Solar Energy and Water

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This quick experiment seemed like a good way to illustrate the power of the sun for Travis, especially as he learns about how solar energy can power homes and more. Unfortunately our results weren’t spectacular, but perhaps you’ll have a more clear-cut outcome!

Set two cups of water on 2 pieces of paper, one white, and one black, somewhere that receives direct sunlight. Theoretically, the water on the black paper should warm up more quickly, as the black absorbs the sun’s heat, while the white reflects it.

Travis helped test this in two ways.

First, we tried ice cubes, expecting the one on the black paper’s water to melt faster.

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But oh no, our ice cubes might not have been the same size, because the white side melted more quickly!

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Next we tried a thermometer. We left the two cups of water to heat up in the sun for a few hours, then headed out with a thermometer to check.

Again, sadly, the results weren’t very pronounced. The black water might have been a degree or two warmer, but on our small dial, that was hard for Travis to appreciate.

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Either way, at least the experiment got him thinking, and he got a dose of science and a little sunshine in the morning!

Sticky Toys

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This cute game is a great way to test your baby’s “strength”. Veronika seemed to go wild for the slight effort involved, or perhaps just for the novelty of the way the toys were presented.

Use sticky contact paper or double-sided tape to cover part of the surface of a piece of cardboard.

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Arrange a few soft toys along the sticky surface and present to your little one. She immediately trotted over with interest.

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First Veronika seemed the most curious about the cardboard itself. She wanted to pick up the whole thing and wave it around.

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Then she seemed to become aware of the toys. I showed her how to lift one up – with a bit of effort – and stick it back on again. Note: You’ll notice that it helped to hold the cardboard in place for her with my feet!

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She was delighted when she gave a pull to ducky…

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…and was all grins for her big success one it was in her hands.

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In sum, an easy game that can entertain your baby for quite a while.

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Environmental Print

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In the final week of summer, Travis undertook a multi-part assignment to search for the print all around us: on food labels, on street signs, on toys, etc. Such words, known as “environmental print” can be great first sight words for pre-readers, and can encourage kids to learn!

So after concentrating on a letter a day for a little while, the idea now was for Travis to spot and notice full words.

Travis made a collection over a few days, pulling labels from food boxes at home and noticing signs around town.

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Great early sight words include STOP on a red hexagon, the “One Way” of a black and white arrows, or stores your child knows by name.

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Next up, I asked Travis to sort the print we had found. We had two main categories: street signs and food labels. Feel free to add multiple categories though, depending what your child has seen!

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A further great exercise was adding them to the pages of his Alphabet Dictionary.

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This was great both for recognizing the opening letter of each word and for sounding it out. He rightly noted that Fig Newmans could have gone on the “F” page or the “N” page!

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Finally,you can make a few “puzzles” by cutting some of the larger labels into pieces.

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If you are able to make copies of photos or have double of certain food labels, you could even turn it into a game of Memory.

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How else could your child play with “environmental print? Please share in the comments!

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Sight Word Tower

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It doesn’t seem possible, but summer is over and school starts tomorrow! That meant it was time to culminate Travis’s summer sight word practice with one final fun activity.

I wrote each word from our index cards onto the top of a paper cup.

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I challenged Travis to build the cups into towers – any way he chose! – but as he worked, he had to say the word on that cup.

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Not only was this a neat building challenge, but I was able to pinpoint which words still gave him pause.

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The activity is so simple but so beneficial, we’ll keep these cups on hand for the school year!

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Plus it became a race to see if he could blurt the correct word before the resident menace (baby sister) came over to knock down his towers.

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Tube Talk

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Sometimes the best games with babies require only the simplest tools; to wit, this adorable little activity for which you only need an empty toilet paper roll or two!

I spoke through one and called out Veronika’s name, and she eagerly trotted over. This was something she had to come see.

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I held the tube up to her ear and whispered a few words. She turned her head eager to see where the sound was coming from!

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Of course she wanted to hold one immediately. She babbled down into it, which changed the sound of her vocalizations somewhat.

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And of course nibbled on it.

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Finally, I held the tube against the bare skin of her arm and spoke into it, which meant my warm breath reached her skin. There were lots of giggles for that one!

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Develop Your Baby’s Taste Buds

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Veronika seems bored of the foods I’ve given her in varying combinations for the past few months. Today, it was time to test her taste buds! Some of these suggestions were items I wouldn’t have thought for a nine-month-old, but it turns out she could chew them just fine and loved quite a few!

The idea was to pair contrasts; think: something sweet with something savory, or something soft with something crunchy. This will help your baby discern differences in tastes and texture.

First we paired kiwi with Tofurky slices.

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The Tofurky was an instant hit! She ate nearly an entire slice. Kiwi she seemed confused by, perhaps too strongly citric.

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Next up was mango and Daiya cheddar cheese. Cheese, another food I wouldn’t have thought of this young, was also a huge hit.

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Then she nibbled happily on the mango for a while after.

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Finally, I paired a soft banana date square from a vegan bakery with a crunchy apple slice.

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She loved both, and had one in each fist for a while, alternating bites.

