Things I Did With a Three Year Old

1. Went to Broad Street Market.  Aunt Tanya has a stand called Apple Dumplings Etc.  It was too hot for a dumpling but Lexi had a cookie and Emmi and I had smoothies.  I bought the Wildberry because Lexi declared that she wanted to have a “purple” smoothie but then she ended up only drinking Emmi’s which was peach.  This market is a great place to grab lunch and pick up some produce, meat, and baked goods.  It was my first trip but will not be my last!

mmm cookie

mmm cookie

Um that is Aunt Emmi's peach smoothie

Um that is Aunt Emmi’s peach smoothie

2. Went shoe shopping.  This kid loves to try on shoes, and I was in a work shoe deficit.  Now that it is past Labor Day I am supposed to wear stockings and everyonw but the people who wrote the dress code at my wok knows that open-toes shoes look ridiculous with nylons.  The trouble with women’s shoes is that one shoe does not match all. Some outfits call for flats, some for heels.  My ankle books are worn out, too.  Sheesh, that’s a lot of shoes.  I ended up with a pair of flats, kitten heels, high heels, and ankle books in black as well as a sweet pair of blue flats because they were only $8.  The best deal was either these Ivanka Trumps for $10 or these ridiculous heeled clogs for the three year old that were only $7.  Hey, the kid needs to learn how to walk in heels sometime, right?  Quotes from the shopping trip include when she left Emmi’s aisle and somehow didn’t see me in mine.  I heard her ask a stranger, “You know where Icky is?”  She can’t say “Alyssa” or “Sissy” so her pet name for me is Icky.  I’m sure the lady was baffled.  The clogs were connected with a string but that didn’t stop her from hobbling around the store in them.  After a few shuffles she pointed to her feet and asked, “Icky, you cut da tring?”  Yes, but we need to BUY the shoes first!

These boots were too tight....

These boots were too tight….

Necessary

Necessary

Competition:  Whose shoes were a better deal?

Competition: Whose shoes were a better deal?

3. Watched a movie.  Current obsessions are “Monty Ink” (Monsters Inc.) and  “Meemo” (Finding Nemo).  We were at Emmi’s house but couldn’t watch a new movie; it had to be Nemo.  Whatever.  There is nothing like snuggling under the blankets with your loved ones to watch a favorite move and eat popcorn, watermelon, and candy.  Her favorite scene seems to be the “Shark Bait Hoo Ha Haa” part.

4. Went “out ta eat.”  Kid loves to eat out.  Well, me too, so that works.  Sunday morning we tackled a Minnie Mouse pancake from my favorite diner and colored with crayons from a Minnie Mouse cup.  When I asked what we should draw, the answer was “You draw your mommy and I draw my daddy.”  Fair enough.

My mommy is actually Lexi's Grammy, so this is a portrait of a well loved lady right here!

My mommy is actually Lexi’s Grammy, so this is a portrait of a well loved lady right here!

This is mostly her daddy, but also she asked me to draw some feet.

This is mostly her daddy, but also she asked me to draw some feet.

bla bla bla

5. Baked a cake.  Well, cupcakes.  I babysat the other evening and I always give Lexi a lot of opportunities to make her own choices for activities.  Often with me her request is either “Icky you paint-a my nail?” or “Icky, we bake a cake?”  Sometimes she cannot be satisfied with baking a pretend cake in her play kitchen so we have to bake a real one.  What kind of cake should we bake? “Pink!”  Well, that’s not really a flavor of cake, child, but okay.  We decided on a pink (vanilla) cake with brown (chocolate) frosting.  Here is how to bake pink cupcakes with a toddler:

 

