how to throw a rockstar frozen birthday party—snacks to serve

frozen birthday cake snowball tower


frozen birthday cake snowball tower is all the rage these days, so it’s no wonder that my Cora wanted a ‘Frozen’ birthday party for her 7th.

So that’s what we did.

Starting last summer, we brainstormed and planned for her birthday.   And then in December, after we saw Frozen, we brainstormed, planned, and then re-planned.

She had to have a Frozen birthday.  She just had to.

And though she had to learn the tough lesson that her whole little world could not come to an at-home Frozen birthday party, she did muddle through.  When you’re almost 7, you have to make some tough decisions, and no, I was not going to throw multiple Frozen birthday parties just so all 40 people on her initial list could attend.

I know—I’m the meanest mom in the world.

So we scoured the internet; we researched and shopped; and we went for it.  We planned what Cora believed would be the best. Frozen. Birthday. Ever.

The perfect Frozen crafts. The perfect Frozen activities. The perfect Frozen birthday sweets and treats.  The perfect Frozen birthday cake.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • How to Throw a Rockstar Frozen Birthday Party: Snacks! 

If you missed the first part of the party–the Frozen crafts and fun–then definitely check it out!

There’s something about the big #7—it seems as though 7-year olds start thinking about their birthday the day they turn 6. Same held true for Cora.

frozen birthday cake snowball tower

frozen birthday cake snowball tower

Our snacks were a huge part of the party because we love to cook and we love to eat.

The menu was simple:

  • ice-cream sundae bar (ice-cream and M & Ms, marshmallows, gummi bears, snowcaps)
  • snowball tower (in lieu of cake)
  • chocolate dipped nilla wafers
  • chocolate dipped pretzels

 Here’s how we made the Frozen snowball tower: 

 fyi: The youtube channel is all about sharing quick teaching tips, reading strategies, and parenting tricks with parents and caregivers. It’s about empowering parents to be the best teachers they can be for their children. Subscribe here so you don’t miss a thing!

And then?

Start dipping, sprinkling, and assembling the rest of your Frozen birthday buffet!

frozen birthday cake snowball tower
frozen birthday cake snowball tower

chocolate dipped nilla wafers & pretzels: Super-simple and so cute!

Grab some meltable chocolate from the store. I like to use a decent brand, and I always get white meltable chocolate along with a color.  This time we used Wilton melting chocolates in light blue and white.

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

rock candy pops: Though we have made these in the past, we decided not to make them for the party.

Instead, we bought them online.  We bought light blue rock candy and blue raspberry rock candy.  YUM.

frozen birthday party |

Frozen blue punch: We wanted to use our tiny, special, fancy glasses and punch bowl that doesn’t get enough use.

So we went crazy and got blue Hawaiian punch, froze some punch as flower-shaped ice cubes and added regular ice cubes to lessen the sugar content (though okay, I know it didn’t help enough. . . ).

frozen birthday party |

And all in all, it turned out to be one heck of a party!

Kids loved it. Cora loved it.

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

The kids loved it.

We kept it pretty hands-on, fun to prep, and even more fun to eat.

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

frozen birthday party |

And when all of the donuts were taken off and the towers were finished?

Wow. Our towers looked a little sad.

frozen birthday party |

This is only one part of the party. . .

Next up? How to throw a rockstar Frozen birthday party–crafts to do


fyi: Thank you to the many people who helped inspire our Frozen birthday party: Brownie Bites, Mom Endeavors, 123 Homeschool 4 Me, The Style Sisters, & more Mom Endeavors. So many great ideas on pinterest–check out our birthday board for a few more!

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april fools’ candy bugs: funny trick for families

candy bugs | april fools fun

 originally published in 2011

post contains affiliate links



candy bugs | april fools fun

April Fools’ Day is practically upon us, and I thought that before I served the kids jell-o in their juice cups tomorrow (seriously, how funny is that?!), I knew I wanted todo something that would top last year’s April Fools’ win.

So I thought and though and thought some more and came up with fake bugs–what’s better than a good bug scare, right?

I knew Maddy had a play date planned for this morning, so my idea was this: serve Maddy and her pals their snack but (bam!) the fake bugs

would be in the snack bowls. And (eeee!) instead of killing the ‘bugs’, I would run over, grab one, and put it in my mouth, chew it, and swallow it. Smiling.

Woot! April Fools’ jackpot!

It didn’t go quite as planned. But it was still really funny (probably more for me) but the girls had a fun time playing with candy–eating the candy–and trying their hardest to make bugs that would scare the pants off of their brothers, sisters, and parents.

Here’s how it went:

  • April Fools’ Candy Bugs– Funny Trick for Families: When I say I thought about this, I’m not joking. I talked to my sister about how I could make candy bugs for much longer than I would care to admit. I tried and tried and tried to master the art of candy-stink-bug-making, only to fail miserably.

Yesterday, Cora and I really tried to make stink bugs on two separate occasions, until finally she said, Mommy, let’s just do another bug. She was right.

