One of the easiest, cheapest and healthiest snacks I make my kids is dried banana chips. My son absolutely loves them! We buy a couple of bunches of bananas at Costco for $1.39, slice them up and put them into the dehydrator and at the […]
My daughter loves to play with baking soda and vinegar. She always helps me deodorize the garbage disposal by pouring the vinegar down the drain and making bubbles. Today my son got to watch and he was fascinated.
We were talking about how much she loved helping me and I remembered that last year she was obsessed with this activity I found on Pinterest (but unfortunately didn’t pin for some reason) where you put a bunch of baking soda in a dish and let the kids squirt different colors of vinegar on it to make a rainbow effect. My son was interested so I though I would let them out on the deck to play with some baking soda and vinegar for a bit. I opted not to use dye since I had no idea if my son would actually play with it or if he would decide just to dump everything out and I didn’t want to deal with dye in clothing today.
This activity is super simple. I just grabbed a couple of Tupperware containers, poured some baking soda in and leveled it, poured some vinegar into another Tupperware container and we were ready to go. I got my plastic eye droppers off of Amazon last year. They are super easy to clean and I ended up giving some to a friend since the 12 pack was more than we needed. Since they are plastic there was no worrying about the kids dropping them and breaking them. I just rinse them out in the sink and we are good to go.
The reaction goes pretty quick since the eye droppers don’t hold a lot of vinegar. My daughter loved to make patterns in the baking soda and systematically covered her available space. She is very focused when she works and it is always fascinating for me to watch her thought process.
My kids love bubbles so they had quite a bit of fun with it even without the dye. I am probably going to let them use a lighter color like yellow next time since my son was pretty good about it. It makes the bubbles much clearer and if you give them primary colors it can help teach them the color wheel.
My son always tries to figure everything out and if there are other possible ways of doing them. Part of his process today was grabbing a handful of baking soda and dumping it into the vinegar container. He was really pleased with the extra bubbles it produced! Most of his time was spent trying to scoop the baking soda with the eye dropper since he wasn’t quite able to squirt it with the vinegar.
We had some pretty patterns in the baking soda when we were done and the kids got to dump the rest of the vinegar into their baking soda containers which my daughter really loved to do! This baking soda and vinegar activity is one of the easiest and cheapest science experiments I have found to do with my kids. I buy baking soda and vinegar in bulk at Costco (maybe $10 total for both) and there is enough for hours and hours of bubble making fun. If you were really creative you could even fill a bottle with baking soda and a balloon with vinegar, mix them together and see how the balloon fills with gas. I may have to try that next time!
We have been spending a lot of time lately working on sensory play with our kids. They love to get messy and a lot of the activities we have been doing are brand new to our one year old and our three year old hasn’t done them in a while because of how difficult it was to keep her brother from destroying everything. We tend to do at least one a day depending on what the kids want to do. I try and let them decide which activity to do unless I have something in mind or I don’t want to do laundry. Since the weather has finally started to warm up in the Pacific Northwest we have been doing a lot of sensory play outside with found materials.
Having kids work with their hands using a variety of materials is a great way to have them learn without it seeming like forced work. So many parents I talk to are amazed at how much we do with our kids but honestly it is super easy and it doesn’t cost much to set things up. Many of the set ups I made when our three year old was one we are still using and will continue to use for many years and the others (most of them) are ones where my kids ask to play with something and I throw a bunch of things in a bin and they play. My kids also find sensory play items in their own as well and unless there is a safety issue I usually let them play with it. We have been on a strict budget ever since I can remember so I have not spent a lot of money. They key is to not get caught up in all of the fancy sensory bins you see on Pinterest with very specific items included in them and to make sure and buy materials that can be used for many different activities. Every once in a while throw in something new or “new” to them (as in mommy hid it for several months) and it will keep them interested.
Our focus lately has been water play. In the winter we have dumped bath toys in the kitchen sink and I have had the kids wash them for me but I only like to use that activity for special treats (like when the kids have cabin fever) since it can get out of hand and cause a huge mess. The weather has finally gotten warm enough so that the kids don’t freeze when they get wet outside so we have moved to the front yard. We used to live in a townhouse with no yard but a decent deck that was shaded in the heat of the summer so in the afternoons I would get our middle daughter a big bowl of water and sit out there with her while she poured water out of her tea pot over and over again. She absolutely loved it. Writing this reminds me I have to find that tea pot so that the kids can play with it this summer.
Now that we have two kids I have had to get a little more creative. I usually give them our white dish pans that we never use for dishes. I bought them several years ago at Target and we use them almost exclusively for sensory play. The dish pans, a set of large sterilite containers similar to these and this set of sensory tools are by far the best sensory play items I have bought so far. The dish pans are the perfect size for keeping projects small but deep enough so that material spills way less often then something shallow like a cookie pan and the sterilite containers work well for when you want a little more room, especially if the kids want to sit in your material which is good for them as well.
