Go to the Zoo

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Now hold on; as my readers know, normally I don’t advocate taking children to zoos. There are too many sad stories of animals who are unhappy in captivity, and your money is far better spent at a sanctuary. But today, we were invited to an Easter event at a local petting zoo, and I will say that Veronika seemed delighted in this chance to see the animals. So with some hesitation, here is my post about it as a field trip.

For the most part, this place was more petting zoo than exotic zoo. That meant lots of chances to see familiar animals up close, like pigs, goats, cows, and ponies.

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The goats seemed to love Veronika! She also enjoyed seeing her brother feed them special cones filled with treats.

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As we paused by each animal enclosure, I pointed out the name and the animal’s features, and made the appropriate sounds (moo, oink, maa) to turn it into a learning experience.

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I will say, it was neat for a moment to see small primates, such as lemurs, who were kept in an enrichment environment.

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If you do find yourself at a zoo, there probably is a lot more for a young infant to look at and enjoy than just the animals. Veronika also got to see the train ride:

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Enjoy lunch time at a picnic table:

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Take in a silly chicken puppet show:

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Observe a playground with kid-sized houses:

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And so much more. She sure did look happy.

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We kept up the fun at home, going back over some of the animals we’d seen that day in her baby books.

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She seemed to especially like the fluffy bunnies that she’d seen at the special Easter event.

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You can also sing Old Macdonald Had a Farm while using a farm playset.

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It was good “review” of everything she’d seen in the afternoon!

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Weave a Bajau Mat

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This interesting craft idea from Travis’s Welcome issue of Highlights magazine not only teaches a little about an interesting culture, but was also Travis’s first introduction to weaving. Although a bit advanced for him, it was a neat activity to work through together.

For a little background on the mat, it’s technically called a banig, a mat woven from plant leaves by the Bajau people, who live in Southeast Asia. Traditionally, they have lived in wooden houses on stilts above the sea, and so the zigzag pattern on the mats resembles ocean waves. Neat! We wanted a turn.

Instead of leaves, you’ll be using poster board and cardstock. Highlights recommended using a full 11×22-inch piece of poster board, but I knew that would be too big a canvas for Travis’s attention span.

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Instead we cut a piece of poster board to about half that, at 10×11-inches. He liked doing the measuring!

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Cut the poster board into strips about 1/2-inch wide, leaving a border about 1 inch long at the top. Great scissor practice.

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Now fold two sheets of colored cardstock in half, and then in half again. Travis was my expert creaser.

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Cut these cardstock pages on the diagonal into strips, then unfold; you’ll now have a zigzag.

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Working with one strip at a time, weave into the poster board, alternating under and over. Push the first zigzag up to the top, then repeat with the remaining strips. Travis did tire out, but watched as I finished up the weaving.

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Cover the edges of the mat with duct tape to secure and voila! A beautiful homemade mat. Ours was too small to really be a floor covering, of course, but it quickly became a prop for Travis’s action figures in his games.

Natural Egg Dye

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Looking to avoid artificial colors when you dye eggs this Easter? Look no further than your own fridge to make beautiful shades, whether you plan to dye real eggs or vegan ones! Travis helped me craft this deep purple from nothing more than cabbage.

In a saucepan, combine 4 cups water, 2 cups sliced red cabbage, and 2 tablespoons white vinegar.

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Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into a bowl, and discard the solids. Add your eggs to the bowl and let stand for a few hours. The longer the eggs sit, the better the color. This didn’t work great with our ceramic eggs, but the plastic ones picked up the color!

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If you want a few more color ideas, try either: 4 cups water with 2 tablespoons ground turmeric and the vinegar for a yellow; or 4 cups water with 4 cups chopped beets and the vinegar for a red.