Category Archives: Kids Activities

A Lesson Learned About Poisonous Plants and Kids

Earlier this week we went to a garden store and I promised the kids they could pick out a plant for their garden. Miss D is a little too small yet to have much of an opinion, but Mr. D quickly settled on this colorful lantana.

He was very particular about waiting until he was “ready” to plant it. Here he is hard at work, patting down the soil around his new plant.

Now, I didn’t realize it until I looked up lantanas on the web, but it turns out these plants are poisonous. Actually, it turns out that a lot of plants are poisonous. No kids or pets have taken a bite out of this lantana, and it’s unlikely that they would. However, last year my daughter was quick to take a bite out of any veggie she found in the garden and so far this year she’s been plucking the heads off the pansies. Though she hasn’t put any of them in her mouth, I wouldn’t need to be concerned if she did because pansies are actually edible flowers. Lantanas are not, and several sites say the berries are poisonous. (This one doesn’t have berries yet.)

Here is my next course of action.

  1. Talk with my kids about edible versus poisonous plants and how they shouldn’t taste or eat any berries, leaves, or flowers, unless Mommy, Daddy or another trusted adult says it’s okay.
  2. Move the lantana to a (non-edible) flower garden, or pot it and put it up and out of reach. (Perhaps in a hanging planter.)
  3. Institute a new rule: edible plants only in the children’s garden (or at least no poisonous plants).
  4. Find myself a good list of poisonous plants (native to Virginia, or common household plants) and familiarize myself with it.

Phew. I was feeling like a bad mama… letting my kids put a poisonous plant in their garden. But now that I have a plan for fixing it, I feel better.


Berry Vanilla Yogurt Freeze Pops

While browsing the kitchen gadget aisle at the grocery store the other day (one of my favorite aisles, by the way), I saw they had some freeze pop molds. Making our own freeze pops is something I’ve been thinking of doing with the kids for quite a while, but I didn’t have the molds. I thought it would be fun to whip up a delicious and healthy treat and get them (well, at least my oldest) involved. He likes helping in the kitchen. So, I grabbed the last two sets of molds in the store.

The freeze pop molds were made by Crayola and they came with some recipe cards. I didn’t have *exactly* the ingredients on the cards, so I worked with what I had. I think it worked out, though, because the pops we concocted were delicious and maybe even a tad more nutritious. Here’s what we used, which was about double the volume of what was listed on the card because we were filling two sets of molds:

  • 1 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 banana, sliced
  • 1 cup berry juice*
  • 1 tsp vanilla

* For the berry juice, we used some black raspberries that we had in the freezer. My father-in-law picked a bunch last year and gave some to us and, frankly, I forgot they were in there. (Woops!) We put about a cup (give or take) of berries in a sauce pan and heated them over medium heat until they were soft and juicy. Then we mashed the berries and strained the juice. I added about three level tablespoons of sugar to the juice to compensate for the fact that I was using plain yogurt rather than the vanilla-flavored yogurt that the recipe called for, as well as our own pure berry juice, rather than using store-bought juice. I worried that without a little sugar, the pops might be too tangy. Once the sugar dissolved we added enough water to the juice to make the total volume 1 cup.

We mixed all of the ingredients together in the blender, and then D filled the molds!

This recipe made six pops, with a little left over. It got a little messy, but he really enjoyed this and couldn’t wait until the pops were ready to eat. About five minutes after putting them in the freezer, he was already asking me if they were ready. 🙂

Some friends came over for dinner that night and their daughter and D each had a freeze pop. They both loved them. In fact, she liked the pop so much that she wanted a second and even asked for the recipe. Success!

First Harvest from the Children’s Garden

I was out watering the garden this evening and noticed some red peeking out of the corner of the children’s garden, where  my son planted a bunch of radish seeds all in one little spot. They are a little crowded there, so I couldn’t see much under the dense clump of radish leaves without making it a point to look. But when I caught a glimpse of red, I suddenly remembered what a short time it takes for radishes to grow. I took a closer look and saw that there were a few that were probably big enough to pull. I knew my son would love this, so I let him know that he had some radishes in his garden that were ready. He was thrilled! We actually had to talk him into not pulling the rest of them because they weren’t ready. He held one up in the air to show his dad and yelled “Daddy! It’s the biggest radish I ever saw!”

The kids’ garden is so much fun! And they are taking great care of it. My son even mulched it the other day with shredded leaves; it was his own idea. He knows what he’s growing in there, too. The other day I was pointing out and identifying the different plants in their garden, but I wasn’t sure what the one little section of small seedlings were in the middle. He said “I know, Mommy! Those are rainbow carrots!” That’s absolutely what they were! I was so proud. 🙂

Here are our first radishes. I couldn’t get D to taste them, though. So I ate them, and they were delicious.

