Frozen Sidewalk Chalk

Posted on Jun 30, 2014 in Blog | 4,500 Comments

I had a feeling that people would check out this post just because I used the word “frozen” thinking that it had something to do with the movie. It doesn’t, it’s just a great little project for the summer.

When you are making the rounds at garage sales this year, look for popsicle molds. Make sure they look different from any that you currently have and when you get home, make some frozen sidewalk chalk with your children!

The proportions are simple: one part water to one part corn starch. Mix in some tempera paint or try some powdered drink mix (you know, the one advertised by the big glass pitcher). You could use food coloring but that really gets into clothes and skin. Add 3 or 4 drops of dish soap, just to be on the safe side! Then freeze overnight and enjoy the next day.

The great thing about this chalk idea is the handle. It provides the illusion that their hands will stay clean! It also encourages children with sensory sensitivities.

By making this “recipe” with your children they will be less likely to try to taste them later. Give them a chance to taste it when it is just corn starch and water, or even after you add the powdered drink mix, if that is the way you want to go. Since there is no sugar in it, they will not care for the taste and will likely be the end of that.

If you have more popsicle molds you can simply freeze the unflavored drink mix and water (leave out the cornstarch) to make popsicle paints. This will not show up well on the sidewalk so bring some paper outside and let them get creative. I think that I would still add the few drops of dish soap, just to be on the safe side.

If you simply mix the cornstarch and water, you’ll end up with white frozen chalk and your children can use that to make a winter wonderland on the sidewalk and pretend they are the characters from the movie that had you tuning into this blog post in the first place. That’s enough from me for now, I’ll just “let it go”!

How did your frozen chalk work out? Did you come up with any additions or improvements on the recipe? Let us know.

Two Afternoon Treats

Posted on Jun 27, 2014 in Blog | 5,954 Comments

When the weather gets warmer, appetites may change.

If your family tends to eat smaller, more frequent meals during the summer you may be looking for fast and simple ideas.

Here are a couple of treats that may hit the spot. I found these while I was looking for some recipes to use for my grandmother on the Da Vita website (www.davita.com).

Treat #1

Children love food in cones. Here at the learning center the children have even enjoyed tuna salad in ice cream cones!

This is a recipe that you can serve in cones, guaranteed not to run down the arms of an on the go snacker:

Blueberry Dessert Cones

4 oz. cream cheese, softened

1 cup whipped topping

¼ cup blueberry jam

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries (If I buy a pint before season, I just use the entire pint- about 2c)

Blend the cream cheese, whipped topping and jam together (using a mixer won’t hurt it a bit and the kids love to lick the beaters) then stir in the blueberries. Chill for a while to set and then serve in cups or cones.

Note: You can easily change up the jam flavors and fruit mix-ins to suit your taste. Think homemade strawberry jam and fresh strawberries!

Treat #2

Feeling a little dippy? Here’s a tasty fruit dip that will keep in the refrigerator for three days. Not that it will last that long!

Cranberry Dip (for fresh fruit)

  • 8 ounce container sour cream
  • ½ cup cranberry sauce (whole berry, not jelly)
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger

Combine the ingredients using a food processor until well mixed. Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

Good with sliced fresh apples, pears and pineapple. Remember that lemon juice will keep cut fruit from turning brown. The brown is not harmful; people just tend to find it unappealing.

Tell us what you think. Did you make any adjustments we might like to try? Let us know.

Music and the Brain

Posted on Jun 23, 2014 in Blog | 6,159 Comments

Infants toddlers and preschoolers love music, all kinds of music.

It can affect mood, energy level, even appetite. Music can signal transitions “This is the way we clean the room…” and rituals (lullabies and other bedtime music comes to mind).

Similar to picking up language, in the early years they are likely to develop their taste in music based on what they are exposed to.

Music and dance lessons are ways to expand music appreciation but here are a few ways to simply bring a variety of music styles into your child’s (and yours) world:

  • Free summer concerts– our local summer series can be found here: http://grandhavenchamber.org/community-events/
  • Cable Music Channels– These channels tend to feature popular music of the genre (hip hop/classic rock/adult contemporary/classic country etc.) so you get a taste of “the best”. Break out of your comfort zone every once in a while and see if you find a new favorite.
  • Library – I recognize that the library is a recurring theme of mine but you can’t beat free! The library gives you a chance to check out a wide variety of music with no out of pocket costs. Plus you can skip around. You can’t do that with the first two options!

