Saturday, November 29, 2008

15 Minutes : Read It : Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep

image via

Sleep, Black Bear, Sleep is a wintery bedtime book written in rhyme. Each page says goodnight to a different animal in a different habitat, each drawn with a combination of human and animal details (for example, the gopher rests in an English cottage burrow). I am particularly impressed by the variety of words used for "sleep".


Friday, November 28, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Feathers

Today I found a feather and took a moment to play with my 16 month old son. I realized there was a lot he could learn and a lot I could teach from just one feather.

In just about 15 minutes:

We learned about SOFT as I brushed the feather up and down his arm, and forehead, cheek and neck.

We learned about TICKLING as I let the feather tickle his nose and ears.

We learned that feathers come from BIRDS that say "tweet tweet", "quack quack" and "cockadoodle doo"

We also learned about BLOWING as we blew the feather in the air and watched it meander to the floor. His attempt was more of an "s" sound but he sure had fun trying to catch it.

He thought it was ALL pretty neat. And I was reminded just how important these small teaching moments are.

Picture via


Thursday, November 27, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Pilgrim-speak

image via

The English language has changed a lot since 1620 when the Pilgrims arrived in America. We say, "Hi, how are you?" but the Pilgrims would have said, "Good morrow!" or "How now?" Try a couple of these out during Thanksgiving, and check out Plimoth Plantation (yes, that's the original spelling) for more Pilgrim speech.

Pray, pardon me. (Excuse me.)
Huzzah! (Congratulations!)
Fare thee well. (Goodbye.)
Mouser (Cat)
Breeches (Pants)


Wednesday, November 26, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Napkin Origami

Here's some fancy ideas to spruce up the Thanksgiving table.
Put a child (or group of children) in charge of the napkins this year.

Click HERE for 26 other ways to fold a napkin.


Tuesday, November 25, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Cornucopia

The cornucopia, meaning "horn of plenty", is a popular symbol of the harvest of Thanksgiving.
This activity provides a fun way for your child to learn by identifying different foods and creating it into something they can be proud of. It can be tailored to any age.


1 sheet brown construction paper
Masking tape

Roll the sheet of brown paper to create a horn shape. Secure the edges with tape.
Go through the magazines with your child to find appropriate items to add to the cornucopia. Explain that the cornucopia holds food from a harvest: fruits and vegetables that have been picked.
Assist your child in cutting out the magazine pictures or have him tear out the pictures. Let him tape the food into the cornucopia

photo via


Monday, November 24, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Thanksgiving Food

In a survey conducted by the National Turkey Federation, nearly 88 percent of Americans said they eat turkey at Thanksgiving. The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2007.

The cranberry is one of only three fruits—the others are the blueberry and the Concord grape—that are entirely native to North American soil, according to the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers' Association.

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest pumpkin pie ever baked weighed 2,020 pounds and measured just over 12 feet long. It was baked on October 8, 2005 by the New Bremen Giant Pumpkin Growers in Ohio, and included 900 pounds of pumpkin, 62 gallons of evaporated milk, 155 dozen eggs, 300 pounds of sugar, 3.5 pounds of salt, 7 pounds of cinnamon, 2 pounds of pumpkin spice and 250 pounds of crust.

More interesting facts at


Saturday, November 22, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Headdress Napkin Wrap

images via

Ribbon and a couple feathers make the easiest Indian headdress I've ever seen. It starts out as a lovely napkin wrap at the child's plate, then becomes the post-feast activity.


Friday, November 21, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Edible Thanksgiving Favors

Thanksgiving is only a week away. Here are some VERY cute and easy favor ideas for the table I saw on a morning show. I remember making Thanksgiving favors when I was young and LOVING it. It is a great family tradition. I loved these ideas because they are kid friendly.

For a better idea of what they look like and how to make them view the video HERE.

Place sugar ice cream cones in a steamer basket over hot water. Let each cone steam for a few minutes which will soften it. Carefully bend end up to form a cornucopia shape. Cone will harden quickly. Fill with a mixture of fruit shaped candies, nuts, pretzels, etc. If desired, place a ribbon around the opening of the cornucopia and attach a tiny name tag to serve as a place card.

