Apple Smiles

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This is a cute snack to make either before or after a visit to the dentist; it helps make things silly and not scary for toddlers!

To prepare the apple smiles, spread a wedge of unpeeled red apple with a little peanut butter. Add 3 mini Dandies marshmallows, then spread a second wedge of apple with peanut butter and place on top.

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Not only do these make a tasty snack and a chance to point out those shiny white teeth, but you can do more with it than that! We had an extra toothbrush and Veronika loved “brushing” the apple smiles to help them get clean. The peanut butter really will make the marshmallows a bit mucky and stained, adding a touch of verisimilitude. “Let’s brush off all that peanut butter,” she said so proudly, helping the apple smile get clean and bright.

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So a snack plus a quick lesson! Just make sure you brush real teeth after eating those sugary marshmallows.

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Pretend Play Vet Clinic

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The kids have enjoyed several different scenarios of imaginative play lately, which I love not just because it gets them playing together so well, but also that it breaks them out of playing with the same old toys. So today we tested a third pretend game: a vet clinic!

I set out the various pieces of a toy vet set on the table, including thermometers, stethoscopes, creams, and medicines. But to up the fun factor, Travis and Veronika got some real medical supplies today too, including gauze pads, an ace bandage, and band-aids.

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As the final touch, I printed out a patient checklist from Mess for Less, so the kids could register each animal that came to the clinic. Now we just needed patients! I lined up several of their stuffed animals along the couch as the “waiting room”. You could even use a small chair for each separate animal if you have several in your home!

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Brother and sister both rushed over to see what was going on. Veronika immediately took to the task quite seriously. She loved administering shots and testing out the thermometer.

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She also thought it was so fun to “fill out” the forms, circling the animal species and scribbling notes. (Hey, she already has doctor handwriting!).

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Her favorite, though, was the real band-aids, and she was soon covering boo-boos and wiping animals with the gauze with such care.

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Travis, meanwhile, was very into the forms and particularly liked recording high temperatures for all his sick patients.

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Pretty soon, he took the game in a whole different direction: it turns out action figures need band-aids, too!

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This had them imagining and playing together so well, making it a big win for a cold winter morning.

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Swimming Letters Sensory Bag

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Here’s a fun way for toddlers to practice tracing as they starting out in letter recognition. Bonus points: the activity doubles as a sensory bag!

To set up, fill a large zip-top plastic bag with liquid. I made two versions of this, although neither was quite right. The first one had corn syrup and a little blue glitter, but this was a touch too thick. The second one I filled water with a little blue glitter glue, but this was too… watery. I think hair gel would be the perfect in-between solution, and I’ll aim for that next time! Regardless, once you’ve added your liquid and glitter, you’ll need to add the best part: drop in a plastic fish toy.

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Seal the bag tightly and secure with duct tape. Next, write letters of the alphabet on pieces of construction paper, ideally with a blue background, although I only had purple. Once I had colored the letters in with green marker, they sort of looked like waving seaweed!

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If you want to, you could go through all 26 letters for your child. Today, I focused on two letters: V for Veronika and T for big brother Travis. Place the fish sensory bag over one letter at a time and show your toddler how to “swim” the fish along the lines to trace it.

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It’s hard to tell if Veronika really picked up on the learning, or whether she just loved the activity because she was enamored with the fish. She loved making it swim so wasn’t necessarily following the lines, but she could tell me whether she was looking at a V or T.

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Overall, I loved the idea behind this activity and may return to it when she’s a little older!

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