Rediscover the FUN in education!

With the school year in full swing, there is no better time to help your child rediscover the fun in learning.  I’ve partnered with education.com to share this fun printable maze that you can share with your little one!  Now you may be thinking “how does a maze help my child learn?”  It’s not secret that kids love to play games and as parents, we want those games to be educational.  Mazes are a fun way for kids to enhance their trial-and-error abilities and test their logical reasoning.  In addition, mazes are a great way to help strengthen fine motor skills, problem solving skills and the ability to focus on completing tasks.

My oldest son just started Kindergarten and I’ve been searching for online resources that provide excellent education materials that can be easily printed and education.com totally fits the bill.  Education.com has a huge collection of Kindergarten resources to help your child in his or her first year of school and beyond.

Click here to download one of the many fun mazes provided by education.com and one that my 5 year old just loved working on! Be sure to download the following link that includes the answer key.

kindergarten_maze_school 

kindergarten_maze_school_answers

Baked Sweet Potato Fries

My kids love sweet potato fries 🍠🍟and baking instead of frying isn’t only healthier, but it also brings out the delicious sweet flavor! I’ve experimented with a few different cooking temps/times for the perfect fries.  Let’s just say I’ve certainly had my share of burnt fries 🙈but I’ve finally perfected these baked fries and they are super easy!! Less than 30 min from start to finish!

Sweet potatoes are abundant in vitamin A and are a good source of Vitamin C, potassium, dietary fiber and B vitamins! Plus they rank much lower on the glycemic index compared to white potatoes. Let’s make some fries! 🍠

Ingredients 

1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/4″ wide sticks, about 2″ long  2 teaspoons olive oil

Sprinkle of sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Toss sweet potatoes with the oil and  arrange in a single layer, being sure not to overcrowd -bake 10 minutes, flip and bake an additional 10-12 minutes or until tender and golden brown. Cool for a few minutes before serving.

The Best Turkey Sloppy Joes

Looking for a quick and easy weeknight dinner meal?  Then you’ve landed at the right place.   This sloppy joe recipe is not only comforting and filling, but it’s also healthy!  Skip the canned stuff and make this super easy recipe using ingredients you may already have in your pantry.  The addition of barbecue sauce gives these joes a hint of sweetness which pairs perfectly with the tomato flavor.  Make this recipe completely gluten free simply by using gluten free barbecue sauce and buns!

Ingredients

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1 package ground turkey breast (about 1 1/4-1 1/2 pounds)

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 cup no-salt added tomato sauce

1/4 cup barbecue sauce

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon chili powder (optional)

1/8 teaspoon salt

dads of black pepper

6 whole grain or gluten-free burger buns, toasted

Directions:

  1. Add olive oil to a skillet over medium heat. Add onion; cook and stir until onion starts to brown, about 5 minutes. 
  2. Add ground turkey to the pan.  Cook and stir, breaking up the meat, until it begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Add tomato sauce, barbecue sauce, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, salt, and black pepper.  Stir to coat the turkey.
  3. Turn the heat down to simmer and cook the sloppy mixture for 15 minutes.
  4. Serve on toasted buns.

Pesto Zucchini Noodles

Zucchini noodles make such a great low carb side dish and better yet, fun way to get your kids to eat veggies!! I bought these @traderjoes frozen zucchini spirals, which for a busy mom like myself.. healthy frozen foods like this always come in handy!  Here is how I prepared this easy and healthy side dish and how you can do it with fresh zucchini noodles.

This recipe took less than 10 minutes to make!! BTW; for basic pesto I use the Food Network basil pesto recipe and will also play with ingredients and do 1/2 spinach + 1/2 basil, use walnuts instead of pine nuts etc.

Ingredients

1 package of frozen zucchini noodles (OR you can use 3 cups of fresh zucchini noodles)

2 tablespoons pesto (store-bought or homemade)

  1. If using the frozen noodles, defrost in a pan over medium heat (as per pkg directions); being very careful not to overcook bc they will get mushy.  If using fresh, simple saute in a pan for about 3 minutes until noodles soften.
  2. For the frozen noodles, drain them like you would do pasta noodles.
  3. Now add noodles back to the pan and add pesto and saute for about 30 seconds, just to coat all of the noodles. Super easy right?!

Fluffy Gluten-Free Pancakes

Happy Monday! 🌞Ok let’s be honest, Mondays can be quite the struggle…especially if you’ve spent yet another weekend @sesameplace with the kids 🙋, but this morning my boys asked for pancakes and I can never turn down whipping up this super easy recipe that’s #glutenfree with #noaddedsugar 🙌 and super nutritious!

