How to Blow Out an Egg with 3 Easy Tricks

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Could you use some tips on how to blow out an egg and clean eggs for decorating? Hopefully, this will help you get started!

How to Blow Out Eggs with 3 Easy Tricks | TinkerLab

Today I’m excited to share three little tricks for simplifying blown-out eggs. Messy fun, right? If you’re a traditionalist, you might want to stop reading here. Otherwise, read on…

How to Blow out an Egg

Trick #1: Hand Drill

How to blow out an egg | TinkerLab

So, if you wanted a hollow egg, and were to puncture it in the traditional way, you might use a needle or a special egg-piercing tool like this.

But, if you’re running short on time or if you know your kids will be giddy at the site of a hand drill (do you see me raising my hand?), you could do what we did.

My Fiskateer friend, Angela (read my interview with Angela here), sent me this awesome little Fiskars hand-cranked drill that’s perfect for preschool hands. My kids (ages 4 and 2) didn’t drill the eggs, but I do recommend the drill if you’re looking for a beginner’s wood-working drill for older children.

I carefully drilled a hole in the top and bottom of the egg, and then blew the eggs out.

But that blowing business is an awful lot of work, which brings me to trick #2…

Trick #2: Baby Aspirator

How to Blow out an Egg | TinkerLab

If you have little kids in your house, chances are good that you have at least one of these lying around. Between my two kids and overly generous L & D nurses, we own about eight of these.

How to Blow out an Egg | TinkerLab

Yes please!!

As much as I like my tools, I also believe in tradition. When your kids are old enough to blow out an egg with their own lungs, this post from The Artful Parent will inspire you to help them give it a go.

Trick #3: A Box and Skewers

Once your eggs are blown out, you’ll want to decorate them.

The girls and I painted a few of our blown eggs with acrylic paint, and we used little espresso cups to keep our hands clean while also keeping the eggs from wobbling around the table.

This plan was moderately successful.

It worked beautifully for painting the top half of the egg, but as soon as you were ready to paint the other side there was the challenge of flipping the egg without ruining our work. Not to mention all that acrylic paint that crusted up on my cute mugs. Ugh.

blown eggs on skewer in box

Which is where this nifty idea comes in handy: Cut a few grooves into the edge of a box, push a skewer through your egg (you might have to make your holes a wee bit bigger to do this), and voila!

I can’t remember where I first saw this, but here are a few other folks that have tried this smart idea: Melissa at Chasing Cheerios used this technique to paint chalkboard and decoupaged eggs. And the Sydney Powerhouse Museum replaced the box with Tupperware, and then made charming hanging eggs.

How to Blow Out an Egg | TinkerLab

Are any of these tricks new-to-you? I love learning new tricks…do you have another egg-decorating tip to share?

It’s Day #3 of Egg Week. In case you’re just popping in, my talented friend Melissa over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree and I are posting unique egg-related activities or experiments each day this week.

egg week

In case you missed our earlier posts, here’s what we’ve covered this week so far:

Mini Heart Pies | A Simple and Sweet Valentine’s Day Treat

Adorable and Easy Mini Heart Pies | Tinkerlab.com

Adorable and Easy Mini Heart Pies | Tinkerlab.com

These mini heart pies are not an adorable Valentine’s Day treat, but they’re fun for kids to make and bake. My little bakers, ages 3 and 5, were invested in every step along the way and practiced these skills in this kitchen project:

  • press heart shapes out of the dough
  • measure and mix ingredients
  • use a basting brush
  • crimp pies
  • use best judgment to fill pies
  • problem-solve when we ran amok (keep reading for more on that)

Adorable and Easy Mini Heart Pies | Tinkerlab.com

Let me start with the hero shot, just in case you’re on the fence about this recipe. OMG! This pie not only looked good, but it was downright delicious. This is my half of the heart I shared with my husband (awwwww).

measure ingredients

Mini Heart Pies: Tools

To start, you’ll probably want to pick up a Heart-shaped Pocket Pie Mold. We found a similar one in the house goods section of Target, just before Valentine’s Day. Not to fret if you don’t have a pie mold, with just a little more attention and work, you could also make these with a heart-shaped cookie cutter. We have this one, and I bet it would do the job.

Mini Heart Pies: Ingredients

Makes 4 mini heart pies. This recipe is adapted from one that came with our mold.

  • Pie Crust or pastry dough
  • 1 cup berries
  • 2 teaspoons corn starch
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 egg

How to make Mini Heart Pies

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Set up a cookie sheet, covered with parchment paper.
  3. Coat your pocket pie mold with a bit of oil. You don’t want your crust sticking to it, after all.
  4. Mix the sugar and corn starch in a small bowl.
  5. Whisk the egg in another bowl.
  6. Roll out your dough and cut hearts from it with the back of the heart-shaped pie mold.
  7. Place a heart on both sides of the mold. Fill the center of one side with about 2 tablespoons of berries.
  8. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the sugar mixture on top of the berries.
  9. With the basting brush, coat the edges of the heart with egg.
  10. Press the two sides of the mold together. Open it up and place the mini heart pie on the parchment-covered cookie sheet.
  11. Cover the pie with a layer of egg and sprinkle more sugar mixture on top.
  12. Continue until all the dough is gone.
  13. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown.

