Classic Beating on Pots & Pans

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Today I needed to keep Veronika occupied while baking banana bread, so I pulled out an old classic: a kitchen percussion set made from pots and pans.

For novelty, though, I made today’s focus less about the musical element and more about sensory play. I provided her with several different types of baking ware: a saucepan, a muffin tin, and a loaf pan. We started out drumming with bare hands, and I drew her attention to the sound this made.

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Then I set out a variety of implements to be drum sticks, everything from spatulas to wooden spoons to cookie scoops.

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Look for a variety of materials in your kitchen; we had soft silicone, wood, metal, and more. I sat with Veronika and asked her about the different sounds she was hearing. She grinned up at me and tested them all!

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When I showed her how to swirl the whisk in a muffin cup or saucepan, she was an eager mimic.

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You can also make piles and see how this changes the sounds around. If the loaf pan was on top of the muffin pan, it sounded different (more metallic) than when it sat alone on the floor.

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Once our little sensory lesson was done, Veronika kept busy by herself as mommy finished up the banana bread. A win-win!

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Cruise Control

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Veronika loves pulling up these days, anywhere and everywhere, and is making those first moves towards walking. To safely encourage those first few steps, one great practice area is a cruising station!

I lined up a few child-sized chair in our kitchen, with the backs securely against a cabinet so they couldn’t tip. I started Veronika at one end and placed a tantalizing toy on the other end, hoping to encourage her to side-step.

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It turned out she was way more interested in the circular back of the chair where I had started her than in the toy!

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So thinking quickly, I reversed her and started her on the other end. Now she had incentive…

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She moved her hands…

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…and then her little feet followed. Soon she had the gist of it, and arrived at her goal so proudly.

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Success!

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Eventually, I did put the toy back on the other chair, and this time she knew how to side-step on over.

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This game was a fantastic success for gross motor development, and enjoyable to boot.

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Banana Bread

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This nut-free banana bread is sweetened with agave and applesauce and has no added oil. Perfect for babies and toddlers, in other words, but big kids love it, too!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance butter
  • 2 tablespoons thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 ripe bananas
  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, 1 tablespoon baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  2. Pour the applesauce into a large bowl and stir in the remaining baking powder. Whisk in the butter, apple juice, agave, and vanilla.
  3. Mash the bananas in a bowl and add to the applesauce mixture.
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.
  5. Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean.

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Barbecue Tofu and Quinoa

Barbecue TofuVeronika’s taste buds are expanding rapidly and now I can cook her dishes with a little spice! A homemade barbecue sauce makes this one nice and mild.

Ingredients:

  • 1 (1-pound) package extra firm tofu
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup diced cremini mushrooms
  • 1 small diced red bell pepper
  • 1 small diced onion
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa
  1. Cut the tofu into cubes; set aside.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the tofu and cook for 3 minutes.
  3. Add the mushrooms, bell pepper, and onion; cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, whisk together the soy sauce, ketchup, and agave in a small bowl. Add to the skillet and cook for a final 5 minutes.
  5. Serve over quinoa, or alongside it if your children prefer. This is also nice over a quinoa-brown rice mix!

I Spot

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Recently I played a fun game with Veronika just before bed flashing colors through scarves. Tonight, we put the flashlight to a different use!

Simply walk around and shine the light on various objects in your child’s room (or elsewhere in the house). For each item, say in a soft voice, “I spot a…”

I spot the light switch.

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I spot a treasure box.

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And so on. Sometimes, Veronika wanted to hold the flashlight and help. I spot a clock.

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Sometimes she wanted to reach out and touch, and sometimes just look. I spot an apple.

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This can easily become a cherished routine; if you repeat items nightly, it will reinforce the names of familiar and treasured items, and can also help lull your baby. Veronika loves it!

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Sleepy Stretches

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Uh oh, Veronika is reaching that age where babies begin to resist naps; the world is just so much fun, mom, why would I sleep, she seems to say until I conk her out in a car ride.

But car rides aren’t always practical or feasible, and having a little routine like this poem can become a cue for baby that it’s time to rest. I sat with Veronika and first acted out this poem:

Stretch up high, as high as a tree (reach arms above head).

Curl up as small as a bumble bee (curl up with arms wrapped around knees).

Now we’re feeling very sleepy (yawn!).

Relax your hands, relax your feet (go limp).

Now close your eyes and go fast asleep (rest cheek on hands).

Then I lay her down and helped her act through the motions.

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She seemed to get the idea that we were relaxing her body.

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At bedtime, we repeated the routine. This time, big brother helped act out the movements, and Veronika did her first deliberate reach up high!

