Touch and Feel

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Today Veronika played around with new feelings and textures! Set out a little collection of toys, make sure baby’s tummy is bare, then have a little textured fun.

I collected a pile of different sensations: a woolly lamb toy, a squishy bird toy, a leather glove, and a rubber sensory ball.

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One by one, I rubbed each item on Veronika’s tummy. As I rubbed, I described the item, saying “woolly” or “soft” or whatever was appropriate to the item.

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Then I held it up, giving her the chance to see what the item was, and to reach with her fingers, if she wanted to.

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The leather glove was the most interesting to her, probably because she hasn’t encountered this material in toys before!

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I also let her try to hug the soft, squishy toy with both hands, although this type of grasp advanced for her age.

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Overall, her eyes were wide, and I could tell she liked the new sensations!

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Discovering Fire

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I had doubts that Travis would be interested in the final lesson plan to accompany our Fireside Feast Raddish Kit, specifically to accompany the Rosemary Focaccia recipe. But he proved me wrong, and it was a reminder we never know what our kids will love until we try an activity out!

The topic at hand seemed a bit advanced: learning about cavemen’s discovery of fire, and then role playing the discovery. There is a wonderfully detailed lesson plan to accompany this, if you are working with big kids!

For Travis, I knew we’d need to watch a video clip, first, or none of it would make any sense to him. He started out scared, since we’ve only ever talked about fire in safety contexts! But this, I explained to him, was finding good fire. We brainstormed what it might be good for. Light in the home, heat for food, safety from big animals, warmth in the winter. And my favorite suggestion of his: for marshmallows, obviously!

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Next we talked about other key inventions in human history. This was big thinking for a four year old. I was so proud of him when he came up with trains. Yes, wheels and transportation, I explained. We also settled on bags and containers, for transporting things like water and food; and tools.

He loved it so much that we explored further with an additional (somewhat silly) video.

Raddish’s lesson plan then encourages students to act out the discovery of fire with grunts and gestures. We tried grunting, but Travis quickly told me it hurt his throat, so our cavemen spoke English.

To make it concrete for him, we rolled up paper logs for a campfire.

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Next we scattered about tissue paper flames. I challenged him to discover the fire, and see how he would bring it back to his campsite! Here’s my little caveman at work:


He did it!

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We could also put tissue paper inside one of the newspaper tubes as a torch.

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Overall, this touched off a fantastic morning of learning and play – thanks for the unexpected delight, Raddish!

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Roly Poly Play

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It’s early for your baby to roll at two months old (although some might be able to!), but it’s not too early to introduce the sensation of rolling. Veronika is starting to get the idea – when her head is on a pillow, she can rotate her body off it to the left side, although she doesn’t get all the way around to the tummy. So it’s time to build those muscles and develop the idea!

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Today, Veronika and I played around with rolling on a few different surfaces. First, I put her on her brother’s bed – a nice soft mattress to flip about on.

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I started her on her back, then gently rolled her halfway…

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…before finishing on her tummy. She looked quite surprised!

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Then we tried the same game on a very soft mat on the floor. This time, I placed interesting toys on either side of her, as inspiration to roll. She loved rolling toward the mirror first.

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Her favorite toy is a little soft octopus, so she was absolutely delighted when I set that off to her other side.

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Got it!

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This game would be great fun for a baby if you did it outside on a soft bed of grass in warm weather… but we’re having snow today, so we kept the fun indoors!

At what age did your baby first roll solo? Please share in the comments!

Yummy Bones

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After a fantastic time with his first Kiwi Crate, Travis enjoyed playing doctor again to make… edible bones!

The recipe from his Kiwi Explore magazine was very loose, with no precise measurements. So let your surgeon work with the ingredients to his or her taste.

First, you’ll need a tube of breadstick dough. This can be hard to find pre-made and vegan, so I purchased a roll of pizza dough. If you have breadstick dough, check the heating and baking instructions on the package.

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For our dough, we first rolled into “bones” (the same way that you roll clay or playdough into snakes).  Travis loved deciding what was a leg bone, an arm bone etc. Squeeze the middle, so the ends are slightly thicker.

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Use kitchen shears to snip the ends of each snake, dividing them outward into a bone shape. Travis was so proud to do this step, with a little grown-up help.

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Now brush with a little melted butter (we used Earth Balance) and sprinkle with a little vegan Parmesan (we used Go Veggie).

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After 12 minutes at 425 degrees F, these bones were ready to eat!

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They’re great plain, or we discovered we also liked them dipped in marinara sauce.


My Body & Me Kiwi Crate

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Travis is officially a Koala Crate graduate! I loved that there was even a certificate in the first Kiwi Crate he received, moving him up to this kit intended for ages 5 to 8. We can’t wait to start blogging his journey.

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At four and a half, Travis is on the young side for Kiwi, but I knew he was ready – he’s been bored of his final few Koalas, either unimpressed or not challenged by the crate’s topics. His glee for this first Kiwi box spoke for itself!

We opened it up to find a kit all about the body and anatomy – big topics for my big boy – and the projects did not disappoint.

