FALL Activities and Recipes:
Sunflower Garden Activity
If you grew sunflowers in your yard this winter which are now all dried up, don’t rush to cut them down and compost them! Many native birds will feed on the seeds if you are willing to tolerate their dead appearance and leave them for a bit longer. You may even want to save some seeds for planting next spring! Learn more here!
To do so, first cut off the flower heads of the types of sunflowers that you want to save once the back of the flower head has turned dark brown. All of the petals will have fallen off.
To loosen the seeds, you can bend and wiggle the head around with your hands until the seeds begin to loosen and can be more easily removed with your fingers. It might be helpful to do this over newspaper or a tarp so as to avoid a mess and collect as many seeds as possible. With “Mammoth Sunflower” or other large-headed varieties, your child may have fun helping you “wrestle” the seed head by putting their knees on top the head and wiggling back and forth until the seeds begin to loosen! It will then be easier for them to pick out the individual seeds by hand.
Once collected, spread the seeds out on a plate or paper towel for a couple days indoors to allow them to completely dry before placing them in an envelope. Label it clearly with the variety and date. Seal the envelope in an airtight plastic container. Store it in a cool, dry spot until you’re ready to plant. Consider the seeds viable for the coming season only. The germination capability of a seed declines with age so the freshest seeds are more likely to germinate.
**Note that empty, dried sunflower heads (if stored in a cool, dry location) are useful as biodegradable scouring pads for messy, icky jobs that you might not want to use a dish sponge on! After using them once they should be composted.
SUMMER Activities and Recipes:
Very Berry Popsicles
When our campers made these cold treats, they were fresh from harvesting blackberries and mulberries on the ranch, and we used mango and orange juices. You can use any berries or juice of your choice and have fun as we did.
- Fill cups over half way with berries.
- Cover with few spoonfuls of yogurt.
- Cover with juice, almost to the rim but beware of spillage.
- Gently stir with a Popsicle or wooden stick.
- Put in freezer overnight.
- Enjoy the next day!
Our sun art is more than a lot of fun to make–it contains many items that thrive under the sun that you’ll enjoy collecting with your child. And watercolors capture the season, especially during July, which is World Watercolor Month. Note: Some campers added glitter to their suns (and fingers).
White paper plates
Watercolor paintbrushes, one for each color or use with a dipping cup of water to clean between colors
Watercolor paints: yellow, orange and gold are suggested
Sunflower or other flower petals
Expired seeds, beans and/or corn kernels
- Paint the face of each paper plate with watercolors
- Place flowers seeds, beans or kernels on plate
- Glue natural decorations to plate
- Let dry, preferably in the sun
- Enjoy your own sun
Farm-to-Table Salsa Recipe
Thanks to Emily Newman, Connolly Ranch’s Farm/Garden Educator & Volunteer Coordinator, we have this colorful, seasonal “Winter/Spring Salsa” inspired by Education Outside’s blog and adapted by Emily. Emily notes that “the ingredients we use at the ranch actually represent all the parts of a plant – there are roots (radishes), stems/stalks (chives or scallion), leaves (kale), fruits (apples, lemon, lime), edible flowers, and seeds (I just added pumpkin seed to the recipe).” This is a favorite of our many field trip visitors who are seen here harvesting kale.
“A secret is that this is ACTUALLY more like a salad, but we ‘market it’ to kids as a salsa and serve it with chips and they almost all love it!!! Younger kids can be involved in the washing & tearing of the kale leaves, and cutting (with scissors) of the chives, and the juicing of the citrus – and of course the hands-on massaging. Older kids can chop the apples and radishes and help massage as well.”
Ingredients (makes one medium size bowl full, and lasts a few days in fridge)
- 7 to 10 radishes
- 1 Lemon
- 1 Lime
- 2-3 apples (we like slightly tart varieties)
- 2 to 3 scallions or chive spears
- 1 bunch of Curly Kale leaves (large stems removed)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Calendula flower petals or other edible flowers (optional)
- Roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)
- Tortilla or pita chips
- Dice radishes, apples, and kale to pieces smaller than your fingernail.
- Finely chop the scallions, and combine all ingredients into a bowl.
- Squeeze in lime and lemon, and add salt and pepper.
- Give it a massaging to help mix it up and tenderize the kale, and then you’re ready to eat!
