Start Swimming

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Babies seem to love the water (I have a pet theory that they can still remember all that watery time in the womb, not so many months ago!). Whatever the reason, starting your children in the water young can have big benefits, helping them feel ready when the time comes to truly learn swimming and water safety.

Today, we got Veronika’s toes wet – literally!

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Start small if you think your baby will be nervous. However, you’ll probably be surprised at how calm a young baby is in the water – more so even than a toddler. A few recommendations: Make sure the pool you choose is clean. I do recommend chlorine rather than salt-water pools, because big brother Travis has fallen sick after swimming in the latter.

Go at off-peak hours, whether mid-week or at a non-crowded time on the weekends.

Finally, don’t forget the swim diapers! When Travis was little, I thought an overnight diaper and a swim diaper were the same thing – whoops. His little bum would inflate with tons of water instantly. Veronika, on the other hand, was swaddled in proper swim attire.

Now for the fun! I started out just dipping Veronika’s toes in.

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Pretty soon she loved kicking her legs and trailing her fingers through the water.

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This is great muscle work for a baby, and can also help tire him or her out if you’re hoping for a nap after. To wit, the very first thing she did after she was dry was fall asleep for her afternoon nap.


Balloon Rocket

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If you checked out our Fun with Flight Kiwi Crate adventure, then you saw Travis and I made an indoor balloon rocket. We wanted a chance for a repeat outside, and decided it merited its own blog!

This time we made a few significant changes. First, we stretched our string between two fence posts, allowing for a longer space for our “rockets” to fly.

The next innovation was a wide straw (look for “milkshake straws” at the grocery store). This flies much more smoothly come time to launch! Thread the straw onto one end of your string.

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Blow up a balloon – but do not knot – and tape it to the straw. Release the balloon and watch it fly.

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This was just so beautiful outside in morning sunlight, too!

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“3, 2, 1, Go!”


Play with a Pom-Pom

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I got crafty for Veronika today! This pom-pom was sort of a labor of love, but if that definition doesn’t fit our children, what does?

Trace a large circle (about 8 inches across) on paper. Add a smaller circle (about 2 to 4 inches across) in the middle. Cut out this template and trace onto two pieces of cardboard.

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A thin cardboard works best, like an empty cereal box or frozen pizza box.

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Place the two cardboard pieces together, and begin wrapping around with yarn.

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You can use only one color, but I liked a two-tone look, alternating layers of yellow and green. For a nice thick pom-pom, wrap in about four layers. Veronika couldn’t wait to get her hands on this thing!

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Insert scissors through the yarn to the gap between the two cardboard pieces, and begin snipping the yarn in half.

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Insert another piece of yarn right into the middle and pull tightly – you now have a ball! Tie that yarn securely.

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Before I talk about playtime, I want to mention how fun it was to make this next to Veronika. I worked for about an hour as she played with toys and cooed next to me.

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Especially if you are a first-time-parent, activities like this can help fill those hours or days with a baby that might otherwise seem endless. This one engages baby and caregvier both!

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Now it was playtime, and as you can see from Veronika’s face, the pom-pom is quite simply a delight!

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We tossed it in the air, or used it to hone her grasping skills.

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We tickled her toes with it.

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She played cheerleader as she watched big brother play.

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She basically just had a ball! Do supervise closely, since the homemade nature of this pom-pom means strands of yarn might come lose and pose a choking hazard.

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Swing Rhythm

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Today was Veronika’s first time in a baby swing!

As a veteran parent, I was ready with a few tricks to sure this first ride in a bucket swing went smoothly. 7 months old is still pretty tiny, so come prepared with a nice soft blanket. This can act as a wedge so your baby doesn’t slide around in the swing (and is also handy for drying off any rain from the night before, in a pinch!).

Well this little lady took to it right away! She looked about as at ease as if the swing were a hammock on a tropical island.

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For a few fun games, I tickled her toes whenever she swung toward me.

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You can also greet your child with a playful, “boo!” on each swing.

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She also loved when I pushed slightly harder and said, “higher higher higher!”

But in general, today was about gentle pushes, often letting momentum take over after only 1 or 2 pushes. She loved exploring the texture of the swing, too.

Does your baby like to swing? Please share in the comments!

