Sunday, October 9, 2011

Train Themed Preschool Snacks

Like I did for dinosaurs, I made some special snacks to go along with our train unit study. These are simple foods I was going to make anyway just cut and colored to look like trains. If you have train cookie cutters, these would be even easier.
Train soda crackers
Eating train crackers
Eating a carrot train
Train themed lunch: Train egg salad sandwiches and carrot trains
Carrot trains are fun to eat

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Train Themed Preschool Craft: Dough Trains

Here are a couple more train themed crafts. The boys love drawing pictures and coloring pictures of trains, but sometimes, it is fun to do something more 3D. These two sets of dough trains were a lot of fun to make.

Train Themed Preschool Craft: Salt Dough Trains

Let the child create whatever kind of train they can imagine. You can also show them how to make trains out of shapes stuck together. Or if you want more uniform trains, roll out the dough and cut it with train cookie cutters. Bake or let dry to harden the dough. Paint if desired.

Train Themed Preschool Craft: Playdough Train

  • Playdough

Aaron and Daddy made up this fun project on the spur of the moment. We don't usually open a bunch of colors of playdough at once, but daddy helped Aaron create the details for Thomas and carefully arrange them without smashing it all together. I think the train they made is super cute!

    Friday, October 7, 2011

    Family Fridays: Chinese Stomachs

    We had some friends over for dinner a couple of days ago. Our friends brought a small egg dish and the best tofu dish we've ever had. It is called pregnant tofu because it is stuffed with meat. Definitely my favorite way to eat tofu. The boys loved the food! They ate a lot of the pancit that I made too, but they ate a ton of eggs and pregnant tofu. I think their stomachs are becoming more Chinese because Aaron also loved the fishy dried seaweed that the neighbor gave him the other day. They also love Western food and eat just about anything, but I think they'll have an interesting range of things they like when they grow up.

    Thursday, October 6, 2011

    Train Themed Preschool Craft: Train Buttons

    This is another fun train activity we did. A friend of ours gave us a couple of these create you own buttons. This makes a quick easy craft, and the buttons are reusable. I am thinking we might try to change out the button design to go with each month's unit.

    Train Themed Preschool (or Tot School) Craft: Train Buttons

    • Create your own button
    • Small train coloring pages (or plain paper to draw trains on)
    • crayons or markers
    • scissors (for a parent or older preschooler to use)
    1. Have the children draw or decorate their trains.
    2. Open up the button.
    3. Show the child how to trace around the circle and cut it out, or do this step for a younger child.
    4. Put the button back together, and you're done!

    My boys think the train buttons that they made themselves are really neat, but they do prefer to have the buttons on their backpacks instead of their shirts, so they can see them more easily.

      Wednesday, October 5, 2011

      Train Themed Preschool Activity: Island of Sodor Sensory Play

      We've had so much fun with our train unit that once again I didn't get to write about all the things we did during the month of our unit study. The boys play with trains a lot every day, but this was one way I changed things up a little for this unit.

      Train Themed Preschool Activity: Giant Island of Sodor Play Mat

      • Blue blanket
      • Some green felt or other green fabric
      • Train tracks
      • Trains
      I have constructed more elaborate play mats for each boy, but for this activity I wanted to keep things simple, fast, and reusable. So I just laid down a large blue fleece blanket we already had. After quickly consulting my Island of Sodor map, I put some green fabric I cut out on top.  I then helped them find their train tracks and trains to bring to the island. I helped them set up the tracks and start playing. I asked about the colors and numbers on the trains for a while, and then just let them make up adventures with their trains. Both boys played for a long time with this very simple activity.

      This activity is good for reviewing basic numbers and colors, as well as simply encouraging imaginative play.

      Tuesday, October 4, 2011

      DIY Caramel Chips

      I love really good caramel, preferably homemade with great ingredients.  It is probably only second to chocolate as my favorite flavors for desserts. This recipe is for hard caramel candy chips that are great in ice cream or brownies. I love how they get soft and gooey, but keep just a bit of crunch in both hot and cold recipes. I also like to just eat them as hard candy. With only one ingredient, this recipe couldn't get much simpler.