We needed to move forward. So we did.

candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.comour bug-making supplies

I used a black icing mixed into a marzipan candy dough I found at the grocery store, but I just couldn’t get it flat enough, I couldn’t make legs or antenna that were skinny or strong enough, and I couldn’t make it textured enough.

It did create a mean millipede, a teeny, skinny wormish guy, but that was it.

candy bugs | april fools fun

I moved onto bigger and I probably could have stuck with Tootsie Rollsthe flavored kind–for everything that we ended up doing.

It was fine for creating little made-up bugs–teeny green bugs with white (marzipan) wings and eyes.

 candy bugs | april fools fun

Cora and my bugs–ready to trick the girls!

candy bugs | april fools fun

To ‘spook’ Maddy and her friends, Cora (the kiddo who just can’t whisper and is probably the worst at secret-keeping) and I made:

  • Tiny Green Bugs: using a green Tootsie Roll, plain (uncolored) marzipan wings, and blackish marzipan eyes
  • Flat White Bugs (called a stink bug to my utter joy by one of Maddy’s buddies): using a white Tootsie Roll, brown M & M, teeny slivers of purple Twizzler for legs and tiny specs of chocolate chip for eyes
  • Flying Jumbo Ant: using black marzipan for segmented body, yellow Tootsie Roll for wings, and white marzipan for eyes

candy bugs | april fools fun

candy bugs | april fools fun

I poured some Goldfish, snack of every playdate, into bowls, and called the girls to the table.

Cora was sooo calm and cool, and I’m sure she wasn’t staring into each kid’s bowl.

One of Maddy’s friends dug in and paused.  I said, Are you okay, honey?

She said, Um, yeah, but can I eat this?


candy bugs | april fools fun

candy bugs | april fools fun

What, you mean the goldfish? Sure. I was so busy putting away dishes, I hardly noticed the poor kid.

Uh, no–um, this. . . uh. . .

I walked over and it was over: OH MY GOSH ARE YOU KIDDING ME? There’s a bug in there? Oh NO!! What do I– How did that–

By then the other kids came in and were pondering their bugs. Maddy was a cucumber: Mom, really? Is this candy or something? You’d think she was like 25.

Fine. They’re candy. But I really tried to get you and you are all way too smart for me. So how about when you’re done with your fish, we can put our heads together and make some totally awesome, absolutely terrifying bugs that will scare the pants off of your family? Tomorrow’s April Fool’s Day–you have to trick someone. . .

candy bugs | april fools fun

Maddy rolls her marzipan with red food coloring to make the most realistic ladybugs evah.


Really, the girls needed no arm-twisting.  They were totally into it before we even started.  I laid out a spread of candy bug options, but they figured everything out quickly.

I stressed the importance of tiny–teeny, teeny, teeny–for the bugs to even look a bit real, but they didn’t worry. We rolled, cut, twisted, stretched and ate more candy than I’ll ever admit to their moms (who are my great friends and who will love me anyway).


candy bugs | april fools fun teachmama.comMaddy’s bug. So real, it’s frightening.

They added antenna, made legs, and added color; they chatted about this and that, about what bugs we like–and don’t–and who they wanted to scare tomorrow.  They added wings to this and that, made bodies long and short, used everything on the table.

They put their bugs in bags and when they left, they said they’d hide it and use it tomorrow. We’ll see. . .

By the time Owen returned from his playdate, we were ready to give him a scare. I put his snack in a bowl and when he grabbed it, he popped the fly right in his mouth like he does it every day.

Seriously, Owen, it didn’t scare you even a little bit? C’mon–

Mom, no way.

I tried.

Just wait till they try drinking their Jello-O juice tomorrow at breakfast. . .


More April Fools’ Day ideas: 


Follow our board on Pinterest for more April Fools’ day ideas: 


Follow amy mascott @teachmama’s board april fools’ & simple, silly tricks on Pinterest.

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3 ways to kick-start your family’s health

3 ways to kick-start your family's health

I am blogging on behalf of, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Shop online and save money to live better at


3 ways to kick-start your family's health |

Spring is around the corner, so it’s an ideal time to kick-start your family’s health.

And, after the brutal winter we’ve had, I know we’re all ready for it. We’re ready for a change.

We’re ready for sun. We’re ready for grass. We’re ready to see leaves on the trees.

We’re ready to start eating healthier and to start feeling better about ourselves again.

So as we close out the last few weeks of wintertime, we must start thinking about how we can prepare our family for a spring and summer filled with fitness and well-being.

I’ve got three ways to kick-start your family’s health.

Three ways that have worked for our family after the long and lazy days of winter, after we’ve eaten one too many cookies, and after one too many hot chocolates.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • 3 Ways to Kick-Start Your Family’s Health: Three simple ways, because, as busy parents, that’s about all we can handle.

1. Find outdoor activities you can do as a family.  Being outside is key because in the springtime, the weather is nice and people want to be outdoors.

And, if you’re outdoors together, you’re more likely to help each other get moving.

3 ways to kickstart family health activities

What activities should you do as a family?

