Reminder Pad

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Congratulations! If you’re following my baby activity log, then your child has reached three months old, a big milestone for babies. Likely you’re finding that sleep cycles (for you and your child both!) are more predictable and longer than in the very early days.

More sleep means more memory, so you might be feeling less forgetful than in the very beginning… But now’s not the time to grow overly confident. You still have a very little child and things can get unpredictable and sleepless again quickly (i.e. during wonder weeks).

To head things off, I invested in a magnetic dry-erase pad for the fridge. Any magnetic pad would work fine, but I love the dry-erase aspect because I’m tired of seeing messy notes to myself like this:

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Now, I can write notes about the things that need to get done, and simply swipe away when done. This is fantastic when I remember something in the middle of a nighttime nursing session, or while juggling a million details by day.

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I love that I can also color-coordinate schedules by family member, so I can see everyone’s day in one place.

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In sum, this is another great tool in my ongoing quest to be as organized as possible. So get your own system up on the fridge, and jot away! Need to buy more diapers? Now you’ll remember. The baby last nursed at 6 o’clock? Now you’ll remember. The family has 3 engagements next Tuesday? Now you’ll remember.

What’s your favorite trick for remembering all the details in the sleepy infant days? Do share in the comments!

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Squeeze Your Own Juice

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In the February issue, Travis’s High Five magazine gave us pretend hot chocolate … But real orange juice! Travis had an absolute blast with this easy squeeze-your-own project.

First, he helped me peel two big oranges. He was very interested in the peel, and what it felt like, since normally I present him with oranges already cut up.

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Next he proudly put all the orange wedges into a large zip-top bag.

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Seal the bag tightly, making sure the air is out, and then squeeze! Travis went wild with the squishing and mushing.

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Once it looks like you have enough juice in the bag, place a strainer over a cup. Let the juice trickle into the cup, reserving the solids in the sieve. Travis was very pleased about this step, since he always tells people he doesn’t like orange juice with pulp.

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(Note: we found that it was easier to get the last of the juice out of the orange segments squeezing them directly in the strainer, rather than still in the bag).

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Time for a taste test!

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Travis loved it, deciding it was kind of sweet, and the freshest orange juice he’d ever tasted.

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Next we got a little scientific with the project, wondering what would happen if we squeezed a grapefruit instead. Travis surmised that since the grapefruit was bigger, we’d have more juice.

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Ding ding ding! He was correct.

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Thanks for the great burst of citrus on a cold winter’s day, High Five. This was such a neat way to show kids where their boxed juices come from.

Soda Teeth Experiment

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Need a way to discourage your kids from drinking dark, sugary sodas? If you’re having a hard time convincing them that it’s no good for their teeth, look no further than this science experiment.

If your children are old enough to have lost baby teeth, then that’s truly the best material for the activity; just make sure you play before the Tooth Fairy pays a visit, or they’ll be confused!

At only 4, Travis hasn’t lost any teeth, so we needed another material that would tarnish in soda like tooth enamel. The online suggestion was… eggs!

That means I need a little caveat before the post, because now it sounds very vegan-unfriendly. We also needed a can of Coke, and one of Sprite, two sodas we wouldn’t actually be drinking in our household anyway. But in the name of science, the sodas were purchased, and eggs were borrowed from my mother-in-law!

With that vegan caveat out of the way, it was time to be scientists. We filled one glass with Coke and another with Sprite.

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Travis was very curious about the eggs, so we checked them out before adding one to each cup.

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He loved seeing the way the sodas bubbled. “And that would hurt my teeth!” he surmised. He’s onto something…

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Then it was just a matter of waiting. We set up a chart, with a column for each soda and a row for each day we’d observe. This was a nice chance for Travis to practice writing his numbers.

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Every day, we used a big spoon to scoop out the eggs and observe. You can definitely break out the magnifying glass each day, too.

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The first thing he noticed was that the bubbles faded by Day 1. The eggs, however, had changed very little.

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By Day 2 we wondered: was the Coke egg a little darker?

Finally by Day 4 it was obvious; the coke had tarnished one egg. (Hopefully Travis’s take-away is not that he should drink lots of clear soda!).

