This summer marks a second year of trying our own version of summer camp at home, rather than spend hundreds of dollars each week for our kids to attend theme camps. Each day is filled with fun, low-cost or free adventures, hands-on projects, and learning about science, history, and art. We intersperse each day with plenty of free play and add an hour of “relaxation time” after lunch so I get a break too! A lot of Stroller Hikers have asked for more information on what we’re doing, so we’ll post about them and link them to the curriculum page of Stroller Hikes.
Summer Camp with Mom 1: Ocean Foods
With very low tides on the first Monday of Summer Camp with Mom, we ventured to Fitzgerald Marine Reserve to start the day. We established rules about safety before we left, then I passed out a scavenger hunt paper for things found at the tide pools to each child. We had fun scrambling around the newly exposed kelp beds, atop rocks, and digging in the sand. We saw everything on the scavenger hunt, but had to talk to the local ranger to know where sea stars and purple urchins were. The daring kids dared to have their fingers kissed by sea anemones.
We were at the beach in the morning, and after snack, jumped back in the car to ride home, so we’d be home in time for lunch. Since our theme was ocean foods, I wanted the kids to think about what we get from the sea. While I prepped food, they brainstormed as many things as they could think of, drawing pictures or making lists in their journals. The top list got a prize. I was impressed to see all of the kids include seaweed, fish, and salt on their lists. We would make sushi today and taste salt tomorrow.
We had tuna melts and grilled cheeses, with sides of strawberries (strawberries love growing on the bluffs above the beach, as they do in Watsonville). The kids each picked their quiet rooms (one kid to a room) and books for an hour of relaxation time. While they rested, I started some sushi rice cooking in the rice cooker, and sliced matchsticks of cucumber and carrot. I also put out avocado and pickled ginger, and cooked up an omelet that I then cut into matchsticks.
After nap, we made waist aprons. I had sewed a ribbon onto a rectangular piece of ivory fabric for each child. I’m a crafter, so I collect fabric ribbon from gifts, and had quite a lot to choose from. I also had some old upholstery fabric leftover from a sofa project years before. If you’re not a crafter, this project is made easier using napkins or dish cloths; just sew on a ribbon so the apron can be tied on. You can also buy premade aprons ready for decoration at your local craft store like Michael’s. We colored our aprons with fabric markers.
Clad in our aprons, we were ready to cook! We added sugar, rice vinegar, and salt to the cooked rice, then stirred it. It’s great when the number of ingredients and steps equal the number of kids participating; to a little bowl, Jack measured and added the sugar, Pranav measured and added the vinegar, Max measured and added the salt, and then Holly mixed up the contents of the little bowl and added it to the rice.
Our recipe for Seasoned Sushi Rice:
Cook 2 cups of raw sushi or short-grain rice according to package directions.
In a small bowl, stir together:
2 Tablespoons each of rice vinegar and sugar
1 Tablespoon kosher salt
Once dissolved, stir seasoned blend into rice.
After the rice was made, we sat down to plan out what would go in our dream sushi rolls. The kids each drew pictures in their journals, and the older ones added written labels and named their rolls. Some kids already had their favorites from the neighborhood sushi bar, with cucumber and salmon. Others had never eaten sushi, so benefited from some descriptions and drawings from other kids. Others made wild rolls with cotton candy inside. A new ingredient emerged as a result of this planning: cream cheese.
The issue with sushi rolls is that they must be super tight, so to teach this concept, what better than to make some human sushi rolls? I have a bamboo picnic/beach mat, so each kid took a turn being the filling. They each laid down, then we pulled the mat up on one end, patted it down all over, then kept rolling. Giggles all around, but by the time we got to making our rolls, the training had paid off. At each of their own little bamboo mats, on top of dried nori sheets, kids patted on thin layers of sticky sushi rice with rubber spatulas, then laid on just a few toppings. They rolled the first inch of their rolls, then patted everything in place. Tight, tight, tight!
I took care of cutting the rolls while the kids escaped to free play in the backyard. When all rolls were cut up, we had fun eating our creations, and when parents came to pick up their kids, they got to take a few rolls home to have with dinner. We finished the day by watching part of Ratatouille – “Anyone can Cook!”
– Debbie (Founder, Stroller Hikes), Max (8), Holly (4), and Andrew