Bilingual Babies - Borscht and labeling your fridge!

My father-in-law taught me how to cook Borscht.  Borscht is the traditional Russian Beet Soup, well his version of it!  It is well known that if you put a bunch of Russians in one room and asked them to make a certain dish, each dish would be completely different, but completely right. There are many, many versions of Borscht.    The one I make is very similar to this recipe, but we use beef.  There are vegetarian recipes too! Here is a link to a bunch of different recipes if you are in the mood to do some adventurous healthy cooking! My goal for the year was to cook at least one Russian dish every week for the year!  So far, so good! My last Bilingual Babies post talked about Blini!
I really enjoy the flavor combinations of Borscht and can't help but thinking this is one of my favorite dishes to make for my hubbie on a cool winter day! Cooking a traditional meal is a great way to encourage talk about Russian traditions, family, and the language.  When the meat begins to cook in the pot of water, I saute the onions and carrots and prepare the other vegetables.  While I am cooking, we sing about adding vegetables in the soup using the Russian words for the vegetables.  Unfortunately, Borscht is more of a grown up recipe as it cooks on the stove top for a long time AND the beets stain everything!  I do let the kids add the vegetables into the pot, but do most of the cutting and cooking myself. For some reason, just the smell of Borscht makes me want to visit Russia.  I find on Russian baking day we all miss our Russian family dearly and end up Skyping or calling them just to hear their voices!
Haven't cooked with beets yet?  You don't know what you have missed!  These are some of the most nutritious and delicious vegetables around!  Adding them to the soup not only gives it the flavor, but also the bright red color! (and your hands)  Don't worry - it washes =) Someday, I would love to die some white clothes with beets!
In addition to talking to the kids about the vegetables while I cook, I am also to label things!  I am not super organized, but I like to have environmental print around the house, especially in the languages we are teaching our children.  Something as simple as labeling the items in our fridge may remind me to ask them if they want this or that in Russian (our second language) and may prompt my kids to read that word while it is in my hands (developing literacy in that language).  I'd like to make a poster of all the food groups in Russian to post on my cupboards. (someday...) For now, I'll just stick to simple labels!
As Kim has been blogging about eating healthy with balanced meals I am trying to be more aware of making sure to eat the right amount of all the food groups.  I can't help but think that sometimes by exploring food from other cultures our children will be exposed to a greater variety of fruits and vegetables.  Just this one soup has carrots, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, and beets with a very limited amount of fats and a serving of protein.  No matter what language you are speaking at home with your families, you can always try different recipes from around the world.  Who knows, maybe you will find out your children LOVE beets!!!

For more information and ideas on things to make and do related to Russian Culture, please stop by our Pinterest Board! If you need an invite to join Pinterest, send us an e-mail at theeducatorsspinonit (at)

Afterschool Express: 100th Day of School

We're approaching the 100th Day of Kindergarten with our children, or as I like to say 100 Days Smarter!  We did a few activities to learn about 100 and thought we'd share.  I love these ideas because they teach multiple concepts in one. We enjoy providing learning opportunities and projects for our children afterschool and/or on the weekends with our 5 year olds.  Because our time is limited, it's great when we can tie in multiple concepts into a project to help save on time and most importantly to make it more meaningful.  Here are a few activities that we created that relate to our 100th day of school that we're celebrating this week but also ties in  Valentine's Day, Random Acts of Kindness, plus teaching Math and Reading. 

Bird Seed Heart

We found a special Valentine's Day Poem and thought it would be nice to give the birds their very own Valentine.  We've been working on Random Acts of Kindness the past month.  We printed out the poem for our wall to memorize and then created our Bird Seed Heart.  

Here's the Valentine's Day Poem


I gave a hundred Valentines.
A hundred, did I say?
I gave a thousand Valentines
one cold and wintry day.
I didn't put my name on them
or any other words,
because my Valentines were seeds
for February birds.

Aileen Fisher

Make your Own Bird Seed Heart 

Peanut Butter
Bird seeds
Black Sunflower Seeds
Heart cutout

Draw a heart onto cardboard and cut out.  Create a hole at the top to attach the string from at the end of the process.  Then generously spread peanut butter onto the cut out heart cardboard.  To create our Bird Seed Heart we collected 100 Black Sunflower Seeds to line the outside and then sprinkled our"1000" seeds in the middle on the front.  Make sure you press the seeds down so they done fall off when you pick them up.  Then insert the string into the whole.  Hang outside and observe.  Hang up the Poem somewhere on your fridge to remember the special poem.  

