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Saturday, December 19, 2015

Candy Cane Science and Sensory in the Classroom

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During this time of year, as early educators, we struggle with how to incorporate the Holidays that are so important to our students, while still managing to be inclusive, unbiased, and religious free.  Often times we feel as though we cannot "celebrate" anything in the classroom, or we need to touch on every possible holiday to be considered inclusive.  And yet so many of these holidays are religious in nature, but we certainly can't teach that at school.  It can be such a headache!
My advice is always to be inclusive of all family traditions.  Sometimes this might mean polling your families to see what their traditions are at home.  Invite family members in to share  a special story or special activity that is important to their family.  If a child brings a book from home, read it!  Your families will feel included, and your students will feel pride and ownership over their family traditions.  With young children who are just so excited about this time of year, it can almost be more harmful to "ignore" their excitement.  It is perfectly ok to incorporate their excitement into classroom lessons, particularly when they initiate their thoughts.
There are still tons of activities that you can bring into the classroom that don't have any ties to particular holidays.  One of my favorites are candy canes!  The possibilities are literally endless...be sure to stock up on peppermint extract and red food coloring!
Today I am showcasing some of my favorite Science and Sensory activities with a Candy Cane theme.  Enjoy!
1.  Candy Cane Science from A Jeweled Rose:
Growing a Jeweled Rose has this awesome Candy Cane Science Experiment.  All kids love baking soda and vinegar, but she gives it a Candy Cane Twist!  By adding red food coloring and peppermint extract to the vinegar, there is a delicious peppermint smell and a lovely red hue!  The children will be delighted to see the bubbles erupt as they drop vinegar onto the baking soda.
Candy Cane Science from A Jeweled Rose
2.  Candy Cane Sensory Bin from Fun-A-Day
Fun-A-Day created this easy, but totally fun Sensory Bin!  She used red colored corn kernels, white Navy Beans, and peppermint extract.  And then she added extra tools, like cupcake liners, measuring cups and scoops.  Adding the colors and scent bring these fun sensory beans to a whole new level!  I can just imagine the children making their pretend cupcakes, entertainment for hours!
Candy Cane Sensory Bin from Fun-A-Day
3. Candy Cane Science from Teach Preschool
Over at Teach Preschool they presented their preschoolers with the Question "What will happen to the Candy Cane if we let it sit in warm water?"  And then the used the power of observation to see what would happen!  Such a simple idea, but visual learning is the best kind for children at this age!
Candy Cane Science from Teach Preschool
4. Candy Cane Goo (oobleck) from Science Sparks
Every child needs to experiment with Oobleck at least once!  Why not make it a Candy Cane version?  Science Sparks takes the regular oobleck recipe and adds red food coloring and peppermint extract to add extra sensory elements to this already fascinating concoction.  Children will be entertained, amazed, and curious as to why this goo can be a solid one minute and a liquid the next.  And it only takes 2 ingredients (in addition to the red food coloring and peppermint extract).
Candy Cane Goo (oobleck) from Science Sparks
5.  Candy Cane Paint by Bath Activities for Kids
Sensory play doesn't always have to be messy, but it sure is great sometimes!  This "paint" recipes is sure to be a messy and fun time for children of all ages.  Obviously you won't be using the bath at school, but you could still do finger painting, or paint brushing on large paper.  This recipe calls for shaving cream, peppermint extract and red food coloring.  If you decide to paint on paper, if you add a little bit of liquid glue it will dry just like puffy paint.  Kids of all ages would love this, and it will smell great!
Candy Cane Paint by Bath Activities for Kids





