Rainbow Optics Kiwi Crate

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On the heels of playing with mirrors and illusions, Travis got to delve further into the science of light with Kiwi’s Rainbow Optics crate. Most of the projects involved mixing or pulling apart colors, to explain the way white light bends to form a rainbow.

The first project was Mixing Colored Light. Travis helped adhere a wooden hexagon onto the provided box lid, fold up cardboard into a triangle as a support piece, and insert a provided color guide into the base of the hexagon box.

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Three neat finger lights (one each in red, green, and blue) then slip into this insert. Travis loved turning these on!

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Decorate the provided frosted plastic jar with stickers; options include everything from moons and planets to sea creatures. Place an additional black sticker on the bottom of the jar. This has a hole in just one area… And Travis was about to see why!

Place the frosted jar on top of the hexagon box and spin it slowly. Because the bottom sticker only allows one or two lights through at a time, the colors change with each spin, from red, to magenta, to blue, to cyan, to green, to yellow.

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Travis loved spinning this, and pretending it was a forge in later make-believe games.

Next up was Projecting Colorful Shadows. Again there were lots of little steps, including adhering the Styrofoam base to a paper guide with sticky Velcro dots.

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Kids can write on the provided projector window screen, which is then Velcroed onto a projector box.

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Stretch a projector screen onto the other side of the box and secure with blue stickers.

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Now it was time to set up the projector box on the paper base, and add another set of those fun finger lights to the Styrofoam block. As you shine these, each light hits the drawing at a slightly different angle, casting shadows in multiple colors.

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We took the booklet’s suggestion to hold other objects between the lights and our projector screen. Our fingers had definite wow factor!

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Finally, the kit included Rainbow Glasses, the kind you might remember from childhood! This involved no assembly, just looking around at different light sources.

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The finger lights, in particular, were fun to look at. Travis wandered all over the house to find his favorite lights, and the booklet helpfully explained how the glasses work through diffraction plastic.

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Well now we needed to experiment further! We could test out making a rainbow on white paper with a few simple materials: Attach a mirror to a glass pan half filled with water, using modeling clay to attach. Shine a flashlight on the paper mirror where it is under the water. Hold up a piece of white paper, and watch your rainbow appear!

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It was tricky to get the angle just right, but I was able to hold things steady while Travis manned the camera!

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We also tried to overlap colors with a twist on the projector box project. Remove the projector paper, and instead add a sheet of aluminum foil. Poke a quarter-sized hole in the center with a pencil.

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Shine the finger lights through, and watch for overlapping shades (i.e. red and blue should make magenta). The results of this weren’t obvious to Travis, but it was a neat variation.

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Interestingly, you can also show how red + blue paint = purple paint, but red + blue light = magenta light.

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Why? Because the paint colors combine towards black, but the light colors combine to towards white. Neat!

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We finished with a read of two suggested books: All the Colors of the Rainbow by Allan Fowler and The Rainbow Goblins, by Ul De Rico.

All this rainbow talk had us hungry! So finish your fun with rainbow kabobs made of the following:

  • red strawberries
  • orange cantaloupe
  • yellow pineapple
  • green grapes
  • blue blueberries
  • purple grapes

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Travis reminded me we really needed indigo grapes. Yes indeed, but tasty nonetheless!

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Sensory Activity: Cool Whip

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Older toddlers can safely play with shaving cream, a fantastic material for sensory play, but if you need something for a younger toddler who still wants to see how everything tastes, look no further than whipped cream as a substitute.

For this game, I used the vegan CocoWhip from Soy Delicious. You could also use soy or rice whip from a spray can, but I worried the sound would startle Veronika!

Instead, I sat her down in her high chair and dolloped a big blob of the CocoWhip in front of her.

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With December just around the corner, it was time to get in a snowy holiday spirit! So I added a few holiday items, like sparkly hair ties and Christmas cookie cutters.

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She absolutely loved scooping the whipped cream into the cookie cutter shapes, almost like she was frosting them.

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We also pretended her spatula was a snow plow, with fun sound effects, and I showed her how to spread the whipped cream thinly and thickly. Then we made whipped cream” cookies”!

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The sparkly hair ties were fun to dip and dangle in it!

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She had so much fun that when I asked if she was all done, she signed “more more”. A first!

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I’d say this was one successful sensory experience. She had so much fun that we might try it again for other holiday themes, like Easter in the spring or with Halloween items in the fall.

