• WATERMELON 🍉 20 Ways to Play

    1)    “Bake”/“Carve” a Cake – Take a large seedless watermelon and slice it across lengthwise into 4-5 large sections, slice off peel, and cut of edges to form large squares or circles of varied proportions. Let your little help you stack the pieces from biggest to smallest on top of each other forming a large tiered “watermelon cake” ! Next, grab sprinkles, icings, melted chocolate (or chocolate chips!) and let your little help you decorate the “cake!”

    2) Hammering 🔨 – Grab a toy hammer and a handful of golf tees, let your little (if/as age appropriate) help hammer the tees into a whole melon to add “spikes” or let them hammer them all the way in and then pull them out together. Be sure to discuss how the watermelon smells and feels. Is there a bigger smell when the tees are in the melon? Or when they are pulled out? 

    3) Watermelon Bowling 🎳 – Grab a small whole watermelon and set up pins (or we love to use empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls, foam or plastic cups, etc as pins!). Enjoy a classic game of bowling (but skip the throw and keep it a rolling only version to avoid totally bruising your melon)! 

    4) Melon Popsicles – Slice your melon into small triangular pieces and let your little help you stick popsicle sticks into the rind  

    5) Watermelon Boats – Slice your melon into triangles and pretend play sail your boats across real (or pretend) water together, maybe even host a sailboat race! 

    6) Watermelon Cut Outs – Have a go punching out fun shapes from your watermelon slices, anyone up for watermelon goggles? 

    7) Wheels on the Bus – Slice your whole watermelon across into circular sections, offer your Little a “wheel” and sing “The Wheels on the Bus” while driving with your giant melon “steering wheels”

    8) Melon Bugs – grab your melon ball/cookie dough or ice cream scoopers and let your little help you scoop out watermelon balls from a whole melon sliced in half, line them up together to make little melon inch worms!

    9) Watermelon Ball Obstacle Course – Have a little that needs some heavy work activities to regulate? Try rolling or carrying that whole watermelon through a homemade obstacle course! Don’t be afraid to break out all those pillows and couch cushions! 

    10) Melon Smiles – Slice your melon into the classic smile and make silly smiles and frowns together!

    11) Seed Plop – Grab a seeded watermelon and see who can gather and spew/shoot their watermelon seeds the farthest or into a target/basket (e.g., a cup or bowl)

    12) Melon Ice Cream – Grab your ice cream scoops or cookie cutters for this one! Scoop or punch out fun shapes and fill up a sugar or waffle cone with your special watermelon “ice cream” scoops! 

    13) The MintMelon – Take some cubed watermelon and a handful of fresh mint leaves and let your Little help you load everything into the blender. Countdown for “blast off” (blend) and enjoy! If your Little is old enough, let them help pour from one container into the cups! 

    14) Watermelon Roll Painting – Grab a big sheet of paper or poster board, a whole watermelon and some finger paint outside. Squirt globs of paint across the board and let your little roll the melon back and forth across the page creating their very own masterpiece! 

    15) Watermelon Sensory Bag – Take a few cubes of watermelon and glitter, buttons, beads, figures or whatever you can find from around the house and pop them into a plastic bag. Let your little touch, feel and squish the watermelon cubes down into pulp and juice, then you can use the bag as a fun “search and find” activity bag! 

    16) Watermelon Counting – Take your watermelon sticks, slices or cubes and let your little help you stack them onto a serving plate or into the tupperware you plan to store it in, count each piece outlouch together! 

    17) Watermelon Volcano Experiment – Check out this fun volcano experiment activity from Little Bins for Little Hands here: https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/watermelon-volcano-activity-baking-soda-vinegar-science/?epik=dj0yJnU9dWdvd1VlVGQ5UEh1RGpYb2pZS2xyU2JjVkdubEdFa0ImcD0wJm49aTdPcGNzVlhlUFdHaXhISjZJck5aZyZ0PUFBQUFBR0VGZ2gw

    18) Soda Floats – grab your melon ball/cookie dough or ice cream scoopers and let your little help you scoop out watermelon balls from a whole melon sliced in half, place them into a fizzy drink of your choice (if/as age appropriate) e.g., sparkling water, sparkling lemonade, a lemon-lime soda or orange soda; add straws and cheers, if your little is old enough break out the fun or special glasses for this one! 

    19) The Melon Bowl – Scoop out your melon leaving the rind intact, let your Little help “fill up the bowl” with water and make a fun pretend play swimming pool, sensory bin or a big giant cup (don’t try sips unless you’re outside!)

    20) Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!