Sunday, December 6, 2015

Organizing Clothing Drawers


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Alright, admit it, who has drawers that look like these.....
Messy drawer of shirts...
...and pants.
Well, I definitely do, considering I snapped those photos of my very own drawers!  Most days I'm lucky if the clean clothes make it out of the laundry basket and find their way, folded, into to the drawers.  And when they do, they certainly aren't neatly organized and easy to find.  I recently saw an article all about storing clothes vertically, so that it was easy to see what you had, and much easier to store space wise.  I decided to give it a try.  Stay tuned to see how I wound up with this:
Ahhh, neatly organized and so easy to see what I have to wear!
I did used to work in a clothing store, so folding clothes was a specialty of mine.  I'll show you a neat trick for making them even, but once you get the hang of it, its pretty easy just to eye ball it.
Let's start with a shirt.  I'll apologize in advance that they photos are taken on the sheets of my bed, but somedays thats just how it goes...
Step 1:  Lay the shirt out flat.  Find something that is about the width of what you want your final product to be, I used a pocket folder that we had lying around.  Center it on the back of the shirt.
Step 2:  Fold one side over
Step 3:  Fold the other side over, and slip the folder out.
Step 4: Fold the bottom of the shirt all the way up to the collar.

Step 5:  Take the bottom and fold all the way up to the top again.  Voilá!

Nice and neat, and all the same width.  So easy to see what I have to work with!

Tank tops work a little differently, but with the same real feel.  Generally I just fold down the straps first, and then follow the same basic steps:
Straps down, and then follow the same steps as you would for a Tshirt.
As you get the hang of it you won't need something as a template (how I used the folder), you will be able to just eyeball the right width.
All shirts organized, I love it!
Pants are another story, but don't get discouraged, I promise that they aren't hard!  Step 1: Start by folding your pants in half, and popping the crotch triangle out.
Step 2: Bring the ankles up to the belt line.

Step 3:  Tuck in the crotch triangle, and fold the bottom midway up, this will hold the crotch tucked in, creating an even line.
Step 4: Take the bottom and fold up to the belt line.  Now that everything is tucked in it makes a nice even rectangle without any edges or corners sticking out.
And for the final product:
Tada!  Nicely organized clothing!
I love this.  Clothes take up way less space like this, and it is SO much easier to see what I have.  Oftentimes I have shirts that will get lost at the bottom of a drawer, and I forget I even own them!  This makes it so much easier to see what I have, and its simple to just grab and go in the morning.  Plus I was able to store way more this way, so I cut down on the number of drawers I needed, and the number of piles on the floor.  Now I have no excuse not to put my laundry away!

What tricks do you use for organizing your clothing?



Saturday, December 5, 2015

Cannoli Recipe

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As we continue to cook our way through my 29th year, we came upon the biggest challenge so far... the homemade Cannoli!  For reference we used this recipe from the Food Network.  We found that some of it worked, and some of it didn't.  Overall our biggest take away was that the dough and filling made WAY too much for us.  We could definitely have cut it in half and still had more than enough. Take a look below to see our adventure!

First we created the dough.  We did need to add more butter and more wine than the recipe called for to make it really form into a ball.
We then let the dough sit for a while and made the filling.  The recipe does say to let the filling chill for 30 minutes, we found that it really needs to chill for much longer than that or it will be super runny.  Still tasted great, but after sitting all night we found that the next day it was the perfect texture.
We purchased our Cannoli cones at a local high end cooking store.  We didn't have any luck finding them elsewhere, except for online.  They weren't cheap, and I can't guarantee we will be using them very often, but they got the job done!

After rolling out the dough, with lots of flour since it was sticky,  we cut the circles.  We found a piece of tupperware that was just about the right size and improvised since we didn't have a pastry cutter.  Worked out perfectly!
Next we wrapped the circular dough around a cannoli cone.  We pressed the edges to seal, if it started to separate we just dabbed a little water on the edges before sealing.
Once the cones were wrapped we fried in melted shortening.  They browed and puffed up quickly, and we just rotated with a pair of tongs.
After frying we put on paper towels to absorb the extra grease.  We left the cones in while they cooled to keep their shape. The slipped right out nice and easily within a few minutes.

And for the final step we filled with our filling.  As you can see it was pretty runny, it was delicious.  But if we had waited a few hours the filling texture would have been firmer.
All things considered, this recipe was great!  It made a really tasty dessert.  It did involve purchasing the cannoli cones, and we had to improvise a little when the dough didn't stick, and since we didn't have a way to judge the temperature of the shortening before frying.  But those were easy fixes.  Over the next few days we ate the filling like a dip using graham crackers to scoop it up.  It was amazing!

