Tag Archive for fine motor skills

Cooking with Kids-Homemade Pretzels

Cooking with kids has some wonderful fundamental benefits and making homemade pretzels has the added benefit of being super fun! Any kind of dough the kids can work with is a wonderful way to build fine motor skills, coordination, and other skills kids need for success. Working with dough is one of the best activities to improve penmanship skills for children. Making up some pretzel dough for the kids to manipulate is a wonderful way to build their self esteem while they are having fun. Rolling out “snakes” of any kind of dough is a hoot, don’t you remember doing it with play dough when you were a kid? I do, and that was oh, so long ago.

kids rolling homemade pretzles

Cooking with kids helps them be more involved with their food and in turn helps them want to try a wider variety of things. Kids are 80% more likely to try something they helped make. It’s a great way to open up new flavors for kids. Click here to see some of the other benefits of cooking with kids.


making pretzles with kids

Pretzel dough is simple to make and the kids can work it for a few minutes or an hour, whatever feels right for them. It doesn’t matter that much to the pretzel. Once the kids roll out all the snakes, you can let them form them into whatever shaped pretzels they want. It’s art and food, two for one special.

homemade pretzles-cooking with kids

Be sure when you are cooking with kids, to get your ingredients ready ahead of time. You can let the kids pour the ingredients in the bowl for this dough, or you can make the dough yourself and let them use it already made. Either way is a winner and you need to do what works for you. Making your life easier should be the goal of every activity you do with your children. Childcare of any kind can become overwhelming if you don’t take care of yourself as well.

I make my pretzels out of some whole wheat flour and some white. You can make yours with whatever combination you chose. Try not to make cooking with kids too complicated. All you need is a little flour, salt, and yeast to get some yummy pretzels going.

Homemade Pretzels
Simple pretzel dough.
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Ingredients
  1. 1 3/4 C. warm water
  2. 1 T. yeast
  3. 2 T. sugar
  4. 1 tsp. salt
  5. 1 C. wheat flour
  6. 3 C. white flour
Instructions
  1. Wash your hands and have the kids wash theirs.
  2. Place yeast in water, stir and set aside.
  3. Mix salt and flours together.
  4. Blend in yeast.
  5. Cover and let rise 30 minutes.
  6. Here is the fun part, form into pretzels.
  7. Brush with egg white and add salt to top.
  8. Bake at 450 for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Little Sprouts Learning http://littlesproutslearning.co/

 

 

 

 

How to Teach Kids about Amazing Germination!

Germination is an AMAZING process. A seemingly dead, dry seed is placed in the ground and water is added and like magic, a seedling appears. There is not much skill needed to sprout a seed, God does all the work for us in the little miracles He makes for the production of plants.

germinating seeds in the window

At Little Sprouts we learn about all the parts of the process of growing food. For kids to become master gardeners in their life time they need to understand how the process works.


We got these cool seeds from our Seeds of the Month club membership so we wanted to get to growing them right away. Seeds of the Month is super cool, you just order your membership and you get a surprise seed order every month for as long as you want to order. They are all heirloom seeds, which we love at Little Sprouts! If you want to check out their membership, click here.

seeds of the month

Seeds are alive! Inside of each seed there is an embryo. If the conditions in which the seed are stored are good, the seed will protect the embryo until it is placed in moist soil or water. The seed will actually die if it gets wet before it’s time to plant it, or if it gets too hot. Once the seed is moistened, the embryo comes out of dormancy, and then eats it’s “lunchbox” or the remainder of the seed inside of the seed coat. Kind of like a baby chick consumes the contents of the egg.

Once the seed eats it’s “lunchbox”, it will break through the seed coat and sent a tiny root to anchor the plant in the ground. Once the plant is anchored, the seed will send up a small shoot. That shoot will unfurl two tiny cotyledons or leaves and reach for the sunlight. Once these leaves open up, the seed will send roots downward. Those roots continue to grow until they reach the water and nutrients they need and then the plant will go back to work on leaves. It will produce two more leaves that are true to the plant called true leaves. The plant will then grow from there.