  • Tofu – 20 Ways to Play

    1)    The Jumping Pad – Take some fun figures (or favorite action figures) and let them use a slice or full block of tofu as their “jumping pad/trampoline” Who’s figure can bounce the highest?!

    2) Skyscrapers – Gather air fried tofu “blocks” and a sauce of choice (we like to use BBQ!) build “skyscrapers” together using the BBQ sauce “cement” to dip the tofu “bricks” in and stick them together. Who can build the biggest skyscraper?!

    3) Squishy Stamps – Slice your tofu block into strips and grab a few of your favorite cookie cutters. Stamp out a few fun shapes and use a dip of your choice as ink (e.g., Korean BBQ, Ketchup, Ranch, etc)!

    4) Silly Mustaches – Slice your tofu into strips and make “pretend play” mustaches for you and your little one!

    5) Block Inchworms – cut out a variety of cubes from your tofu block and line them up to form “inchworms!” inch the pieces across the table together!

    6) X & O – Cut out a handful of “X” and “O” shapes from your tofu block and enjoy a classic game of tic-tac-toe!

    7) Boop Game – take a block of tofu and “pretend play” that it’s your nose! Take turns “boop-ing” each other’s noses (by poking them and calling out “BOOP!”)!

    8) Treasure Chest – A fan favorite! Slice your block of tofu in half, scoop out a small section in the bottom block to form the inside of the “chest” and place something silly inside (think: a tiny toy, a favorite food, a (clean) piece of money, etc) take turns peeking under the “lid” (or top block of the tofu to see what’s inside the chest! We love to yell “PEEK” when we quickly open up the lid to “peek” underneath!

    9) Fix it Up! – Take a few golf tees and (if/as age appropriate) a toy hammer. Take turns pounding the nails into a full tofu block and then pulling them back out for great tactile exposure!

    10) Minecraft Blocks – Take a few tofu blocks and help your Little One build their “fortress” up as high as they can!

    11) Fun Faces – use pieces of air fried tofu to form silly faces on paper plates together, get creative and add other veggies as needed too!

    12) Ice Cream Sundays – Use a few pieces of air fried tofu and stack them onto a cone (drawing or an actual ice cream cone if you have one) drizzle “caramel/chocolate” (i.e., a topping/sauce of your choice BBQ, ketchup etc) over your “1, 2, or 3 scoops” Use a seasoning as your “sprinkles” and let your little help shake those “sprinkles” on top! 

    13) The Swimming Pool – Take a small ramekin and fill it with a dip or sauce of your choice. Pretend play that your tofu pieces are people headed to the “swimming pool” (i.e., the dip/sauce “pool”) and take turns helping them “dive in!” for a “dip!” ! 

    14) The Balance Beam – Take tofu pieces in different sizes and shapes and see which ones you can balance across an extended finger which you can pretend is the “balance beam”!

    15) Poke Designs – Take a fork and poke it into your tofu block, take turns making different patterns and designs with the fork prints! This is a great activity for littles who are more hesitant to engage with new foods with their hands, but would be comfortable interacting with the new food with their utensil (i.e., the fork)!

    16) Hot Potato – Play a classic game of “hot potato” using a block or piece of tofu!

    17) Tanks – Pretend play that your block of tofu is a “big tank” driving all over your plate/mat!

    18) Simon Says Tofu Edition – Play simon says together using the tofu for all of your directions, for example: “simon says put the tofu on your elbow!” “simon says, hop on one foot holding the tofu!”

    19) Tofu Snakes – Cut your tofu into strips and pretend play snakes “sssssslideing” all over your plate!

    20) Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!

  • CAULIFLOWER – 20 Ways to Play

    1) Beautiful bouquets – Take raw cauliflower pieces and put together your own fun “bouquet”! Want to make it colorful? Add a little food coloring to a veggie dip of your choice or choose a variety of colored dips (e.g., hummus, ranch, refried blackbeans) and paint your “flowers” so your bouquet can be extra fun!

    2) Cauliflower Parachutes – Sail your cauliflower “parachutes” up into the sky and all around together!

    3) Tiny Treetops – Build a tiny forest of cauliflower “trees” by propping them upright in a thick puree (e.g., mashed potatoes) 

    4) Cauliflower Buffet – See how many different “cauliflower” dishes you can pair up and have a blind taste test (think: cauliflower dips, cauliflower tots, cauliflower rice, etc!) 

    5) Dinosaur Dig – Rice up your cauliflower (or grab a pre-riced pack frozen from the store!) and heap the “dirt” or “snow” over a few dinosaur figurines. Let your little “dig-dig-dig” for the missing dinos!