Here’s a visual of how we made our mini heart pies…

press out hearts

The heart stamping is so fun for kids.

We used our favorite freezer pie crust from Trader Joe’s, but any crust should do the trick. Two of these come rolled up in a box and we just used one of them. We let the dough defrost while we had breakfast, and it was ready to go a couple hours later.

sprinkle on sugar

Next up: fill with the ingredients. Since its winter and berries aren’t’ in season, we used frozen berries. In the end, they may have made for more runny pies, but the flavor was to-die-for-good. No worries there.

The kids took turns filling the pies with berries, coating the edges with egg and sprinkling the sugar mixture on top.

Brush on egg

On our first mini heart pie we learned the importance of oiling the pie press BEFORE putting all the ingredients inside. Needless to say, our dough made a big sticky mess and didn’t want to come out of the mold without a fight.

Since we didn’t want to lose any of that amazing filling, we did a quick brainstorm on what to do and decided to turn the scraps into pie balls and hamentaschen. And please don’t look up “pie balls” unless you want a totally different image in your head than the photo that follows.

oven surprises

In the end, we ended up with two mini heart pies, two hamentashen, and five pie balls, but if you stick to just mini heart pies, you should be able to get four of them out of this recipe.

Enjoy!

mini heart pies

Time Travel with Popcorn Breakfast Cereal

How to make breakfast popcorn. via Tinkerlab

“The laziest man I ever met put popcorn in his pancakes so they would turn over by themselves.”

W.C. Fields

What can get children excited to try something new? In my home it’s always food and grand experiments, and this project includes both. My kids, ages 2 and 4, were enthralled from start to finish. Maybe it will be the same for you?!

This project encourages experimentation and curiosity, while also teaching basic kitchen skills. 

How to make Popcorn Cereal: Teach your kids about colonial times with this special popcorn cereal recipe from Tinkerlab

On the recommendation of Deborah from Teach Preschool, we picked up a copy of The Popcorn Book by Tomie de Paola. Have you read it?

The book shares a little bit about the history of popcorn while teaching children how to make popcorn. And it’s all told through cheerful illustrations and a humorous storyline. My kids adore this book, along with the other books by author Tomie de Paola, and I appreciate that my girls are learning some cool facts while we enjoy a bit of reading. In case you’re not familiar, de Paola is also well known as the author of Strega Nona and The Art Lesson. Both super popular in our home.

How to make Popcorn Cereal

At one point in the story, the author writes, “The Colonists like it [popcorn] so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it.” Really?

The girls and I talked about this point for a few minutes and made some guesses about how this popcorn cereal might taste. And then we concluded that the only way to find out is…

…to make popcorn cereal for breakfast!

Popcorn Cereal
 
Author:
Recipe type: Breakfast
Makes: 4
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
This recipe is inspired by Tomie DePaola's "The Popcorn Book." In the book, DePaola writes that "The Colonists like it (popcorn) so much that they served popcorn for breakfast with cream poured on it."
Supplies
  • ⅓ cup Popping Corn
  • 3 tablespoons cooking oil or coconut oil
  • Milk
  • Honey
Steps
  1. Pour the oil and popping corn into a covered medium-sized pot, and place the pot over a medium-high heat.
  2. As the oil heats up, gently shake the pot so that the kernels cook evenly.
  3. Listen for the popping to go crazy, and continue shaking the pot until the pops only happen once ever three seconds.
  4. Remove the pot from the heat and pour the popcorn into a large serving bowl.
  5. To serve: Scoop a few spoonfuls into a cereal bowl, pour milk over the popped corn, and drizzle with honey.

How to make popcorn cereal

Whenever possible, I like to include my kids in the kitchen. Not only do we enjoy each other’s company, but cooking provides children with so many opportunities to learn through measuring, chopping, pouring, making educated guesses, and exploring volume, just to name a few.

And all of these things add up to building confidence both in the kitchen and in life. 

So, my kids measured the popcorn and the coconut oil, and I set it up on the stove.

Coconut oil can cook at a high temperature without burning, making it quite perfect for popping corn. The flavor is also divine. I recently joined Costco because they have an amazing selection of organic produce (no affiliation — I just like the place!), and I was surprised to find a big tub of organic coconut oil. Really, at Costco! I’ve also purchased it at Trader Joe’s, in case you’re in the market.

popcorn cereal tomie depaola

Once the corn was popped, we moseyed over to the breakfast table and gave our new recipe a try. The verdict? My kids LOVED it. They had seconds. And thirds. Not a spec of popcorn remained in the bowl. I can’t promise that your child will feel the same way about it, but I loved it too.

breakfast popcorn recipe

That’s my two-year old, on her second bowl of breakfast popcorn cereal!