Pilgrim Hat:
Dip large marshmallows in melted chocolate or almond bark. Set onto flat round chocolate covered cookies (chocolate covered graham rounds, fudge-striped cookies, chocolate ginger snaps, chocolate wafers, etc.). Let set until chocolate is hardened. Wrap marshmallow "hat brim" with a black ribbon. Using a rolling pin, roll out a yellow Starburst candy and cut into a square to form a "buckle". Attach to ribbon with a tiny amount of melted chocolate or icing.

Dip the bottom of a chocolate crème drop candy into melted chocolate or almond bark. Immediately attach the candy to the bottom of a leaf shaped or round cookie (I used Dare brand maple leaf crème cookies or you can use any round type cookie). Attach a candy corn point down to the top of the crème drop using melted chocolate. Attach a red hot candy to the side of the candy corn to become a "wattle". Adhere a small pretzel under the crème drop to create "feet". (Option: Instead of a crème drop you could also use a chocolate covered cherry, an unwrapped caramel, an unwrapped peanut butter cup or any other chocolate covered candy about 1" in diameter.)

Candy Acorn:
Mix together 1 cup of creamy peanut butter, ½ cup of margarine and 3 cups powdered sugar and mix well into a soft dough. Roll a 1" ball of dough into an acorn shape. Dip the top of the dough shape into melted chocolate or almond bark and press into finely chopped nuts to form the acorn cap. Break a stick pretzel in half and insert in top to create acorn stem. Set on was paper until chocolate has set. Display at each place setting with leaf cookie.

Indian Corn:
Create a dry mix of items that would resemble Indian corn with a mixture of fall colors. Use items such as: cold cereal, popcorn, nuts, candies, dried fruits, etc. Take a square (approximately 12" square for a large favor) of cellophane and place approximately 1 cup of mix in the center. Tuck cellophane around mix and fold in back if needed to wrap the mix into an oblong shape. Tie cellophane closed with tan string. Cut cornhusks (available in the Mexican food isle of grocery stores) into long strips with pointed ends. Wrap ends on corn husks around end of mix and tie with string. Wrap ends with a ribbon and tie a bow. Attach a nametag or small photograph if desired and set at each place setting.

Fall Leaf:
Divide homemade or purchased sugar cookie dough into three or four portions. Color each portion a fall color such as red, orange, terra cotta, copper, olive green, yellow, tan, etc. using paste food color. For brown color, use cocoa powder. For each cookie, press together several colors of dough and roll out so the colors mix slightly and the dough has a variegated look. Cut using a leaf shaped cookie cutter. Bake and cool. If desired, use melted chocolate or chocolate icing and a pastry bag with a writing tip to write the name of each guest on a cookie. Place a cookie at each place setting with several candy acorns. Tip: dust cookies with gold luster dust for a beautiful sheen. Luster dust is available at baking supply stores.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

15 Minute : Make It : Finger Paint Trees

Nothing is more fun during fall then making your own personal variation of a tree. A friend showed me a darling finger-painted tree from kaboose that my kids loved making. We also chose to add our own twist and glue on leaves from an inexpensive garland. Either way, the result is darling.

For detailed instructions for the finger-painted tree check here.


Tuesday, November 18, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Sing About Leaves

image via

An autumn variation of the familiar song:

The Leaves on The Tree
sung to: "The Wheels on The Bus"
Copyright © 2000, 2004 Barbara Pratt. All rights reserved.

The leaves on the tree are falling down,
falling down, falling down.
The leaves on the tree are falling down,
Red, yellow, orange, and brown.
(Note: Pretend to drop leaves from above your head as the color is mentioned in the song.)

The leaves on the ground go crunch, crunch, crunch,
crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch, crunch.
The leaves on the ground go crunch, crunch, crunch.
All through the fall.
(Note: Have the child/children pretend they are crunching leaves on the ground while singing this verse.)



Monday, November 17, 2008

1 Hour : Read It : Little House on the Prairie

photo courtesy of

I just started reading Little House in the Big Woods (first in this series) to my kids, and it turns out to fit perfectly with the season. Laura's descriptions of her family's preparations for winter leads my kids to ask interesting (hilarious) questions about the source and storage of our meats and vegetables. They are intrugued by the butchering of the pig ("Eww! They played with a pig's bladder?"); they love hearing about Pa pretending to be a bear; they seem to enjoy learning about life "in olden days" from these favorite books from my childhood. At a rate of maybe a chapter a night, it will take us a while to finish the entire series, but so far so good.


