Edible Hanukkah Menorah

Hanukkah has begun and what better way to celebrate after all the jelly donuts and potato latkes than with more food – an edible menorah! You’ll need graham crackers, frosting, marshmallows, pretzel sticks, and optional food coloring.

Line up your graham crackers as the base and apply your frosting glue. (Yes that band-aid has excavators and dump trucks on it – a dream come true!)

Attach the candle holder marshmallows. Don’t forget to make the big one in the middle for the shamash candle (the one that lights all the others).

Insert the pretzel candles.

Paint with food coloring mixed with water. You can also spread more frosting and decorate with other candies and add dried apricots as flames!

The best part of this project is tasting it at the end. Happy Hanukkah!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Glow Sticks and Balloons

December 22nd at 5:30 AM is the winter solstice.  For parents this means filling long hours of indoor activities or finding creative ways to play in the dark.

We often meet friends at the park right before dusk.  After the sun sets, for a special treat we bring out some glow sticks and balloons. Since the kids are familiar with the glow sticks, they know to bend the sticks to initiate the glowing.

While the kids are starting the glow sticks, we start blowing up the balloons.  When the balloon is half full of air, we quickly insert a glow stick. This step takes a few trials before we are able to coordinate the operation (imagine balloons zipping all over the playground!).

Once fully inflated and tied off, the balloons are ready for play.  B’s friend calls them “twinkle balloons” and enjoys just shaking the glow stick around.  B tosses and kicks the balloon around, his face all aglow.

We try various balloons, and ultimately find the best outcome with two glow sticks in a white balloon (Yep, those multi-colored glowing orbs started out white. Pretty neat, yes?).

 

With the darkness of wintertime setting in, what do you do with your kids to make the best of the early sunsets?

 

Melted Crayon Planets

It’s space month here at Kiwi Crate! Fortunately, the planets are cooperating and making a strong showing in the night sky. As of December, you can spot five planets visibly glistening – Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn – if you know where to look. Golden Jupiter and Venus show up the brightest and earliest.

Now that it gets dark early, my son H and I have been making a point to look for Jupiter and Venus before bedtime. H also thought it’d be fun to create our own planets.

We serendipitously figured out an easy way to make planets is by melting crayons on paper plates. As the crayon bits melt they create swirls, stripes and masses that look a lot like planets, at least to H it does and that’s all that matters, right?

He says this is Earth. We made a couple, since Earth is naturally his favorite.

To get started, we first chopped and grated the crayons into smaller pieces. I did the chopping while I supervised my son in the grating, reminding him to take care with his fingers and knuckles! He loved the tactile sensation of grating, particularly the shredding. Though fine shreds of crayon weren’t as useful for this project as the slightly larger pieces he created with the larger holes.

We scattered the crayon bits evenly on the plate, then I put the paper plate in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time, checking to see if the crayons had started melting (I told my son, “This is an adult only step!”) .
Once they had melted a bit, I made sure the crayons weren’t too hot to the touch and handed the plate to my son. He began swirling the colors together and covering the plate by tilting it and smashing the melted crayon around with his fingers. He loves a good tactile project, and this one delivers.

Finally, we cut some of the extra white edges of paper plate away and hung up our constellation in a window against the night sky. “Look mom, we made planets!!”.

We talked about how planets appear as different colors. Though I was only partly mindful of this fact while we enjoyed the process together, my son was sure we picked blue, green and brown for Earth. To make Mars we mixed reds and browns, and for Venus yellows and reds. Yellows would work for Mercury and Saturn as well. Uranus is green and Neptune is blue.

For kicks, I made a special Jupiter with yellow, white, orange plus the famous red spot! I used a butter knife to get the striped effect and hung it in front of our Christmas tree so the lights look like stars. By this time, my son had already moved on to playing trains in his room, but I was still enjoying exploring the colors and textures! He was pretty interested in my Jupiter the next day at breakfast, though, so we explored more and learned this planet song.

The nice thing about this project is that if you want, you can match the color of each planet, and the relative sizes by using large and small plates and by cutting each accordingly. Our creations were more in the spirit of planets.