  • Ask her to get the recipe box.  It’s stored where she can reach.  When she brings you just a recipe for sugar free cream cheese icing, ask her to bring you the whole box because this isn’t the pink cake recipe.
  • Use Paula Dean’s 1-2-3-4 cake recipe.  It’s easy and it can be converted to non-dairy.
  • Beat the butter but do not let the toddler stick her finger in the butter. Ask her to get her bench while you unwrap two sticks and begin to beat it.
  • Have her measure two cups of sugar.  When she decides to measure with a teaspoon instead of a cup, fill the cup yourself but immediately surrender it when she sees you evening off the top and shouts “No, me!” because she wants to measure everything.  Quickly dump into the fluffy butter and continue to beat for about 8 minutes, or until the other ingredients are measured. Because that will take at least 8 minutes.
  • Let her measure baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour to make about three cups of self-rising flour.  Just use the recipe in the back of the red plaid cookbook (Better Homes and Gardens).  Let her whisk the flour together.  Ask her to go wash her hands because she just stuck her finger in some spilled sugar and licked it.
  • Ask her to count four eggs with you.  Crack the eggs into their own bowl and while she is running to the play kitchen to retrieve her tiny whisk because ALL EGGS MUST BE WHISKED AND SHE HAS A WHISK get out the milk and a liquid measuring cup.  The eggs actually get added one at a time to the butter/sugar mix and by now the butter and sugar are crazy fluffy to just let her break the yolks and add the eggs slowly to the mixer.
  • Ask her to watch as you pour milk into the liquid measuring cup.  We need one cup of milk so just ask her to tell you to stop when we get to “this line” and pour slowly, asking “is that enough” every 2 seconds so she stays focused.
  • Add the flour and milk a little at a time, beginning and ending with flour.  Tide the kid over because she is not allowed to add anything to the mixer when it is on by teasing her about the color of the cake.  “We’re making a blue cake, right?”  “Are you sure you don’t want a yellow cake?”  Just laugh when she gets panicked and tearful “NO. PINK!!!” (stomp stomp, pouty lip) Ask the kid to wash her hands because she just stuck her finger in the butter wrapper and licked it.  You can turn on the oven now – it will be several more minutes before we are ready to bake this cake.  Trust me.
  • Add pink food coloring.  Use the gel because it is better but do not let her touch the bottle or the toothpick.  “No touchy.”  Yeah, it stains.  Badly.
  • Remind her that we do not lick the batter yet, her tongue is not pink because there is not enough food coloring in the batter to turn it pink, nobody wants to see her tongue right now, and can she please go was her hands AGAIN because she just stuck her finger into batter and licked it and you promised your friends at work they could have some of these cupcakes.
  • Let her put the cupcake liners in the tins.  They are pink and she will do a great job because sorting and matching are developmentally appropriate tasks and she needs the fine motor skills practice.
  • Fix the cupcake liners that are doubled and scoop the batter into the liners.  Bake for 25 minutes at 350º.
  • Get everything into the dishwasher immediately because you hate doing dishes and you will need the mixer bowl for the icing once the cupcakes have cooled.  Clean the kitchen by yourself because suddenly your tiny helper would rather lick the scooper and put on pretend makeup and costume jewelry than wipe counters.
  • Wipe the flour dust from the sides of the cabinets and ask loudly whose fingerprints are all over the cabinets.  Agree when she declares the prints and smudges are the work of Murphy, who is a small gray cat without fingers.
  • Make dinner and eat dinner. Pull the cupcakes from the oven to cool. Play a little and then realize you better get the icing started because it is close to bedtime.
  • Take the mixer bowl out of the dishwasher.  It’s in the drying cycle so it’s hot but clean.  Curse your bad timing and slow dishwasher.  Follow this simple chocolate frosting recipe but use ¼ cup of black cocoa powder to make the frosting very dark.  The recipe is pinned on your SWEET NOMS board so you won’t ever forget it!
  • Unwrap the butter while she is washing her hands.
  • Let her measure and even out the cocoa and sugar. It’s her thing and she is REALLY good at measuring.
  • Pick out sprinkles from your epic sprinkle collection.  Having this many sprinkles doesn’t hurt anyone.  Pick purple of course.  Set up the sprinkles for her.  Ask her to wash her hands because she just swiped a handful of sprinkles and is licking her fingers.  Again.
  • Frost the cupcakes and let her decorate.  Since it takes her about a thousand years to decorate each cupcake, decorate the prettiest cupcakes for you to take to work so your colleagues have less toddler spit in their treats.
  • Agree that it is okay for “my take dis cupcake por my daddy.”  Pack a cupcake in a container so she can take it to her daddy.
  • Eat cupcakes for a bedtime snack.
  • Swiftly send the kid to do teeth, jammies, and stories because you are god awful exhausted and there is coco powder on your clean kitchen cabinets.  Bed is early tonight. Feet hurt..  Thank goodness you have cupcakes!
MMMM Cupcakes!