This is a fairly complicated process and hard for me to grasp as an adult. Can you imagine the difficulty in teaching this to children? So what’s a girl to do? There are clear boxes that can be purchased to show kids what goes on under the soil when planting a seed, but they are expensive and I have not had great luck with them in the past. The most inexpensive and easiest way to show the kids what happens is to plant seeds in zip lock bags. Here’s how we do it at Little Sprouts:

seed greenhouses

seedling germination

Take half of a paper towel and moisten it. Wring it out until it is not dripping wet but more than just damp. Give each child a moist paper towel and a zip lock sandwich bag. Have the children place the paper towel inside the baggie. Next give them three or four large seeds to place in the bag. I use large seeds because they are easy to handle and easy for the kids to see. Beans, corn, squash, or other large seeds work great. Have the children make sure the seeds are touching the paper towel. Next, write each child’s name (or if they are old enough, have them write it) on the baggie and tape them to the window. After a few days you will be able to see a small root begin to grow and you can watch the process the seed goes through under the ground happening inside the baggie.

learning about germination

We used these greenhouses because we happened to have them. Someone gave me a pack of 30 a few years ago and we had 7 left for this activity. A zip lock bag works just as well.

seeds germinating in the window

It’s an amazing process to watch! I have learned so much from this activity. It’s hands on. Kids learn so much more from doing than from watching and this is a great activity they can do. I promise you will learn right along with them. Even if you don’t work with kids, I encourage you to try this experiment. Learning what’s happening under the ground will help you understand the process you’re watching in the garden.

This activity is teaching kids life cycle science as well as fine motor skills and observation techniques. Patience is practiced when growing a seed whether it is under the ground in in a clear baggie taped to the window. There is so much that can be learned from a seed. Try growing something with your kids today!

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Snappy Snack Mix-Cooking with KIDS!

Making snack mix is an easy, fun activity that kids can do with just a little guidance. Kids love to make their own food and are more likely to make healthy choices if they are involved in the preparation and choices of what they are eating. Click here to see how I get my kids to try and enjoy healthy foods.

To make a snack mix, you can choose from multiple ingredients. Pretty much whatever you can dream up can be mixed together. We use dried fruits, different crackers and pretzels, dry cereals, mini chocolate chips, granola, marshmallows, and whatever else we have on hand that we think sounds tasty.

I let the kids measure the ingredients so we can practice math skills. We usually do a cup of the cereals, crackers, etc. to a half of a cup of dried fruits such as raisins and a fourth of a cup of something like mini chocolate chips.


First when doing any sort of cooking with kids, make sure everyone washes their hands!

making snack mix with preschoolersThen the kids can begin taking turns adding the ingredients to their mix. We made a double batch of this mix to have plenty for everyone, so I divided each ingredient into two measurements so there would be more turns per person. Making sure everyone gets as many turns as possible is a great key to success when cooking with multiple children.

If you have several children you are trying to make a recipe with, there are many opportunities for melt downs and mishaps. Be prepared! Get all the ingredients and tools prepared ahead of time. Let the kids know everyone will get a turn, so they will be more likely to be patient. Taking turns is a very important school readiness and social skill that kids NEED for their future success. Cooking is a great way to teach it.

cooking with kids-snack mixOnce all the ingredients are added, it’s time for everyone to take a turn to stir. Kids LOVE to stir, so anything we make is sure to have lots of steps that call for stirring. Once you have the mix mixed, it’s time to dish it up and serve.

What kind of simple recipes have you had success making with kids?

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10 Great Reasons to Cook with your KIDS!

10 Great Reasons to Cook with your KIDS!

Cooking with kids is so important for many reasons. Cooking is a life skill children need and even though it’s tempting to shoo them out of the kitchen so you can get things done, every once in a while it’s a great idea to get them involved. Learn to cook with your kids. It’s a wonderful activity to spend time doing with them and then you can eat the results. Good times.

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“Popping” Beans

I would have to say my kid’s favorite activity from our garden season this year has been “popping the beans”. We tried to grow a ton of drying beans, as mentioned in this earlier post, but we ended up with a little less. We have been popping beans on and off for several weeks and finally we are finished shelling them all. We grew black beans, pinto beans, and a few little beans from overgrown green beans that we will cook up the same way. In total, we shelled 3 ½ pounds.

shelling beans with kids

The whole time we were shelling them, I kept wondering how beans are so cheap at the store. It’s a lot of work to prepare them for eating. I can’t imagine shelling 50 pounds of beans. WOW.

kids shelling beans

Shelling beans is a great fine motor skill and sensory activity. My kids never tired of it, they asked every day if they could “pop” some beans. Many of the beans fell on the ground or floor, but picking them up is a great activity for the kids too. I tried to show them to open the pod over the bucket, but they will get better at that over time. It’s just more opportunities to learn.

drying beans, gardening with kids


We had two big plastic totes full of vines, and ended up with a few small bags of beans to save. It took several weeks for them to dry. They are really pretty, I can’t wait to cook them for the kids. Think of how exciting it will be for them to eat their own beans in their soup or burritos.

shelling beans

We could also replant these beans for growing more vines. Another lesson in seed saving came with this activity.

