Food Fair

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We turned snack time today into a chance for the siblings to bond! Travis gets a kick out of how messy Veronika can be when she eats, but sometimes older siblings resent the attention a messy baby or toddler receives at mealtime: help with a spoon; wiping off trays and bibs, etc. So today, Travis was in charge of Veronika’s snack! This got laughs all around.

We headed outside with a picnic blanket and a tray full of snacks. I included: applesauce, fruit pouches, chocolate pudding, juice boxes, and soft cookies.

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At first I asked Travis just to help Veronika explore the foods. Were they hot or cold? What did they taste like? Which did she like best?

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Then Travis began to make her concoctions. A simple cookie topped with a little applesauce…

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…soon became a big glob on a plate. Applesauce + pudding + juice, oh my! Travis then dipped a cookie in it and offered it to his sister for a taste with glee.

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Don’t be fooled by Veronika’s sleepy, sour expression. She kept asking for more bites!

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Travis delighted in this activity, and I loved watching them share this moment.


Spooning Marbles

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Here was a quick activity today to hone Veronika’s fine motor skills. I’ve seen this activity done with a bowl of marbles on one side of the child and soft egg crate foam (like you’d find under a mattress) on the other side, but you can easily just use a muffin tin.

The latter is what we had on hand, so I started a batch of blue marbles in one tin and gave Veronika a scoop.

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At first reached for the marbles with her fingers, but as soon as I directed her attention to the spoon, she was great about scooping them up and transferring.

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I encouraged her to fill all of the compartments, not just one, and she seemed to enjoy the challenge!

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This was excellent practice for spoon control, since this girl now insists on serving herself soup, cereal, and other watery favorites.

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She then trotted over her to playroom and came back with a tea cup. I loved that she invented her own version of the game, adding marbles to the cup.

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Soon we were enjoying a full marble tea party!

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However your child plays, you’ll need to supervise this particular activity closely, as with all marble play, since they can be a choking hazard.

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Sensory “Salads”

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We found an old play set with components to make a pretend salad: fake lettuce, croutons, olives, etc. Veronika loved it so much I thought it would be fun to help her make a few more “salads”. These two methods were quite different, but both so enjoyable.

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For the first version, I put together odds and ends from the craft bin that she could toss like the ingredients of a salad. We had tissue paper “lettuce”, cotton ball “croutons”, strips of ribbon (bell peppers perhaps?) and pieces of crepe paper.

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I gave her toy tongs as well as real tongs to toss the ingredients around. The tongs were arguably as interesting as the sensory materials!

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Then we moved on to an edible sensory version. The night before, I made a batch of Kool-Aid dyed pasta. To keep it edible, just in case Veronika wanted to take a nibble, I diluted each pack of Kool-Aid in 2 tablespoons hot water (as opposed to rubbing alcohol). Place 1 cup of cooked spaghetti in a gallon-sized zip-top bag for each color that you’ve prepared. Pour in, seal, and shake to distribute the color evenly. Open the bags and let the pasta dry out overnight.

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In the morning, I heaped together all the colors of noodles in a craft bin for a big “salad”, and once again handed over the tongs.

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This was an instant hit! She needed a little help at first since the noodles were sticky, but then loved scooping them into a smaller bowl.

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Big brother immediately needed in on the action, too. He soon had created a big spaghetti “cake”!

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Then he wanted to try snipping the spaghetti with scissors, which is how bits began ending up all over the floor.

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Veronika, meanwhile, was narrating her play, something about trucks and cars. She was pleased as punch with whatever she thought she was “making”.

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And then she discovered the joy of simply throwing the spaghetti on the floor to make it go splat.

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My two crazy sous-chefs did then decide to sample the salad. “It’s tasty!” Veronika announced. They told me blue was the yummiest. I was glad it was just a few nibbles.

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Clean-up was a bit more of a pain than usual. Next time I would probably do this activity outside and hose down the patio afterward, or lay an old shower curtain liner on the floor if doing it indoors. But worth it? Yes!

