Apple Tasting

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We went to the Portland Nursery’s 27th annual apple tasting event last weekend. The event will continue this weekend, and it is a really great event for preschoolers. There are delicious candy apples, fresh pressed cider demonstrations, pumpkin painting, face painting, games, and about 60 different varieties of apple and pear to taste! You can buy many of the tasting varieties for only $0.99 per pound. We bought about 8 pounds of Newtown Pippin apples and made apfel kuchen and baked apples. We might even be going again this weekend. Hope to run into you there!

Slime, Glow Dough, and Spider Webs

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Today we made glow in the dark play dough, a gooey vinegar slime swamp, and easy glue resist spider webs. These are all great activities for Halloween!

Glow Dough

You will need:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of warm water
1 cup of salt
2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB cream of tartar
food coloring
Glow in the dark gel or paint

Mix all of the ingredients except the glow in the dark gel together in a small saucepan, and slowly heat over medium-low heat until it sticks to itself and forms a ball. Once it is cooled down, roll it out and squirt a generous amount of glow gel or paint onto the dough. Mix it up well, and leave the dough near a bright light to charge up. Have some fun before bedtime!

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Bubbly Slime

You will need:
2 cups of vinegar
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
food coloring
baking soda

Whisk the xanthan gum into the vinegar just a little bit at a time. Xanthan gum clumps together, so sprinkle it in slowly to avoid lumps. Put in a few drops of food coloring, and leave the mixture in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Put a thing layer of baking soda on the bottom of a pan (we used a glass pie plate so we could see the bubbles), and pour the slime on top. Watch as it slowly fizzes and bubbles! It should bubble for an hour or more with light play, but a little less if you really mix it up. For some reason it reminded my kids of painting their nails, so they played pedicure. Bring out the toys and go on an expedition through the swamp, or just feel it and observe. Lots of fun, but my house smells like vinegar!

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Glue Resist Spider Webs

You will need:
Paper
Glue
Water colors

This is so easy. Last night I used glue to make spider web patterns in paper. The kids also made glue designs. We let them dry, and then painted over the dried glue with water colors.

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Pumpkin Time

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Our annual visit to the pumpkin patch is finally here! Don’t forget that the next day of class we will be meeting at the patch at 9am sharp! Bring your best rain boots as it looks to be a muddy adventure this year. And while you are there, don’t forget to stock up on little pumpkins and pie pumpkins because I have a feeling you will want to try out these fun pumpkin themed projects.

First up, Drip Pumpkins.

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You will need:

Tempera paint
Water
Eye dropper or pipettes
Pumpkins
glitter (optional)
Newspaper or a deep pan to catch the mess.

Start out by picking 4-6 colors of paint to use. Squeeze some tempera paint (a few tablespoons) into a little cup or dish and add drops of water. You want the paint to have a drippy consistency, but if it has too much water it will roll right off the pumpkin. A little trial and error works best since different colors and brands of paint are a little different in consistency. Show your kids how to squeeze the pipette to collect liquid and then squeeze it again at the top of the pumpkin, letting it roll down the sides.

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When you are finished painting the pumpkins, you can shake some glitter on top of the paint to make it extra shiny. If you have leftover drippy paint, you can use it to make salad spinner art or to make cool drippy designs on construction paper. Fold the paper, and see what it looks like then!

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Next up, Pumpkin Seed Oobleck Slime.

Oobleck is a messy mixture that is equal parts corn starch and water with a few optional drops of food coloring. We decided to amp it up a notch by using orange colored water and mixing in pumpkin seeds and guts to make it extra gooey. We also mixed a bowl of corn flour with orange water because my daughter wanted to know if it would work the same. It doesn’t, but it is pretty gooey and fun to play with too. You may need to add more cornstarch after you add the seeds to keep the solid AND liquid properties.

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Our last project is to make a Pumkano!