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I reminded him that what we saw in the egg was similar to what we’d see in a tooth. So avoid sodas to avoid discoloration and decay.

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Overall, we liked the STEM aspect of this project, but I think it would have been clearer for him with real teeth. Perhaps we’ll have to do it again when he loses his first!

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Sleepy Baby

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Now that we’ve started to figure out Veronika’s daily routine, it’s time to set up a proper nighttime routine for her, too.

As mentioned, I don’t bother with routines for my kids when still in their “fourth trimester.” But starting about 10 days ago, we noticed a big change; Veronika stopped her evening cluster feed (which had been going pretty-much non-stop from 7 to 10 p.m.!), and instead, well, she found her thumb. And with that, she’s capable of self-soothing and falls asleep between 6.30 and 7.

So now we needed to make bedtime special. The key to aby routine is consistency. I’m still working out how to do this best with two kids, but here’s what I’ve come up with so far.

Step 1: Bath (or cradle cap)

I don’t do baths nightly yet (too much washing can make a newborn’s skin dry), but if it’s a bath night, we start with that. If not, one night a week I comb through her cradle cap; try adding a little edible oil, like olive oil, to the scalp. Let sit for about 10 minutes, then brush through and shampoo out.

If there’s no cradle cap or bath, I still make it cozy and special to get into pajamas, with lotion and everything all laid out.

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Step 2: Storytime

Because I’m juggling two kids, Veronika’s storytime has to be while big brother has his bath!

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Yours might look a little less chaotic and a lot cozier, but I think she’s already come to associate her little bathroom chair with books, and anticipates that sleep is next – which is exactly what you want.

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Step 3: Lullabies. We do a final nurse and I sing her a special song or two.

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Then it’s lights out – and don’t forget a big kiss goodnight!

One additional item that we’ll add to her bedtime routine now that she’s old enough? A quick baby signing song. What does bedtime look like in your house? Please share in the comments!

 

Baby Sign

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I’m a firm believer in no screen time for babies until they reach two years old, with one exception… Baby Signing Time.

These DVDs, from Two Little Hands media, are a fantastic intro for parents and their kids to baby signing, a simplified version of American Sign Language. I started the videos with Travis when he was five months old, and I’m getting an even earlier jump with Veronika. Now that she’s three months old, we broke out the old DVDs.

What are the benefits of signing? Baby’s can use their hands more competently before they can use their vocal chords, which means “words” come earlier. That means less frustration for kids and for the parents who are trying to understand him.

Veronika was rapt with attention right away, since the DVDs put each word to catchy music, and show other children making the signs.

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If you don’t want to invest in the DVDs, you can always learn a few of the most common words you use in your day. Try learning the sign for milk, which is just your fist squeezing (like you’re milking a cow!).

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Water, which you can also sign at bath time, is your fingers in a W that bounces on your chin.

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You can even make up your own signs, as long as your consistent with it! The key is to use the sign every time you say the word out loud.

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I’m also hoping that signs will alleviate Travis’s frustration that his baby sister can’t talk yet. Older sibs can sign to and with baby, and open up the lines of communication earlier.

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We can’t wait to see which one is Veronika’s first sign!

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Gingerbread Pancakes

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These pancakes, redolent with ginger and other spices, are the perfect version to make on a winter morning.

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They’re especially nice around the holidays, but you can’t go wrong with them on any dark winter morning!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups non-dairy milk
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 2 Ener-G eggs
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  1. In a large bowl combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Set aside. (Note: we didn’t have ground allspice, but the pancakes were plenty spiced without it!).
  2. Whisk together the vinegar and milk, and let sit for 5 minutes. Combine the milk mixture in a bowl with the molasses, Ener-G eggs, and canola oil
  3. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  4. Heat a griddle coated with cooking spray and add about 1/3 cup batter per pancake. Cook until bubbles form on top, then flip and cook 1 to 2 minutes on the other side.

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We liked these with just a pat of Earth Balance butter, but optional toppings include sliced banana, powdered sugar, or sauteed pears.

To continue the fun, Travis and I also explored ginger in all its forms. I presented him with ground ginger, crystallized ginger, and a fresh ginger root.

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He loved taking little nibbles of the crystallized  ginger, delighting in how it was sweet and spicy all at once.

