Exploring the Colors of Nature – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

colors of nature activityKids love colors. They naturally love exploring, hunting, seeking and discovering. By using this colors of nature activity you can help them discover all the colors and beauty in nature and that you can find them in the most unexpected and unique places.

Have you ever looked outside and wondered at all the colors of nature? The beauty of a field of wildflowers, purple, red, yellow; the wonder of the sunset, pink, orange and gold. Nature is full of color. From lush greens to deep purples and vibrant blues, they are all there, every color waiting to be found. This is one of the wonders and beauty of nature, that you can find every color possible there, every color if you look (because sometimes they are not that obvious).

In nature there is color in everything. No matter where you look there are different hues of blues, greys, greens and reds. You can find pinks tucked into rocks and oranges along the sea beds. You just have to look.

colors of nature activityFor many when we look outside we notice what we see the most of – the green trees, the blue sky, the yellow sun. But what if we were to look a little closer? What if we looked closer and noticed that the sun had spots of orange in it or a purple hue around the outer edge. Those colors are there but may not be obvious to us unless we are asked to look. And when we do, we often make the most unique discovery! Surprised to find it there.

Children love exploring and searching. They are like sponges waiting for water to soak up. They too see the obvious when they first step outside, but this colors of nature activity will not only teach them to look beyond the obvious, it will show them that all colors are everywhere in the natural world if they look a little closer and a little deeper.

Colors of Nature Activity

The thing I love most about this activity is the simplicity of it. How easy it is to put together and do with kids. All you need is a flip chart size piece of paper and some crayons.

  • Draw a color chart on a large piece of paper (flip chart size works well). Divide the paper into 9 equal squares. In each corner of the square choose a color and color that corner, say pink. That square now represents pink items. Do the same with the rest of the squares choosing different colors. I like to choose some colors that I know will be easy, like green and brown, and start with those in the activity. This creates success for the kids. Then when you get to colors that are not as abundant they are already engaged and willing to look.
  • colors in natureGather the kids around the color chart (which I lay on the ground) and briefly talk about the different colors in nature and how you can find them everywhere. Ask the kids questions about where they see colors in nature as examples.
  • Do one color at a time. Start with a super easy color (this will depend on your location, green might be abundant in the forest but may not be at the beach). Ask them to go find natural items that are that color and bring them back. Remind them to only pick up things that they find on the ground and not pick live things or take leaves off trees.
  • Have everyone place the items they found on the color square. Then take a moment to have everyone look and see the different things that were found. Point out the unique ones and discuss other things that are that color in nature that they may not have found in their area or weren’t able to pick.
  • Repeat with the next color. Mix it up with colors that might be harder to find, with those that are easier. This creates a feeling of success for the kids and keeps them interested in the activity.
  • Continue until your color chart is full! Then take a look at your wonderful natural color pallet.

When I did this with my kids it was amazing what we found. In a soccer field, we found oranges and pinks, purples and blues. And it kept the kids engaged for 30 minutes and probably could have continued on for longer.colors of nature activity

Not only did this activity allow them to explore and learn about their environment but it demonstrated that if you look close enough you can find many colors even in a soccer field. Plus it allowed them a little freedom in expanding their space, boundaries, and their exploration. It was empowering for them.

Then on our walk back we were all looking for (and finding) more colors, mostly the ones that we found less items for, and got quite excited about it.

This activity can be done anywhere. And even if you don’t have a color chart you can pick colors for kids to go and find, though the visual matching is nice when you can do it and enhances their sensory learning even more.colors of nature activity

*The color chart works great with kids of all ages and works especially well with younger children. With older kids you can use paint chips and give each child one to take with them on their exploration to go and match it to something. This again expands their boundaries but also allows them to take the color to the item to actually match it and they don’t need to pick it and bring it back. 

Building a Nature City – Outdoor Activities for Kids

outdoor sensory activitiesOne of the many benefits of outdoor nature activities is that they engage all five senses in children’s learning. Outdoor sensory activities like touching sticks, smelling the flowers, hearing the birds, seeing the grasshoppers, even tasting the dandelions!

