Backyard BBQ Games

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It’s the last week of summer, and we’re making the most of it by spending time outdoors with family and friends! The following five games are ones we’ve planned to play all summer, ever since making the delicious trio of recipes from Travis’s Backyard BBQ Raddish Kids crate. Whether you’re hosting an actual BBQ or just getting outside in the sunshine, here are a few fun games to try.

1. Egg Toss

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We made the game vegan with plastic eggs to toss as an alternative to hard-boiled eggs (try Egg & Spoon Race from International Playthings). Travis loved that the eggs could really crack open when we tossed them…

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And missed!

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2. Hot & Cold

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Hide an object (Note: the “hard-boiled eggs” from our egg toss were perfect) while one player closes his or her eyes. Players instruct the finder where the treasure is by noting if they are cold (far way) or boiling hot (close!).

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Travis enjoyed finding the item first, but then preferred to be the hider and guide me with his words.

3. Blind Taste Testing

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This is a fun one if your family has prepared a special summer meal together. I blindfolded Travis and had him sample some of our fresh-from-the-market veggies.

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He got them all right, even blindfolded! You can make this more challenging by far if you use sauces or spices for big kids, instead of the rather-obvious vegetables.

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4. Capture the “Foodie”

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This is just like Capture the Flag except you play with fruit pieces instead of flags! Good choices include items with peels, like oranges or bananas. See which team captures the other’s fruit first, and don’t get tagged and sent to jail (i.e. the steps) in the process

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Easily the favorite, Travis got a kick out of hiding his banana, and delighted when he could find the other team’s first.

Ideally you’ll need four players or more for this, but even two people can have fun and race to find the other person’s “foodie” first.

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5. Restaurant Relay Race

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For this silly game, we loaded a tray with plastic cups, forks, and fake picnic food. See who runs the fastest without dropping something along the way. Travis thought this was quite hilarious.

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Which of the BBQ games is your child’s favorite? Please share in the comments!

Summer Water with Baby

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Recently, I posted a round-up of fun field trips to take with the under-one-year-old set before the summer is out. Here’s a second round-up featuring a few water-centered ideas that – yes! – you can do with a baby.

Turn on the sprinkler:

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This is an easy one! Just head out to your yard or driveway, and set a sprinkler going. Bonus points for silly ones! Just dipping in baby’s toes is sure to elicit laughter or surprised little squeals.

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Find a water fountain:

Many parks have pretty fountains, which you can stop off at after a walk or playground play. In addition to being fun just to watch (splashy water!) you can quickly dip in baby’s toes for a cool off on a hot day.

Hit the beach:

I was worried about Veronika eating fistfuls of sand, so avoided the beach for much of the summer. But it turns out there’s a way to take even an everything-in-the-mouth nine-month-old to the beach safely.

First, bring shade. You’ll still want to slather your little one with sunscreen, but a large umbrella offers extra protection.

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Don’t forget to pack wipes, swim diapers, a change of dry diaper and clothes, plastic bags (for trash or wet clothing), and a nice sunhat.

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And toys!

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Beaches are the perfect place for a nap, so don’t worry about baby missing out on key shut-eye.

Once she was awake, first she wanted to play on a big beach towel.

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Then we took Veronika down to the water’s edge. Choose a beach with gentle water, whether that means a harbor, sound, lake, or other sandy stretch with few to no waves. She could happily sit and let the tiny waves lap at her toes.

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She did like digging her hands into the water and sand, but she only tried one nibble, which I easily diverted.

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In sum, I have no more fear about babies and beaches!

How have you and your baby played with water this summer? Please share in the comments!

 

Add Sounds to Feelings

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There are so many sounds we automatically attach to a specific feeling or emotion. You probably do many of these already (without even thinking about it!) but it was fun to focus on such sounds for a day with Veronika. Your budding communicator may start to make these sounds back, even before words form.

So when she was happy today, we said, “hurray!”

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When I bounced her up and down or she spun around, we said, “whee!”

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Then there was a big “oh no!” when her favorite stuffed animal fell down.