    6) Cauliflower Shakes – Add a little riced cauliflower into a smoothie recipe, be sure to let your little help scoop it in!

    7) Cauliflower Umbrellas – Break a few pieces of cauliflower off and fill a medicine cup with water, pour the “rain” over the umbrellas and see who has the “best” umbrella! If you’re feeling brave maybe even try it over your tongues! 

    8) A Snowy Day – Let your little sprinkle “snow” (riced cauliflower) over their plate during a meal/snack!

    9) Cauliflower Hash – Shred a little cauliflower in with your hashbrowns for a fun twist!

    10) Cauliflower Chop – (If/as age appropriate) Grab a child-safe knife and let your little help “chop down the trees” with you! 

    11) Cauliflower Bath – Let your little one help send the cauliflower “through the carwash” and scrub down that cauliflower in the sink with you!

    12) Cauliflower Hide and Seek – Take a piece or full head of cauliflower and play hide and seek/search and find with it!

    13) Hot Air Balloons – Float your cauliflower pieces “upupup” to the moon! Maybe they’ll make a surprise landing on…. Your nose! Or maybe even your teeth!

    14) Mashed Cauliflower Letters – Take your (cooked) mashed cauliflower and spread a thin layer out on a sheet pan. Use your fingers to form letters, lines or shapes together! PRO TIP: If your little is hesitant to put their finger in, let them use a utensil (e.g., chopstick, straw or plastic spoon) to draw instead!

    15) Cauliflower Pizza – Grab a pre-made (or make your own!) cauliflower crust and DIY pizza together!

    16) Crystal Ball – Peel the leaves off your head of raw cauliflower and pretend play “rub” your crystal ball together! Ask it questions or tell silly fortunes together!

    17) Cauliflower Stamps – Slice your cauliflower into steaks and then use cookie cutters to punch out little stamps! Use real paint or food purees for more fun and exposure!

    18) Cauliflower Nuggets – Make cauliflower nuggets together! We like this recipe: https://thehiddenveggies.com/cauliflower-nuggets-vegan-gluten-free/ 

    19) Cauliflower Brooms – Flip your cauliflower pieces upside down and “sweep-sweep-sweep” together!

    20) Finally, serve the cauliflower! Expose, Expose, Expose! Remember, consistency is key!

  • KALE – 20 Ways to Play

    1. Make your own instruments! Place kale pieces into containers and shake them around like maracas! Bonus: Name your band something simple such as “Kale Crew”
    2. Use kale in food art! Make the kale grass or leaves on a tree! 
    3. Place kale into a smoothie! Do a science experiment to slowly add a little bit more and compare the colors as you go! 
    4. Make kale chips! Have your Little help you prep in the kitchen! 
    5. Put together a kale bouquet! Fill a small cup with water and place kale pieces inside together! 
    6. Create your own kale sensory bin! Have your Little practice ripping up pieces and place them into a container. Use toy animals to have a pretend farm!
    7. Have a kale race! Use kitchen tongs, a chip clip, or a clothespin to pick up a piece of kale and race it to the other side of the kitchen! 
    8. Play hide and seek! Take a large piece of kale and hide it around! 
    9. Put together a sensory bottle with kale! Fill a bottle up with water, kale pieces, and other ingredients of your choosing such as other greens or even food coloring! 
    10. Use kale pieces as paint brushes! Paint with dips or other condiments! Hold the brush in your hands or even between your teeth for a silly time! 
    11. Have a kale boat race! Place the kale in a bin of water and practice blowing your boats to the other side! Bonus: this gets your Little up close and personal with kale! 
    12. Have a kale car wash! Get out the toy cars and scrub them with kale for a pretend play activity! 
    13. Be a kale scientist! Make a hypothesis about how many kale pieces it takes to build a certain height of a tower or reach a certain weight on a food scale! 
    14. Kale Blankets: Make kale blankets and pretend putting little toys to sleep by singing “rock a bye baby”
    15. Silly Faces: Challenge each other to make the silliest kale faces/disguises! Use kale as unicorn horns, silly mustaches, long noses, and more! 
    16. Make kale jewelry! Grab out some string and tear up a few pieces of kale leaves! String the leaves to make a bracelet or necklace. 
    17. Design your own kale sensory bottle: Take an old water bottle and fill it with water and kale pieces plus any other fun ingredients of your choosing like food coloring, glitter, mini toys, and more! 
    18. Read a book with your magical kale pointer! Tell your Little(s) that it’s story time and they can use a magical green pointer to answer questions! Have your Little point out characters or vocabulary with the kale tip
    19. Remix a song! Try out “if you’re happy and you know it, clap your kale!” 

