Bath Time Foam Blocks

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Veronika is sitting so well in her tub now that it felt like time to mix things up and add a new game to our standard splashy fun.

First, I used a set of foam building blocks, normally a playroom toy, as bath toys. These were great because I could push them down under the water and show her how they instantly pop back up.

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She got the idea right away! With each pop up, I made noises of surprise and delight, which soon had her doing the same.

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If you want, you can also purchase foam sponge toys intended for the bath. We love the animal bath toys set from 3 Bees & Me, which comes with a handy storage bag and features everything from a tiger to a squirrel to a kangaroo. These are large enough for the littlest hands to grip, even in slippery water.

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As with the blocks, I showed Veronika how to push them underwater and then watch them surface again.

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Of course they found their way quickly to her mouth, too. In sum, we’re excited to play with foam in many a bath to come!

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Feel the Wind

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Introducing your baby to the elements is a beautiful way to foster a lifelong love of nature. Since she was born just before winter, Veronika has already felt snowflakes, and the pitter-patter of raindrops. Now that it’s warmer, there are some new sensations I’ve been excited to introduce her to!

We had a windy but warm day today, which made it a nice day to let Veronika feel the breeze without getting a chill. It’s hard to tell in the picture above, but the leaves were whipping around! As we watched the leaves dance and felt the breeze, I signed “wind” for her as well.

Next, I sat her on a blanket in the grass simply to enjoy the feel of warm sunshine on her skin (don’t forget the sunscreen and a sun hat, of course!). “Sun” is another great sign to teach your baby, as are other general weather words like “clouds”, “rain”, and “snow”.

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Later, I removed her socks and dangled her feet in the grass for that perfect sensation of tickly grass on bare feet.

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These sensations were just a brief intro to nature, and I can’t wait for all of Veronika’s nature firsts to come: the first leaf pile to jump in, smelling a flower, watching autumn leaves turn colors and fall. What are you looking forward to in nature with your baby? Please share in the comments!


Mango Sticky Rice

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On the heels of our recipe for Pad Thai Noodles, Travis and I traveled back to Thailand in the kitchen today for dessert!

In a large saucepan, combine 1 cup sushi rice and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, then cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Turn off the burner but leave the rice in the pan.

Meanwhile, we checked out Raddish Kids’ detailed instructions on how to cut a mango. First, we squeezed our mangoes to make sure they were ripe. Yup!

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I cut the sides from the mangoes with a sharp knife but then let Travis take over with a butter knife. After showing him an example, he scored the mangoes like a tic-tac-toe board.

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Finally, use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Travis needed a few bites right away, of course!

In a saucepan, combine 1 (13.5-ounce) can full-fat coconut milk, 2/3 cup sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; continue to cook for 3 minutes. This step was another great chance to use the kit’s whisk!

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Ladle half of the coconut milk mixture into the cooked rice. Cover and let stand for 10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

To serve, scoop about 1/2 cup rice mixture into a bowl. Drizzle with leftover coconut sauce and top with mango.

As Travis dined, we also read the recipe’s informative sections on Thai greetings and traditional Thai cooking equipment. How do you say delicious in Thai? Yum!

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Coral Reef Diorama

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Today, Travis and I did an activity in conjunction with our Taste of Thai recipes to help him learn about the coral reefs of Thailand.

There was a lot in this lesson that was new for Travis, including guided imagery, but first I had to set the stage! I asked him if he knew what a scuba diver was and he correctly answered someone who dives underwater (thanks Fireman Sam!).

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I showed him an included picture with scuba gear and then we mimed climbing in to all this equipment. Shimmy shimmy into your wet suit! This part was silly and fun.

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Next up was our imaginary trip: a guided imagery about scuba diving in a coral reef. I knew this would be a bit of a challenge for my four-year-old, so instead of asking him to sit quietly with eyes closed, I had him paint a box blue for our upcoming diorama while I read the scenario. This allowed his hands to keep busy as he listened, and he liked the process!

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For a simple, little-kid diorama, we made a version using play dough blobs as the base onto which we could add shells, fish stickers, and fake coral.

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To make the coral, thread beads onto pipe cleaners – great for fine motor skills!

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While we worked, I played Raddish’s suggested video in the background so he could see real examples.

Travis’s favorite part was using play dough to make the body for snails and hermit crabs who could live in our shells from the craft store!

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He was so proud when he thought one of his shell creations looked like a narwhal.

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Meanwhile, I made a few more tropical examples for him to see.

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Bigger kids can delve a lot further into this homeschool lesson. Raddish also provided a list of discussion questions about the coral reef and links to further reading about what they are and how to protect them.

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But for my preschooler, this simplified lesson was good fun!

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Here’s a fun and simple sensory jar for your baby: an instant snowstorm no matter the season!

Fill a small plastic water bottle about 2/3 of the way with rubbing alcohol. Drop in a few things to swirl in the snow; small buttons are fun, and I also added gold and silver sequins. Next add about 2 teaspoons white or silver glitter. Fill the bottle the rest of the way with vegetable oil.

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Note: you can also tint the alcohol blue with food coloring if you want, but I found that this makes it harder to see the “storm” and preferred a clear version.

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For security, duct tape on the lid. Now swirl for your baby!

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This works well if you roll it on the ground in front of him or her.

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Veronika also loved looking at it up in the air though.

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And wanted to snatch it from my hands!

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If you’re trying to encourage a first crawl, roll the bottle along the floor and see if your baby will go after it!

Ask Direct Questions

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So you know your baby is learning to talk (well, babble that is, for now!), but now it’s time to teach him or her to have a conversation! This activity prompt helped me remember to guide her gibberish towards her first real give-and-take in language.