  • If you want to meet people in  your area, join a family recreational kickball or softball league.
  • If your family loves exploring, grab a compass or a personal GPS and try geocaching.
  • If you are a competitive family, you could train for a local 5K. Many neighborhoods offer ‘couch to 5K’ training programs, and spring is a great time to try it!
  • If you are a rockin’ and rollin’ family, try rollerskating or roller blading!
  • If it all seems too much for you, then challenge each other by seeing who can log the most steps in one day. Chart your progress on a poster in a common area of your home, and track steps with one of those cool Fitbitsicon for each family member!


2.  Eat healthy and cook as a family.  If one person’s eating healthy, the whole family can eat healthy. With food, it’s so much easier to do as a group, and you can start by swapping junk food and sweets for healthier fruits and veggies.

3 ways to kickstart family health food do you get started, making sure that all family members are on board? 

  • Take turns cooking each night. Assign ‘Dinner Duos’ or ‘Chef Partners’ and have each team plan two meals a week.
  • Visit local Farmers’ Markets or join a CSA.
  • Peruse the Produce Sections of grocery stores as a family for items that look good, smell good, and taste fresh!
  • Eat seasonally. Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season, and explore recipes that celebrate those items.


3.  Wear weather-appropriate clothes and shoes that fit comfortably.   Since spring weather fluctuates so greatly, it’s important to have clothes that work with weather conditions that come in like a lion and go out like a lamb.

3 ways to kickstart your family's health  clothes can you make sure your family is outfitted with clothes that allow them to get movin’ and groovin’ indoors or out? 

  • Start fresh. Go through drawers, removing clothes that no longer fit and making room for new items.
  • Have a clothing swap! Reach out to friends and family with the sizes of your kids’ clothes that no longer fit, and submit a gentle request for items and sizes that your family needs.
  • Dress in layers.  Layers are key for springtime; wearing a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and cute, fun raincoat allows you to remove layers as the weather warms and still stay comfortable.
  • Get fitted. Make sure everyone is wearing the correct size sneaker from the start. Having shoes and socks that fit are necessary for starting an exercise regime off on the right foot!


What are some ways your family moves back into a healthier lifestyle after a long winter?  I’d love to hear them!


fyi: I am blogging on behalf of, but the views expressed here are solely mine, not Walmart’s. Affiliate links are used in this post. 




mandarin orange paper dolls: dress up your food

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

sponsored post


let kids play with food halos paper dolls


It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of making mealtime more fun for my kids.  And if we can sneak in some sort of learning along the way, even better.

So whether I’m having them do some note-reading, cooking, baking, shopping, trying new foods, or taste-testing, it all counts.

But this is a little different.  Lately, on top of the holiday hustle and bustle, I’ve been busy making some super-silly paper dolls for lunchboxes.  But these are not your average paper dolls.

No way.

These paper dolls are made to dress up our food a bit.  Namely, those sweet and tiny, unsuspecting mandarin oranges.  Halos mandarins.

I’m almost positive that dressing up your kid’s tiny oranges will yield some serious snacktime laughs.  Life is too short for our kids not to play with their food. Right? Let’s get ’em started now.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–Dress Up Your Food: I laugh every time I look at these.

Halos are easy enough for kids–seedless, easy to peel, and totally sweet.  So they really don’t need much as far as dressing up is concerned.

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

let kids play with food halos paper dolls

But because I send my kids to school with lunchbox love notes every day, I wanted to somehow incorporate something fun along with one of their favorite lunchtime foods.

So I took some basic measurements of the Halos, knowing that they’d vary slightly from fruit to fruit.

I put that number into a very basic design using PicMonkey.  I knew that I wanted an open circle in each character’s design so that the Halo could shine through.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls collage

Because Halos’ season runs through winter, I wanted some winter-themed paper dolls. I made a Santa, a gingerbread boy, a penguin, reindeer, and two elves–a girl and a boy.

All I did was cut out around the basic shape and cut out the hole in the center.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

In order to make sure that the Halos fit in the center, I had to cut little slits at the 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock areas of the circle.

No biggie.

Still fun.

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–the snacktime funny faces and friends

And the super fun part? Adding faces–eyes, nose, mouth–with a permanent marker once the little mandarin is in place.

Want to download the Halos Mandarin Orange Paper Dolls–the snacktime funny faces and friends –so that your kiddos can play with their food? Sure you do!

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

make lunchtime fun halos paper dolls

Honestly, they make me crack up.

Maybe I need a little pre-holiday vay-cay. Or maybe I just really like playing with food. . .

Either way, what do you think? Will you use them? Will your kids totally heart them?

Shhhhh. . . I’ve already made a second and third set.  Monsters, aliens, and funny guys and then some really fun flowers and more.  I need a break.

Fruit is fun! Get your family excited about fresh foods with sweet, healthy reminders all year long and activities they’ll love. Check out the FREE HalosFun kids’ app on Android or iPhone for more ways to get them cheering about pure goodness. You can learn more about Wonderful Halos on Facebook, Twitter or HalosFun.

fyi: This is a sponsored post, written for Halos. As always, my opinions and ideas are all my own.

our cookie baking day: favorite family annual holiday tradition

holiday baking day cookies

Every year, one of our advent calendar activities reads: Cookie Baking Day!  annual cookie baking day

And what that means is that no matter the day–it’s always a surprise!–the kids and I ditch everything (and I mean, everything. . . ahem. . . ), don our aprons, and bake.

