Tag Archives: Nontoxic sensory play

Top 13 in 2013

2 Jan My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

This blog has been a new adventure for me and, even though it only covered the second half of the year, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at my 13 most popular posts of 2013.

It’s been a lot of fun sharing, and I’m excited about another year with y’all!

Top 13 posts in 2013- Go Running, Mama!

13. Exhaustion, Smoothie Pick Me Ups, and a Virtual Half Marathon Comedy of Errors (September)- Forgetting water during a high altitude half marathon, finding out I had mono, and the smoothies that got me through the ordeal!

12. Carrot Top Tacos (July)- Spiced carrots and beans with carrot top chimichurri.  Never, ever waste your carrot tops again.

11. Maple Bacon Biscuits (September)-  Maple.  Bacon. Biscuit.  Trifecta.

10. Gifts from the Heart: Apple Cinnamon Ornaments (December)- An ultra non-toxic clay that makes heavenly scented ornaments or an amazing material for sensory play.

9.  #FirstontheFirst Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Penuche Frosting (October)- We were supposed to make candy, but I cheated and frosted a very yummy cake with this praline-esque frosting.

8. #FirstontheFirst Gateau Larsson (September)- My Scandinavian twist on a traditional Basque dessert.

7.  Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments (December)- These smooth ornaments are an inexpensive (and toddler friendly) alternative to a trip to a ceramics studio.

6. Creamy Garlic Kefir Pasta (July)- A probiotic packed easy meal.

5. Cinnamon Quinoa Lunchbox Bars (August)- Lunchbox snacks don’t get much healthier.

4. Meeska… Mooska… Mouseka Cakes: Zucchini Quinoa Lunchbox Patties (August)- Healthy food tastes even better in Mickey Mouse form.

3. #FirstontheFirst Candy Canes for Cheaters (December)- Once again, we were supposed to make candy.  And I didn’t.  But I think you’ll forgive me when you taste these cookies.

2. Frosty the Cheese Man: Snowman Cheese Ball with Hand Cut Tortilla Chips (December)- The most adorable, toddler friendly appetizer you’ll ever bring to a gathering.

1. Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments– Salt dough ornaments are a classic go-to holiday activity.

Looking for even more fun?  Here are my five favorite posts you may have missed this year…

My 5 Favorite Posts of 2013- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Baking Soda Clay Ornaments

17 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Looking for even more ornament ideas?  Check out our Salt Dough Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

I’m pretty close to breathing a a sigh of relief because we’ve almost completed all of our homemade gifts for this year.  I grew up with a mom who could command salt dough to do some pretty spectacular things, so that’s what we’ve used for our homemade ornaments in the past.  There are a couple of challenges with salt dough though- it takes forever to dry completely so you can paint and varnish and the surface isn’t completely smooth which gives it an adorable, shabby appearance but makes it hard for a little one to decorate with anything other than a paintbrush.

This year we were getting a later start and we also wanted to get started with our gift ornaments with some other playgroup friends during what Baby Bird referred to as her “ornament play party” so I decided that we would switch to baking soda clay for this year.  Baking soda clay bakes to dry much quicker than salt dough and dries with a perfectly smooth finish- my beautiful friend Kristin who joined us with her son for ornament creation pointed out that they looked and felt exactly like the ornaments available at the ceramics studio she and I have visited with our kiddos in the past.  She is right- they have a smooth, non-porous finish with a light sheen from the baking soda that makes them look special even without decorating.

The best part is they can be decorated with crayons and markers should you choose to keep the paint packed away.  You could even toss a few dried ornaments and markers into a ziplock bag in your purse to tote along for moments when your little one needs a fun activity if you are in a waiting room or stuck in traffic.  Baby Bird and I packed up a few with some markers to deliver to the porch of a friend with a sick kiddo who had been stuck at home for a few days.  There is nothing better than a virtual playdate delivery!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

The night before our “ornament play party” I made a batch of baking soda clay and Baby Bird and I cut lots of fun ornament shapes with our cookie cutters.  I baked them that evening so the kids would have an activity to work on while I made fresh clay for the kiddo’s handprint ornaments.

