Expanding Star

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We’re on a roll with toothpick tricks around here! This one has a nice patriotic feel to it, so might be fun to save for a holiday. But it was equally neat on a chilly September morning!

You can use plain toothpicks, but for that stars-and-stripes feel, I colored a few toothpicks with red and blue marker.

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Snap five toothpicks in half, but don’t break them all the way through; you now have five V shapes.

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Arrange the Vs on a paper plate so they are touching. For a little added red and blue fun, we dripped a few drops of food coloring around the plate.

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Use a pipette to drip water directly in the center of the toothpicks – excellent for fine motor skills.

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Travis was amazed as his star began expanding outward.

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“It’s still growing!” he marveled. The star stopped after that, but then there was lots of fun to be had dripping water over our food coloring to make big blobs, and mixing it all together.

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Root Veggies for Baby

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Root vegetables are fantastic nutritionally for little ones, and if prepared correctly, there’s no need to worry about these sometimes-tough veggies as a choking hazard. The secret is to make them soft and warm and homey; they’re perfect for impending fall weather, in sum!

Chickpeas and Carrots

Chickpea Carrot

Pulse 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas in a food processor until crumbly or smooth, depending on desired consistency. Stir together with 4 ounces carrot puree.

Chick’n and Parsnip Dinner

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Cook 4 Gardein chick’n strips according to package direcitions; finely mince.

Meanwhile, peel and chop 2 small parsnips. Cover with water and bring to a boil; continue to cook for about 15 minutes, until tender. Mash with a potato masher. Serve alongside the chicken, or stir the chicken pieces into the mashed parsnip. I also added a tiny bit of Earth Balance butter to this to make the parsnips creamier.

Roasted Rutabaga and Pear

Rutabaga Pear

Peel and chop 2 small pears and 1 rutabaga. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 30 minutes, or until very tender. You can serve in strips, but Veronika preferred them mashed up together, which helps sweetened the rutabaga.

Rutabaga Pear

Mashed Turnip and Sweet Potato

Sweet Potato Turnip

Peel and cube 1 small sweet potato and 2 small turnips. Cover with water and bring to a boil; cook for 20 minutes, until very tender. Mash and serve!

Veronika likes this one alongside refried beans or lentils!

Textured Sensory Wall

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This sensory wall is so easy to throw together, but your baby or toddler will love it! Adjust the height accordingly; for Veronika, I placed the wall low to the ground so she could manipulate items while sitting. For older toddlers, make it chest height so they can cruise along as they practice walking!

I taped four pieces of colored construction paper in a square on the wall to begin: visual stimulation!

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Cover the construction paper with contact paper, sticky side out, and secure with tape. Now you can cover the sticky surface with whatever you like! Large pom poms, curly ribbons, and jar lids were all items that I had on hand that worked well.

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I showed Veronika how to pull an item off and place it back on again.

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She took to it right away, and surprised me with the objects she gravitated towards. I thought she’d love the pom poms, but jar lids were ab igger hit.

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Talk about all the colors with your little one, or the crinkly sounds the riibbon makes, or the different textures.

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Later, I added a few instant camera pictures for her. She loved peeling these off from the sticky surface.

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And even was able to stick them back on!

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Leave the wall up over the course of a day (or more!) and let your child return to it; you might notice him or her interacting with it different ways.

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Stuck Together

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What’s the most adorable kind of sandwich? A baby sandwich of course! Engage siblings and other family members in this game that is sure to have everyone giggling.

Have two older children or adults sit back-to-back, leaving a slight gap in between their bodies. Daddy and big brother Travis were happy participants!

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We encouraged Veronika to crawl through the gap between them. It took a few tries before we kept her from veering off toward anything that caught her eye; a few crinkly toys as bait didn’t hurt.

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Once she was in the tunnel between them: squeeze! Travis and daddy pushed back to “trap” her between them, for one big snuggly Veronika sandwich.

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As an alternative, have the big kid/grown-up players start with no space between their bodies, and see if baby wants to wedge open the gap.

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Games like this might seem silly, but they’ll encourage bonding. Travis loves that Veronika is finally old enough to truly play!