All. Day. Long.

My mom did this for us when we were growing up, and it’s one of my most fond childhood memories. It was special. It was crazy. It was busy and fun.

I knew that when I had children I’d do the same. It’s not hard. And when the kids are really young, baking one or two kinds of cookies is all we did.

As they get older, their roles in the day become bigger, and they become responsible for a bit more.

It’s a favorite family annual tradition.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Our Cookie Baking Day–Favorite Family Annual Holiday Tradition: Our Cookie Baking Day is a day we all look forward to.

It’s a lot of work, but in the end, we have dozens and dozens of cookies that we take to holiday parties and give to our neighbors as gifts.

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

Kiss Cookie Recipe 2013 Teachmama

The teacher in me looks at the day as an opportunity for some real-life reading, math, and science learning. The parent in me knows that the day is an opportunity for the kids to spend one special, unexpected day together, making memories and working hard at something that is important to each one of us.

Do the days always go picture-perfect? Um, no.

Do the cookies always look beautiful, taste scrumptious, and look bakery-fab? No, no, and no.

holiday baking day cookies -

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

Do the kids get along harmoniously, taking perfect turns and following instructions top to bottom? No and no.

Does the kitchen get totally rocked by the end of the day, like a small bomb exploded in our house? Absolutely.

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

There was the time that Maddy slid across the counter and sent the salt shaker splattering into our dough.

The many times, while the kids were learning to crack eggs, that eggs exploded like fireworks in tiny hands.

We’ve had milk spilled, cookies fall, and ingredients forgotten.

We’ve spilled bags of chocolate chips.

We’ve seen Brady steal aprons and oven mitts; we’ve experienced burns and power outages.

holiday baking day cookies

Some years are easier than others.

How we schedule our day:

  • Light planning: Before our Cookie Baking Day, Maddy, Owen, Cora, and I talk about what kinds of cookies we’ll bake that year.  Some years we try new kinds, and other years, we stick to old faves.
  • Big shopping: I take their suggestions into account and do the shopping for ingredients. Because the day is a surprise for them, I make the general cookie-baking plan. I hide the ingredients so no one notices.


holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies

holiday baking day cookies


  • Big surprising.  The kids wake and get ready for the day as normal. Then whomever’s day it is opens the Advent Calendar and reads that day’s Advent Activity: It’s Cookie Baking Day! Let’s bake, bake, BAKE!!
  • Serious baking. We start before breakfast, making one dough and refrigerating it. We make another dough and send the first tray into the oven. We continue all day long, through dinner.


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


  • Some eating. We break for meals while cookies bake.   Of course we test the cookies along the way. Come ON.
  • Light resting.  Really, the kids only rest for one show after lunch, and even then, somebody takes a turn to stay with me in the kitchen. When I say we work all day, we really do work all day.


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


holiday baking day cookies


  • Big sharing. We put many of our cookies away in tins, but one thing we really look forward to is assembling small packages of cookies for our neighbors. Not everyone–that would be crazy–but for a handful of close neighbors, we put an arrangement of our cookie-creations together in a pretty tin or container, and we deliver our sweets one day that week.  So fun.

Do you want to give the Annual Cookie Baking Day a try at your house? Sure you do! It’s totally not too late!

You can follow the recipe below for some kid-friendly recipe reading:


Hershey Kiss Cookie Recipe: kid-friendly recipe from teachmama by teach mama


And if you like this, check out our whole Holiday Baking with Kids eBook!  15 recipes your family will love.

holiday baking with kids eBook

Or check out some other fun recipes from our friends at Target–some new twists on classic faves.

How do you handle holiday baking? I’d love to hear:

  • what are your fave holiday treats to bake?
  • do your kids help in the kitchen?
  • who do you share your sweets with?


fyi: This post was created as part of my collaboration with Target, the #MyKindofHoliday campaign, and Target Inner Circle. As always, the thoughts and ideas are my own.  Target sent us a Ninja Gingerbread Cookie Set among other baking, decorating, and sharing supplies because they totally, 110% support our #mykindofholiday @target traditions!

holiday baking with kids eBook: 15 kid-friendly, family-favorite recipes and treats

holiday baking with kids

post contains affiliate links



holiday baking with kids eBook on

It’s no secret that I am a crazy huge fan of getting kids in the kitchen.

Early and often, let’s tie those aprons onto our littles, pull the stepstools out, and let our kids cook, bake, and make meals with us.  But let’s plan a bit and put our kids in the driver’s seat.

Let’s let ’em read and gather ingredients.

Let’s let ’em understand and follow steps.

Let’s let’ ’em measure flour, crack eggs, and drizzle icing on the cookies they put on cooling racks.

Why not?