Space | Starry, Starry Nights (or Days)

View constellations on your wall or ceiling any time of day or night!

Space | Starry, Starry Nights (or Days)')">

Space | Why are there Craters on the Moon?

A discovery using flour, cocoa and different-sized rocks to observe how meteors create craters on the moon’s surface.

Snow Globes

I have always had a nostalgic fascination with snow globes, and my kids have recently become similarly enamored (I think it happened when my husband brought back a miniature one from a business trip to NYC with the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building in it.  Stay tuned for our own crazy combos in a minute…)  So when I saw an image on Pinterest of some beautiful globes, I knew we had to add it to our holiday activity list.

Now, I will be honest – snow globes rank rather low on the No Mess scale (there is glitter AND water involved, after all.)  And ours did not turn out quite as lovely as those you see at the mall or Martha Stewart.  But the kids and I had a grand time designing them, and they really were a great activity for a dreary December Sunday.  I think we’ve got a new tradition on our hands.

The Pinterest image didn’t have a source, so our approach is based on a hodge-podge of sources I found online / YouTube, plus a little trial & error.  Learn from my mistakes!

Materials list:

  • Glass jars – *important*: before you start, test and make sure the lids screw on securely & don’t leak (I didn’t do this, and discovered after all was said & done that my lids were a little leaky. Ugh.)  You’ll see a Mason jar in the picture below, but we decided that wasn’t the best because of the pattern on the side; smoother seemed better to us.

  • Small plastic figurines – I picked up a couple of the Toob containers at Michael’s (one of buildings and one of trees), and found some festive figurines on sale at Rite Aid.  You can totally go with stuff you have around the house, if like us, you have little fairies, pirates, animals, etc from various sets / birthday parties, etc.
  • Glitter – yep, you do need glitter.  I saw online you could use crushed white eggshells instead, but that seemed like more trouble than it’s worth.  We used white & silver glitter; you could use whatever you like.
  • Glycerin or baby oil – (available at any drug store); this adds some viscosity to the water so the glitter floats longer.  But we tested one jar without it, and it honestly didn’t seem to make a huge amount of difference.
  • Hot glue or super glue – to glue the figurines to the jar lid (this is obviously a grown-up step.)  Also, if you want to make sure the lids stay ON those jars of water & glitter despite any attempts by a curious kiddo to open them, you can glue them on at the end.

Next, have your kids select the figures they want to use and arrange them on the lids.  We thought this part was super fun… it’s like creating your own tiny mini-city. 

Two things to keep in mind before you glue the figures down: 1) make sure they’re not taller than your jar (we had to be sure to match the Empire State to the tall jar) and 2) be sure to leave enough space at the edges of the lid so you can screw them back onto the jar.

Once you all feel good about the arrangement of your scene, you can super glue the figurines to the lid.  (I just love the assemblages: Empire State Building+Eiffel Tower+Leaning Tower of Pisa, Santa+Taj Majal+Arc de Triomphe and Big Ben+Statue of Liberty!)

You’ll want to let them dry for long enough to be sure the glue will hold.  In the meantime, you can add water to the jars — fill them not quite to the threads to start (the figurines will take up space when you put them in.)

Then add the glycerin — about a half-teaspoon, and the glitter — about a teaspoon.  You’ll see we added quite a bit more than that — some of us MAY have gotten carried away when given free rein on the glitter.

Then carefully screw the lid back onto the jar.  You might want to do this over the sink in case there’s too much water in the jar when you put the figurine in.  You can also check to see if you need to add a bit more water.

Shake them up and watch it snow!

Note: I discovered my jar with Santa in it had a leaky fit after it was all complete.  To salvage it a bit, I rimmed the lid with hot glue.  It didn’t completely solve the problem, but made us able to shake the jar a bit and enjoy it.  But these are creations that stay on the kitchen windowsill, just to be on the safe side!  And I think they look lovely next to our Mod-podge Magazine Christmas Trees!

 

 

 

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Strawberries + Whipped Cream = Santa Claus!

