Planning for National Vanilla Ice Cream Day!

This July 23rd, it’s National Vanilla Ice Cream Day! If you have a sweet tooth and can’t resist sugary treats, this is the holiday for you. Celebrate this day by whipping up some decadent ice-cream based desserts with your kids — the following desserts are an easy, luscious way to serve everyone’s favorite ice cold and creamy delicacy this summer!

Hot fudge sundae – This is a classic dessert that you can customize to your liking. All you need is vanilla ice-cream – and toppings, toppings, and more toppings! Grab caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, M&Ms, nuts, oreo bits, cookie dough bits, sliced strawberries, and more. Pile them to your heart’s content on top of a big bowlful of vanilla ice-cream,and voila! You’ve got a heavenly treat.

Root Beer Float – Another super easy dessert to make! Just fill a glass about 3/4 full of root beer, and then put 1-2 scoops of vanilla ice cream on top. For a well-blended drink, just mix the ice cream and the root beer together. Grab a spoon, or a straw (depending on how fast you want to gulp down the float) and have at it! A great tip — chill the glasses in the freezer for about a half-hour beforehand; that way you have a deliciously chilled drink that’s perfect for a warm summer night.

Ice-cream sandwich – There are few things as satisfying as sinking your teeth into a soft ice-cream sandwich that’s both warm from the cookie and cold from the ice-cream! Take some of your favourite cookies (we recommend gooey chocolate chip, but anything works) and spread a sizeable chunk of vanilla ice-cream onto the flat side of one cookie. Make sure it’s evenly spread out — then put the other cookie on top! Press them together so the ice-cream is properly distributed. Then dig in! For added flavour, mix some chocolate chips or peanut butter chips into the ice-cream beforehand.

If you find yourself having made more of these tasty treats than you can devour, why not have an ice-cream party? Invite your friends and your kids’ friends over for dessert. Keep all the ice-cream in the freezer, of course — if you have an upright freezer, that works best. Lay all the toppings, cookies, and root beer out on the table, alongside a bunch of big bowls, and let the kids go wild! They’ll have a blast making their own dessert — although keep a bunch of napkins on handy, as it could get a little messy. An ice-cream party is the perfect way to celebrate National Vanilla Ice Cream Day.

What other ice-cream based desserts do you love? Tell us in the comments!

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Photo by: stu_spivack

Celebrate with School of Dragons!

Congratulations to School Of Dragons for an awesome first year! Their game is a great blend of education and imagination, and we’re so excited to see what incredible updates they have in store for the future. If you haven’t checked out School of Dragons already, go to http://Ez.com/SoD1YrPlayNow and take to the skies!

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Catch Fireflies with Your Kids This Summer!

On the next warm summer night, take the time to head outdoors and teach your kids about the beauty of nature. If your neighborhood has an abundance of flora and fauna – and, you happen to live in a relatively humid climate, you might have the opportunity to spot some vibrant fireflies! Share some of our top tips and learn how you can take your kids firefly-catching, so they can learn about this interesting insect. All you’ll need is a net and a jar! With such a fun activity, your family is bound to remember these warm summer nights fondly.

Fireflies love bodies of standing water, and tend to be found towards marshy areas with tall grass. However, depending on where you live, they can be found in fields, in wooded areas, and even in your own garden. To spot fireflies, you simply have to look for the blinking lights! It’s best to go firefly-catching when it’s pretty dark, as you’ll be able to spot them easier and they won’t be confused by any artificial light sources; however, for safety purposes, be sure to have a flashlight on hand in case you need one. When you and your kids find fireflies, catch them with your nets! Be patient; catching the bugs might not be easy. Also, be careful and make sure not to injure the fireflies; catching one or two at a time is recommended. After each catch, put the fireflies in a jar. Your jar should have small holes in the lid for ventilation, as well as a damp paper towel at the bottom of the jar. The towel will keep the jar humid, so that the fireflies don’t dry out. You want to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible! Don’t keep the fireflies longer than a day; if they’re kept any longer, it’s probable that they will die. When releasing them, it’s best to release them at night, as that’s when they are most energetic. Your kids will have so much fun catching and examining these fascinating creatures!

So what exactly makes a firefly bioluminescent (meaning that they produce and emit light)? The light comes from a chemical reaction within a firefly’s abdomen – the main chemical in this reaction is luciferin, which is responsible for the yellowish luminescence. Along with some other chemicals, plus the addition of oxygen, the chemical reaction is activated, causing the fireflies to light up! Interestingly enough, the fireflies’ light produces very little heat.

A firefly’s glow serves a few purposes…

1) It warns predators that might want to eat the firefly! Fireflies taste bitter and often contain some chemicals that may be toxic to certain animals.
2) It allows the fireflies to communicate with each other.
3) It attracts firefly mates. Each species of firefly has its own special flashing pattern, which enables them to recognize potential mates.
4) It attracts prey.

Teach your kids these facts about this marvelous creature and watch their eyes light up – figuratively, of course!

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Photo by: Takashi Ota

Make some cool homemade ice cream this summer!

While coming home in the summer with a tub of store-bought ice-cream will send your kids into a sweet-toothed frenzy, there is perhaps nothing better than whipping up some homemade ice-cream for the family. Not to mention that cooking activities in the kitchen can be a great way to encourage kids to practice math skills like measuring quantities or calculating conversions. This recipe is super easy to make and can be healthier option for summertime sweets. Best of all, you do not even need an ice-cream maker to do it! Just follow these steps for a delectable dessert – your kids will have as much fun making it as they will eating it!

