LogicRoots Games Reviews: Ocean Raiders & Say Cheese

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Math has never been my favorite subject to teach.  It’s okay, but numbers and hard facts just aren’t my favorite things.  That’s why I was excited to be given the chance to review two math games from LogicRoots.

 The first is called Say Cheese.  It’s a multiplication game that stems from a short story you read from the direction booklet.  After that, you distribute cloth bags and the game chips. 

LogicRoots Review: Math Games @ A Nest in the Rocks

Following the rules, you take turns spinning the spinner and following the directions with your chips until someone has none left.  With each turn, your task is to determine whether the number on your chip is a multiple of the number on the spinner.  With some large numbers on the chips, this can be a bit of a challenge.

My Big Helper was totally up for that.  She enjoyed seeing how fast she could determine whether the chips had multiples and usually knew super fast.  She liked using big numbers from the spinners and was in it to win it.  My Little Man, on the other hand, while he played doesn’t love multiplication.  He enjoyed the game but it wasn’t his favorite.

The directions were a bit complicated to figure out.  Several times we’d continue play and then have to refer back to the directions to clear something up.  Several times we still weren’t sure what we were supposed to do and so just made up our own rules.  Part of this, I think, is because English was apparently not the native language of the people who wrote the directions.  Also, they often gave examples of the rules instead of just explaining them.  Since it is a simple kids’ game, however, this wasn’t a major problem. 

All in all, the game was fun.  The pieces were colorful and kid-friendly, and it definitely challenged the players to know their math facts.  The storyline was cute and the rules are simple.  This is definitely a fun, educational game – and best of all, it would be easy to create variations that could extend the usefulness of the game.


  • Colorful pieces
  • Strong math ties
  • Simple rules
  • Variations would be easy to create
  • Not your traditional math game – asks students to work backwards for find answers
  • Costs under $20


  • Instructions are somewhat unclear and include a few grammatical errors
  • It may take some time for students to get accustomed to identifying factors instead of solving mathematical equations

The second game we played is called Ocean Raiders.  This game is about addition and includes a variation for subtraction.  This game has a board and strongly resembles Chutes and Ladders.  The board contains 49 spaces in a non-linear order and has tornadoes that move a player randomly around the board.  Essentially, you roll the die and then add that number to the number of the space on which your token stands.  Because the board spaces are scattered randomly around the board, the student can’t simply count the proper number of spaces but must add the two numbers together in order to move ahead.

LogicRoots Review

My Little Man loved this game.  He had fun zooming his token around the board and especially loved rolling the die, which isn’t a cube.  It’s unusual shape makes it even more fun to roll.  I appreciate the variations that are included in the rule book.  My son knows his addition facts well, and so we completed the game in far faster time than the directions estimated, but it was still fun.


  • Educational
  • Colorful, fun materials
  • Sturdy construction
  • Easy to understand
  • Simple rules
  • Several people can play at once
  • Costs less than $20


  • Could be fun for a limited time only
  • This same basic game could be played using other game boards, like Uncle Wiggly or Chutes and Ladders

These games would make great gifts!  If you have kids learning their addition or multiplication facts, these games would make great additions to their educational tools.

I received a free copy of these games by LogicRoots.  All opinions expressed are my own.

NEW! Questions & Writing Prompts for “Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics”

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It’s no secret – we’re big Chris Grabenstein fans around here, and our favorites are the Lemoncello books.

Chris Grabenstein

That’s why I’ve written a series of discussion questions organized by chapter and writing prompts designed to make students think logically and critically.  I love when learning is fun, and nothing is more amusing that wacky Mr. Lemoncello; he’s the perfect way to make education exciting.

This packet is completely printable and a total of 22 pages.  It’s currently available here for only $3.

So what are you waiting for?  Hop over and check it out!

Haven’t read any Lemoncello books yet?  You can find them here:


New! A Linked Novel Study for ‘Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter’

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Beth Fantaskey

I’ve been hard at work writing a new novel study, and it’s ready! 

