Patriotic Monster Cookie Recipe

Patriotic Monster CookiesThere are few things in our family that hold memories of cookouts and holiday celebrations more than MONSTER COOKIES.  Each holiday, my grandmother would make cookies, put them in a shoe box, and hand-deliver to all the kids (young or old).  My grandmother is no longer with us, but her cookie tradition lives on.   The recipe below makes a LOT of cookies!  It’s perfect for the 4th of July (or ANY holiday/celebration)!


2 c. sugar

2 ¼ c. brown sugar

1 c.  butter-flavored shortening

24 oz. peanut butter

6 eggs

1 Tbls. vanilla

1 Tbls. white Karo syrup

4 tsp. baking soda

9 c. oatmeal

½ lb. red/blue chocolate candies or Patriotic M & M’s

½ lb. chocolate chips

½ c. pecans (opt.)

Patriotic Monster Cookies_Blog 001

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend sugars, shortening, and peanut butter.  Add eggs, vanilla, syrup, and baking soda.  Stir in oatmeal, candies, chocolate chips, and pecans (if desired).  For the BEST cookie: refrigerate dough at least 12 hours. Drop cookies onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  EAT & ENJOY!

What traditions will you pass on to your children and grandchildren?  We’ll be making cookies at holidays for many years to come!

For MORE Patriotic Ideas for families with Kids, visit our Patriotic Board on Pinterest!

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101 Kids Activities that are the BESTEST, FUNNIEST Ever! #PLAY #Parents

101 Kids Activities

Disclosure: The Preschool Toolbox participates in the Amazon Associates Program. This post and others on this blog may contain affiliate links. We have received a copy of 101 Kids Activities in exchange for this post. All opinions expressed below are our own.

Holly Homer and Rachel Miller of the Kids Activities Blog have done it again!  Not only have they created a website that is chock full of great ideas for kids, but TODAY they launch their book:  101 kids activities THAT ARE THE BESTEST, FUNNIEST, EVER!   The suggested activities come with easy to set-up instructions and colorful photos to make playful learning FUN!  The book is a must-have for any parent, grandparent, childcare teacher/provider, or others that wish to create special and long-lasting memories with kids!


(From 101 Kids Activities by Holly Homer and Rachel Miller – reprinted with the permissions from Page Street Publishing June 2014)

This project transforms sticky notes into a maze that can be designed and constructed by a kid. The fun thing is that even though they designed the maze, it will still be a challenge to maneuver a pom-pom through it with a straw and some air power.


+ 2+ stacks of sticky notes

+ Tabletop surface (or the floor)

+ Straws—one per child playing

+ A variety of different pom-poms

Create a maze track with the thin post-it notes (or masking tape). Line up the notes close together on a smooth surface, creating corners, turns and twists across the table.

Have your children pick out a straw and a pom-pom and start at the beginning of the maze. They need to blow their pom-pom to go through the maze without falling off the track. If they go outside of the lines of the “track” they need to take their pom-pom back to start and begin again.

Modifications for Younger Kids

Have your children work on blowing the straw evenly to get their pom-pom to move. This is a great way to work on breathing control. Our youngest tykes just liked blowing their pom-poms anywhere. They can have a simple start/finish line or a set of bases to get their pom-poms to.

Modifications for Older Kids

Cut the notes in half to make a narrower trail. Add some twists and turns in the maze, making it more difficult for kids to navigate their pom-pom around the barriers.

For a science twist, have your kids experiment. Is the pom-pom easier to control if they have a thinner straw? What happens when the size of the pom-pom changes?


Wondering how to create a maze? Try filling in an entire 2 x 3-foot (61 x 91.5 cm) area with the sticky notes. When the entire “box” is filled, remove the notes to reveal the maze route.

Regulating breathing by blowing pom-poms is a great way to learn breath control. This is also a good “calm down.”