How to make Colonial popcorn cereal

Yum, there’s even a bowl for me. As soon as the milk hits the popcorn, it gets nice and soggy just as you’d imagine.

how to make breakfast popcorn

After pouring some milk over our popcorn, we drizzled it with our favorite honey. So, so good. And then we proudly woke dad up and told him all about how we ate breakfast just like the colonists.

More Ideas

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  • Try the Corncob Popcorn Experiment: Cook a dried corncob in the microwave for some serious fun and  magic.
  • I just found this recipe for making Perfect Popcorn. I’ve never tried this technique before, but it makes a ton of sense. I’m totally trying this next time.
  • The Popcorn Book by Tomie DePaola
  • Other fun and educational things to do with popcorn and preschoolers on Teach Preschool
  • Are you a fan of Tomie de Paola? Guess what? He has his own website and it’s awesome!
  • If you live anywhere near Concord, NH, there’s a Tomie de Paola show going on through June 23, 2013. And…they have some of the original illustrations from his personal collection will be for sale!
  • Subscribe to Tinkerlab and you’ll be the first to know about new posts like the one you just read.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, but I only share links to products that I love or that I think you’ll find useful. 

 

 

 

 

Jellybean Matzo House

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 This article was first shared in April 2011.

How to build a jellybean matzo house for Passover.

We had more than our fair share of Easter sweets this weekend, but I had a plan all along to purge our house of all that extra sugar by “gluing” it to some sort of base, like a paper plate, and calling it art.

As I talked to my almost three-year old about the idea, we mused over what we could glue our candy to. Something bigger than a cracker. Something flat. Something hard. Something we already had in our pantry.

And then it occurred to us — Matzo!

The irony of mixing Easter jellybeans with Passover matzo isn’t lost on me. As I laughed about this with my husband, we also realize that this is a fair representation of of our melting pot family. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones these ingredients on hand?!

What I especially love about this project, which looks oh-so-similar to the beloved gingerbread house, is the reminder that we can borrow ideas from other seasons. Here’s another seasonal mash-up from last summer: Easter in August.

How to build a matzo house

N started with some matzo and enjoyed breaking it into smithereens. She’s two, after all. Totally unusable for this project, but super fun.

If you’ve ever broken matzo with the intent of making neat little sandwich, you know that matzo has a mind of its own and can be completely unpredictable.

First, break your matzo…carefully

After accepting my fate that we would use uneven pieces, my husband messed around and came up with this strategy: Place the tip of a knife into the middle of the matzo, on the groove that you want to break…

And then press down.

It’s still a little wobbly, but it worked SO much better than my sad attempt at breaking them by hand.

I since found another strategy that sounds worthwhile: dip your finger in water and run it down the groove you intend to crack. It will soften the matzo just enough so that you can get a clean break.

Then we attached the pieces together with ornamental frosting, which dries hard. Our ornamental frosting was too runny for the job, but I’ll share the recipe below just in case you want it. Instead, I’d recommend the royal icing recipe that we used for our gingerbread houses.

Recipe for Royal Icing

Recommended

  • 1/8 cup Meringue Powder
  • 1/4 cup Cold Water
  • 2 cups sifted Confectioners Sugar

Add water to meringue powder and beat until soft peaks form. Add sugar into the mixture and beat until it’s the desired consistency. Add more sugar for stiffer icing.

Ornamental Frosting

Used in the pictures of this article

  • 4 cups powdered sugar (one box)
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3 egg whites

Blend it together until smooth. If you’re not using the frosting right away, cover the top of your bowl with a damp towel to keep it moist.

We attached the “wall” pieces to a large matzoh base.

And then added jellybean decorations. That leaning wall is the result of one of my hand-breaking attempts. Sad. Looks like a foundation problem.

I finally conceded to the frosting-coated jellybean eating request. I can be tough!

We thought the white frosting made this was looking way to wintery, and not at all spring-like…

…so we colored our frosting green.

And then there was more…eating! It looked a bit like Roman ruins…

How to build a jellybean matzo house

So we added a roof. Voila! Jellybean Matzo House (with icicles) for Spring.

Resources

Do you have a good idea or tip for making candy houses?

This post was shared with Craft Schooling Sunday, Skip to my Lou, Sun Scholars

Vegetable-Dyed Easter Eggs

Dye for Easter Eggs

Have you ever thought about making vegetable dyed Easter eggs?

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

I’m trying to make a move away from synthetic food dyes and wanted to use natural, homemade dyes this year. Not only are these colors absolutely healthy for human consumption, but the process of making them is a wonderful lesson in creating art materials from scratch and can help children think critically about  how to achieve various colors colors.

As I was cutting the onions and beets I asked my daughter what colors she thought they’d make. I also asked questions like, “If I wanted to make blue dye, what might I make it with?”