Children (and adults) learn best and retain the most when they engage their senses. And an outdoor environment is one of the best places to do this! There is a plethora of sights, sounds and tactile experiences in nature, and a lot of times we are experiencing this without even thinking about it. Children just naturally gather sticks, rocks and flowers. They can’t help but be drawn to pick them up. How many times have you told your child to put that stick down or drop those rocks?

In this activity we are actually going to encourage children to pick up natural items and then take their exploration a bit further by creating a city with them.

Building a Nature City – An Outdoor Sensory Activityoutdoor sensory activities

You will need:

buckets

playdough (homemade or from the store)

flat bottom boxes

natural items (to be collected)

The first thing I did to get ready for this activity was make natural herbal playdough the day before. I found this recipe on The Imagination Tree and loved not only the idea of adding the herbs, which provide such a wonderful smell, but the use of real lemon juice in place of cream of tartar. Though I did this myself without the kids, you could easily make this into another activity with the kids (another great outdoor sensory activity) prior to building your nature city. Of course you can use regular playdough as well if you do not wish to make your own.outdoor sensory activities

Briefly explain what you are going to do – gather items, use the playdough, build city with items in your box. Then begin…

  1. outdoor sensory activitiesGive the child a bucket to hold their nature items in, then go out together and gather items. Encourage them to gather a variety of things and only pick up items that are already on the ground. We want to instill in them that pulling live leaves off or breaking branches can hurt the tree, or picking the flowers (with the exception of dandelions) can prevent them from growing again.
  2. Once they have gathered their items return to a spot outdoors where they can have a ‘work space.’ This should be a flat space, like the deck or concrete patio. You could even set up a large piece of cardboard or wood to create an area for them to work.
  3. Give the child a flat box bottom to build their city in. I searched around our house and found that gift boxes work well. You want one where the sides are not too high and the bottom is fairly sturdy. Ideally if you have one of those cardboard trays from your local garden center these work best.
  4. Let them take the amount of playdough they want to create the base of their city in their box. They use the playdough to stick their nature items in to build their city. (I left the bag of playdough there for the kids to take as they needed).
  5. Taking the natural items they collected have them build and create whatever city they have imagined and see the results.

outdoor sensory activitiesWhen I did this with my children they were super excited and engaged in ‘building’ for quite some time. Both were very focused on their cities and they modified and added to them as they went. Luke started out with something very simple but then saw Chloe make a tee pee and decided he needed one of his own. They were at it for a good 20 minutes or more and this was in addition to the time we had already spent collecting our natural items.

Both of their cities turned out very well and were quite creative and unique! They really enjoyed it, especially Luke who actually thanked me the next day for doing that with them because “I really enjoyed it,” he said. I thought that was pretty cool.

Sensory play and exploration is an important part of a child’s development as children learn through their environments. Sensory play stimulates the brain and helps them develop and refine the use of their senses, which is super important for all types of learning! This outdoor sensory activity allows kids to engage all of their senses by touching the natural items (are they rough, smooth, sticky), smelling them as they are working, seeing the different colors and breathing in that good old fresh air while they are creating! They’ll likely discover bugs while they’re out there or notice/ hear a bird fly by. They may even taste the playdough, (which was all natural with herbs) like my daughter did. We always were a family who likes the full experience.

Regardless of what your child’s experience with this activity they will definitely get something out of it. Whether it be the texture of the sticks, enjoying the sounds, they will be engaged, creative and using their imagination while reaping the benefits of a full sensory learning experience!

outdoor sensory activitiesAnd don’t forget to take pictures of their creations once they are done, as they will truly be works of art.

Next week we discover all the colors of nature through this easy do anywhere activity.

Seeking and Sorting – Outdoor Nature Activities for Kids

outdoor nature activities for kidsChildren naturally love to be outside. Running, jumping, playing, climbing are all elements of outdoor play. We should not underestimate the value of outdoor nature activities for kids  and playing outside as it has many benefits.