What Others Are Saying About 101 Kids Activities

You don’t have to spend a fortune at ‘Toys R Them’ just because your kids say they’re bored.  In 101 Kids Activities, Holly and Rachel give you a ton of great, free or cheap ideas to keep your children entertained year-round. – DAVE RAMSEY, New York Times bestselling author and nationally syndicated radio show host

101 Kids Activities is a must-have for moms and dads everywhere!MELISSA BOURBON RAMIREZ, bestselling author of A Magical Dressmaking mystery series

I’ve come to rely on Holly and Rachel to continually produce simple and creative activities that really engage kids of all ages.  Their blog has long been bookmarked as a go-to resource for me, and I can’t wait to add their new book to our shelves! – STEPHANIE MORGAN, founder of Modern Parents Messy Kids

From fun math to learning to use scissors to making crazy sticky crafts to engaging in detective games, this book has it all.  I can read it and know that my kids will have a zillion ways to keep busy while still learning! – KIMBERLY CLAYTON BLAINE, MA, MFT, licensed family therapist, executive producer of TheGoToMom.TV

101 Kids Activities is a wonderful resource that will make you the coolest parent on the block. – CINDY HOPPER, founder of the blog Skip to My Lou

Holly and Rachel are THE go-to resources for kids activities. – DEBBIE CLEMENT, creator of Rainbows within Reach

Holly Homer and Rachel Miller are my go-to experts for play and learning activities – MELISSA TAYLOR, author of Pinterest Savvy


Enter via the Rafflecopter form below for book giveaways, products to go along with a book giveaway and cash prizes!  The specific giveaway items will change weekly/bi-weekly.

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Ocean & Beach Theme Playful Learning for Preschool: Message in a Bottle Craft

Messages in a Bottle

Disclosure: The Preschool Toolbox participates in the Amazon Associates program. This post and others within this blog may contain affiliate links. We receive compensation for items purchased to help maintain this blog.

What are some items your kids might find on a beach by the ocean?  Brainstorm with your children and you will find an interesting array of answers!   Sometimes bottles wash up on the beach with notes inside!  As recently as 2012, the oldest message in a bottle was found!   In 1914, a scientist from Scotland threw 1,890 bottles into the ocean to test the undercurrents in the seas.  In 2012, one of the bottles was found and recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records.

If you have a chance to visit an Ocean with your children, try placing a note inside a water tight bottle and tossing it into the sea.  You never know who might find the bottle.  Is is an exciting activity for both kids and adults!  The ocean-themed “Messages in a  Bottle” activities below are designed to encourage playful discovery at home or in the classroom.

Alphabet Bottles


Materials needed:  Empty, dry water bottle(s) with label removed (or plastic “message in a bottle” craft kit), bingo dot markers, small plastic or foam letters, numbers, and shapes of assorted colors, real or pretend sand, a sand-based bin or shallow drawer (if real sand is not available – salt or sugar will work as a base for the bin and to spoon into the bottles), a small funnel, and real or plastic spoons.

Fill the bottle(s) half way with plastic or foam letters/numbers, and shapes of assorted colors. Demonstrate for the children how to use the funnel. Place the funnel on top of the bottle and have the children spoon sand into the funnel. Fill the bottles(s) slightly with sand (SAND + PLASTIC ITEMS should fill the bottles no more than two-thirds of the way full). Replace the cap and shake to mix all the items together (Tip: hot glue or tape the top on the bottle so the contents don’t accidentally shake out as the children play).



Messages in a Bottle – free pdf file to print (Alphabet, Numbers, Colors, and Shapes).

The pdf file (linked above) has four total activity sheets the children can use with bingo dot markers to record the items found inside the bottles: Alphabet, Numbers 1-20, Colors, and Shapes.

Additional Ocean and Beach-Themed Activities for Preschool and Kindergarten:

Crawdad Cookie Crafts; Beach-Themed Counting, Patterning, and Free Beach Scavenger Hunt Printable; Seashell Counting and Describing Seashells Free Printables; Sea Turtle Life Cycle and Sensory Bags; Fishbowl Free Counting Mats and Ocean Numbers/Letters; Ocean-Themed QR Code Game for Kids; and a Paper Plate Aquarium Craft!

For even MORE Ocean and Beach-Themed Activities (literacy, Power Points, math, science, large motor, dramatic play, crafts, and food crafts) for Preschool and Kindergarten, see the entire OCEAN THEMATIC UNIT here on the blog!

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Waging War on #Gender Stereotypes: Jill and Jack #Kids

We are pleased to bring you the following post in support of Jill and Jack Kids and their efforts to build a business that encourages love, care, and respect for ALL children.