Beth Fantaskey‘s newest book Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter is a great way for tweens to learn about the Roarin’ ’20s.  Isabel is a ten-year-old who skips school to sell papers for the Tribune to help her mother when she hears a murder in a nearby alley.  She’s determined to defend the friend who gets blamed for the crime, and becomes friends with the female reporter and the detectives investigating the case. 

This linked unit study will guide your students to safe websites to research the culture of the 20s.  While using a variety of learning styles, your students will learn about the evolution of jazz, the rule of the mobsters, the gender roles of the time, flapper fashion, and popular foods of the time. 

If your students will be studying the 1920s, Isabel Feeney, Star Reporter and this accompanying linked novel study will guide them to the information they need.

Check out these other fun and educational projects:


Meeting “Lemoncello” Author Chris Grabenstein

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Recently My Little Man and I traveled to a nearby city to meet New York Times’ Best-selling author Chris Grabenstein.  It was everything I ever thought meeting a famous author could be.

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a writer.  I used to sit at my desk with stacks of paper and all the office supplies I could find gathered around me, trying to be the next Carolyn Keene.  I’d still like to write an exciting book someday, but for now, lately, I’ve really wanted to meet my favorite authors.

Chris Grabenstein

We live near Raleigh, Greensboro, and Charlotte, and big names often come to those areas – but somehow it’s never worked for us, so I was super excited to head out to meet the author of the “Mr. Lemoncello” series and “The Island of Dr. Libris,” Chris Grabenstein.

The signing was held at Barnes and Noble, and while I knew that they were experts in this sort of thing, we weren’t.  We didn’t want to miss out, so we headed over there several hours before it was slated to begin.

Chris Grabenstein

We found the signing spot and hunkered down to wait, hoping we would end up with good seats.

Chris Grabenstein

Since we were there for so long before hand, we took turns wandering the store and admiring the fun displays set up for the event.

Chris Grabenstein

Grabenstein has a series out for middle-grade readers that I really want to read, but alas, B & N didn’t have any copies that night.  🙁

One might worry that such a popular author would be stuck-up or snobby, but we found the exact opposite to be true with Chris Grabenstein.  He arrived quite early and talked through set-up with the B & N employees, and promptly came over to greet My Little Man, talking with him even though it was hours before he was ‘on.’  While the B & N crew were obviously trying to make sure they had met his every need, escorting him around the store and offering him refreshments from their Starbucks Café, Grabenstein gravitated right back to the event scene and continued to talk with his readers.  He repeatedly asked if it was time to start, continually engaging with fans, when he could have stayed out of sight and done his own thing.  I was most impressed with his kindness and attention to the kids.

Chris Grabenstein

Finally it was time to begin.  Grabenstein shared some exciting news about upcoming stories, recent releases, and awards that some of his books have gotten.

Chris Grabenstein

Then he read a selection from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library Olympics.  He is an amazing actor!  His voice, inflections, and eyebrow wiggles totally put new spins on the story – even though I’ve read it over and over again.  He chose a hilarious scene to read and had everyone in stitches.

After playing a quiz game, passing out prizes, and answering myriads of questions about the life of a writer, upcoming projects, and Fred (his dog), his stage time ended.

Chris Grabenstein

We quickly lined up for autographs and pictures.  Grabenstein was kind and talked to each person, posing for pictures when asked and generally making each person feel important.

Chris Grabenstein

Even My Little Man, who loves Mr. Grabenstein’s books but is extremely shy when meeting new adults, warmed up quickly.  He hopped right up for this picture and talked more than he typically does about the whole encounter.

Chris Grabenstein’s books are hilarious and exciting for kids, but they’re also well-written and chock-full of opportunities for learning.  I love when we can have a blast learning about something new.  Because we think his books are so wonderful – and with Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library ranking on the NYT’s bestseller’s list for 88+ weeks, I’m not the only one – I’m writing unit studies to accompany each one.  Two are currently available, and your kids will love designing their own car, making Mr. Lemoncello’s birthday cake, and much more.  Click on the pictures below to purchase the books or my accompanying unit studies.

Have you ever met a big-name author?  Who?

