Breaking summer boredom on KCTV5’s ‘Better Kansas City’

Lisa Boggess on Better KC Lisa Boggess from MCC’s Francis Institute was featured on the July 22 edition of the KCTV5 show “Better Kansas City,” with tips on how to beat kids’ summer boredom. Boggess provided fun food ideas. All of these activities can be found on the Francis Institute’s Pinterest board.





Rock Candy

Rock candyGrowing your own rock candy is a fun and edible experiment you can do with your children or the children you work with. After making the solution and setting up the experiment, you will need to wait multiple days for the rocks to grow, which will provide a great opportunity to teach the children how to observe, talk about and write down their observations, or even take pictures along the way.

This experiment will require help from an adult, because it includes cooking over a hot stove and a sugary liquid that can burn before it’s cooled down.

Growing a Jeweled Rose has great instructions (see below) and pictures. Instead of skewers, you could also use lollipop sticks, popsicle sticks, or pipe cleaners with one end wrapped around a pen or pencil to hang from.


  • 2-3 cups of sugar
  • 1 cup of water
  • Skewers/candy sticks
  • A jar or glass
  • A large saucepan
  • Clothespins

Optional additions

  • Food coloring
  • Candy flavoring

Note:  You can easily double and triple the above recipe.  We wanted to make a whole rainbow of rock candy colors, so we ended up using 10 cups of water and close to 30 cups of sugar.  As long as the sugar to water ration is close to 3:1 the rock candy will grow.


  • Combine equal parts of sugar and water in a saucepan and heat until all of the sugar is dissolved.
  • Then slowly add more sugar in small amounts until it will no longer dissolve in the water.
  • The water should start to look a little cloudy.  That is the point when no more sugar is dissolving and the perfect sugar saturation has been reached.  Basically, you are creating a saturatedsugar solution (a solution in which no more sugar can dissolve at a particular temperature). The amount of sugar versus water used should be roughly 3:1.  Add candy flavoring if desired, and then continue to heat the water until it comes to a simmer.
  • Remove the sugar-water from the heat, and allow it to cool.  While it is cooling you can prepare your skewers or candy sticks.  Cut theskewers to a desirable size for the jars you are using.  Then dip the sticks in water and roll them in sugar.
  • Allow the sugar coated sticks to dry.  While those are drying you can prep your jar(s).  Once your sugar-water is cool enough pour it into jars and add food coloring if desired.  Then, once the sticks are dry place them in the jar(s).
  • You want to make sure that the sugar coated sticks are completely dry before placing them in the jars.  The rock candy needs the sugar to grow on, and if the sugar on the sticks isn’t dry it will dissolve in the water.  It is also important to make sure that the sticks are not touching the bottom or sides of the jar.

That’s it!  It is now time to sit back and observe the jars…After a week we were happy with how much our rock candy had grown, but you could leave yours in the jars longer if desired.  Once you are happy with the growth just remove the candy sticks from the jars, and place them on a plate to dry.  Once dry you will have a yummy treat to enjoy.    — Growing a Jeweled Rose

Rainbow Pasta

Make your pasta noodles exciting by adding a rainbow of colors! Simply using food coloring, or your choice of natural coloring, can make this into a hands-on experience for your children. Of course, an adult will need to help with the process of cooking the noodles, but children can help with everything else that isn’t hot.

You can also approach this as an experiment with children and make it into a great learning experience. Ask children to predict what they think will happen to the noodles when color is added, how long it will take for the color to set, and then have them create a plan for how to color the noodles. Help them follow through with their plan, whether it is the same as the instructions or not. If it doesn’t work, then you can always try it a different way. Easy!

Children can help add the colors to cool water or baggies, can break long noodles into smaller pieces if desired, spray cool water onto the cooked noodles in a strainer, and divide the noodles into baggies and shake them. Have the children time the experiment with a timer or clock to see how long it takes the noodles to reach the desired colors.

After your noodles are colored and in separate containers, encourage your children to dump the noodles together into a bowl that will hold all of them, and then challenge your children to figure out the best way to mix them (i.e. different types of utensils, their hands, etc.). Let them experiment with different ways. This is great for large and fine motor development (as they use different muscle groups to manipulate the utensils) and touching the noodles with their fingers is a fun sensory experience.

To eat the noodles, you can serve a typical way, like with pasta sauce, or you can try something a little different, such as drizzling them with olive oil and tossing in roasted garlic, oregano, and parmesan cheese.

