Friday, July 11, 2014

fun with rainbow dough

If you haven't noticed by now I am a bit of a rainbow freak. I love using the rainbow in the classroom to teach color, sequencing, and pre-reading skills. If you think about it, understanding the order of the colors in the rainbow from left to right is a precursor to reading. Plus, in nature and science, the order of the colors is always the same.
 I used my favorite stove top dough recipe (which you can find here) and made a single batch for each color. I used liquid watercolor (so much happy color to be had) to tint the dough. For set up, I placed a small ball (about half a batch of each so that each class could experience the colors separately before they got mixed to that glorious shade of brown that dough tends to get when all the colors are mixed) of each color on top of a sheet of blue construction paper that had been laminated with clear contact paper. I placed the dough colors in rainbow order.
Next to the happy dough, I set out a collection of dyed craft sticks and cubes. The craft sticks and cubes were purchased at a few different craft stores. I had been collecting them gradually just for this project (inspiration came from fun at home with kids) as wood pieces tend to be a bit on the pricier side of things. Thank goodness for sales!
The children oohed and aahed when they saw the happy set up. Weirdly, the colors remained unmixed for two weeks. Mostly they stacked the colors on top of each other then jabbed various sticks and cubes into the mess. A few of the children color sorted all the bits and created ice cream cones and rainbows even. We actually used this dough all the way through the end of the year though by that time it was a lovely shade of rust. The craft sticks and cubes visited many areas of the classroom as lollipops, tickets, money, magic cubes, and more. The children had a lot of fun playing with our rainbow dough!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

diy: rainbow clothespins

For our week of rainbow I dyed up a batch of wooden clothespins using the same method I use for dying pasta.
While I was at it, I dyed large craft sticks and small wooden cubes as well. These are not colorfast and do bleed onto paper and play dough when wet (maybe they would be colorfast if I had added rubbing alcohol). But that's okay, I think that only adds to their charm. 
 I set the rainbow pins up on one of my favorite trays along with a wooden storage box made of a thin veneer. I hoped the children would figure out that they could balance the clothespin on the side of the box and they did! I made multiples of each color so that they could sort or arrange as they wished.

Some of the children noticed that all of the colors of the rainbow were represented. Others counted out how many pins there were. The clothespins migrated all over the classroom but mostly they were balanced on the edge of the box. Fun!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

diy dyed pasta

There are oodles of diys for coloring rice and pasta put there (hello, Pinterest). I suppose mine is no more different than anyone other but I'm going to share it with you anyway. I use this method for dying rice, beans, pasta of all shapes and size, and even wood pieces such as wee blocks and/or clothes pins. It's really easy!
This is a small batch of dyed pasta as I only had one box. I wanted to use this pasta so the kiddos could string the pieces onto pipe cleaners during our week of rainbow. I think I did all the colors in the rainbow but I can't remember. I also have to tell ya that dying pasta purple is really difficult and you will most likely get something more akin to bergundy. So here is what I did. I scooped a cup of noodles into each bowl. Just a cup. A little goes a long way. Just one cup for each color if you are using a single pckage. Oh and this pasta is called ditalini and if you buy it in a box with that label you will be sorely over paying. It can also be found in a box labeled macaroni salad pasta and this my friends will be 2-3 dollars less. But that just may be my market...

Place your one cup of dry pasta into a resealable bag or container. Add a squirt or two of liquid watercolor or food color (you can even use watered down acrylic paint), seal the bag and shake it up. Use your fingers to smoosh the paint around from the outside of the bag. For color stay noodles, you can add a tablespoon of vinegar or rubbing alcohol. The rubbing alcohol will help the noodles dry more quickly. You do not need to add either this is optional. If I remember I do, if I don't, I do not worry about it.

Spill the damp and now colorful noodles onto a cookie sheet that has been lined with wax or parchment paper until dry. It takes about 15 minutes to dry. Repeat for each color you wish.
Ah, yes. I did do each color of the rainbow and I think I did use watered down acrylic for the purple. It looks pretty vibrant there. I popped all the happy colorful noodles into a small shallow container along with a couple of wooden spoons. Next to the container I set out our happy rainbow bowls (best $3 thrift find!) and a white acrylic tray and waited for the fun to begin.
There was maybe a moment or two of color sorting going on but the bigger pleasure for the children was running their hands through the hole happy mess along with scooping, pouring, and dumping. Success!