100th Day of School Sign

Grab 10 Stamps and 10 Paper Strips and get stamping to 100!

You can use themed stamps to create many different crafts! 
We'll be making Valentine Cards, Family Mailbox and Valentine Patterns with these too! 

We worked on learning the concept of 100 by grouping things into groups of 10.  I had my daughter choose 10 different stamps and then she stamped them on 10 strips of paper to make a paper chain.  We practiced counting by ones and by tens to 100 as we created it and using the 100 Number Chart. 

Here's our finished project, she couldn't wait to hang it up. On the back we have Happy Valentine's Day too! 

Making 100 using Base Ten Blocks

Base ten blocks are cool to begin with and a great way to show numbers in a concrete way!  At our house, we have been working on building numbers from 0-100!  I've been trying to use our light box more and this was the perfect actvity.  We found a set of transparent pink and blue base ten blocks at a garage sale last year and were able to see them very clearly with our light box.  These are great because they connect together and form a 100 block, which we can stack on top of the pre-made hundred block to compare and then to count by 100's.  Isn't math just exciting

We had to read a few stories too about the 100th Day of School.  Here are some of our favorites. 


More Ideas for the 100th Day of School

100th Day of School from A Teacher Obsession
100 Day Pinterest Board and Song from Debbie Clement

The Learning Garden - Making Plant Labels to Teach Reading

 We went outside the other morning and saw that the first of our strawberries have begun blossoming!!!  I just put these plants in the middle of our flower garden and they are doing well, but didn't have a place marker or label to say what they are.  Although it is obvious to even a 2 year old, I am trying not to just garden, but to use the garden as a resource to make learning real and connected.  My 2 year old is learning his letters, so I wanted to make these the focus of the label.  My 5 year old has begun reading, so I wanted to include simple sentences that use sight words and words that can teach her a vocabulary word or connect to a different subject matter.  I am sure that you can guess all the amazing things we can talk about in just this strawberry marker; geography, writing conventions (when to capitalize a word), and food groups.

I have tried many different types of labels; premade, Popsicle sticks, cut up milk jugs, painted on sticks, rocks and more, but these are the quickest, easiest way to add more letters and words to your garden.  They will not last forever, but should do for a year or two!  I use contact paper, but if you have a laminator, that would work too.  Just remember to leave a big space around the card so that water doesn't leak in.

Materials Needed
3x5 note cards
Contact paper
Chop stick / craft stick / any old stick

What to do:
1. Make your card.  Cut the contact paper double the size of your card plus space for the wide edges.
2. Make sure to leave 1/2 inch or more all the way around the edges.  Seal.
3. Tape the stick to the back
4. Let your kids place the marker near the plant it describes!
5. Read it often! Words are just words unless you interact with them.

Don't have time to make your own?  I've saved you some time and created them for you and they are available HERE
Happy Gardening!
- Amanda

Tot School - Groundhog Day Ideas

Ok - So I think this little rodents are absolutely adorable. In Russian, they are called, "sarok." This week we are getting ready for Groundhog's Day! This poem and hand print craft from Play With Me was soooo cute, that I typed it out and printed to sing with the kids.  As a kindergarten teacher, we did something similar every year.  Using a familiar melody, but changing the words is a fun way to begin reading!  The children become familiar with the songs and are soon able to connect the written word to the words they are singing.  I automatically find myself pointing to the words as we sing them!
We also read this Freddy book about Groundhog's Day and the kids really enjoy it. It is a simple story about a groundhog that lives under Freddy's porch. 

I usually try to have at least one fun snack a week and this is my silly attempt at a groundhog!  Although these bear buns were  just adorable and could easily pass for a groundhog - I wasn't in the mood to bake the last couple days, so the standby ritz (and baby ritz) crackers, peanut butter, and raisins came out!  My 5 year old said that it looks more like a bear, and I agree, but asked her to use her imagination and to just eat it!!! Do let me know if there are some other cute Groundhog day snack ideas!

