A Recipe for Fun

messy handsThis is the time of the year when all the favorite recipes are pulled out, filling our house with the delicious scent of comfort foods. The early childhood teachers at Harley have their own special recipe book which they refer to throughout the school year. The results of these recipes are certainly not a full stomach, but there are many ooooh’s and aaaaah’s as children dig into what is created.
These recipes are often classroom favorites, and the teachers are sharing them with you for the days when long winter snowstorms keep you inside, and your children are looking for something new and fun to do. So, warm up your stove tops, get the ingredients on hand and get ready to play with all these fun concoctions!

Note: These recipes are not for eating, though some of them smell just delicious. Keep these creations on the playtable, not the dining room table.

Kool-Aid Playdough
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup salt
2 pkgs. unsweetened kool-aid

Mix together.
Add 2 cups boiling water and 3 Tbsp oil. Stir well. Knead, cool and store in an airtight container.

Use equal parts cornstarch and water. Mix as best you can. Pour into tubs or trays.

Puffed Paint
Mix equal parts of flour, salt and water. Add food coloring. Put in a squeeze bottle and paint.

1 1/2 cups white glue
1 cup liquid starch

Mix together with hands. If it is wet and a lot of starch is not bonding add water. If it is sticky, add more starch. Keep working it until it feels right.

1 cup water
1/3 cup Dawn dish soap

Mix together and see what happens to the bubbles when you blow them in a Minnesota winter.

Pumpkin Pie Play Dough–this produces a classroom-size amount, so save this recipe for a day when you will have a play date with others.
This one takes a bit more work, but it smells delicious, and will inspire creative baking play for sure! (It is still not for eating)

5 1/2 cups flour
2 cups salt
8 teaspoons cream of tarter
3/4 cup oil
1 (1 1/2 ounce) container pumpkin pie spice
Orange food coloring (2 parts yellow, 1 part red)
4 cups water

Mix all the ingredients together. Cook and stir over medium heat until all lumps disappear. Knead the dough on a floured surface until it is smooth.
Store in an airtight container

Ever wonder why early childhood teachers encourage such messy play activities? Having messy activities in our homes can be difficult to manage (which is why it is so nice that the teachers create opportunities in their classrooms all year), however there is a lot of learning that goes on while children are playing with these different materials.
First of all, because children learn about their world through their senses, they need a wide variety of sensory activities to encourage learning and growth. This tactile play–really getting the hands dirty– helps to stimulate children’s brains and create connections about the world around them. While our little scientists are experimenting with all these materials, they are making discoveries about their world.
In addition, the open-ended nature of these materials allow children to develop and nurture their creativity and self-expression. They become emotionally involved in their play, and emotional involvement in an activity is linked with cognitive development.
So, during these long winter days, choose some of the above recipes and encourage your children to explore with them in whatever way they wish. There are no wrong answers with these materials. When it is time to put things away, have them help to clean up the mess. Who knows, you might find that these recipes become some of your family favorites!

Another Great Resource

When parents realize that the Early Childhood Family Education Program (ECFE) is provided only in the state of Minnesota, jaws generally drop. Our state provides universal access to parenting education through each public school district. State licensed educators provide programming for both the children and the parents.
The schools, the Community Education departments and the Minnesota Department of Education work together to provide this wonderful program.

Another collaboration that benefits families with young children is the new Early Learning Digest newsletter which you can receive via email. The Minnesota Department of Education and the Working Family Resource Center have partnered to provide research-based information about the development of children from birth through age five. This collaboration is possible through two innovative initiatives of the Dept. of Ed.: MN Parents Know and Help Me Grow.

The Early Learning Digest provides a snapshot of information about parenting and child-rearing in a concise way that parents will appreciate. In addition, there are options within the e-newsletter to link to more information if you are interested in learning more about a topic.

The newsletter comes from a group of collaborators with a genuine interest in helping parents find the most useful and beneficial strategies for helping to raise the next generation–just like ECFE does!

Early Learning Digest is a resource you can trust. Click on this link to learn more about this informative newsletter, and to subscribe to its bi-monthly publication:


Mind in the Making

I’m paying attention more often now to those things that repeat themselves to me over and over again.  It seems that sometimes it takes a while to get my attention but when it does, it is worth it!  This fall, I’ve been exposed to opportunities over and over again to hear and read about a new book called, Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky.  This book speaks to seven essential skills children need to reach their fullest-potential.  The list includes:

  • Focus and Self-Control
  • Perspective Taking
  • Communicating
  • Making Connections
  • Critical Thinking
  • Taking on Challenges
  • Self-Directed Learning

Enticed to hear more?  Check out one or more of the following resources…




We often hear important information and can feel guilty that we missed an opportunity.  The most heartening part is that they say that it’s not too early or too late to begin to establish these qualities!

The Cure for the Winter-Time Blues

The temperature is now widely careening from one extreme to the next. It drops below freezing during the night, requiring all family members to get bundled up in mittens and jackets and hats before jumping into the car for the morning. However, by the late afternoon we may be hearing lots of complaining about being too hot. The temperature rises up to the mid-fifties—certainly no summer heat wave, but beautiful weather for last hurrah romps through the parks or the front yard.

