Dancing Hands

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This adorable activity is a great way to help your infant discover his or her hands, and feel how they are connected to the rest of the body.

Simply hold your baby’s hands (or let them hold on to you with the grasp reflex), and start to make movements. You can do this randomly, but it’s even better to music.

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You can try soothing music – we did a few strains of Mozart! – but feel free to make things more upbeat if that suits your baby’s mood.

Maybe because she hears it all the time (thanks to big brother), Veronika seemed to prefer having her hands rock out to pop music.

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Travis joined in for an impromptu dance party.

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This ended up being a great sibling bonding moment, his feet and her hands dancing to the beat. A great little activity!

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Pirate Crate

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Ahoy matey! With just a couple months left in our Koala subscription, Travis was eager to see what the Pirate Crate was all about, and dove right in to all 3 projects! As always, you can replicate these projects with materials from a craft store, more or less.

First up was Pirate Dress-Up – a paper hat to fold, and a felt eyepatch. The eyepatch was an instant hit – wow, he felt like a real pirate!

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Simply thread the provided patch onto a bit of black elastic, and tie a knot to secure it.

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Next we added the pirate hat, a large piece of black construction paper with dotted lines to fold. These were nicely labeled by both number and color, making it easy for kids.

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To decorate the hat, use the provided stencils and magic markers. Travis really enjoyed stenciling in shapes (“Look, I made a diamond!”).

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I helped show him some of the suggested overlapping shapes to make pirate-themed decorations (rectangle + heart = crossbones) but mostly he was content just to scribble and make his own designs.

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Avast, matey!

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He eagerly asked if we could make the Parrot Puppet immediately after. Color in the provided template with magic markers. There are also feather stickers to adhere.

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To make the puppet stand, thread elastic through a cardboard base and secure the elastic on with tape, letting the ends dangle down. Fold the cardboard in half and tape again – now the parrot figure slips right on.

When the parrot is not on the stand, the elastic can cleverly be tied around the wrist – a parrot pal just like every good pirate needs!

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The third project, a real floating Pirate Ship, was a big hit! Insert a craft stick into a brown foam base, and thread one of the 4 provided sails onto the stick.

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Kids can decorate the sails with stencils, too, but Travis only gave the decoration a cursory thought. He much preferred to see the sails on the masts, and was delighted he could raise and lower them like a real sail.

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A cardboard “rudder” inserted into a slit at the back of the foam base allows your boat to go straight, left, or right, depending which slot it’s in. So of course we had to test them in the bathtub!

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Have fun playing around with the rudder’s position, or racing the boats against one another. Travis also loved “flying” the boats in the air.

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To round out Travis’s costume, we also put together the suggested Pirate Hook. Roll a piece of aluminum foil tightly – Travis insisted on doing so himself!

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Adults, poke a hole in the bottom of a plastic cup. Insert the wrapped foil, curling the end into a hook shape. Pop the cup over your child’s hand and ahoy there – it’s Captain Hook!

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Shiver me timbers! Thanks for a great time, Koala Crate.

Bird’s-Eye View

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I’ve tried out various ways of carrying Veronika around the house, both for her own sense of discovery (the “leopard” is great for little tours around the house!) and to keep things novel for myself as a parent.

Today was all about propping her up over the shoulder, which gives your little one a “bird’s eye” view of things. Not only will a home look different for an infant who normally lies down, but this position also has the benefit of helping with babies who spit up frequently.

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I’ve read recommendations to keep a baby upright for 20 minutes after each nursing session, but honestly who has the time? If I carry Veronika on my shoulder for a bit, she gets upright time and I still get things done!

So today’s activity is simply to give the bird’s eye view a try. You can (as with leopard pose) do a little tour around the house, or just narrate your chores as you move about one room.

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Or take your baby to look at something beautiful, as we did with a local Christmas tree festival – the bird’s eye view was perfect!

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Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables

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This filling salad is a great addition to a vegan holiday table, and was my contribution to this year’s celebration. We love it paired with Gardein’s stuffed holiday roast!


  • 1 cup farro
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, divided
  • 3 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups sliced rainbow carrots
  • 8 ounces chopped cremini mushrooms
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)
  1. In a saucepan, combine the farro, broth, cumin, ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 25 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, combine the cauliflower, carrots, and mushrooms in a roasting pan. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Roast at 400 degrees F for 25 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil, the lemon juice, and the mustard. Add the farro mixture and roasted veggies. Sprinkle with chopped parsley just before serving if desired.

The salad is good warm or at room temperature, making it ideal for a busy holiday feast!


“Baby Napping” Sign

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We’ve been lucky so far with Veronika – she can pretty much sleep through any level of noise, be it a birthday party or an afternoon at home. But as we enter the holiday season, there’s going to be a lot more noise and a lot more company, and sometimes it’s helpful to give guests or neighbors a hint that baby is sleeping before they come crashing noisily in.

This is a great project for older siblings to help with, too. We pulled out Travis’s art kit to put together a “baby napping” sign.

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Encourage your child to write the words on the sign if they are interested (Travis was not), and to help select colors or cute images. To wit, we glued on a picture of a swaddled infant.

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Once the sign is complete, you can tape it up in any moment that demands quiet.

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Happy napping!

Calming Pose

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Veronika has been a remarkably mellow baby; she’ll give little cries for milk when hunger strikes, and she isn’t a huge fan of car rides, but other than that, she’s usually quiet as a mouse!

So I haven’t had much need yet to calm down a very fussy baby, but I do sometimes notice that all the noise and bustle in the apartment makes her a touch overwhelmed. This calming pose is the perfect time-out – for baby and busy parent both!

Lie your baby down on a soft surface – we have a great, thick playmat that’s perfect, but a nice soft blanket or bathmat would work too.

Place your forearms and palms on the ground on either side of baby’s head and kneel in close so your faces are near each other.

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Sing softly, taking time to slow down each out breath as you do so. Not only will it calm you down – and you’ll feel a great stretch through your spine! – but it should help baby feel calmer too.

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Veronika certainly looked zen. If you don’t have time to do the full pose, just take a moment for calm out breaths, as you hum or sing. This can be during chores or a diaper change. Even that little bit goes a long way in calming your baby’s heart rate.

Photo credit in this post goes to my four year old!

Pinwheel Watch

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Today’s activity with Veronika was simple but beautiful – just the right level of activity in a busy household preparing for the Thanksgiving holiday!

But we stole a quiet moment while the morning sunshine was particularly strong on our back patio, bundled up and headed outside to watch… the pinwheel.

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Pinwheels are a great option for newborn eyes: bright, contrasting colors, plus movement that will catch their vision.

Simply sit and look if it’s windy enough for the pinwheel to spin on its own. Older siblings can give a helpful spin to get things started, otherwise!

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Either way, Veronika was transfixed.

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Bathrobe Toys

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Ribbons and shoelaces and… bathrobes, oh my!

My latest creation for Veronika, to enable her to watch interesting toys, uses just the belt of a bathrobe. Tie the belt securely over the bars of the bassinet or the crib at about where your baby’s chest will be when he or she is lying down.

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I used clothespins from the craft bin to attach a few soft toys to the belt.

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Veronika could then look at these – and swat for them – while lying down quietly in the bassinet.

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I think she appreciated the new view! This was a great way to keep her occupied while making dinner.

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Turkey Tacos

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This adorable dinner recipe from Ranger Rick Jr. is great to make with kids in the run-up to Thanksgiving. Travis was absolutely delighted with his feathered friend. Adults will have to do some chopping ahead of time, and then kids can take it from there to assemble.

To start, pick your favorite taco filling, and add to hard shell tacos.

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Add cut bell pepper pieces in a fan shape around the taco shell for the feathers.

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Place a slice of turkey-head-shaped vegan American cheese (such as Tofutti) on top of the taco shell. Add 1 triangle of orange bell pepper for the beak and 1 strip of red bell pepper for the wattle.

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Two black olive dots completed the face!



Give Baby a Hand Massage

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Last week, I treated Veronika to a full-body infant massage, a great way to stretch out tiny limbs… but not an easy activity to squeeze into a day with a busy preschooler brother! This simple hand massage, on the other hand, was such a quick, nice pause for the two of us, and takes almost no time or effort.

After nursing, I set out a little dish of olive oil so I could dab into it for the tiniest amount of oil.

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Rub this small amount of olive oil (or another edible oil) onto your baby’s palm, and work out gently to the edges of the fingertips.

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Veronika looked like she was having a day at the spa!

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And also seemed to enjoy the way the olive oil smelled. Not only will this feel nice on little hands, but it’s also great for dry skin (a common newborn woe) or cracked skin near the fingernails.

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Another great use for olive oil? Getting rid of any cradle cap you might see on your baby’s head (or as I like to call it, cradle crap). Rub on a small amount of olive oil and let sit for 10 minutes. Brush out with a soft bristle brush and you’ll see that flaky dandruff come right off. Finish with a gentle baby shampoo.