As we were shelling, I kept thinking of that thrift store rap song about popping tags. If you can look past the onslaught of foul language, it’s kinda funny. So I made up this little diddy to the tune. Needless to say, I’m a little weird. But I make myself smile.

I’m gonna pop some beans

I got 20 hands to help me drop ’em

I’m gonna pop some beans

And feed these kids some tacos…

 

What experiences have you had with beans in the garden?

Pumpkin Stamping

A great fine motor and sensory experience for kids is making pumpkin stamps. They can dip them in paint or like we did, an ink pad, and stamp the shapes onto paper. The pumpkin smells amazing as they are stamping, and they are learning to hold the pieces of pumpkin and manipulate them to stamp. This is great skill building for fine motor development.

Its pumpkin explore time at Little Sprouts and we are learning all kinds of things about pumpkins and the color orange. We even practiced making orange play dough from yellow and red play dough. Good times!

mixing red and yellow play dough to make orange

We had a little pie pumpkin on the porch that was rotten on the bottom, so I cut the bottom off and cut the rest of the flesh into different shapes. First I cut the pumpkin into wedges, then I cut the wedges into smaller pieces. Then I trimmed the sides off the shape to make it into a triangle, square, or rectangle. You could do any shape you want. Then I carefully sliced the pulp side off as straight as I could making it smooth and pulp free so it would make good contact for the stamping.


While I cut the pumpkin, we talked about the smell, the color, the gooey feel. The kids are learning all kinds of things from exploring the pumpkin. When you get ready to stamp with the pumpkin shapes, you can stick a fork in the back side of the pumpkin to make a handle, or you can let them use the pieces directly.

learning with pumpkins

The kids talked about what shape they were using as they stamped and we talked about our ink being orange and the pumpkin being orange. We counted how many stamps we made and how many times we stamped them and after their papers dried, they talked about the shapes and colors of the prints they made with their parents when they picked them up. They spontaneously talked about color, shapes, and counting on their own.

This is what I mean when I tell people that we learn in an informal way. It’s called fun! Kids are spontaneous learners, it comes naturally. When kids are allowed to learn in this way, they learn better than when we try to force them to learn by quizzing them or using flash cards.

This is an open ended creative art project. The kids are not given an example or expectations of what their art is supposed to look like. It is their creation and it can become whatever they want it to be. Please keep in mind that when the focus is put on the product or perfect representation of something the adult expects, children’s self-esteem is damaged because their self image rests in what the adult expects of them.  However, open ended art focuses on the process of what they are making instead of the product that results. Children are empowered by this type of experience. They are free to be in control of their own skills and they have fun as well. They are successful!

pumpkin stamping

Next week we are going to make pumpkin seeds and pumpkin pie out of our other pie pumpkins. I can’t wait! What is your favorite way to use pumpkin?

How to Rock at Growing your own Dried Beans

I was simply amazed when I learned that you could grow regular pinto or black beans. I can’t believe you can dry them yourself and store them to cook later. I don’t know why I thought this was not possible, but it never entered my mind that it was. One thing to keep in mind is that you have to plant A LOT of drying beans to get a pound. However, it is fun and super easy to do!

planting beans

First plant the beans. You can even plant beans you buy to eat from the store if you wish. We purchased seed packets to make sure we were getting organic and non GMO seeds. We planted ours around April 15th which is our last frost date. 

As they grow, instead of picking them off the vines like green beans, you let them grow to maturity and dry right on the vines.  When they turn yellow or brown, you pick the pods off and store them for a few more weeks on a wire rack to finish drying.  You can shell them before or after you dry them, they will dry fine either way.  If you harvest the entire vine, you can bang them up against the inside of a barrel and the beans will come out all at once. 

When we take out spent vines at Little Sprouts, we leave the roots in the soil for further nutrients next time we use our soil.  The roots have nodules of nitrogen that give even more nutrients than other plants.  Definitely leave the roots in the ground!

dry bean pods

This is what the dried pods look like.


The kids LOVE to shell the beans and it’s a great activity for fine motor skill development.  In addition, they get sensory experience from this activity.  There are many beautiful beans that can be grown in beautiful color varieties for even more learning.  You can save some of them to use for seeds next year. 

pinto beans

This is what they look like in the pod, when you open it, they just fall out.

shelling beans with kids

bean shelling

kids shelling beans

 

What are your favorite kind of drying beans?  Mine are definitely black beans.  Yum yum.

Sunflowers!