The pumpkano is just a seasonal variation on the usual baking soda and vinegar volcano we all made as kids. I went to the store for these projects and forgot to get white vinegar thinking I had a gallon of it in the laundry room, but turned out it was empty. So I improvised with outdated red wine vinegar. Orange food coloring would make this especially seasonal. If your pumpkin is small enough, you can put the baking soda and vinegar right into the scooped out inside. Our pumpkin was a little big, so we put a plastic cup inside. To see a video of our last eruption in action, click here.

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And as a bonus, my favorite recipe for Pumpkin Soup.

This recipe is from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman. I like to make this with a little curry or chili powder, but the kids like it better plain.

Ingredients:
3 TB butter
3 lbs pumpkin (or other hard winter squash) seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion roughly chopped
1 TB fresh sage or rosemary
Salt and Pepper
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup cream, half and half, or milk

Melt the butter in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin cubes and chopped onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the herb and sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue cooking until fragrant. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the soup bubbles gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin starts to fall apart, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan, or cool slightly and pour it into a blender to puree in batches. Heat the pureed soup until almost boiling and stir in the cream. Heath through, but do not boil. Taste and add seasoning if you like.

And there you have it! A bunch of ways to use all of the pumpkins you will be gathering at the pumpkin patch with us!

Guest Blog: Spiders

Spiders! From Rebecca Brooks.
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A few weeks ago when I caught my first cold of the season, yet the kiddo was perfectly energetic, I feebly rummaged around in our rainy day art supplies and found a small package of water beads. If you haven’t played with these before, they are essentially floral beads used to support flower arrangements within a vase, but they also have a lot of sensory and crafting potential as well. On that particular non-rainy day, I simply soaked the floral beads in a plastic tub, and threw in a few measuring cups for my daughter to dump and pour the beads with. The only downside to the water beads is what to do with them once their original appeal wears off. That is when I realized they could be used similarly to marbles in a painting project, which led to spider webs and google eye spiders!

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The first step is to find some sort of tray to contain the marbles/floral beads when painting your webs. Conveniently enough, I found a shallow box with two handles from a recent purchase at a paint shop. This could easily be made from any size box you have around. A tray would work just as well too. We placed the marbles in a cup of white paint and rolled them till they were each coated in a thin layer of paint (too much paint and the marbles won’t roll). Next, we cut black paper to fit in our box/tray. Then comes the fun part. Drop the marbles onto the paper in the tray. We found we created more interesting webs if we had the marbles start from different edges of the paper, rather than having them all in one spot. Next, tilt your tray back and forth to paint the web. Sometimes we would put the marbles back into the paint cup to add more paint to our web. Once you like what you have painted, repeat the process until you have as many webs as you’d like to make spiders for. An additional idea would be to glitter your web before the paint dries.

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While your webs are drying, find your materials for spiders. This can simply be more construction paper, or pom poms and pipe cleaners and google eyes. My daughter loves gluing, and through some trial and error, we find that the following technique works best. First, use a kid-friendly glue, and by this I mean a fast tack glue. We love Aleene’s Tacky Glue. Next, cut down a paint brush. The little ones that come with watercolor sets are perfect for gluing. Cut down the bristles until you have about 1/8 of an inch. We have had similar success with q-tips as well. Fill a small container with glue, and have your kiddo add google eyes to his or her heart’s content. Since the glue dries clear, it doesn’t really matter if you end up with some glue on the front of the eyes. A damp rag set near your child’s workspace can help with sticky fingers.

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I trimmed and glued the pipe cleaner legs where she wanted her spiders, knowing that would likely be too frustrating, but the rest of the creation of the spiders was all hers. Unfortunately these don’t mail well, but they are wonderful for around town Halloween deliveries. Happy creating!

Guest Blog Post: Tape Resist Skeleton v2

I jumped the gun yesterday posting about making a tape resist skeleton. Our wonderful costume designer Rebecca Brooks was my inspiration for that project and now she is here to show you how she did it. She also has an awesome spider and spider web project coming soon that you should try out!