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He couldn’t wait to get started on the first activity: Make Plush Organs. “Is this what my brain looks like?” he asked, pulling out the pink felt shapes. I explained it was the right shape, yes, and he wanted to know what the lines represented which got us talking about the folds of the brain, the brain’s functions, and more. Exciting stuff! There was also a felt template for a heart and a stomach.

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To make the organs, we’d need to lace them together. The lacing holes are much smaller and closer together than in a Koala kit, but to my great delight, my boy not only was able to do it with hardly any assistance, but stuck with it through all three organs.

As we laced, we pretended he was a surgeon. “Is this really what surgeons do?” he asked, and I pointed out the very real similarities: patching up people’s organs, and stitching them up at the end.

When you have only about 4 or 5 holes left in each organ, take time to stuff in the provided roving. I asked Travis to divide our pile of roving into three roughly equal piles at the outset, so he’d know he had a enough. A good quick math lesson.

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Now we unfolded the huge anatomy poster that came with the kit – whoa!

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There was an outlined space for each organ we’d made. Velcro dots adhered them to the poster, for easy removal at any time.

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We also added smiles and stick-on googly eyes.

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I let Travis decide where the smile and eyes should go on each, ceding the project to him more completely than I ever did with Koala.

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Now on to the next project: Create X-Rays.

The kit contained a clear sheet that could go over any bone on the anatomy poster, oto which your child sticks reusable bone stickers.

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None of these line up with the bones exactly, but any extra space can be filled in with a provided erasable marker. This of course leaves your child free to make “breaks” in the bones.

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To make the x-ray come through, place the sticker-covered sheet over specially-provided glow paper. Make sure the clear sheet goes on the rough side of the paper. Now place it in a sunny spot or directly under a lamp with the bones on top. Within 5 minutes, you’ll have a faint x-ray that shows up in a dark room.

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Travis was thrilled, setting up multiple x-rays and proudly giving his doctor’s diagnosis to each.

An indication that this kit really is for bigger kids: there were many tiny metatarsal stickers for doing an x-ray of the hand, but Travis was undaunted, and needed just a bit of mommy help.

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We had fun designing breaks, as well as using the clear sheet over other organs on our anatomy poster for tracing. And of course your child can draw any picture they like on the sheet, which erases in a pinch.

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Finally, we experimented with other items on the sheet. Note: this is just like making sun prints, but much faster; I’m quite curious to know what is in the special glow paper!  We used buttons, a key, and toys for neat shadows.

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Finally it was time to Build a Stethoscope:

This project involved a lot of fine fingerwork, using three plastic tubes (two short, one long), T and L connectors (I had him look at these and tell me why they were named thus!), a funnel, and soft earbuds.

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I helped Travis push the tubes onto the connectors in the proper order, then we slipped on the ear buds.

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Now it was time to check our heart beats!

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Travis looked so happy when he could hear his own.

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Then we tried it out in funny places around the apartment like the air vent…

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…and the fridge.

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Travis was frustrated when he couldn’t really hear my heartbeat, but he did love giving mock check ups. Kids will love that they can dry-ease the exam card after each “patient.” You can also get silly and use the stethoscope to listen to a tummy after a snack, and catch any stomach grumbles.

Koala came with an Imagine magazine, and now with Kiwi we have Explore magazine. It was fun to have a whole new format to check out together, with new characters in the stories.

We read the magazine together, and I helped Travis with its explanation of handedness. I challenged Travis to write and draw with both hands.

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He was a bit frustrated, so I showed him my own left versus right handwriting in the booklet, and he practiced on a tablet.

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Turns out he has a dominant eye, too, which the booklet explains is really a thing!

Overall, we loved this kit. We’ll be checking out the two suggested reading books: My Amazing Body by Ruth Martin and Parts by Ted Arnold. Can’t wait for the next crate to arrive!


Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

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Today Travis and I made potions!

The impetus for this little experiment came from Raddish Kid’s lesson plan attached to our Hot Cocoa Cupcakes. Kids can delve further into the world of leaveners and what makes baked goods rise. I knew some of the science was too advanced for Travis, but I culled out bits of the lesson that were appropriate to a preschooler.

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First, I set out a dish of baking soda and baking powder, and invited Travis to explore them. We ran through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Could we hear the powders? We giggled at that, then moved on to the others.

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He noticed that the baking soda was smoother and finer than the baking powder, although they felt similar. He declined the offer to taste, but in this case, it’s perfectly safe to do so!

A quick science lesson followed: baking soda is basically ground up rock, and it’s a base, which means it needs an acid to react.

Baking powder contains a base and two acids, and it will react in a recipe two times. Travis liked this idea, and that it means fluffier pancakes or cupcakes.

To start out experiment, I put out two test tubes of water. We added baking soda to one and baking powder to the other. Aha, only the baking powder reacted, so water was not an acid!

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Now we tested each in four other liquids: vinegar, liquid soap, rubbing alcohol, and juice. The baking soda only reacted in the vinegar and juice – we found our two acids!

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Baking powder, on the other hand, reacted in everything. That said, none of baking powder’s reactions were quite as spectacular as the classic baking soda/vinegar pairing.

