“Ice Cream” Play Dough

My kids love playing ice cream shop!

They have a magical ability to manifest imaginary ice cream out of nothing and turn any location into an ice cream parlor. In fact, on the first day of preschool, my son claimed “ice cream man” as his dream job.

My kids are seriously dedicated to ice cream, but who isn’t?

With summer here, I wanted to do a little something to enhance their experience with the fantasy ice cream business. I know there are a number of Play-Doh sets themed after ice cream shops, but we honestly have enough Play-Doh related tools and the color of the dough turns ugly after a few minutes of manipulation by a toddler.

And, to be completely honest, I recently discovered a really cool way to make non-toxic play dough, and I wanted to see if it works.

Surprisingly, it worked extremely well!

The ingredients might be a little intimidating for parents, especially those of the healthy variety. It seems like the consistency should be pretty sticky and gross, and it is certainly a lot of sugar to put in front of kids. However, this worked out significantly better than I thought. The texture of the dough matched pretty closely with traditional Play-Doh, and since I didn’t tell my kids (right away) how I made the dough, eating it didn’t occur to them…

Except that my son asked me about the ingredients, and I didn’t want to lie.

But! The end result is so sickeningly sweet, he didn’t eat anymore beyond an initial taste test. My daughter, on the other hand, kept licking her “ice cream”, but after only a few licks she got sick of the taste rather quickly.

This activity was easy to set up, and it kept my kids entertained for hours. Sure, they could (and often do) play ice cream shop with nothing more than their imaginations, but every now and then it’s fun to make their fantasies come alive!

What You Need:

Store bought frosting
Powdered sugar
Optional:
Food coloring
Ice cream scooper
Small aluminum loaf containers
Sprinkles
Ice cream cones

Instructions:

Choose frosting that matches the colors you want. We bought a pink, a purple, and a white (which we turned into a minty blue). If you’re wanting to create your own color out of the white frosting, mix in the food coloring before adding powdered sugar.

Using a spoon, mix your powdered sugar and frosting together. The ratio should be 1:3 (for every 1 cup of frosting, add 3 cups of powdered sugar). If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle in more powdered sugar until it reaches a similar texture as Play-Doh. Eventually, the frosting will clump, and you may need to knead the dough with your hands once it is no longer gooey and sticky.

To really heighten the experience, put the “ice cream” dough in aluminum loaf tins. Give the kids an ice cream scoop (it scoops wonderfully!), sprinkles (or maybe confetti or something else that can substitute sprinkles), and ice cream cones. Don’t forget bowls and spoons as well!

While this recipe does not last forever, it did keep my kids entertained for a couple of days before we had to toss it. But, it’s so easy, I can definitely do this again without stress!

DIY Dyed Beach Sand

A couple of weeks ago we made our first beach day trip of the season! We got together with a few friends, took PTO, and spent a pleasant day in sand and sun. Of course, the kids were ecstatic. Just a few days prior, my son started making comments about wanting to go to the beach. His timing couldn’t have been more perfect. I think I surprised him quite a bit when I responded with “okay, let’s go in a few days!”.

While body riding waves is something spectacular, a child’s true enjoyment is in the sand. It keeps them entertained literally all day long, and while I do keep a watchful eye over them as they play, the endless supply of sand offers me an opportunity to relax a bit.  Everyone is happy. My daughter was particularly in love with the gritty mess. So much so, she basically bathed in it…

On the other hand, taking my family to the beach doesn’t necessarily mean I check out for the entire time. On top of making sure we pack enough sunscreen, food, and novels, I also like to plan unique activities. This time around, I discovered a craft using the resources around us!

This was an especially easy activity, and even though it may have gotten messy at certain moments, a quick rinse in the sea took care of that hassle.

All you need is food coloring, ziplock bags, and if you’re wanting to take your craft home a bottle of some sort, as well as a funnel. I found plastic and glass tubes on sale at Joann Fabrics. I believe they were something along the lines of “glitter mixing tubes”.  They were the bare minimum of what I needed for this activity because I wanted to get enough supplies for the adults to participate too (I know my friends pretty well). However, if I do this again and I’m looking to do no more than one or two bottles, there were also larger decorative bottles with corks.

