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.

 

 

 

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?

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!!

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…

Vinegar and Baking Soda

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Have you tried the baking soda and vinegar experiment with your kids yet? 

Yesterday N skipped her nap and requested “gooey flour and water” for her quiet time activity.  Did you hear me sighing? I sort of had “read books” or “play with a puzzle” in mind, but I guess that would be too much to expect when we rarely sit down and work on puzzles during non-quiet times, right?

I had a million little things in the hopper, but it seemed like a reasonable request. So, there she was, inches deep in flour, salt, water, and white vinegar. With its clear color and acidic smell, the vinegar gave this sensory project an elevated feeling of alchemy. She liked the smell of it, then tasted it, and then tasted everything.

As I was sitting there watching this serious game of ingredient exploration unfold, I remembered the ol’ vinegar and baking soda trick! So I brought out the baking soda and asked innocently, “would you like to add some baking soda into your cups?” Of course she said “yes,” and her reaction to the merging of the vinegar and baking soda made missing a nap totally worthwhile.

First she add baking soda to all of the cups and then she poured vinegar on top of the baking soda. We played this game in both directions: adding vinegar to baking soda and vice versa.

After depleting my white vinegar reserves, she begged me for more. (Hey! This project is a winner!) Since I was also sort of curious about how the other vinegars would react to the baking soda, I reluctantly handed over my red wine and balsamic vinegars. They each bubbled, but had slightly different reactions.

Happy experimenting!

Happily shared with Childhood 101

How to Make Goop

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Homemade Goop is one of the best things I’ve learned how to make as a parent, and today I’m going to share this big secret on how to make goop. It’s the easiest recipe, and full of so much fun for small children.

Have you tried it? The recipe is simple and children are riveted by the magic of this weird substance.

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

 

Fun History of Goop

Goop, better known as Oobleck (named for a slime in Dr. Seuss’ book Bartholomew and the Oobleck ) is a fun material to play with: At one moment it’s a solid, and at the next it’s a liquid…it’s unbelievably silly to play with, and I’ve witnessed adults get lost in the strange sensation of its texture. For my science friends out there, this is a dilatant material, which is one that changes its properties in reaction to external stimuli. We don’t have the Dr. Seuss book (yet!), but I imagine it would be fun to read the book in conjunction with this activity.

Stretch this project out

To get the most bang for your buck, do what I did and set up this goop-making activity up as a 3-part activity to enable your child to experience the medium in multiple ways.

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

Ingredients

  • 16 oz. container of Cornstarch
  • Up to 1 cup of water
  • Liquid watercolors or food coloring (optional)

Supplies

  • Big tub for mixing — I used an under-the-bed storage container. Contains the mess well so my child can play unencumbered by my tidy concerns
  • Spoons, little bowls, toys for playing, scooping, and filling

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 1

I placed the jar of corn starch in the tub, alongside a spoon and a couple small bowls. I expected my daughter to pour the whole tub of corn starch out, but she carefully scooped it from the container spoonful by spoonful. This took a while, as she was wholly invested in the process of measuring and then pouring. Once playing with dry corn starch ran its course…

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 2

We added water. I gave her just a bit at a time, so she could enjoy the process of mixing it in. Ultimately, the cornstarch:water ratio is about 2:1.  And as we went along, we chatted about what it felt like in our hands, if it was easy/hard to stir, and what we were doing. And once she seemed to have her fill of playing with this funny material…

How to make Goop :: Tinkerlab.com

How to Make Goop: Part 3

We added a few drops of liquid watercolor to the Oobleck (food coloring would also work), which she swirled around and mixed up. She was really interested in dropping the color into the mixture, but stirring it up barely sustained her interest. After focused play with the Oobleck for the last 30 minutes, she seemed to have had enough…ready to move on to the next big thing.

If you try this (or already have it under your belt), I’d love to hear from you!

Tracing Circles

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Some of you have mentioned that you’re building up ideas for foul-weather-indoor-play, and I’ve got something for you that requires very little preparation and can be pulled together with materials that we all have on hand.

Materials

  • marker/pen/pencil
  • paper
  • tape
  • cups

I taped a sheet of paper to the table and showed N how to trace around a cup. I’m in love with blue painters tape, and can hardly imagine what we’d do without it. I wasn’t sure how this activity would go…would she find it too simple, boring, thrilling, or challenging? Turns out it was a good challenge for her, as she requested cups and markers for more tracing the next day.