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Travis’s favorite? Baking soda in the vinegar of course; we had to do that a few times. The juice was quite fun too, bubbling up wildly to the top of the test tube.

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In sum,this is a neat way for your kids to understand why baked goods are rising in the oven; you can really see that bubbling and rising action at work.

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Another oldie but goodie? Show your kids that you can blow up a balloon with yeast! This is something Travis and I did when exploring the letter Y, back when he was only 2 years old, but it never grows old!

Changing World

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Your baby’s world is changing constantly at two months old – there are so many things to discover each day! – and at the same time, the world around us is constantly changing, too, even in little ways. One great way to let your little one observe the world going by is to sit near a window together.

I propped Veronika on my knee and we started the game at home. I narrated to her what I could see that was stationary: the sky, the trees. But even more interesting was when someone went by: neighbors walking dogs, people getting mail, a delivery truck driving along. These seemingly mundane moments will be big events in the movie outside the window! Even the wind swaying the bushes.

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To extend the game, we headed to a local book store and took a seat by the cafe window. Once again, I could point out the world to Veronika: people strolling sidewalks, cars driving past, parked cars, the sunshine on the buildings.

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Don’t be afraid to narrate out loud! The more you say, the more language your baby will absorb.

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Calm Big Sibling Jealousy

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I’m two and a half months into life with two, so it was time to take stock: how was the big sibling faring when it came to jealousy?

Taking my cue from a fantastic post at Hands on As we Grow, I assessed myself on a list of five tips to curb jealousy. Here’s my run down of what’s worked well for us:

First: Use of a feeding time activity basket. This was a huge hit when Veronika was first home from the hospital, instantly making Travis feel special. But quite honestly, Travis lost interest quickly. He’s old enough to play his own games (and she is a “snacker”, nursing for very short periods, which helps!). But if your child needs direction and you have a baby who nurses in marathon sessions, I highly recommend this fix.

Second: Wear a baby carrier. I honestly didn’t babywear much with Travis, but I’ve found it to be a life-saver with baby #2. When we grocery shop, Travis can help scan all the items and feel like we’re having one-on-one time, as Veronika snoozes away oblivious in the carrier. I even chaperoned for Travis’s school field trip – he felt so special to have his mom there, and people hardly noticed the little baby sleeping away in the carrier!

Third: Use a baby monitor. This is useful in a couple of ways. First, Travis just loves the technology, and can be the big helper moving the camera with the arrow buttons. It also means I don’t have to tell him to be quiet as often, if she is napping in another room instead of the middle of the living room!

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Fourth: Involve big siblings in taking care of the baby. This can be everything from snuggling up for a story, or getting them a toy, or helping at diaper changes. Travis loves handing over a burp cloth whenever I need one, and he’s an expert at rearranging her blanket in the back seat of the car if it rides up.

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Finally, for siblings who still nap, Hands On recommends scheduling naps at different times. I couldn’t agree more, as one-on-one time is key! But Travis has dropped his nap, so my self-appointed task was to make sure I made time for him during Veronika’s nap. Naptime for her is when I get in there with Travis: playing, doing a craft, or exploring something together – something you have to be a big kid to do, no babies allowed!

In sum, all five of these are useful tips, and thanks to Hands On for the original post!


Glow in the Dark Flower

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Get ready: There is some serious wow factor to this project. You will need a few special supplies for it, including a black light, which you can purchase from sellers like Amazon, as well as a highlighter pen you don’t mind sacrificing (hint: you’re going to cut it open). But armed with those items, kids will adore this project!

First, I showed Travis the black light, and how it works. Keep exposure to a minimum, because as a reminder, black lights use UV rays.

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Next, we filled a clear vase with water, and set aside a few white flowers from a bouquet we’d purchased.

I showed Travis how the highlighter pen would look in the black light. He couldn’t believe the way the yellow streaks glowed!

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We returned to regular light, where I very carefully cut open the highlighter crosswise using a sharp knife; any box cutter should work; just go slowly and carefully.

Inside will be a strip of fibers that contain the highlighter ink. This was so neat to see!

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We added the fibers to our vase of water, where the highlighter color seeped down.

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Travis very seriously added our flowers. Now we had to wait, but were rewarded with glowing flowers a few hours later!

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Glowing Fishbowl

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Although I don’t advocate keeping real fish as pets (it’s a sad existence to travel around and around a bowl for years on end), fake fish can make adorable companions! On a recent trip to a local fish hatchery, Travis picked up a plastic fish and turtle. We thought it would be cute to make them a little habitat to stay in. What’s better than a fishbowl home? A glowing fishbowl home!

First we squirted glue into the insides of the a clear glass bowl with a wide mouth, intending to make lines that looked like seaweed. Our glue was very runny, so didn’t work as well as we hoped, but we still then managed to dump in a whole can of glow-in-the-dark glitter and swirl the bowl until it coated the “seaweed.”

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Definitely do this step over a trash can!

I then piped on a few fish with additional glow-in-the-dark paint and we set it aside to dry.

The glitter, disappointingly, didn’t show up as glowy as we hoped, but the fish were cute glowing in the dark.

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Once we filled the bowl with water, it was the perfect home for our fish and turtle.

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