pretty grass.

Now the big question — what to do with all of this wheatgrass??

Has anyone had luck feeding wheat grass juice to a toddler?

Even Toddlers Can Sew!

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Like most parents, I’m keenly aware of my child’s strengths (and weaknesses, but we’re not going there today!), and N happens to be one of those people who is comfortable with fine motor activities. So, I thought it was high time to give her a little sewing project since she seems ready for it. This easy sewing activity came together quickly using materials that we found around the house. I’m not sure where I first got this idea from, so I’ve gathered a bunch of good resources for you and added them at the end of this post. It’s very likely that each of these fine blogs has played a role in this project, and I humbly add my version to the mix.

Here’s what we used to make it happen…

  • Cardboard Box (recycled from a package)
  • Mesh from a bag of sweet potatoes
  • Stapler
  • Scissors
  • Exacto knife
  • Embroidery Needle (They’re big, with big eyes, and perfect for small hands. You can also get them with blunt tips.)
  • Embroidery Thread (yarn would also work well)

I cut the cardboard box using scissors and an Exacto knife. If you don’t have an Exacto, you could most likely use scissors. The piece of mesh is about 1.5 inches larger in width and length than the piece of cardboard, and we pulled it taught and stapled it down.

We had lots of colors to choose from.

 

I gave a brief demonstration on how to pull stitches through the fabric and then held the frame while my daughter practiced her first stitches. The mesh was super for this on multiple levels: it’s strong and could withstand a lot of tugging, and it’s “transparent” which allowed N to really see what she was doing.

 

A little practice and then she was on her own. She picked up on it pretty quickly, although she wasn’t the least bit interested in following any dusty old sewing rules, and happily wrapped her stitches around the frame.

Thanks for all the comments. Congratulations to lucky #14…a winner has been selected!

Valentine Snack

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Since we started cutting hearts in our house last month, I’ve grown to love Valentine’s Day in ways I didn’t foresee. Actually, forget Valentine’s Day — holidays in general have taken on a whole new meaning with children in the house. Everything is amplified. The mailman’s delivery foretells the arrival of potential Valentines. Cookies have to be made. Sprinkles are added to everything edible. We’ve had flowers in the house for the past two weeks. It’s really lovely, actually. So, I volunteered to host a Valentine activity at my daughter’s preschool tomorrow in order to spread some Valentine cheer to her friends and teachers. Initially I thought we’d bring cookies to frost, but I’d probably lose favor with some of the other parents. And, after a long week, I don’t have the stamina to turn my kitchen into a cookie factory. When I landed on the idea of frosting heart-shaped bread with cream cheese and sprinkles, I started breathing easy. They look like a cookies without all the extra sugar, and they are so incredibly easy to make! Yay.

For my test run, I toasted some bread, cut out heart shapes with our large heart cookie cutter, applied some cream cheese, and tossed on Valentine sprinkles. Voila! My plan for tomorrow involves setting up a toaster and inviting the children to cut their own hearts from their toast. I’ll have tubs of spreadable cream cheese (and jam for the lactose-free kids) with butter knives for easy spreading. And lots of sprinkles, of course. My daughter adores cooking with me, and I imagine her friends will enjoy the processes of toasting, cutting, spreading, and sprinkling. What do you think?

I turned my test run into today’s lunch — I added some hummus and turkey to the sprinkles and cream cheese, and we had a sandwich. Weird combo, I know, but my daughter ate it up!

How are you celebrating today?

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!!

Jell-O Excavation | Sensory Play for Kids

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We had fun excavating Jello today…

I placed little toy animals in a bundt pan full of Jello, and then refrigerated it overnight. This afternoon, it was open for investigation.

Hmmmm, feels kind of funny.

“How can I get the animals out?”

“With a knife!” A butter knife, of course.

Because the allure of plain ol’ Jello would only go so far, we added the bottles of colored water for fun.

Pouring water all over the excavation site.

Little fox, trapped in colorful Jello.

Scooping and mixing the slimy concoction. Despite my art school background, I had no idea that lime green and magenta watercolors would mix together to make blood red (!!), and I’ll spare you from some of the more gory-looking snaps. After I guffawed at the mess, my daughter asked me what “gross” means. This was clearly a rich vocabulary lesson as well.

After freeing the animals, filling the water bottles with Jello was a whole other adventure. Thanks to Time for Play for the inspiration!

Supplies: Jello Excavation

I used one box of Knox Gelatine (there are four bags in one box), and followed the directions on the back of the box. If you’d rather use vegan (gelatins-free Jello), this product from Jeannie Prebiotics looks great.

How to set this up

I poured a cup of cold water directly into the mold, sprinkled all four bags over the water and let it rest for one minute. Next, I added three cups of hot water and stirred it up. Then the animals were added. I placed it in the fridge to set, which takes three hours. To free it from the mold, I ran hot water over the back of the bundt pan for half a minute and the whole thing slid out. You could also spray the mold with cooking spray.