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Crumple Painting

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Veronika has loved working with a big canvas for art lately, so today I wanted to find a novel way to let her fill a big sheet from the craft paper roll. Instead of paintbrushes, we crumpled up newspaper from the morning’s news!

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I put a few fingerpaints onto paper plates, then crumpled up the newspaper. I showed her how to dip one end in the paint and press onto the paper.

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She certainly thought it was funny but she seemed a little hesitant to try herself. More fun was turning the plates upside down to see if the newspaper would stick!

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I realized that the wads of newspaper were much too big for her little hands. Making smaller crumples was the solution.

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We ended up with neat dots all over the paper and set it aside to dry. This looks like it would make beautiful homemade wrapping paper, so we’re setting it aside for upcoming birthdays!

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The Great Chase

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Here was one last fun craft to illustrate the science of tension for Travis, using only a rubber band and some paper!

First we needed to draw two pictures on cardstock. These can be anything your kid wants, so long as there is one thing being chased and a chaser. I copied a template for a mouse chasing cheese for our first version.

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Travis of course chose two Star Wars characters for a second version! We colored in the images, then cut out.

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You’ll also need to cut a rectangle from cardstock measuring 1×2 inches for each image.

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Cut 1-inch pieces of straw. Place a straw piece in the center of each rectangle, using double-sided tape, and fold the cardstock over the straw.

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Attach one of your images to the resulting strip of paper with a second piece of double-sided tape.

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Cut a rubber band open and thread the straw pieces on. Make sure the thing being chased is below the chaser!

As you expand or tauten the elastic, the little straws “run” down it. Travis giggled watching the mouse chase its cheese.

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And loved the Star Wars version!

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Playing in the Rain

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We’ve taken gorgeous walks in the rain this summer, and if there’s one thing we’ve learned it’s this: there’s no such thing as bad weather, as long as you have the right gear! Veronika actually seems to love walking in the rain as long as it’s not a downpour. She’s proud of her new rain coat and boots, happily donning them whenever she has the chance.

Today, I wanted to take advantage of this, so we headed to a friend’s farm in the drizzle!

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Veronika was delighted the moment we set foot in the fields, heading off on the journey. She was so happy when she spotted cows in the pasture.

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We spent a long time watching them, seeming as equally unperturbed by the pitter-patter of raindrops as we were.

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She loved “moo”ing at them. Because she refused to wear her jacket’s hood, she soon had little damp curls from the rain.

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We made a stop in the barn, which smelled of damp wood. It was the perfect place to spin and dance.

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Then we visited the cows’ paddock, where she loved seeing water drops that had beaded up along the steel fence. We drummed on it to make them shake.

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Have you had any great rain play this summer? Please share in the comments!

Leftover Art Streamers

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Veronika has been making big works of art lately, with full sheets of craft paper from our giant roll laid down on the floor. Unfortunately I have no place to store such big masterpieces, so usually I just crumple up the paper when the fun is done. Today we came up with this way to “recycle” the art as decoration instead.

First up was making art, and Veronika loved painting all over a big piece of paper just before bed. We used a mix of watercolors, regular tempera paint, and sponge brushes with shapes on them.

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“Lots of black stars!” she said proudly as she worked.

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I left it to dry overnight. The next morning, we covered a second sheet of craft paper with lots marker scribbles and drawings.

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Now, I simply cut each masterpiece into long strips. If you’re doing this activity with a preschooler, consider drawing lines for your child to cut along and practice their cutting skills. For Veronika, I simply handed her a pair of safety scissors so she could “cut” alongside me.

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My original plan was to hang these like streamers from an archway in our home, thinking it would be a blast for the kids to run under them and through them.

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I quickly realized this wouldn’t work because the streamers needed to be much longer. I held Veronika in my arms for her to feel the streamers, which made her giggle, but it wouldn’t make for solo play.

Thinking quickly, I taped the streamers all around the kids’ craft table. Now it was a secret fort and hideout for her!

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She loved to crawl inside.

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And play peek-a-boo through the streamers with me.

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And then find her way out again.

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These streamers would also look really pretty over a window as makeshift “curtains” in a kids bedroom.