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The ginger root was a big hit. First we smelled it…

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…then tested what would happen when we grated it.

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He marveled at how the firm root became soft and wet, in just moments.

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This is a great way to talk kids about using all the senses with an ingredient, since they can touch, taste, see, and smell the varieties. You can even add pickled ginger to your exploration, if you like!

Finally, this recipe makes a great gift. Just layer the dry ingredients in a pretty jar, add instructions for adding wet ingredients at home, and present to a party hostess, friend, or family member.

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Pretend-Play Hot Cocoa

fake cocoa (6)Ok, so this cute little craft won’t really warm the kids up during the polar vortex, but it will get their imaginative juices flowing! We loved this pretend play idea from High Five magazine.

I set up a table for Travis with all the materials we’d need: newspaper, brown paper, cotton balls, and big mugs for our “cocoa”.

First we needed to wad up a piece of newspaper for each cup.

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Stuff in a mug to make a base.

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Next, rip brown construction paper into pieces; smaller is better. Once you have a lot of pieces, crumple each up.

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Add these pieces to your mug, and you’ll have a chocolaty cup of cocoa!

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Travis loved adding “marshmallows” (soft cotton balls).

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We thought it would be neat to trick his dad with this one, telling him we’d made him cocoa. Surprise! It wasn’t really meant to drink.

We also set up a little cafe for a few stuffed animal friends.

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Travis did tire of the game rather quickly after that, but some kids may want to run their “hot cocoa stand” for a while. Have fun serving up drinks, making a full cocoa cafe, and more. I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

 

Butternut Squash and Pesto Calzones

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These calzones feature a hearty filling of meatless Italian sausage, roasted squash, and creamy pesto. In other words, an entree that’s sure to warm up cold family members after a winter’s day! If your household is split between vegans and non-vegans, the latter can add a little crumbled goat cheese to the filling before folding the calzones in half. Just make sure you mark whose is whose!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups cubed butternut squash
  • 2 vegan Italian sausage links
  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
  • 4 tablespoons vegan pesto
  1. Combine the olive oil salt, and squash in a baking dish, tossing to coat. Roast at 425 degrees F for about 40 minutes, until tender, stirring halfway through.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the sausage and cook in a skillet over medium heat until browned; set aside.
  3. Divide the pizza dough into 4 portions. Roll each portion into a 6-inch circle and spread with 1 tablespoon pesto. Sprinkle with one-quarter of the sausage and about 1/2 cup roasted squash. Fold the bottom edge of the dough up to the top, pressing to seal. Place on a baking sheet and make a few slits in the top of the dough, then repeat with the remaining 3 portions.
  4. Bake at 425 degrees F for about 20 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Tactile Rhyme

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Veronika and I found ourselves with three hours to kill at the car dealer today… So it was the perfect time for lots of fingerplays and rhymes. My favorite rhymes with babies are those that involve touches or motions; it helps them associate between the sounds they are hearing and the concrete noun or verb that goes along with it.

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So here’s a simple one, lest you, too, find yourself stuck with an infant in need of entertainment! Touch each body part as its named, and emphasize the counting, too.

Ten little fingers, ten little toes,

Two little ears and one little nose.

Two little eyes that shine so bright,

And one little mouth to kiss me goodnight!

End with a big kiss, of course! The ending means that this would also be a sweet one to add to a bedtime routine.

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How do you entertain baby when you’re stuck some place? Please share in the comments!

Get Physical

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Veronika and I have played games to verbally enhance her self-awareness, and today we concentrated more on physical awareness of her body parts. There are so many ways to talk to and play with a baby about the body, so today that was the focus of our interactions.

First, I sang classic songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” During each diaper change, I took the time to sing the song through, touching each adorable part, from the head…

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…to the toes.

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While we played in the living room, her big brother got in on the action!

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Big sibs will be so proud that they can show baby where each part is.

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I also emphasized body parts at today’s storytime. Where is Baby’s Belly Button, by Karen Katz, is a great example, with fun flaps and big pictures. Veronika loved our several reads of it!

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Finally, don’t forget to sit with your child by a mirror, and point out parts.

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What fun ways do you help your infant learn about the body? Please share in the comments!