    Lastly, serve the kale. They may not eat it, but remember a little bit on the plate goes a long way for exposure!

  • Eat, Drink & Be Empathetic

    Finding yourself frustrated with meals? Wishing your child would progress with new foods quicker? We hear you. We understand you. We respect you.

    Did it feel good to hear that?

    Now, turn the script to your child. Hear them, understand them, respect them.

    New foods can be anxiety inducing. New activities can be challenging. New restaurants can be overwhelming.

    We encourage you to not only acknowledge your child’s emotions in response to foods, but also to assist them in navigating through problem solving.

    “I see that you crossed your arms and turned away to tell me that you were upset when I put this large bowl of new, purple food on the table. Let’s try putting a smaller amount onto a plate and making a purple house out of these carrots!”

    For more insight into navigating big emotions, check out “The Whole Brain Child” by @drdansiegel and @tinapaynebryson 

  • Allergen Free Recipes for all ages!

    Hi there! It’s Paige again dropping in to say hello and share some delicious allergen-free recipes and insights with you. If you haven’t read my posts before, I’ll give you a brief introduction of myself and you can also find my previous posts “Tips for parents of children with food allergies” and “Back to School for Littles with Food Allergies.” I work closely with individuals of all ages for nutrition counseling. I specifically focus on food allergies, vegan and vegetarian foods, food service sustainability and culinary nutrition. I work with a variety of students at my job to help them manage their food allergies, along with our team of talented chefs who help me create and implement new recipes. You can see more of what our team does by checking out @tk_bgsudining on Instagram!

    Let’s get to the fun part- RECIPES! The following recipes are ones that I absolutely LOVE to use when cooking for individuals with food allergies. Although they are specific to valentine’s day, they can really be used any time of year! Shape the cookies into shamrocks, make the pizzas into Christmas trees… you get the idea. The cookies are the perfect recipe to share with classrooms of children because they don’t contain any of the top 8 allergies. 

    Allergen Free Sugar Cookies

    Allergen Free Sugar Cookies and Frosting

    Cookies

    • 2/3 cup Earth Balance Butter
    • ¾ cup Sugar
    • 1 tsp vanilla
    • ½ cup applesauce
    • 4 tsp Oatmilk or Rice Milk
    • ¼ tsp Salt
    • 1 tsp Bob’s Red Mill Xantham Gum
    • 1 ½ tsp baking powder
    • 2 cups gluten free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)

    Directions:

    1. Mix butter, sugar, vanilla, applesauce and milk until smooth. Add in the salt, xantham gum, baking powder and half o the gluten-free flour. Mix well.
    2. Add in the rest of the gluten-free flour and blend well.
    3. Cover and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
    4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    5. Sprinkle gluten free flour on clean surface. Roll out cookie dough and cut out shapes.
    6. Bake for 5-7 minutes or until golden brown. Cool and frost!

    Allergen Free Frosting

    • ½ cup earth balance butter, softened
    • 1 ½ tsp vanilla extract
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 2 Tbsp Oat milk or rice milk
    • Food Coloring as Desired

    Directions:

    1. Using electric mixer, beat butter, vanilla and milk until smooth.
    2. Slowly add in powdered sugar. Add in food coloring as desired. Keep refrigerated.

    Note: When looking for sprinkles be sure to double check ingredient labels because many sprinkles are manufactured in facilities that process peanuts and treenuts. You can also find a wide variety of allergen free sprinkles on Amazon! I will be creating a “favorite products” amazon list for you to check out soon.

    Allergen Free Heart Shaped Pizzas

    No-Rise Pizza Dough

    • 1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp)
    • 1 cup warm water
    • 2 ½ cups gluten free flour (I prefer Bob’s Red Mill)
    • 2 Tbsp olive Oil
    • 2 tsp sugar
    • 1 tsp salt

    Sauce

    • 2 cups tomato sauce
    • 3 Tbsp Tomato paste (more if you prefer thick sauce)
    • ½ tsp garlic powder
    • ½ tsp onion powder
    • 2 Tbsp Dried Italian Herbs
    • Pinch Salt
    • Pinch Pepper

    Toppings

    • Daiya Mozzarella Cheese (Note: some non-dairy cheeses contain coconut)
    • Fresh vegetables
    • Ham
    • Pineapple

    And anything else you desire!

