Mirror Magic

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At four months old, Veronika is much more aware of the face in the mirror than she was when we began mirror games, so she and I had some fun with our reflections today. Mirrors seem magical to babies; they still don’t quite understand that they are seeing their own reflection, and yet are starting to notice that the mirror image moves when they do. So play up that magic!

Make sure that you play with a mirror that is nonbreakable for babies this young. I set one up in front of Veronika during tummy time, and got down right next to her.

First, I simply made a neutral face and let her notice us both, but from there I moved on to emotions. As you make each expression, name the emotion. “Happy face!” I cooed to her.

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You can move on to sad faces or silly faces; the latter got a giggle!

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Now mommy’s surprised!

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Add other conversation pointers as you play. “This is your mouth,” I pointed out to her, or “Look at mommy’s mouth.”

Mirror Magic (2)Then it was time to use the mirror for some real magic: making Veronika disappear and reappear. I placed a scarf over the mirror…

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…then peek-a-boo!

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What other mirror games do you play with baby? Please share in the comments!


Rattle Choice

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One of the best ways to build your baby’s self-awareness is to give him or her choices. Obviously baby can’t make too many decisions at only three months old, but here’s one great game to set the foundation for future decision-making and a sense of self.

First, I gathered together all the rattles in the house; it was a motley collection, ranging from soft toys that make a gentle shake, to plastic ones that clatter, to more complicated ones with moving parts and lights.

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I sat Veronika up comfortably, and offered her a choice, going with two similar soft ones to start. She had an obvious preference right away. Her eyes turned to the lion instead of the apple, and this was the one she reached for.

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So next I tried lion versus a more visual rattle, where she could see the pieces that clicked and clacked. Lion was abandoned for this one.

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But it turns out she likes watching tiny beads more than bigger clicking pieces.

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Hmm, light-up puppy versus lettuce. She wasn’t quite sure which she liked here…

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…but light-up puppy won.

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As she chose a toy in each round, I praised her selection: “Great choice Veronika!” I cheered her on, and her big brother chimed in, too. She looked so pleased with her ability to decide.

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And some toys always trump others; to wit, blue puppy has been her absolute favorite toy for about a month now, and her whole body shakes with glee for it.

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It’s a nice reminder how early on your little one will have a definite personality, and definite opinions!

Foodie Family Dice Games & Game Design

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In conjunction with our latest Raddish Kids recipes, tonight was family “date night”! The activity: board games, charades, dice games, and a game of our very own creation!

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First, we did a little investigating; Travis and I talked about games in general, and the way they teach concepts of fairness, taking turns, and following the rules. More specifically, I then showed him a clip about the history of dice in this suggested video (Note: There are some bleeped out curse words, but they went right over Travis’s head). If you want to skip the video, just share some fun facts, like how dice have been around for 5,000 years (wow!).

Next, we cut out and folded up the two foodie dice provided in this month’s crate and played a round of “No Tomato.”

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The rules are simple: roll the dice and rack up a point for every food tossed except… if you roll a tomato you lose your points for that round!

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Travis loved taking a risk and giving one more toss on his turn, daring to inch his score closer to the 12 points needed to win.

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The game was also a great lesson in score-keeping. He loved being in charge of our tally sheet, and erasing when someone lost their points.

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Now it was time to design our own game! We settled on a few basics, using the helpfully provided Game Checklist as a guide. The theme of our game was Travis’s much-loved Spiderman. The goal was to reach the end of the path first. As he happily colored in decorations for the board, I drew the path and set up pitfalls.

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Oh no, Spiderman’s enemies could make you lose a turn or get stuck until you rolled a certain number.

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Lego men were our playing pieces, and we used a dice to move players around the board.

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We played so many fun family rounds!

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We followed up with another game using the Raddish dice, “Rad Yatzy”, a take on regular Yahtzee only using the foodie dice instead of pips.

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Cap off your family “date” with any other board games your kids love, or a round of charades.

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Update: We had to wait until we had a large enough group of family members (6 people or more!), and then we could play a final foodie dice game: Catch the Radish!

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Two people opposite each other toss the dice, but must pass it to the next player if they roll a radish. The first person to have both dice at the same time wins!

