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Veronika is walking! Okay, maybe my girl can’t do so on her own yet, but holding on to her dolly stroller, nothing stands in her way.

To add some sensory fun to her new-found ability, I laid down a texture obstacle course for her today. Gather up a variety of different materials in your house and lay them in a line on the floor. Beginning walkers can simply toddle across. For Veronika, I set up her stroller at one end, and she instantly began pushing her way across.

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There was a soft fluffy blanket to start…

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…and then her little feet passed onto the nubby texture of a rubber floor mat.

I added in variety with cozy flannel and a velvet-like dress-up cape.

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Perhaps most surprising for her little feet was a sequined dress at the end.

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She sat down and let her little toes play on this one!

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If your child is already talking, encourage him or her to describe how each material feels. For Veronika, I simply narrated as she walked. Off she goes!

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Bathroom Exploration

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You might think of the bathroom as a fairly boring room, but for your baby, it’s fascinating. Just think of all the things to hear, touch, and see! Today, I set aside some time just to explore the room with Veronika.

We started with toothpaste of course, because that tube just begs to be squeezed. I set out a layer of paper towels so she could do this with no mess, and then we squeezed onto an old toothbrush. Let your baby smell the minty scent or feel the toothbrush bristles.

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Next I sat her on the counter. Of course there’s the fun of mirror reflections. She’s learning to wave, so loved saying hello to the baby in the mirror! I let her choose objects to touch, including soft tissues to pull from the box.

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Then I washed her hands under warm running water. Rub-a-dub-dub! Rinse off and towel dry for that nice sensation.

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Next up: the shower! Turn on the water, either in a shower or tub. We watched the water swirl down the drain together.

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And now the most splashy fun of all: flush the toilet a couple of times. She was entranced watching the water swirl down, even though the noise startled her a little.

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In sum, your baby will find delight in even the most mundane parts of the house. This turned out to be a great sensory experience.

Vegetable Barley Casserole

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Cooking barley in the oven, almost like an oven-baked risotto, makes a no-brainer out of this warm fall casserole.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 3 and 1/4 cups water, divided
  • 3 carrots
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 1 vegetable bouillon cube
  • 1 cup pearl barley
  1. Wash the kale and remove the stems from the leaves. Place the leaves in a blender, along with 1/4 cup water, and pulse until you have a paste. Set aside.
  2. Peel and dice the carrots. Dice the onion.
  3. Meanwhile, bring the remaining 3 cups water to a boil in a saucepan. Add the bouillon cube and stir until it dissolves.
  4. Combine all of the ingredients in a 3-quart casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees F for 75 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed.

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The kale will have formed a green layer on top; give it a big stir and reveal the perfectly cooked barley underneath. Yum! If you want to add a little extra protein, stir in cooked and chopped Gardein chick’n strips.

Fruit Ripening Science is Bananas

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Just before Halloween, Travis made Boo-Nana Bread form Raddish KidsSpooky Kitchen crate. Now we’re finally getting around to the fruit-ripening science lesson attached to it!

Before anything else, we needed to set in motion an experiment that would take 5 days. I purchased a bunch of (fairly) green bananas at the grocery store, as well as a few riper ones.

Ask your child to describe the differences they notice between the ripe and unripe bananas. Travis pointed out the obvious color difference, first. A little probing helped him go deeper: the ripe ones were softer, and smelled sweeter.

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I asked him if a banana needed anything other than itself to ripen. Somehow he knew it needed air (oxygen). Smarty pants!

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But for scientific backup to this hypothesis, we experimented by placing the following:

  • 1 green banana out on the counter
  • 2 green bananas in a paper bag, folded up tight
  • 1 green banana and 1 ripe banana (for ethylene) in a paper bag, folded up tight
  • 2 green bananas in a sealed plastic bag
  • 1 green banana wrapped in layers of plastic wrap

That last was Travis’s favorite, pretending we were making a banana mummy!

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Meanwhile, it was time for a little science behind the lesson. I set out two plates for him, one featuring non-climacteric fruits i.e. they do not ripen after picking. Raddish provided a long list to choose from, and our plate included: a bell pepper, blueberries, cucumber, orange, and yellow squash.

The second plate had climacteric fruits i.e. ones that do ripen after picking. This plate held an avocado, a pear, and a mango.

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“Can I eat it,” he asked right away of the mango. “Is it ripe?” At first he was stumped about how I had categorized them, guessing I had sorted them by color. But hmm, why wasn’t the cucumber on the green plate?

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I loved watching him really ponder this! I guided him back to his very first comment about the mango. Was it ripe? Now he understood that one plate held fruits we needed to wait for; the other plate was fruits that wouldn’t ripen further after picking.

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Time to explore! I let him have at the food just for fun. He loved peeling the squash and taking little nibbles of it, plus practicing his knife skills on the bell pepper…

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…and crunching into the cucumber for a big bite.

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He decided to wait until the mango was riper before peeling it. Good choice! Plus he gave the unripe avocado a big squeeze and it was solid as a rock.

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Five days later, we finished with a little more science now that we had our banana results.¬†Our finding weren’t quite as promising as hoped, likely because I had to start with green bananas on the verge of yellow and a yellow banana on the verge of green, based on what the grocery store had to sell. But we still could see that the countertop banana was the brownest/ripest and the plastic bag bananas had retained the most green.

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Interestingly, our plastic-wrapped banana had gotten quite ripe, so we must not have made the “mummy” tight enough.

The green bananas in the paper bag had ripened faster than the ones in plastic, since the porous paper gives them access to oxygen. But the one that also enjoyed the company of a ripe banana had both oxygen and extra ethylene, so that was riper still.

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Enough science; as it turns out, leftover bananas are lots of fun to play with, even for little sister!

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We enjoyed one final video of a similar experiment done with supermarket food. If your kids loved the banana experiment, try out an avocado one!

Travis and I also decided to check out the suggested book Science Experiments You Can Eat, by Vicki Cobb. We read through a couple of the experiments, but didn’t actually put any to the test.

Acorn Animal Craft Challenge

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Travis’s craft challenge from Highlights this month was to make little animals using nothing more than acorns, wiggle eyes, and paint.

We collected a whole bunch of acorns (about 20) from oak trees nearby, which was no easy feat in 10 degree weather!

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Inside, I asked him what colors he wanted to paint, thinking about what animals he might end up with. He opted for gray, so we mixed black and white together. Because he didn’t want to get his fingers messy on the small acorns, I held them while he painted.

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For variety, we made a few pink acorns as well.

Once the paint dried, we glued together a few simple creatures. The stems on the acorn caps made us think of curly pig tails, so two pinkish acorns were glued together as pigs. Travis glued on the googly eyes, although the large size of the eyes made it hard for them to stick while the glue dried.

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The gray acorns made us think of little owls, who also received eyes.

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If Travis were older, I would have encouraged him to paint on little feathers, but I knew that sort of fine detail was too much for him. In sum, a cute project but not our favorite craft challenge to date.