Saturday, November 15, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Finger Puppets

These finger puppets from Martha Stewart are perfect for entertaining your kids at the Thanksgiving table. You can even use them to create a fun finger puppet play that can be acted out at the table. This is also a perfect project to do with older children.

For instructions, click here.


15 Minutes : Play It : Gigglebelly

Reading the Gigglebelly "official" instructions on reminded me of the silly fun I had playing it when I was younger. I know my kids are going to crack up when we play this easy game with cousins...and maybe it even counts as a counting lesson?

1. Have one player lie down on his back. The next player lies down with his head resting on the first player's belly and the next player lies down with her head on the second player's belly. Arrange all the players until everyone is zigzagged around the lawn or floor, each with his or her head on someone else's belly (if possible, make the line into a loop so that the last player can put her head on the first player's belly).

2. Then, the first player shouts, loud and clear, "Ha!" The second player responds with a vigorous, "Ha, ha!" then the third player chimes in, "Ha, ha, ha!" Continue until all players have shouted out their "Ha's" or (more likely) have dissolved into uncontrollable laughter, with heads bouncing on the bellies of giggling friends, uncles, cousins or grandmothers.


Friday, November 14, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Apple Taste Test

Image via Flickr

During the fall, you can find a variety of apples at your local grocery store. Buy a selection of apples in different sizes, colors and varieties, and have a taste test. It's perfect for teaching your child about color, size and taste - plus it's a healthy, nutritious snack!


Thursday, November 13, 2008

15 Minutes : Play It : Fall Song

Fingerplay songs are perfect for babies and young toddlers. I'm always amazed at how fast my little girl can imitate the actions. Here's a fun one for fall.

Fall winds begin to blow(purse lips to blow)
Colored leaves fall fast and slow(flutter hands down)
Whirling, twirling all around(turn yourself around)
And at last, they touch the ground(touch the floor).
(Song found here.)

Image from pachd.


1 Hour : Play It : Waves In A Bottle

While you're telling your kids about the Mayflower, you can help them create their own "ocean" a bottle.

Use a clean dry bottle with flat sides. Fill one-third of the way with WHITE VINEGAR; add several drops of blue FOOD COLORING. Fill the rest of the way with a light-colored COOKING OIL like canola. Screw the cap on tightly, and then rock the bottle back and forth to watch the waves. Oil droplets are lighter than those of the vinegar, so they float to the surface and stay there. The two never mix, even when you tilt the bottle.


Tuesday, November 11, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Pumpkin Soup Tureen

image via
I love eating soup when the weather turns cold and can't wait to try serving my next batch in a pumpkin soup tureen.
I'm going to try the directions found here except I probably won't bake the pumpkin quite as long. I think the kids will get a kick out of helping me clean and bake an entire pumpkin but I'm sure our favorite part will be enjoying the presentation. It's not everyday you get to eat soup out of a pumpkin.


Friday, November 7, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Alien Egg

Alien Egg

Ever peel an egg without using you fingers? Place a raw EGG in a jar, and add enough WHITE VINEGAR to cover it; screw on the lid, and put it in the refrigerator. The next day, pour out the liquid, cover with fresh vinegar, and place it back in the fridge. On the third day, remove the egg; its shell will have dissolved, and it will be plump and rubbery It'll also be translucent -- roll it gently from side to side, and you'll see the yolk bumping around. The acid in the vinegar eats through the shell; the egg is plump because it gradually absorbs the liquid through the membranes.


Thursday, November 6, 2008

15 Minutes : Make It : Candy Art

Are you left with way too much candy after Halloween? My first impulse—after the children have had their fair share, of course— is to throw it away so I can continue my attempts to fill my children's bellies with more healthful things; but this year we tried having a little fun with our spoils before they made it to the garbage can . . . or our mouths.