Children who spend more time outside learn to appreciate and care for nature. Their natural curiosity encourages them to explore and learn in ways that we may not even realize. They develop physical and gross motor skills, burn calories, get their Vitamin D and contribute to their aesthetic learning as well. Think of all the colors, sights and sounds out there engaging the senses – from bird song to the feeling of bark under their hands or mud squished through their fingers. These activities are all contributing to the development and growth of your child.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThough free unstructured play in the outdoors definitely has it’s place and benefit, you can enhance your child’s learning experience by doing simple and exploratory outdoor nature activities with them. Deepening their appreciation of nature, teaching them basic skills/ concepts as well as growing their curiosity. Outdoor nature activities for kids can introduce them to something they may not have thought of before or learn about something that they may just take for granted. For instance, the feeling of the bark of a tree – some are rough, some are smooth, while others have a powdery substance on them. Then this can lead them to asking why? why are the barks different? Or looking at and finding all the different colors there are in nature – there is not just green and brown, exploring a little through different activities can show them the many colors of nature and where to look for them.

outdoor nature activities for kidsOver the next 6 weeks, we will explore different outdoor nature activities for children, featuring one activity each week; their benefits and how easy they are to do. You do not need a lot of equipment, just curiosity and a sense of fun and exploration. Depending on the age of the children, will depend on how deep you take their exploration. I find the best is to start simple and then take cues from the child as to where to go with it next and how long to spend on it. Something that might keep one child engaged for 20 minutes, might only engage another for 2. That’s ok, length of time is not important – it is the experience and what they get out of it. Besides the child who is engaged for less time might find another activity of more interest to them and spend longer with that one.

Seeking and Sorting

Children naturally love to collect stuff. They often run outside and collect dandelions, rocks, leaves, etc. This activity uses this concept to start to grow their appreciation as well as some basic math and counting concepts. You can easily do this with a group of children as young as 2 years old or one on one.

  1. outdoor nature activities for kidsGather the children into a circle and show them what it is you want them to collect. Depending on the age of the kids I may ask them to find a specific number or simply to collect as many as they can. For instance, I hold up a dandelion and ask them what it is. If they do not know then I tell them.
  2. Once they have identified what it is I ask them to go and collect 3 of these and bring them back and put them into a pile in the middle. Once they have done that, I will move on to the next item, say a stick. I emphasize that they are only to take sticks from the ground, as we want the ones that are attached to keep growing. I will ask them to collect 4 and bring them back and place it in the pile. Depending on the age group will depend on how many items we go seeking. With preschoolers I usually choose 2-3 items.
  3. Once we have a great big pile, we may pretend it’s a campfire and sing a campfire song. Or I tell them one interesting fact about the items they’ve collected, like pine cones hold the seeds for the new trees.
  4. Then I will get them to sort them into 3 piles, all the dandelions in one, all the sticks in one and all the pine cones in another. Kids not only love to collect, they also love to sort! Sorting activities for children teaches them how to organize, how to determine alike and different as well as beginning math skills.

outdoor nature activities for kidsThe great thing about this activity is it provides the foundation for other activities that you can now use the items you’ve collected to do. Activities like Woodland People, Building a Nature City and Nature Collages all utilize the items you’ve collected and bring in a little creativity and imagination.

Try out this Seeking and Sorting Activity this week and share in the comments below how it went and what favorite things you found!

Next week we’ll build upon this activity by Building a Nature City, that uses what we’ve collected.

Building a Sense of Community with Little Free Libraries

little free librariesPopping up in neighborhoods all over Calgary are cute little wooden houses filled with books. From one room school houses to gingerbread type themes, these Little Free Libraries are a free book exchange aimed to promote literacy, a love of reading and a sense of community.

When I first noticed these little houses popping up I thought they were pretty neat and the concept of sharing books interesting. I had seen a similar concept before in coffee shops where there was an area where you could take a book or leave a book for free, but these houses intrigued me. What were they all about? Was this some one of a kind random unique idea?

First I was drawn to the designs, some old school houses, bird houses or colorful boxes with unique designs. All of them different, all of them housing books of all kinds, shapes and sizes. I found them in my local neighborhood, near the swimming pool, the grocery store, some at the end of the neighbors front lawn. I have always loved books and though I love to read, I also love to share what I read with others. These houses are a great way to do that.

When I looked more closely I realized that these houses were part of a much larger organization. Started in 2009 by Todd Bol of Wisconsin, there are now 36,000 Little Free Libraries around the world. I thought this was absolutely amazing and such a wonderful idea!

I love how I can literally walk out my front door and around the corner to pick up a book. I love how I can take a book, or share a book, and I love that one of the goals of these little libraries is to promote a sense of community. We tend to spend way too much time in our houses and not always getting to know our neighbours, these libraries provide an opportunity to get out there and meet some of them and share common interests.