Take Turns

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It’s never too early to demonstrate turn-taking and today I played with Veronika in a few different ways to demonstrate.

First, we sat down for some musical fun, since she’s been very into instruments lately!

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I played a drum for her and said “Mommy’s turn!” Then I pointed to her hands and removed my own. “Veronika’s turn,” I told her.

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It took her a moment but then her little hands were on the drum rubbing and tapping. You can do this with just about any toy. Next up was a rain stick: Mommy’s turn!

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Veronika’s turn!

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And then a rattle.

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You can also use this game to encourage skills that your baby will need later on, like dressing, washing, or brushing their own teeth (I wish I’d done something similar with Travis!). At bath time, I used the washcloth and again said, “Mommy’s turn.”

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Then I handed it to her. For now it might be more of a toy than for washing, but she’ll get the idea.

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The game was easy at toothbrushing time, since she already loves brushing her own tooth!

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She barely gave me a turn before she took over!

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Hot Air Balloon Muffins

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Travis has had fun exploring different elements of flight lately, so we brought the theme to snacktime today! Okay, so our muffins didn’t actually fly, but now that we’ve made the recipe, I’d be curious what happens if you fill the balloons with helium!

First we made muffins from a mix (the gluten-free and vegan muffin mix from King Arthur Flour). Divide the batter evenly among muffin liners – since the liners were to be our hot air balloon “baskets,” I chose some with a fun print on them.

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The sous-chef needed to lick the spatula, of course.

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Bake according to package directions and let cool.

Insert 4 wooden skewers into each muffin.

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Blow up balloons and tape onto the skewers with washi tape.

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Let snacktime soar!

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Needless to say, our balloons were not aloft for long, but Travis was wild about this project!

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Fabric Parachutes

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It was on a Memorial Day a few years back that Travis first saw parachuters and he’s been obsessed ever since. Here’s a cute craft you can put together to take flight right at home!

Trace around a large dinner plate with felt-tipped markers on fabric; we had lightweight fabric swatches from the craft store that were perfect, and I let Travis choose his favorite pattern for the parachute.

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After he traced, cutting out the circle out was a mommy step, since fabric is still tough for my preschooler’s fingers.

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Note: Travis thought the fabric markers were so neat he wanted to color on the scraps after we cut out the circle!

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Mark 8 dots with pen evenly spaced around the parachute. Cut pieces of thread that are about 12 inches long and and sew these to each of the 8 dots.

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I let Travis have a turn with the needle and thread which made him feel so important!

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Stretch the threads to a wooden bobbin and secure with masking tape. Bright green tape added a fun pop of color.

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Now it’s time to launch!

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The higher you stand, the better the parachute soars (more time to catch the wind). First I had Travis try climbing on top of our step ladder. It worked great, but was extremely short-lived.

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So next we headed to the playground, and launched from the highest platform!

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Fun with Flight Kiwi Crate

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Travis’s latest from Kiwi Co was the Fun with Flight Crate, featuring projects that delved into the multitude of ways humans have devised to fly. I will start by saying that this one was frustrating for a five year old. The projects weren’t hard to put together, but they didn’t stay together that well. It led to frustration and disappointment, so do be prepared if your children are also on the young side.

First up, he got to Build a Rocket Launcher. The mechanics involved folding a cardboard launcher base and inserting it onto wooden legs (the base clicks into place).

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Travis helped push a dowel through, slide elastics onto the dowel, and insert a foam tip into the launcher tube.

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This tube then attached to the provided air pump and hose. Whew! Confused yet?

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Note: This pump did not stay attached to the launching tube well at all, which was vexing for both five-year-olds and grown-ups! I’m not sure if this was a flaw in Kiwi’s design, or an error on our part.

But now we needed to Build and Launch Rockets. Travis accordion-folded the provided tail fins.

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This fin is supposed to attach to the “rockets” (wide straws) with stickers, but the stickers were not very sticky and each rocket really only got one or two trips before it all starts to fall apart.

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Still, there was a moment of pure joy. These things flew high, as you can see in a quick video.

Alas, our rockets fell apart before we had time to play around with experiments, like adjusting the angle of our launching tube.

Next up it was time to Fly a Kite. Travis was so proud coloring his in, selecting which color should go where.

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I colored the second template. Fold these along the dotted lines, until the two dotted line parts are touching (hopefully this visual helps).