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A lovely website for preschool aged craft projects is The Artful Parent, and this Halloween craft is from that website. The Artful Parent’s projects often require materials you are likely to have sitting around your house, and if not, they are easy to come by.

My daughter has been fascinated by anatomy lately. We already had a Discovery Kid’s medical book checked out from the library, and with Halloween on the way, this project seemed perfect. The only materials I purchased were two large sheets of watercolor weight paper from a local craft store for a few dollars a piece. We had a few old watercolor sets with the black barely touched, and I used painter’s tape and washi tape so we wouldn’t tear the paper once the paint had dried. I knew watercolor paints would be both easier to cover a large surface area and to clean up.

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First I attached the two pieces of paper with masking tape, then traced my daughter’s outline onto the paper. Then comes the tape! We used her anatomy book and started with the parts of the skeleton she was most interested in. I found thin washi tape to be easier to use for fingers and toes; you could also simply cut down the width of the painter’s tape. We got to most of the body before kiddo was drawn away by another activity. I finished the ribs and the skull taping.

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Once the body is taped, select a paint and paint over all the taped areas, and pay special attention to the smaller areas between the taped portions, such as fingers, and toes and ribs, etc. My daughter had an especially wonderful time painting over all the tape, and I only stepped in to paint a few areas darker, such as the eyes, and to fill in the areas that extended beyond the skeleton to the edges of the paper.

When the paint has dried, carefully pull off all the tape. I had my daughter do the larger portions, but I actually ended up lifting some of the tape from the fingers and toes with tweezers. All in all, we worked on this here and there throughout a day, and had it hung by the evening.

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All you have left to do is to hang your skeleton!

Tape Resist Skeleton Door Hanging

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We started making stuff for Halloween about a month ago, and this lovely tape-resist skeleton was actually our Halloween kick off project. I stole this idea from our amazing costume designer Becky. This project was a great collaboration with my preschooler, but it was too time consuming for my 22 month old. I would do this when you have extra help to watch the little ones.

You will need:

A large piece of white cloth or paper. We used about 6 feet of plain white cotton fabric.
Painter’s tape
A body book with a skeleton to copy
Cardboard or grocery bags
Black paint. You should use fabric paint or acrylic paint. I used tempera paint because I had some on hand.
Big sponges for painting
A place to hang it up to dry

First, you will need to find a big space to lay out your fabric. Make sure you put down grocery bags or cardboard to prevent paint from seeping through and onto your floor.  I speak from experience. That happened. Eh, I needed to mop anyways (no, I didn’t).

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Now, stretch out the fabric and tape down securely with the cardboard or grocery bags underneath. You don’t want anything to slide around, so make sure it is tight. Use your body book as a reference to start taping out your skeleton.  You could have your child lay down and outline their body to use as a layout. This is a really great opportunity to talk about the human body. How many bones are there in your arm? How do your bones help you to move around? Fun stuff!

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Taping the skeleton is the hardest part, and you will need to do a lot of it with your child. Especially the skull. Long bones are easier for them. Mistakes are expected. Don’t try to make a perfect skeleton, the charm is in the imperfections. Once the skeleton is taped, you can get to the fun part: PAINT!  Paint the entire thing black (or whatever color you want your skeleton to show up against). This is a lot of fun because it gets super messy. We used about 3/4 of a big bottle of black tempera paint. If you want to go all out, it would be fun to do a second layer of glow in the dark paint outlining the bones. Hang it out to dry.

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Remove the tape. If you are like me, this is the point where you realize you forgot something important like…the rib cage! Oops! I fretted for a few minutes before I decided to just paint them on. I added a heart to make the extra paint look more intentional.

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You could also give this a try on a smaller scale. Try a tape resist pumpkin with orange paint or on orange paper with blue and brown paint. What other Halloween creatures could you make using this method?