Friday, June 29, 2012

Mudcake Wars

Today is International Mud Day.  I've been looking forward to this day because I had what I thought was a fun and easy idea for the kids.  Mudcake Wars!

At our house we have what we call "girl shows", "mom shows" and "dad shows," meaning that we don't always agree on our television viewing selections.  But Cupcake Wars is something that we can watch and enjoy together.

For Mudcake Wars we invited a few friends over for a playdate, to play in the backyard, in the sprinklers.  And to make mud cupcakes - mudcakes.

On Pinterest I had noted the fun things that Growing A Jeweled Rose had in their mud kitchen, and their earthy toppings for their mudcakes.  I brainstormed on what materials would be fun and unique to use for our mudcake decoration, and that I wouldn't need to dig out of the dirt before dumping it on what will some day be our garden area.  I came up with pasta, sunflower seeds, rocks and weeds greenery.  

3YO Purple helped me find and wash the rocks.

Growing A Jeweled Rose noted that they used topsoil to create their mud.  Envisioning smooth, silky mud, I ventured to Home Depot to buy me some dirt.  Which seems silly considering the saying "dirt cheap."  Not only did I have to pay for the dirt, but it ended up not making the velvety mud I had in mind.  Nope.

So, thirty minutes before our scheduled Mudcake Wars playdate was to begin, it was on to Plan B.  I had pinned a recipe for Mud Playdough from I Can Teach My Child.  So I started mixing that up.  

On the kitchen counter I set out the book Mud is Cake.  6YO Yellow noticed it, grabbed it, and yelled to her friends, "Hey, wanna read this book?"  Love it when that happens.

So back to mixing.  And mixing.  And mixing.  Until the playdough was so thick I couldn't mix anymore.  It was still too sticky and needed to cook longer, but I could no longer get the spoon through it because it was so thick.  I wonder if a half recipe would have been more manageable and, therefore, successful.  I did my best to scrape out of the pan what playdough I could, mold it into balls, drop it into the cupcake pans, and meekly offered it to my 3YO, but only when she asked.

Purple loved it.  She loved it sticky, too.

And then a friend started watching her play.  And she wanted some.

So I humbly brought out the sticky cupcakes that I had fashioned, and offered them up to all the kids.  I had enough playdough to put two cupcakes in each foil cupcake pan.

I cannot believe how long this captured the children's imaginations.

After about an hour my 4YO Pink said she was hungry, so it was snack time.

Real cupcakes this time.  Chocolate cupcakes with sticky, fudgey frosting.  I set out a few toppings - chocolate chips, marshmallows, sliced almonds, M&Ms - and let the kids decorate and eat.

And then it was back to the mudcakes and decorating.  The kids not only decorated the mudcakes, but they also used the empty cups to create other arrangements.

A close up look...

Yes, this does look like a steaming bowl of..schtuff.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pajama Playdate

6YO Yellow asked to have a couple friends over for a pajama playdate "when it is later", meaning past our usual 6pm playtime ending.  So we did.  Just a short one.  Long enough for them to join us for our "Scripture Sundae" (we read a scripture story while eating ice cream - a win-win, really).

(And by the way, this image is a coloring page from, which has many coloring pages and worksheets in which you can customize the text.  Awesome!)

After being edified by our scriptures and ice cream, we played lullabies, to which the girls danced in their own original styles.  My favorite lullaby album by far is Disney's Lullaby Album.  Love, love, love!

Following our dance segment I helped the girls make Lavender and Glitter Sensory Salt, an idea shared days earlier by The Imagination Tree.  The girls chose which color to dye their salt, as well as which glitter (and how much) to add.  Be prepared to say goodbye to any and all glitter set out for this project.  Or maybe that is just at my house.

The results were beautiful.

We actually had too much salt in the containers, except for one that had some  spilled out by accident.  But the girls enjoyed simply running the salt through their fingers and stirring yet more glitter into the mix.

Since we had four girls making this, I used four glass storage containers of roughly the same size that I had on hand.  I think foil pie plates would make a great container, especially for sending home with friends.

When our playdate came to an end, we dumped the salt back into our baggies, and said goodnight.

And then after the girls were asleep, I tried the salt in a couple different containers, just for kicks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

I Rub Her the Wrong Way

I do not need to be self-critical.  My 4YO provides plenty of critique for me.  Tonight the topic was back and belly rubbing.  I do it wrong.

*Sob* "You're making me not sleep because you are not rubbing my back with a FLAT hand!"

At some point she and/or I may need therapy over this relationship.

Monday, June 25, 2012

In My Backyard, by Margriet Ruurs: Book, Snack and Activities

We hosted a group playdate today (eight children).  It's a free play session, but I like to have a few "Invitations to Play" in the words of The Imagination Tree, as well as a craft to give the kids a change of pace.  

Now I'm the kind of person that looks at a blank piece of paper and freezes up - because the possibilities are endless and I don't know where to start/stop.  So I need a focal point, and I often look to a children's book for this.  This time it was In My Backyard, by Margriet Ruurs.  The book describes the different creatures you may find in your own backyard.  And the illustrations are amazing paper sculptures by Ron Broda.  Amazing.

At the start of our playdate our friends were invited to play in the backyard, where we have a swingset/monkey bars, trampoline, and roofed patio with chairs and tables.  Legos were left on the large picnic table, a container of Mega Bloks were on the patio next to the table, and various figurines were in another container (Dora, Cinderella, ninja, and mayor of Little People, to name a few).  It was a hot and windy day so I wasn't sure how long our friends would want to build in our backyard, but this activity went on for 90 minutes.

