Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rocket Cups - 3, 2, 1, Blast Off!!

Miss A has been watching a lot of documentaries on space lately and Miss G loves all things that go (especially if they are loud), so when I saw the rocket cups in the recent Family Fun Magazine I know they would be a hit with both the girls.

You need 2 cups for each rocket and a rubber band. The rubber band, cut and attached to the cup, acts as the propulsion system. I poked holes in the edge of the cup using a skewer then poked the rubber band through and tied a knot.

The girls of course had to decorate their rockets before the inaugural flights.

To blast off set the rubber band rocket cup over an unaltered cup and push down stretching the rubber bands. It took A a few tries to get the hang of it, but soon she was showing off her rocketeer skills to her dad. G never quite could get the rocket to actually blast off, she just would push it over the other cup then count down and throw her rocket cup into the air (she was still very impressed with the activity).

After mastering the basic blast off we played around with our elastic toys and found that one of the rockets consistently went higher than the other. We fiddled a bit and decided that the tighter the rubber band the higher the rockets went. Not satisfied with that as the final answer A continued experimenting and discovered that the rockets went higher when they were pushed all the way down over the other cup and that if she didn't push the rockets down very far they didn't go very high. To the delight of my kids our rocket with the tightest rubber band almost hit the ceiling when pressed down fully and launched from the dining room table.

What is your favorite way to play with rubber bands?


Fun Stuff Fridays

Friday, March 9, 2012

3 Tips for Cooking with a Toddler

My kids love to help me cook. G in particular loves helping in the kitchen, actually crying if I tell her it's a dish she can't help with. Having such an enthusiactic toddler helper is great and I'm glad we can share special time together, but the help definitley increases the stress in the kitchen. I've found the 3 tips below increase our fun and help me cope with my little kitchen helper.

1- Accept the mess
The truth is, cooking with a toddler is messy; that is just the nature of a toddler. Toddlers are explorers; and learning about their world is there job. They need to smear and dribble and splash. For me the best way to deal with the mess is to adjust my expectations. I make sure that G is not in a special outfit, that all items that could be ruined are off the counter, and that I'm not rushed; then I just roll with it. This stage is so fleeting; soon G's motor skills will develope, she will pour accuratly, follow directions, and I will remember fondly how she used to draw pictures in the flour.

2- Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
The more I prepare the more I enjoy cooking with a toddler. If possible I gather my ingredients and do any chopping or peeling while G is distracted elsewhere. Cooking is a lot more fun with a toddler if I don't have to worry about sharp knives or digging through the cupboards for an item. If I turn my back while cooking G will get creative and start adding anything she can get her hands on to the dish (dogfood pie is not so good).

3- Select your recipe carefully
In terms of eating G is a typical picky toddler, until we start cooking. She has to sample almost every ingredient as we cook; a blessing or a curse depending. Tasting raw chicken - very bad! But tasting brocolii she would never touch if it was on her dinner plate - good, good, good. If there is particular food item I really want G to try I will incoporate it into cooking with her. Without the pressure of sitting at the dinner table she is more likely to explore the food, pick it up, play with it, and ultimately taste it. (sneaky - I know). But since I can never be sure what my toddler will put in her mouth while cooking I also make sure that all the incredients in the recipe can be eaten without causing major harm. Below is one of my family's favorite tasteable recipes - Almost Healthy Chocolate Cake.

Almost Healthy Chocolate Cake (adapted from Secrets of Fat Free Baking)
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce
3/4 cup skim milk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 to 1/2 cup semi sweet chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

*Preheat the oven to 325 degrees
*Oil a 9x13 baking pan
*Mix all the ingredient except the chocolate chips in a large bowl - the kids can mix them up in any order and the cake still turns out wonderful. The batter will be a little lumpier than a traditional cake due to the applesauce.
*Pour the batter in the pan then sprinkle the top with the chocolate chips.
*Bake for 50 minutes
*Cool and eat. The cake is quite a bit moister than a traditional cake, more like a cake brownie. I hate to admit that the cake is devoured within about 3 days when we bake it, but if you will be keeping longer it's best to put the cake in the fridge. The cakes moister texture will cause it to spoil quicker if not refrigerated. 

 What are your tips for baking with kids?