The precut, baked ornaments were a big hit and kept little hands very busy.  So busy, in fact, that I ended up sending the baking soda clay I made for handprint ornaments home with my mama friends…so I’ve been on the hook to provide step by step instructions for just what to do with that bag of clay I sent home!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

As you can see, Baby Bird is on a monochromatic kick.

This year I decided I’d like to give handprint reindeer and fingerprint Christmas trees since it has been two years since made anything that included Baby Bird’s fingerprints.  Instead of doing relief  handprints for a second year in a row, I opted for cutting a stencil of Bird’s hand to use for the reindeer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I moved the cut shapes to a baking sheet lined in parchment and had Baby Bird make little fingerprint indentions on the trees-pinky finger at the top down to thumb at the bottom.  Then into the oven!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I started with the trees since I knew they would be my most time consuming project.  I’ve discovered that things turn out better when you paint the edges of your ornaments first.  Otherwise, you end up with a slightly noticeable border on the face of your ornament.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the trees were painted and dry, I primed the fingerprint reliefs with white paint I applied wit a cotton swab so that Baby Bird’s fingerprints would really stand out.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I let Baby Bird select the colors we would use for each fingerprint and made sure we had wipes close at hand before we started adding colored fingerprints to the tree.  Two things to know- 1) there WILL be mess when you paint on a toddler hand so prepare for it and 2) you have to work at the speed of light to ensure your tiny artist doesn’t grow weary of the project in the middle!  So be prepared.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

We worked finger by finger down the trees- we first did all the pinky finger marks on our trees and worked out way down… much easier that doing each tree separately.  Though it took considerable guiding to ensure Baby Bird’s prints made it in each proper place, she had a blast yelling “Smooosh” each time she squished her finger into the indention and left a print.  Oh, how that girl loves to smoosh.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

When I decided on fingerprint trees, I hadn’t quite decided if the fingerprints should represent ornaments or lights.  Once all the color had been applied, the fingerprinted trees looked adorable but they just didn’t feel complete…

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

So I added a “string” to make fingerprint lights which felt much better!

Once they were dry, I hung them from a drying rack outside and sprayed them with a coat of low gloss acrylic sealer.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

While the trees dried, I move on to the reindeer handprints which were insanely simple by comparison.

Paint the handprints brown.

Seriously.  That’s it.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Once the paint is dry, spray them with a sealer and apply eyes, a nose, and a bow.

Done.  Wham, bam, Happy Holidays Ma’am!

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

I love that they feel totally different from the Santas and Penguins with gave as gifts last year, but are every bit as homespun and heartfelt!  Between these, the cinnamon clay ornaments, and the reindeer tea towels we have in progress we now have holiday gifting from the toddler locked down. Such a nice feeling.

Gifts from the Heart: Smooth Baking Soda Ornaments (A homemade alternative to going to the ceramics studio)- Go Running, Mama!

Baking Soda Clay

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups baking soda
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 1 1/3 cups cold water
  • 1 tbs cooking oil (I use olive or grapeseed since we don’t keep canola or mixed vegetable oil in the house)

Directions:  Whisk baking soda and cornstarch together in a medium sized saucepan.  Add liquids together and slowly whisk into dry ingredients.

Place saucepan on a burner at med/med-high heat and stir frequently with a silicone spoon/spatula.  Mixture will boil and then begin form clumps- once you see the first bubbles reach the surface of the mixture, move from stirring frequently to constantly, scraping the bottom of the pan as you go.  Mixture will soon form a thick mass that holds its shape and will be the consistency of slightly dry mashed potatoes.

Turn mixture out into a glass bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel to cool slightly.  Once cool to the touch, turn out onto parchment and knead until very smooth.

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.

On parchment lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll out dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven for 90 minutes, rotate sheet and flip ornaments, and return to oven for 30 minutes more.

Once dry and cool paint, decorate, and varnish as desired. If painting a more detailed design, brush ornaments with a damp sponge before painting to allow better paint manipulation as paint adsorbs quickly.