The other tool you might need is something thin and pointy to make designs with your sand. A wooden dowel rod works fine, especially if it has a pointed end. Usually, you can find these in the cake decorating section of Walmart or craft stores.

The activity itself is simple. Fill a ziplock bag with sand, drop food coloring in, and start shaking. If you want to fill bottles, snip the corner of a bag, fit the funnel over the bottle’s mouth, and fill the bottle with your choice of alternating colors until the bottle is packed full. For a really cool effect, stick a rod down the sides of the bottle to make funky designs with the alternating color layers.

On the other hand…this activity does not need to be a craft that you take home! If you’re looking for some colorful beach fun that doesn’t come back with you (because let’s be honest, enough sand will follow you home without you trying), simply drop food coloring onto the ground and mix it in with a pile of sand. The result is vibrant beach sand to make unique and creative sandcastles.

This was truly an awesome beginning to our summer season, and I cannot wait to see what other activities we’ll discover in the next couple of months. At the very least, I’m going to pack food coloring for our next beach trip!

Hanukkah “Stained Glass” Suncatchers

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

It’s a season of light and brightness, and a time to make memories with kids!

This week as we celebrate G-d’s protection over Israel and the spread of His light, we are taking the week off of school to fully enjoy a relaxed holiday. My 5-year-old has been begging for more Hanukkah crafts after creating an aluminum foil menorah (in all it’s fire hazard glory), and with a little more time on our hands thanks to the lack of school work, I had a little more time to deliver a fun creative activity.

It doesn’t take much to nudge a child’s creativity. Put paint and a blank piece of paper in front of them and they’ll be satisfied. However, after seeing a friend put together these adorable foam menorahs for a Hanukkah party activity, we got into a conversation about how this was the time to instill memories in our children and make these holidays interactive. Although it can be cumbersome, putting in the effort to set up little crafts, especially crafts that invite parent involvement, help create the warm nostalgia our kids will become fond of. Especially if they are crafts you can keep.

The craft I choose to introduce this week not only satisfied my son’s request for a Hanukkah related art, but it also created beautiful decorations I will carefully store away for years to come.

These suncatchers ended up with a lovely “stained glass” effect that is now beautifying our foyer, and simple snowflakes have joined the collection of past popsicle stick creations hanging from our banister.

What actually worked surprisingly great was the fact that there were many steps involved. This meant my son was able to sit down for a task and then get up to pursue whatever distraction caught his attention. When he wanted to sit back down for another round of crafting, the glue or paint was dry enough for the next step.

Although we used the Magen David and dreidle as our shapes for the suncatchers (and snowflakes for the ornaments hanging off of the banister),  you can incorporate whatever ideas you discover or come up with. Chances are, I’m probably going to find other designs for other seasons.

What you will need:

Popsicle Sticks
School Glue
Paint
Tissue Paper
Twine, Ribbon, or Wire
Glitter for the snowflakes (if you so choose)

Directions:

The first step is to assemble the shapes of the suncatchers or ornaments.
To create the Magen David shape, simply create two triangles using six popsicle sticks, and placing the triangles on top of one another with one triangle upside down.

The dreidel design requires six popsicle sticks. Two sticks are placed parallel from one another, with one stick connecting them at the top. Two sticks are glued to the bottom of the design, coming together diagonally from the two parallel sticks. At the top add one stick to create the handle.

The snowflakes are the easiest design, with two Xs or Ts on top of each other using four popsicle sticks.

Once the designs are glued and dried, it’s time to paint them! The dreidels and stars were painted variations of dark blue, white, and gold. The snowflakes were painted white, followed by a sprinkling of glitter…because I’m brave like that.

(But actually…the baby got into the glitter, later on, making my choices a little more regrettable)

 

 

 

 

At this point, the snowflakes are done as soon as they are dried!