So far this has been the most challenging recipe we have tried, but it was definitely worth the effort.



Saturday, November 7, 2015

Healthy Treats for Kids - Thanksgiving Theme

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At our school we have completely turned the corned with special snacks that are allowed for Birthday Celebrations and class parties.  We now only encourage healthy options, and are starting to cut back on homemade treats as well.  Even when parents provide a list of ingredients, we can't be certain that their kitchen is a "Peanut Free" kitchen.  If they used the same cutting board that they used to make a PB&J sandwich on earlier, disaster could strike.  Allergies are a huge thing to be aware of these days, and the risks are just too high.   But I often times miss the days of homemade cupcakes and ice cream parties.
With the holidays coming up many families still want to do something special for their child's class.  Even though we offer suggestions like donating a book in the child's name, or sending in party paper goods so that the children can have their normal snacks and lunch on special plates, there are always a host of parents who demand food treats.  Coming up with healthy options to offer seems to have been our most successful approach.  Below are some of the best ones I've found for Thanksgiving.  Enjoy!
What a perfect Holiday Snack Idea!
That's What "Che" Said has these adorable Turkey Snack Bags.  Kids would get a kick out of getting these!  You could fill them with a number of different healthy treats, like whole wheat cheerios or chex, raisins, craisins or other dried fruits.  I can already picture their sweet faces when they receive something fun like this!
What a special festive snack!
The Foodies featured this adorable turkey muffin.  I mentioned that we don't always allow home-made treats because of the risk with allergies, but this would be a great cooking project our classes.  Parents could provide the muffin ingredients, or a mix, and the apple slices.  Children would have a great time helping their teachers measure, mix and stir.  Snacks are even more enjoyable when children help accomplish them.
How fun would this lunch be?
Bliss Tree features a number of great Thanksgiving Snack ideas for kids, but this one was one of my favorites.  It is more of a lunch option, but would be such a great surprise to slip into your child's lunch box.  Who doesn't love to play with food?!  Simple quesadilla, apple slices and a carrot for the middle.  This is a great lunch idea, and incorporates many healthy elements.

Turkey!
We do Peppers with Ranch Dressing on a regular snack basis, but theres no reason not to dress them up!  How hilariously cute is this little turkey!  This was featured over on CBC Parents.

Fruit cup, hold the ice cream :)
And one more just because.  Not really a Thanksgiving treat, but this is a great snack to send from home for a birthday or special occasion.  We often times do recommend fresh fruit with whipping cream, but adding them to an ice-cream cone is a sure way to have some very excited little ones!  Why didn't I think of that!

What are some healthy alternatives that you use to help make snack time special?


Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Apple Nachos - Delicious Fall Treat!

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This fall I have seen so many people post these delicious looking fall snacks, I wish I had time to make them all!  We didn't have time to make it apple picking this year, but I snagged some at the grocery store and decided to give Apple Nachos a whirl.  Essentially they are disassembled caramel apples, you can't go wrong!
I started by slicing up 6 apples, and then I soaked them in ice cold water with a splash of lemon juice.  This will prevent the apples from browning once they are sliced, it's a great trick if you are planning ahead want to pre-slice them for a snack later.  If you don't have lemon juice you can even soak them in a lemon lime soda for the same effect, small splash of sprite will do the trick!
Sliced apples soaking in iced Lemon Water
 While these soaked I melted about 20 marshmallows with 4 tbsps of butter...

Marshmallows and butter melting
Unwrapped and microwaved 20 caramel's with a teaspoon of water...

Caramels waiting to be unwrapped

Melted caramels and a smidge of water, just pop in the microwave!

While I waited for these to melt I arranged the sliced apples on a plate

Arranged apple slices

And then drizzled them with marshmallow and caramel.  We decided to add mini-M&M's, but really you could use any topping you like.  Think of all the delicious caramel apple toppings out there!

Drizzle, add toppings, and enjoy!

