Monday, March 4, 2013

We Don't Horse Around Here

I was pretty surprised when Mia came home from school one day with the news that she was doing an animal report. She's in kindergarten, after all. I had no idea that the projects started so soon, but we were told that it was a "family project," which made it sound less overwhelming. First of all, she was really thrilled because she had "won" the subject of horse. Apparently, there were at least two other girls in her class who wanted to do a report on horses, and Mia was chosen by pure luck of having her stick drawn first. To get started, we took a trip to the library to pick out some books and then she was very excited to immediately begin doing research and writing. (I need to make a note of this because I imagine some day this enthusiasm will have waned. Hopefully, I am wrong, but I am trying to be realistic here.) Of course, I helped her, and obviously, I am biased, but I think she did a fantastic job on her written report.

Mia's teacher encouraged the kids to do something extra as well, and after I made a few suggestions, Mia decided she liked the idea of doing a diorama. Again, she wanted to get started right away. Thankfully, I had waited a few days to start making suggestions. I didn't want her to get overwhelmed, so we had spaced out the report writing over a couple of days and then waited until the following weekend to start work on the diorama. We made this out of whatever we had on hand. We started with a white US Postal Service mailing box and she decided to cover the inside and outside with construction paper: red for the outside, just because; green for the grass, which she cut with a fringe; and blue for the sky. I helped her by showing her how to get it to fit, folding it, and cutting to size with my paper trimmer. Then, she did most of the gluing. She made a yellow paper sun and a drawing of a horse and rider going over a jump. She cut that out and glued it in the background. Then, we placed a toy horse in the right foreground. (I hot glued the hooves, but discovered this morning, that it had come loose on the way into school.) She told me she wanted a hay bale and an apple tree to show some things that horses eat so I helped her figure out how to make these. For the apple tree, we used a craft stick trunk. I cut off one end to make it flat, used the scissors to poke a slot in the bottom of the box, and made sure it fit. Then, she drew fluffy leaf shapes on green felt. I helped her cut them out and she glued them in layers onto the trunk. Then, she added red pom poms for the apples. When the tree was done, I added hot glue to help it stay in the slot cut into the box. The hay bale was a bit more work. I made a box by cutting six rectangles (four of one size and two, slightly smaller) out of a side panel from a cereal box. The paper trimmer was helpful. Then, I used masking tape to assemble the box, affixing it to the inside and outside seams. Lastly, Mia cut some pieces of raffia and glued them to the outside of the box. Then, it really looked more like a hay bale. I hot glued this to the bottom of the box, next to the apple tree, and the diorama was complete.

{She is proud of her horse diorama!}

While I was at Meijer yesterday, I happened to come across a horse shaped metal cookie cutter for 99 cents, and decided to buy it. Tomorrow is Mia's turn to be the Child of the Day at school, which means she is the line leader and that sort of thing. Also, she can bring a snack for the class. I felt that horse cookies would be fun. Logan helped me mix up a batch of chocolate cutout cookie dough, which had to chill for two hours before we could cut out the horse shapes. I did most of that since it can be tricky. There were a few casualties during the process, but luckily no horses were sent to the glue factory. I just rolled out the dough and started over, adding more cocoa powder as needed, in place of the suggested flour. Once the cookies were baked, they looked and smelled wonderful, but they didn't seem complete. I had the idea that chocolate frosting would make good manes and tails, so I found this recipe and made a half batch since I didn't have enough cocoa or confectioners sugar for a full batch, and I felt that a half batch would be plenty for what I wanted to do. To decorate the cookies, I just put my frosting in a zippered bag, snipped off one corner, and piped out squiggles. It wasn't fancy or technical, but it worked well. I was worried that Mia would complain that they didn't have eyes, but I didn't think I had anything that would work. Mini chocolate chips would have been huge and red jimmies would have looked kind of evil. Fortunately, she didn't notice or care. In fact, Mia was so happy with the cookies that she announced that she wants a horse/cowgirl themed birthday party for her next party. (This is perhaps the fourth theme she has suggested and we just had her birthday at the end of January, so we shall see how long this lasts...) I am just happy that I tried two new recipes and one kind of off-the-wall idea and it all came together beautifully. I love when that happens.

{I am happy with how the cookies turned out.}
The toughest part for Mia will be that she needs to give an oral presentation of her animal report. We have practiced this at home twice now, and she knows her teacher will help her if needed. I know what it's like to be extremely shy, so I know this is a big hurdle to overcome, but I told her once she does it, it will just get easier.

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