Stacking/Nesting Cups

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Today I simply took some time to concentrate with Veronika on one particular type of toy: stacking cups. She has several versions of these, whether round rings and cups or square boxes, all of which can stack together or – the opposite – nest inside each other.

I set out the different sets around her and cleared other toys from the area so she could concentrate on these.

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She is very drawn to nesting items, in particular, and loves finding ways to put the smaller cups in the bigger ones, or finding other containers that the cups can fit inside of.

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Then we concentrated on the opposite: stacking a few blocks up.

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No worries if your little one mixes and matches sets; Veronika loved balancing the nesting cups on top of the stacked boxes!  Then she mixed in the other direction, nesting the smallest box inside the cups.

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These toys are great for brain development and motor skills and require no fancy set up. I love knowing that the toys will grow with her, some day able to make towers of her own without mommy’s help!

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Finger Puppet Board Books

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Veronika is 14 months old now, and still doesn’t like to sit still for story time, so I’m always on the lookout for ways to capture her attention.

No doubt you’ve seen these little finger puppet board books at the bookshop or library. Featuring a soft little puppet face in the center, the story typically revolves around one type of animal, but you can also buy ones specific to a fairy tale or nursery rhyme, or even silly ones about food.

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In our collection we have:

Little Snowman

Baby Sloth

Baby Fish

and Taco Tuesday

That last one is by far the silliest, the tale of a taco trying to talk your child out of eating it for lunch and offering up other foods instead.

No matter what you’re reading, have fun putting your finger in the puppet and wiggling along. Veronika loves grabbing for it, which helps hold her attention.

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She also loves the hole opposite the puppet, which is fascinating for babies to put their fingers through as you turn the pages.

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If you’re lucky, you might even catch a story time with the librarian wiggling the little puppet along!

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I love that these books help us bond over story time. How do you hold a reluctant reader’s attention? Please share in the comments!

 

Wrap It Up

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If you’ve noticed that your toddler’s favorite part of opening presents is the wrapping paper itself, you’re not alone. Babies and toddlers love the feeling of paper, the crinkly sounds it makes, and of course just ripping things open. So keep up the fun with this quick game.

Use leftover wrapping paper to randomly wrap a few old toys. It’s not what’s inside that matters here, but the fun of getting to it!

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I selected a few of Veronika’s toys and wrapped them loosely, using just a little tape on each. You can even leave a bit of the toy showing, since this helps your little one understand that there is a toy inside.

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At first Veronika was most interested in the roll of tape, which didn’t surprise me.

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Then I encouraged her to pull back sheets of the paper. She loved tearing at it, once she got the idea.

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Old toys seem new again, when they’re revealed like this! You could even turn this into a regular game if it ever seems like your toddler needs a refresher on fun around the house.

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For extra fun, we wadded up the wrapping paper once the gifts were open, and tossed these balls into a “basket”.

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The fun here is almost limitless!

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Crispy Potato Latkes

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This recipe from Travis’s Holiday Traditions Raddish Kids crate makes latkes that are cooked in the oven, not fried. Still, the recipe was a great deal oilier and saltier than we normally cook in our home, but as a special treat for the holiday, it was worth the indulgence. Travis loved all the steps involved to peel and grate the potatoes!

First, bring a pot of water to a boil. Add 3 large potatoes and cook for 20 minutes.

Transfer the potatoes carefully to a large bowl filled with ice. Travis loved watching them cool, and heaping extra ice over them.

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The skins will begin to slip off as the potatoes cool. Use a peeler to carefully peel the rest of the way, then use the large holes of a box grater to shred the potatoes. Transfer to a large bowl.

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Add 2 Ener-G eggs, 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, and 2 teaspoons salt to the shredded potato. Mix well.

Divide the mixture into 16 portions, about 1/4 cup each, and arrange on 2 baking sheets covered with greased foil (8 latkes per sheet). Coat the bottom of a measuring cup with cooking spray and press each portion into a circle.

Drizzle each baking sheet with 3 tablespoons canola oil and sprinkle each with 1/8 teaspoon salt. Bake at 425 degrees F for 20 minutes. Flip the latkes and bake an additional 10 minutes, until browned and crisp.

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We like these with non-dairy sour cream and applesauce. For the latter, use store-bought or cinnamon-laced homemade!

The recipe card featured a little background on traditional Hanukkah foods, as well as lots of suggestions for family traditions to uphold or begin. We know we love the following recommendations: checking out neighborhood holiday lights; reading holiday books; donating to charities; gifting baked goods to friends; and of course making holiday cookies!

Homemade Applesauce

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Sure, store-bought applesauce is super convenient. But there’s something so cozy about simmering a big pot of apples and cinnamon over the stove, making this recipe well worth your while!