She had fun making guesses based on what we had in our kitchen and garden, and also came up with her own wild suggestions such as, “let’s take the skins off the bananas to make yellow dye!”

How to Make Vegetable Dyed Easter Eggs

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets.

Supplies

  • Hard boiled eggs
  • Skin from one onion, two beets, large handful of spinach, half head of red cabbage
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Bowls
  • Ice cream scooper
  • Rubber Bands
  • Stickers
  • Crayons
  • Parsley Sprigs
  • Cheesecloth

Make the dye

I set up four pots of dye:

Pot #1: Onion Skins

Pot #2: Beets

Pot #3: Spinach

Pot #4: Chopped Red Cabbage

Add about 3 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each pot. The vinegar helps the dye set onto the egg.

Cook the dyes for about 30 minutes and then strained the colored water into some bowls.

*Note, you could also experiment with hard-boiling your raw eggs in the dye itself. I’ve heard this works really well. 

Three Decorating Techniques

While the dye cooks and cools, this could be a good time to get your eggs ready for dipping.

How to dye Easter eggs with natural dyes like red cabbage, onion skins, and beets, and ideas on how to decorate them..

1. Wrap the Eggs with Rubberbands

We wrapped some eggs with rubber bands. Fine motor skill training for my almost 3-year old!

2. Cover Eggs with Stickers

We covered eggs with spring stickers and office stickers.

3. Color the Eggs with Crayons

And we drew on eggs with crayons. Nothing too crazy. The crayon will resist the dye. White crayon would make for more drama in the end, but my 2-year old had her heart set on blue.

How to Dye Easter Eggs

Some people like to use tongs or whisks to grab their eggs, but our ice cream scooper made for a good egg scooper.

Do you see that barely green water up there? That’s what transpired from cooking our spinach…for thirty minutes! Pale green water. As you can imagine, it didn’t do much to our eggs. Next time I think we’ll try using more spinach…or use green food coloring.

Have you had any success achieving a vibrant green color with natural dyes? I’ve heard that liquid chlorophyll is the best thing to use for green, but I haven’t tried it personally.

Pale Yellow from Onions

We unwrapped the eggs to reveal the hidden images!  This pale yellow color was made by the onion skins. We’ve also made yellow dye from ground turmeric (cooked the same as above), which it works really well.

Grey from Beets

It looks brown here, but the beets made a grey-ish color. Dye seeped into the openings of the bunny sticker, revealing a blotchy silhouette that’s still quite nice. A bunch of these all over an egg would be kind of cool, or a simpler sticker would look nice (scroll down for an example).

I’ve had success making a pale pink from beets, and I’m not quite sure what happened here.

Blue from Red Cabbage

But small stickers like this little butterfly left a clear impression. Lovely.

Brilliant blue came from the red cabbage! To make this egg, we wrapped cheesecloth around parsley sprigs and then dipped it in the cabbage dye. If you have pantyhose, that could work even better.

Hole Reinforcement Stickers on Easter Eggs

I found a new life for a stack of hole-punch reinforcement stickers! Don’t you love this? The grey color came from the beets (sad, because I was hoping for pink, but still beautiful), the egg in the back is a brown egg dipped in red cabbage dye, and the yellow egg is colored by onion skin.

Before tossing the cabbage leaves out, I wrapped them around an egg and popped it in the fridge overnight. Tie-dye egg!

This is part of a collaboration with my friend Melissa’s from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. For more natural egg dying ideas, visit Melissa at The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

More Egg Dying, Decorating, and Science Ideas

Three Easy Tricks for Blown Out Eggs

Egg Geodes Science Experiment

How to Make a Floating Egg

How to Walk on Raw Eggs. Really.

60 Egg Activities for Kids

Have you colored eggs with natural dye?

If you have, please share a tip, link, or photo!!

Snow Cream

Snow Cream with Eggnog. So easy and delicious.

Snow Cream recipe with snow and eggnog. Delicious!Snow Cream!

Have you heard of it?

My friend Jen at Paint Cut Paste has been talking my ear off about her favorite wintery dessert, a combination of snow and sweetened condensed milk, and I’ve been eager to try it for ages.

And then there’s this gorgeous children’s book, Maple Syrup Season, that has made eating syrup off the ground my 4-year old’s winter-time fantasy. At the end of the story, the children each hold a spoon and someone calls out “Sugar on Snow!” after pouring maple syrup directly onto ground where the new snow has fallen.

Does it snow where you live or anywhere near you? If you can get your hands on some fresh snow, great! If not, you could pull this off with a bunch of shaved ice. And it’ll be worth it because I swear, this is the best dessert ever.

Snow Cream with Eggnog. So easy and delicious.There are two ways that I know of to make this.