- Dip in with chips and enjoy.
Ants on a Log
- 5 stalks celery
- 1/2 cup peanut butter
- 1/4 cup raisins
- Cut the celery stalks in half.
- Spread with natural nut or apple butter.
- Sprinkle with raisins.
- Bite into the log before the ants carry it off!
Naturally-Dyed Eggs, Year-Round Treats
- Save and dry red and yellow onion skins for gold dye
- Chop up a fresh purple cabbage for blue dye
- Ferns, leaves, flowers
- Scraps of nylon to wrap egg
- Press ferns, leaves and flowers smoothly against egg.
- Hold in place with a cut piece of nylon tied snuggly around the egg.
- Place uncooked eggs and plant matter in layers in a pot.
- Add enough water to cover.
- Add a splash of vinegar, maybe a 1/4 cup per 4 cups of water.
- Bring to a boil and simmer and for 1/2 hour, and then remove from heat and let cool.
- Once cool, put in fridge overnight so eggs can sit in dye bath for many hours (egg is not overcooked and still edible).
- Unwrap and marvel at the masterpiece
WINTER Activities and Recipes:
Open Face Egg Sandwiches
A fun way to use healthy ingredients and create a special lunch or snack.
- 7 eggs
- ¼ c. mayonnaise
- 2 tsp. mustard (if desired)
- shredded/grated carrot for hair
- olives/peas for eyes
- pepper slice for mouth
- pickle for nose
- Before children participate, complete the following steps: in a medium saucepan, cover eggs with water and bring to a boil; cook, uncovered, 2 minutes. Cover and remove from heat; let stand 10 minutes. Place eggs in bowl under cold running water until cool.
- Peel eggs.
- Slice 2 eggs with an egg slicer or a knife. Set aside 8 slices for eyes. Place remaining pieces in a bowl; add unsliced eggs. Mash with a fork. Add mayonnaise, mustard to taste, and stir to combine
- Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over each of 4 slices of bread; cover with egg salad. Make faces, using egg slices, egg salad, and suggested toppings, as desired. Serve immediately.
- Tape one end of paper roll closed
- Child decorates with markers/stickers
- Fill with beans/seeds
- Tape other end of paper roll closed
- Rain stick/shaker is complete & ready for play
Painted Rainbow Rocks
- Smooth river stones
- Water and cloths to wash and dry the stones
- Acrylic paints, glitter and/or small natural objects such as dried flowers or leaves
- Clear coat polymer spray
- Collect river bed stones or any smooth stone.
- Wash and dry the stones.
- Paint the stone, top and bottom.
- When dry, glue natural objects to stone.
- Spray with a clear polymer coat in an open space, away from children.
Homemade Pine Cone Bird Feeder
- A large pine cone (bought, or better yet, found on an outside adventure) that is somewhat open
- Peanut butter (vegetable shortening for people with nut allergies)
- String, pipe cleaners or wire
- Scissors (if using string)
- Butter knife
- 2 or more plates
- A place to hang your bird feeder (a tree or bird feeder hanger work nicely)
- Attach a string, pipe cleaner or wire to the tip of the pine cone
2. Hold the pine cone above a plate and spread the peanut butter with a butter knife around the whole pine cone
3. Spread bird seed on a plate and roll the pine cone in it to cover all sides
4, Hang the pine cone by the tip high enough to avoid dogs and cats.
FALL Activities and Recipes:
Quince Apple Compote
The farm has a very giving quince tree, and we try to use the fruit in many delicious ways. Here is one of our favorites from Kim Duimstra, our preschool teacher and animal care coordinator, that was favored by all.
- One pound quince
- One pound apples
- 1/4 cup agave syrup or honey
- (cinnamon and vanilla may be added, to taste)
- Peel, core and cut quince and apples into chunks of equal size, about 1/2″.
- Combine apples, quince, agave and 1/2 cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until fruit is softened (about half an hour).
- Remove from heat and add cinnamon and vanilla, as desired. May be served warm or cold.
- 8 or more fresh apples depending on your needs
- ground cinnamon or shaved cinnamon stick
- agave syrup to taste
- Prepare the fruit by washing and peeling the apples.
- Fill a pot with water, about 1/2 or a bit less, just covering the apples.
- Bring to a boil & cook the apples down.
- Drain the water through a colander.