 We had a lot of shadow puppet play this week!  It encourages creative thinking and is a great way to talk about shadows.  We also played outside at different times during the day and talked about how our shadow changes depending on where the sun is.  My 2 year old just stares at me and then will repeat a word like "shadow," so I don't really know exactly how much he does or does not understand!  I just know that vocabulary is so important in life and learning to read.  Maybe he doesn't get it this time, but I know that he is building these little vocabulary files in his head and that they will make connections when he is ready! More Groundhog Day crafts here.
And don't worry, I don't just do crafty/ cutesy projects all week.  We have a LOT of outside free play, open ended art projects, dirt play, Legos and pretend play too.  These are just as, if not more important for toddler development!!!!  Remember - it really doesn't matter WHAT you do with your kids, just that you ARE doing it with your kids.  YES, it is easier have them watch a television show, but if you take that time to snuggle up and read or play with them - you are making so much more of a connection with them.  And  I believe that parents are not told enough of what an amazing job they are doing.  If you are reading this and you are playing with your kid this week - you rock!  Give yourself a hug, a smile, or maybe a cup of hot-chocolate as a treat. You are amazing!!!!!
- Amanda

Tot School

{This post contains an affiliate link for the book recommendations}

Baby Time: Let's Make Music

Making your own instruments can be so much fun with your little ones.  All you have to do is save your snack containers to make an instrument!  Eco friendly and fun for everyone! 

We found all sorts of containers over the past month to save for our musical instruments.  Baby snack containers, soda bottle, oatmeal container, popcorn treats, chocolate milk you name it I saved it from our holiday parties and such.  You need to use caution and make sure it's a container that will stand up to a little one exploring it.  

Grab your containers and let's get started!  

I used beans and rice from our cupboard to fill inside to make the shakers.  If you are doing several containers use a variety of materials inside.  It's great practice in auditory discrimination to listen and try to see what's inside of the various containers. Some other ideas for materials are beads, bells, or pebbles.  Just a reminder to make sure you seal the container with hot glue or tape to avoid any spills or choking hazards and have adult supervision at all times with any homemade toy.

I used some wrapping paper to decorate our Musical drums and shakers. I cut the paper to fit and then covered the entire container with packing tape, contact paper would work too.  Just to make it more durable and kid friendly.   I love how bright they turned out with very little effort.  A great spot I find fun paper at is the Dollar Spot at Target! If I was having my Toddler, Preschooler or School Aged child making it, I would let them decorate it with stamps, stickers and coloring or painting them before I covered them with contact paper or packaging tape. 

Fun Activities for Homemade Musical Instruments

Shake It
Varying the speed and also how you shake it
Roll It
Roll the containers between your hands or on the floor for a different sound
Drum Fun
Using their hands or an object like a wooden spoon or drumstick practice hitting it
Match my Sound
Fast or slow have your little one copy you with the sounds you do or copy them
Stack it
Using the containers have fun arranging them in various ways
Dance Time
Hold the shakers and dance with music

My daughter was so excited when she woke up from her nap to play with these today.  She took lots of her time shaking them and hitting them but she also stacked them up and arranged them all over the room.  So much FUN!  Since we used containers they also become stacking toys, great for gross and fine motor skills and visual discrimination by learning about sizes.The best part is that we made these for almost no Money, they were all things I had laying around the house. 

I can't wait until big sister comes home from school so that we can play our instruments with her during Family Jam Time!  This musical instrument activity with the containers is great for any age, especially when your looking for something for Sibling Playtime .  If you're looking for more ways to use Reused Materials, check out how we used the Lids from veggie & fruit pouches!   Don't forget to RECYCLE your containers when you are all done playing.
Hope you have fun with your little ones!  Musical Fun should be a part of EVERYDAY! 

~ Check out more of our Baby Time Activitites here! ~

Little Hands That Cook with Books: Meat and Bean Group~Balanced Eating Fun

We've been learning about the Food Groups with our children and this week it's all about PROTEIN with the Meat and Bean Group! 

My husband's family is from India and I've learned quite a bit about how an Indian family eats a variety of lentils, kidney beans, garbanzo beans.  I was actually amazed at how little I knew about cooking with beans before I got married.  Now my children's favorite things to eat are beans and lentils!  This inspiration reminded me of a simple recipe to create with the kids.  The recipe we are making is one that was one of my favorites as a kid and I think your little one will enjoy making it too.  It's 15 bean Soup!  It's simple and delicious and I know your kids will enjoy making it.  The night before the lesson we put our beans in water to soak overnight,

Mr. Putter & Tabby Spill the Beans by Cynthia Rylant

We started the lesson by reading this book Mr. Putter and Tabby Spill the Beans by Cynthia Rylant. We love the Mr. Putter and Tabby series. The story is about Mr. Putter who can’t imagine why anyone would need to know one hundred ways to cook beans. His neighbor Mrs. Teaberry recommends a cooking class for something new and fun. Mr. Putter isn’t so sure but Mrs. Teaberry has a way of talking him into things. He find out that there are one hundred ways to cook beans which is more exciting than Mr. Putter ever expected.