These babies are moist, flavorful and light! Top them with fruit or feel free to add some into the batter!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup gluten free oat flour

1/3 cup super fine almond flour (I use @bobsredmills)

1/4 cup finely ground flaxseed

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup unsweetened coconut milk

1 egg, whisked

2 heaping tablespoons unsweetened applesauce

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

1-Add dry ingredients to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.

2-Whisk wet ingredients together in a separate bowl and add to dry ingredients.

Batter should be slightly thick.  In the case your batter is too thin or too thick, you can always adjust by adding a little more coconut milk or a little more oat flour.

3-Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Considering a Trip to Sesame Place? Check out my tips and suggestions below!

Hi all! So we just returned from an amazing trip to Sesame Place!  My earliest memory of Sesame Place as a kid was the huge sign at the entrance (think I was around 5 years old), so this was just as much of a new experience for me as it was for my husband and our 2 kids.  We booked a vacation package through Sesame Place for 2 nights at a nearby partner hotel which included admission, 2nd day free plus some cool perks (which I’ll explain below).  After recently visiting Disney World, we had to compare the experience and definitely think Disney is way more organized with overall better food options (not to mention Disney is huge!).  However, when we asked our 4 year old what he preferred, he said “Sesame Place” with no hesitation!  So we knew that we would be headed back there again, but this time way more prepared to handle our expenses and food options.  Here are some parents’ tips and suggestions to make your trip to Sesame Place as smooth as possible.

  1. No car? Take the train!  If traveling from the NY, consider taking NJ transit to Trenton Transit Center (about 90 minutes) and then call an Uber for a 10-15 minute ride to Sesame Place!  The train will cost about $32/pp round trip and the Uber was about $15 each way.  If you’re an NYC parent without a vehicle (like us) then you will appreciate this option!
  2. Take a stroller.  Although a busy weekend will mean many strollers, there were many areas to park your stroller and for us, it was a perfect way to lug around our bags filled with snacks, etc.  Plus, if your stroller has a nice sized canopy, it’s a good way to keep the little ones out of the shade while you’re walking around the park and of course for naps (which btw neither of our kids took there-too much excitement for a snooze!)
  1. Stay at the Springhill Suites Langhorne.  This hotel is literally right across the street from Sesame Place. Like a hop, skip and jump!  Would be the perfect location since you can easily leave the park (making sure you get a stamp to be allowed back in later), walk across the street to the hotel for lunch/naps or just a little break and then walk back over again!  We stayed at the Holiday Inn Express which only had a very small outdoor pool (with no lifeguard), simple and fairly clean rooms but they only offered us one queen sized bed for all 4 of us! Ok so there was a pull out couch but real talk…there was no way we were sleeping on that uncomfy mattress.  The highlight of the Holiday Inn Express was the FREE buffet breakfast which even beat out the food choices at Sesame Place (which were awful..read on for my review on the food).  The buffet featured hot items such as turkey sausage, egg white veggie omelets, oatmeal and pancakes.  The cold options included cereal, Chobani greek yogurt, bagels, etc.  I was impressed but not enough to stay there again.
  2. Bring a small cooler with snacks and water!  If you’re into eating organic or natural wholesome foods, be sure to pack healthy snacks!  I will totally admit to being disappointed with the food selection at the park.  Oh how I wish there was a little fresh smoothie cart instead of ice cream everywhere (which only dripped all over us and the kids).  The lines for restaurants were incredibly long too! We waited over an hour for lunch at a little taco food truck.  If you’re already in the sun and waiting on lines for rides, the last thing you want to do is wait endlessly for food, especially with children.  Here is what we did:
    • Upon entering, there will be a bag check and they will allow small coolers into the park.  We packed small sandwiches for the kids, nutrition bars, snacks and fruit.
    • One bottle of water was over $3!! Just as we did during our Disney trip, we packed many bottles of water daily and had no issue bringing them in.  According to the SP website:
    • Acceptable Items:
    • Coolers 10”X10”X12” or smaller (anything larger is prohibited)
    • Medically necessary items
    • Sealed, non-alcoholic beverages
    • Baby food/formula
    • Small, single-serve snack-sized items such as chips, pretzels, cookies and fruit
  3. Dine with the characters-at least once (breakfast is your best bet!).  Dining with the characters is a great way to get in many photos with the characters without waiting on a long line.  The characters make their way over to each and every table throughout the dining room so your child is sure to get a photo with their favorite characters! Was it pricey? yes, $20 per adult for breakfast and $28 for lunch and dinner. If you book a vacation package through Sesame Place, kids eat free but are otherwise $6 for breakfast and $9 for lunch and dinner.  Dinner included mac and cheese, chicken tenders, salad and a few other options and way too many dessert options.  However, the photos with the characters and experience of it all made it super fun.
    • If you opt for breakfast, you will get early entrance into the park!  Plus there are better breakfast choices at breakfast vs lunch and dinner.
    • Kids under 2 eat free with character dining (plus get free admission)
  4. Splurge for the Magic Queue.  The magic queue is $42/pp per day and includes unlimited first access to any ride.  It’s basically Sesame Place’s version of Disney’s FastPass.  This was awesome to use on a packed Saturday, where the lines were super long and we were able to go right ahead (through a separate entrance) and basically skip the line!).  We had no issues with a long wait while having this pass but I did hear they limit the amount that can be purchased on a given day, so get it in advance.  Having 2 little ones, one of which is 4 years old and able to ride on just about all of the rides, it was super easy to just go on and off rides without the hassle of waiting in line with toddlers!  You know how it is.
  5. When buying tickets, select the option to get the 2nd day free! I noticed there was an option for a single day admission and then another to get admission plus 2nd day free so be sure to choose that 2nd day free option!
  6. Be aware of the rain policy.  If you go on a rainy day or if it starts to rain while you’re in the park for a certain period of time (I believe it must be for at least one hour), you can go to the service desk and they will give you a free admission pass to go in on any other day!
  7. Buy tickets through your NYC ID.  If you live in NYC, do you have an NYC ID?  If so, you can use it to buy tickets to Sesame Place for $52 which includes admission, 2nd day free plus a meal!  here is the website and you will need your ID to sign in and view al of the benefits *which include discounts to broadway shows and hotels! https://www.memberdeals.com/nycgov/
  8. Arrive late.  The first day, we arrived around 4pm and there were minimal crowds.  Plus there is usually a character parade around 8pm in case you miss the 3pm one.
  9. Look out for an email for reduced pricing for season passes or just splurge and buy them at full price.  Two days after our trip, I received an email for an exclusive offer of $53 for each season pass for my family members.  That included unlimited admission for the rest of 2017 and unlimited admission in 2018! Great deal!  Otherwise its $113/pp which is about the admission of going to the park twice.    Since small kids could only handle a few hours at that park, you might want to consider getting this so you can plan future visits.  You will also get other in-park discounts with the pass.
  10. Wear a bathing suit and Bring towels! You’ll want to wear a bathing suit (and bring along water shoes) to the park and pack a change of clothes.  We did water rides first, changed and then dry rides. One thing we didn’t do was bring towels (thinking we could easily borrow from the hotel which was totally not permitted).  So ended up spending $24 on a single beach towel at the park.
  11. Go during the summer for water rides!  The water rides were a highlight for us and they close the week after Labor Day. So be sure to go during the warmer months to check them out.  My 4yo especially loved it.