Dinosaur Dig and Play Dough Potato Head

I took my son to get a haircut the other day. He wasn’t really into going, so I *might* have bribed him just a little by promising him one of those little dinosaur excavation kits. (They sell them in the waiting area.) The kits are marked “7+ years”, but I knew he would enjoy it, if he could find the persistence to keep digging. We got two.

When we got home he was eager to start digging and was at it for a while. But, when he didn’t find pieces of the dinosaur “skeleton” quickly, he started to get discouraged,… stopping every minute or two to say “Mommy, this is hard.” I encouraged him to keep going. I said he could take a break whenever he wanted, that it might take some time to get to the “bones”…. but that he’d get there eventually. He chipped, scraped, and brushed…

Then… finally he found a “bone”! He was soooo excited!

He proudly announced every bone that he found after that! He excavated bone after bone and collected them in a cup until he found all 17 pieces. Then we assembled them to make the triceratops “skeleton”. (I wish I had a photo of the skeleton, but my son was too excited to stop and let me take any pictures at that point.)

While my son was playing archaeologist, I made some homemade playdough for my daughter so she could try making a play dough Mr. Potato Head. I saw this idea on Happy Hooligans blog and thought it was genius, especially since the real Mr. Potato Head can be a little challenging for little hands! Both of my kids loved it, actually.

The convergence of the dino excavation and play dough gave my son an idea. “Let’s use the play dough to put the skin on the dinosaur!” (“Brilliant!”, I thought.) We had to try. It wasn’t easy, but here is our triceratops with most of his skin. (It was tough to get it right around the head….)

In case you are wondering, the homemade play dough recipe I used can be found here. It’s very easy and makes a nice big softball-size ball of dough! The recipe is pretty forgiving, too. It mixed up perfectly the first time I did it; but the next two times it was too wet, so I just kept adding flour (a tablespoon at a time) until it was right. The play dough will keep for quite a while, if you store it in a ziplock bag or tupperware container. If you find it getting a little dried out, just splash a little water onto the outside and knead it a bit; it’ll be good as new! I even added some lavender oil to one batch to make a pretty-scented dough. Give it a try!

The Children’s Garden

Every child is born a naturalist. His eyes are, by nature, 
open to the glories of the stars, the beauty of the flowers, 
and the mystery of life. 
–  R. Search


Since I joined Pinterest last May I’ve been pinning oodles of activities for the kids to do. Most of them are sensory-based play ideas, crafts, or games. I’ve also been pinning a lot of garden-related inspirations. One of the projects I’ve been planning to undertake that crosses over into both of these categories is a children’s garden.

My kids enjoyed being in the garden last year, and my son especially enjoyed planting the seeds and watching them grow. So, when I stumbled upon the pins for children’s gardens on Pinterest, I thought “how perfect!” What better way to teach them patience, tenderness, creativity, and a love of nature, then to have them plant, cultivate, and harvest their own flowers and vegetables!

Our garden is pretty big; I could have easily carved out a corner of it for them. But instead, we decided to give them a garden of their very own. My husband had some extra 4×6 boards left over from a recent project, and he was already planning to rent a trailer to haul a load of mulch and composted manure for our garden and flower beds. So, we figured while he was at it, we would also get a scoop of garden soil for a new raised bed for our kids.

My son was so excited at the idea! When I asked him was he was going to plant in his garden he first said “my truck”. Then I said “well, what type of plants do you want to put in your garden?” To that he replied “a big leaf tree!” Hmmm… for some reason we weren’t quite on the same page. At the risk of having my son expect that he’d be cultivating a tree that would bear miniature dump trucks, we decided to move forward with their garden.

This past weekend Shane was hard at work putting the boards in place. I scraped the top layer of sod off the garden plot, and then we filled it with the new garden soil. It was nice, dark, rich-looking soil! We mixed a little bit of composted manure in there as well. The children’s garden is just 4 feet by 8 feet, but I have a feeling that with the rich soil in there, their little garden plot may do better than ours!

4' by 8' children's garden at the end of the main garden

The day after we prepared the bed I took the kids out to plant their first seeds. For his early spring crops, Big D chose to sow snap peas, spinach, lettuce, rainbow carrots, and purple kohlrabi. When we first got out there with the kids’ garden tools (that I bought at Michael’s for $1), they both played in the garden like it was a sand box. (I’m sure that won’t be the last time.) I gave them both seeds and they sprinkled them,… then did some digging,… the sprinkled some more seeds,… then threw some dirt around,… and stomped all over the garden.

I’m not sure which plants will grow or where. But I’m sure something will come up. I tried to help them plant the peas a little more thoughtfully, since we had to sow those a couple of inches below the surface. Either way, I’m sure they will be thrilled when they start seeing little plants sprout up in their garden. We’ll also transplant some of the seedlings we started indoors later on when the weather is warm enough.

I can’t wait to see how their garden progresses! Hopefully they’ll grow to love their garden as much as I love mine!