Soon, however, we know what will be coming. Snow, freezing whistling winds, and a strong urge to hibernate through the dark months. Getting out of doors with young children is a real challenge during the colder months because it sometimes doesn’t even feel worth the effort to get all the gear on, warm the car up, stuff ourselves into car seats and travel the icy roads. However, long days indoors tend to test the patience of every parent in the upper latitudes.

Here is the great news!!! Harley Hopkins Family Center offers Stay and Play Opportunities on Thursdays, Fridays and some Saturdays throughout the winter! A chance to spend a few hours out of the house in a room designed to offer developmentally appropriate activities for you and your child to do together. A wonderful reason to get out into the morning of a cold wintery day.

This is in addition to our fantastic once-a-week classes for families with young children. Our early childhood program offers a room full of toys for the children, with supervision provided by licensed and highly skilled classroom teachers, and a chance for adults to discuss parenting topics with others who have children just the same age.

Our winter / spring catalog will be arriving in your mailbox by December. Be sure to look through it to find the classes or opportunities that best suit you and your family. Feel free to look up classes through our online catalog, also. It is located at http://www.hopkinsschools.org/early/ecfe-early-childhood-family-education
Scroll down to Registration to download a copy of the catalog.

In addition, Minnesota cities have taken our cabin fever difficulties to heart. Often there is an indoor gym provided for families with young children: a community gym opens its doors and welcomes children for a chance to run free, play with hula hoops, climb through tunnels and ride tricycles to their hearts delight.

Hopkins School District services quite a few cities in the area. Here is what those cities are offering you in the form of indoor entertainment. Take advantage of these great activities as you feel the weather turn chilly.

Hopkins / Minnetonka:
Pavilion Turf Tots: Mon–Fri, March 3–May 13, 2011
no program on April 22 or May 6
9 am–noon
$3/session per child
Turf Tots is a drop-in free-play program for children up to 5 years old. Kids can run and play with equipment provided by the Pavilion, including sport balls, crawl tunnels, bounce houses, hula hoops, and more!
Parents are required to stay on the field and supervise during the event.
Hopkins Pavilion
11000 Excelsior Blvd

St. Louis Park:
Little Tot Playtime: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays Oct. 6 – March. 25
(no session Oct. 29, Nov. 2, 24, 26, & Dec. 24, 28 & 29)
9:30 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.
$2 per session at the door OR $40 for a 30-session
Ages 1 to 5 by start of session (must be accompanied by an adult)
Enjoy “open play” time in the Banquet Room. Little tots can play Nerf basketball, jump in one of the moon walks, and play on the creative carpet. This is an unsupervised activity.
http://www.stlouispark.org/youth-activities/little-tot playtime.html?zoom_highlight=little+tot+playtime

Rec Center
3700 Monterey Drive
St. Louis Park, MN 55416
Phone: (952) 924-2540

Golden Valley:
Preschool Playtime: Fridays, Sept 17–Dec 17, No Nov 26
10–11:30 am
$3/child or $25/10-time punch pass ($29 non-resident).
Come run, jump, crawl, and have a great time indoors at Brookview Community Center. Adult participation with your child at the different play areas is required. No instruction provided.

Brookview Community Center
200 Brookview Parkway
Golden Valley, MN 55426

Fieldhouse Open Play: Starting Nov. 1, 2010 – April 1, 2011 Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays No Open Play on 12/24, 12/31, 3/18
10:30am – 1:30pm
$2 for Plymouth Resident children, $3 for Non-Resident children
Children may play on the field only when accompanied by an adult. Some equipment will be provided, but children may bring their own play equipment, such as Nerf or playground balls. Any equipment that might damage the field or presents a danger to other participants using the track will not be allowed (i.e. baseball, softball, etc.). If fieldhouse walking hours are cancelled on a particular day to accommodate other activities, open playtime will also be cancelled. Please check the walking/jogging schedule for any changes in times or dates.
http://plymouthmn.gov/index.aspx?page=119 Then click on Field House Open PlayLink, about halfway down the page

Plymouth Creek Center
14800 34th Ave.
Plymouth, MN 55447-1482

Gym Time: Nov 1, 4, 8, 11, 15, 18, 29 Dec 2, 6, 9, 13, 16 Jan 3, 6, 10, 13, 20, 27, 31 Feb 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 24 Mar 3, 7, 10, 14, 17, 21, 24
Mondays and Thursdays 10:00-12:00 PM
Join your friends at the Edina Community Center’s City Gym. Gym time is an interactive time with your children. This facility will give you and your pre-schoolers a chance to dance, run, wiggle and play. The Edina Family Center provides the environment and age-appropriate equipment, and you provide the snacks and supervision.
http://www.edina.k12.mn.us/community/familycenter/index.html    Click on PDF file titled Gym Time about halfway down the page on the right

Community Center’s City Gym
5701 Normandale Rd
Edina, Minnesota 5542
Park in the South parking lot & enter Door #8

Eden Prairie:
Tot Time: Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
9:30-11:30 a.m.
Combination Tot Time and Play Structure Rates:
• Tots (18 months–4 years): $5
• 5 years and up: $6
Member Play Structure Rates:
• Under 18 months: Free
• 18 Months–4 years: $3.50
• 5 years and Up: $4.50
A time for parents and children to interact, Tot Time makes actively playing together easy. Enjoy free play with balls, hoops, scooters, jump ropes, tumbling mats, parachutes, music and more. Members and guardians are free, however they must pay for play structure time if desired.

Eden Prairie Community Center
16700 Valley View Road