Sunflowers are amazing.  They draw pollinators, look gorgeous, and make food for birds.  Obviously the seeds are delicious as well. 

yellow flowers

This year we grew quite a few sunflowers.  We searched the internet for the sunflowers with the claims as the “biggest” sunflowers.  My Little Sprouts LOVE growing things that are the biggest or the tiniest.  We also ran out of time and money in the expansion for trellising materials, so we grew several rows of sunflowers for our drying beans to trellis on. 

Our largest sunflower ended up being 14 feet tall! 

giant sunflower stalk


The stalk was as big around as a tree trunk.  And the head was about 14 inches across.  The kids were amazed, as were many garden visitors we had.

measuring sunflower heads

When the seed heads began to droop over, we had some ornery birds who didn’t want to share the seeds.  We cut the heads off of about 2/3 of the large sunflowers and put them on a screen in the shed to dry.  We left the rest for the birds as well as all the smaller flowers.

harvesting sunflowers with kidsharvesting sunflower headsgiant sunflower head

After about a month of drying on the rack in the shed, the flower heads were dry and the backs had turned black.

dried sunflower heads

It was time to remove the seeds.  We had quite a lot of fun doing it.  It was great fine motor skill building.  Some of the kids wanted to pick seeds for a while, and some wanted to do it for a long time.  We did it next to the playground so they could come and go as they wanted and we could keep working.

harvesting seeds from sunflowers

harvesting dried sunflower seeds

We ended up with about a half a bucket full of seeds and pieces of seed head.

bucket of sunflower seeds

Next we sorted the debris from the some of the seeds.  We saved the rest for bird seed for the winter.

sunflower sortingsunflower seeds cleaned

Then we made a bowl of salt water to soak the seeds in overnight.  We used 8 cups of warm water and 1/2 cup of salt.  Next time, I will probably double the salt.  They were good, but store bought sunflower seeds are much saltier and more salt would make them taste more familiar.

salting sunflower seeds

sorting sunflower seeds

soaking seeds sunflower

The following day, we drained the seeds and roasted them at 300 degrees until they were slightly darker, dry, and tasty.  It took about 30 minutes.

roasting sunflower seeds

tasting sunflower seeds

Then it was time for tasting.  We got several thumbs up.  We packaged up the rest of the seeds, and each of the kids got to take some home to share with their families.  The kids LOVED this project.  🙂

What is a super fun project you’ve done with your kids?

Garden Glory-Brussels Sprouts

This week my little sprouts and I harvested over 48 pounds of produce from our garden, including Brussels sprouts.  That puts us up over 500 pounds total for this season.  Is that amazing or what?  Last year in our small garden, we harvest over 650 pounds of food, but over 250 pounds of it was pears from our pear tree that did not produce this year.  All of our fruit trees were blooming when we got a deep hard freeze this year and none of them produced fruit.  In addition, our pear tree is fighting a severe case of fire blight, so we’re not sure if it will ever make fruit again.  We are going to prune it severely this winter and see if it can make a come back.  We been enjoying delicious pears from that tree for 15 years, and they were missed this year.  Needless to say, we are enjoying quite a bit of produce anyway.

I have been intrigued by how much of what we have grown, but I think in the future I will just weigh it all and not each type of food because it’s very time consuming.  It will be fun to see the totals at the end of the season anyway.

This is Monday's harvest.  Everything but the okra is slowing down, but we are still getting a lot.

This is Monday’s harvest. Everything but the okra is slowing down, but we are still getting a lot.

This week we picked 3 1/2 pounds of okra, 8 1/2 pounds of cantaloupe, 28 pounds of tomatoes, 4 pounds of Brussels sprouts, and some cucumbers, hot peppers, tomatillos, and cabbage.    We also got a couple of green beans and a handful of dry bean pods.

Thursday's harvest we a little less organized.  Still delicious and beautiful though.

Thursday’s harvest we a little less organized. Still delicious and beautiful though.


We went ahead and harvested the remaining Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, and cabbage today.  I figured if they haven’t made any size increase by now they aren’t going to and we need room for our new crop of those things, so we got all that were left.

Some of the kids never tire of picking.  Zealous for gardening.  :)

Some of the kids never tire of picking. Zealous for gardening. 🙂

kids harvesting cabbage

harvesting brussels sprouts

harvesting brussels sprouts with kids

After harvest time we spent some time picking sprouts off the stalks and building up our fine motor skills.

picking brussel sprouts with kids

brussels sprouts picking with kids

kids harvesting brussel sprouts

What’s happening in your garden this week?  I hope even if you don’t grow, you at least got to taste a homegrown tomato or something this week.  There is not much better.