KickstarterDisclosure:  The Preschool Toolbox has not received payment for this post nor do we have any material connection to the brand or products mentioned within this post.   Disclosure is made in accordance with the FTC Guidelines concerning endorsements and testimonials in advertising.

“I like your hat, that colour looks great on you,” I catch myself saying to my niece when I see her rosy 2-year-old cheeks on the iPad, as she runs in from playing outside to say hello. I could have said “Did you see any interesting bugs out there?”, “What did you plant today?”, or “What’s your favourite book right now?” instead, but I didn’t, and neither will 99% of the people that start a conversation with my niece or my daughter over the next 8 to 10 years. And that’s a problem.

It’s a problem because when the first thing almost every adult says to a little girl is something about her clothes or her hair. Even if it’s a compliment, little girls quickly get the idea that their looks are what matters, and that looking good and dressing well is what they should aspire to. It’s what adults (and society at large) expects them to be interested in, to be good at, and to want to talk about. And that’s bad news for the future of our girls. If we want the next generation to grow up striving to be kind, capable and confident rather than popular and sexy, we need to be mindful of the messages we’re sending to kids.

With kids growing up surrounded by advertising, movies and TV, toys, books, and clothes that tell them that some things are for girls, and others are for boys, we’re already fighting an uphill battle if our goal is to raise girls who know that they can solve tough, real world problems, and boys who are interested in collaboration, not just competition. The only solution is to recognize that gender stereotypes doesn’t reflect the “natural” wants or interests of kids or the adults who shop for them, to acknowledge our part in creating this environment, and to vote against it with our voices, and more importantly, with our wallets.

Kickstarter Collage

We are finally starting to see a backlash against labelling toys to do with domestic life as for girls, and science and building toys as for boys. Since it’s clear that stereotypically boy toys like Lego and K’nex help build spatial development skills, skills that help prepare kids for in-demand careers in science, math and engineering, it’s no wonder that parents want to offer their daughters the chance to practice those skills as well.

Of course it’s great that we’re starting to see skill-building toys being marketed to girls, as well as boys (Goldieblox being the prime example). But this is really only a tiny part of the change that we need to make in kids’ environments to stop reinforcing the outdated gender stereotypes that limit their opportunities in life. If we want kids to want to engage in play that develops new skills, they have to see that kind of play as acceptable for kids like them. This will be easier with some kids than others, but how easily it comes depends both on the examples and influences that they see around them, and on their sense of self–their sense of how they’re supposed to behave, what sort of interests are seen as acceptable for them to have, and what options are open to them. A child’s sense of self is shaped by a combination of his or her own personality, along with a wide range of social factors.

To change the environment that kids grow up in enough to stop reinforcing outdated gender stereotypes, we’re going to have to do a lot more than market skill-building toys to kids who are already independent enough, who already have a strong enough sense of self, to be interested in them. If we want to see the level of real, widespread change that stands a chance of eradicating gender inequality as we know it, then we have to start earlier. We have surround kids with influences that will help them to develop a strong and resilient sense of self, so that they will be secure enough to choose toys and clothes and books and movies based on their true interests, instead of choosing according to what society expects of them.

So how do we do that? We start by changing the messages that kids receive from role models in books, on TV, and in movies–ending the era of the traditional Disney princess, where adventure, curiosity and personal strength are reserved for boys. But that’s not enough. If we want to change the messages we’re sending to kids, we need to recognize the communicative power of the things that are closest to them–the very clothes we dress them in. Gender conventions in children’s clothing reinforce the idea that building, discovery and active play are for boys, and that girls should be concerned with home life and aesthetic appeal. Bows and ruffles and hearts and frills teach girls about the importance of looking pretty, and dark colors, and truck and sports motifs show boys that they’re destined for competition and adventure. We should strive to make our children’s worlds reflect our hopes for a future where men and women are treated with equal respect, and have equal access to and responsibility for all aspects of life. Only our own choices as consumers and business-owners can make that change happen.

