January 28, 2011

Chocolate Playdoh

Last week, I shared the fun we had with the scented KoolAid playdoh.  Well this stuff smells even better and is lots of fun for the kids.  It's a perfect little activity around Valentine's Day.  My kids had a great time making all sorts of "goodies" for their pretend chocolate shops and bakeries!  Really young kids might have a tough time resisting the urge to eat the playdoh, because it really does smell chocolate-y, but most kids preschool age and up would be fine.  (NOTE:  The playdoh isn't toxic or anything, but if you ate a mouthful of this salty stuff, you'd probably feel a bit sick.)

Looks like playdoh, smells like chocolate!


* 2 cups water
* 1/2 cup salt
* 1 cup cocoa powder (the unsweetened baking kind, not hot chocolate mix)
* 2 cups flour
* 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
* 2 tbsp. cream of tartar (in the spices section)


1.  Bring the water and salt to a boil and pour in a medium sized bowl.  (At first, I wasn't sure why my recipe called for boiling the water and salt, but doing so seems to help dissolve the salt for a better dough consistency).  Add the oil, then the dry ingredients to the bowl.  Stir together with a large spoon until cool enough to knead by hand.  Knead the dough until everything is well incorporated, adding a little bit more flour if it seems too sticky.

Mix together with a large spoon at first.

Once cool enough to handle,  knead until well mixed.

2.  Have fun in your pretend chocolate shop.  Use cookie cutters, baking cups, molds, etc. to make a whole variety of goodies.

3.  Store your chocolate playdoh in a sealed plastic bag or container.

Yummy treats!
A whole bunch of chocolate treats!

Marbleized Paper

It seems like so many of the best projects are also the messiest!  This one is definitely fun and messy, but yields some really cool results.

Here's what you need:

* shaving cream
* food coloring or acrylic paint
* white cardstock paper
* toothpicks
* shallow tray
* ruler or something smooth for scraping
* aluminum foil or waxed paper
* old washcloth, rags or paper towels

Here's what to do:

1. Squirt some shaving cream onto the tray.  Allow your child to smooth it out.

2. Put a few drops of food coloring or acrylic paint onto the shaving cream.  You don't need a lot, maybe 4-5 drops at most.  Drag a toothpick or plastic knife through to swirl the color.

3.  Place the cardstock down onto the colorfully swirled shaving cream.  Gently press down so all parts of the paper is "dipped" in the shaving cream.

4.  Carefully lift up the paper and put on the piece of foil or waxed paper.  Using the edge of the ruler, carefully scrape off the shaving cream to reveal your marbleized design.  You can reuse the shaving cream a few times before the colors get too muddied and you'll want to make a fresh batch.

5.  I kept a big bowl of water and some old washcloths on the table to wipe off hands and the ruler in between uses.  You might want to use smocks for this activity, because the food coloring WILL stain, but it really was fun and worth the mess.  I think it might be cool to use the marbleized paper to make notecards, since the kids wanted to make several sets of their fancy new paper.

January 26, 2011

Jello Jigglers

Here's a fun snack that will take you back to your own childhood (or to your college days ~ with an extra ingredient that we won't be adding today! ;)  )  It's easy, cheap, the kids love it and there's a good chance you have a few boxes of Jello in the back of your pantry so you might not even have to go out for any supplies.


* Jello, regular or sugar free ( 2 large boxes or 4 small ones )
* 2 1/2 cups boiling water
* cooking spray (optional)
* shape molds (optional)


Bring the water to a boil.  Pour the jello into a large bowl and add the boiling water.  Stir for 2-3 minutes until all the way dissolved.  Lightly spray the shape molds with a little bit of cooking spray, then pour the jello into the molds.  (If you're not using molds, a baking pan works just as well.  You can cut the jigglers into squares or use cookie cutters to make shapes later.)  Refrigerate for 2-3 hours until firm.  Remove the jigglers from the molds, dipping the bottom of the mold briefly in warm water to loosen, if necessary.

Ready to go into the fridge.
So sweet,  and ready to eat!

January 25, 2011

Delaware Children's Museum

Sometimes it's tough to find something to do when school is closed for the day, especially in the winter months.  Here at our house, we've had a little too much "togetherness" during winter break and a few snow days that didn't have enough snow to actually play in.  When this week's calendar showed a day off for professional development for teachers, I knew I had to come up with some way to get out of the house.  The problem was finding somewhere to go that wasn't packed with all the other kids in the county who also had the day off.  My solution?  Head out-of-state for a day trip!  Our destination?  The Delaware Children's Museum.

Last year, I purchased a family membership to Port Discovery here in Baltimore.  One of the membership perks is participation in the Association of Children's Museums Reciprocal Program.  The reciprocal program allowed us to get into the Delaware Children's Museum for free!  Parking at the museum is also free, so it was a really inexpensive day trip (just a stop at McDonalds for lunch, gas and a few tolls).  It's not too far of a trip either ~ about an hour and a half from our home in northwest Baltimore.  And, while the DCM is definitely smaller than Port Discovery, its exhibits and activities kept the kids occupied for hours!

The "big kids" liked testing their knowledge!  
Working together to learn how to build an arch.     

Perfecting her construction skills.
The artist at work.
Water play.
"Let's try doing it this way!"
They could have stayed in the water area for HOURS!
Rowing down the river!
"Let's see if this building will withstand an earthquake!"
Scaling the rock wall.

January 18, 2011

Kool Aid Playdoh

Playdoh is good.  Scented playdoh is even better.  Scented playdoh that you can come together to make yourselves is the best yet!

Koolaid playdoh!