      Homemade Caramel Candy Chips

      • 1 cup sugar (or more or less depending on the amount of chips you want)
      1. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper, or just get out a silicone baking pan to have ready nearby.
      2. In a very clean and dry saucepan, begin heating the sugar, stirring occasionally to keep it from burning.
      3. Continue heating the sugar, stirring occasionally, until it is all melted and has turned amber in color. Stirring too frequently can result in lumpy caramel. However, stirring too little or heating too long can cause the caramel to scorch and burn. This is really not difficult, but you do have to keep a close eye on this recipe.
      4. Once all of the sugar is melted and turned a beautiful amber, very carefully pour into prepared baking pan. Melted sugar is extremely hot so be careful not to burn yourself. Wearing oven mitts and a long sleeved shirt is a good precaution.
      5. Spread out the melted sugar with a spatula to cover the entire bottom of the pan.
      6. After the caramel has cooled and hardened, break it into pieces. You can use a mortar and pestle, rolling pin, meat tenderizer, or even your hands (if you are really determined) for this step.
      7. Use in your favorite ice cream or baking recipe, or enjoy real caramel hard candy made in your own kitchen.
      These would be great for additions to unique Christmas time treats!

        Monday, October 3, 2011

        Mandarin Mondays: 国庆节

        Beautiful Country
        This week, China is celebrating its National Day (guó qìng jié, 国庆节). The official National Day is October 1st, which signifies when the People's Republic of China was declared a nation on October 1st, 1949. However, National Day here is a much bigger countrywide celebration than America's Independence Day, and they celebrate for a whole week long. This is one of China's two Golden Weeks (huáng jīn zhōu, 黄金周), week long holidays. The other Golden Week is the Chinese New Year, also known as the Spring festival (chūn jié, 春节).

        During these Golden Weeks many, many people travel because it is the most time they get off in a row all year. So if you don't have to travel during these weeks, you may wish to stay home. Planes, trains, and buses will all likely be packed.

        Much like America, traditional National Day celebrations include fireworks and concerts. In honor of National Day we are doing a China, or Middle Kingdom (zhōng guó, 中国), unit study for the month of October. I plan on sharing a few things we are learning about this fascinating country's history each Monday this month, so we can learn about it together.

        Sunday, October 2, 2011

        Train Themed Preschool Activity: Let's Ride a Train

        For our train unit, we did two fun activities where we pretended to ride trains. These were a big hit. Now the boys pretend to ride or drive trains on their own. Aaron even likes to make his own "tickets" out of small pieces of paper.

        Train Themed Preschool Activity: Chair Train

        For the first activity, I simply lined up three chairs near our big window. Right before we did this, I had the idea that the boys might like to have their own tickets and punch them. I quickly drew some 10 ride tickets and driver and conductor badges.

        I hung a couple of laundry clips so the boys could clip their tickets to the seat in front of them. We took turns being the driver, the conductor, and the passenger. Since there were only three of us, we just had one of each at a time.
        Conductor Aaron
        Driver Andrew

        The boys had lots of fun pretending to stop at different stations and choosing where to go next. Aaron also liked being the conductor and punching the tickets (with help) a lot.

        Train Themed Preschool Activity: Box Train

        Driving Thomas
        We did the train activity another way by using milk boxes with pictures of Thomas, Annie, and Claribel on them. The boys loved driving Thomas and riding in his two coaches. I sat this trip out, but they had a lot of fun and played with this train for a long time too.

        You could also sing train songs while doing these activities to add in some music appreciation.

        Saturday, October 1, 2011

        DIY Pudding Recipes

        Caramel and Chocolate Pudding
        Here is the list of homemade pudding recipes I have made. All of these are great, so much better than boxed versions. If you have never made pudding from scratch before, this recipe has pictures for each step that may be helpful.

        All of these recipes are great made into pudding pops too!

        DIY Peanut Butter Pudding

        This homemade peanut butter pudding is creamy and delicious. I bet it would be fantastic combined with chocolate pudding.

        Homemade Creamy Peanut Butter Pudding Recipe

        • ½ cup sugar
        • ½ cup peanut butter
        • 2 cups whole milk (divided)
        • 1 egg
        • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
        1. In a small mixing bowl, begin by stirring together ½ cup milk, egg, and cornstarch until well combined.
        2. In a medium saucepan, combine 1½ cups milk, sugar, and peanut butter. 
        3. Stir over medium heat to warm the milk.
        4. Take a couple of big spoonfuls (¼ to ½ cup) of the warm milk mixture, and add it into the cornstarch and egg mixture. Don't skip this step. This tempers the egg and prevents it from becoming a scrambled egg when adding it into the hot milk.
        5. Pour the cornstarch and egg mixture into the warm milk, and stir quickly to combine well.
        6. Continue to stir over medium heat until the pudding thickens and begins to bubble.
        7. You can serve this pudding warm (sounds good in the winter) or chill for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days and serve it cold.


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