Jill and Jack Kids is a new kids’ clothing company that’s inspiring the next generation of leaders to think beyond pink and blue. We make playtime-worthy clothes in fun, bright colours that change the messages we’re sending to kids, and we’re launching on Kickstarter right now. If we reach our goal, we will be expanding to offer a complete line of gender neutral kids’ clothing free from outdated gender stereotypes that both boys and girls will love to wear. Please check out the campaign now and buy a shirt for a kid in your life who dreams beyond pink and blue.

About the Author:  Jenn Neilson is the founder of Jill and Jack Kids (, a new company that makes playtime-worthy clothes that change the messages we’re sending to kids. She is a graphic artist with a PhD in philosophy, and a passion for gender equality.

Jill and Jack Kids can also be found on:   Facebook or Twitter @JillandJackKids



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Ocean Theme Activities for Preschool: Sea Turtle Life Cycle & Sensory Bags

Sea Turtle Sensory Bag

Disclosure: The Preschool Toolbox Blog participates in the Amazon Associates Program. This post and others within this blog may contain affiliate links.

Exploring an ocean is exciting for preschool children!   Ocean animals, shells, sand, and water are a wonder and bring out the natural curiosity that is at the heart of every young child.  Whether your children have a chance to visit a real ocean or not,  learning about the life cycle of a sea turtle is playful discovery for preschoolers!

Sea Turtles are on the endangered list due to environmental and human threats:

  • predators to the nest (raccoons, dogs, humans, ants, crabs, and/or sea birds)
  • sea turtles can get caught in fishing lines from boats
  • poaching and illegal sale of sea turtle eggs, shells, or turtle meat
  • pollution in the water or debris/litter from humans

Sea Turtle Post 018

For hands-on play with the sea turtle’s life cycle, Safari Ltd. offers a green sea turtle life cycle set:  eggs, hatchling, juvenile, and adult.   Discuss the 4 basic stages with the children while showing each piece from the set.

  • Sea Turtle Eggs – the female turtle can lay up to 100 eggs in the sand at night.  The female leaves the ocean to lay her eggs in a hole (nest) then covers the eggs with sand using her front and back flippers.
  • Sea Turtle Hatchling – in 6-12 weeks (time differs with various turtles), the turtles hatch from their shells and make their way to the deeper waters in the ocean.
  • Juvenile Sea Turtles – the younger turtles have an initial growing period of up to a decade.  The young turtles live and feed in the ocean waters.  Eventually, the turtles will join the other turtles along the ocean’s coastline.
  • Adult Sea Turtles -  an adult sea turtle can grow over 3 feet long.  Some types of sea turtles can live to be 100 years old.  Adult sea turtles make their home along the coastlines of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.  If possible, show the children where the oceans are located on a map.   For a downloadable online map of the oceans, visit National Geographic Education.

Remind the children that as the sea turtles mature, the female turtles lay more eggs in the sand and the life cycle repeats itself.


Sea Turtle Sensory Bag_1

As an extension activity after basic discussions, create a sea turtle life cycle sensory bag!

Materials needed:  one gallon-sized zippered bag, blue hair gel (or white gel colored with blue or green food coloring), duct tape (to seal the opening), and the 4 piece sea turtle life cycle set.

Place the blue hair gel inside the zippered bag and add all four pieces from the sea turtle life cycle set.  Zip the bag closed and seal the opening with duct tape to prevent the gel from leaking as the children play.

Sea Turtle Sensory BagAs the children play and discover the contents of the bag, see if they can re-create the sea turtle life cycle by moving the 4 pieces into life cycle sequence (as shown in the photo above).  After the pieces are ordered, the children can create 4 separate sections by drawing a vertical line with a finger down the middle of the bag and a horizontal line across the center.

The sensory bags are fun for kids (adults, too).  It is a great way to encourage young kids to use their senses (touch and sight) to position the pieces into the life cycle sequence.

Books about Sea Turtles:

The Life Cycle of a Sea Turtle by Bobbie Kalman

Turtle in the Sea by Jim Arnosky

Sea Turtles by Gail Gibbons

Sea Turtles:  The Complete Guide for Beginners & Early Learning {Kindle Edition} by Julia Cook


Additional Sea Turtle Resources:




For more OCEAN THEME activities for preschool and kindergarten, see our Ocean Thematic Unit here on the blog!







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