One is Jen’s snow cream recipe where you add sweetened condensed milk and crushed pineapple (optional) to the snow. Paula Deen has a similar recipe, with the addition of vanilla. But my recipe (or I should say my husband’s recipe, since this is really his stroke of genius) calls for snow and eggnog. 

The texture is soft, like the end of a bowl of ice cream. And the flavor is truly light.

Eggnog Snow Cream

This is so simple, I’m not even sure you can call it a recipe.

  1. Walk outside and gather up a bowl of fresh snow. It’s best if it’s actively snowing so you know it’s the pure stuff. You know what I mean?
  2. Pour the eggnog to taste on top of the snow and mix it up.
  3. Scoop into bowls.
  4. Devour.
  5. Stock up on more eggnog so you’re ready for the next blizzard.

There you have it.

Do you have a favorite wintery recipe or tradition?

Happy New Year, friends!

Maple Syrup Season

Note: I’m an Amazon affiliate, but I only share links to things that I love or that I think you’ll find useful. 

DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough

fall playdough

Have you ever made your own play dough? Im a fan of store bought dough (it’s so easy!), but making your own is a money saver and we can make TONS of it in minutes. And with the simple addition of a little pumpkin pie spice, our dough smells heavenly…just like pumpkin pie!

"Smells like Fall" Pumpkin Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

 

Inspired by The Artful Parent’s Autumn Arts and Crafts book, The Artful Year: Autumn, we finally pitched our peppermint playdough in favor of a more seasonal scent: Pumpkin Pie!

Pumpkin Pie Playdough Recipe…

I used our favorite play dough recipe, which also happens to be the favorite of my daughter’s awesome preschool class, so I’m not going to get experimental with the dough itself, but we did experiment with the spice combination.

The dough itself takes about 20 minutes to prepare, it cooks on the stove-top, and the most complicated-to-find ingredient it calls for is cream of tartar. If it’s hard for you to find, you can get Cream of Tartar on Amazon.

Yes, you can find 2-minute dough recipes, and I’d encourage you to use them if you’re short on time, but the benefit of this recipe is that it will last for ages. Ages. Scroll down for a PRINTABLE recipe card.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

After we made the dough, I placed it on the counter to cool. Meanwhile, my 2-year old worked away at pinching out a real pie crust.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

When the dough was cool to touch, we squeezed orange liquid watercolors on half of it and then kneaded it in. For this step, be sure to mix on a surface that won’t absorb the watercolors. My 4-year old wanted to make half the dough orange and half of it white.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie Play Dough | TinkerLab.com

Although we had planned to use a jar of pumpkin pie spice in the dough, my 4-year old was curious about using whole spices that we just bought, so we pulled out the coffee grinder and gave it a very loud whirl. Fun! I don’t have a proper nutmeg grinder, but this seemed to do the trick. And the smell of cardamom — I absolutely love it.

We experimented with the spice blend by adding the different spices, first quite cautiously and then rather liberally, and in different combinations. I learned that my 4-year old isn’t too crazy about the smell of cardamom, but loves cinnamon.

5.0 from 5 reviews
DIY Pumpkin Pie Playdough
 
Author:
Prep time:
Making time:
Total time:
 
Playdough is a wonderful material for building fine motor skills, developing imaginations through exploratory play, and supporting early engineering and building skills. This recipe rivals anything store-bought.
Supplies
  • 5 cups water
  • 2½ cups salt
  • 3 tbsp. cream of tartar
  • 10 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 5 cups flour
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice, or a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamom
Steps
  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance.
  3. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  4. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board or cooking tray that can withstand a little food coloring.
  5. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. We divided our in half: one orange and the other white.
  6. Flatten the ball, add a little bit of food coloring, and knead it in. Add more food coloring to get the desired shade.
  7. Store the dough in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months.

"Smells Amazing" Pumpkin Pie PlayDough | TinkerLab.com

My 2-year old was very happy, however, to shake-shake-shake the pie spices all over her gigantic mound of dough. Can you imagine how yummy our kitchen smelled?

 

Easy "smells great" pumpkin pie play dough | TinkerLab.com

After all this cooking, it was time to bake! At this point, our orange and white/tan doughs marbled into something lovely, and we got busy making small cakes and setting them out to eat on a 3-tier plate server.

Playdough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

No-cook Cinnamon Playdough, The Imagination Tree

39 Ways to Play with Playdough, The Artful Parent

Downloadable (Free) Playdough Recipe Book, Nurture Store

Fall Activities

50 Simple Halloween Ideas for Kids, TinkerLab

Fall Bucket List, Tinkerlab

40 Autumn Activities for Kids, The Imagination Tree

Make Fall Sunprints, Tinkerlab

Multi-color Leaf Prints, Kleas

Negative Leaf Impressions, Tinkerlab

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Baked Pumpkin Seeds

ROASTED PUMPKIN SEEDS

While it still feels like summer here in California, pumpkins are showing up at our markets and the feeling of Autumn is in the air.