For a cool, healthy meal, chop up some fresh vegetables, like grape tomatoes and cucumbers (the more colors the better), add to pasta, along with sliced olives, cubed cheese, and Italian dressing. Throw in some fresh herbs for a little extra flavor and color. Voila! Serve fresh fruit as a dessert and you’ve got a full meal with all your food groups: vegetables, fruits, protein, grains, and dairy.

Two ways to color your pasta noodles are to color the cooked and cooled noodles in separate sealable plastic baggies, or to add food coloring to the water that the noodles will boil in. Tablespoon does a great job of giving instructions and pictures for the baggie method and Cents Less Deals shows how to make the noodles with separate pots of colored boiling water.

Homemade Popsicles

Popsicles A fun way to have a healthy summertime snack is to make your own popsicles. You can control what goes into them, so you can be sure that they don’t have extra sugar and hidden ingredients. Children are more likely to eat food that they have chosen or helped to prepare, so if possible, take children to the supermarket and have them pick out what fruits they would like to use (encourage them to pick at least one new one to try). If a trip to the supermarket isn’t an option, allow children to pick from a variety of fruits you can make available to them.

Either chop up the fresh fruit to leave chunks in the popsicles, or place in a blender with a small amount of 100% juice or Greek yogurt. When possible, add some dark leafy greens, like kale or spinach to a blended mixture. The children won’t know it’s in there, and it will add some super nutrients! Even better, teach the children about nutrition and have them add it to the blender.

Better KCIf leaving chunks of fruit, just pour juice or yogurt over the fruit once it is in the popsicle mold/cup.

If you don’t have popsicle molds, use small paper or plastics cups and popsicle sticks. A great way to help your popsicle stick stay in place is to stick a slice of banana on the end that is at the bottom of the cup. Then, just add your popsicle ingredients. Try this out with different fruits, like half a strawberry, with the flat cut side down.

(Note: You can always poke a small hole in a little piece of foil or wax paper and slip onto the top of the popsicle stick, if you don’t want to use the fruit method, but the fruit method adds a neat “treasure” to the popsicle.)

Freeze and enjoy! Make this into an experiment by helping children observe what happens to the popsicle at different stages in the freezing process. When partially frozen, let them poke with a utensil or finger to see which parts froze first and last.

Keeper of the Home, SkinnyTaste, and Chocolate-Covered Katie have some great recipes to try out, or create your own!

Check out KinderKids123 and see their full experiment, using part of a Sid the Science Kid episode as a guide for ideas. They used a banana slice to hold their popsicle sticks and then took time to investigate, explore, and discover. Check out their process. You can try it, too!

S’mores Cones

S'more conesWho doesn’t love s’mores? They can be a little messy, though, and not exactly highly nutritious, so here’s a new spin on this sweet treat, which can also be a great hands-on experience for children and a way for them to build independence by choosing ingredients and creating their own cone. Children’s brains develop through experiences!

Pick out a type of ice cream cone to use (minus the ice cream), such as waffle cones or sugar cones. Help children decide what types of ingredients to put out for everyone to choose from. Make sure to include some healthy ones, like different types of fresh fruit, and various types of nuts if possible. Some “stuffers” could include:

  • Fruit
  • Dried fruit, like raisins
  • Chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, peanuts), depending on allergies
  • Peanut butter or other nut butters
  • Nutella
  • Chocolate chips or other chips, like butterscotch (dark or semi-sweet chocolate is healthier than milk chocolate)
  • Marshmallows
  • Granola
  • Honey

What else??? Think up your own additions! Marshmallows or other sticky substances will help toppings stay inside the cone.

Let children stuff their own cones with ingredients, making sure to get some healthier ones in the mix. Nuts will add more protein and healthy fat to this treat, so include them if you can.

Wrap the stuffed cone in foil and place in an oven, by a campfire, or on a low-heat grill. Check after several minutes to see if chocolate has melted and marshmallows have softened. If placing in an oven, try 350 degrees for 5-10 minutes.

Want a cool treat that is even healthier, but like the cone idea? Instead of stuffing it with the ingredients above, just fill it with yogurt (Greek yogurt has higher protein) and top with fruit, like fresh strawberries. Yum! Check it out from ivillage through our Pinterest page.

For an awesome video and instructions for how to make healthy nutty s’mores cones check out Santé Nuts’ Nutty S’mores Cones on youtube. Instructions with the recipe can be found HERE. Or for basic recipes, see Frugal Coupon Living or Center Cut Cook.