Category Archives: activities

Kid Food: Salty Pretzel Dogs & Sweet Coconut Soup

IMG_5144[2]What’s more kid friendly than a cooking project that doubles as dinner?  In my book, nothing.  Tonight we had pretzel dogs with coconut squash soup.  The mix of the sweet soup with the salty dog was divine enough to keep my taste buds happy while also providing that added mix of comfort.  Comfort food – yay!

Creating this perfectly simple dinner is even more fun when you hit rewind.  It all started with making the pretzel dough.  (Sorry friends, yes, I am still obsessing about pretzels).  B and CJ were involved from this point on.  The ingredients are few and simple.  The process provides short bursts at a time that are perfect for the attention span of my active brutes.

There is activating the yeast. Pouring, stirring and waiting for bubbles.  Each part captivating for young chefs.  Next there is creating the dough.  Followed by kneading.  Then, letting the dough rise.  Followed by shaping.  If your lil ones are playdough junkies, then they’ll love this. Why not make a pretzel in the shape of their favorite animal or superhero?

Frankly B’s favorite part was shaping the pretzels; whereas CJ’s was tasting everything.  Ahh yes, I’m proud to say he gets it from me.

While you are letting the dough rise, throw a pumpkin, preferably kabocha or a butternut squash in the oven and let it cook.  You can later use the baked pumpkin or squash to create a yummy soup.

Want to try it out? Here’s my adaptation of the Pretzel bite recipe.  Thank you Epicurious for getting me started on this!

Pretzel Dough

  • 1 cup warm water (100° to 110°F)
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter melted
  • oil for bowl

Hot dogs

  • Will make 6 bun length hot dogs or 8 shorter ones

Baking Pretzels

  • 8 cups water
  • 1/2 cup baking soda
  • kosher salt

Squash Soup

  • 1 kobacha pumpkin or butternut squash
  • 1 can of light coconut milk

Making the Dough

Add yeast to water.  Make sure the water is the right temperature.  Mix.  Add the sugar.  Let sit until yeast is activated.  You’ll know when it is frothy and bubbly.  If it doesn’t bubble, then toss it out and start over.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix.  Then, four a work surface.  Knead dough until elastic.  This takes a few minutes.  It’s great for little hands.  But be forewarned that this is fun, yet messy process.
Frankly I loved the impromptu visitor while I was in the middle of this.  Coated in flour and sticky hands – yes, my kitchen and I (not to mention the boys) were in quite a state.
I digress.  After the dough is elastic, get out a bowl or a larger tubberware – lightly coat in in oil.  I use Canola or Olive Oil.  place dough in it, turn it over so it’s coated.  Then cover with a kitchen towel.  Let it rise until it is at least doubled in volume.
Starting the Soup
While the dough is rising, bake your squash.  You can bake it whole if you like, or cut it in half and take out the seeds.  Either way works.  It takes about an hour in an oven at 375 degrees.  You’ll know it is done when the squash is soft.  Once soft, then let sit and cool.
Baking the Dogs
Once it has risen, then (1) preheat the oven to 375 and (2) boil a pot of water with 1/2 cup of baking soda.  If you are making just pretzels, no dogs, then go on to shaping the pretzels.  If you are making pretzel dogs, then roll out the dough, and cut in pieces to cover the hot dogs.  Wrap the hot dogs completely in the dough.
Once all of your dogs are wrapped.  Place them three at a time in the pot of boiling water.  Let them cook there until they rise.  Once they rise, gently remove them and place on a baking sheet coated with nonstick spray or parchment paper.  Dust with salt if ya like.  Repeat for the rest of your dogs.
Once all of your dogs are on the baking sheet, then bake for 30 minutes or until the hot dogs reach at least 160 and the pretzel dough is golden brown.  The dough browns towards the end of the baking process.
Finishing the Soup
While the dogs are baking, then make your soup.  Scoop out the baked squash or pumpkin and put in a pot at a medium temp.  Then add a can of light coconut milk.  Mix with a whisk or an immersion blender.  Cover and let it warm.  Voila – soup!  If it’s too thick for your taste then dilute with a bit of water, cream or milk.  If you want to add more flavor, then consider curry as an fabulous option.
Dish it out and enjoy!
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Creating Crayons

It was one of those mornings.  You know the type, where the boys were up way before the sun.  So, after pulling out all the tricks in the box by 9, it was time for some sort of project to keep those little hands busy and minds occupied.