How do you cook pumpkin seeds

My older daughter asked about getting a pumpkin, so we picked up a small pie pumpkin the other day and then promptly turned it into an afternoon of hacking the pumpkin, digging out the seeds, and then roasting them up. We also baked the pumpkin and made pie filling that’s waiting to be baked into something amazing.

baking pumpkin seeds

I have wonderful memories of opening and carving pumpkins with my dad, and my hope is that my children will come to embrace this season with love as a result of our cooking adventures.

How to Bake Pumpkin Seeds

The set-up was simple:

  • One cutting board
  • One pumpkin
  • Heavy kitchen knife (pumpkins are crazy tough to cut)
  • Empty pan or bowl

My kids have a set of knives from Curious Chef that are fabulous for cutting up mushrooms, scrambled eggs, marshmallows, cheddar cheese, and all things not-too-hard. I began by cutting the top off the pumpkin, and then my 4-year old asked if she could help. Ha!

Although it was clear that her beloved knife was no match for the pumpkin, in the spirit of experimentation she gave it a go. This is how kids learn! Once we got past that, we got back to digging seeds out of the pumpkin. We got most of them out before I cut the pumpkin in half, which helped us clean it out really well.

My kids aren’t really into goopy things at the moment, but children who are would probably love the sensory experience of mucking around with all the smooshy pumpkin seeds and such.

We put all the seeds into a pot of water, added a few pinches of salt, and boiled it for 20 minutes.This helps clean the seeds off while infusing them with a little flavor.

Salting things is one of 4-year old N’s favorite kitchen duties, and while I initially worried that she’d oversalt our food, she’s become very judicious after lots of practice. Our favorite salt is Maldon Sea Salt, and we keep it in a bamboo salt box like this.

how to bake pumpkins seeds

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

After 20 minutes, we spread the seeds out on a baking tray and set them aside to dry overnight. 

The next day, we mixed them with 2 tablespoons of melted butter, 2 kid-size pinces of salt, and a few shakes of garlic powder. This all goes into a 300 degree oven for 45 minutes. About 20 minutes into the baking, I turned the seeds to help them cook evenly.

The kitchen smelled like heaven.

My kids were eager to try their creation, but sadly, they weren’t fans. I think the crunchiness wasn’t that appealing, and maybe with a different flavor like cinnamon-sugar would have been more their speed. Good thing we have a few more months to tinker with our recipe!

More Fall Activities on Tinkerlab

Fall Bucket List

Negative Leaf Impressions

Capture Fall Memories with Kids

Acrylic Painted Pumpkins

No-carve Pumpkin Decorating

Do your kids like pumpkin seeds? Do you have a favorite baked pumpkin seed flavor that we could try?

Make Your Own Birthday Cake

kids bake in the kitchen

kids diy make and bake birthday cake

If you know a little bit about me and my parenting philosophy, you’ll know that I welcome opportunities to get my children into DIY mode. The only way they’re going to learn how to do something is by getting involved, so I may give them a few pointers and then I’ll step back and let them take the lead.

My youngest, R, who I sometimes refer to here as Baby Rainbow, is no longer a baby. Sniff. She just turned two! When we’d ask her what she wanted for her birthday, her response was consistently “vanilla cake.”

Not only do I also drool over vanilla cake, but this simple request made for a totally low-key, low-stress birthday that I look forward to repeating again with future birthdays.

Baking Cakes

To get started, my 4-year old, N, and I mixed up one box of vanilla cake mix from Trader Joes. It doesn’t get easier than that, and the ingredients are actually fairly healthy.

We pulled out our rotary hand mixer/egg beater, which my daughter uses any chance she can get. Not only is it fun for kids to use, but it gets them involved in the kitchen and it does wonders for developing hand-eye coordination and motor skills.

kids use rotary mixer

 

After she mixed the batter up, we divided it into two 9-inch cake pans and cooked as directed on the box.

Meanwhile, we mixed a batch of our favorite frosting: Buttercream Frosting. Oh-my-goodness. If you’ve never made it before, it’s not only easy, but it’s also highly addictive. Yum.

My kids are always promised a beater to lick at the end of baking, which helps keep hands out of the bowl while we’re assembling.

Once the cakes cooked and cooled, we popped them out of the pans and started in on our grand assembly plan.

Cake Recipes

My 2-year old’s request: Vanilla Cake

My 4-year old’s plan: Two-tiered vanilla cake with vanilla frosting and strawberries in the middle layers. The top will be covered with sprinkles, Happy Birthday letters, a “2” birthday candle, and fairy cupcake toppers (basically, everything we had in the cabinet).

frosting cake with children

Decorating Step 1: The kids used butter knives to cover the bottom layer with raspberry jam (this was my suggestion, and they did not protest). Then we added a thick layer of vanilla frosting.

kids decorate cake

Frosting for Cake

Decorating Step 2: My 4-year old thinly sliced the strawberries and the kids layered them on the cake.

frosting cake with kids

We placed the second cake on top of the strawberry layer, and then covered the whole thing with frosting. When you’re working with children, it helps to value the process over the product. You can’t worry too much about how the cake is going to look. It’s a bonus, of course, if it looks amazing, but the important thing is that they have take pride in make something amazing happen.

cakes

We started gussying the cake up and R requested jelly beans. There were only six left in the box, and she eagerly plunked them into a corner of the cake. This ended up being her piece!

kids bake in the kitchen

And when we were done, they got the frosting bowl as a bonus.

