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"Dat spells 'Nolan!'" said my 5-year-old excitedly.
He wasn't reading a word I'd written on paper, or checking his school backpack to make sure he had the right one. He was pointing at his breakfast: scrambled eggs, a veggie sausage patty, and five little pieces of wheat toast, cut into the shape of his name using a set of alphabet cookie cutters. His brothers also had a side of namesake toast, spelling "Jackson" and "Aaron" in a semicircle around their plates.
I'd tweaked an idea from a friend of mine, who sends a heart-shaped PB&J sandwich in her daughter's lunch each Valentine's Day. On this weekend morning, there was no special occasion, but I'd picked up a set of alphabet cookie cutters and decided to spring some monogrammed toast on the kids, using the leftover bread to make breadcrumbs for other recipes.
While each boy was in a different place in terms of literacy, all could identify their names. They loved their special toast, but the treat was short-lived; when I showed them the cookie cutters, they immediately commandeered them for use with their modeling clay.
You can find basic cookie cutter shapes at just about any major retailer and grocer. Look for funkier ones at gourmet shops or even order customized shapes at www.kitchencollectibles.com.
Try these ideas with your favorite metal or plastic cookie cutters: