Face to Face

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The other day, my husband attached Veronika’s car seat into the stroller base facing away from me – and it felt so wrong!

It’s a reminder of why I always make sure to face her car seat or stroller attachment toward me, and was the perfect prompt for today’s activity: put in face-to-face time with your infant.

If your baby faces you in the stroller, you can narrate everything you see while shopping or walking. Travis likes to engage Veronika, too!

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Likewise at home, I made a point of engaging Veronika face-to-face while in the Ergo. I  lifted her up slightly so our faces were near each other, and narrated the happenings in our home and kitchen,

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Her big happy eyes tell me she loves the interaction!

Repeat a Simple Story

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By now, you may notice your two-month old starting to show preference for certain stories over others. Ways to tell that a baby this small is engaged with a book? Eyes are alert, face is smiling the gaze is eagerly turned towards the pages. Or perhaps the baby just seems relaxed while you say the words.

I noticed that Veronika seemed particularly peaceful during readings of Time for Bed, a sweet story I used to read to Travis as well.

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That makes it particularly useful when I need to settle her down. Don’t be afraid to read a story more than once through – whether over the course of a day, or a couple of times in one sitting. The repetition of words – both within the text itself, and thanks to a double-reading – will be a comfort to your baby.

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What’s your go-to book with your baby? Please share in the comments!

Cozy Minestrone

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Here is the first of three main recipes from Travis’s first Raddish Kit, with the theme of a Fireside Feast. A few notes on the subscription, as this was our first box from the company. Each month includes new items for your child’s kitchen. In this introductory box, we received an apron, which Travis proudly donned…

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… plus Travis’s very own set of dry measuring cups.

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These featured a fantastic collapsible interior, perfect not only for kids’ exploratory interest, but also because they will store flat in the kitchen. I told Travis that these cups were his, not mom’s, and we’d only use them for recipes in which he helps me.

Because Raddish is not aimed at a particular age subset (as with Cricket or Koala Crates, for example), the information has to appeal to a wide age range. You can tailor recipes and lessons accordingly. For example, there are extremely detailed lesson plans that accompany each of the three recipes, but much of the info is simply too advanced for my four-year-old chef.

As a result, I’m sticking with the basic lesson on each recipe card, and will save the more detailed info for when Travis is older. For those considering a subscription, I will point out that the lesson plans are fantastic, whether you simply want to teach your child more about food, science, math, etc., or whether you are homeschooling.

But now it was time to tackle Cozy Minestrone!

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Thanks to the recipe card, Travis could go through the ingredient list with me as we gathered the food and tools.

First up was lots of chopping. We sliced two vegan Italian sausages and cooked until brown on each side.

Next, we cut 1 small onion in half, peeled the skin, sliced, and then diced.

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Cut 1 large carrot into round slices.

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Smash 3 garlic cloves with a knife and mince – this was a mommy step in our household. Big kids can definitely tackle it!

Cut 1 large zucchini into slices, then each slice into quarters. At this point, Travis’s hand was tired of chopping, but he avidly watched as I took over.

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Cut the cooked sausage slices into quarters. Combine all these chopped ingredients in a bowl.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the chopped ingredients, along with 1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper; cook for 10 minutes. Travis was a bit nervous about the stove.

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Meanwhile, open a 15-ounce can of white beans and drain in a colander.

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Add the beans to the pot, along with broth (we used 4 cups vegetable broth + 2 cups water), 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, 1 teaspoon dried basil, and 1 teaspoon dried oregano. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and stir in 1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta. Continue to cook for 15 minutes, until the pasta is tender.

We served with warm slices of Italian bread, for a meal that was exactly as the recipe promised – cozy!

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The lesson with this recipe was on Eating the Rainbow – a perfect example because the soup includes almost every color of veggie. As he ate, I asked what colors were in the soup. We identified red tomatoes, orange carrots, green zucchini, and white onions. That left the blue/purple group missing from our soup to complete the rainbow.

The culinary skill for this recipe was knife cuts, which big kids should enjoy. Being a bit too advanced for Travis, I set up a plate for him with: matchsticks, rounds, diced, and minced. He enjoyed trying all 4 over lunchtime!

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There was also a fun word scramble; non-readers can still complete the challenge by having you read the clues and guessing the word.

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Overall, I’m very impressed with Raddish so far. We have two more recipes from the Fireside Feast kit to come, so stay tuned!



Where Are You?

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This sweet activity is great for bonding plus gross muscle development; it’s a nice variation on standard tummy time.

Today, do your baby’s tummy time on… your tummy!

I lay down flat on my back, and placed Veronika on my chest. At first, she was quite content to lie there with her cheek against my shirt.

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I lifted my head slightly, and called her name. You could instantly see her eyes light up, alert to the communication. Continue to say your child’s name, and help lift the head slightly if needed. Here she is trying to lift her neck.

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Good work, Veronika!

Try Some “On” Time

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I’m not ready to leave Veronika with a babysitter yet… but I also have moments when I need, well, my brain and my hands! Now that Veronika is old enough for quality face time with relatives, I can try some time being “on” as me and “off” as a caregiver.

When you need a moment, invite someone (grandparents are usually more than willing!) to take time “on” with your baby. Veronika absolutely adores staring at these new and comforting faces.

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Meanwhile I’m free to get things done – bills, Christmas clean-up. And if I really have time for a pause, the crossword!

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What do you do in your parenting “off” moments while someone else is “on”? Do share in the comments!

Mirror Faces

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Babies love looking at faces, and this cute activity is a great way to get your little one looking at his or her own.

Lie some place comfortable with your baby, like a soft blanket, and hold a hand mirror up over your faces. You can just gaze at first, or point out facial features.

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From there I moved on to making lots of different expressions, naming them as we went. Happy, silly, sad. Oh no, grumpy!

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Your baby might even try to mirror what you’re doing!

Cooing Game

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Travis keeps asking when his baby sister will start talking I’ve been setting his expectations, telling him that first she’ll go from purely instinctual noises (the nehs and the hehs to cooing, from cooing to babbling, from babbling to syllables, and finally from syllables to real words.

Well, the time has come for the cooing stage! Veronika is just starting to make vocalizations, trying to “talk” back to us, and Travis (and I!) are delighted.

To encourage these noises, take a quiet moment face-to-face with your child, either in a bouncy seat, or on your lap.

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I made cooing noises to Veronika, and waited for her to coo back in response. In addition to adorable noises, you’ll get some cute faces.

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This early on, you can focus on the vowel sounds: aahs, ohhhs, ooohs, and eeehs are all early to come to a baby.

Travis loved pitching in, making sounds and waiting for Veronika to “talk” back. A great activity for engaging big siblings, and for helping your child’s language development along.

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Spiced Cider Gifts

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If you’re still making the holiday rounds in this pause between Christmas and New Years, and need a last minute gift, this spiced cider recipe has you covered! The idea was the bonus recipe from Travis’s December Raddish Kids crate. The mulling spices make a fantastic hostess gift, especially if you’re attending a New Year’s Eve party.

First, let’s just admire the way Raddish presents recipes to kids. Clear step-by-step pictures mean even non-readers can tell what happens in each stage of the recipe!

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Travis and I talked a lot about the ingredients as we worked. To start, he helped me use a peeler to peel long strips from 2 oranges.

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He was fascinated to see the white pith underneath, and to learn that the juicy orange fruit was buried even below that.

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Place the orange peel on a baking sheet and bake at 200 degrees F for 30 minutes, until dried and slightly curled.

Next, we smelled whole cinnamon sticks. Fun fact: tell your child these are the bark of a tree, unlike other spices. Place the sticks from 1 small jar into a zip-top bag and crush with a rolling pin.

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In a bowl, combine the orange peel, cinnamon, 3 tablespoons whole allspice, 3 tablespoons whole cloves, and 1/2 cup dried cranberries.

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You can make the recipe right away, of course, instead of gifting it! For every cup of apple cider, add 1 tablespoon mulling spices, and simmer for 10 minutes. If you use the whole pack of mulling spice, that’s a 1/2 gallon of cider.

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Our Raddish Kit helpfully included gift tags, to attach to mason jars.

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Come serving time, an extra cinnamon stick makes a perfect garnish.

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Instant Entertainment

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Veronika’s reached an age (just shy of 2 months!) where she might actually need a little entertainment on trips away from home, rather than remaining content simply staring (or sleeping). Enter in this perfect solution:

Keep a zip-top plastic bag in your purse or diaper bag, filled with two to three small toys.

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You can rotate these options frequently, to keep things interesting, but it means you’ll always have something on hand to dazzle the eyes and ears if the need arises.

Suggestions include rattles, toys that crinkle, or ones that squeak.

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We love this new light-up teether!

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You could also add a small, lightweight book to your pouch, if it fits.

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Veronika loved her little kit!

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Whatever you pick, keep the baggie in your purse and you’ll never be caught empty-handed.

Starry Night Crate

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The Starry Night crate will be Travis’s very last Koala Crate; I can’t believe my baby is going to be a “graduate”! I considered this crate a real test, then, to make sure he’s mastered the Koala and is ready for Kiwi (aimed at 5- to 8-year-olds).

He immediately knows when a crate has arrived, and needs to get his hands on the materials. When I told him the air-dry clay inside was for the moon, he noticed bubbles in it and declared, “Look, craters!”

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So along those lines, first up was the Glowing Moon. Press the air-dry clay over the surface of a provided ball, until it’s as even as you can get it. As a slight flaw, the clay was very sticky. I’m not sure it was supposed to be – Travis may have warmed it up in his hands through the package! But it made the spreading quite difficult. We did then use the provided hard ball to make “craters.”

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This was a neat science lesson for kids, since real space debris hitting the moon makes real craters, in imitation of their miniature version.

Next dab on glow-in-the-dark paint.

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We waited for the moon to dry, then hung it on the provided cardboard stand and watched it light up in his room. Very neat!

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The second activity was a Meteor Toss; Travis was super excited to learn there was a game in this crate, not just crafts. All you need to do is drape the provided fabric over a small ball, gather it up, and tie with a ribbon.

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Travis has just recently begun lacing up shoes, so proudly did this step alone. Now set up the cardboard “galaxy” and take aim.

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Travis enjoyed the challenge of making the universe successively smaller, or standing further away. If you like, keep score!

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Finally, we put together the Galaxy Bottle. First, squirt blue glue into the bottom.

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Next add pom poms and space objects (planets, stars, etc.). Then it’s time to add two colors of glitter, which Travis loved.

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I filled the bottle about two-thirds full with water, and we could play the suggested activity. Use the spinner, then tilt the bottle to find the objects floating in space.

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This was another neat science lesson, since I pointed out to Travis how hard an astrologist’s job is, to locate far off things like galaxies and supernovae among all the black of outer space.

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As a cautionary note, you may want to glue the lid on the bottle – it is very brave of Koala to assume kids won’t try to unscrew the cap!

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Again, this was our farewell crate. Stay tuned for the first post on Kiwi Crate in the new year!