Ingredients:

  • 4 large apples
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Peel and core the apples, and cut into 1 inch chunks.Homemade Applesauce (1)
  2. Transfer the apples to a large pot, along with the water, lemon juice, brown sugar, and cinnamon.
  3. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until the apples are soft. Homemade Applesauce (2)
  4. Let the apple mixture cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and process until smooth.

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Flavor Bases Around the Globe

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It can be hard to get kids to try new flavors; Travis might enjoy eating his vegan chick’n nuggets, for example, but he doesn’t want them spiced in a new way! So I appreciated this unit on flavor bases from around the world, part of a lesson to go with the Raddish Kids‘ recipe Travis prepared for chickpea soup, one that used a French mirepoix as the base.

I kept the lesson very light for a kindergartner. We watched a quick video on how to chop a mirepoix (carrots, onion, celery), and then discussed how an aromatic base might differ in other countries, whether with a different fat (coconut oil in parts of Asia) or different aromatics (ginger, garlic).  Older kids can delve into math ratios for the best flavor here!

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The true challenge was to cook one protein in three different flavor bases. I knew Travis would never have the patience to prepare three recipes, but instead presented him with three sauces to spice his chick’n at lunch. We checked them out on a world map next to their countries, first!

He loved dipping into each. “Not the favorite,” he declared after one bite of Chinese hoisin sauce. Indian masala got a maybe, but Mexican taco sauce was the clear winner. He kept asking for more!

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Have fun flipping through food magazines or cookbooks as a finale to the lesson. Travis pointed out recipes that interested him, and I helped read the ingredients that went into the flavor base. This is a great way to get your little chef thinking even deeper about food and culture.

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Go Get Game

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This is a simple game to test if your toddler is ready to understand and follow directions, sending him or her on various “errands” around the house. Your little one won’t think it’s a chore at all, just lots of silly fun!

I put out a few items for Veronika that I knew would entice her, starting with a toy ball. “Can you go get the ball?” I asked.

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She eagerly crawled to it, and I encouraged her back my way. “Can you bring me the ball?” She’s at that beautiful age where toddlers love to put things “in” and clean up, so this was met with success.

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Next we played with her water bottle. Again, the item was spotted and she was off.

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But could she bring it to me? This time it was more fun just to play with!

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Then we got silly with the “errands”. After asking her to get her boots and socks, I said, “Can you put the sock on your head?” I demonstrated, which earned huge giggles.

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Pretty soon she was imitating me.

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In sum, don’t underestimate your fourteen-month old’s sense of humor, or ability to “get” things, even if they have few words to say back to you yet.

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All Aboard the Train

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The last time I took Veronika on a train ride, she wasn’t even to crawl yet, and only vaguely aware of the adventure, though I loved simply introducing her to the idea of a train at the time.

Now as a toddler, we repeated the activity ,and had a train-tastic day!

First up was purchasing tickets and waiting on the platform. When we heard the train signals, both my kids were excited watching the gate come down.

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All aboard! Be sure to grab a good window seat, so your little one can appreciate the view, so different from that out a car window.

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We went only one stop to the next town over, and popped into the Club Car Cafe for a quick snack. The perfect spot to watch other trains on the tracks…

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…play with toy trains they had available for kids (smart thinking!)…

…and even watch a model train scoot around on the wall.

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Veronika loved the whole experience, and soon was saying choo choo. It’s the first time I felt that she fully understood what a train is, so different from the toy versions she can push around or the ones she’s seen on TV. A highly recommended activity.

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Broccoli & Quinoa Casserole

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I’m trying to work more quinoa into my toddler’s diet, but when I prepare it plain she just makes a mess with it. This creamy casserole dish is a flavorful way to introduce the food to your little one. For the soup, look for a nice base like a smooth corn, broccoli, or leek soup.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup creamy soup
  • 1/2 cup shredded non-dairy cheddar
  • 1 small bunch broccoli
  • 3 cups cooked quinoa
  1. Heat the soup in a saucepan over medium heat, until warm. Stir in the cheese and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the broccoli into tiny florets and steam until tender.
  3. In a large bowl, stir together the soup mixture, broccoli, and cooked quinoa. Let cool slightly before serving.

Playing House

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Got leftover huge boxes from Christmas presents? Turn them into a play house for a day or two before you head out to the recycle bin!

Of course you can play this game any time of the year, but chances are your biggest boxes are arriving right about now.

In one of our largest, I cut a rectangle large enough for Veronika to scoot through.

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To make the “house” extra fun, I slotted through Veronika’s play tunnel, making for a house that she could enter and exit in multiple ways.

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You can add adornment with crayons or paints, if desired. I drew on a window, but Veronika was more interested in crawling through than drawing!

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Play houses like this can go from very basic to the very elaborate. Even one as simple as a box and a tunnel kept my toddler happy for ages today.

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