I think it’s a great way to get kids interested in reading as well, drawn by the unique houses, they are curious to peek in and check them out. My kids often ask if they can take a look inside when they see one, and though there may not always be a book in there for them, it gets them curious, it gets them thinking and exploring. It is also a great way to encourage them to share books they enjoy, in hopes that someone else will find it and enjoy it as much as they have.

So the next time you see a little house at the end of the road or near the local grocery store go and check it out. You never know what treasures you might find or the people you may meet.

Want to learn more about Little Free Libraries? or start one of your own? Check out the Little Free Library’s website with Frequently Asked Questions and explore the world of possibilities.

Celebrating Earth Day with Children through Outdoor Activities

earth day activities for childrenInstilling in children a love and appreciation of the outdoors, nature and the environment at a young age is something that they will take and incorporate throughout their lifetime; growing into the adults that will care for our planet. Earth Day is one of those events that not only brings focus to the importance of caring for our planet but is a great opportunity to involve kids. These Earth Day Activities for Children not only celebrate Earth Day, but are things that children can continue to do everyday.

Why do we celebrate Earth Day? I was asked this once by a small child (my own actually) who was inquisitively looking up at me with wonder in their eyes, waiting patiently for my answer. I paused, thinking how best to answer this child, a future ambassador of the planet, knowing how important it was that they not only understood what Earth Day was but why it was important for them to be part of it.

Earth Day, celebrated on April 22, is a worldwide event in over 193 countries to promote and support the protection of our environment and our planet. Even in 1970, when this event began, people recognized that we needed to protect and look after our environment in order for it to not only be sustainable, but healthy, for both the Earth and for us. This is why it is never too early to involve children in this annual event and teach them that it’s not only about celebrating one day, but about the actions that we should be taking all year long. The importance of looking after and caring for Earth.

Earth Day Activities for Children

Most kids naturally love to be outside. They are curious about the world around them and want to know more. Use these hands on experiences this Earth Day (and every other day) to deepen their appreciation for the natural world showing them the wonder and uniqueness of our environment.

Tree Rubbings

earth day activities for childrenAn easy activity all you need is plain white paper, some crayons and a tree.

  • Place paper against the bark of the tree (smaller children may need help holding the paper).
  • Gently rub crayon over the paper, the pattern of the bark will come through and create a unique design.
  • Cover as much of the paper as you like, then remove the paper from the bark and admire your design

You can also do this with leaves. Gather a number of different leaves then on a flat surface place the leaves with your paper over top. Rub the crayon over the leaf and see the imprint come through. You can do more than one leaf on a page and change your crayons to make them different colors!

Paint Pallet

There are so many different colors in nature. Grab some paint chips from your local hardware store and take them outside.earth day activities for children

  • Give a paint chip to the child
  • Go for a walk with them and find something in nature that matches the color on their paint chip.
  • Once found, don’t pick it! either just notice what it is, take a picture of it, or draw your own picture
  • Now choose a different color paint chip and let’s go again!

Nature Scavenger Hunt

Make a list of things to find outside and go on a hunt. Include things like leaves, sticks, pine cones. Have the children check them off as they find them. Remember, if it is alive and still growing we want it to stay that way, so don’t pick it.

For small children (ages 4 & under) make your list short 3-6 things and go with them on the hunt. For older children you can create a longer list and setting clear boundaries can send them out on their own or in small groups, to find the items. Regardless of their age, I always like to make sure I can see them at all times (and they can see me for safety).

Nature Collage

This is a fun one that kids can get really creative with.

  • Go on a nature walk
  • Have children gather items in nature. These can be things like small rocks, stick, leaves
  • Take the items home or to an area where you can sit down – flat area of grass, picnic table.
  • On a piece of construction paper, glue your nature items on and create a collage or picture

earth day activities for children Before you head out on your walk let children know that they only pick up things that are dead (not growing anymore), so leaves that have already fallen off the trees, or sticks that are on the ground. It is important to teach them one of the most important lessons in nature is to take only pictures, leave only footprints. This allows everything to flourish and grow and go through it’s natural cycle. Plus it leaves these beautiful things for others who come behind us to enjoy!