Gifts from the Heart (Quick and Easy Edition): Cinnamon Apple Clay Ornaments

16 Dec Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Looking for even more ornament ideas?  Check out our Salt Dough Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

Friday morning- the day after hosting what Baby Bird referred to as her “ornament play party” at our house- we had play plans with my good friend Laura and her daughters.  It was actually our turn to host Laura and her girls, but since she has an infant it just feels easier for her when we are on her home turf… but I’m not one to shirk my hostessing duties (especially for a mom with an infant) so we offered to bring lunch and the activity along with us so she didn’t have to think about it. Since we’re on a homemade gift making binge at our home, I offered to make some cinnamon clay to bring along so the girls could make some gifts.

We’re on a roll with ornament creation at our house because ornaments make awesome, heartfelt seasonal gifts for loved ones from the littles.  Laura and I have similar parenting styles, so I knew that she too would be into a little homemade gift making time, but I didn’t want to invade her home with the level of mess that accompanies most ornament projects so i decided that cinnamon clay was the right choice for two specific reasons- cinnamon clay requires no real additional painting or sealing and it makes your home smell amazing when baking them in the oven which is a great value add for an activity you tote to a friends house.

I like to keep our cinnamon clay nontoxic and foodsafe, so I leave out the white craft glue that many recipes add.  Ours is simply equal parts cinnamon and applesauce plus the addition of ground clove and nutmeg.  My Cuisinart Mini Prep makes quick work of mixing it up and then it only requires a few minutes of extra hand kneading to get the feel for the correct consistency.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Roll it our between 1/4-1/2 inch thickness and then all that is required is some cookie cutters and a straw to poke the hole for the string.  This makes a pretty easy project to give the kiddos free reign in design once things are rolled out since I don’t have to worry about depth of handprints or perfect paint jobs later on.  Baby Bird has developed a habit of making light patterns in the dough with her cookie cutters before actually cutting a shape which makes for an end design with a visually interesting texture- obviously a young van Gogh in the making.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

You see the photos flanking this text?  That you are witnessing here is some very serious toddler art discussion time!  Though “I am making a BIG snowman!” “Well, I am making one teeny!” might not sound all that profound, but it’s something pretty major when you consider that it shows thoughtful comparison and evaluation of a peer’s work.  Toddlers are amazing little creatures!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Really and truly, all you have to do it transfer the cut shapes to a cookie sheet lined in parchment, punch ribbon holes with a straw, bake them in the oven (heed my ornament flipping instructions in the directions- these little suckers like to try to curl up on ou!), and call it a day while your house smells like heaven. Tie a cute ribbon around them, hang them on the tree near the lights or as a finial on a lamp et viola!  A fantastic smelling, super easy, toddler generated creation.

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

But if you get the itch to over-achieve, you can get out the fabric paint (isn’t everyone channeling 1987 at their house with a healthy stash of puff paint?) and paint a little cookie border.  Gold star for the extra effort!

Even with that little addition, these are still the quickest and easiest baked ornament craft we create at our house.  Hooray for that!

Gifts from the Heart: Super Simple Cinnamon Clay Ornaments (No painting or varnishing actually required!)- Go Running, Mama!

Cinnamon Clay Ornaments

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar free apple sauce (not chunky)
  • 1 cup cinnamon
  • 1/2 tbs ground clove
  • 1/2 tbs ground nutmeg

Directions: Preheat oven to 175 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor (a Cuisinart Mini Prep does the trick perfectly!) and pulse to combine.  Turn out onto parchment generously dusted with cinnamon and knead with cinnamon dusted hands.  If mixture is slightly sticky, knead in more cinnamon, cloves, or nutmeg to your personal preference.  Knead until clay dough is smooth and elastic but no longer actively sticky.

Roll out between two sheets of parchment dusted with cinnamon.  For best results, roll dough between 1/2 inch and 1/4 inch thickness- the thicker the ornament, the longer the dry time but the less curling.  Use cookie cutters to cut designs and a straw to punch a hole for ribbon.

Remove shapes to a cookie sheet lined in parchment and reroll the remaining dough to cut additional ornaments.

Bake at 175 in 30 minute increments, flipping ornaments every half hour.  Bake time to dry will take between 1 1/2- 2 1/2 hours, depending on thickness of the ornaments.