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And a “mmm mmm” for meals and snacks.

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And of course a sleepy “aaah” yawn sound around naptime.

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Connecting these sounds to emotions can help your little one connect the dots with what he or she is feeling, and help ease frustration in expressing emotions.

Plus saying “hurray” is always just fun.

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Share a Special Snack

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Veronika is old enough that she doesn’t need “baby food” anymore, and the best way to develop a love of healthy foods in your little one is to savor them together. I love making recipes that my two kids (and the grown-ups!) can share together now. To wit, this kid-friendly version of guacamole is a hit with everyone at the table.

Scoop the flesh from two avocados and transfer to a bowl; mash.

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Stir in 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 1 chopped tomato.

I served the guac with cucumber sticks and bell pepper sticks, as well as toasted pita bread. You could also add toasted bread slices or roasted carrot sticks.

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Travis and Veronika had a blast sharing this afternoon pause together!

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Mosquito Badminton

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Are you kids sick of swatting away mosquitoes this summer? Then this quirky take on backyard badminton is sure to have them giggling!

To make our “mosquito”, we first inflated a balloon. Any color would work, but Travis chose blue.

I twisted together a mosquito body out of black pipe cleaners. Certainly there is some imagination at work here, but it featured two antennae, a proboscis, and wiggly arms and legs.

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Cut eyes from cardstock or poster board and then tape the mosquito body and eyes to the balloon.

Use flip flops as the “racquets”! Travis thought it was hilarious to bop the mosquito around outside.

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We didn’t make it a true competition, but if you want to keep score, try this: If the balloon lands on the ground on your side, that’s a point for the other team or person. First side to reach 5 points wins!

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Sunshine Granola

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Add sunflower seeds to the kids morning granola to make the perfect sunshine-y batch – just right for the final days of summer! Whip up a batch now and the first few breakfasts during hectic back-to-school will be a cinch.

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 2 tablespoons melted Earth Balance butter
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Arrange the oats and sunflower seeds on a baking sheet.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter and maple syrup. Drizzle over the oat mixture and sprinkle with the salt.
  3. Bake at 300 degrees F for 15 minutes. Stir and return to the oven for an additional 15 minutes. Let cool completely before storing in an air-tight container.

We love this stirred into non-dairy yogurt!

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Naptime Chill Out

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There always seems to be a pile of bills waiting for me during Veronika’s nap (adulting never ends), but as she moves into a longer, more predictable afternoon nap, I’m reminded that this is a necessary time when I can make room for my own headspace.

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In case you’re struggling to do the same with a baby of about 9 months old, here are a few of my favorite ways to chill out while Veronika naps:

  • Drink an espresso.
  • Do the crossword. You could also read the news, but chances are that might just stress you out more. I stick to the puzzle.Body and Soul (2)
  • Listen to my music. This one is key if we’re on the go during her nap. When it’s just Veronika in the car, her music class CD is always going. When big brother rides along, pop music dominates. But when the kids sleep… mama music! I’m going to date myself but admitting that that means classic rock or classical music on repeat.Body and Soul (3)
  • Finally, remember to do nothing. There is always a room to clean, or a list to make, but sometimes your body and soul benefit best from a little nothing. In five minutes, she will wake up, and I will go back to being a mom. In five minutes, I will be needed again. But right now, I just am.Body and Soul (5)How do you pause and chill out when baby naps? Learn a new language? Meditate? Please share in the comments!

Baby Led Weaning: 9 Months

Veronika is on the brink of eating “real” recipes, which I’ll likely post as separate blog entries. So here is a final round-up of the Baby Led Weaning foods she’s enjoyed in the past month.

Roasted Sweet Potato and Carrots

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Peel 1 sweet potato and 2 carrots and cut into 2-inch strips. Place on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for about 25 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Tofu and Mango Dinner

Crumble 1/8 package firm tofu into a bowl. Stir in 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup mango puree.

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Apple and Plum Compote

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Veronika loves this so much more than regular applesauce! Peel and chop 1 apple and 2 plums. Cover with water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and mash with a potato masher until chunky, then stir in 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon.