Looking at the box of broken crayons, an idea came to me.  Eureka, I found it!  Why not let them play with crayons in a way they hadn’t before.  So, like casting out bait to catch a fish, I asked them if they wanted to make crayons.  C grunted and B while bouncing up and down, shouted yes.  The bait worked.IMG_4217

I let them start to try to peel the wrappers off of them.  This task caused more frustration than fun, so I started thinking of other ways to do it.  I thought about soaking them.  A blog post by TimeForPlay assured me that it would work.IMG_4218

After a few minutes of soaking fun – the wrappers magically came off of the crayons.  So, it was onto the next step.  Taking them out of the water.  Both C & B loved this bit of sensory fun.  You should have seen their faces when they discovered that little bits of crayon had decorated their hands.  Pure amusement! It was like Crayon magic.IMG_4220

Then, B lined a mini-muffin tin.  Thank you OurBestBites for the idea.   The boys placed the crayons in the muffin-tins. And, we were well on our way.IMG_4229

After sitting in an oven warmed to 200 degrees, the crayon bits melted.  They cooled.  Such neat little —–crayon masterpieces!  Now, these artistic are B&Cs favorites for making masterpieces of their own.IMG_4239

Jars Jars Jars

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Need a morning activity for the tot(s)?  Well, this has been the biggest hit yet.  Just grab a handful of spice jars and let your little one have fun taking the tops on and off.   You can even use full jars with spices and let them use their sense of smell to match the lids.

Both of my boys can’t seem to get enough of these jars.  They try it individually, and then even do it together.  It’s so telling to watch B teach CJ how to do it.  His patience and sweet nature just shine through.  In addition to learning the Montessori termed practical life skills and developing sensory skills, he’s learning to gently use his communication skills to help out his younger bro.

 

Scooping, Pouring, Funneling

Any of you who’ve been keeping up with my blog lately know that my current strategy for keeping my boys engaged and busy is more of the Montessori genre.  Why? Well, because it has proven to do wonders for my oldest son B.

For those of you who are new to the Montessori style, there are different categories of activities.  Sensory, practical life, language, math and culture.  This week B & C are enjoying beefing up on their practical life skills.   Preparing for these activities just took a little bit of time and thought.  I carefully selected a few things and set them out on little trays on the living room shelves.  Funneling rice, tweezing buttons, scooping beans and twisting the lids off of jars are the weekly activities.

B was thrilled when he saw the new trays on the shelves.  He went to them right away.  Deciding to first conquer the funnel, B mindfully brought the tray to the table.

photo(17)C followed in suit but picked the beans.  I suspect he may have been attracted to the beans, because they included a yellow spoon.  And, he’s really into yellow right now.  So, if there’s something else I want him to try, I might just try to incorporate yellow.

photo(18)Anyways, it’s really easy to create little activities like these for tot(s).  Most things are in your kitchen.  Or if you want different things visit a local thrift store and you’ll be able to score some cheap materials.  For 20$ I scored an abundance of offerings like tongs, spoons, bowls, pretend fruit, buttons, etc,

After working on their practical skills and fine motor development, we went on to more gross motor fun.  Building forts and castles, and falling onto pillows.

Clearly we don’t do Montessori activities all day long.  They are just the activities prominently offered in the living room.  In all honesty, the boys will focus on these activities for about an hour at a time.  Then, we go on to more imaginative types of play and more Waldorf style outdoor play.

Thanks for reading.  Check back for more fun activities to do with your tots.

 

Seasonal Sensory Slime: Sorting Pumpkin Seeds

photo(25)After a full night of Halloween fun, the boys and I needed some chill time at home.  But to keep them busy, I used the fun “pumpkin brains” from our pumpkin carving efforts to create a slimy sensory experience.  A bowl and a colander later I was in business.

Basically dump the “pumpkin brains” into a bowl.  Add a bunch of water.  Set a colander or another bowl next to it.  And, let your little one go to town.

B spent forty minutes enjoying the slime.  Afterwards, we made some roasted pumpkin seeds.  Want to try our recipe – check here.

Teaching Colors

photo(16)My almost two year old has been rather focused on learning his colors.  He sings songs that go something like this – blue, green, yellow, green, and so on.  He even woke up one night saying “blue, no purple, no blue.”  Clearly colors are on his mind.

If I’ve learned anything from my first son, it’s that these moments of interest can be fleeting.   One week it’s colors, the next it’s diggers, the next it’s skeletons.  So, for me it’s important to jump on the bandwagon while it’s there.  For C’s color parade, I jumped right in.

I put together a fun matching game that he can play whenever he wants.  He matches his favorite toys (cars or trains) to color swatches.  Sometimes he just plays with the swatches, other times he actually does the matching component.  By the way, the color swatches are paint swatches from Home Depot.  But you can use anything.

In addition, we’ve been reading books about colors.  His favorite is Brown Bear Brown Bear by Eric Carle, which teaches the names of animals in addition to teaching colors.  It’s rhythmic cadence makes it fun to read time and time again.  Another book is Baby Colors, which has darling pictures of babies dressed in clothes of a certain color. I like this book because it also has photos of real life objects that C can easily identify.  photo(15)

Since C is into trains, Freight Train by Donald Crews is another winner.  Who doesn’t like a book that combines trains with colors?  Lastly, Little Blue and Little Yellow by Leo Lionni is a classic.  It begins to teach the idea that colors can combine to make a new color.   When I read this to C, he was speachless.

Lastly, we play the tot version of ISpy in the car.  It goes something like this, “I spy something green.”  C looks out the window and starts talking about whatever he sees.  Then, I ask him if it’s green, etc.   This one works well, especially when he starts to fuss. It takes his mind off of things.

What’s your favorite way to teach colors? I’d love to hear!