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In sum, this was a delightful taste test that expanded baby and mama’s sense of edible possibilities.

Baby Pull-Ups

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Veronika will not be contained these days! Not only is she crawling everywhere now, but this girl wants to stand.

Encouraging pull-ups is a great first step towards helping your baby stand, cruise, and walk. To help Veronika, today I placed toys up as tantalizing bait on the couch. She still needs a little boost…

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…but once she’s up she can stand and support her weight and play with the toys as a reward.

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She also loves putting the toys back up on the couch herself.

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This activity works equally well on any surface that is about chest-high on your baby, although be careful with hard surfaces like tables that have sharp corners.

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It won’t be long though before she’s pulling up solo!

Gallant Challenge: Kindness Bracelet

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After reading this month’s Gallant profile in Highlights magazine¬†about a young girl who sends bracelets around the world with the message to do a kind deed, Travis was inspired to make bracelets of his own!

We had a kit at home to make bead bracelets on shoelaces (which were glow-in-the-dark for added fun). Older kids might enjoy weaving friendship bracelets or something else a touch more complicated.

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As he worked, Travis brainstormed who might like to receive one of the bracelets. Perhaps a waiter at a restaurant, he decided. Or his upcoming bus driver for Kindergarten!

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And of course family members! When he finished the first one for his grandmother, he was so proud.

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He presented it to her and explained that now she could do a kind deed to pay it forward, in whatever way she chose.

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This was such a simple activity, but such a great way to get kids crafting and thinking about the chain of events that can spread good deeds in the world. Thanks Highlights!

Backyard BBQ Games

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It’s the last week of summer, and we’re making the most of it by spending time outdoors with family and friends! The following five games are ones we’ve planned to play all summer, ever since making the delicious trio of recipes¬†from Travis’s Backyard BBQ Raddish Kids crate. Whether you’re hosting an actual BBQ or just getting outside in the sunshine, here are a few fun games to try.

1. Egg Toss

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We made the game vegan with plastic eggs to toss as an alternative to hard-boiled eggs (try Egg & Spoon Race from International Playthings). Travis loved that the eggs could really crack open when we tossed them…

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And missed!

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2. Hot & Cold

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Hide an object (Note: the “hard-boiled eggs” from our egg toss were perfect) while one player closes his or her eyes. Players instruct the finder where the treasure is by noting if they are cold (far way) or boiling hot (close!).

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Travis enjoyed finding the item first, but then preferred to be the hider and guide me with his words.

3. Blind Taste Testing

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This is a fun one if your family has prepared a special summer meal together. I blindfolded Travis and had him sample some of our fresh-from-the-market veggies.

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He got them all right, even blindfolded! You can make this more challenging by far if you use sauces or spices for big kids, instead of the rather-obvious vegetables.

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4. Capture the “Foodie”

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This is just like Capture the Flag except you play with fruit pieces instead of flags! Good choices include items with peels, like oranges or bananas. See which team captures the other’s fruit first, and don’t get tagged and sent to jail (i.e. the steps) in the process

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Easily the favorite, Travis got a kick out of hiding his banana, and delighted when he could find the other team’s first.

Ideally you’ll need four players or more for this, but even two people can have fun and race to find the other person’s “foodie” first.

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5. Restaurant Relay Race

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For this silly game, we loaded a tray with plastic cups, forks, and fake picnic food. See who runs the fastest without dropping something along the way. Travis thought this was quite hilarious.

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Which of the BBQ games is your child’s favorite? Please share in the comments!

Summer Water with Baby

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Recently, I posted a round-up of fun field trips to take with the under-one-year-old set before the summer is out. Here’s a second round-up featuring a few water-centered ideas that – yes! – you can do with a baby.

Turn on the sprinkler:

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This is an easy one! Just head out to your yard or driveway, and set a sprinkler going. Bonus points for silly ones! Just dipping in baby’s toes is sure to elicit laughter or surprised little squeals.

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Find a water fountain:

Many parks have pretty fountains, which you can stop off at after a walk or playground play. In addition to being fun just to watch (splashy water!) you can quickly dip in baby’s toes for a cool off on a hot day.

Hit the beach:

I was worried about Veronika eating fistfuls of sand, so avoided the beach for much of the summer. But it turns out there’s a way to take even an everything-in-the-mouth nine-month-old to the beach safely.

First, bring shade. You’ll still want to slather your little one with sunscreen, but a large umbrella offers extra protection.

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Don’t forget to pack wipes, swim diapers, a change of dry diaper and clothes, plastic bags (for trash or wet clothing), and a nice sunhat.

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And toys!

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Beaches are the perfect place for a nap, so don’t worry about baby missing out on key shut-eye.

Once she was awake, first she wanted to play on a big beach towel.

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Then we took Veronika down to the water’s edge. Choose a beach with gentle water, whether that means a harbor, sound, lake, or other sandy stretch with few to no waves. She could happily sit and let the tiny waves lap at her toes.

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She did like digging her hands into the water and sand, but she only tried one nibble, which I easily diverted.

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In sum, I have no more fear about babies and beaches!

How have you and your baby played with water this summer? Please share in the comments!