 

When the paint is dry, tie to the top of the ornament whatever you are using to hang your design.

And then it is time to add the tissue paper. Choose what colors to include, and cut the paper into small pieces. It doesn’t matter if they are all uniform.

On the BACK of the popsicle stick designs, lay the tissue paper across the sticks. It’s okay if there are pieces sticking out where you don’t want them showing. You can cut trim them up later. Make sure the entire design is covered.

Take a paintbrush (we used a foam brush) and dip it into a mixture that is one part water and one part white glue (fun fact: this is often a good substitute for modge podge).

Dab the tissue paper with the glue mix until the entire design is covered.

 

Leave them to dry completely (ours took overnight). I recommend propping them up on something if you use newspaper to catch drips since the newspaper will end up sticking to the tissue paper.

Cut off any access tissue paper that sticks out along the sides, and you’re ready to hang them in a window!

Whatever holiday you are celebrating this season…may this time find you happy, healthy, and filled with Shalom!

 

Five Alternatives to Paint Brushes

Today I planned to mop the kitchen floor. I don’t know why that matters considering tomorrow it will once again see drops of paint, but I figured since I’m going to be scrubbing anyway we might as well make a mess.

As many of my friends know, I am the Napoleon Bonaparte of the revolution against bougie motherhood. If my kids are without mosquito bites, dirt under the fingernails, skinned knees, and splattered paint on their clothes…I start to wonder what I’m doing wrong. It’s unfair to expect kids to act like anything but kids, and I say we might as well facilitate some of the opportunities for them to enjoy childhood. Life is too short to be tidy. We survived our own germ ridden grubby childhood…our kids will survive theirs.

Sensory play is a driving force in the way kids explore the world, and inside every child is the creativity that makes an artist. At least that’s what I believe, anyway. Understanding these two aspects offers the opportunity for fun projects that, while messy, create interesting paintings you wouldn’t be able to recreate with a regular paintbrush.

Here are 5 alternative paint activities we’ve tried:

This one takes some overnight prep time, however, it’s super easy to put together.

All you need is an ice tray, food coloring, popsicle sticks, and aluminum foil or saran wrap.

It’s a pretty obvious process. Fill the ice trays with water, leaving enough room for food coloring, as well as space at the top so the different colors don’t slosh into one another.

Experiment with varying amounts of food coloring, as well as color mixtures for different shades. Use your popsicle sticks to stir the coloring.

Cover the ice tray with saran wrap. Or if you’re like me and completely incapable of working with saran wrap, aluminum foil works just as well. I simply marked out the lines of the tray beforehand so I knew where to find each slot once covered.

Poke a popsicle stick into the middle of each section of the ice tray, and carefully transfer the tray to the freezer. Let it sit overnight.

Once the ice is completely frozen, pop them out of the tray. Mine came out easily, however, you can also use a knife around the edge of each piece of ice if you’re met with a struggle.

 

As each piece of ice melts, run them over white paper to create watercolor paintings. At first not much will happen, but given a few minutes, the effects can be pretty interesting to play with!

This next activity didn’t require prep time, but of the painting activities we tried, it was the messiest.

All you need is paint, paper, and a fly swatter.

Yes…a fly swatter. Personally, we used brand new and unused swatters. But hey, do each their own.

The activity is simple. Drizzle paint on to white paper and then smack it with the fly swatter. Of course this splattered paint everywhere, but the kids had a ton of fun. Next time we will do this outside if I’m not already planning to scrub the floor. That will give us the oppertunity to be a bit more violant and crazy with our splashes.

 

 

The squeegee painting was a huge hit with the kids, and it also made an incredibly beautiful picture.

Once again set up was simple. We poured a line of paint across the top of a piece of paper, using two or three different colors.

Simply swipe the squeegee down the page, and the result is gorgeous.

 Bonus points for the fact that this was not especially messy compared to all the other activities we tried, with the exception of our marble painting:

The marble painting required only a container, paper, paint, and marbles. We placed the paper at the bottom of the container with drops of paint (once again using two or three colors). After dropping a handful of marbles on top of the paint we tilted and turned the container, causing the marbles to roll around and create fun designs.