The kitchen is a classroom right there in the center of so many of our homes. It’s the hub. The happy place. The command station.

holiday baking with kids

So what better way of kicking off this exciting and joyous, sweet-filled season than by bringing our kids into the kitchen for some serious holiday baking?

The holiday baking with kids eBook is here to save the day.  You can grab it for $10.00 which is quite a steal for a book you can use online and in hard copy.

Here’s the skinny. . .

Really. It’s pretty cool.

  • 15 kid-friendly recipes.  Fifteen.  Many never before shared on

holiday baking with kids eBook

  • Favorites.  Like Kiss Cookies and Chocolate Chip and Sugar Cookies.  And Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookies and Death by Chocolate and Lemon Squares.  And? Our Christmas Morning Ugly Breakfast recipe.

holiday baking with kids ebook from teachmama

  • Made kid-friendly with large, clear font.  Created with attention to what early readers need as they learn and expand their reading skills, the font is large so kids can read it even the recipe book is on the counter and they are standing on a stool.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

  • Layout that works.  Kid-tested for the last five years, this layout really works.

Recipe step-by-step instructions are large and are accompanied by a relevant photo to clarify instructions.  Kids can check off ingredients as they gather them, and if the paper is in a plastic sheet protector, a crayon or dry erase marker will easily wipe clean when finished.  Photos for every ingredient and recipe step.

holiday baking with kids ebook ingredients

  • Consistent format. Actions are in bold. Ingredients are underlined. Photos for almost everything.  The format is consistent. Kids especially thrive on consistency.

See? I’m looking out for you. We’re in this together. I got your back. Always.

 holiday baking with kids eBook

Sure, it’s hard when kids are involved sometimes because the mess may be bigger, or we may be crunched for time, or we may just want to enjoy some peace while kids are watching tv and we can prepare dinner, but as parents, we must jump on these prime opportunities for learning and fun with our kids.

holilday baking with kids ebook print - 1


holilday baking with kids ebook print - 2


holilday baking with kids ebook print - 3


holilday baking with kids ebook print - 4

Ready? Let’s do it.

My friends, the Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is a sweet $10.00.  You can print it as many times as you need, so really, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Mostly because my readers are rockstar and always read their email from me first thing. So I wanted to offer you guys a little gift.

The Holiday Baking with Kids eBook is quite the holiday deal.

HUGE and happy thanks to my awesome mama for always inviting us into the kitchen with her when we were little. I would never be so welcoming into my own kitchen if I hadn’t learned from her as an excellent example.  Big *hugs!* to you, Mom!  Love you!

What about you?  How do you feel about kids in the kitchen?  Is there a favorite recipe I need to add to the next one? Let me know!

fyi: Affiliate links are used in this post.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

veggie turkey vegetable turkey

veggie turkey vegetable turkey It’s no secret that I have kids who usually love to be in the kitchen–whether it’s trying a new food or helping with a new recipe, my kiddos are usually game.

So when I asked for some help in ‘upping the fun factor’ of our assigned dish for an early family Thanksgiving last weekend, my kids were up for the challenge.

Well, two kiddos were. . .

Vegetables and dip? Sure we can bring it.

But how could we make it more. . . fun?  Could we rock out a veggie turkey? A vegetable tray times 10?  Forget about the ole boring plate and dip bowl, with all the vegetables circled neatly around it.

We were going to get creative.  I was going to harness the imaginations of my three kids and come up with a rockin, kid-happy, party-ready veggie turkey tray like never seen before.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Make a Veggie Turkey– Kid-Happy, Thanksgiving Dinner-Ready: Cora has been a kitchen helper lately.

Owen’s usually trying desperately to play soccer with the big boys across the street, and Maddy comes and goes.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Yes. Don’t judge us. Fresh veggies and a store-bought pumpkin pie. We can only do so much.

One day she’s all about throwing on her apron and helping, and other days, well. . . she’s got other more important things to attend to.  I get it.  She’s almost ten.

Anyway, this time, Maddy, Cora, and I put our heads together to come up with a rockin Thanksgiving dinner veggie turkey that I think we’ll add to our traditions list each year.

It was simple and fun.  Like painting but with food.

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

make a veggie turkey: kid-happy, thanksgiving dinner-ready

Here’s what we did:

  • turkey body: we used a quarter of a yellow pepper
  • turkey eyes: we cut slits in the pepper and shoved in mini cucumber wedges
  • turkey beak: triangle of orange pepper
  • turkey waddle: (is that what it’s even called??) red pepper
  • turkey feet: orange pepper
  • turkey feathers: carrot sticks, yellow and orange peppers, tiny cucumbers, grape tomatoes
  • turkey feet: orange peppers
  • grass: broccoli
  • flowers: peppers and tomatoes

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

After Maddy left the scene, Cora took over.

She was all about creating patterns in the turkey feathers with the veggies.  I was totally game and really just wanted to support what she was doing.

She was thinking creatively and using her brain.

She was having a blast.

vegetable turkey

vegetable turkey

Finished turkey sitting on grass with flowers all around him.  Obviously.

And our finished turkey? Tons of fresh vegetables and a very proud Cora.

Dip? On the side. Separate plate. Our turkey was way too big!