There are lots of outdoor activities you can do with children that are easy and fun! I recently discovered an idea about creating an outdoor mud pie kitchen! What a fabulous idea and so simple! Really, I think every child should have one, actually even adults would benefit. (You know I am going to make one right away…)

Teaching children to respect and appreciate our planet at an early age is an important value that they will carry into their adult lives. Not only should we participate in days such as Earth Day, it is important to do activities with kids in their daily lives that instill this love and respect for our planet.earth day activities for children

Kids Healthy Cooking – Dairy Free Peanut Butter Ice Cream

sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice creamIce cream. One of the many favorite summer treats, wonderful on a hot summer day. But honestly, great anytime and popular with kids. Growing up in my house ice cream was a staple and often requested after dinner. So when we went dairy free, ice cream was definitely something I missed. But like any change (like when we went sugar free) it was just a matter of shifting gears and finding new recipes to meet our ice cream needs. This is when I discovered this sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream.

I had been promising the kids in my Mini Chefs class ice cream for a few classes and many of them kept asking when we were going to make it. In our last class of the session I thought I’d throw it in with our chocolate making, making it a bit of an extra treat. This sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream recipe is rich, creamy and delicious. No one would ever know that it did not contain dairy (and don’t worry if peanuts are a concern you can use WOW butter, an awesome substitute for peanut butter. Being in a peanut free facility this is what we used and no one noticed a difference in either look, taste or texture). In fact when we made it in class the kids did not question the ingredients at all. They just heard ‘ice cream’ and were ready to make it and eat it.

sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice creamThis sugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream recipe is super easy to make with kids. Just put all the ingredients into a blender, blend and then pour into your ice cream maker. If you do not have an ice cream maker, you can take the mixture and put into a freezable container and put in the freezer until firm.

All the kids were bouncing off the walls, waiting for the ice cream to be ready. And when it was, they gobbled it up, most of them asking for some more. I was pleased to be able to finish off the class with something a little more special (and considered a treat), but also still healthy and good for them. By this point, none of them were questioning the ingredients that were going into things, and all of them were willing to try it. Which I think is the greatest success – a child who is willing to at least try it will open up their world of healthy foods and possibilities. Not only with foods, but in other areas of their life as well.

Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Ingredients:

1- 14 oz. can coconut milk, chilledsugar free dairy free peanut butter ice cream

¾ c. coconut sugar

½ c. natural peanut butter (or WOW butter if need peanut free option)

1 tsp. vanilla

3 tbsp. dark chocolate shavings

Prepare your ice cream maker ahead of time by freezing the canister overnight. You’ll also need a good blender to whip the ice cream mixture.

Combine chilled coconut milk and coconut sugar in blender and whip until sugar is dissolved. Add in peanut butter and vanilla. Whip until mixture is creamy and frothy.

*If it’s hot in your kitchen and the mixture is warm-ish, chill mixture before adding to ice cream maker; it will freeze better is mixture is cold.

Set your freezing canister in place and turn on ice cream maker. Pour mixture into freezing canister. Add in shaved dark chocolate.

Churn until frozen. Depending on your ice cream maker this could take 10-15 minutes or up to 30 minutes.

Make roughly 3 cups. Serve in small single scoops as it is rich.

Original recipe from Gluten Free Goddess

healthy chocolateCooking with kids really can be easy and fun. I had a great time working with these kids, gently expanding their palates and horizons. I was pleased to see how everyone progressed and to hear from parents how what they did in class was being transferred to home. Whether it be a food they now liked, making supper, or helping with clean up.

My greatest joy was the success I had with the more particular eaters, one’s who said they did not like much of anything, but by the end of our classes were not only trying everything but loving what we were making. Those kids had come a long way and really grown. It just goes to show how cooking with kids,  and letting them make their own food not only encourages them to eat it, but also to start trying and experimenting with new things.

Spring Rally in the Alley

Spring Rally in the AlleyI always love a trip to Heritage Park and this weekend was no exception. I was excited to check out Spring Rally in the Alley an event that I discovered while researching free activities for March Break. It sounded so cool and I couldn’t wait to take the kids and find out what it was all about.