Experiments

For more of our kid-led cooking experiments: How to Invent a Recipe with Kids, Cooking with Toddlers, Cooking with Kids (exploring butter and rosemary)

Also, one of my friends and favorite bloggers, Jean Van’t Hul of The Artful Parent recently wrote about a birthday cake her daughter made: A Kid Made Birthday Cake. I think my kids would feel right at home in her house!

DO YOU LIKE TO COOK WITH YOUR CHILD? WHAT ARE YOU FAVORITE COOKING-WITH-KIDS RECIPES?

 

Cooking with Kids: Butter and Rosemary

butter and rosemary.022

Do you like to cook with your kids? It’s not always the easiest thing for me to do; we have a tiny kitchen and limited counter space, but I try to find ways to integrate my kids into the kitchen routines when I can.

Why? Because cooking, experimenting, and learning about the interaction of ingredients builds creative thinkers, gives my kids a solid footing  and confidence in the kitchen (hey, I’m priming them to cook for me one day!), and it’s a wonderful way to bond and share stories about family traditions and food adventures.

20 month old Baby R (who’s hardly a baby anymore) likes to spend time in the kitchen, but she’s not the best helper in the world. So I try to drum up activities that will keep her hands busy and her mind engaged while I cook.

The other day we were baking bread and the recipe called for rosemary and a pat of butter. As I pulled the flour, yeast, maple syrup, milk, salt, and butter together, I also cut two tablespoons of butter off the end of the stick and chopped it into rough pieced for R to handle.

The slippery texture was captivating.

I handed her a few sprigs of rosemary to handle and poke into the butter.

cooking with kids

After squishing the butter for a bit she really wanted to cut the butter like me, so I gave her a small butter knife and showed her how to hold it. She cut butter for about fifteen minutes before tiring of this, which gave me just enough time to pull the bread dough together.

I’m not one for wasting food, but we did throw the gooey mass of butter and rosemary away when we were done.  I suppose I could have saved it, but there was a lot of finger licking going on and I wasn’t ready to go there. However, I liken this experience to playing with play dough (made from flour and oil) or dry beans, both materials that we use for imaginative and sensory play. When children learn to handle real food they build a relationship with it and gain a stronger understanding of its properties.

So, the next time you’re in the kitchen, if you don’t already do this, look around for something sensory for your toddler to explore. You might also enjoy reading Cooking with Toddlers, where I share a few tips including our favorite kid-friendly knives.

If you have a preschooler or school age child, you might like this fun post on how to invent a recipe with kids, where I share some ideas on how to foster a spirit of experimentation by building a pancake recipe from scratch.

And when my kids want to play in the kitchen, but they’re not interested in helping, I often slide this big tub of wheat berries out from under a counter for them to explore. It often makes a big mess, but it keeps them entertained while I cook and it’s easy enough to vacuum up when they’re done.

What do your kids like to do while you cook?

Make Your Own Egg Tempera Paint

make egg tempera paint with kids

It’s Day #2 of Egg Week.  In case you’re just popping in, my talented friend Melissa over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree and I are posting unique egg-related activities or experiments each day this week.

painting with egg temperaI’ve been interested in whipping up a batch of homemade egg tempera paint for a while, and being that it’s egg week and all, this seemed to be the right time to finally crack open some eggs and give it a try.

Do you know the history of egg tempera paint? It’s quite interesting, actually.

Egg tempera was wildly popular amongst Early Renaissance artists (Botticelli, Giotto, Fra Angelico) and then fell out of use with the Late Renaissance artists (Leonard da Vinci, Michelangelo) when oil paint was introduced. To make egg tempera, powdered pigments culled from things such as stones, sticks, bones, and the earth were mixed with water and then tempered with a binding agent such as an egg. And when they were tempered with eggs, they were called egg tempered paints and eventually earned the nickname Egg Tempera. Interesting, right? So this is where those big, bright bottles of kid-friendly tempera paint get their name from.

I used this recipe from Kid’n’Kaboodle, and if you click over there you’ll find an enormous list of recipes that will keep your little artists busy for a long time. Go ahead, click over and bookmark it. I’ll wait.