- Place the cooked apples in a bowl, remove seeds and skins etc, and let the sauce cool down a bit.
- Press with a spoon, add a little agave syrup and cinnamon a bit at a time, tasting until it’s just right.
- Serve in a bowl; you can refrigerate for an hour or so if you prefer cold applesauce or let it reach room temperature.
SUMMER Activities and Recipes:
Fun Fruit Kabobs
A seasonal treat involving no cooking, 2 skewers and lots of finger licking.
- 1 apple
- 1 banana
- 1/3 c. red seedless grapes
- 1/3 c. green seedless grapes
- 2/3 cup pineapple chunks
- 1 cup nonfat yogurt
- ¼ c. dried coconut, shredded or granola
- Prepare the fruit by washing the grapes, washing the apples and cutting them into small squares, peeling the bananas and cutting them into chunks, and cutting the pineapple into chunks, if it’s fresh. Put the fruit onto a large plate.
- Spread granola or coconut onto another large plate.
- Slide pieces of fruit onto the skewer and design your own kabob by putting as much or as little of whatever fruit you want! Do this until the stick is almost covered from end to end.
- Hold your kabob at the ends and roll it in the yogurt, so the fruit gets covered. Then roll it in the granola or coconut.
- Repeat these steps with another skewer.
Healthy Banana Ice Cream
Did you know you can make ice cream with one simple ingredient? No additional dairy, sweeteners or ingredients needed – not even an ice cream maker! Blended frozen bananas are creamy, rich, and naturally sweet. Simply peel and cut ripe bananas into slices and freeze over night. Blend the frozen bananas in a food processor until completely blended together, and voila, you have guilt-free ice cream – a healthy frozen snack that is delicious for dessert or an afternoon sweet treat.
Caterpillar Toe Art
Supplies needed: leaves, white paper, crayons, tape or clipboard, green wash-able paint, paint brush, your child’s bare foot
First, place the leaves or a favorite leaf underneath the white piece of paper. Tape the sides of the paper to the table to keep the leaves from moving around, or use a clipboard to secure the paper and leaf. Rub a crayon on the paper and the leaf print will appear. Paint the bottom of your child’s toes with green paint. Press his or her toes on the leaf image on the paper. You child’s toe prints will become a hunger caterpillar print on a leaf.
SPRING Activities and Recipes:
Mother’s Day Gift
What mother doesn’t want smooth and silky skin? With Mother’s Day just around the corner, this oatmeal cleanser is a fun, easy-to-make, budget-friendly, indulgent gift any mom will enjoy. Simply mix the following ingredients in a bowl until moist and spreadable.
Organic rolled oats
Powdered lavender flowers
Fennel essential oil (optional)
Reusable Bird feeders
Cut an egg carton in half and use a sharp pencil or skewer to poke a hole on each side of the carton. Use paints, markers or crayons to decorate the egg cartons and let them dry. Tie a string through
the two holes to hang the bird feeder and fill with birdseed. Place your bird feeder in your backyard or favorite park tree and watch and explore the different types of birds that enjoy your child’s colorful bird feeder.
Symbols of Spring Scavenger Hunt
The day that spring officially begins is called the Vernal Equinox — the midpoint between the winter and summer solstices, when the daytime and nighttime are equal. Spring, which officially began last Friday, is the season when plants come alive again from the winter season. It is the season of new buds, new blossoms, new growth and new beginnings.
Take your kids on a scavenger hunt to find symbols of spring. As you find each one, take a moment and see what each of these symbols represents for you. Ideas include an umbrella (April showers bring May flowers), eggs, tulips, bunnies, chickens, asparagus, sunscreen, rainbows, lilies…the list is endless, and your hunt may take you inside and out, and anywhere else you might go.
Natural Dyes for Easter Eggs
This spring, take advantage of nature’s own colors to create beautiful, decorative, nontoxic colored eggs. Have fun double dipping and mixing dyes. Nature is full of surprises. The more of the natural ingredient you use and the longer the egg soaks (maybe even overnight), the darker the color will be.
Whether you use fresh or frozen vegetables, the results will be similar. Have fun experimenting and seeing what colors you can create. Dyeing eggs with natural colorants combines the experimentation of science with the visual beauty of art. It’s an enjoyable process, but be forewarned: it is not a simple, quick task. We can guarantee that you will make a lovely mess along with some lovely eggs. Be creative and appreciate the wonderful colors of nature!