This one tied with the squeegee painting for most beautiful. I can’t decide which one’s my favorite.

Our final activity was for the sake of pure fun and mess. This is where I set up and then stepped away, leaving the kids to simply play and see what comes of it.

Like the marble painting, I took some toys from the playroom in the name of art: Hot Wheels.

I set up the track from the edge of our art table, laying pieces of paper on the floor at the end. The paint was poured onto the track and the kids let their cars run over the paint, streaking the paper with their wheels.

This one was second in messiest, but also held the kid’s attention the longest.

 

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the new art we have for our fridge. Now it’s just a matter of waiting till the paint dries.

 

 

2 Ingredient Rainbow Slime

It has been a fun year filled with one adventure after another.

Last week we wrapped up a year of preschool that took us beyond where I expected to go. We discovered the world through geography lessons using a literature-based curriculum, and simple letter and number recognition activities eventually turned into reading and multiplying. Now that I see what happens when I let my son explore the world at his own speed, I am excited for Kindergarten next year.

Though is it really Kindergarten when he’s a few weeks too young, and ahead of schedule academically? Who cares. That’s the beauty of homeschooling.

Of course, being gifted in math does not mean we have to spend all day every day working on “school work”.  After all, my son is still 4 years old and spends the majority of his time creating shenanigans with his sister.

With the free time that comes with the beginning of summer, I got in on some of the fun by introducing the kids to a new slime recipe! The great thing about it is the fact that it comes down to only two ingredients, which made set up incredibly easy even if this activity got messy.

All this recipe needs is equal parts liquid starch and white Elmers glue. That’s it! Wanting to make a large batch of it, we used four cups of each.

It started out as a pretty messy business while the glue and starch reacted to one another. It may take a few minutes before you begin feeling confident in the texture, but if you do go at it for a while and don’t feel an improvement, you may need to add a little bit of either glue or starch. If it’s too runny add a little more glue. If it’s too sticky, drop in tiny bits of starch.

To make this activity extra fun we added food coloring to give a rainbow effect!

The easiest method of accomplishing this is to divide the slime into individual plastic bags and drop in food coloring. This allows you to knead the color into the slime without dying your hands (and mixing the colors together to create an ugly brown effect before you have a chance to enjoy the beauty of multi-colored slime).

Once all of our slime had some color…it was time to play!

   

Two Ingredient Snow Dough

Winter in our state is incredibly short-lived. For example, it is currently the middle of January and the thermostat in my car claimed the temperature had reached 67 degrees the other day. This is a far cry from the cold, dreary, and very icy Januaries I grew up with in the Chicago area. Here snowfall happens once, maybe twice, a year and lasts about a day. Usually, we can’t even classify the phenomenon as snow. More often than not it’s a sort of sleet that coats our roads with ice, causing everything to shut down.

As I planned our Five in a Row curriculum schedule back in May, I figured I would place the book Katy and the Big Snow at a random week in January. If I were still living in the Midwest, I could easily assume that any point in the winter would be an appropriate time for a snow-themed week, considering that there is almost always a white powder on the ground. Down here in the south, however, I had to take my chances. The best bet would be sometime in January.

Similar to last year when we read The Snowy Day, it just so happened that on the week we were scheduled to read a snow themed book, we received our 24-hour snowfall. I was overjoyed about the timing.

I love snow days, especially now that I’m living in an area where snow isn’t common. The way it softens the loud hustle and bustle of everyday life is dreamy, and I’ll admit that I love an excuse to spoil my kids. When snow happens here, it shakes up schedules and brings a different atmosphere to the house. It’s a special occasion of sorts, therefore rules can bend and we concentrate on making our day cozy and memorable.

To be completely honest I fed my son way too much sugar that day. We began the morning with honey since I normally allow him an activity that involves drizzling the shape of letters onto a plate whenever he is ready to progress in Hebrew. The idea is that we want to instill our children with how sweet G-d’s word is, so we offer them a taste of honey while we learn a Biblical language.

