Today we go from this
to a Gingerbread House Village
YOU WILL NEED:
cardboard, tempera paint, white glue, decorating materials (pieces of tinfoil, buttons, pieces of colored felt, ribbon, construction paper)
Set up the materials in a variety of containers. Sort the decorating materials into separate containers.
Cut cardboard boxes into house shapes. If you use the sides of a cardboard box you can cut the top flap into a triangle shape and leave the rest as a rectangle.
Paint the cardboard houses.
Glue the decorations on the houses. We did this while the paint was still wet and it worked out fine.
Once finished lay the houses flat to dry.
Once dry I placed our gingerbread houses against our windows. Voila! Our cute gingerbread house village.
Whether or not you are living in a winter wonderland it is time to play with a little snow. With a little imagination you and your little ones are all set for an afternoon of snowy fun sans mittens. I'm kicking off Day 1 of 25 Days of 25 Winter Activities with snow playdough!
2 C flour
1 C salt
2 C water
2 TB vegetable oil
4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 C silver glitter (iridescent glitter would look great too!)
Pour first five ingredients into a large saucepan and stir together. This is a great opportunity to include your children. Show them how to measure the ingredients and pour them in.
More than one child? Have them take turns pouring ingredients and stirring. This is an easy opportunity to practice basic counting, verbal directions and patience. We sing "We stir and we stir and we stop. We stir and we stir and we stop. We stir and we stir and we stir and we stir, we stir and we stir and we stop. Next person!" It's a simple song that everyone can learn quickly and helps manage turn taking.
Add the glitter and stir until completely combined (my daughters included 'lick the glitter' in this step).
Move the mixture to the stove top and cook on medium heat constantly stirring. In the beginning the playdough mixture will look like very thick pancake batter.
Continue to stir until a ball forms. Remove from heat and cool on a counter top. Be careful! The playdough will be very hot.
Once warm or cool to the touch your playdough is ready. Continuing with the snow theme I introduced the playdough with tree clippings and a variety of animals. My kids played at the same table for over 30 minutes! Such a fun, successful afternoon.
We love snow playdough!
Are you a fan of snow or is the beach more your style?
With the weather getting colder in many parts of the country and children spending more time inside crafts are essential to maintaining sanity. Happy, engaged children equals happy parents! Beginning on Thursday I will be sharing activities for 25 days. Stay warm!
Step away from the frozen pre-made pie crusts. They mean nothing to you this year. You don't need them anymore. I'm about to share with you the secret recipe for the easiest homemade pie crust ever. Legend has it that my mom learned the recipe from a friend in Greenfield, Mass where I grew up, but she can't remember the person's name. My apologies if by some chance that person reads this and realizes I am completely ripping off your recipe and sharing it with the world. Enough talking, let's get baking.
Don't be scared, if you can follow simple directions you can impress your family and friends with homemade pie crust. Perfect for apple, pecan, blueberry, pumpkin, mmmm... I want pie.
GREENFIELD, MASS PIE CRUST
4 C flour
1 3/4 C butter, cold (3 1/2 sticks)
1 T sugar
1 t salt
1 T apple cider vinegar
1/3 C cold water
Mix together flour, butter, sugar, salt with a fork, pastry tool or hands (I use my hands).
In a small bowl beat together vinegar, egg and water. Add to flour mixture.
Form into one ball. It is okay if you still see pieces of butter and the dough is a little crumbly. The less you handle the dough the better.
Divide large ball into 4 smaller balls.
The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for 4 days or the freezer for months.
Sprinkle wax paper with a little flour.
Roll each ball in between two pieces of wax paper.
Peel off and place in pie pan. Fill with your favorite pie filling recipe.
"I'm gonna make a boy turkey, Mama, so I need to make his penis. It's gonna be a little, blue penis". And so began my afternoon Thanksgiving craft with my four year old. And here I thought we would begin our conversation with what we are thankful for. I guess little blue penises are a good starting point too.
Just in time for Thanksgiving here is a fun craft that is almost free and you probably already have the materials in your house. You will need crayons, cardboard, wax paper and a vegetable peeler. This is the perfect opportunity to make use of broken crayons and cardboard waiting to be recycled.