A Couple of Notes and Cautions:

Scan Button on the Radio– This is an option that I use myself when I’m looking for something new but it can be a wild card. Lyrics and commentaries that pop up are out of context and come without warning. What you hear may be inappropriate for young ears.

Silence– Be aware that sound all of the time is not all it’s cracked up to be. Just as your eyes need blank spaces on walls and other places to “rest”, your ears need a rest from input as well. Be aware of how often you have “background” sounds going, music or otherwise and intentionally make time for silence.

What musical surprises have you and your family found? Let us know and we’ll give a listen!

Egg in a Bag

Posted on Jun 20, 2014 in Blog | One Comment

This little recipe may seem old fashioned in a world of microwaves and fast food but it involves squishing, choices and liquids changing to solids, so you may just want to figure out how to fit it in to your “let’s cook with the children” summer plans.

First comes the squishing.

Take a plastic bag that you can press or zip to seal and crack an egg or two into it (depending on the size of your child’s appetite. If you want to let your child do the cracking, place the bag inside of a cup and fold the top edge over the sides of the cup. This way everyone’s hands are free for any needed assistance and the part of the bag that closes will stay clean and dry. After the egg is safely in the bag, close it up and squish away. This is easier to do if most of the air is removed from the bag.

Next comes the choice part.

Have available lots of diced vegetables. Make sure they are diced pretty small so they will cook up nicely; leave them larger if your family enjoys a little crunch in the morning. The more control your child has, the more likely they are to try something new, eventually. Many children require multiple exposures to new foods before they will give them a try so don’t give up. They are also more likely to try things that they see you do so eat up! A sprinkle of cheese, spinach, salt and pepper are tasty too.

Finally it’s time to change a liquid to a solid.

When everyone has a bag that is just to their taste, it’s time to drop the bags into a pan of boiling water. After approximately 15 minutes you will have an “omelet in a bag”, cooked to order and done at the same time. Typically omelets take up much more time and people have to eat in shifts if they don’t want to share the same ingredients. Enjoy!

How did your egg in a bag turn out? What “mix ins” did your child most enjoy? Let us know.

A Bowl of Yarn

Posted on Jun 16, 2014 in Blog | 6,643 Comments

This is a great project for doing on a sunny calm day. You can head out to the patio after breakfast and have something beautiful by the next day.

Materials:

  • Yarn
  • A bowl the size you would like your final project to be
  • A dish for the yarn and glue mixture (you may want this dish to be “toss-able”)
  • Plastic wrap
  • Glue
  • Water
  • Scissors
  • Newspaper or something to cover the table, this is a messy project!

 

Directions:

  • Cover your work surface with newspaper or a throw away plastic table cloth
  • Cut pieces of yarn long enough to lay over the bowl from side to side plus a little more
  • Pour glue into one of the small bowls then thin with water so it is a bit “soupy”
  • Place the yarn pieces into the glue/water bowl. Make sure that all of the yarn is able to become fully soaked.
  • Tip your other bowl upside down and cover with plastic wrap. Make sure the wrap covers the table a bit so that your bowl doesn’t stick to the newspaper.
  • Take out one piece of yarn at a time and place it on your covered bowl. You can make the yarn straight or squiggly; just make sure you cover it well. I like to make the “rim” of the bowl a bit thicker, just to make it a bit sturdier.
  • Let your bowl dry all day in the sun. If it is going to be a nice night, leave it out. If your yard tends to get “dewy” overnight, move your project inside to finish drying.
  • The next day, carefully lift your bowl and remove the plastic wrap. Enjoy your new bowl.

Send us pictures of the kids working on this project and proudly showing off their bowls. We’d love to see how they turn out!

Happy Father’s Day

Posted on Jun 13, 2014 in Blog | 5,214 Comments

Mother’s Day: Breakfast in bed. Father’s Day: Time for a barbecue in the back yard.