Have you played with Jello? Share a story or add your photo into the comments!

 

Story Cards with Kids

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Storytelling with Kids | TinkerLab.com

Have you ever used story cards as a reading alternative with children? My two and a half year old can’t yet read, but she truly loves a good yarn, and these story cards turned out to be a really fun way to engage her in storytelling.

For the past month or so, she’s been enamored by this awesome set of cards, Tell Me a Story – Circus Animal’s Adventure (Amazon link), a beautifully illustrated “book” that encourage children and adults to craft creative and original stories.

These were a gift from my husband, who learned about them in preparation for a storytelling course he teaches at Stanford. (He should be writing this post, right!). While he can tell a great story, I don’t consider myself a natural storyteller at all! However, the cards are really easy to use and I’m finding that my own ability to improvise, build suspense, and think outside the box has improved through the process of using them.

Story Cards with Kids

There are so many ways to use the cards.

Pull out Cards in Random Order: When I first introduced them, I’d pull out random cards, one by one, and weave a story until I decided we were done.

Invite your child to choose the cards: Once my daughter got the hang of these improvised stories, she wanted in on  the game.  Now she often chooses the cards — sometimes deliberately and sometimes blindly.

Invite your child to join the storytelling: I am usually the one who tells the stories, but I notice that as the storytelling process unfolds my child is more inclined to chime in. I may say something like “The mouse whispered to the lion,  ‘We’re going to take a trip!'” And then I’ll ask her, “Where could they be they going?” To this she says,”Virginia.”

Storytelling with Kids - TinkerLab

Pull on your Imagination: Sometimes our stories are literal representations of the cards we pull, and other times I try to push myself to think more abstractly about the imagery. Last night, a circus tent became an itty-bitty toy tent, plopped in the middle of a dandelion field. Initially, N said, “That’s not a dandelion, it’s a firework!” and I replied, “In this story it could be a dandelion. What do you think?” And she agreed!

The publisher also creates Fairytale Mix-upsLittle Robot’s Mission, and Mystery in the Forest.

Storytelling Resources

Ideas to get you started on Storytelling: from Simple Kids

Storytelling Games: A fun list of almost twenty games to play with kids of all ages

Listen to stories online at the Storybook Online Network

Do you have ideas for telling a good story? What stories do your children love?

Bento Cutting

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My daughter is a curious child, and inevitably finds little treasures that I hide away for rainy days. And so it was with a cute little set of Bento cutting tools this week. But her timing was actually perfect, as It’s just about time to celebrate The Year of the Rabbit. Hopping after the tail of the Feisty Year of the Tiger, The Year of the Rabbit is supposed to be a calm year when we all get a chance to regroup, nest, spend time at home with family, and follow artistic pursuits (!!). Truly, I’m not making this stuff up!

My child loves cutting up play dough and cookie dough, so why not cheese and ham, too? There are some talented folks out there who create gorgeous and hilarious Bento lunches, but I doubt I’ll ever be one of them because my daughter has to be IN CHARGE of the cutting, and I’m merely a lowly sous chef who’s occasionally granted rights to poke cheese through the cutters with a toothpick.

We happen to live near a Daiso store (BEST store ever for people who like to scope out unique, cheap Japanese odds and ends), which is where I scored these fabulous tools. Little hands can use these cutters to easily cut thinly sliced cheese, while cutting meat requires a bit more elbow grease. As such, she beautified a lot more cheese than meat. If you don’t have Bento cutters, small cookie cutters work equally well.

In the end, it wasn’t about the presentation at all. While I was able to squirrel away a few pieces for our sandwiches, she piled all her little pieces into a bowl and then gobbled them all up. We had so much fun making these that I have a feeling you’ll be hearing more about creative lunch-making from us again. Especially since we’re supposed to be following our artistic pursuits this year!

Want more Bento?

Adventures in Bentomaking Blog

20 Easy Bento Lunch Boxes: Parenting.com

Just Bento Cookbook

Enormous List of Bento Resources from Cooking Cute

I’m so grateful to all of my readers for subscribing to my blog, leaving comments that keep me going, joining me on Facebook, experimenting with your children, and bringing your thoughtful ideas to the table. I happen to be one of the lucky ones who lives near the only Daiso store in the USA, and I want to lend a Bento hand to a loyal reader in need of food beautification! If you leave a comment letting me know how you would use this set by Friday, February 4 at 12 midnight PST you will be entered into a random drawing for the cute Bento tools. (Set includes Stainless rabbit mold for rice, Animal food punching tools, Stainless food storage container, Animal sandwich cutter, Green fruit box, Insulated lunch bag).

Wishing everyone an early happy Lunar New Year!

The winner is selected!! Thank you everyone for your participation. I received so much positive feedback on this giveaway that I’ll be sure to have one again soon. Stay tuned…