MMMM Cupcakes!

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Best Play Kitchen EVER (if I do say so myself!)

 

Okay so I’m not always known for my modesty.  There are some things I am really good at, like standardized test taking and pretending to be sweet as pie so my customers love me and baking most things (but not macarons because those are my nemesis).  But even with that in mind, I have to say that I am REALLY good at making a play kitchen for my niece.

I had the Fisher Price sink and stove and such as a kid.

I played in the housekeeping station in kindergarten.

I received a china tea set one year for Christmas.

My dolls were well fed.

It took a long time for me to give up tea parties and playing house.  It felt like the right kind of play.

In college I learned that my instincts were correct – this kind of play, which was always my favorite, is an important part of how young children develop an understanding of the world around them.  They learn to socialize and to work out problems by mimicking the actions and words of adults they observe.  It’s not just adorable when a tiny tot offers you an invisible cup of hot cocoa; it’s an important social transaction and practice making appropriate interactions with others.

I love being an auntie and I love to make stuff, so this project was a no-brainer.  I took my niece on a trip downtown and in the consignment store she fell in love with the plastic toy kitchen the store owner keeps out to accommodate the kiddies while their  spending-savvy mommies shop.  My niece refused to leave the store.  She threw a tantrum because she wanted so badly to microwave another pretend french fry.  Obviously I had to figure out how to get a play kitchen for her!

The plastic kitchens can be fairly affordable, but they don’t have efficient storage and they are garish.  I looked and priced, but I also scoured DIY websites and Pinterest.  As I usually do, I came to the conclusion that “I can make this.”

With Chuck’s help, of course.

My first stop was the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  This place is a gold mine for DIY-ers!  Any leftover and still functioning building materials are accepted as donations and then sold at low cost to raise money for Habitat.  In the past I have purchase shingles for our new shed, paint, tiles, and even unused tools.

The cabinet section was slightly bare but as luck would have it, they had exactly what I needed in stock.  Two cheap, plain wall cabinets for $10 and $15 each.  SCORE.  Some quick measurements and I was ready to go

You can clearly see the fridge, oven, and sink, right?

You can clearly see the fridge, oven, and sink, right?

I picked up some MDF meant to be shelving  at Lowes and Chuck found some unused paneling in his workshop.  While he sanded the cabinets and jigged out a hole for the dog dish –turned –sink, I painted a mural for the backsplash using my acrylics and sealed the image with clear spray paint.

 

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sink made from a dog dish.

I think she has a nicer backsplash than I do!

I think she has a nicer backsplash than I do!

Once the whole piece was together, Chuck painted the kitchen while I painted the “fridge” with homemade chalkboard paint and I freehanded the “microwave.”  I found baskets at a thrift shop and spray painted them in various shades of green.

The fridge is painted with chalkboard paint!

The fridge is painted with chalkboard paint!

 

Ha ha I am hilarious, I know.

Ha ha I am hilarious, I know.

The finishing touch was telling everyone what we made so they could help fill it out.  Auntie Alice and Uncle “Ded” bought some adorable Melissa and Doug play food, Auntie Emmi found perfect miniature baking supplies, while Mommy bought a princess tea set, providing props for play time.

A friend recently posted this article on the importance of play in a child’s life.  It sort of boggles my mind that someone would question the healthiness of a child’s imagination, but the article sort of take a tone of defense, doesn’t it?  I always assumed that most adults are just too busy/lazy to encourage imaginative play, but I guess some people discourage it, too.  So sad!

The niece-let is happy to play with her kitchen and it has been encouraged to bring her toys to the real kitchen to “bake” with flour, dried beans, play dough, etc.  She also uses her tiny whisks to stir eggs whenever we crack them into a bowl.  Baby dolls under her care are sated and I’m pretty sure those pretend cookies have calories because I think I’ve gained weight.

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