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This might not have settled her down, but it certainly was a milestone. The kids are looking a little sleepy…

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What’s your go-to bedtime routine? Please share in the comments!

Gallant Challenge: Endangered Animal Art

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Travis is inspired every time he reads the profile on Gallant Kids in his Highlights magazine. This month’s read was about a girl who paints pictures of endangered animals and sends the proceeds from her sales to charities that aid animals. We loved the idea, and immediately decided to make some pictures of our own.

Because Travis loves snakes, we looked up which species have populations that are decreasing or at risk.

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First, Travis drew a pit viper.

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He was so proud of the colors he blended together and immediately wanted to draw more snakes.

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Pretty soon, he had an “art gallery” wall filled with a snake pictures, featuring everything from a yellow-horned lancehead snake…

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…to mom and baby tropical forest snakes.

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Obviously Travis won’t be making money from these little drawings, but I loved how proud he was, how the activity got him thinking about conservation and protecting animals, and how it challenged his artistic skills as he thought hard about how a snake’s body and head should appear on the page.

 

Developmental Bath Toys

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It can be hard to keep Veronika in one place long enough to “learn” from her toys these days (think: shape sorters and stacking rings). One great option for babies who just won’t sit still is to take advantage of a bathtub’s confined quarters. This makes bath time ideal for developmental learning and play!

I found a tub-safe shape sorter on Amazon and brought that to the bath, along with her plastic stacking ring set.

The shape sorter was an enormous hit! Whereas in her playroom she’ll fiddle around with the shapes for a moment and then lose interest, now she was fixed in front of the shape sorter.

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She spent quite some time trying to insert the circle into the square. Hmm, that didn’t work. I showed her the circle space. Tada! She was fascinated and wanted to play over and over.

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As a bonus, tub toys like this often have water wheel or pouring features, which further engaged Veronika.

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The stacking rings were also novel in the tub. She usually just likes to pull the rings off the center post, but now she had the time and incentive to stack the rings on.

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For any toys like this, keep up the dialogue as baby plays: shapes, colors, relative sizes. There is so much you can say!

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As an added bonus, all these fun toys kept my little imp from trying to pull up on the side of the slippery tub… but that’s a topic for another day!

Copycat Doing Dishes

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I posted recently about how much Veronika enjoys being my mimic with chores these days. One fantastic option that involves water play, mimicry, the joy of banging items together, and so much more, is simply to copy you with dishes.

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Any little toy dishes or tea set would work fine for this game (or even unbreakable pieces from your kids’ cutlery and Tupperware drawer). But Veronika has a little dish set complete with a drying rack that helped her be even more like mommy!

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I filled a shallow bin with water and added a squirt of soap; use tear-free baby wash instead of real dish soap. First, I showed her how to scrub the dishes.

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She loved reaching her hands in and splashing, and adding the dishes to swish them around.

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Utensils were especially fun, especially for pretending they were rhythm sticks to tap together.

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Once she tired of that, I showed her how to towel things dry with a cloth, another great opportunity for mimicry. She loved the cloth and played with it for quite some time on the floor.

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And believe it or not, there as no mess, since I had the whole game set up on a beach towel that went right into the laundry.

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So perhaps this is the perfect activity while you clean up for real after cooking baby a recipe.

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Snack Animals

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Independence is so crucial to kindergartners, and I have loved watching Travis’s confidence grow since school began only a month ago. Now, he wants to do all the little steps himself each day, from buttoning shirts to buckling his backpack. Being able to serve themselves drinks and snacks is also key for kids’ independence at this age, so we created this adorable snack animal to keep easy snacks at hand!

To start, remove the lid from an empty oatmeal canister, and trace twice on cardboard. Note: I found an old cereal box easier than stiffer cardboard packaging for tracing and cutting out. That said, it means your final animal won’t be quite as sturdy and might sit on your counter instead of standing!

Draw legs below each circle and cut out; these will be the front and back of your animal.

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Travis decided we should turn ours into a cow, but really any animal will work! Highlights magazine also suggested a pig or a deer.

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For the cow, we painted the legs white with black spots.

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I cut an additional shape to be the cow’s head, which we glued to one of the circles.

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Don’t forget to paint the canister, too, which received its own coat of white paint and black dots.

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Once the paint dries, glue the head piece to the lid of the canister. Glue the back legs to the back of the canister.

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Let the glue dry, then stuff with treats! You can also add yarn for a tail, depending which animal you choose. Pink would have been cute on the pig version!

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As noted, our cow kneels down a bit, but Travis loves that he can help himself to an afternoon treat.

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