Lemoncello Cover


Writing History at Epic Patriot Camp

Living History

Last week my kids experienced the most amazing camp ever.  It was Epic Patriot Camp, sponsored by the National Park Service, held at the Abingdon Muster Grounds, and taught, in part, by the wonderful author Jenny L. Cote.

Living History

For six hours each day, the lived the Revolutionary Battle of King’s Mountain.  Over the course of the week, they were given a real person who participated in some way at the Battle.  They researched this person and wrote his/her story – while wearing period clothing and receiving technical writing lessons from Cote herself.

It wasn’t just costumes and quills, though – the National Park Service went all out.  The week was full of hands-on lessons about colonial life.  The kids did weapons drills with wooden muskets and watched a reenactor shoot a real one, and then they made musket balls and powder cartridges.  They hiked around the Grounds and examined the native plants, learning about herbal remedies and properties of many of them.  They learned how to write with a quill pen and ink and used wax and seals to mark their journals.  Each day, they continued to research their historical people, add to their stories, and conference with Cote herself.

Living History

The final day was huge, though.  The campers stayed the night at the grounds and slept in colonial-style canvas tents!  They helped to cook their dinner over the campfire, washed dishes, played graces, and spent time around the fire.  The Little Man in the picture above?  The picture doesn’t do him justice.  He was incredibly mud-spattered and stinky when I picked him up – but he couldn’t stop smiling.

The next morning we were treated to a special tea and ceremony.  The kids had the chance to show off what they had learned by sharing parts of their stories.

Living History

They also performed a reenactment of the Battle of King’s Mountain for us.  They really got into it!

Living History

I was impressed each day with the tight, well-planned lessons planned by Cote and the leaders from the NPS.  I loved the hands-on activities and the enthusiasm which I saw pouring out of my kids – but there was one aspect I didn’t expect:  homework.

As homeschoolers, we don’t encounter homework very often.  We’re typically done with our schoolwork long before dinnertime – and so we had planned some fun outings for our evenings away.

Those didn’t go quite as expected, partly because there was homework.  Extra credit assignments, really, that weren’t required, but the kids were adamant that they do them.  They wanted to know more than what they were learning at camp.  They wanted to do their very best for Jenny L. Cote – and they wanted to win her prize.

The kids excitedly shared after their first day at camp that Cote would be watching for the most epic story to be written that week and that the writer of that very story would make an appearance as an animal character in her next book.

As big fans of Cote’s work, that’s all it took: we adjusted our evening outings to accommodate (several hours of) extra credit work each night.  As crazy as it sounds – because who gets excited about homework in the summertime? – the kids couldn’t wait to settle in at the kitchen table and get started each night.

At the final tea, however, we all found ourselves nervous.  There were 18 campers in attendance and many were older than my kids.  Knowing how badly they wanted to win, I was crossing my fingers for them both, but realistically speaking, I knew that the camp was full of smart, talented writers. 

The campers turned out to be so smart and talented that Cote created many more awards than just her original one.  I loved hearing the descriptions of what the campers had done throughout the week to earn these honors.

In the end, however, Cote announced that My Big Helper had won the chance to be an animal in her next book – and we were so shocked that neither of us were certain whose name she called!  (Turns out we each asked other people when the ceremony was over.)

My Big Helper is looking forward to that future day when she’s found in the pages of a Cote book, but she didn’t learn only about writing.  Writing was a big part of it – she came home with pages of notes and techniques, her mind full of stories and examples Cote told during the lessons.

Both kids came home with so much more, though.  They’re more confident writers.  They’re more enthusiastic about writing than ever before, but they’ve also fallen deeper in love with history.  They’re able to put themselves into the story and see the events from multiple perspectives.  They’re able to see each scene with all their senses, describing in detail how it might smell and feel and taste to be there.  They’re full of stories of Patriots and Loyalists of whom I had never heard and know how they’re interconnected.  They know how they changed history and know how to do the research to find out more.  Better yet, they know how to analyze it to see what it all means.  They even met other kids from Tennessee, New Jersey, Alabama, Oklahoma, and Missouri – because that’s how far other people traveled to attend.