Our one year old’s first time using the dish pans outside. He was content with two red cups leftover from planting seedlings. Both had holes in them but all he cared about was practicing scooping and pouring water into the bin.
I had to bring out both dish pans when both kids were outside last week since they each wanted to play in a different way. They used the red cups, beach toys and watering cans to scoop and pour.
Today I turned on the hose to water some plants I had moved and our son ran into the garage, dumped out the first white bin he could find and brought it to me to fill. It was super sweet. I guess he loves playing with water outside! The kids were a little bored with the same toys so I added some bubbles to the pan. Oh man. Our one year old loves bubbles. He was so excited I had to break out the large sterilite container I have for larger sensory play and fill that with bubbles. It also kept the water loss down since the waterwheel drained back into the container instead of on the grass. They played with bubbles for over an hour until both of them were cold and ready for dinner.
Here is some of the sensory play we did outside the last couple of weeks:
We have done some indoor play as well. My kids have been obsessed with their legos and our creative muscles have been working hard making stores, schools, houses, and many other creations.
Our son has just started to really play with them so it has been a lesson in sharing and taking turns for everyone.
There are many many other ways you can do sensory play. In the past we have used water beads, kinetic sand, gak, pinto beans, flax seed and many more ideas.
What ways do you use sensory play in your home?
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Today I decided to make some of my easy pear sauce. My kids devour it as soon as I make it. Luckily it only takes a little bit of work to make and is easy to make ahead.
We do most of our shopping at Costco to save money. Our kids work and play hard and even though two of them are under four they still eat a lot of food. I started making pear sauce in place of apple because the younger two kids were not big fans of applesauce as babies. Now they will eat applesauce but they still love my pear sauce and when I make it they get very excited. I buy a bag of D’Anjou pears from Costco and let them ripen for a week or two, sometimes three. I try to leave the bag as flat as I can on the counter so that the pears do not develop bruises in the areas where they are resting on each other. When I am feeling the need to cook ahead I will buy two bags of pears and make a double batch and freeze some of it. I have tried Bartlett pears and they work in a pinch but the D’Anjou pears make a more flavorful sauce. I am very excited for a few years from now when our pear tree is producing and we will be able to make pear sauce from our own trees!
The earliest I will wait to make the pear sauce is when the spot under the stem gives in slightly when pressed. The pears can still be green and slightly firm at this point but that is ok. I will also wait until the pears are yellow and almost overripe if I run out of time to make it. These D’Anjou pears work well for this because when life gets busy (as it often does in our house) you have a couple of weeks of leeway before you have a bag of rotten pears instead of delicious pear sauce. You can also pop the pears into the fridge if you look ahead and realize you won’t get to making the sauce for a few weeks.
Whether you peel the pears or not, depends on your preference and how much time you have. It takes me 15 min to cut the pears and get the sauce on the stove if I leave the peels on so when I am in a time crunch that is what I do. I was in a time crunch today so I did not peel my pears. They are also heading towards overripe since I did not get around to making pear sauce last week but that is the beauty of these particular pears, they are meant to be stored for a while so they will still taste yummy!
On to the sauce. You will need 7-8 pears, vanilla, cinnamon and a large pot. I use our 3.5 quart pot for this.
Wash the pears. Make sure to remove the stickers if you aren’t peeling them.
Cut them into roughly one inch square pieces (Quarter, take out core, slice each quarter a few times) and place into pot.
Add vanilla and cinnamon to the pot. I don’t measure this but I add about 1-2 tsp of vanilla and probably 1-2 tsp of cinnamon (I love cinnamon!). At this point you can add a little water to the pot depending on if the pears are juicy or what you are using it for. If it is for baby food you may want to add a little water (1 Tbsp or so) to make it thinner. If I am making pouches I will add about 1 Tbsp so that the pear sauce will be thin enough to go through the opening. You can also add water at the blending stage if you want to wait and see how thick it will be.
Place pot onto stove at medium heat and bring to a simmer. Stir frequently at first to make sure none of the pears stick to the bottom of the pot, Let simmer for about 25 min or until pears are soft and squishy.
Let cool. I usually cook the pear sauce during nap and let it cool for a couple of hours. This gives me time to clean up. Today while the pear sauce cooked I played with the puppy.
After the pear sauce has cooled put about half of it in the blender and use the pulse setting to make it smooth. Repeat with the other half of the sauce.
At this point I will either put it into the fridge, portion it into resealable pouches and freeze for the kids or dole it out to waiting children. Today I put it into a large container (reused from lunch meat). We ate some of it for dinner and I will put about half of it into reusable pouches tomorrow and freeze all but two of them. We use these reusable pouches and they work wonderfully! I fill them about 2/3 full and stick them in the freezer for up to a couple of months, but honestly they usually get eaten within a week. My kids get one pouch a day and I just pull them out as needed.
Some variations you could do are to cook a mix of apples and pears, steam vegetables and add them to the blender with the cooked pears to make baby food and to add nutmeg to the pear sauce.