Want to stay on top of all of our rockin Thanksgiving ideas for kids and families? Follow our pinterest board:

thanksgiving pinterest board

Super-simple and yes, there are probably a million ways to create a veggie turkey–which is why this was so much fun. There was really no wrong way.

Have you made one before? We’d love to see photos! Please share!

And have a super-happy Thanksgiving!


quick and easy halloween ghost cookies

sweet spooky chocolate cookie ghosts

sweet spooky chocolate cookie ghosts

October has been an incredibly busy month for us, with me finishing up two classes on top of all of my other normal work.

However, our crazy schedule isn’t stopping us from having a whole lot of Halloween fun over here.

Our Halloween Banana Ghosts were a big hit way back when, so rather than stay healthy, I thought I’d mix it up a bit and really ‘up’ our sweet and fat intake and make Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts.

White chocolate. Nutter Butters. Chocolate chips. Bam.

Actually, in all honesty, I wanted a quick and easy seasonal treat and I was craving Nutter Butters.  So that’s why we made them.

And because these cookies only need a handful of ingredients, there really is no recipe reading involved. But there’s a lot of basic sequencing with the repeated steps, so that is what I emphasized.

Cora was my helper, and by the time we were finished, yes we were covered in white chocolate, but we also had a full tray of fun ‘homemade’ cookies to share for Grandma’s birthday dinner that night.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts:

Little hands are big helpers with these chocolatey treats, so be sure to gather your small helpers.

halloween cookie ghosts

You will need:

  • White chocolate chips
  • Mini milk chocolate chips
  • Regular sized milk chocolate chips
  • Nutter Butter cookies (or Vienna Fingers—any long oval cookie will work)
  • Cookie sheets lined with wax paper

spooky halloween cookies collage

1.  Prepare your cookie sheets by lining them with the wax paper.

Explain to your helper that you will need a spot to drop these sweet and spooky ghosts after they’re dipped, so you are thinking a head and preparing a spot for them.   The worst thing would be to have a drippy cookie with no place to put him to cool.


 spooky halloween cookies collage

2.  Melt the white chocolate chips.

I explained to Cora that when melting chocolate, it is really important to do it slowly and carefully. We didn’t want to place them in the microwave on high for five minutes or the chocolate would burn and get crusty.

spooky halloween cookies collage

Rather, we put the bowl in the microwave for 45 seconds, took it out and mixed it.

We put it in the microwave again for 45 seconds, mixed and repeated until the chocolate was totally smooth and melted.


She loved mixing the chocolate with the spatula and watching it become more and more smooth.

spooky halloween cookies collage

3.  Dip a cookie in the chocolate.

Easy as that.  Dip, twist to make sure it’s covered on the front and back, and place on the wax paper.


spooky halloween cookies collage


spooky halloween cookies collage

4.  Place the chocolate chip eyes and mouth onto the ghost.

We used mini chips for the eyes and regular-sized ones for the ‘BOO!’ mouth.

Cora did this job almost entirely by herself because her tiny fingers were better for the job. And of course I let her know that.

spooky halloween cookies collage

spooky halloween cookies collage

As we built our ghost cookies, I was careful to use sequential words like first, second, third, next, after, and last.

I tried to use words like before and after, left and right, top and bottom. Easy words I know she knows and covered in pre-k and Kindergarten but that I want her to use and remember.

halloween cookie ghosts


halloween cookie ghosts


I wanted to squeeze in as much meaningful everyday math vocabulary as I could, not only because it’s important for Cora to learn, but also because it’s great for her to use these words ‘in action’.  And really? It’s great for kids to have as much at-home practice of their at-school learning as possible.

For our family, some of the most fun and memorable learning has been done in our kitchen–over sweets.

Anyway, perfect no matter how much time you have to prep, these Sweet, Spooky Halloween Cookie Ghosts will sure to be a hit with kids of all ages.


Want a few more fall-inspired learning ideas?

Stop by and follow these great educational Pinterest boards:

Or check out these popular Halloween posts:

recipe reading (and cookie-eating)

recipe reading (and cookie eating) | iced pumpkin spice cookies

post contains affiliate links

iced pumpkin spice cookies cooking with kids



This post was originally published on December 12, 2009, but as I searched for our Iced Pumpkin Spice Cookie recipe, I found this oldie but goodie and realized that many would appreciate this fun, fall favorite.  Enjoy!


Today was our holiday cookie-baking day. We baked a million cookies, and we’re still not finished.

As Maddy’s becoming a stronger reader, she has really enjoyed trying her hand at handling the recipe-reading herself. And with this recipe, I formatted the ‘Directions’ differently than I had before, with our muffin-making or fun with that ginormous zucchini.

This time, I roughly followed the structure of Mollie Katzen’s series–frame-by-frame instructions. But I simplified it just a bit, and it seemed to work well.

  • Recipe-Reading–Iced Pumpkin Cookies: We love these sweet cakey-cookies, and I (shhhh!) decided to make them again for my yearly cookie exchange with friends.