Spring Rally in the Alley runs from March 18-28 and has a variety of activities for kids 3-12. The thing that I love about this is the activities are not just a random bunch of activities they have a theme that connects them! Yes I said I theme and I love a good theme. The Rally is set up around the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race, which is a real international motorcycle race that happens annually in May or June around the Isle of Man. Apparently, it is a super popular race that lasts two weeks and people who want to participate have to register 3 years in advance!

Spring Rally in the AlleyThis made the Spring Rally in the Alley even more exciting. When you enter, you receive a Milestone Challenge list, which is a passport with all the activities listed on it. You complete the activities in random order and once completed you receive a different colored stamp. Once you complete all the activities or challenges and get your stamps, you come back to the front to receive a ballot to be entered for the Isle of Man prize basket.

Now I am a person who loves going from station to station and collecting my stamps. And what a great way to engage the kids because they wanted all the stamps too! It encourages you to go to every activity and at least check it out. And for me personally, it made me do the “Find the Ride” Scavenger Hunt where you had to answer trivia questions, which I wasn’t really in the mood to do, but I wanted that stamp!

Spring Rally in the AlleyI thought the activities were very well put together, with something of interest for everyone (even my 12 year old enjoyed the remote control cars, selfie and scavenger hunt). There were crafts, where you made your own Rider’s Wristband, Practice Run, where you get to drive a remote control car, and my favorite the Cycle Selfie, where you can dress up in leathers and sit on a 1975 Ducati 860GT for a photo!

Spring Rally in the AlleyChloe loved Racing Down the Isle, where you race a tricycle and learn a little trivia about the actual Isle of Man race. Even after she finished her trivia she kept riding around and around on her trike. We went back to the remote control cars twice as well as the Hill Climb, where you try and get your motorcycle up the hill and just on the edge, before it falls over the cliff.

The bonus to all this? Is Reflections in Chrome – A Motorcycle Retrospective, a temporary exhibit “that sheds a little light and insight on our love affair with these two-wheelers”, is also part of the package. Entrance to Spring Rally in the Alley also gains you entrance to these motorcycles! Featuring 40 bikes from the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group. And wow, I love motorcycles, so it was super cool to see the evolution of this vehicle, as well as all the shiny new ones.

Though regular winter admission rates apply to Gasoline Alley, Spring Rally in the Alley is an event I would highly recommend for the family this weekend. Kids and adults alike will become quickly engaged and excited about what this event has to offer. And even if you don’t make it out this weekend, Reflections in Chrome goes until April 24th and is definitely worth the visit! (Where you can still have your photo op on the Ducati- because seriously that is super fun)Spring Rally in the Alley

Energy Bites – Easy Healthy Snacks for Kids

energy bitesEnergy bites are a very easy and quick snack that are not only delicious but full of nutrition. They are one of those great recipes that you can basically put anything in them that you like, and they are great to make with kids.

They are easy because you simply put all your ingredients into a bowl and mix together. You then roll them into balls and freeze them for 10 minutes. Done!

The kids in my Mini Chefs really enjoyed making these. There were lots of things to measure and put in, and no one turned up their nose at any of the ingredients. They loved it because they all got a chance to mix and roll their own ball, which was a bit of a sticky process. It didn’t matter to them, as they were really excited to try them out. Even my pickiest eater was licking her fingers after rolling her energy bite – already expressing how much she loved it. I was super pleased! (I had been working hard to find something that this child would enjoy that was really good for her) In fact, when we sat down to eat them she had 3. Yes! Success.

energy bitesNow the original recipe calls for peanut butter, but being in a peanut-free facility we used WOW butter, made from non-GMO soy and allergen free (dairy, gluten, egg) it is a great alternative if needed. It does contain sugar, so not so great if you are avoiding added sugars as well. I can vouch that it tastes just like peanut butter and the kids in the class had no idea whatsoever. It looked and tasted the same to them.

Energy bites are a perfect easy on the go snack, as you can make up a batch ahead of time and just grab them when you need that extra boost. There are also many variations on these balls, you can even create your own adding in or removing whatever you like. Things such as raisins, dried fruit, nuts, cacao powder are just a few of the things you could add in. Once you have the basic recipe that sticks together the options are endless.