    Directions:

    1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a medium bowl and add rest of ingredients. Beat vigorously for 20 strokes and let rest for 10 minutes. Press dough into heart shaped pizzas and place onto greased 11×17 baking sheet.
    2. Mix sauce ingredients together and spread over heart shaped pizzas. Top with Daiya cheese and toppings of choice.
    3. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-15 minutes (dependent upon shape and size). Enjoy!

    I hope you enjoy these recipes as much as I do! Stay safe and warm friends.

    Paige Wagner, RDN, LD

  • Linking to Learn – Poptarts to Raspberries

    🔗 Another linking to learn! Poptarts ➡️ Raspberries ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    🔗 Linking to learn involves presenting one food at a time to your Little while using your words to show how the foods are linked! Such as we had rainbow rocks and now we have all red rocks!” Spend a few minutes interacting with each food before moving on to the next! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    💡 Remember: linking to learn is for food exploration! Your Little may not quite be ready to eat all of these foods just yet! Celebrate the small steps like touching a new food, putting a new food on their noses, or even taking a small lick! ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
    ⏰ Keep it fun and try not to stay at the table too long! Take 15-20 minutes total to present each food one at a time. Try this strategy during a snack time so as not to interrupt mealtimes. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
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  • No Fowl Play involved in the Creation of These Fun Apple “Turkey” Pops!

    🦃 #PlayDay turkey style! We mixed crafting and food exposure in this fun activity to create our very own turkeys! ⠀

    👍🏼 What we used:⠀
    -apples sliced in circles⠀
    -melted chocolate ⠀
    -reeses peanut butter cups ⠀
    -candy corn ⠀
    -candy eyes ⠀
    -sprinkles ⠀

    Steps to create! ⠀
    1️⃣ slice apples in circle shapes ⠀
    2️⃣ place apple slices on kebab sticks ⠀
    3️⃣ melt chocolate chips and spread over apples⠀
    4️⃣ place peanut butter cup in middle ⠀
    5️⃣ align candy corn as feathers! ⠀
    6️⃣ add candy eyes, candy corn pieces, and sprinkles to make the face! ⠀

    🗣Some language we used:⠀

    ⭐️you can help wash the apples! ⠀
    ⭐️we can use our fingers to spread the chocolate!⠀
    ⭐️we can count out five candy corn pieces! ⠀
    ⭐️we can clean up together when we are all done! ⠀

    Enjoy!⠀

  • Fall Sensory Bin Fun!

    🍁 Colored leaves and happy kiddos please! This #PlayDay we have a fall leaf sensory bin that will not disappoint! With this sensory bin we are hoping to engage the eyes, ears, hands, and noses! 

    What we used:
    🍁 Fall leaves (you can use real or fake).

    🥜 Acorns that had fallen on the ground.

    👃 Cinnamon sticks.

    🌲 Pinecones.



    🤚 Optional:

    1. Kitchen tongs for our little ones that may not be ready to dive in with their hands.
    2. Extra seasonings or essential oils to sprinkle (or drop) on top for an intense scent activity!


    😃 Play-tip: see which item makes the loudest sound when FALLing into the bin!

    💡 Pro-tip: encourage your child to help gather fresh items from outside for this bin so that they are able to learn more about the growing process! Take some time to compare pictures of green leaves on trees to the way the trees are looking now. Look up a picture of an acorn when it first starts growing and compare it to what you found outside.


    🤔 Living in a more urban area with less access to fresh trees and leaves? Never fear, Target Dollar Spot and Amazon Prime never disappoint!

  • Fall Sensory Trays!

    This season we are LOVING the latest shake up for sensory bins and bags in the evolution of the sensory baking tray!

    This is a fun way to introduce your little one to a variety of new concepts!

    For our fall sensory baking sheet we used:

    🌻 Flowers (“These flowers have a BIG smell, they smell sweet!”)

    🧂 Pom-Poms (“Look! These pom-poms are so colorful! I can pick up the green one with my clip!”)

    🌲 Pinecones (“Wow! These pinecones feel bumpy!”)

    🕯 Artificial Candles (“Woah! These candles make my pom-pom look brighter!”)

    🧁 Silicone cupcake liners (“Look I can put my pinecones IN! Plop! Plop!”)

    🥨 Chip-Clips

    Feel free to sprinkle whatever seasoning you want on top! We love to use nutmeg, cinnamon and pumpkin pie spices this time of year!

    NOTE: If you don’t have “chip-clips” on hand, clothespins work great too!

    As always, remember this activity is a great opportunity to practice that neutral descriptive language while helping your little one learn all about different textures, shapes, sizes and scents!