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Corn Muffins with Stuffing Butter

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Travis and I are diving into his Thanksgiving Table Raddish Kids crate just in time for the holiday. These corn muffins will feed a crowd, and the butter is laced with herbs reminiscent of traditional stuffing!

To start, make the muffins: In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup flour, 1 and 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal, 1 tablespoon baking powder, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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In a large bowl, combine 2 Ener-G eggs, 1/2 cup melted Earth Balance butter, and 1 cup soy milk. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring just until combined.

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Divide the mixture evenly among 12 muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400 degrees F for 13 minutes, or until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Meanwhile, make the butter. This was by far Travis’s favorite part. Chop 1 bunch of fresh sage to equal 1 tablespoon and transfer to a bowl. Don’t forget to pause for a smell and a taste test!

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Next I showed him how to strip the leaves from sprigs of thyme. He had a surprising knack for it! Again, cop the thyme to equal 1 tablespoon and add to the bowl with the sage.

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Add 1/2 cup softened Earth Balance butter, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, and 1/4 teaspoon onion powder. Mix until combined. We mixed by hand, but you could also use an electric beater.

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Travis not only loved the muffins, but he adored the butter, even eating a few fingerfuls plain. What a fantastic sensory experience this recipe was! The recipe card also featured a Thanksgiving foods word scramble and tips on chopping herbs.

We loved the compound butter idea so much that we tried the following variations:

  • Maple Cinnamon: Mix 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter with 1 tablespoon maple syrup and 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon. Spread on breakfast toast!Cinnamon Butter
  • Garlic Rosemary: Mix 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter with 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary, 1 minced garlic glove, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. This one is great over veggies.Rosemary Butter b.JPG
  • Orange Agave: Mix 1/2 cup Earth Balance butter with 1 tablespoon agave nectar and 2 teaspoons grated orange rind. Another great spread for toast or biscuits!Orange Butter alt.JPG

Off and On

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Simply taking off lids and putting them back on again is a delight for babies at Veronika’s age (13 months), and it can be fun simply to set your little one up with a lot of lidded items, a few toys, and watch them play!

To get Veronika started, I set out a saucepan with lid and lots of Tupperware with lids, some that twisted off and some that lifted off.

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That would be enough right there, but for added amusement, I hid a few toys in the saucepan.

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I also put a toy in a container with a screw-on lid. Leave lids like this relatively loose and your little one should be able to twist them off. I resisted the urge to jump in, and let Veronika problem solve by herself!

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For some early learning color fun, I put color-coded stickers on the base and lids of two identical containers. I encouraged her to notice that orange went with orange and yellow with yellow.

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I didn’t expect her to ace this test, of course, but was laying some groundwork! You can work up to lots of different color stickers as your one year old gets older.

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What other types of containers with lids does your baby play with? Shoe boxes? Baby wipe containers? Please share favorites in the comments!

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Teeth Brushing for Toddlers

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With 8 teeth already, tooth brushing is part of the routine for Veronika now, and I love making this twice-daily activity fun for her. Setting up good dental habits early will serve your little one well over a lifetime, so it’s never too soon to start.

First things first: Make sure you have a fun toothbrush. Personally I love the Baby Banana brush. Other great starter options are ones that slip right over the adult’s finger, or even just a damp washcloth if no teeth have come through the gums yet.

Veronika loves her banana brush, and knows to anticipate our brushing routine. First up, we say hi to the baby in the mirror!

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Next, I always sing a silly song. My favorite verse (to the tune of Row Your Boat) is:

“Brush brush brush your teeth.

Brush them every day.

Brush up and down and all around.

Keep cavities away.”

To vary things up, instead of singing you can tell a story. Today I gave each of her teeth a name, and told a silly story about them being ducklings who needing a bath. She might not have understood, but she smiled as we brushed!

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If you want to demystify the process, give your little one a flashlight and have him or her shine it in your mouth.

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Look at all those big grown up teeth.

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Just for fun, it’s cute to hand over a toothbrush and let her have a turn at my teeth.

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Finally, you can take pictures of teeth and then look at them together. You could even post these pictures into a little book for a story to read about teeth.

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All of these simple activities will help your baby understand better what’s happening when it comes time to brush teeth.

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Thankful Spelling

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Travis is quite proud of his spelling lately, so the Thanksgiving holiday was the perfect opportunity to practice with stick writing. What an advancement from when he and I made the alphabet in sticks before kindergarten started!

After a quick walk, we returned home with lots of little sticks. Make sure you have some that are long and some that are shorter.