Before introducing the craft peel the paper off the crayons and use a vegetable peeler to create smaller pieces of crayon. You can show your child how you do this, but it is definitely not a job for a child. Separating the crayon pieces by color will allow your child the opportunity to choose the colors she wants.
Make a cardboard turkey body creating a circle for the body, a rectangle for the neck, an oval for the head and two thin rectangles for the legs. If your child has a long attention span for crafts allow him to choose the shapes and tape them together. Knowing my child's small window for crafts (especially because we were attempting to squeeze this in while my daughters napped) I made the turkey body so we could focus on the feathers.
To make the feathers cover a cookie sheet with a piece of wax paper. Tip: choose an old cookie sheet as the melted crayon may stick to it. Have your child choose the crayon colors he wants and sprinkle them on the wax paper. Quinn enjoyed the sensory aspect of this part and spent a long time piling the crayon pieces together and then spreading them around the cookie tray.
Place another piece of wax paper on top.
To melt the crayon pieces place in a 300 degree oven for 2 minutes. After 2 minutes gently pat the wax paper down using a pot holder to make sure the two pieces stick together. Let cool for 5 minutes.
While the melted crayon cools have your child color or paint the turkey body. Once cool cut into large feathers. Older children can do this themselves. Younger children will need help. Tape the feather to the turkey body.
One last step. Talk to your child about what it means to be thankful and add the answers to the body of the turkey.
"I'm thankful for...
...when Mommy says "Good Morning".
...when Daddy gets out of the shower and I smell him.
...my Thanksgiving food."
My heart melted at how a simple "Good Morning" has such meaning to my son. And then, admittedly, the conversation turned to ridiculous poopy talk, and I was reminded that my angelic son is actually a crazy four year old boy.
I'm thankful for the opportunity to share my favorite activities with you. I want to hear from you. What are your children thankful for? What are you thankful for?
I promise I will tune into Thanksgiving later this week complete with crafts and recipes (it's my favorite holiday), but I am finding myself in ultra-planning mode for Christmas. One of my favorite traditions with my children is bringing out our Christmas/Winter themed books as soon as the last piece of Thanksgiving pumpkin pie is gobbled up. Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit more than cuddling up with my little ones and reading these books.
What is your favorite holiday story to read with your children?
My husband would say I am the worst person to give a gift to. While I cannot completely deny this as I have returned many presents, I promise I am not the worst wife ever. The problem is I honestly feel like I don't really need a lot of things and therefore usually say "it's not worth the money".
While I may not be the best gift receiver, I LOVE giving gifts. I love taking the time to think about each individual, researching the perfect gifts, wrapping them and then witnessing the excitement. As the holiday season quickly approaches here are some of my favorite gifts for children (plus a few for you too!). The gifts are categorized by age to make your search easier. Happy shopping!
The best part of buying holiday gifts for babies is that your little ones won't know the difference between one gift or ten. A few helpful gifts and some cute photo opportunities and you are all set. Don't forget to treat yourself to something special. I know you have earned it!
It's never to early for books. Look for books with simple photographs/illustrations and no more than a few words to a page.
Some of my favorites include Baby Animals Black and White, Baby Talk, First Words (Bright Baby) and Animals (Bright Baby).
1 YEAR OLDS
2 YEAR OLDS
Art SuppliesCrayons, Dot Paints, Stampers, Markers
, white paper, construction paper
3 YEAR OLDS
Melissa and Doug Deluxe Grocery Store
FOR YOU (AND ME!)
Time to sleep. Time to exercise. Time to watch The Food Network without guilt. Time to read a book that is collecting dust. Time to go on a date.
The views expressed above are entirely my own. I received no compensation for any of the products mentioned.
Are you ready for a project that kept my 4 year old engaged for over 45 minutes? I thought that might get your attention. Time to make pipe cleaner sculptures!
I love projects that are open-ended allowing each child to approach the materials with their own creativity and point of view. Because of the fine motor skills needed to make the sculptures this project is best for ages 2 and up. You will need pipe cleaners in a variety of colors and pieces of styrofoam at least one inch thick. I always save the styrofoam that comes in packages, but you can also purchase them from Amazon.