It’s an easy recipe, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora get a kick out of adding all of the spices. Plus, the cookies are nut-free, so my pals with allergies in the family can also enjoy them.

iced pumpkin spice cookies -Maddy’s adding spices. . .

The Kid-Friendly Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe is here to download. But if you’re exchanging with your pals, why reinvent the wheel–the Mom’s Cookie Exchange Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe is also here to download.

Because the recipe calls for ground cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, and pumpkin–on top of the normal sugar, butter, egg, my kids seem to especially like making these. And every single time–every time–they want to try each spice.

iced pumpkin spice cookies . . . and Cora’s giving the spices a taste.

So I make tiny piles of the ingredients and let them taste each. Sure, every time Maddy, Owen, or Cora tastes cloves or nutmeg, they stick out their tongue and yell for water, but usually an M & M clears their tiny palates quickly.

I think it’s great to get kids familiar with the differences between salt, sugar, flour, and anything that’s safe to try.

iced pumpkin spice cookies The Pampered Chef cookie ballers
(or whatever they’re called. . . ) really make the job easier.


I slipped the recipe sheets into plastic sleeves so that the kids could write on them with crayon and then wipe it off for next time.

As we completed each step of the recipe, Maddy put a check in the appropriate box, just like she did as we gathered our ingredients before we began.

pumpkin spice cookies finished
Our finished Iced Pumpkin Cookies


 Our finished products tasted great and looked pretty darn good, too.

Recipe: Iced Pumpkin Cookies by teach mama


And that’s it for today. . . tons of cookies baked, and my little emerging readers got some practice reading and following the steps to the recipe as well.

Pour the milk, put some cookies on a plate, and let’s eat some sweets!


Do you want to take the recipe to a neighborhood cookie exchange? Print out the parent-version below:

Iced Pumpkin Cookies Recipe to Share by teach mama

fyi: affiliate links are used in this post

put an end to hunger in america: get the whole family involved

put an end to hunger in america get the whole family involved

put an end to hunger in america get the whole family involved

I’ve thought long and hard about how to get my family involved in helping to end hunger in America, knowing that all around us–in DC Metro suburban community–people are hungry.

Our kids go to school with children who are hungry.

My husband is an administrator in a school where children are hungry.

All around our community, families are struggling to make ends meet. They–and their children–are hungry.

So what can you do to help?  How can you get your family involved in putting an end to hunger in America?   I don’t have all the answers. (Big shocker.)  But I have some.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Put an End to Hunger in America–Get the Whole Family Involved:  A few weeks back, Maddy’s girlfriends met like we meet each month, and our focus was to give back.

We worked all evening making sandwiches for McKenna’s Wagon, a mobile soup kitchen in our area.

end hunger in america making sandwiches

making sandwiches for homeless -

The really special touch? My sweet and smart friend Erin suggested we have our girls and their siblings write tiny notes that we put in each sandwich bag.   She wanted each person who got one of our sandwiches to know that we were thinking about them. I love it.

Before we even opened our first bag of bread, we cut construction paper into strips.  And then we handed each child a few pieces along with a pen, and we wrote, wrote, wrote.

We stressed that even a ‘love, Maddy’ was fine! The kids worked so hard on notes like:

  • Have a good day!
  • We care about you!
  • Made with love!
  • Enjoy!

Their hand-written notes were so special, and I think it was a super-smart touch.


making sandwiches for homeless -

end hunger in america making sandwiches 2

Then we made our sandwiches.

Each family brought what they could–a few bags of bread, some meat and some cheese.

And we assembled sandwiches with a force that I swear could move mountains.  The kids worked so hard.  They laid out bread, added meat and cheese and another piece of bread to close it. Put it in a bag. Added a note.

making sandwiches for homeless -

making sandwiches for homeless -

We used the bread bags to hold sandwiches, and in the end made over 300 sandwiches!

The kids felt so good about their hard work.  We have plans to do more work like this in the upcoming months.

Want more about where your family–or small group of friends and neighbors–can donate sandwiches, just like we did?

As a starting point, check out:

hunger in america target feed

the brown cord bracelet, the pillows, and the scarf are part of the Target FEED line

Other ideas:

  • Target FEED: Target has recently partnered with Lauren Bush Lauren and FEED Foundation to create a special product line that supports feeding the hungry in America.  You’ve probably noticed the line at Target this summer, and it will run through October.

Each item has a number on it.  And that number represents the number of meals that will be given as a result of your purchase.  I love the simplicity of this partnership, and I think it’s a thoughtful and wise way of giving back, even with the smallest effort on the consumer’s part.

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

Lauren Bush Lauren and me. . .

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

at the Target FEED USA launch.

nyc #FEEDusa event target -

me and my sweet and smart friend Patrice, of Afrobella

Visit Target FEED to learn about the program, to find out how you can get involved, or to browse the lookbook.

Or visit the FEED site. Buy a bag.  Give a meal.

Take a look at all of my photos from the Target FEED USA launch last June:

SUCH an incredible time!

Encourage your kids–or your neighborhood–to host a bake sale.