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We secured with the provided clear stickers in our kit.

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Use clear stickers to add a straw along the top, and then attach one of the provided ribbon tails with more clear stickers.

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Finally, thread the provided string through the hole in the bottom of the kite.

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It turns out, there’s no need for wind with this kite. In fact, although it was beautiful when we took it outside on a windy day, the kite didn’t fare so well, and was quickly buffeted and tossed about.

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Inside, though, we could do more precise experiments. First, simply run with it! A faster run = a higher kite, but this was tough for my little guy. The kite flies straight because the tail weights it down. We played around by varying the length of the tail; it was more wobbly if we flew it with a shorter tail, and did spins all around if we took the tail off entirely.

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There were four additional ways to experiment with flight in the Explore magazine. To make a “helicopter,” we cut a rectangle from paper then cut a slit to the middle.

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Cut about an inch in toward the center in the top portion, on either side; fold in and secure with a paper clip. Fold down the two pieces in the other half of the paper, in opposite directions.

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Now toss in the air as high as you can; it whirls like a helicopter rotor!

To demonstrate the lift of an airplane wing, all you need to do is cut a long rectangle and place it against your lower lip. Blow and watch the end lift up…

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Next up: a flying straw! Cut two rectangles, one long and one short. Tape these into circles, and tape to either end of a straw.

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Hold the straw with the small circle in the front and launch.

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The circles catch the wind and create lift. For a fun comparison, we threw a plain old straw next to it, which immediately sinks to the ground.

Travis’s favorite by far was the balloon “rocket.” Cut a piece of string that can stretch between two walls, and tape on securely. Thread a straw onto the string.

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Blow up a balloon but don’t knot it! Travis held the balloon tightly closed while I taped it to our straw securely. Release and watch the “rocket” zoom along the string.

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This one needed quite a few repeats for my boy!

Finally, there was a tear-out paper airplane.

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Because Kiwi thinks of everything, there are flaps in the back of the plane that demonstrate how a real pilot uses flaps to control lift. Fold these down and… Boink! the paper airplane nose dives.

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Fold them up, and it flies higher and longer – wow!

Finally, we read two suggested books: How to Make a Plane by Martin Sodomka, and Flight School by Lita Judge.

In sum, there was great stuff in this kit, both artistic and scientific, but the kite and rockets didn’t hold up well after only a few flights.

Together Time

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Veronika is seven months old today! These little monthly birthdays are great moments to take stock as a parent; you can marvel at how far your baby has come, and also pause to think about what’s working and what maybe isn’t anymore.

To wit, Veronika’s bedtime routine has shifted considerably since she was a newborn (when, by “routine”, I mean there completely wasn’t one!)

Now, she has a set bedtime (6.30) which allows us as a family to decide how we want to spend that last hour before bed.

No matter what your routine looks like, I highly recommend making sure there are no phone calls and no visitors. Where is my phone during all of this? Charging and on silent!

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So first up, it’s time to eat a yummy dinner!

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Next up is bath and jammies.

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It’s okay to invite a stuffed animal friend over, of course.

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We pause to read a story. Veronika likes to help turn pages.

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Then she watches big brother take a bath – her dry tub makes a perfect play pen!

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And that first little tooth needs a brush!

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Then it’s lullabies and lights out.


Play with Finger People

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Well, here’s an activity that I thought would be adorable, but as it turns out… it terrified Veronika!

The idea was to make simple “people” on your fingertips, who can then interact with your baby. Draw eyes and a smile with pen.

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If you want, tape on a little bit of cotton ball hair. This one looked a bit like Mozart! Or perhaps Benjamin Franklin.

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One by one, hold your fingers and have them talk or interact with baby. You can have them say bye-bye and hello, or give each one a funny voice and a different name. It’s also a great way to sing the sing the Daddy Finger song, holding up each finger in turn (pointer = mommy, tall man = daddy, ring finger = brother, pinkie finger = sister).

But did Veronika enjoy it? Nope! Her face crumpled into a frown or – worse! – tears every time I popped up a finger. Her expression went from quiet alarm:

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To suspicion:

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To outright anger!

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Perhaps it was just too creepy to see mommy’s fingers talking. But if your baby likes this game, please share your success in the comments!