We dumped all the candy into bowls, pulled out the construction paper, markers, and glue and let the kids have at it. Although a few pieces did make it to their mouths (mostly the 2 year-old's) most of it was glued onto paper making all sorts of creative designs. I explained to the kids that once the candy touched the glue it was no longer edible (make sure to have plenty of time for drying since the glue tends to "melt" some of the pieces).

Now I have art work surrounding my kitchen that looks quite delicious and somehow the kids didn't mind too much just playing with the candy instead of eating it. We'll certainly be doing this next year.


15 Minutes : Know It : Setting The Table

The holidays are just around the corner. Now is a perfect time to teach your child(ren) about table etiquette because in a few weeks they will be able to apply it.
Start out with the basics like how to properly set a table for a formal event. Years ago I came across a template on Martha Stewart's website. I have used it many many times for both teaching young children and also adults. I think it's just adorable. Download it here

Put your kids to the test by letting them arrange the setting on their own at first, I'm sure there will be a few extra spoons and forks they won't know what to do with. Then you can show them the correct way. Be sure to practice first may actually learn something too!


Tuesday, November 4, 2008

15 Minutes : Know It : Election Day

Today is an important day for this country. Today we find out who the next President of the United States will be for the next 4 years. Over the last several months I'm sure your child(ren) has noticed you watching the news or debates, listening to talk radio, or any comments you've made to your spouse, friends or neighbors.
They probably want to know more and you may be surprised with what they already know or feel. This is a great time to teach your child about the Elections and how important it is to vote.

For Younger Children
If your kids are small try using simple ways of teaching that are easy to understand. For example, practice voting at home. Vote on tacos vs. hamburgers and then tally up the results. Ask them to share their reasoning for their choices.

Older Children
Explain a little bit about each candidate. Try to be neutral with your comments so they can have the chance to create their own opinion.
Weekly Reader has a great interactive website that can teach your child more about the elections through games, quizzes and activities. Visit it HERE. Or print off a Presidential word search HERE.

Try not to make negative comments about the candidates in front of your children. It is more important to demonstrate the importance of voting rather than the particular candidate you want to win.

Remember, the best way to teach is through example, so be sure to get out there and VOTE!

For more tips on teaching your children about the election I recommend this article.


Monday, November 3, 2008

15 Minutes : Read It : In November

photo courtesy of
Both the illustrations and the poetic text make In November a new favorite in my family.


1 Hour : Make It : Bird Feeder Wreath

This is my version of an idea I saw in a magazine years ago:

plain grapevine wreath, available at craft stores
twine or heavy duty string
cranberries, cheerios, raisins, popcorn, or other small bird-friendly foods

Make garlands by stringing the foods on the twine. Older children can use the needle to pierce cranberries, etc.; young children can easily string cheerios. Wrap the garlands around the wreath and hang your "feeder" in a place that is very visible to your children. For me, a big part of the fun of having bird feeders is watching my children watch the birds.


Saturday, November 1, 2008

1 Hour : Make It : Pumpkin Pancakes and Apple Spice Syrup

The first time I ever tried pumpkin pancakes I was in college and I've been hooked ever since.
Go on, try them for yourself. You'll see what I mean.

Pumpkin Pancakes
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons vinegar

In a separate bowl, mix together the milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar. Combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, cinnamon, ginger and salt, stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.
recipe via

And for those of you that are not too hot on the make-it-from-scratch recipe, here is a short-cut just for you:

Simplified Recipe:
2 1/2 Cup Aunt Jemima Original Pancake Mix (or any pancake mix)
3 TBS brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, 1 3/4 cup milk
2 TBS vegetable oil
2 TBS vinegar
1 cup pumpkin puree.

Continue following directions as listed above

What are pumpkin pancakes without Apple Spice syrup:

Apple Spice Syrup
1 cup sugar
2 1/2 tbsp corn starch (heaped)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 TBSP lemon juice
2 cups apple cider (not juice)
1/4 c. butter

Mix dry ingredients, then add apple cider and lemon juice. Bring to a boil for 1 minute, turn to low and add butter.



1 Hour : Make It : Leaf Alphabet

This project from Martha Stewart is perfect for fall. I love that it lets you teach your kids the alphabet while encouraging them to be creative and imaginative with the leaf shapes. Try splitting this activity into two days: Day One - find leaves, Day Two - create the alphabet leaf cards.