The end result was really tasty.  Still kind of messy since the marshmallow and caramel dripped off, but not as messy as trying to bite into a loaded apple.  They were a hit at the party, and I would highly recommend them!

What fall treats do you like to make?




Sunday, October 4, 2015

Fall Themed Snacks - Healthy and Delicious!

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Nobody loves a theme more than me!  I think a great way to introduce healthy foods to some of our children is to make it fun.  So I decided to round up some of my favorite Fall Themed snacks for children, or grownups!  Some of them are easy and take no time, other's take more prep time.  But they look so fun!
We provide two snacks a day for our children, and create a snack menu based on healthy choices.  We no longer allow families to bring in cupcakes or other sweets for birthdays, so we like to provide a "Birthday Alternatives" list.  I think some of these healthy options would be awesome for making snack fun and special, while still keeping it healthy.
It would be even better if you can get the little ones to help you prepare these snacks.  You can turn a cooking lesson into discussions on healthy foods, turn taking, measuring, cause and effect, and so much more.  Plus, children of all ages like to help out in the kitchen!  Take a look at some of my favorites below.
Candy Corn Popsicles - Delicious and Nutritious! By Girl Inspired
Girl. Inspired created these delicious looking homemade popsicles.  She lets each layer freeze for at least 5 minutes before pouring in the next layer.  This does require a popsicle mold, but I can think of so many other combinations that would be just as delicious.  This is a fantastic alternative to real Candy Corn, and all of the high sugar candies that start to come out this time of year.  Kids will feel like they are getting a special treat, since we don't do popsicles very often, when in fact they are getting a healthy alternative to candy or treats.
Microwave Sweet Potato Chips by Baked by an Introvert
We generally don't offer potato chips as a snack for our children, but these all natural sweet potato chips would be awesome.  And since all you need is a microwave kids could definitely help make them!  How easy are these, you literally slice, rinse, microwave for 3 minutes on each side, sprinkle with salt...and enjoy.  Anyone could do it!  I can't wait to try!

Fried Cinnamon Sugar Tortillas by Mondo
While on the topic of chips, look at these delicious looking friend cinnamon sugar looking tortillas.  With fall themed shapes, like these leaves, you can make something extra special for the kiddos.  Children can definitely help cut the tortillas with cookies cutters to make fun fall shapes.  But then you will need a separate space to safely fry them in oil.  Sprinkle them with a cinnamon sugar mix and serve immediately.  These look so tasty!

Baked Apple Chips by The Beach Body Blog
Now this recipe will definitely take more preparation and time, it takes over 2 hours to bake.  But you could always prepare them the day before.  During this time of year the majority of my students have recently gone apple picking.   They come in after a weekend excited to tell all about their time at the orchard, and many of them bring in bags of apples to share.  This is a really great way to use some of those apples!  These Baked Apple Chips are extremely easy, just time consuming.  Slice the apples, sprinkle with cinnamon, and bake.  Ta-da!  I think children will be excited about a new way to enjoy their apples!

Other great apple recipes are apple bran muffins or home made applesauce.  We do this with the crockpot in my classes almost every year.  The children love being able to measure ingredients, check throughout the day to see how the apples change, smell the smells, and then get to enjoy the finished product.  This is a wonderful science experiment for them as well.  How do apples go from solid to liquid?  And the classroom smells unbelievably delicious All. Day. Long.

Very simple pumpkin snack by Surviving A Teacher's Salary
So simple, but this brings new life to boring snacks!  How adorable is a peeled clementine or small orange and a stick of celery?!  I love how easy this is, but will excite children for a fun Healthy Pumpkin Snack.
Fall tree with Carrots, pretzels, and raisins
Fall tree with Pretzels and Tomatoes
These last two I found while looking around but don't have a source to send you to.  I love how both of these snacks incorporate vegetables for a healthy snack.  There is no way that they would stay looking this nice and neat, but they sure do make a statement!  I think that children would also enjoy making their own food art, and changing up the pictures as they eat parts of the snack.

Do you have any go to snacks for the fall time?  How do you make eating healthy fun?


All content, including text and original photos, are copyrighted and property of Jen Caffelle

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