Today, whenever asking Veronika a question, I made sure to truly ask her. Make eye contact, and slow down your words. If the question pertains to a direct object (a bottle, a toy), pause and show it to your baby.

“Which toy would you like Veronika?” I asked. “The puzzle or the bumble bee?”

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I gave her a moment to select her choice, both vocally and by hand (and mouth!).

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The real key is to pause and wait for an answer. You might not get one at first, but soon, your baby will realize that this silence is meant to be filled.

“Would you like a rice cake, Veronika?”

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“Would you like some oatmeal, Veronika?” That’s a no thank you!

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Keep this up, and it will not only teach your child the fine art of back-and-forth in conversation, but also help them feel capable and important for making decisions.

Pad Thai Noodles

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Travis was so excited for his latest Raddish Kids box, the Taste of Thailand, that it meant a special trip to the grocery store and racing home to get cooking! As we shopped, we brought along the Thai ingredient scavenger hunt, tracking a down a few items not in the recipes, too, like bird chiles and fish sauce.

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We debated which of the three recipes to make first, and settled on the most iconic: Pad Thai Noodles.

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First, cook 8 ounces wide rice noodles: bring water to a boil and add the noodles. Turn off the heat and let stand 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile, we smashed, peeled, and minced two garlic cloves and placed in a bowl.

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Slice 4 green onions and add to the bowl. For this step, I still have Travis hold the handle of a knife with me and guide his hand so he can feel the motion.

Squeeze the juice from two limes and add 3 tablespoons to the bowl. Travis wanted to sip the leftover lime juice! He was thrilled discovering all the smells and tastes of the Thai kitchen.

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Next, add 1/3 cup brown sugar and 1/3 cup soy sauce to the bowl. Travis used the whisk (his keepsake from his kit) to mix this all together!

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Heat 1 tablespoon canola oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Crumble in one-third of a package of firm tofu. Add 1/4 teaspoon turmeric and cook for 2 minutes.

Add the cooked noodles and the sauce; continue to cook for 3 minutes.

Add about 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro (i.e. the leaves from one small bunch), 1 cup sprouts, 1 cup shredded carrot, and 1/2 cup chopped peanuts.

Travis was so proud!

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“I love Thailand [sic] food,” he declared, dining noodle by noodle. As he ate, we read more about the skill of whisking. We also discussed the mix of the five flavors in the dish, and I helped him figure out which ingredient added which flavor for the “perfect harmony”. He correctly identified lime for sour, brown sugar for sweetness, etc.

Stay tuned for more Thai recipes soon!


Adventure Pouch

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Travis has a few new animal figure toys that need to come along on all his adventures (of course). We needed a safe way to transport them and this adventure pouch craft from Highlights magazine fit the bill perfectly!

First, trace a pouch shape onto felt. I had Travis take the first try at it and just enlarged his version slightly since his original oval was a touch too small.

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Cut out, and trace the same shape onto a second sheet of felt so your pouch as two sides. Cut out.

Use hot glue to attach the two felt pieces together, leaving the top open.

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To decorate, Highlights suggested cutting additional shapes from other colors of felt and gluing them on. Since felt is tough for Travis to get through with scissors, we used neat ocean felt stickers, instead.

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Punch holes at the top of the pouch, and lace yarn or twine through the holes. Knot to secure, and pull up on the strings to seal it shut.

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Travis loved putting his animal friends in and out of the pouch, their new home! This pouch would also work great for collecting treasures on a nature walk.

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What will your child do with the adventure pouch? Please share in the comments!

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Jell-O Hands

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Gel desserts are the perfect food edible sensory play sessions with a baby. It’s squishy, it wobbles, and if little fingers get some of it into little mouths, it’s perfectly safe to eat. We love the vegan jel desserts from Simply Delish.

To make a fun mandarin orange version, drain one can of organic mandarin oranges (such as Native Forest) over a bowl. Place the orange slices in a large bowl and set aside. Reserve 1/3 cup of the juice and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Dissolve one sachet of jel dessert in the chilled juice. Add enough boiling water to equal 12 ounces and stir to combine. Pour the juice mixture over the orange slices. Let cool to room temperature, then transfer to the fridge and let set for 1 hour.

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I placed the jell-o on Veronika’s high chair tray.  She was quite skeptical at first!

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Once I demonstrated with a finger how it wiggled and wobbled, she was game!

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Little fists loved squishing and squashing through the jell-o.

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And she liked trying to hold on to slices of orange.

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Some of it made its way to her mouth, and a lot more ended up on the floor!

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The activity looked so fun that big brother Travis wanted to join in, too!

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Treasure Basket

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This game is so simple, yet sure to delight your six-month-old, who is probably new to sit-up playtime!

Fill a small basket or bin (ideally one that your child can lift with his or her own hands) with a few odds and ends. For Veronika, I added a rubber spatula, two soft toys, two foam blocks, a squishy toy, and a set of baby car keys.

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One by one, I showed her the toys, and described them. In this way, we emptied the bin and then I filled it back up again.

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The second time through, I let her rifle through the bin on her own and select the toys in any order she wanted.

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As she came to each item, I again talked about its shape or size or another feature. For instance, the spatula was perfect for talking about length.

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And the blocks were perfect for talking about color.

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I loved when she pulled out the square block and squishy circle and began drumming them together.

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She seemed so excited to have free-reign to rifle through the bin with nothing inside off limits. There’s something that babies start to love at this age about pulling things out… And we better get used to it, because there are toddler days ahead!

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