 

Simple Homemade Dog Biscuits!

With my children, I’m always reading food labels and making sure they eat the foods that are minimally processed (or not processed at all) and overall healthy.  But if you have a dog, do you do the same for him or her?  When was the last time you checked the ingredients in your dog biscuits?  I’ve teamed up with education.com to share this fun and creative recipe for pups!  Making these simple homemade treats are a great way to help ensure your four-legged family member is eating right along with the rest of your family!  This recipe is the perfect for little helping hands and a great way to get your child involved in baking!  Bonus-they’ll get to learn a bit about math and measurements along the way! Ask your little helper to get ready and get mixing!  Be sure to check out their website for other fun learning activities that you can share with your child!! I’ve already printed out numerous worksheets that my 2 year old and 4 year old love!  Check it out at https://www.education.com/activity/

In the meantime, here is some info provided by education.com on how to make these dog treats and the many reasons why you need to break out these ingredients asap!
“Homemade dog treats are fun to make and delicious for your household pet! If your dog feels left out of the family’s festive holiday baking, make a batch of tasty homemade dog treats to appease him. These homemade dog treats are simple for your child to make, and the cooking process provides a good lesson on fractions and measurements as well. These homemade dog treats make excellent Christmas gifts for dogs, so go ahead and make a whole batch for your furry friend and his neighborhood companions. These homemade dog treats are made using only ordinary kitchen ingredients, and they are even edible for humans!”  https://www.education.com/resources/fractions/

What You Need:

  • 2 cups whole wheat flour ( you can also mix 1/2 whole wheat and 1/2 unbleached all purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup powdered milk
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup finely ground flaxseed (optional)

What You Do:

  1. Show your child how to preheat the oven to 325° F.
  2. Have your child combine all the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
  3. Cut in the butter; help your child add in the egg and water to the mixture.
  4. Ask your child to stir in the flaxseed, if using.
  5. Invite your child to roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until it reaches about 1/2-inch thickness. Have him use cookie cutters in his favorite holiday shapes to cut up the dough.
  6. Bake the biscuits for approximately 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
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