After doing school work, we went outside to play in the snow, where we built Hudi’s first real snowman (usually we don’t get snowman worthy snow, so this was pretty exciting). Naturally, hot chocolate followed after, topped with whipped cream and sprinkles, of course. As a continuation of our  Tale of Peter Rabbit week, we dabbled in English cuisine and baked delicious raspberry lemon scones. To finish out the night we had one last treat that is a snow day tradition in our home: snow cream.

It was a wonderful snow day and perfect for our snow week lessons. When planning a schedule for our curriculum, I can only guess when snow-themed books will work for us, and for two years in a row now I was excited to discover that I guessed right. I was, however, prepared to move forward with or without snow. If there wasn’t snow outside, we were going to make our own snow inside.

Even with the experience of having real snow on the ground, my kids were getting stir crazy once they got tired of playing outside. Having the materials needed for fake snow was a life saver, as it kept both my four year old and one year old occupied for quite a while. Having the real stuff was great, but making pretend snow in your kitchen is pretty intriguing as well.

The directions are simple. In a large bowl or container, mix 1/2 cup of conditioner with 3 cups of baking soda. Include toys such as trucks, cookie cutters, plastic forks, and anything you would normally give your kids to use with play-dough.

This was a fun and relaxed winter themed sensory activity that captured the attention of both my 4 and 1-year-old. They even played together, which I love to see! Clean up was a bit more of a challenge, but nothing a vacuum couldn’t handle.

Definitely worth it for the time it occupied their interests.

 

Back To School and Bannock Recipe

Last year, when my son was two (almost three) years old, I decided to start our adventure into homeschooling. Beginning at this young of an age has given me the practice of routine, scheduling, and also getting to know my son’s learning style all before we enter into the school aged years that will eventually require more depth, focus, and discipline.  We learned how to read an write our alphabet, counting and writing numbers, basic shape and color recognition, and we explored more abstract concepts through various books we read. It was an incredibly enjoyable experience to see my son absorb knowledge, and I was excited when he started to express interest in reading and math toward the end of the year.

After a summer break (which included an amazing vacation), I have been so excited to get into our homeschooling routine again. This year, however, I decided to include a lot more material to meet his interests and abilities. I receive a ton of questions regarding how I’m homeschooling him. Do I use a curriculum? What is my routine? How do I plan? It’s always a little awkward trying to answer those, because truth be told I’m just trying to go with the flow. I’m still sorting through what works best for my son and me, and it takes a lot of trial and error before getting it right.  So far I think we are starting this year off with a good rhythm, and as we get better at the routine of having a designated “school time”, I’m feeling significantly more confident in my abilities for the future.

With regards to curriculum, there are a variety of resources we are using this year:

Five In A Row – Five In A Row is a literature based curriculum that covers a little bit of everything. Each week we have a book that we read together, and various themes and lessons are pulled from the story. The curriculum provides weekly ideas on math, science, literature, geography, and art to create a well rounded curriculum that is very much appropriate for young children. The expectation of Five In A Row is simply to read and converse with your children. It’s nothing fancy and tedious, and it’s effective (at least it has been with my son). There are ideas for extra activities to go along with each book, however, most of the learning is intended to take place via reading and discussion. We use Five In A Row for geography (each book takes place in a different place), science, art, and any other abstract subject presented in the curriculum. For other subjects, particularly reading and math, my son needed/wanted something a little more concrete.

Math U See – As someone who had significant struggles in math, I have come to adore Math U See. It’s manipulative based in that the curriculum uses block pieces (think legos) to physically demonstrate the concepts being taught. I also love how the lessons build on one another. The sequence of learning follows a logical path – introduce, review, practice, master – and the order in which students progress helps solidify their understanding of concepts. At the moment we are using the primer, which has been amazing. We’ve gotten through basic number identification and counting, identifying shapes, and at the moment we are introducing place value. We picked up Math U See toward the end of last year, and this year we are continuing his lessons at the pace he naturally sets for himself. The good thing about the primer is that, unlike the rest of Math U See, it is not meant to provide mastery. It’s simply an easy way to introduce math in preparation for future lessons, so it’s great for younger ages. It’s a significant relief for me to see that my son is forming a love for math, because that was a major stumbling block all through my personal school experience.