When I discovered this camp on Cote’s website, I never imagined anything this amazing – and that’s saying something; I know I’m a pretty tough critic of lesson plans and teaching.  I expected some writing excitement and fun history projects, but Epic Patriot Camp truly lived up to its name.  With tight lessons, generous supplies, kind and enthusiastic teachers, and the encouragement to take their projects as far and as hard as they wanted, Epic Patriot Camp is the best experience we’ve had in years.

The NPS’s Camp Leader, Katherine Lynne, is sure that Epic Patriot Camp will return next year, possibly to some new locations.  I’d encourage you to watch for the announcement that registration is open and to sign your kids up if it’s at all possible for you to get there.  It’s well worth the effort.

*I shared only pictures that I personally took, but there are many more fabulous pictures available on Jenny L. Cote’s Facebook page.  Scroll down to find her Epic Patriot Camp 2016 posts and check them out.

Nourish Your Family’s Spiritual Health this Easter


If your family is like most, breakfast is rushed to get everyone out the door. Lunch is spent at school or work. So where does that leave dinner? Nourish your family’s spiritual health as you eat supper together. Adventures in Odyssey and Odyssey Adventure Club want to give you a free resource to help you begin your new dinner tradition of making the most of your family mealtime, beginning this Easter season. Simply head to this page and fill out the form to receive a free sample of Whit’s End Mealtime Devotions.


Want new resources to continue to build your family’s faith, even after Easter is over? Consider signing your family up for the Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC). It offers safe and free content for everyone in your family. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit www.oaclub.org, Facebook, Twitter. and Pinterest.

Host a Family Cook-Off Night

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We’ve got a new family tradition – we’ve decided to start holding monthly family cook-offs.

The kids are getting really into this.

Earlier in the month we had a grilled-cheese competition for Valentine’s Day.  I baked different kinds of bread, bought a few varieties of cheese, and preheated the griddle.  Everyone made two sandwiches and we tried them all before crowning a winner.

The kids had so much fun that they asked if we could hold a cook-off every month.

Since My Little Man won the first challenge, he got to choose the theme for this one, and he chose pizza.

Our family rules are simple:

  1. Everyone had to use the same kind of pizza dough.
  2. All ingredients in the kitchen are up for grabs, within reason.
  3. Use a reasonable amount of your chosen ingredient.
  4. The winner chooses the theme for the next challenge.
  5. Everyone else cleans up!

I made a double batch of pizza dough and called everyone to the kitchen.

Family Cook-off

My Little Man went first.  He called his ‘Loaded Pizza’ and it had two kinds of cheese, two kinds of sauce, and several types of meat.

Family Cook-off

My Big Helper stuffed her crust with mozzarella and made a meaty pizza, too.  Her daddy went next, and he experimented with sauce and meat combinations.

I made a homemade Alfredo sauce – the recipe will be here on the blog soon – and made a white pizza with Alfredo, mozzarella, Parmesan, chopped broccoli, and bacon.  Haven’t had it in years, and I’ve really missed it!

Then we voted via silent ballot.  One family rule is that you can’t vote for yourself, and we write our top choices on index cards, giving our favorite more points than the others.

Host a Family Cook-Off Night

My Little Man won again!  He was very excited about that.

Family Cook-off

Check out that pizza!

My Little Man won the right to choose March’s theme.  I wonder what he’ll choose?

In reality, these nights are fun, but I’m seeing other benefits from them, too.  The kids are thinking seriously about ingredients and flavor combinations and how to balance trying new things with realistically using food that must be paid for.  My husband is cooking and preparing dishes – some of which he’s never thought about the preparation process.  I’m learning to be more patient in the kitchen and to step back as they all try things they’ve never attempted before.  It’s a good thing for all of us.

Want to host your own family cook-off?  Check out these resources:


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Tell it to Me Tuesdays

A Little R & R



Our Christmas Family Date 2015

Every year our family takes a day just before Christmas to spend together.  We never do the exact same thing twice, but we do enjoy lights, decorations, and a meal out together.  This year we decided to go further afield than ever before and head to Charlotte – a city the kids had never visited.


