Plan a Treat

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Today’s blog activity wasn’t for Veronika; it was for mommy and daddy!

It’s so important to remember to do something special for yourself now and then, whether that means connecting with a partner over a night out on the town, or having friends in for a movie.

A local “speakeasy” with inventive cocktails was on the menu, while grandparents kept watch.

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It was the best feeling to return and hear that Veronika didn’t make a peep but we got to sneak in some grown-up time. My best suggestion for a night like this is to keep the conversation away from the kids; focus on you.

If you don’t have a grandparent nearby who can babysit but the cost of babysitters is prohibitive, one other great idea is a babysitting circle. You can join an app, or simply watch a friend’s kids one night and they watch yours the next. And everyone gets to enjoy a treat!

Hand Over Hand

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This little game can be played anywhere, and is sure to have your baby giggling!

The idea is simple: Place your hand down, palm facing down, and encourage your baby to cover it with his or her hand. Then continue piling hands. Pull out your hand from the bottom and now it goes on top. Surprise!

It may be easiest to play first with another grown-up or a sibling so baby can see the idea.

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Then Veronika wanted a turn! It’s this kind of simple entertainment that is sometimes the best.Hand over Hand (1)

Game Day Guacamole

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It was a lazy football Sunday for us today, and that meant whipping up a batch of game day guac! Kids will love scooping avocado flesh from the peels and mashing everything up!


  • 3 ripe avocados
  • 1 tomato
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 lime
  1. Cut the avocados in half and pit. Spoon the flesh into a bowl.Game Day Guac (2)
  2. Mash with a potato masher.Game Day Guac (3)
  3. Core and chop the tomato; add to the bowl along with the cilantro.
  4. Cut the lime in half and squeeze over the avocado mixture, stirring to combine

Serve with tortilla chips of course.

While shopping for ingredients, we also took the opportunity to hunt for iconic fall harvest foods.

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Travis helped spot pumpkins, pears, apples, and more.

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It can also be interesting to point out items that aren’t in season, a quick lesson for kids on modern grocery stores versus traditional seasonal foods.

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Game on!

Football Math Touchdown

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This math-heavy lesson from Raddish Kids was a little tough to tailor to a kindergartner, but I appreciated the challenge, and that Raddish had us thinking about new concepts and skills. We’re excited to make more ballpark fare to go along with the learning!

The lesson begins with brainstorming a list of sports. I put white poster board up on the wall just like a teacher and gave Travis a big sports-couch-voice, “Go!” He soon had a great list.

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I told him today we would focus on football, and went through some of the facts that Raddish provided. Did you know that the first official football game was all the way back in 1869? We watched a quick overview of the rules and took a look at all the gear players have to wear.

Pause a moment and make a second chart with your child, focusing on what we learn from losing and what we learn from winning. I was proud of Travis coming up with items like, “You learn not to cheat” and “not getting upset when you lose”.

Now go over a bit of football facts and figures (6 points for a touchdown, 3 points for a field goal etc.) and set up some math problems with manipulatives. We used dried beans, and I talked Travis through three problems. First up, addition:

If the Dallas Cowboys scored 2 touchdowns and 2 extra points, how many points did they have altogether?

Travis counted out 6 beans for each touchdown, plus the extra two, then added them all up. This is a sophisticated problem for a kindergartner, and I don’t think he even realized it!

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We next did subtraction:

Last night the Kansas City Chiefs lost to the New York Jets by a score of 7 to 10. How many fewer points did the Chiefs have?

Again, manipulatives made it a cinch. He counted out each team’s score in beans, then took away 7 from the Jets pile. How many were left? “Three!” he declared.

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Finally, fractions:

If there are 4 quarters in a game and 2 have been played, how many are left?

Beans made the answer clear.

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After that big brain workout, we needed a physical one! We played two fun variations on “football” that we found online, adapting them to be a mom-and-son game instead of requiring teams. For the first, I set up a yoga mat as the end zone. His job was to get as many balls as possible into the end zone in 1 minute.

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For the second, he stood on a target (we used stacking rings) and had to catch a ball. If he caught it, he moved the target to his end zone for a point.

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We even had an adorable cheerleader on the sidelines!

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Finish up with a football read at storytime. Travis enjoyed A Running Back Can’t Always Rush, by Nate LeBoutillier

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Poster Board Puzzles

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These giant puzzles are a cinch to make and just hard enough to put together. On other words, super fun.

On a large piece of poster board, draw any puzzle picture you and your kids like. I kept one simple for Travis with a heart shape in the middle and a squiggle around the outer edge.

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He drew on the second piece of poster board, and I reminded him he’d need cues to know which pieces lined up where (and eventually added the circle in the center).

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Draw 5 or 6 big lines from the outer edge to the center; cut along these lines to make your puzzle pieces.

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Now put it all back together again! Travis was so pleased seeing his drawing line up.

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Some of the pieces neededto be turned and fiddled, and then success.

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You’ll notice that little sister Veronika loved the giant pieces of poster board and watching it all take shape! Feel free to give younger siblings a marker for scribbling, too, as long as you’re sure they’ll keep the ink on the big poster board pieces.

