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Chocolate Lover’s Month

February is National Chocolate Lover’s Month.   I looked on-line for all the official holidays.  If these are real, then I have been missing out on all these fine days this first part of my life.

Here is the list for February. Take your pick and celebrate!

February
African-American History Month
National Sweet Potato Month
National Boost-Your-Self-Esteem Month
National Canned Food Month
National Hot Breakfast Month
National Snack Food Month
Berry Fresh in the Sunshine State Month
National Dental Month
Return Shopping Carts to the Supermarket Month
Chocolate Lover’s Month
Bake for Family Fun Month
Great American Pies Month
North Carolina Sweet Potato Month
National Grapefruit Month
National Cherry Month
National Bird Feeding Month
American Heart Month
American History Month
Creative Romance Month
Human Relations Month

Chocolate Covered Bananas

Chocolate Lover’s Celebration Shake

-taken from Hershey’s website

Ingredients

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons HERSHEY’S Cocoa

1 tablespoon sugar

1/2 cup milk

2 cups chocolate or vanilla ice cream
Directions

1 Place water, cocoa and sugar in blender container. Cover; blend briefly on low speed. Add milk.

2 Cover; blend on high speed until thoroughly blended. Add ice cream. Cover; blend until smooth.

Serve immediately. About three 6-ounce servings.

NO-COOK MODELING DOUGH

Need a quick and simple activity for the children or classroom?  This no-cook recipe is simple and perfect for creative children. It can also be used as a learning tool and game.  Give each child a portion of the dough and have them make formations appropriate for their age.  For example, “make two spheres, form a line that is three inches long,” or “make a smiley face!”  I use this recipe as a last minute activity when we are going to be home inside or having a play date.

NO-COOK MODELING DOUGH

2 Cups flour

1 cup salt

water

tempera paint powder

Mix ingredients, adding water to make the dough pliable.  Not too much it will be too sticky.

The dough can air dry to harden or can be baked at 300 degrees for an hour.  The time may depend on the thickness of the creation.

Pancake Fun

A yummy in the tummy way to practice letters for the little ones!  Using your favorite pancake recipe, look at mine below, make the letter of the day or the child’s initials on the griddle.   Or, as a class focuses on the letter “P” have a pancake snack and serve up letter P pancakes. Yum!

In the younger grades it is fun to read “If You give A Pig A Pancake” and have pancake snacks that day, as well as other literature activities. If you are in a school, please check your policies. As when I taught, we brought the griddle in the class.

One way is to write a letter on the pan let it cook until you see bubbles. Then pour batter over letter to make a “normal” pancake.  The image is in the pancake. Have fun with this, you can make smiley faces etc.  Also, note that you will need to write the mirror image for letters like “L”  or they will be backwards!


Or, just write a large letter to be the pancake itself. A turkey baster works well, but I just used a spoon for mine.

The whole family agrees that this recipe is the best so far.   Hope you and your family or class have a yummy in the tummy pancake experience!

Basic Pancake Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, stirred or sifted before measuring
  • 2  teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter

Preparation:

Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and 1 1/2 cups of milk; add to flour mixture, stirring only until smooth. Blend in melted butter. If the batter seems too thick to pour, add a little more milk. Cook on a hot, greased griddle, using about 1/4 cup of batter for each pancake. Cook until bubbly, a little dry around the edges, and lightly browned on the bottom; turn and brown the other side. Recipe for pancakes serves 4.

Sketching and Journaling in your Own Front Yard

A creative way to journal and/or sketch for any age child is to go on a hunt in your own yard or neighborhood!  Bring a pad of paper, we keep a spiral notebook for each kiddo in the kitchen that is easy to grab . Get on your walking shoes and just observe and listen. Have each child choose one thing to draw or write about.  On this day we found a lizard (or something like that) in a bush right outside out front door. What a lucky day!

Organizing tip: You can tape or tie a string to the pencil and to the end of the notebook.

                          I keep two holders/cans on the counter, one for me and for the children.

                             This way my favorite pens or permanent markers will not get lost or used.

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Here is our new little lizard friend!

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Back to School Celebration

As the children head off to school you may feel relief or sadness. Either way, make the first day a special and memorable time for them!  Start the tradition of a first day celebration.  Invite a few children over after school for a small get together and yummy snack.

Ideas:

Bake cookies: Prepare cookie dough ahead and have children cut out shapes, letters and numbers. Bake, frost and enjoy!

Homemade popsicles and swim or run in sprinklers:

Use popsicle molds or ice cube trays to freeze any juice or nectar. Make a creamy treat by adding ice cream. Use one cup juice (we like orange) and 1C vanilla ice cream, stirred together until runny but not liquid, and pour that into the mold to refreeze.  For a yogurt treat, blend plain yogurt and fruit (you can add powdered sugar to taste) and pour in molds to freeze.  There are many popsicle recipes, that include sugars and gelatin to make the popsicles not melt as fast, but we just keep the ingredients simple.