This project doesn’t take very long to set up, kids will enjoy making their own paint from eggs (unless they’re allergic or hate eggs, of course), and once the paint dries it has a gorgeous, shimmery patina that makes it painting-worthy.

make egg tempera paint with kids

Materials

  • Eggs
  • Small mixing bowls
  • Bowl to crack egg whites into
  • Paint Brushes
  • Liquid Watercolors or Food Coloring
  • Card stock or other heavy-weight paper

make egg tempera paint with kids

I separated the yolks from the whites, and dropped one yolk into each of these small bowls.

make egg tempera paint with kids

3.5 year old Nutmeg chose three colors to add: Purple, Sparkly Red, and Sparkly Blue. We used Glittery Blick Liquid Watercolors from Dick Blick Art Supplies, which I highly recommend if you’re planning an online art supply order anytime soon. The bottles are inexpensive, last forever, and there’s a huge range of colors.

As soon little Rainbow began mixing the purple into the egg yolk, Nutmeg commented on how purple and orange mix together to make brown. Not her desire, exactly, but she didn’t seem to mind and it was a great little unintended lesson in color mixing.

kids paint with homemade egg tempera paintAnd then we got painting. Quite a lot of painting, actually. For this step, I used paper from a big ream of white card stock purchased from the office supply store.

drawing with sharpieI joined in too and it occurred to me that this transparent paint would make a beautiful luminous sheen over some bold Sharpie marks. I offered my kids Sharpies, and they thought it was a great idea too.

Do your kids love Sharpies as much as mine do? My kids go bananas over Sharpies and I sometimes wonder if it’s because they really are all that wonderful or if it’s because I keep them on a super-high shelf, buried behind old taxes and holiday Silverware.

child paints with homemade egg tempera paintThis was a great move, and the effect was as pretty as I had imagined.

toddler paints with homemade egg tempera paintMy toddler isn’t so deft with the Sharpie and I had to keep a sharp eye on her. She also insisted on the famous paint-draw technique, which kept me busy. How I even snapped this photo I’m not sure.

kids paint with homemade egg tempera paintBefore we wrapped it up, they wanted to collaborate with my on my drawing. Rainbow asked me to draw her a sheep, and then the two of them went to town painting in and around the scene.

Be sure to hop over to The Chocolate Muffin Tree to see what they’re doing with eggs today (and all week, for that matter).

Have you made egg tempera paint? Do you make collaborative art with your kids? Have you made your own art supplies? Any favorite recipes to share?

Cooking with Toddlers Made Simple

chopping salad with toddler

Cooking with toddlers made simpleAfter sharing some thoughts yesterday on how to invent a recipes with kids (by opening your kitchen up as a lab for experimentation), I thought it might help if I backed up a bit and shared a few tricks that have helped me set the stage for kitchen experimentation.

Here are my top four tips on bringing toddlers into the kitchen, making cooking with little ones fun, and keeping it simple…

 chopping salad with toddler

TIP #1

Spend time in the kitchen. I’m a big advocate for bringing children into the kitchen at an early age.

Babies won’t do much in the kitchen, obviously, but the kitchen is full of sensory experiences that can grab hold of the attention. As soon as my kids could stand, they’ve been active observers; watching me chop, stir, mix, and pour.

TIP #2

Give them tools. And as soon as they show an interest, I give my kids small bowls to mix pretend batters and salads while I make the real thing right next to them.

My youngest is 18 months old, and she loves mixing just about anything. She’s not as efficient as I am, and she’s certainly not as neat, but I know that if I include her at this young age she’ll feel comfortable in the kitchen as she grows older.

TIP #3

Find some kid-friendly knives. Did you see that my toddler is wielding a knife?

kid knives curious chef

One of my most creative friends, Rebecca Jordan-Glum (she’s just building her Facebook page — visit her here: https://www.facebook.com/JordanARTandDESIGN ) turned me on to these incredible kid-friendly knives from Curious Chef. We bought this pack of 3 knives for under $10, and use them all the time. If they’re out of stock, you can also find the knives through other Curious Chef cooking packages.

My 3.5 year old knows where to find them and can help herself, and my 18 month old will ask for “knife.” My youngest doesn’t use the knife as its intended, but she wants to join the party and I’m not going to stop her.

The knives are appropriate for children ages 5 and up, so supervision is recommended for little ones.

toddler mixing salad

TIP #4

Involve them in simple cooking projects. When I’m having a long day and I’m not in the mood for a massive clean up, I’ll try to find neater cooking projects for my kids to help with. Chopping salad is one of these projects. Scooping flour is not. Spreading butter on toast is one of these projects. Making pancakes is not.

Cooking with Kids: Resources

I’m loving Foodie Parent. It’s hilarious and there’s a section of the site called “Cooking with Kids.”

Cooking with My Kid is a beautiful site, full of practical ideas. Macki describes herself as a “Foodie by day, microwaver by night, I set out to teach my kid (and myself) the art of cooking.” I’m kicking myself because she was at Blissdom, and we didn’t meet!

Do you like to cook with your kids? What are you favorite cooking-with-kids tips? What is the most challenging part of cooking with children? Do you have a favorite “neat” cooking project?

 

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