Do our traditions create the clichés or do the clichés create the traditions?

Hard to say.

Here’s a recipe from Martha Stewart to go along with whatever you happen to have on the grill! Your preschooler can use the vegetable peeler to make the “ribbons”. Toddlers can help make the yogurt dressing.

Cucumber, Cantaloupe, and Squash Salad

Serves 4

Dressing:

  • 1cup plain yogurt (go for the whole milk version)
  • Lime zest from 1 lime
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice (zest it first, it’s easier)
  • ½ teaspoon salt (coarse or sea salt)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

Combine and chill covered in refrigerator for 20 minutes.

Ribbon Salad:

3 yellow summer squash (about a pound). You want them smallish to make nice ribbons and avoid large seeds

1 “seedless” cucumber (English) about 10 ounces

1 ½ Tablespoons unseasoned rice-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon coarse/sea salt Note: Sometimes this seems a bit salty, sometimes it’s fine.

¼ large cantaloupe, remove the rind but leave long for “ribbons”

Directions:

  1. Make the salad: Using a vegetable peeler or a mandolin, shave      squash and cucumber into wide ribbons, stopping when you reach seeds. Toss      with vinegar and salt. Cover, and refrigerate. Shave cantaloupe into      ribbons, and refrigerate in a separate bowl. Note: Sometimes I just slice the cantaloupe with a knife if      it’s too ripe to work with the peeler.
  2. Just before serving, drain cucumber and squash ribbons, and      toss with cantaloupe. Drizzle with dressing.

A couple of notes:

  • Since I just drizzle the dressing over the ribbons, I often have some dressing left over. I cube up the “seedy” part of the cucumbers and squash, toss in some of the leftover cantaloupe, cubed as well. This way I have more salad for the next day. The ribbons make a pretty presentation but the cubes get the job done and I don’t worry about food waste. I like this flavor combination even if the dressing is used up on the salad the first day.
  • This isn’t a recipe that I think keeps well mixed. Keep the dressing, fruit and vegetables separate until you plan to eat it. On the other hand, that could just be me.

Let us know how you liked this recipe. If you made any changes, share them with us.

Stranger Advice

Posted on Jun 9, 2014 in Blog | 92 Comments

We want our children to be outgoing, involved, polite and confident. We don’t want them to be afraid of everyone they see or get themselves in dangerous situations by being too friendly to strangers.

Safe vs Dangerous Strangers:

There are different kinds of strangers and it’s important to talk to children about that because they are going to be exposed to people they don’t know every day and there are distinctions:

  • Safe strangers are usually people we are introduced to by the people who love and care for us.
  • Police officers, Firefighters, Librarians, Teachers, Wait Staff in a restaurant are other examples of safe strangers. They are people we can go to and ask for help if we feel we are in danger or being followed.
  • People walking down the road or shopping in stores are also, usually safe strangers. That doesn’t mean we share our names with them and we never go anywhere with them, but we don’t need to be afraid when we see them.

Dangerous strangers are the people who ask small children for help or assistance when adults aren’t around. Let your children know:

  • Never get in a car with people who tell you they need your help. They can get any help they need from a grown up.
  • If your child feels uncomfortable around a stranger or thinks they are being followed, give them ideas for where they could go to let an adult know they need help (a neighbor, an office building, a restaurant etc.) when you are not around.
  • Play in groups; children are less likely to be approached if they are playing together.

Help your child build a filter, not a wall.

Up the Water Spout

Posted on Jun 6, 2014 in Blog | 3,041 Comments

Here’s a craft idea for a “too humid for humans” afternoon.

Climbing Spider Craft

Materials:

  • Tagboard or heavy paper
  • Crayons or markers
  • Yarn for Legs (pipe cleaners might be fun too)
  • String for climbing (36 to 40 inches should do the trick)
  • A straw
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Glue
  • Beads that are too big to fit into the straw

Directions

  • Draw a spider head and body (any animal or person will work just as well)
  • Decorate your spider with crayons or markers. The fancier the better!
  • Tape or glue some yarn “legs” on the back of the spider
  • Cut two pieces from the straw about ½ inch long. Glue and/or tape the straw pieces to the back of your spider, one on each side. Make sure the holes go from top to bottom.

