Express Emotions

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Veronika had a tough day today. My hunch is because of teething, or perhaps a Wonder Week, but sometimes babies just have fussy days and we as parents just ride them out.

But it was a good reminder to focus on emotions, not just teaching her the positive ones, but also giving her words for the sad ones. So today, when I felt happy (or Veronika did), I made a big show of it on my own face.

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And when she was sad, I mirrored that. “You’re feeling sad,” I commiserated.

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You can do the same throughout the day (or any day!) with surprised, angry, scared, tired, or any other emotion that crosses your baby’s face. Here she is a bit worried by loud noises.

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If you’re looking for inspiration, flip through some children’s magazines or books together and point out the various emotions.

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Either way, it’s healthy for your little one to learn about all these emotions. And maybe a happy face in a book will cheer Veronika up!

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Summer Baby Field Trips

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If it’s your baby’s first summer, you may be hesitant to get out and about in the heat. But here are a few of my suggestions for places that – yes! – you can take baby. Veronika is 9 months old for all of the ideas below, but you can adapt them for your child from birth on up.

Head to the Pool:

Ideally, there will be a kiddie area with shallow water where you and your baby can sit together. Worst case scenario, camp out on the shallowest step.

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Veronika loved hanging out here, kicking her feet and dipping her hands in the water. Bigger kids brought her a few pool toys, which made fantastic teething rings.

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Tips: Make sure to stay in the shade as soon as you’re out of the water and dried off, and come prepared with plastic baggies (for wet bathing suits), swim diapers, regular diapers, a change of clothes, and snacks or milk (depending on age).

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If you’re inclined to go deeper, take baby in your arms to swish around; babies love this feeling of weightlessness.

Butterfly Garden:

We stopped by a small butterfly garden that’s been in our local area for almost 30 years. The wonder in Veronika’s eyes was immediate as she watched the butterflies swirl and dance above her.

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One landed on her shoulder and it was pure magic. She looked over at me after watching this one, as if to make sure I saw it too.

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She also loved just touching the plants and bright flowers.

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There are so many colors and scents for a baby in this experience! Just make sure you help keep little fingers away from the delicate insects themselves.

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Tips: Go early (right at opening is ideal!). Many places like this will host camp groups in the summer, and I wanted her to marvel at the butterflies without lots of kids in the way. We were lucky to share the room with only two other families.

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Also, consider leaving the stroller behind. She was much more into it when she was out where she could swivel her head and take in the butterflies from all directions.

Admire New Construction:

Big trucks are fascinating to babies and for good reason! There’s noise, there’s movement, there’s lifting, there’s digging. Veronika and I stopped by a local street that’s been under construction all season. There goes whirly swirly cement truck!

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She had no idea what was coming around the corner, but grinned once she saw this bulldozer go by.

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Tips: If the noise is too loud for your little one, consider standing far back, or investing in Baby Banz.

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There will still be plenty of movement and excitement to observe from far back, without overwhelming the senses. Also, try to go on a day that’s not too hot, or when you can be in the shade, since construction sites tend to be sun-drenched dusty places.

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Botanical Garden:

Don’t think your baby will be bored in a place with no toys; as with the butterfly garden, the draw here is for all the senses.

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There are bold colors to take in visually; the feel of wind on hair or sunshine on skin or grass on toes; and of course the smell of pretty flowers.

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Many botanical gardens can be overwhelmingly large, so either find a small one or stick to a small area.

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If allowed, lay down a picnic blanket and spread out a few toys or books to read together and make a little afternoon of it.

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Tips: Just because you’re not at a pool or beach, don’t forget a big sunhat and sunscreen. Also make sure to bring along bug spray, especially if garden trails lead through wooded or shady areas.

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Animal Fun:

I don’t take my kids to zoos, but I love exposing Veronika to animals through local sanctuaries. Although we’ve visited such farms in the past, today she was very alert and focused on the animal’s behavior. She loved watching the chickens and roosters.

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Their crowing startled her a little, but she was fascinated watching them take dirt baths or roost up high.

She also loved the cows! For each animal we marveled at, I reminded her of their noises. “Moo moo!”

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The sheep were enjoying a morning munch on grass, which she seemed to love.

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There’s lots of great ways to expose your baby to new vocabulary on a trip like this, too. Barns and tractors come to life, instead of being abstracts in a board book!

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Tips: Go in the morning. Animals will be more active before the hottest part of the day, and your baby will notice movements more than sleeping animals.

Where have you taken your baby this summer? Please share in the comments!

Faces of the Moon

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If you’re looking for the most delicious way under the sun (er, moon!) to teach your kid the names for all the moon’s different phases, this quick lesson plan from Raddish Kids has you covered. Hint: It involves Oreo cookies.

But before I let Travis eat cookies, we focused on a little moon information. I asked Travis what he pictured when he thought about the sky; he came up with ‘blue’ and ‘clouds’. Two great daytime picks! But what about focusing on the nighttime sky, I asked him.

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We watched two quick background videos on moon phases¬†and I also made him a chart (which earned a “thanks Mom!”). This was his first introduction to some great science words, like waxing, waning, and gibbous.

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Now it was time to show him the moon phases with three neat projects.

To make the first, a moon phase viewer, cut a black rectangle from construction paper. Fold the paper in half and open back up again. Cut a white square from white construction paper that fits in the folded black rectangle, leaving a long tab on either end so you can pull the white paper side to side.

Trace a coin on the black paper, pressing firmly so the imprint is visible on the white paper below as well. Cut out both circles.

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Now line up your viewer and slide the white paper to see it change from gibbous to half to crescent to new and back again!

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For the second moon viewer, you’ll need two plastic cups. Glue or tape a yellow circle onto black construction paper and insert into one plastic cup; tape into place.

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On the second cup, label a place for full, waning half, new, and waxing half moons. Now rotate your yellow circle and color over it with black sharpie as appropriate to form each moon phase, leaving the full moon with no sharpie. Travis loved spinning this one!

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The third version is where he had the real fun! I set out eight cookies (we like Newman O’s) on a diagram and it was Travis’s job to scrape the right amount of frosting off each to form the eight phases.

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Needless to say, there was much nibbling along with the scraping!

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I had to help him with some of the trickier ones (gibbous, crescents), but he was a pro at half and new moon.

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We finished off with a read of The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons.

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Consider making craters in a clay moon if your kids want to continue the fun!

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