WINTER Activities and Recipes:
Enjoy these seasonal, fun, and kid friendly activities.
In honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday on March 2, we’ve been making healthy greens and eggs—a fun art project you can eat! Supplies needed: fresh eggs, fresh greens like spinach and kale, olive oil, whisk, bowls, pan. Crack eggs into a bowl and whisk to make scrambled eggs. Cut the greens (removing stems if tough) and sauté them in a hot pan with a little olive oil until crispy. Add a little more oil to the pan and then add the eggs and cook them thoroughly, stirring them with a fork to scramble them. Enjoy them with your child while reading “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss.
Supplies needed: fresh eggs, fresh greens like spinach and Dino kale, olive oil, whisk, bowls, pan
- Crack eggs and blend them to together in a bowl to make scrambled eggs.
- Cut greens and sauté on a hot pan with olive oil until crispy.
- Oil the pan and then cook the scrambled eggs thoroughly.
- Enjoy eggs and greens with your child while reading “Green Eggs and Ham” by Dr. Seuss.
Massaged Kale Salad
Kale is a very handy ingredient for seasonal eaters as it is one of the few green vegetables that is more abundant and flavorful during the coldest months of the year. It can be substituted for cabbage or spinach, served as a side dish (blanched and sautéed with garlic and soy sauce) or added to soups. We also like it in salad and in green eggs and ham, Sam I am.
Massaged Kale Salad
During Playday on the Farm recently, kids enjoyed harvesting the three varieties of kale from our garden (“pinch, twist, and gently pull”) and washing the kale in a big bin of water. Then they had fun flicking the excess water off into the bushes, and tearing the leaves from the stems and into bite size pieces (and composting the tough stems). We used this very hands-on recipe for massaged kale salad as our guide and the kids loved squeezing and squishing the kale with their (thoroughly washed and clean) hands. We decided the Parmesan cheese added enough salt and didn’t use the anchovy paste. We also sprinkled sesame seeds on the salad just before serving. This is a great recipe to do with kids – fun, nutritious, and delicious!
- 2 bunches kale
- 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 3 large cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (optional)
Frozen Mitten Project
Looking for activities to do with your kids this winter? Decorate paper mittens with frozen paint and salt while exploring the science of the different forms of water!
thick watercolor paper, liquid watercolors, paint brushes, salt, whole punch, string, small plastic bowls
- Freeze liquid water colors with a little bit of water in small plastic bowls overnight
- Cut watercolor paper into mitten shapes and whole punch each mitten on the bottom (so they may be tied together later)
- Explore the science of solid ice and melting liquid colors by adding salt to the frozen colors to make the paint melt faster.
- Paint and add salt directly on to the mitten and see what designs are created.
- Tie the pair of mittens together with a string and lay out to dry.
Egg Drop Soup Recipe
Egg Drop Soup is a Chinese soup finished by adding a thin stream of beaten eggs to boiling chicken broth in the final moments of cooking, creating thin, silken strands or flakes of cooked egg that float in the soup. Kids love making this soup at the Ranch and it’s an easy and yummy soup to make at home—plus your kids will be mesmerized as they drop the eggs into the soup and the eggs change before their very eyes.
Ingredients will vary depending on how many people you’re serving:
- 2 eggs
- 4 C. chicken broth (you can use home made broth, store-bought or bullion, chicken or veggie)
- Small yellow onion, diced
- 4-8 oz. rice noodles
- Veggies – whatever is in season and/or whatever is in your fridge or garden, as little or as much as you desire
- Salt and pepper to taste
Scrub veggies (little kids can clean carrots and radishes, wash greens and tear them up into smaller pieces and big kids can cut up veggies and sauté them). Sauté vegetables in a pan with little bit of butter until they are tender. In a small bowl, beat eggs slightly; set aside (kids can help crack and beat egg). Bring broth to a boil in a large pot over high heat, then add veggies. Reduce heat to medium, simmer noodles in broth. Slowly pour egg into the pot while stirring in circles in one direction. Remove pot from heat after egg is poured.
- Winter: greens, carrots, celery, radishes, broccoli
- Spring: greens, fava beans, carrots, scallions
- Summer: greens, zucchini, tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers
- Fall: greens, pumpkin and winter squash, zucchini