Friday, July 4, 2014

july 4th: last minute patriotic flair three ways

Need and activity to keep the kiddos busy? Make friendship bracelets! You can go the usual route and use red, white, and blue embroidery floss but I like to use variegated yarn. One, because you only need to purchase one ball of yarn, and two, because yarn is a little bit easier for little hands to hold on to.
This red, white, and blue ball of yarn is made of all cotton fiber. If you do not have one handy or your local shops are not open you can make your own ball using a couple of sharpies, white yarn, and a craft stick, like this.
To create this lumpy bumpy bracelet I knotted three strands of yarn around one strand using the basic friendship knot. Click here for a video demo I made a few years ago.
This bracelet uses the same basic knot. To make it knot one strand of yarn around the other two and switch to use the next color. The way my yarn was dyed I had to use three separate strands to create the blocked red, white, and blue look.
The final bracelet also uses three strands but instead of knotting them up I braided them. A safety pin is a great tool to add tension to the yarn as you knot and/or braid. You can pin it to your pant leg or a pillow.
Have a Happy Fourth, get crafty and stay safe! For more 4th of July fun, click here!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

fourth of july: coconut chia pudding parfait

This past school year, the kiddos were really into cooking, prepping, baking, and eating. The last recipe we tried was making chia seed pudding. If you are not familiar with chia seeds as a thickener or over all super food, check out this article. It was ridiculously simple and two of the children gobbled it up before it could set. I still need to post photos from our recipe day but here is a super easy patriotic parfait you and your children can whip up in a flash. Set time is at least two hours but an overnight rest is even better. If you want the texture to be firmer, add more seeds. If you want it to be sweeter, add more honey or other liquid sweetener of your choice (maple syrup is a good substitute).
Here's what you need to make four small parfaits...small meaning an 8oz mason jar. I added a little half n half to give the pudding a richer flavor. You do not need to do this. Some people add coconut water as well, some add different juices or other milks. I went with straight up coconut milk (the refrigerated variety, not canned) and it's just dandy. Chia seeds are on trend right now so the cost is a bit inflated. Trader Joe's sells a nice smaller bag for around $4 (I think it is 8oz). When I made the pudding with the kiddos at school, I picked up a cup of seeds from the bulk bin at Whole Foods. If you have never tried chia seeds I would try to find them in bulk. If the pudding is something you do not cotton to, you can add the seeds to smoothies, oats, cookies, or salads.
Pour your coconut milk into a medium sized bowl (I used a 4 cup measuring cup) and add your half n half. Next dump your chia seeds into the milk and add your honey as well. Use a wooden spoon to mix it up and add your vanilla. I also added a dash of cinnamon...I was feeling whimsical. Mix it all up and pop it into your refrigerator. If you think of it, after an hour or so, pull out the mixture and give it another stir or two. The seeds tend to settle on the bottom.
The next day, once the pudding is set you can assemble your parfaits. Place a handful of blueberries in the bottom of the jar, spoon a quarter cup or so of the pudding on top of the berries, add sliced or chopped strawberries and top with granola. I have to admit, chia pudding is will not win any beauty contests. Admittedly it looks a it alien and goopy. The mister will not touch it. You may want to liken it to the consistency of tapioca but that isn't right. The chia seeds are not as firm as tapioca or boba if anything the texture is a bit like a cold malt-o-meal...sort of. If you find that your mixture is too goopy, add another tablespoon of chia seeds, stir and let set. This recipe is really loose and you can play with the ingredients to get the texture you like.
This tiny jar full of goodness is adorable and ready for the 4th! Tie with a length of variegated cotton yarn or twine and throw a happy shindig!
Really, look how cute that is! It's tasty too! I suppose you could try making this pudding with any type of milk beverage. Oooh, I wonder what it would taste like with horchata? Or what if you got all decadent and omitted the coconut milk and used straight up half n half? The possibilities are immense!
See? Easy peasy. Kiddos can easily measure, pour, dump, and stir it all up. This is not an exact recipe so there is a lot of wiggle room. Now getting the young ones to eat it up may be a different story. Happy July 4th!

a bit of serendipity

The last time the mister and I were in Los Angeles we managed an epic Ikea run. Epic by way of items to use in the classroom. One of the items I purchased was this cookie cutter set. I had no idea when or how I would introduce it to the classroom but it was so cute how could I resist? When we got home, I tucked them away and totalyl forgot about them until this week when I found them again. As I was gathering supplies for school, I grabbed the cookie cutters and thought to place them in a small baking pan I picked up from the dollar store. Lo and behold, they fit crazy perfectly and so instead of adding the cookie cutters to the play dough table, I set up this shape match instead. The children were intrigued and perplexed as it was not as easy as it appeared. We talked about orientation and direction and used words such as rotate, turn, and flip. The children also got to practice naming the animals in the set. Serendipity is fun!