 

You will need:

-      8 eggs

-      1 cup sugar

-      2 cups milk

-      2 cups heavy or whipping cream

-      1.5 tablespoons vanilla extract

-      Any other extracts you would like to add, e.g. rose, peppermint, rum, coffee, etc.

-      Any add-ons you’d like to put into your ice-cream, e.g. pecans, cookie dough bits, chopped fruits, etc.

 

  1. Whisk the eggs (or just egg yolks, if you prefer) until they are all one consistency. Mix them in with the cup of sugar, as well as the vanilla extract. Add the sugar slowly, so it’s easier to stir in. For a healthier alternative, use brown sugar instead of white sugar. If you’d like a lower-calorie option, artificial sweeteners would work well.
  2. Put the milk in a saucepan on the stove; heat it over medium, until it simmers.
  3. When the milk is sufficiently heated, pour it very slowly into the egg mixture, whisking all the while. It’s important that you do this slowly and that you keep mixing so that the eggs don’t get too hot.
  4. Heat the new mixture in a saucepan over low heat until it thickens. Make sure to stir constantly so that the consistency stays correct. Do not let it get too hot, as it will get lumpy. You want to make sure that everything stays smooth.
  5. Chill the mixture
  6. When the mixture is chilled, stir in two cups of heavy cream. Now you can add any other add-ons you’d like. Make sure they are evenly distributed throughout the mixture.
  7. Freeze the mixture in an ice-cream maker; alternatively, if you don’t have one, just pour the mixture in a freezer-safe container and put it in the freezer. Take it out every hour and stir it, so that it does not harden into a block of ice. Repeat this until the ice-cream has frozen.

 

Voila! Your homemade ice-cream is now ready to eat. Serve it as a delicious Friday night dessert. It’s the perfect end to any meal!

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Photo by: Ginny

Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Independence Day! What are you all doing to observe this patriotic holiday? Be sure to hoist that star-spangled banner and immerse yourself in all the exciting, fun-filled 4th of July festivities. Sing songs, watch parades (or even partake in them!), barbecue, play games, and most importantly, spend time with your loved ones honoring this country’s history and triumphs. We hope you and your Cadets have an awesome time partying and celebrating this Fourth of July!

 

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Music to Their Ears: Chimps Love Exotic Beats!

It’s no secret that we all love music! We listen to it everywhere – in the car, at birthday parties, at concerts, and more. But did you ever consider that chimps would like listening to music too?

According to recent research from the American Psychological Assocation, chimpanzees enjoy listening to Eastern music – namely, Indian and African styles. While chimps aren’t big fans of Western music, tending to stay away from the stereos that played Western pop, classical, and blues music, they were found to tend towards the areas in which they could best hear the African and Indian music. Scientists attribute it to the difference in the types of beats: Western music tends to have more of a steady rhythm and beat, which chimps could potentially find intimidating, due to such a beat’s similarities to chimpanzee dominance. African and Indian beats, however, have a lot more variation, which chimps would find less ominous and more pleasant. The chimps reacted the same way to Japanese music, which has similar beats to Western music, backing up the scientists’ theories. Though studies in the past have focused on the specific genres of music, the conductor of the study maintains that this might have been misguided. He says that, although Western pop and Western classical may sound different to us, they have similar rhythmic and acoustic patterns, making the appeal the same to chimps. The differentiated beats in African and Indian music (which vary from extremely forceful to extremely weak in a single composition) are decidedly music to these chimps’ ears.

It seems that chimpanzees are pretty worldly animals! We can learn a lesson from these chimps by broadening our musical tastes – it’s important to learn about the world’s different art forms and how they vary from each other! Download some music from a different part of the world, and listen to it with your child on the way to school or at home during dinner. Then comment below about which style of music your family likes most!

 

Photo by: belgianchocolate

Developmental Benefits of Play Dough for Your Kids

Play-dough is an entertaining toy that lets your kids’ imaginations run wild. Home-made or store-bought, this simple but fun modeling clay can be used for arts-and-crafts, and comes in a variety of colors. Aside from being enjoyable to play with, however, what are the actual benefits your kids are getting from this toy and how does it affect their skills? We’ve compiled a few reasons why playing with Play-Dough can help your kids’ developmental growth.

Tactile coordination: By forming different shapes and objects with Play-Dough, your kids are able to better their motor skills and their overall coordination. Molding the dough requires care and accuracy, and teaches children how different motions can yield different results.

Creativity: Since the nature of Play-Dough is in its simplicity, your kids can go wild with the possibilities of what to create. Play-Dough encourages children to be artistic, and to create different shapes and models by drawing inspiration from the world around them. Using varied colors of Play-Dough add to this, because it allows children to be more detailed with their imagination. The clay can also be a good means of self-expression for your children, as it gives them the ability to create whatever they’re most intrigued with.

Geometrical ability: Playing with Play-Dough is a great way to get children to learn their shapes. By modeling their creations after the items they see, they learn how objects are composed of different geometric shapes that are of different sizes. They are able to hone the way they perceive objects, and thus learn precision.

 

Photo by: Wikendenplaydough

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