When your spider is complete and the straws are secure on the back and won’t come off easily, thread the string from bottom up on one and down from the top on the other (this leaves the two free ends of string hanging down). Place the beads on the free ends so the spider will not fall off (you may want to tie the beads up a bit and leave string hanging down as handles.

Hang the string over a doorknob and gently pull the strings apart. Your spider will climb up the string to the doorknob. You can sing, “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” and act out the song with your little climbing spider.

Let us know how your project worked out. Did your little one make a climber that wasn’t a spider? Send us a picture! We’d love to see it.

Eat Dirt Baby

Posted on Jun 4, 2014 in Blog | 1,151 Comments

“Ocky, that’s gross, don’t eat that!”

“Get that out of your mouth!”

“No, no!”

Adults tend to be very concerned about what goes in the mouths of children, even though we are told again and again that the first way children learn about their world is through putting things in their mouths.

I am by no means suggesting that we allow simply anything to find its way into a child’s mouth but like anything else, there needs to be balance and common sense.

We baby proof our homes for dangerous items. That doesn’t mean we put our children in plastic bubbles. We place fragile items out of reach and cover pointy corners on furniture. We don’t remove the furniture or tell the child “no” when they head for the coffee table.

Please have the same safe but realistic ideas about dirt.

Your child is going to eat some dirt. Get them some water if they cry or complain, clean them up and let them go. It will likely look worse than it is. Young children, between the ages of 1 and 3, tend to ingest about a teaspoon of dirt a few different times as they explore the world. They will figure out that it isn’t something they enjoy eating without adult intervention. If the behavior continues and/or increases you may want to talk to your health care professional.

How to “baby proof” dirt-

  • Have your soil tested – You are looking for high levels of lead or arsenic. It isn’t free but it is wise. Lead poisoning can lead to neurological harm that can affect learning. Lead in soil effects pets as well as people.
  • Clean up any and all animal waste-It decomposes into the soil and may contain roundworms.
  • Be choosy about the kind of fertilizer you use in your gardening/lawn care – Well composted manure or organic will be the safest choices. Avoid manure that has not been composted.

Relax, enjoy watching your child explore. Let them eat dirt.

Spring Allergies

Posted on May 30, 2014 in Blog | 2,091 Comments

Spring Allergies

Are you happy to see the snow leave but already tired of the runny noses? It’s allergy season.

Parents are pretty well versed in the idea of food allergies and sensitivities in their little one. It’s the reason behind starting one food at a time. Watching for signs of rash or other indicators of concern is easier to deal with if you aren’t also trying to figure out which food caused the problem.

Children as young as 12 months can begin to show signs of seasonal allergy nasal reactions (runny nose, lethargy, weepy eyes; you know the drill).

There’s not much getting around it, allergies are annoying.

Unfortunately the things you can do to make your little sufferer feel better may be annoying as well.

Some of the ideas are inconvenient to our on the go lifestyles and some just add more work to the day.

However, considering the difference they can make to the life of an allergy sufferer, you may find a couple that you can try. Consider these:

  • Indoor/outdoor clothes- At the day care center, we have indoor and outdoor shoes. In some homes, shoes are left at the front door. During allergy season, consider doing the same with clothes. Allergens cling to the clothes that we wear outside and simply changing when we come in can make a difference. Now this can add to the laundry that never seems to end as it is, but consider wearing the same indoor outfit more than once. It’s not going to get that dirty if you are only wearing it for a couple of hours once you’re home. Besides, it’s a nice way to “shed the day” and shift your mindset as well. If pollen counts are particularly high, hit the shower as well.
  • Stuffed Animals- speaking of adding to the laundry pile, stuffed animals are notorious for hanging on to allergens like dust and dust mites. Launder them often.
  • Timing is everything- Pollen is usually worse between 5 and 10 am. If you can put off heading out for a bit, it can make a difference.

Give these ideas a try and see if it makes a difference for you and your little one. If you have more ideas that seem to do the trick, drop us a line, we’ll add them to our list!