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I had one happy scribbler, and one proud puzzle solver!

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Little Helper

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Veronika’s at that delightful age, just shy of one year, when babies want to be your little helper. Ever notice how toddlers toddle over to clean up much more readily than your big kid? Yup! Take advantage of this moment to model “please” and “thank you”, and hopefully to set the stage for good habits.

I noticed it today while folding laundry; Veronika was so eager to help me put the socks in the laundry bin.

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Don’t harp over the fact that socks are unpaired or washcloths unfolded, just accept the help! With each item in, I gave her a big thank you. “Can you please put the socks in the bin?” I asked her. Yes indeed!

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Another great opportunity was at meal time.

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“Can I please have your cup?” I asked her, instead of simply taking it from her when she looked finished.

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She handed it over with a big smile.

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How do you teach your baby manners? Please share in the comments!

Chickpea, Carrot & Cauliflower Mash

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This three ingredient dish makes a hearty meal for babies and toddlers.


  • 2 carrots
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 (15-ounce) drained and rinsed can chickpeas
  1. Cut the carrots into half moon shapes. Combine with the cauliflower and steam until very tender.
  2. Add the chickpeas and veggies to a large bowl and mash with a potato masher to desired consistency. You can thin it with 1/4 cup vegetable broth if it still seems too chunky, but Veronika thought it was just right without.

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Homemade Playdough

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If you’re excited for your baby to play with playdough but don’t like the ingredients in the store-bought stuff, look no further. This easy no-cook dough comes together so quickly I could whip it up before the morning school bus!

In a big bowl, stir together 3 cups flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup salt, 1 cup cold water, 2 teaspoons food coloring, and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

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Stir to form a dough, then turn out onto a surface and knead until it comes together and feels like playdough. I found it helpful to divide the dough into four smaller portions during this step.

It was time for Veronika to play! We sat down on the floor and I showed her the dough. She seemed hesitant to touch it at first!

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I made a few shapes for her, showing her how to roll it into balls or snakes, or how to pay it into flat discs.

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She got into the action a little tentatively, but with smiles.

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Then of course she wanted to lick it. Uh oh, yucky!

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Luckily the high salt content means even the most curious kids won’t take more than a sample.

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Have fun making animals and name them for your baby. We had snakes and perhaps a green frog or two. The playdough will keep in an airtight container or bag for about 1 week. Next time we’ll try a different color.

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Want a more fall-themed version for your baby? My all-time favorite homemade playdough is pumpkin pie scented.

Geometric Refrigerator Magnets

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We now officially have tangrams all over the house, whether felt versions to make in the playroom or this handy set for the fridge!

Travis loved making the magnets. You can purchase sheets of magnetic paper at the craft store with a sticky backing on the other side. We printed out and colored tangram shapes, and simply stuck these onto the sticky side.

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Travis was fascinated with how it worked: where was the magnet? he wanted to know. How did the shapes stick?

Cut out your shapes (this was a lot of cutting for mama!) and transfer to the fridge.

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At first Travis just played with them and made up his own designs.

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For a challenge, print out a few tangram shapes and set your child loose. Bigger kids can work with just the outline; younger kids can rely on the answer code at the end of the pdf.

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Now when I hear those whines of, “Is dinner ready yet?” I set him loose to solve a tangram at the fridge. Built-in kitchen entertainment!

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Think Outside the Gender Toy Box

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I’ve always tried to give my children toys that are gender neutral, especially as babies and toddlers. Partly this is by accident; there is nothing inherently gendered about many fantastic baby toys, including stacking rings, farm animal sets, building blocks, and textured books. Partly it’s by design; as a gender studies major, I had strong beliefs about not gendering my children’s play, especially with my eldest.

But the gendered toys do happen, and thus we’ve accumulated “boy toys” over the years for Travis: cars and trucks, big construction vehicles, and action figures (oh boy the action figures).

Today, I let Veronika have at this “boy” play bin! Not only was this a fantastic way to swap up her toys (something I recommend regularly in any playroom), but Veronika had no idea the toys were gendered and was quite simply thrilled to have her brother’s things. As an eleven-month-old just starting to enjoy imaginative play, it’s a great time for a swap like this.

First up, lots of vrooming! Veronika likes to scoot boxes or toy telephones around on the floor with a “vvvv” sound, so I knew these would be a hit.

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No sooner did I place down a police car and firetruck then she was off. “Vroom!”

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We added in a few smaller cars and trucks on the town playmat, and there was lots of happy scooting for quite some time.

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Then I gave her two superheroes (if your baby is under three, choose wisely, as many have small parts; a big Spiderman and Superman were perfect). She was thrilled!

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Spiderman and Superman had no idea what hit them. This little lady wanted to play for ages. She twirled them around, carried them around, put them in trucks, you name it.

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Other fun options for “boy” toys included a train…

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…and a rocketship.

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So whether you’re giving your little girl “boy toys” or your little boy “girl toys” (dolls, tea sets), mix it up today! Chances are your baby will have a blast.