Once we read the story we opened an extra bag of 15 bean soup and I let my daughter sit and sort the beans.  It's really amazing to see all the different types that there are.  She sorted then, made patterns with them and even created designs with them.  Then with the other bag we soaked the beans overnight and I started boiling them on the stove top a few hours before we were ready to cook our soup together. 

Once the beans were cooked we gathered our ingredients for...

15 Bean Soup
2 quarts water
I lb bag of assorted beans or just added your favorite beans
1 celery
small onion
1 carrot
1 clove garlic
2 Tb butter
1 lb cooked chicken breast or ham or sausage
salt and pepper to taste

*Presoak bean and rinse before cooking
*Cook meat before cooking soup. 

We washed the vegetables and then I had my child use a butter knife to slice the carrots, celery and onions and cooked meat into tiny pieces.  Once she cut everything up she dumped them into a pan for an adult to saute the vegetables with the butter and then added to beans to cook for at least 30 minutes. 

*You can use the premade bags they sell at the store for 15 Bean Soup, they even come with a seasoning packet. 

~When cooking with children, please use caution and adult supervision at all times~

While our soup was cooking my daughter had some Bean Activities to do. 

Pour and Sort Beans
Using a bowl and measuring cups practicing pouring with beans over large plastic container. 
Bean Mosaic
Create and glue a mosaic using the beans  
Growing Beans
Plant Lima bean seeds in a cup to watch grow of the next few weeks
Meat and Bean Group Activities
Protein Sorting Game
Sort words and pictures of Pig, Cow, Chicken, Fish, Turkey, Egg, Nuts, Beans
Word Search
Printable Worksheet from Nourish Interactive... great website for Kids Nutrition

I'll give you fair warning that it can become a very interesting lesson when you first teach your children about the meat group, and please use at your own discretion because I don't want any little ones turned off from meat just because they found out the truth from me.  Year after year teaching Nutrition in Kindergarten there would always be a few who finally realized that ham is really from a pig and that nuggets are really from a real chicken.  That being said it's such an important food group to understand and insure that everyone gets enough of. 

Science Moment

According to WebMDEvery cell in the body is made of protein, which makes this major nutrient essential for healthy growth and development. Protein is found in animal products such as dairy, eggs, seafood, and meats. In somewhat lesser amounts, it is also in beans, nuts, vegetables, and grains.
 Books About the Meat and Bean Group
I  found a few more books about the Meat and Beans Group that we enjoyed

Black Beans and Lamb, Poached Eggs and Ham: What Is in the Meat and Beans Group? by Brian Cleary

This author, Brian Cleary had all sorts of books on Nutrition that I can't wait to check out!

Meat and Fish (All about Good Foods We Eat) by D. H. Dilkes

Beans, Nuts, and Oils (All about Good Foods We Eat) by D. H. Dilkes

Thinking Outside the Bean: All You Ever Wanted to Know About Mexican Jumping Beans and More by Debbie Keiser, Brenda McGee, Mary Hennenfent Ed.D., Chuck Nusinov
Here's a quick reminder of the amount of food from each group our children need. 

Food Groups for Kids

Kids need a balanced diet, try to include the following amounts from each food group every day:
Grains: 3 to 6 ounces, depending on age- 1 ounce is equal to 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of rice or pasta
Tip: Choose whole grain or whole wheat instead of white bread.
Vegetables: 1-2 ½ cups
Tip: Encourage kids to eat a variety of vegetables.
Fruit: 1 to1 ½ cups - example: 1 cup =1 small apple, 1 small banana, ½ cup of dried fruit
Tip: Choose different colors of fruits. Great for snacking! Choose 100% fruit juice, and limit to only 1 cup a day.
Meat: 5 ounces – example: one small chicken breast would be around 3 ounces, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, 1 egg, and ½ cup of beans = 1 ounce.
Tip: Choose lean meats such as chicken, turkey, fish or lean cuts of beef.
Dairy: 2 -3 cups
Tip: Choose low-fat or fat-free milk, low-fat yogurt and cheeses.


Check back for more Meat and Bean Group Lessons and Recipes!  We've already created Spider Meatballs and included some veggies into them.  Meatloaf and Indian Chicken Kebabs are on the list to be created soon! 

We'd love to hear your Children's favorite Meat Recipes or see Pictures of your children doing Little Hands That Cook with Books lessons!  Just email us at  and we can post it on our From Our Readers Page! 

Check out ALL the
Balanced Eating Fun Series with Little Hands that Cook with Books!
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