Chick’n, Banana & Coconut

This was her first Gardein meal! Cook 3 Gardein chick’n strips, and mince until about the texture of crumbled tofu or lentils. Combine the chick’n in a bowl with 1 small mashed banana and 1 teaspoon coconut milk.

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A fast favorite!

Chick’n, Carrot & Sweet Onion

For a more ambitious chick’n dinner, toss 4 Gardein chick’n strips, 1 peeled and julienne-cut carrot, and 1/8 cup thinly sliced sweet onion with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 minutes. Serve as finger foods, or finely chop into little pieces on the tray.

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Butternut Squash Sticks

Cut butternut squash into 2-inch sticks. Cover with water and bring to a boil; continue to cook for 10 minutes, until very soft.

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Dip these into a homemade or store-bought purees. Veronika likes them dipped in apple, pear, or carrot! Sometimes she prefers me to mash up the squash and stir the puree into it instead, which she can pick up by the handful.

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Poached Tempeh

Slice 1 (8-ounce) package tempeh and cook in boiling water for 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor and process until finally chopped. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook the tempeh for about 10 minutes, until golden.

Stir in applesauce to taste so the mixture isn’t too dry. I use about 1/2 cup applesauce per 4 ounces tempeh.

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This also works with canned pumpkin puree in place of the applesauce!

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Baby’s Song

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There’s a reason educators use songs as teaching tools so often; lyrics are remembered long after spoken words are forgotten, and simply hearing a familiar tune can become a cue when it is consistently attached to a specific activity. Today, Veronika and I focused on specific songs for specific occasions.

You can make these up entirely for your baby as long as you are consistent. We like to use the songs from Baby Signing Time, which helps connect word signs to specific moments. Like mealtime…

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Or playtime…

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Or diaper time, or bedtime, and on and on.

I always sing the same song when she wakes up (Frere Jacques) which helps her understand the day has begun, and it’s no longer night.

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If you make up your own song, try a familiar melody. At bathtime, I always sing the following to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

“This is the way we wash your hair

wash your hair

wash your hair.

This is the way we wash your hair

While you take a bath”

Similarly, I have a wordless melody that I hum to Veronika before her morning nap. It works like a charm every time, and I love that we made it up and it’s unique to the two of us.

What musical cues or songs do you use during your baby’s day? Please share in the comments!

 

7 Fun, Wet Water Balloon Activities

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Because we don’t have a hose and a water balloon nozzle, this summer staple of fun is not something Travis has enjoyed very often. Cue the water balloon hand pump! Now that I’ve invested in one (from Amazon), there are so many backyard games to play with our little water balloons. And some are even educational!

First: Sort by Color. Purchase a few buckets from a local dollar store in a variety of colors and have your child fill the correct bucket with the correct balloons.

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Easy for Travis!

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Second: Number Race. I numbered 10 balloons with sharpie and Travis’s job was to move them from one bucket to another in the correct order.

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This one involved a few slippery balloons running away before the task was complete.

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If two or more kids are playing, make it a race!

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Third: Target Game. Now we got a bit messier! I drew a bull’s-eye and we each had three balloons to toss.

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The person with the highest score wins, extra points for a big splash!

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Travis adored this.

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Which led us to…

Fourth: Balloon Toss! You can’t go wrong with this classic. Just toss back and forth and see who gets wet.

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It meant lots of exploding balloons and lots of giggles.

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Fifth: Relay Race. If you have a group, make it a true relay; balance a balloon on a cup and make it from point A to point B. Since Travis and I were playing just the two of us, we timed ourselves to see who could do it faster.

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Sixth: Balloon Sensory Tub. Float a few balloons in a baby bathtub. Even baby sister Veronika got to enjoy a (supervised) feel. Travis loved throwing the balloons into the tub for a big splash, of course!

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Seventh: Balloon “Parachute”. Place a few filled balloons on a sheet or large towel and pop them like popcorn.

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And with all those games said and done, Travis really just loved splatting them onto the ground for maximum splashy fun!

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Add your own favorite water balloon games in the comments!