Join a Local Music & Movement Class

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Children are drawn to music right from the start, which is why it’s literally never too early to start a music class. Perhaps that’s why my favorite program, Music Together, (available across the country), bills itself as appropriate for age birth to 5 years.

Veronika and I joined when the winter session began in January, and admittedly she was the youngest in the class. Now at three months, I already see a difference. She’s alert for the entire 45 minutes, so clued in to the teacher’s movements and sounds, and fascinated by the visual of the instruments and the bigger kids (most of them 1 to 2 years old).

My first tip for a baby this young at a music class is to bring a blanket; you’ll want to lay him or her down on the floor at times. Here’s Veronika, ready for class to begin!

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Just as a sample, today’s session included movement and rhythm play through the form of a bouncy ride on mommy’s lap…

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Getting to shake bells…

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And learning to tap or rub rhythm sticks.

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Don’t worry if instruments end up right in the mouth! Babies learn so much about the world this way, and any reputable class for children will have a designated “wet bin” for the germ-y toys.

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In sum, if you haven’t already taken your child out for music play, it’s a great time to start. Check your local library for offerings at little or no cost!

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Wall Mural

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I didn’t decorate the nursery with either of my children, which had more to do with my disinterest in interior design than anything else. And since we rent an apartment, I always felt I couldn’t do too much to walls or windows.

But it seemed a shame to let the chance pass me completely by, and I loved this cute idea to project an image on just a small portion of a wall, trace with pencil, and then fill in with paint.

The activity book I found this in is so old that it recommended an overhead projector for the task. (!) Do they even make those anymore? Failing to have a projector, I was at a loss for how to trace an image onto the wall until shown a neat technique, no artistic skills required:

Print out the image you want (we went with a farm animal theme) and make a heavy layer of pencil on the opposite side of the paper.

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Now hold the paper up to the wall, and trace all lines with pencil – the graphite will transfer through!

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Soon we had four little farm animals to color in.

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I chose a spot on the wall that was fairly low, so it will be at eye level with Veronika once she starts to crawl or toddle about.

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I used acrylic paint, and decided that it looked neater with the outlines of the animals painted, but not filled completely in.

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Little blue sheep was too adorable!

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Veronika was my eager audience, her eyes wide as I worked!

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And ha, then there was the problem of explaining to my four year old why mom was suddenly allowed to paint on the wall. So I let him make a design of his choice in a tiny portion of the corner. Behold his red bird:

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I can’t wait for Veronika to enjoy this beautiful little portion of her room!

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Clothesline Sensory Adventure

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Okay, this activity is probably best done on a warm late spring day, when the air feels good against your skin, and the sun is shining bright, and baby can have bare arms and legs. Not on a winter day with wind gusts up to 60 mph! But I had been wanting a new sensory activity to do with Veronika for some time, so we headed outside anyway!

If you have a clothesline, string it up between two trees or fence posts in your yard. Lacking a true clotheslines, I strung up a length of twine, which worked just fine.

Add a few soft towels and sheets, securing with clothespins.

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Now take baby out for a sensory adventure. (You’ll notice a very bundled up Veronika!).

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First we just walked up and down the line, as I showed her the colors and let her feel the textures. She had quite the grip on the green towel!

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Next we played a sort of peek-a-boo through the sheets, having the fabric drape over her before she emerged with a “pop!” I was hoping this would get big smiles, but she looked a little alarmed by the wind more than anything!

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Perhaps we’ll do this again in the springtime… But oh well, we still had a little sensory adventure today.

Visual Discovery

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A relative praised Veronika’s strong eyesight over the weekend, a nice compliment and a reminder of why I take the time to play little games at each stage that strengthen her vision. At three months old, we’ve moved beyond black and white and beyond bold colors, and now she can start to enjoy complicated patterns.

I sat her down comfortably and pulled out a variety of household objects with colors and contrasts for her to enjoy. First up, a ball of multi-hued yarn.

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Then I showed her one of daddy’s ties. I talked about what the item was, as well as descriptions of the color and images on it.

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This bandanna from big brother Travis was a hit!

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So much so that we tied it in her bassinet for visual fun later in the day.