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I had him carefully sound out the word T-H-A-N-K-S. As we got to each letter, he crafted it from sticks. He loved finding just the right piece, for example shorter sticks to cross his H or A.

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S was tricky, so we ended up snapping a long stick in such a way that it curved twice. He had so much fun that he continued to make letters on the floor for a while after! And I was thankful for that.

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Bowl with Bottles

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“Bowling” is a fantastic first sport for babies. Even before coordination develops for kicking, babies love to roll balls… and knock things over! So bowling is a natural choice.

Save your empty plastic bottles for a few days (our pins were recycled sparkling water bottles), and set them up. You can go as high as ten bottles in a classic bowling formation, but Veronika and I started with 3.

I set out a few toy balls and showed her how to aim for the bottles. She loved the crash they made when they knocked over!

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Her favorite way to play was to take one bottle and use that to knock down another one.

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But this still required coordination and forethought, so I loved her variation!

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Hopefully she’ll work up to rolling the ball at the “pins” soon. We can even make it harder with a smaller ball as she gets older!

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Lentils with Spinach and Quinoa

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Lentils are one of Veronika’s favorite foods, and this is an easy way to jazz them up. Cooking the quinoa in the microwave means you only need one saucepan, a bonus come clean-up time!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 cup green lentils
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups chopped fresh baby spinach
  1. To prepare the quinoa, combine the quinoa and water in a microwave-safe bowl. Cover and microwave for 4 minutes. Stir, recover, and return to the microwave for a final 2 minutes. Set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes.
  3. Add the lentils and vegetable broth. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the liquid is nearly all absorbed.
  4. Stir in the spinach and cook for a final 2 to 3 minutes, until the spinach wilts.
  5. Add the lentil mixture to the quinoa mixture, then let cool before serving.

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Ways to Give Thanks

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Thanksgiving is just around the corner, and I’m encouraging Travis to think about what that means, and ways he can say and give thanks. Here are a few ideas we came up with, along with some suggestions from Highlights magazine!

First, we wanted to thank a neighbor who’s done a lot for us this year, whether feeding the cat or just popping in to say hi. Travis drew a classic Thanksgiving meal on a plate for her. He loved picking different colors for sweet potato, green beans, and more.

 

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He even had little round cranberry sauce.

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On the back, I helped him spell out thanks.

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He was so proud of his writing that he decorated a second plate for me with “thank you mama.” If you’re the grown up, turn this special plate into your breakfast plate over the holiday! Highlights suggests that big kids could even make breakfast for a parent as a way to show thanks.

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I also challenged him to think about why he’s thankful for harder tasks in life, like chores and school work. I drew a little picture and listened to his answers, which included getting rewards as a result (his allowance) or feeling proud after.

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Another idea from Highlights is to ask your child to donate a toy to younger cousin or neighbor. Because I know we’ll be doing this over the Christmas season, we skipped the activity today.

Finally, instead of eating a turkey on Thanksgiving, every year we adopt one from Farm Sanctuary. This year’s turkey is named Hank Williams, and Travis is so proud to display the adoption certificate!

How will your children give thanks this year? Please share in the comments!

T.H.A.N.K.S. Scavenger Hunt

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Here’s a cute activity Travis and I did in anticipation of Thanksgiving next week; it turned our regular stroll to the bus stop into a fun hunt! We wanted to find items matching a word that corresponded to each letter of THANKS, so sought out the following:

  • T: Trees
  • H: Holes
  • A: Animals
  • N: Nibbling
  • K: Knobbiness
  • S: Seeds

Trees: This was an easy one, but it had Travis appreciating the trees on our little walk to the bus, whether tall ones or small berry trees.

Holes: Travis is convinced that the hole outside our door is a snake hole. I hope not! Either way, he loves checking it out. Also look for holes up in trees; these might have nests come springtime.

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Animals: We wondered who we would still see this close to winter. Squirrels and chipmunks play and eat in a brier patch on our walk. Here’s one eating an acorn; we even heard him chewing!

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And we heard lots of crows calling out this morning, though I couldn’t capture a picture.

Nibbling: Check for signs of animals fattening up for winter! Travis also checked the leaves for caterpillar nibbling, though I told him it was probably past their season.

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Knobbiness: Look for neat burls in trees. Travis had fun spotting a few of these on the walk.

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Seeds: Acorns are an easy find, but we also found larger seeds. And these showed signs of nibbling! Also keep an eye out for maple keys or other familiar seed pods. 

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I’ll leave you with this stunning frosted leaf Travis found. We are thankful for the beauty of nature!

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