Our trip to Charlotte was prompted by our Big Helper’s love for American Girl.  This company recently opened a store in a big mall just south of Charlotte, and we hadn’t made it there yet.  While we didn’t plan to do any major shopping, we thought she’d love checking out the store, restaurant, and the wide variety of products available.

She did.  We spent about three hours wandering through the store, dreaming about what it must be like to play with such fancy toys.

In the end, our Big Helper picked out a cute new outfit for her Julie doll, complete with boots in the same style as her own, and then we headed out.

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the Rocks

We stopped at a nearby train station and purchased tickets for a ride into the city.  The kids had never ridden on a Subway or Metro before, and they were quite excited by the experience.  I found it interesting the way that the train started out far above ground at our station, but then went up and down as we traveled.  Fortunately, unlike in some bigger cities, the train felt very safe and wasn’t crowded.

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the Rocks

The kids were excited to see tall buildings as soon as we arrived, but I enjoyed the Christmas decorations even more.  This was my first visit to this city during the Christmas season, and the many parks were all decorated beautifully.

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the Rocks

Having snacked our way through lunch because of our lengthy American Girl stay, we soon headed to Ri Ra for dinner, an old Irish pub.  We’ve loved our visits to Tir na nog in Raleigh and were sad to hear of their closing, so we were hoping for another authentic Irish experience.  Our Big Helper ordered shepherd’s pie, and we were all happy to help her finish this huge portion.  Their food was excellent and the atmosphere fun.  It made for a great meal out.

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the RocksBack on the street, we headed out to look at more lights.  It was so foggy that many of the tallest buildings were hidden from view at the top.

Our Christmas Family Date 2015 @ A Nest in the Rocks

We had hoped to visit a few museums, but we got there just as they were closing.  We hadn’t expected to hang out in the AG store for so long!  Nevertheless, there were beautiful decorations just outside all of them.


While I would never want to live in a city, they can be really fun to visit for a short while.  We thoroughly enjoyed this chance to see lights and decorations on a scale that doesn’t exist in our small town. 

After that, we headed back to the train station and back to our car.  We debated about possibilities at this point, but in the end IKEA won out.  The kids had never been, had heard exciting things about it, and so we went there to admire furniture and examine the creativity that went into such unusual designs.  The kids came home with all sorts of new ideas for how to build things, and we liked seeing them so enthused about something that was new to them.

Christmas Family Date Day 2015 was a long one, but it was great.  Exploring new places and seeing new things is always exciting, but when everything is covered in tinsel and lights it’s even better. 

What are some of your family holiday traditions?



Give the Gift of Odyssey Adventures!


What’s on your children’s Christmas wish list? As excited as they might be about that new toy, as every parent knows, the thrill of the gift will eventually wear off. Focus on the Family and Adventures in Odyssey have created the perfect gift for those who want to give their children or grandchildren a present that will provide year-round fun with eternal impact.

The Odyssey Adventure Club (OAC) offers families 24/7 access to 25 years’ worth of Adventures in Odyssey (AIO) episodes in a safe online environment where children can explore and learn. Christmas really is the perfect time to tap into your children’s imagination while infusing faith and fun into their day . . . and every day of the year.

To celebrate the holidays this year, the OAC is offering free content for everyone, including an Advent calendar, a broadcast download with tips to create a memorable Christmas, AIO cutouts and Christmas stocking stuffer cards. Membership to the OAC costs just $9.99 a month — or even less if parents make a six-month or one-year commitment. Enrollment provides more than enough content to keep kids engaged throughout the year:

  • Access to exclusive content and first looks at books and select Radio Theatre dramas.
  • On-the-go access to the OAC app for both iOS and Android users.
  • 24/7 streaming access to nearly 800 AIO episodes.
  • A new, members-only AIO episode every month.
  • A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine, and more.

In keeping with AIO’s rich heritage of teaching children about biblical principles — such as the importance of giving — a portion of each OAC membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations. Here are a couple of examples of what has been accomplished through Odyssey Adventure Club members:

The Odyssey Adventure Club wants to reach beyond fleeting entertainment this Christmas, partnering with parents in helping their kids grow deep in faith and find their place in God’s story.


Speaking of the holidays, you can prepare for Christmas with Thriving Family‘s 2015 Advent Activity Calendar — Tales of Christmas Past: 25 Inspiring true stories of the season. Assemble a beautifully designed Advent poster to help your kids focus on Christ this Christmas. Then read Scripture passages and stories that relate to individual flaps on the poster. You can also create easy-to-fold booklets for each story. Get more information about this year’s free Advent calendar at ThrivingFamily.com/Advent, or sign up to download it.

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit www.oaclub.org, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

10 Great Dishes for Kiddie Cooks

Kids in the Kitchen @ A Nest in the Rocks

My kids love to help out in the kitchen.  I started baking with them when they were very small, but it took a long time for me to feel comfortable having them “cook.”  I finally decided that it came down to the skills that they knew and the safety factor of the dish they were attempting. 

Cooking is great for kids for lots of reasons, but for beginner kiddie cooks, these dishes are perfect.  Your kids can make these dishes with only basic instruction, and since everything is cold, they can’t get burned.  If you handle the stove/oven parts, they’ll be able to (nearly) fully prepare a dish.

Here are a few dishes to get your kid started:

  • Lasagna:  This is a PERFECT dish for a young cook. I cook the meat the day before, so it is cold and easily crumbled.  I won’t promise a mess-free kitchen when your child is finished, but you WILL have a tasty dinner and a proud kid.
  • Green Bean Casserole:  Since you basically open cans and stir, this is great for kids.  Be careful of sharp edges on the cans – but other than that, this one is fool-proof.
  • Garlic Bread: If you soften the butter to near-liquid form and sprinkle in some garlic powder, then your child can stir and spread.  If you don’t have a pastry brush, a new, washed paintbrush works great!
  • Salad:  My Little Man loves to assemble our salads – and I do mean  assemble.  While he does use a veggie peeler on the occasional carrot or cuke, for the most part, I chop the veggies and leave them in piles on a big cutting board.  He stands on a chair nearby, and when I’m finished, he then arranges each salad on each person’s plate.  He gets a kick out of ‘making’ such an important part of our meal!
  • Goofy Cake:  This cake is completely scratch made and delicious – and it’s perfect for a young child to help mix up because it contains no eggs!  If your child is tempted by the chocolatey goodness and sticks in a finger, you don’t have to worry about salmonella.  There’s another kiddie plus to this cake, though – the acids and bases react to make a volcano in every cake!  Your kid will love to help you mix this one up.
  • Peanut Butter Apple Nachos:  The most dangerous part of this recipe is slicing the apples.  If you have a combo apple chopper/corer, your child may be able to do this alone.  If not, wash and slice the apples.  Your child can arrange them on a plate and add the toppings.  That’s really the best part, right?
  • Cinnamon Almond Granola:  Most kids love to stir and mix things up.  That’s what makes granola the perfect food for a kid to make.  Granola doesn’t have to be measured precisely, and the more you stir, the better!  This is our favorite kind.
  • Whole Wheat Pinch-Me Cake:  I remember making this with my mom when I was little, and now my kids love to make it, too!  The best part of the dish is pinching the dough off the rest, rolling it into a small ball, and then coating it with cinnamon and sugar.  It feels like the most important job in the world – and if you’ve ever eaten a good Pinch-Me Cake, you’ll know it is.
  • Circus-Inspired Snack Mix:  This recipe is fabulous for toddlers.  Nothing’s dangerous, needs to be cut, or needs to be precisely measured.  Just choose your ingredients, toss them together in a bowl, and pour into containers for snacking.
  • Whole Wheat Pumpkin Snickerdoodles:  Like the Pinch-Me Cake, these cookies need to be rolled into balls and dipped.  The dough does contain egg, so be sure to monitor those little hands.

There you have it.  My top ten Great Dishes for Kiddie Cooks.  What would you add?