Go to the Fair

Fair goats

It’s been a while since I posted a suggested field trip for your baby, but with the season of fall festivals upon us, I remembered: the fair!

Although the under-age-one set will be too young for any rides, there is so much else to see and do at a fair. Veronika loved watching her big brother play all the games to start, under crisp fall sunshine.

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She delighted in the baby goats and other animals to see and feel, and got to take in the sights, sounds, and smells listening to music over a picnic table lunch.

Fall festivals often include family-friendly fare like hay rides, pumpkin patches, and more. So get out there and enjoy before the season is over!


All Kinds of Balls

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Travis and I are about to launch into his Game Day-themed kit from Raddish Kids, featuring a trio of recipes perfect for this time of year. Whether your family loves Sunday football, World Series baseball, or simply watching a local game of youth soccer in the park, there’s no better season for sports and eats!

It seemed fitting, then, to start off with this fun lesson plan on all kinds of balls, and namely: why some bounce and some don’t.

First, we needed to brainstorm a list of balls. I gave Travis a definition of the term: coming up with ideas in a safe space where all ideas are welcome and together we made a quick list. I guided him towards actual sports after his first few ideas were more descriptive (squishy balls, hard balls).

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We went through and talked about which was the biggest (basketball!) smallest (ping pong!) and most colorful (tennis!). Now it was time to watch how some of these were made.

Raddish included links for everything from a soccer ball to a baseball. We added in an old favorite video: check out the bowling ball factory┬ánine minutes in (come for the bowling ball, stay for the jaw-dropping domino demonstration). Travis adores “how-it’s-made” videos like this and was a rapt audience.

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Now it was time to experiment with balls! Relying on what we had around the house, we gathered them into a pile and added a long yardstick.

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Bounce each ball and measure which goes the highest. Our clear winner was a squash ball (36 inches!) while others were duds like the soccer ball and baseball (about 9 or 10 inches).

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This prompted us to talk about why some balls were bouncy, and others not meant to be. (You can guide kids to think about how soccer balls are kicked, baseballs hit, etc., rather than meant to bounce).

For older kids, get into the specifics of kinetic energy here. The lesson was a bit over Travis’s head, but he did like watching a ball bounce in slow motion. We also tried experimenting with which balls bounced best in a certain direction but since all our balls were round (we couldn’t find our football) they all easily went into a target.

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Finally, we bounced them on a wood floor versus carpet, to observe any differences.

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Now for the best part: we made our own ball! Pour 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon borax into a clear cup and stir until the borax dissolves.

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In a second cup, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons glue, and a few drops of food coloring. Travis chose a red ball.

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Add the glue mixture to the borax mixture. Your ball will start to firm up immediately. I worked the ball with my hands, dipping back into the borax as needed, until we had a nice round ball. Note: it is safe to touch Borax, but do remind your kids no matter their age that it is inedible.

Travis gave our ball a bounce – it worked!

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For some final fun, we painted with balls. Roll small balls like golf or ping pong ones in cups of paint.

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Place on a sheet of construction paper in a box. You can close the box and shake it, but Travis preferred to move the ball around with a chopstick.

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We finished with a few fun ball reads including: Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst and Goodnight Football by Michael Dahl.

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Board of Curiosities

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Although I’d never heard of them before, there is apparently a genre of Montessori busy boards featuring tactile items for toddlers to lift, open, spin, twist, turn, and otherwise manipulate, which are quite popular. These boards are not cheap (some of the more bespoke ones on Etsy run upwards of $150!) but you can purchase a relatively cheap alternative at sites like Amazon.

If you’re feeling truly crafty, make your own from upcycled items around the house – a doorbell, an old latch, a panel to lift – and attach securely to a wooden or fiberboard frame. The key is things your baby can manipulate to hone those fine motor skills.

I wasn’t feeling that crafty, so did opt for a mid-priced version from the store. And Veronika loved it! As she played, I used verb words to talk about her actions. She could spin…

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….open or unlatch…

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And more! Her favorite turned out to be a little button.

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Although not actually an old doorbell, every time she switched the button from one position to the other I said, “Ding dong!”

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As you can tell from her smile, this was a huge hit.

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The “busy” part of these boards is that they can keep your little one occupied while you do other things around the house.

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A win-win!

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Tangram Toast

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Travis had a tricky time of it with tangram puzzles recently, so I made things a little more accessible in the best way possible: edible tangrams!

Toast slices of bread first until nice and crispy, making as many as you’d like for the project. Cut into shapes as shown:

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In a bowl, stir together 1/2 cup softened Earth Balance butter, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 4 tablespoons sugar. Travis loved mixing all this up!

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Through trial-and-error, we found it easiest to make the tangrams while the toast was plain, otherwise our fingers got messy (as we learned while designing a slightly-lopsided house).

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So instead, we spread the cinnamon butter on after, but first Travis helped design a rocket…

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…and what could this jumble be?

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Aha a bird!

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After the puzzling, he was so proud I gave him a real butter knife to spread our cinnamon-sugar mixture over his own toast pieces.

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He proudly served up triangles, squares, and trapezoids. This was a great way to get kids puzzling while thinking it’s just a messy fun snack!

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