Spelling-You-See – Since Math U See has worked so well, I decided to pick up Spelling-You-See to help with reading and writing. It’s a very simple workbook that teaches basic phonics. So far the progress I’ve seen has been absolutely wonderful, and my son learned very quickly how to sound out small words.

Time To Read Hebrew: A very simple workbook series that teaches Hebrew. You are given a few letters at a time, and immediately you begin seeing them used in words (for example, the first letters you learn are shin, bet, and tav…which spell “Shabbat”).  We use the workbook as a guide for progress, but mostly we are working with various games we play with flashcards.

The Bible Story Series by Arthur S. Maxwell – Chances are you’ve seen these books while sitting in a doctor’s office. They are everywhere, and yet most people don’t pay too much attention to them. Yes, they are a little outdated in artistry (think 1950’s or 60’s), however, I am finding these books to be fantastic reads for my son. The main focus I have at the moment with regards to teaching my son the Bible is simply familiarizing the stories. What has worked the absolute best for us has been to follow the model Five In A Row intends – we simply read through the story and discuss. These books are associated with Seventh Day Adventists, though there are very few grand theological pushes within the stories. The thing I absolutely love about this series is the fact that it covers Biblical stories your typical storybook Bibles leave out (for example – we just the other day read a chapter specifically about Enoch, and later on they cover various prophets that are seldom mentioned in storybook bibles).  While I do have to switch up some of the language while I’m reading (again, a few decades outdated), I do find these books to be a great way to introduce my son to the Bible (on top of the children’s Bibles we’ve already been reading).

Our first couple of weeks started out smoothly! Week number one was a lot of short, sweet, and simple activities that got us back in the swing of having a “school” time in the morning. I introduced the theme of Geography, and we spent a lot of time studying the map we now have hanging on our wall. Together we read Flat Stanley, and he even created his own Flat Stanley for The Flat Stanley Project! (Now, I just have to send those out…)

Week number two was a little closer to what I’m aiming for a far as goals and routine. We started Five In A Row with the book The Very Last First Time by Jan Andrews, which introduced us to Canada! More specifically we focused on Inuit culture. We placed our story disk on Ungava Bay, learned about how the Inuit fish beneath large blocks of ice , we studied igloos, and we also listened to Inuit throat singing (it was hilarious watching my son give that a try). We also learned about aurora borealis (northern lights). This provided an awesome opportunity to introduce my son to water colors while we painted pictures of the northern lights!

I also have a goal of bringing the various cultures we learn about into our home through food. I’m hoping that with each location we “visit” in his schoolwork, we try at least one culinary dish from that culture.

Since we were learning about Inuit culture, our food this week was bannock!

Bannock is a type of bread that can be found in a variety of cultures, but is pretty popular among the Inuit. Essentially it is flour that’s been fried in lard or shortening, and can be eaten in a variety of ways. We made ours for breakfast, and included some jam to go along with it. To make it extra delicious, you can sprinkle some powdered sugar on top for a tasty treat (it’s similar to an elephant ear you would find at a fair).

My son loved the stuff, and gobbled down the entire batch before noon. It’s super easy to make, and I will definitely be making it again as a special treat!

Bannock 

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
water
2 cups shortening

Directions

In a frying pan on medium heat, heat the shortening.

While you are waiting for the shortening to completely melt, mix together in a separate bowl the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Gradually add water, mixing it well, until you have the consistency of batter.

Drop spoonfuls of the batter into the hot shortening. Once the bottom is golden brown, flip it over once to brown the other side.

There are a variety of ways to serve bannock. As I said, eating it with jam is a tasty breakfast and sprinkling them with powdered sugar makes them a delicious treat. However, you can also eat them with soups and stews!