Or just totally check out the site. So worth your time, and you can come up with a way to help–together.

dine out go orange campaign


A ton of great programs exist out there. The important thing? Just do something. And show your kids that you take childhood hunger seriously.


As the oldest of four girls, I recall vividly a time when when I was very young and my hard-working, union laborer father was laid off of work. And our cupboards were close to bare.

I don’t have memories of being hungry; I was too young to even remember the faces of stress on my parents.  But the stress was there. Food and money for it were not.

And I remember one Sunday afternoon after church, a stranger coming to our door with bags and bags and bags of groceries. He had strict instructions, from a woman who insisted on remaining nameless, to deliver the food to our home. She gave him $20, and he did it.

I can still see that young man’s look of confusion and excitement.  Look what he brought us! But why? How bad off were we?


making sandwiches for homeless - 21


Our family looks back at this time when our ‘angel’ brought groceries to our home as a sort of miracle, a mystery to us and a reminder that people were good and that things would be okay.  That someone was watching out for us.

But our story is unusual, and unfortunately, it is the exception.

More often than not, families don’t have angels like we had deliver food to their doors.  They rely on churches, schools, government programs, and anti-hunger campaigns to get them through the difficult times.

Let’s do something about it.  Together

And show our kids that it’s important to us.

Not sure what to do? Share this post as a start.

Then think about it, come back, and think some more. Ask your kids what they want to do. And run with it.

Any other ideas? Suggestions? Links to great ideas for ways families can help put an end to childhood hunger? Let me know!


fyi: Though I am proud to be a part of the Target Inner Circle program, this is an unsponsored post, written solely because I want to share our own experiences and a few programs that may help other families take action against hunger in our world.

Thank you to Target for sending me to New York City in June to attend the launch of Target FEED USA line.

try something new with kids: coconut

try something new coconut

try something new coconutWe’re big fans of mixing up the fun and learning over here, always trying a little something new each week.

We’ve done restaurants, foods, crafts, games, vacations, and more. It’s always fun, and while it keeps Maddy, Owen, and Cora on the hunt for new and exciting things to try, it also keeps their minds open for trying new things.

What I haven’t realized is that even if we tried something new a year or two ago, it’s worth revisiting again.

Like the coconut.

Here’s the skinny. . .

  • Try Something New With Your Kids–Coconut:  We rocked the coconut years ago. I mean years ago.

Check it out: New for us Friday–Going Coconutty!

Written on July 17, 2009–four years ago. And my kids had little to no memory of it.

So when we were at the grocery store this past weekend and saw the coconuts sitting there smiling at us from the shelf, Maddy said, Mom! Hey! Let’s get a coconut and try it out!

I said, Maddy, we already did that–I’m sure you remember, don’t you? It was so hard to open and we had to watch YouTube videos about it. Remember?

She didn’t.

And neither did Owen.

And neither did Cora.

try something new -- coconut


try something new -- coconut

So of course we bought the coconut because really? If my kids were doing these cool things and weren’t remembering, then by all means, we’ll rock a Coconuts 2.0.

And Coconuts 3.0 if we must.

The crazy thing? I had no recollection of how to properly open a coconut. So it was really a smart idea for our family to do a coconut-do-over. Clearly we needed it.

We checked out my previous post on How to Open a Coconut to refresh our memories. We watched the videos, looked at the photos, and then got to work.

try something new -- coconut

This whole thing? Dangerous.

try something new -- coconut

Keep your kids away if you are a smart parent. . .

try something new -- coconut

. . . not like me who left them to run in and answer the phone.

The whole coconut-opening process was not easy. I tried everything on the video, but I could. Not. Open. The. Coconut.

Poking a hole and getting the coconut water out was easy.

It was finding the ‘equator’ and cracking it in half that was difficult.

Phone rang. Like a good mama, I ran in to get it. (Our air conditioning was broken! It could have been the repair person!) I left Maddy with the hammer and the feisty coconut.

try something new -- coconut

My determined girl.

try something new -- coconut

Putting the coconut on the ground and hammering it seemed to have been the ticket.

Or a really, really strong 9 year old. . .

try something new -- coconut

Maddy did it.

While on the phone with the HVAC guy (I swear it was him!), I heard: MOMMY!! I DID IT! I DID IT! I DIDDDDD IT! MOOOOOOM!!!how to get your kids to try new foods

I ran outside, hoping to God that she didn’t bust her finger or break the porch, and I found the cracked coconut and a super-happy Maddy.

All I had to do was put it on the ground, hit it hard, and it cracked! Wooo-hooo!!!!

We tried the coconut (once again), and we determined that we had the same tastebuds after four years: we were not fans of the coconut meat. At all.

But we worked hard, tried it, and now–hopefully–my kids will remember.  And if anyone has a suggestion for opening a coconut with ease, please do share. I’d love to learn.

Not that we’re going to try coconuts again anytime soon, but in another four years, who knows. . . just a little learning on the fly, on a hot summer afternoon.

Want a few more ways to get kids to try new foods?  Click on Get Your Kids to Try New Foods for some inspiration!   Or check out our neat-o, fun, NEW things for us to try pinterest board!