Energy Bites

1 c. dry oatmealenergy bites

2/3 c. shredded coconut

½ c. peanut butter (WOW butter is a great non-nut option)

½ c. ground flax seed

½ c. cacao nibs

1/3 c. honey

1 tbsp. chia seeds

1 tsp. vanilla

Stir all ingredients together in a medium bowl. Once thoroughly mixed take approx. 1 teaspoon and roll into a ball – dough will be sticky. Place ball onto a cookie sheet. Continue rolling until all dough has been used. Place balls into freezer for 10 minutes or until firm. Take out and enjoy!

Once frozen balls can be stored in an airtight container and are great quick grab and go snacks.

Makes 20-25 balls

Next week our last class and it’s a good one! We make chocolate and peanut butter ice cream…

Break Free – Free March Break Activities for Kids in Calgary

free march break activitiesI always look forward to the March Break with my kids. It is a time of no alarms, no deadlines, and no rushing to be anywhere. It is a nice break from the regular routine, providing some opportunity for time around home as well as doing some fun activities.

For me, the March Break should be just that, a break. Not a week of jam packed activities that are supposed to be ‘fun’ that leave everyone more tired than when we began. I like to balance out the week and do a couple of unique activities we wouldn’t normally do with the rest of the week, more going with the flow and doing what we feel like.

Living in Calgary, there is no shortage of activities and places to go for kids. We have the zoo, the science center and a multitude of museums, which are all fantastic places to go, but I was on the hunt for places and activities that we could do for free. Because I also believe that March Break should not also leave you broke at the end of it.

I had to hunt a little bit, doing a little research and piece some things together but I finally compiled a list of 10 free march break activities in Calgary. And I have to say some of them are quite unique (and I did not know existed).

10 Free March Break Activities in Calgary

Chapters/ Indigo

Chapters and Indigo stores are offering free spring break activities for kids ages 3-12 years old. From March 21-25 each day has a different theme to explore such as Lego and Superheros. Call your local Chapters/ Indigo store early to reserve your spot as space is limited.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

free march break activitiesThe Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center is 36 hectares of nature trails and home to 270 species of birds. It is a beautiful place to take the kids, explore the trails, spot birds of all kinds, and visit the nature center; complete with interpretive exhibits and information about local wildlife. Open Tues-Fri from 10 am – 4 pm.

Devonian Gardens

The Devonian Gardens is a large indoor park and botanical garden located in the downtown core of Calgary. This 1 hectare area contains 550 species of tropical palm trees along meandering walkways, children’s playground, water fountains, ponds teeming with fish and a “living wall.” Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens, or sit on one of the many benches while watching the children play at the park.

Geocaching

Geocaching is a unique way to explore the city. Grab your phone and download the app at geocaching.com and go on your own treasure hunt. Using GPS, find other people’s caches hidden around the city. Bring a pocket of trinkets as when you find the cache you are to leave a token behind. Great places to try geocaching are 12 Mile Coulee, Noseworthy Park, and Fish Creek Park to name a few, but you may find some much closer to your home as well.free march break activities

Disc Golf

Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a flying disc game where the aim is to get the frisbee into the wire basket in as few throws as possible. An outdoor activity, disc golf courses are available in several City of Calgary Parks (click here for list of parks).

Calgary Parks

There are lots of beautiful parks here in our city, such as Bowness, South Glenmore, Edworthy and Prairie Winds. All offer their unique history and flora to enjoy. Pack a picnic, go exploring or just stop at one of the many playgrounds.

ROAR Playpark

free march break activitiesLocated on the lower level of South Center mall, next to SportChek, is the ROAR Playpark. This free, unsupervised play space was created in partnership with the Calgary Zoo and has a zoo theme with lots of interactive components. There is a crawl-through tunnel, slide and climb-on creatures, iPad game stations, beautiful wall murals, and interactive educational sliding panels. This is a great spot to take the kids for imaginative play and a well deserved break for you, while you watch them unwind.

Chinese Cultural Center

Learn about the history of the Chinese community in Calgary as well as tour the Chinese Artifacts Museum. Entrance to the cultural center is free but for the museum and special events there is a small fee.

Calgary Public Library

The Calgary Public Library is always a great place to go with the kids. Not only do they have a plethora of books that kids can spend hours with, they also offer various programs, activities as well as free play areas. The Fish Creek Library boasts a giant chess game, as well as an interactive play area for kids on the upper level.