If you’re looking for a holiday-themed dessert that will give your kids a chuckle, this is about as easy as it gets.  Pick yourself up a can of whipped cream and a pint of strawberries, and you’re good to go.  I know we are among the lucky ones in California because we can still get strawberries through the dead of winter (yes, they still call it winter here – though as my 4-year old likes to remind me, “it doesn’t snow in our land”.)  But it doesn’t really matter if your strawberries are not the tastiest ones — you’re topping them with whipped cream, after all.

 

 

All you do is cut off the stem end (toss that) and slice a little hat off the top (save that.)  Put a dollop of whipped cream on for a beard and another, smaller dollop on for the hat.
 

 

Adorable?  I think so.  I’m sharing my kinda sloppy Santas above (apologies for the poor lighting!  It’s winter after all, and practically dark at 4:30…argh.)  If you’re very gourmet and happen to have black sesame seeds in your pantry, you can add them for eyes (it does make him look a lot more like Santa) — and you’ll have something along the lines of my inspiration here:

 

In either case, I bet your kids will scarf them up, as mine did, and clamor for more.  Good news is that a can of whipped cream lasts for at least 2 pints of strawberries, plus a few mugs of hot cocoa, as a bonus.

 

Ho! Ho! Ho!
 

What are your (or your kids’) favorite holiday treats?

Clay Ornaments

OK, I’ve finally accepted that my calendar isn’t broken. It really is almost the middle of December(!!). Though my Christmas spirit is still simmering, my 4-year-old son’s holiday radar is burning red hot. He’s ready for Santa action, so when I asked him if he’d like to make his own tree ornaments, he could hardly contain his excitement!

To make our ornaments, we used:

Air dry white clay
Wax paper
Cookie cutters
Glitter glue
Rolling pin
Straws or chop sticks (to make the holes)
Hooks or twine for hanging
Paint brush
The first step, and the one that required a bit of elbow grease, was conditioning and rolling out the clay. My son loved working the clay with his hands, and he got to do some of the flattening with a rolling pin. The clay can be sticky so the wax paper was key, and since the clay is thick too, I stepped in to get it smooth and flat.
My son pressed down his cookie cutters on the flattened clay, and my first instinct for isolating the part of interest was to peel away the clay outside the cutters. Wrong! It worked much better to simply lift the cookie cutters since the clay inside neatly pulled up with the cutter.

With a clear image in his mind of how he wanted to decorate his gingerbread man, tree and snowflake, my son carefully applied the glitter glue. But the glitter glue wasn’t always cooperative. It has a tendency to blob out if you squeeze too hard. He also tried painting the glue on with a paintbrush, which is nice for coating the clay. Despite the blobs, I still think the glitter glue is a great choice. My son practiced fine motor control, the glitter bonded well to the clay, and of course it shimmers!

Finally, I made my own ornaments (I couldn’t resist!) and used a straw or chopstick to poke the hole for hanging on the tree. We let our ornaments dry overnight, and the next day we flipped them over so the back side could dry, giving you a chance to decorate it the next day too.

Another option, if you’re not into glitter glue, is find objects to press into the clay — sort of along these lines You could try pine needles, pine cones, shells — or even Matchbox-type cars or little figures or animals.

In any case, we would love to see your DIY Christmas tree ornaments!  Please  add them to our Kiwi Crate Facebook page.  It’s always fun to see your creations too!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Pine Cone & Pompom Christmas Trees

Guest post from Jen at paintcutpaste.com

This is an oldie but a goodie – making Christmas trees out of pine cones and pompoms.

 

 

My daughter was so excited when I presented her with a bag of sparkly red and white holiday pompoms that I picked up for $1 and a pine cone from the yard. (Hooray for the little things in life!)

 

Perhaps it was the way I placed the pine cone on her art table or she’d seen this before, but without any prompting, she said, “I’m going to decorate this as a Christmas tree!”

She got right to work, using dots of school glue on some of the pine cone’s scales to adhere the pompoms to the pine cone.

After creating the little red and white one, she dug into our craft supplies to (successfully) find more pom poms, and decided that the little tree needed a “rainbowy mommy tree”  — naturally!

Sometimes these classic crafts from our own childhoods have staying power with our little ones!