And as you can see from her circles, this involves a lot of fancy handiwork, small motor skills, and hand-eye coordination for wrapping the marker all the way around the cup. I think my child is inherently right-handed, and it’s interesting to see her draw with both her right and left hands in order to draw all the way around the cup. Good problem-solving!

If your child enjoys this, a good extension would be tracing cookie cutters, tape rolls, food storage containers, etc.  Even better…ask your child to think of other objects to trace. And if you move away from tracing disposable things, shift from markers to pencils. A good lesson in preservation!

What are your favorite simple rainy day activities?

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More Art Projects for Toddlers

12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers | TinkerLab.com
For more toddler art projects, you may enjoy the easy-to-set-up activities that use mainly everyday materials in 12 Simple Art Projects for Toddlers.

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Cerebral Dishwashing

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At face value, dishwashing probably doesn’t scream out as a  creative thinking or problem solving activity, but for young children, washing dishes can be full of opportunities to play act, test new ideas, experiment, explore, and think creatively. Personally, I’m not too fond of washing dishes, a problem further compounded by the fact that we don’t have a dishwasher. However, in every problem lies an opportunity, and while I’m obliged to spend and hour a day at the sink (I actually timed this one day — it was a full hour!), I saw that I could bring my daughter into the experience to make the time fly by more quickly.  Also, at the ripe ol’ age of two, she’s fully invested in the world of play acting, and is enthusiastic about driving cars, putting her dolls to bed, baking cookies, and grocery shopping. In essence, kids begin learning by imitating their parents and caregivers, and this is one activity that not only appeals to her, but also helps her learn how the world around her operates.

While my two year old may not be the most efficient dish washer around, she enjoys playing with water, squeezing soap from the sponge, pouring water from one container into another, and fitting all of the pieces into our drying rack. She started out as my rinser, and quickly demanded her own sponge and apron. We have a few rules that she caught onto pretty quickly (instigated by a couple of broken glasses, of course), which are:

  1. She can only wash plastic and metal.  No glass or ceramic.
  2. No knives.
  3. Before something goes in the drying rack we check it for soap.

Some of the learning outcomes that I’ve noticed (and I’m sure there are more) follow:

  • Pouring liquid from one container to another teaches a child some of the characteristics of fluids. For example, what a fluid can do in its natural state, how it can fill and then flow over the edges of a container, and how gravity effects the fluid as it pours…all entry points into the world of physics.
  • Manipulating all of the pieces (i.e. sponge, dishes, utensils) with two hands encourages fine motor skills and problem-solving.  For example, my daughter recently figured out that she had to put the soapy sponge down somewhere so that she could properly rinse bubbles off of a cup.
  • As the drying rack fills up, the child is challenged to figure out how to fit all of the dishes in a place.
  • Playing with water can be soothing and joyful. When it’s not warm enough to jump in a sprinkler (or you just don’t feel like dealing with a fully wet child), kids can get their water fix indoors.

Materials

  • Apron (not necessary, but be prepared to a lot of water to spill all over the place. Naked works, too.)
  • Sponges. One for you and one for your child.  I like to cut my daughter’s sponge in half to make it more manageable for her tiny hands.
  • Step Stool. We have this one, and it seems to be the perfect height for our kitchen.  It comes unfinished, and to keep it from getting moldy with all of the water that would inevitably soak it, I painted the sides and covered the top with some lacquered Japanese paper. If you’re inclined to go this route, there’s a great tutorial here from Prudent Baby.

More Ideas

  • Fill the sink with a pool of water, and give your child a few dishes and spoons to wash with a little sponge.
  • Add some soap to the water for a different sensory experience.  It’s fun to find dishes that are hiding under soapy bubbles.
  • Let the water run so your child can learn about rinsing.
  • Offer your child a variety of containers such as bowls, spoons, cups, funnels, and measuring cups.
  • If you have a dishwasher, have your child help you fill it (and empty it, of course!).
  • Move this activity outdoors by filling up a big tub with water and soap.
  • Rather than wash dishes, wash plastic baby dolls.

Looking for more ideas related to this topic?  Check out Twenty tips for engaging young children in the kitchen.