This recipe for playdoh uses the little unsweetened KoolAid packets and is fun to make and fun to play with. There are actually two ways you and your kids can come together with this project.  In the first option, allow your children to be involved in the whole process ~ choosing their flavor, measuring the dry ingredients, adding the liquid ingredients and mixing everything together.  With the second option, you choose the flavor and mix the dry ingredients ahead of time.  When they add the liquid and mix it all together, the scent and color "magically" appear.  (Check it out here in our Magical Playdoh Mix)


* one packet unsweetened KoolAid mix
* 1 1/3 cups flour
* 1/4 cup salt
* 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar (in the spice section)
* 1 cup boiling water
* 1 1/2 tablespoons oil


1.  In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients (KoolAid, flour, salt and cream of tartar). 

2.  Bring one cup of water and 1 1/2  tbsp of oil to a boil and pour into the bowl of dry ingredients.  Adding the hot water really "activates" the scent and color of the KoolAid so this is a really fun step!   Some flavors are more colorful than others.  Our cherry had a nice bright color, but the lemonade and blue raspberry lemonades weren't as vibrant.  You could always add some food coloring to the water, before adding it to the dry ingredients if you want.

Mommy adds the boiling water and oil.

Oooh, it's like magic!

3.  Stir with a large spoon until cool enough to handle.  (Be careful, it is really hot at first, so test it before allowing your child to handle).

It'll be crumbly at first, but comes together when kneaded.

4.  When it's cool enough to touch, dump it out and knead it until it's mixed well.  You can add more flour a little at a time if the playdoh seems too sticky.

5. Have fun playing with your scented playdoh.  (*NOTE*  While this playdoh is not meant to be eaten, it would just taste kind of salty and gross, but not actually be harmful if your child tries to take a bite.)

Fun way to spend a snow day!

Look what I made!

A garlic press is a great way to make "noodles"!

6.  KoolAid playdoh has a really great consistency and the oil helps keeps it from drying out.  You can keep it in a sealed container when not in use and enjoy playing with it for a long time.

January 13, 2011

Fleece Boa Scarves

These scarves are super cute, plus they're inexpensive and pretty easy to make.  You can choose fleece colors and prints to match a winter coat or the colors of your favorite sports team.  Make a bunch and give them as gifts. They do require a sewing machine, but you only have to sew two straight lines.  If you have a sewing machine tucked away that you haven't used in awhile, now's the time to dust it off and pull it out. 

Modeling her cute fleece scarf

Here's what you'll need:

*  Fleece (we used three coordinating colors).  You only need pieces that are about 6 inches wide, so check out the remnant bins at the fabric store for some good bargains on colors you like.
*  Good pair of scissors (either regular ones or pinking sheers)
*  Rotary cutter (this is completely optional, but if you have one, it makes cutting the fleece strips really easy)
*  Sewing machine and thread

Here's what to do:

1.  Cut your fleece into long strips about 6" wide.  For adult-sized scarves, I used the full width of the fabric (about 60").  For the kids, you can cut them a little shorter.  I found it worked well to stack the three pieces of fleece, and cut all three strips at once.   Because you'll be cutting them into fringe, your cuts don't need to be exactly straight.  

The strips are all cut out.

2.  Once you have your three strips, lay them evenly on top of each other and sew a straight line down the center.  I found that I didn't even have to pin my strips and I just eye-balled the center as I was stitching.  

Sew the straight line down the middle.  I didn't even have to pin it.

Because the sewing doesn't have to be precise, my girls love helping me with this step by pressing on the pedal to run the sewing machine.  We zoom along, then I yell "stop" and they take their foot off the pedal.

3.  Next, sew another line right next to the first.  (I used the edge of the sewing machine foot as a guide).  This second line of stitching helps make sure you don't accidentally cut your scarf in half when you're making your fringe.   

Sewing the second row right next to the first.

Both stitched seams are complete.

4.  Now it's time to cut!  First, even up the ends with a straight cut all the way across (even if your fleeces pieces were all the same size when you started, sometimes they stretch a bit while sewing. ) 

Cut off the uneven ends.

Then, using either regular or pinking sheers, make approx. 1/2" cuts from the outside edge up to the stitched lines, taking care not to cut through the stitching.  Depending on the age of your child, they might be able to help with this step.  My 8 year old could handle cutting through the three layers of fleece fine, but 5 year old wasn't quite strong enough.

Cut approx. 1/2 " strips down both sides being careful not to cut through the seams.

5.  Keep cutting all along the edges on both sides and you're done!  Just give the scarf a little shake and a twist and you have a beautiful fleece boa.  They keep you nice and warm and look super cute. ( my girls actually eagerly wear scarves every day now! ) They'd also be a fun addition to your dress-up bin for year-round glamour.  

Fluff it up and you're ready to go!

January 12, 2011

Cinnamon Snowflakes!

I came across this idea in an issue of Family Fun and thought it was awesome!  It meets my criteria of easy, fun and inexpensive, plus it's tasty too!



flour tortillas
cinnamon sugar
cooking spray
kitchen scissors or clean pair of kids' scissors

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2.  Fold your tortilla in half, then in half again.  (I used 10-inch tortillas, but a smaller size would work too).  If your tortilla breaks when you're trying to fold, microwave it for a few seconds to help it soften up.

3.  Using the scissors, cut the tortilla just like you would cut out a paper snowflake.

4.  Place your tortilla snowflake on a cookie sheet, spray with cooking spray (or brush with melted butter) and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

5.  Bake for about 5-10 minutes or until the tortilla begins to turn golden brown (check often). 
6.  Allow to cool, then enjoy!  My kids liked breaking off pieces of their snowflakes and dipping them in pudding cups.  I bet yogurt, jams or even syrup would be yummy if your kids are dippers too.

** I'm sure you could sprinkle savory toppings too, like Old Bay, parmesan cheese, garlic salt, etc.  (Hmmm, might have to try that next!  :)  )

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