Easy Spool Speller

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Here’s a fantastic tool for kids who are learning to read and spell, made out of just a few upcycled items in your home!

Because Travis is a novice speller, I made a speller that featured three letter words, but bigger kids can accept the challenge of four spools!

On the empty spools, I wrote letters in permanent marker. Do try to think strategically for this: I had common beginning consonants on the first spool, vowels on the second, and common ending letters on the third.

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Note: If you’re having trouble with this, download the template from Family Fun magazine’s Dec/Jan 2016 back issue.

Next I threaded the spools onto two pencils. Ideally, your empty spools will have small holes and fit around one pencil; however, I taped two pencils together, since my spools had wider holes. Secure the ends with eraser toppers.

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Now twist and turn to make some words!

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The speller worked in two fantastic ways for Travis. First, I could make a word and have him sound it out. This is great if you switch rapidly from one word to another. So if I have c-o-t it says cot…

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…but if I twist just one spool, we have h-o-t hot.

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More challenging was for Travis to try and make his own word, which he still needed some help with.

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In sum, a great toy, and we’re thinking this will be perfect for car rides!


Up-Down Walking Tour

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As your baby grows more aware of how his or her body moves through space, you can play games that strengthen the notion and help develop balance, too! One fun idea is to give a tour of a visually striking place, playing around with movement and altitudes. For a change of scenery from our house, we headed to a local garden!

Since it’s winter, we made this a trip to a greenhouse instead of an outdoor botanical garden. As we walked around the lush plants and vibrant flowers, I moved Veronika’s body up and down.

Look up at the red fronds.

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Look down for these amazing coffee-colored flowers (mmm, did someone say coffee?).

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Look up to the mango fruit in the tree!

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Look down to this blazing pink flower.

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I even said the words “up” and “down” as we walked, to help build her vocabulary.

To be honest, there was so much to take in that Veronika seemed a little overwhelmed, between the movement and the sights. But the whole family welcomed a trip to see such lush colors in the middle of winter!

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If you don’t have a garden near you, try this up and down “tour” in a house, whether your own home or a historic home in the area. After the greenhouse, we headed inside, to see tall sconces and bookshelves, and low period-piece armchairs and trinkets.

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Make a Splash

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Veronika has officially graduated from the infant tub to a mid-sized option. One clever hack is to place a laundry basket in a full-sized tub so your baby still feels safe and confined. (Bonus points: you can wash bigger kids in the same tub at the same time, this way). I also have an inflatable tub that’s just the right size for a baby until about age 1, and today Veronika moved up.

The nice thing about the new tub is the ability to add little toys to the water. I added not just the classic rubber ducky, but also other farm friends, like a rubber horse, pig, owl, sheep, and cow.

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These seemed to really help Veronika feel comfortable despite the very new bath setting.

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They’re also just the right size for her little hands to hold, and hopefully will soon encourage her to splash and play.

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And simply seeing the bright colors entertained her, as the animals floated around.

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As a reminder, make sure one hand is always supporting your baby’s head, even as you add in these toys, and never leave a baby unattended in the bath. What does your infant play with in the tub? Please share in the comments!

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