Which was great timing to then have our snack.  Inspired by the cover of In My Backyard, I went with a bird theme.  Using what is basically a Rice Krispies treat recipe, I made birds nests from pretzels, using blue M&Ms for the eggs. 

Yes, the most common recipe for birds nests includes Chinese noodles, but the store that I was shopping at is in the middle of rearranging several aisles, and the Chinese noodles were nowhere to be found.  And Chinese noodles might be too exotic for my girls, anyway.  Pretzels are tried and true.  Even if the birds nests look more like campfires.

After snack I set up the craft: decorating birdhouses.  I bought these for $0.79-$1.00 each.  But my girls have decorated birdhouses before and really enjoyed it, so I thought it was worth it to spend a little.  We used permanent markers and stickers to decorate.  Note the dollar store tablecloth - very important.

Suggestion: If you have an assortment of birdhouses, use the "draw a number out of a hat" method to decide the order in which the children pick their birdhouse.  It worked great!  What was even better is when big sister decided to change her pick because she knew little brother wanted her style of birdhouse, and they were all gone at that point.  Heartwarming.

The children spent almost an hour decorating their birdhouses.  Then off to more playing in the backyard.

A sampling of the finished birdhouses:

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mud..From the Mind of a 3 Year Old

Someone was inspired by our Smelly Buggy Mud Bath.  Hours after our bath I went upstairs (briefly), then returned downstairs to find 3YO Purple standing outside the closed pantry door, arms barring entrance, saying, "Mom, don't go in there."  

Since we were in a hurry to leave, I didn't go in there..until all the kids were buckled in their seatbelts in the vehicle.  I couldn't stand the suspense.  I found an opened and empty container of chocolate pudding mix and a cup of brown liquid.

Purple had made her own mud!

Rather than pour it down the sink (honestly, my first instinct), I emptied it into a "water box" (a plastic storage bin) we keep in the front yard.  Pretty convincing mud, and cheaper than the 8 ounce container of cocoa powder that I had used for our bath.  I figured why waste it - Purple could play in it when we returned.

And she did.  But she preferred to play in the kiddie pool, so it became further diluted to where it resembled slightly dirty pool water.  

Purple dumping the water back into the water box from the pool

So to achieve the same muddy effect in the size of a kiddie pool, it might have taken four boxes or so, which would have made it more pricey than the cocoa powder method.  But the chocolate pudding could set up to a thicker consistency, and that could be added fun.

And how do you put a price on fun?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Smelly, Buggy Mud Bath

I've had this idea up my sleeve for a while now, after seeing a recipe for Mud Playdough made with cocoa.  Today I needed a way to contain entertain my two youngest for a little while.  With International Mud Day coming up on June 29, I thought the timing was right to try out my idea for a mud bath.

First step, I scattered plastic bugs on the bottom of the tub.  These were dollar store finds.

Next, I sprinkled the cocoa powder on top, covering the creatures as best as I could.

I used an 8 ounce container of cocoa powder and I think it was enough.  We have a garden style tub, to give some perspective.  Use the cheap cocoa powder, not the good stuff.

At this point I invited the girls to come and see.  The two older girls definitely wanted to check it out, but since this was the middle of the day, they just watched for a bit while 3YO Purple and 1YO Blue got into it.

And those two did get into it.

They were a tad hesitant at first.  I mean, sometimes the bath looks like this AFTER the water is drained.  But to start with?  This was different.  But it SMELLED SO GOOD.  Which led to the learning opportunity: cocoa powder does not taste sweet like chocolate.  

After they had a chance to play in the "dirt" for a bit, we decided to add water.  4YO Pink correctly stated that dirt + water = mud.

I have to say, cocoa powder makes pretty convincing mud.

This is about the point where Purple and Blue discover stomping and splashing.  And when I think, maybe this would be even better OUTSIDE in the kiddie pool.

We began adding more water and decided to try bubble bath, too.  

Bubbles were a flop.  But it was amazing how opaque that water continued to be.  I'm sure you could use less cocoa powder to achieve the same effect.

Envisioning my white bathroom soon becoming covered with brown splatters that would appear questionable in nature, I decided it was time to drain the brown water and do a quick rinse of tub and bods.

Clean up was way easy.  Especially if you have a shower hose nearby.

Update: 3YO Purple loved this so much, she did her own, unauthorized take on it.  Teehee!

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Paper Bag Princess Book and Activity

One of my favorite children's books is The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.

In fact, if I recall correctly, when I was a teen I shared this story when speaking in church.  Although it is not scripture, it has what I think is a great message - what you do is more important than how you look while you are doing it.  Well, that's what I get out of it, anyway.

My girls had a few friends over to play today, and they wanted to do a craft.  I remembered picking this book up to put it away the previous day, and so I chose this book as the inspiration.  And I went with what may be the obvious, uninspired choice for a craft: paper bag puppets.

I set up the crafting area at the kitchen table while the kids played upstairs, and then when they were ready for a new activity, I had them call for me from the top of the stairs.  Since there were several children, I had them sit staggered on the steps of the stairs, while I sat at the landing and read the book.  It was a different location to read than the norm, just to shake things up.

The kids were ages 3-8.  I'm not the most dramatic reader, and they were still enthralled by the story.  After sharing the book I explained that I had set out supplies for them to make their own paper bag princess, or prince, or dragon..or whatever they pleased.

The googly eyes were a huge hit.

4YO Pink's creation

We did end up with a princess, a dragon, and..Ms. SpongeBob (teehee).

Friend S's princess

Friend B's dragon

6YO Yellow's Ms. SpongeBob (love it!)