Indoor Toys Outside

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We’ve been having fun lately finding ways to make old toys seem new again, whether by dressing them up or moving them from outside to inside. Here’s a third idea!

I gathered together a few indoor toys that I haven’t seen the kids play with much recently and took them outside. The best time of day for this game was in the evening, when the heat of the afternoon had passed. It was the perfect way to fill the after-dinner hour, taking advantage of these last weeks of summer sunlight!

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Veronika immediately got started playing with the items I’d arranged on a picnic blanket. The train set that she normally ignores was soon chugging around.

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And building blocks were fun to build with.

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Then she discovered the joy of tossing the blocks into the grass.

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She delighted in scampering down off the patio, retrieving a block, and tossing it again. She kept this up for quite some time.

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Travis, meanwhile, found new life in old stuffed animals once they were outside in the “wild”.

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There was a very imaginative game at work.

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Of course just by being outside kids can find inspiration for their games and toys. They stopped to watch insects, lay down to look up at the sky, or walked through the grass with bare toes. All while happily being entertained.

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I think we’ll bring a different batch of old toys outside tomorrow!

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Art Station in the Tub

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I’ve seen a lot of cute “art stations” set up in playrooms and bedrooms, but when I read about setting one up for kids in the bathtub I thought it sounded like a neat alternative. After all, there’s no where better to make a mess than the exact place where you’re going to clean off.

Oddly, I couldn’t find inspirational images of what to include in our tub art station when I searched online, so I sort of just rigged this together. I filled an art caddy with a few water-friendly “art” activities. We had all-natural bath crayons, a “soap fluff” that I thought the kids might enjoy smearing on the walls (or their bodies!), and a little set of animals with washable markers.

The fluff, it turned out, didn’t interest them at all.

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The crayons received lots of attention. I had laid down scrap paper to scribble on, but of course the tub itself was fun to draw on, too.

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The biggest hit turned out to be those silly animals and markers. Once the kids had covered the animals with color, we drew a bath and used water to “scrub” them clean.

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What would you include in a bathtub art station? Please share in the comments!

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Very Sticky Play and Recycled Sculpture

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It’s near the end of the month, which is when I sort through my craft bin, think about stocking up for the month ahead, and don’t mind getting rid of leftovers. With the end of a roll of contact paper left,  the morning was ripe for some sticky play! We combined a few old favorite ways to play with this material with some fantastic new finds.

First up was a classic “sculpture” on the wall. Veronika loved helping me sort through the craft bin as we filled a tray with leftover odds and ends like yarn, pieces of ribbon, cut up straws, small pom poms, and strips of crepe paper.

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The favorite turned out to be leftover wiggle eyes! ” A little eye!” she said with delight, and she promptly trotted over to stick this on the contact paper.

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To add a little learning, you can talk about all your various materials: textures, size, 3D versus flat ones, etc. If siblings are working together, it can also be a great lesson in collaboration.

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But honestly Veronika was so interested in the wiggle eyes that we didn’t end up with too much decoration on this wall version.

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So next, I taped the final piece of contact paper down to the ground, which is always fun for stepping on. “Sticky feet!” Veronika said.

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Encourage your kids to lie down too, or crawl across it for a novel sensation.

Here’s where the novelty kicked in; we decided to see if stuffed animals could stick and soon had dinosaurs stomping through swamps.

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Hmm, what about toy cars?

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Well now Travis discovered that if he wound up the car tires, they still could move forward on the sticky contact paper… but as slooooowly as a snail.

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This led to an hour of “racing” play. Even I thought it was neat!

Little sister Veronika wanted to add her tractor and bus to the mix.

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When the races were done, we used up all those remaining leftover art supplies. This time, tiny beads were the biggest hit, which the kids sprinkled by the handful over the paper.

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Travis asked for glitter. Oh heck why not, it was already such as mess that I handed it over.

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Travis loved this even more than Veronika!

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Although of course she loved it too. You know you have a happy toddler when they start rolling around in glee.

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And then I folded up their sticky “sculpture” and the mess was gone.

If you do have leftover bits of glitter on the floor, here’s a quick hack: a lint roller gets them up much easier than a dust broom. You’re welcome.