Gifts from the Heart: Homemade Ornaments

2 Dec Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Looking for more homemade ornament ideas?  Check out Baby Bird’s amazingly awesome Baking Soda Clay Ornaments and Cinnamon Clay Ornaments!

 

Baby Bird might be less than three years old, but we’ve helped her to establish the tradition of making homemade gifts for her loved ones (and she’s got a whole lotta people to love) each holiday season.  Last year we made salt dough ornaments with her hand and foot prints that turned out absolutely adorable.  I’m seriously sad I didn’t make a few extra for our tree!

A few days ago I got a text from another stay-at-home mama friend on a budget asking for the how-to on our salt dough ornament activity from last year, so it seemed like the perfect thing to share right here!

Salt dough is easy and inexpensive. It take a little muscle to knead it to the right consistency and a little more patience to get it to dry out fully before the painting stage, but the moderate effort required is well worth the absolutely precious outcome.  You’ll be hard pressed to find a more impressive gift project using items that exist in your pantry!

The first step is a simple one: Mix up a batch of salt dough in your stand mixer (recipe below).  You aren’t going to eat this one (although if your little one nibbles a corner during the creative process- it is non-toxic!) so you can mix like crazy without having to fear over-glutenizing the flour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once everything is well mixed, turn out the dough and knead it well.  Toddlers love to help with this step even though their assistance doesn’t really help.  Who cares!  Helping hands and working hands learning to care and assist at home.

Knead until smooth, then cover with a damp towel and let it rest for about a half an hour.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

After the rest period, I rolled the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness on floured parchment on a cookie sheet.  The cookie sheet is totally necessary if you’re going to do little feet and don’t want those feet on your counter.

To get the best hand and foot print impressions possible, I moved the tray to the ground and had Baby Bird step hard on each foot for a footprint or get down on the hands and knees and really lean into her hand print- salt dough can be resistant at times.

Once I had the basic impressions, I cut around them with a knife and removed the excess dough.

Then, I brought the tray down the the floor again and had Baby Bird lean into her prints one more time to make sure the impressions were set deeply into the dough.

I cut holes using a straw and then they were ready for the oven!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

It’s important to make sure the ornaments are completely dry before you paint and seal them or they will never really dry out… and could get moldy. Ewwww! (Moldy ornament does not equal beloved gift)

After the first three hours, rotate the pan as needed and flip the ornaments if the back side doesn’t seem to be drying.  After turning off the oven, I just left mine in over night in the warmth of the oven to ensure they were completely dry.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

The painting is the fun part!  I’m sure Baby BIrd would have loved to assist with this part, but I was keen on making penguins and Santas that really looked like penguins and Santas.  If the design isn’t the important element for you then let your little one dive in!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Footprints make ideal penguins and snowmen, while handprints are great Santas and reindeer.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once painted, let your ornaments dry completely.  Don’t forget to paint the backs once the fronts are dry- ornaments have a tendency to spin around on a tree!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Once the paint is dry, hang your ornaments on a rack outside and give them a quick shot with an acrylic sealer to keep them looking lovely for years to come!

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

How happy do they look!? So happy.

Go Running, Mama! Homemade Salt Dough Ornaments- Easy, Inexpensive Homemade Gifts

Salt Dough- The Basics

Ingredients

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup table salt
  • 3/4 to 1 cup warm water

Directions: Preheat oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine all ingredients (beginning with only 3/4 cups water) in stand mixer and mix until completely incorporated.  Add more water- a teaspoon at a time- if needed.

Once fully incorporated, turn out onto waxed paper and knead until smooth.  If choosing to add food coloring, do so at this point by adding small amounts of gel coloring between each kneading.  Allow to rest about 30 minutes at room temperature, covered by a damp towel.

On lightly floured parchment, roll our dough to a thickness between 1/4- 1/2 inch.  Less than 1/4 inch thick will cause cracking and breakage during the drying process.

Cut dough into desired shapes.  Transfer to parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake in oven until dry 4-8 hours.  After the first 3 hours, check hourly for dryness.  Rotate the sheet and flip the ornaments as needed to ensure ornaments dry evenly and completely.

Once dry and cool, paint, decorate, and varnish as desired.