+15 Art Circuit

The +15 Art Circuit, presented by the City of Calgary Public Art Program, introduces you to 14 interesting pieces from the Civic Art Collection. Easily accessible through the +15 system, this free, self-guided tour is primarily indoors with just a few quick trips outside. You can download the free pdf guide to complete the circuit including map and descriptions of the pieces. This Art Circuit is one of the activities I was most excited to discover and can’t wait to do the tour. How unique!

I was very pleased with the number of free march break activities in Calgary. With a nice mix of indoor and outdoor, arts and active to choose from there certainly is something that everyone can enjoy. I can’t wait to explore a couple of these this week! (though I would love to do them all, it’s a break remember?) Which ones are you going to check out?

Kids Healthy Cooking – Healthy Dips for Kids

healthy dips for kidsDips are another great ‘tactic’ to use when encouraging kids to eat fruits and vegetables that they may not eat otherwise. The challenge is to find a healthy dip for kids, that they like and is not loaded with sugars and other ingredients you want to avoid. Unfortunately a lot of store bought dips have these extras that we don’t want.

The good thing is that healthy dips for kids are super easy to make at home and something that the kids can easily participate in making. A quick easy dip is simply a matter of putting the ingredients into a bowl and mixing – seriously less than five minutes!

healthy dips for kidsIt can be a challenge to find a healthy kids dip that the kids enjoy as their palates are so varied when their young and can change from day to day. There are many ingredients in dips like mayonnaise and sour cream that I did not like myself until I was closer to being an adult, but if your kids eat these already, you’re halfway there! And if they don’t eat them already introducing it mixed with other ingredients may just be the trick!

In our Mini Chefs class we made two healthy dips for kids, one for vegetables and one for fruit. Knowing that many of the children prefered sweet we made and tasted the veggie dip first (this sets things up for the most success with both dips, always introduce the sweetest last). The kids loved measuring, scooping and mixing all the ingredients, each asking for their turn, making sure not to be left out. We were literally finished in 5 minutes and trying it out. As usual, there were some kids that loved it and some that didn’t care for it, but they all tried it. I also provided a variety of vegetables for the kids too as serving a variety of vegetables, not only in texture and taste, but also in color makes it more appealing for them to try.

The fruit dip, which is a caramel dip that I discovered through Nina Manolson at Smokin’ Hot Mom, is a fantastic dairy free, sugar free, sweet dip that is fabulous with apples. Of course you can use it with other fruit (pineapple is excellent) but the combination of apple and caramel is so good. When this dip is around at our house I often eat an apple just to have some dip!

healthy dips for kidsUsing dates (which have many nutritional benefits) as your sweetener, as well as coconut oil and a few spices, this dip has many nutritional benefits that you will be happy with and the kids will have no idea. Plus it’s another easy one, just toss all the ingredients in the blender and mix until smooth. Yum!

Now don’t be deterred by the color of this dip, it is supposed to be caramel afterall. When it was ready the kids just dove in and even one of my pickiest eaters loved it! I had to laugh though when I took the leftovers after class to the staff in the office and no one would touch the caramel one because they weren’t sure what it was. That is one of the benefits of getting the kids involved in making it, they see what goes into it. Now I understand that this could go the opposite way and because they see what goes in it, they won’t even try it, but my experience has been that the majority of time the kids are more willing to try it because they saw what went into it, and they helped make it.

Caramel Dip – great with apples or fruit of choice

1 c. dates healthy dips for kids

¼-1/2 c. almond milk (or other non dairy milk of your choice) – start with less milk and add to get the blender moving smoothly and the consistency you want

1 tsp. coconut oil

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of cardamom

dash of sea salt

Put all ingredients into Vitamix or powerful blender and mix until creamy. Dip apple slices into caramel and enjoy.

Dill Dip – great with veggies and/ or tortilla chips

1/3 c. veganaise (or mayonaise)

1/4 c.  vegan sour creamhealthy dips for kids

1 tsp. parsley flakes

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/16 tsp. celery salt

1/16 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. dill weed

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately or chill until ready to use.

Recipe can easily be doubled. Makes about 1/2 c. dip

Coming next in Kids Healthy Cooking, Energy Bites! Sticky, easy, messy and lick your fingers good!