Design a scrapbook for the school year. Have everyone design a cover page and a first day page.  Take pictures at school to add later. Use pre-made scrapbooks or use a binder with page protectors to add to throughout the year.  This is a good place to keep school papers, pictures, and report cards.

Design a frame:  Make frames and decorate. Take a picture of child and friends to place in frame.

A mellow evening with just the family. Order pizza and eat a picnic style dinner outside, give each child  journal or new book to read that night as a family.

Snowflakes for All Ages

Designing and making snowflakes involves many important  concepts at all ages.  Beyond being fun, children experience shapes, motor skills, following directions, creativity, symmetry and spatial skills.  I was shocked at how many students in my fifth grade class volunteered to help  make snowflakes for a bulletin board, they loved it.  I thought that they would be “over” that!

1.jpgWith my younger children I demonstrate how to make a large snowflake and then they decorate it.  Then, they attempt their own allowing them to explore and discover the world of shapes and symmetry. Please note that the “snowflakes” are truly unique and may not look anything like a snowflake.

A FEW “FLAKEY” IDEAS:

3D Snowflake: For older children and adults, I found this site that teaches “How to Make a 3D Paper Snowflake.”

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-3D-Paper-Snowflake

Read A Biography:  Snowflake Bentley stated  “Under the microscope, I found that snowflakes were miracles of beauty; and it seemed a shame that this beauty should not be seen and appreciated by others. Every crystal was a masterpiece of design and no one design was ever repeated., When a snowflake melted, that design was forever lost. Just that much beauty was gone, without leaving any record behind.”   He photographed the first snow crystal and shared that no two snowflakes were the same.

Symmetry: Look for symmetry in nature starting with butterflies, bugs, leaves and bee-hives. For older children,  you may ask them if snowflakes are symmetrical in nature. (The answer is sometimes, the most common snowflakes are not symmetrical.)

The Life of a Snowflake:  This site is for older students to follow the life and growth of a snowflake. Fascinating!

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/primer/primer.htm

Winter-Snowboarding in the Family Room

Growing up in the Arizona desert is sunny and wonderful, but not when you try to explain the concept of seasons and  winter to children!  Traveling north to see, touch and play in the icy snow is always a joyous and exciting event for our family, but we know plenty of children who have not been exposed to snow, winter and winter sports.

So, how can we incorporate this foreign concept of falling snowflakes, winter boots and gliding down the mountain slopes?  The first part of the winter series is dedicated to winter sports and will continue with further crafts and fun soon.

First of all, and most obvious is to visit your local ice skating arena.  They have special classes for large groups, skating lessons and field trips.  For the sports enthusiast you can visit during hockey practice or games.  We wanted to take our son to the professional hockey games, but know it is way too loud for his liking (and mine!)

Find the snow!  This year our zoo, church, city park and train park all had special events where they brought in snow piles for the children to devour.  What a fun and free (except the zoo) way to play in the snow.

Visit the library.  Let’s never forget the powerful magic of words.  Check out books about the winter olympics, winter sports and  famous athletes.  Which sport would you like to try?

We love boxes.  Boxes transform into anything your child imagines, so why not let them decide what to make that can be used in winter.  I am guessing that a bobsled box would be perfect entertainment for an afternoon.

I should have invented carpet skates.  The most genious and simple invention if you have carpet in your home.  Before we found carpet skates for about ten dollars (I think at Toys R Us)  I would tape wax sandwich bags around the kid’s feet and they would pretend to skate around.  They had a blast.  I am sure this may sound crazy to those of you in parts of the world that have real ice outside your front door.

Technology allows us to explore many exciting new things. For example, record the winter games on television and watch as a family as you enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or even Icees.  I am coming around to video games and I know the concern most parents have about these mindless types of activities.  With that said, I love the Wii snowboarding game and have been caught shredding and grinding the slope!

Use your imagination.  Since we cannot snowboard down the real slopes, we made our couch into a mini hill to use with our cardboard boards.  I had pipe cleaners in the crafts area, so we taped them on for the straps.

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This little piggy said, “Wheeeee!”

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Craft Ideas for First Day of School Pictures

Surf’s Up!

This simple idea was completely child created while watching the movie Surf’s Up. When I saw my pillows being used as surfboards, we got out the poster board and crayons and designed our own boards. The children had a blast and I was happy to have fluffy pillows on the couch.

This could be much more advanced using patterns and measurement in the design. But sometimes it is nice just to hang loose and have fun!

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Make and Eat A Necklace

Fun and simple activity for one or a group of children. A great activity for when you are traveling to keep the little ones busy. Just put all of the supplies into a plastic bag and when you are at grandmas, the hotel or even on the plane, take it out for an instant activity. Hint, put masking tape on end to avoid spilling especially while traveling!

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What you will need:

String or thin licorice, cheerios, fruit loops, marshmallows, and any other food you can place on a string.

Thread the food on the string and place around neck and tie ends in a knot.

Make this into a learning experience for the little ones by making patterns, counting the amount as you string the necklace, simple addition and identifying colors.

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