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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Success!

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

A Whale of a Roll

 

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When you’ve been having a whale of a good time with your Baleen Whale crate from Kiwi Co., you continue the fun with these adorable whale bread rolls. These would be fantastic in a bento box, if you’re into lunchtime art!

To start, Travis made ovals about the size of his fist from store-bought bread dough, which we arranged on a baking sheet.

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Shape smaller portions of dough into the fins and tails. (Note: he had trouble shaping the tails, so I made a rough V-shape for each, which he stuck to the whale bodies).

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Next we pressed a raisin into each “whale” for an eye; make sure to press these in quite deep, or they will pop out during baking.

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Use kitchen scissors to snip a small slice into the front of each whale, and pull open slightly to make a mouth.

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Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes.

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Let cool, then poke a hole in the top for each blowhole – a straw worked nicely.

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As the finishing touch, I cut Daiya cheese sticks into small slices, and divided these into thirds to be the spouting water; carefully insert one water spout into each blowhole.

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Thar she blows!

 

Make a Paper Chef’s Hat

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Of all the Raddish Kids lessons we’ve enjoyed thus far, the suggested “Kitchen Brigade” unit to go with our Croque Monsieur Sandwiches was the hardest to adapt for a preschooler. It involves learning and identifying the different jobs within the classic French kitchen hierarchy, and was a stretch to make this material accessible to my four year old.

Instead, I turned the focus onto him being a chef… with his own chef’s hat (toque) of course!

First, cut about 3 feet of parchment paper. Travis was really into the feel of the paper, since we don’t use it very often. “What’s this?” he asked, delighted.

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Fold up accordion-style, then unfold; your paper now has a pleated look.

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Tape two sheets of regular white paper together for the base of the hat.

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Fold in half, then in half again, and open back up. Fit the parchment paper into this base, and staple closed at the ends and middle.

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Gather together the top of the parchment paper, and tape to secure.

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Now fold the whole hat inside out, tucking the tapered point inside. Staple together (make sure the hat will fit your child’s head before stapling), and voila!

Note: If the directions are hard to follow, you can get a visual of the project here.

Next my little chef de cuisine and I did sit down briefly to discuss kitchen roles. I simplified greatly, selecting 6 jobs for him: chef de cuisine, sous chef, patissier, aboyeur, line cook, and plongeur (dish washer).

There are multiple games that big kids can play by making flash cards for each of these jobs (plus many other roles): memory games; charades; role playing; or “who’s the boss,” (i.e. knowing the order of the kitchen hierarchy. Rather than play a true memory game, I simply had Travis name each job while looking at the flash cards we made, and tell me which job it was.

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In this way, at least he knew 6 kitchen roles, and roughly their hierarchy, since we numbered them 1 through 6.

Overall, I doubt he took much from the lesson… But he did like his toque!

Busy Bee

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It was a bee-themed day with Veronika today!

For some tactile fun and auditory fun, first we played a game where my finger was a “bee.”

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This little bee would buzz buzz buzz around her, only to land on a cheek or a tummy or a tushie and give a little tickle.

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She soon seemed to anticipate the landing, and watched my finger in delight. Note: this move is also great for developing your baby’s eyesight, since he or she should track your buzzing finger with their eyes; I remember playing the same game with Travis!

I then made her own finger the little buzzing bee, directing her hand up to her cheek with a buzz.

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To continue the apian fun, I drew some very cartoonish bees on yellow construction paper, which were a great visual while she lay in her bassinet.

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I also pulled out a favorite book with bees to look at (Buzz Buzz Baby by Karen Katz).

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We even found a little stuffed bee to play with, all of which made for fun at tummy time!

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Smell New Scents

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As you help your baby learn about the world and develop their senses, don’t neglect the sense of smell! Your infant is born with an acute sense of smell already, but new items will be a delight.

While she was happy and alert today, I sat Veronika down for this little game, and gathered together a plate of items with strong smells.

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The vanilla bean was a great hit. Her eyes went wide.

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Hmm, she wasn’t so sure about pungent nutmeg.

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Cloves also got a big wide-eyed look; offer the whole jar in this case, since the cloves are so tiny.

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She also really seemed to love the rosemary.

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And was tickled pink for fresh lavender.

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Fresh flowers make a great option, too.

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As you play, definitely let your little one feel the items as well (just be sure to supervise closely, as several are choking hazards).

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Since the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory, I had the fond thought that these scents might imprint in her brain. Will vanilla forevermore take her back to a feeling of infancy and comfort, now? It’s a nice thought!

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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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He’s Got the Whole World

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It was the perfect lazy Sunday morning for some music play with Veronika! Today, I taught her a new song. This particular tune is great not just for melody and instrument play, but also for talking about the members of your family.

First we sang the song with the normal lyrics:

He’s got the whole world in his hands x 4

He’s got the tiny little baby, in his hands x 4

He’s got the whole world in his hands.

He’s got you and me, brother in his hands x 4

He’s got the whole world in his hands.

etc.

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I shook instruments like bells and maracas for Veronika as I sang, and offered her the chance to hold and shake these, too.

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Next came singing the verses about the people closest to her. We sang “He’s got Travis and Veronika in his hands…” and “Mommy and Daddy in his hands…” and mentioned grandparents and even our cat!

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Songs like these are great for building familiarity names of those your child will interact with the most. Plus fun simply for singing!

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