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Even a two-tone hairbrush can be fun in this game.

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Just be careful; unlike some games we play, items from this one weren’t meant to end up in the mouth!

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If you’re stumped for what items to show your baby, head to the closet. There are sure to be racks full of interesting colors and patterns.

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She especially loved one of mommy’s dresses!

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Energy-Boosting Smoothies

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This past week, I noticed my energy levels flagging a little; it’s right around this point that breastfeeding takes a lot out of you! Baby isn’t quite ready for solids yet at three months old, but needs upwards of 600 calories a day of milk alone. With my son, I hadn’t realized how many calories go into producing milk each day, and soon found myself underweight. Smoothies were my life saver.

So feeling like my supply has been a little low for Veronika, today’s activity was to make some energy-boosting smoothies to keep us both healthy and strong!

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I played around with a few variations, and here are three that I loved. For all of the following recipes, simply combine the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. You can add ice if you like, but I prefer my smoothies without it.

Smoothie 1:

  • 5 ounces vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

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Smoothie 2:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

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Smoothie 3:

  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 6 ounces apple juice
  • 1/2 cup avocado
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach or watercress
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

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This last was my favorite, rich and creamy from the avocado, and an instant energy boost. Feel free to play around with the above suggestions. Use oat milk if you like it better, or pumpkin seeds in place of the sunflower etc. If you have a recipe you like best, please share in the comments!


What Type of Family Are You?

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Today’s activity for my three-month-old was more for parents than for baby, but will benefit the whole family. It turned out to be a great bonding moment, and an important one, too.

Adhering to a list of prompts and questions, the goal is to decide what type of family you will be with your baby. I looked through some questions and reflexively figured I already knew all my answers… before stopping to remember that parenting is a team sport.

So I set up a chart, and my husband and I sat down to see if we lined up on all the questions.

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Ask yourself things like the following:

Do you want a set bedtime every night, or will you be flexible?

Will you leave the baby with a sitter, or take him or her along to events at a friend’s house?

Should the baby sleep in their own room, or in your room?

Will you always want a calm story before bed, or is excited playtime okay if one parent hasn’t spent much time with the child that day?

Feel free to add to this list an tweak as necessary, to fit your household!

It turned out we were more in sync than I thought on these big, prevailing parenting questions. Although I’m more of a stickler for the same bedtime each night, I was glad to learn my husband agreed, with the caveat that we could shoot for six exceptions annually, on important dates.

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We both like bringing the baby along to events at friends’ houses, and decided the splurge of a sitter was better reserved for true dates!

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Take the moment to talk about what else matters to you For me, for example, it’s extremely important that the baby has a consistent number of naps every day; I care less about duration and timing of the naps, as long as Veronika naps four times now, three times once she transitions to three naps, twice when she transitions to two naps, and so on. It helped my husband to hear this!

In sum, make the time for this activity. Your partner will no doubt appreciate it, and you’ll be a stronger parenting team for it.

Whale Ball Toss

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For a museum exhibit on President’s Day, Travis got to play with old-fashioned toys in honor of George Washington, including wooden favorites like a Jacob’s Ladder and a cup-and-ball toss. So he was eager to craft this whale-tastic take on the latter at home. (Fun fact: the game dates back to the 14th century! Admittedly, this cetacean update from Kiwi Co. is a bit newer).

Ideally, start with blue plastic cups for your whales. We only had paper cups, which got a nice coat of blue paint.

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Travis was so excited once they were dry! Punch a hole in the bottom of each cup, and thread through a three-foot long piece of yarn. Tie it in a loop around the cup.

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Tie a wooden bean onto the other end of the yarn – this is the “krill” for the whale to eat.

Next, we traced the cup onto white paper, and cut out.

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Cut the circle in half, then cut little strips into it to make fringed “baleen.” I was really proud of Travis’s scissor skills here.

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I cut out a tail and fin template for him, which he then traced onto blue paper and cut out. Again, loved watching his fine motor skills.

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Finally, we taped these pieces – tail, fins, and baleen, along with two googly eyes – onto each whale.

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Hold the cup and swing the bead, and see if your whale can eat it. Here goes!

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This was a great game, and since we made two, we could challenge one another to a competition.