Cut the styrofoam into rectangles about 6 inches long. Give each child a piece of styrofoam and a variety of pipe cleaners. Show the children how you can stick a pipe cleaner into the styrofoam. That's it! Let them explore the materials on their own. It is fascinating to watch the different ways children will approach the exact same materials.
When speaking to children about their artwork focus on what you see. "I see red pipe cleaners sticking straight up and yellow ones on the side. Look how many pipe cleaners you used!" "Look at the way you used blue pipe cleaners to make curvy pieces. I can see you worked very hard to attach the pipe cleaners to the styrofoam." Statements like these allow children the opportunity to speak about their own work. By simply saying to my son, Quinn, "Look at all those pipe cleaners sticking straight up!" he told me a story about how the pipe cleaners were wires that were attached to a broken television. If I had said "I like your porcupine" the conversation would not have occurred because I would have imposed my own point of view on Quinn rather than honoring his vision.
This is a wonderful project for a multi-age group as each child can approach the materials at his own level. Have fun with your little artists!
For me, baking is therapeutic. There is nothing more relaxing than baking after a long day with my children. Ok, and I'll admit it, sometimes I bake simply because I am in the mood for a spoonful of batter. Today I am sharing my favorite cake and frosting recipes that are sure to make all of your guests young and old licking their plates clean. Seriously, I've actually had children lick my plates.
Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
Cream Cheese Frosting tinted with India Tree Natural Food Dyes Bob the Builder Cake
(My son wanted my husband to have this theme for his birthday. Too funny!)
1 C oil
2 C sugar
2 ¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 C flour
1 small can crushed pineapple
1 Cup shredded sweetened coconut
2 Cups shredded carrots
1 Cup crushed walnuts
Cream oil, sugar, eggs
Mix in cinnamon, baking soda, salt, flour
Add in pineapple, coconut, carrots, walnuts
Bake in an ungreased 9 x 13 pan at 350 for 1 hour, or until toothpick in center comes out clean.
Cream Cheese Frosting
½ C butter, softened
3 oz cream cheese
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 C powdered sugar
Cream butter, cream cheese, and vanilla together.
Add powdered sugar (to taste) and beat well.
I'm not going to lie to you, this cake is not the healthiest option out there, but it is delicious. Plus, you can pretend it is healthy because it is full of carrots, parsnips, zucchini and apple. My son loved helping me grate the vegetables and apple. A fun afternoon spent cooking that ended with eating cake. Sounds good to me.
Harvest Cake with Cider-Cinnamon Frosting
2 large carrots, finely shredded or grated
1 large parsnip, finely shredded or grated
1 medium zucchini, finely shredded or grated
1 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and finely shredded or grated
1 1/4 C flour
1/2 C whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp ground ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3 large eggs
1 C sugar
1/4 C firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 C vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 C chopped walnuts
2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 C cream cheese, room temperature
2 tsp apple cider (honestly not sure how much it added, feel free to omit)
1 C powdered sugar
Pinch of ground cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp for garnish
Make the cake:
Preheat oven 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9 inch baking pan.
Mix together eggs, sugar, and brown sugar until light and frothy (hate that word).
Add oil and vanilla, mix until blended.
Add flour, whole wheat flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and ginger.
Add carrots, parsnip, zucchini, apple and walnuts. Mix until combined.
Spread batter evenly into pan.
Bake on middle rack in oven until cake is uniformly brown, firm to touch and toothpick/knife comes out clean when inserted into middle of cake (about 45-55 minutes). Let cool for 15 minutes, then take out of cake pan and place on a cooling rack until completely cool (at least 1 hour).
Whip together butter, cream cheese and cider for about 3 minutes (note: make sure your butter and cream cheese are soft first or your frosting will be lumpy- gross!). Slowly add powdered sugar and cinnamon, beat until blended. Add more powdered sugar and cinnamon as needed.
Take a few licks (come on, you know you want to! how else will you know if it is good?)
Spread frosting evenly on top of cake and on sides. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon.