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Pinwheel Picnic

Head out into the warm spring breeze for a colorful feast.

Learning Benefits

Hover over each Learning Benefit below for a detailed explanation.
Attention and Focus
Critical Thinking
Fine Motor Skills

There is something so invigorating about the springtime wind. It is a reminder to move life outdoors and celebrate. And who can forget playing with pinwheels? They spin and move with the greatest ease and create incredible visual patterns as they move. These toys can be seen as a symbol of the simple pleasure of playing outdoors. Why not plan and create a pinwheel picnic to welcome back the warm weather?
Your picnic begins with the Four P's: planning, preparing, packing, and presenting. By inviting your child to take part in this process, you are helping her build understanding and skills that cover many areas of learning.
As you plan your picnic, encourage your child to use creative and critical thinking skills as he brainstorms what he would like to eat and what "tools" are needed, such as napkins, plates, containers, plasticware, and sunscreen.
When you ask your child to help you prepare the food you are asking her to apply her knowledge about food and cooking, gained from working in your kitchen, to a new setting: the great outdoors. Applying skills and understandings to a different setting is an important higher-order thinking skill. You and your child can prepare pinwheel sandwiches the night before and wrap them in foil — it makes cutting them into pinwheels at the picnic site easier. This three-stage process builds attention span and sequencing skills as she participates in the "preparing, packing, and presenting" of the picnic.
Ask your child what he thinks would be the best way to pack the rolled up sandwiches. You might say, "How can we keep them from drying out in the refrigerator overnight?" Or "How can we get the sandwiches to the picnic safely?"
When you get to the picnic grounds, enlist your child in the presentation of the food:

  • Place a turkey rollup on a flat paper plate and show her how to use a plastic serrated knife to carefully cut the wrap into inch-wide circles.
  • Use another paper plate or platter as the serving dish. She can artfully arrange the pinwheel rounds in a pattern on the plate. You might want to bring along some grape tomatoes that she can use for garnish around the pinwheels.

Turkey and Cheese Pinwheels

What you need (for 8 servings):

  • 8 Flour tortillas (white, whole wheat, and/or spinach flavor)
  • 8 Tablespoons of softened low-fat cream cheese
  • 1/4 Cup shredded carrots (optional)
  • 8–16 Thin slices of deli turkey or other favorite meat
  • 1/2 Cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 8 Thin lettuce leaves (such as Boston, oakleaf, or even baby spinach)

What to do:

  1. Set up your pinwheel-sandwich-making process by assembling the ingredients, starting with the tortilla, from left to right along your table or counter. (You will also be teaching your child about left to right progression and sequencing. These are the same skills children use when they learn to read words across a page.)
  2. Show him how to spread the softened cream cheese on the tortillas. It's easier for him to use a short-handled soft spatula instead of a butter knife.
  3. Ask him to count out one or two pieces of turkey and place them on the cream cheese.
  4. Next, have him place one leaf of lettuce on top of the turkey.
  5. Top with a sprinkling of grated cheese and/or carrots.
  6. Demonstrate how to slowly roll the tortilla from one short end to the other.
  7. Repeat for as many sandwiches as needed.
  8. Store overnight as wraps and make into pinwheels at the picnic.

Pinwheel Chicken Tenders Platter

What you need (for 8 servings):

  • 8 Chicken breast tenders (boneless and skinless)
  • 3 Cups breadcrumbs (seasoned or unseasoned)
  • 2 Cups of your favorite oil-and-vinegar style salad dressing such as Italian, balsamic, or raspberry vinaigrette
  • Ranch or honey mustard dressing for dipping sauce

What to do:

  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  2. Have your child measure and pour salad dressing into a plastic bag. Add the chicken tenders and shake to coat.
  3. Next, ask her to measure and pour the breadcrumbs into a fresh plastic bag. Add chicken, a few pieces at a time, and shake to coat.
  4. Place the coated chicken on a lightly greased baking pan and bake for 25 to 35 minutes.
  5. Serve cold with a favorite dipping sauce. Place the dipping sauce in a bowl at the center of the plate and place the tenders around it like spokes of a wheel. 

Take-Along Pinwheels
All you need is a slight breeze, and a pinwheel will spin its magical patterns. Happily, these toys are still inexpensive and easy to find at variety, drug, and toy stores. Pick up a few before going on your picnic and take them out for some experimentation with the wind.
Did you know that the direction of the wind affects how a pinwheel spins? It needs to come from the side, not the front. Invite your child to experiment with blowing on the pinwheel to make it move. Almost all children on the first try will face the pinwheel as they blow. The most frequent comment is "It won't move!" But if you ask them to try it another way (without telling them how) they usually figure out how to blow from the side, thus providing a very practical lesson in aerodynamics.


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