Take a Bath with Your Baby

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New parents, you’ve been giving your baby a bath in an infant tub¬†for a month now, so chances are you’ve become a pro – hurray! But if you find that bathtime is a struggle for an unhappy baby – or simply want to mix things up – try out this alternative.

Get right in there in the tub with your baby.

I slipped on a bathing suit (for blog purposes, ha!) and climbed into a tub that was felt lukewarm to an adult, and just right for baby. Not only was this super relaxing, but Veronika seemed to love sitting on my lap in the water, looking up at me with big, curious eyes.

I supported her as I washed her gently, and she seemed to delight in this new way of being washed, as opposed to alone in her own tub.

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To add to the fun, big brother Travis donned a bathing suit and climbed in with us – a family affair!

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Another solution to calm a nervous infant in the tub – since you probably won’t be able to bathe with them at every bath time – is to play soothing music. My taste leans toward Mozart, but play any soothing music that your child likes.

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Here’s to happy splashing!

Cinnamon Ornaments

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Did you know you could make dough just from cinnamon and applesauce? Nor I, but here’s the perfect dough to craft holiday ornaments, thanks to Travis’s Ranger Rick Jr.. Once the cinnamon is in the oven, your whole house will smell like Christmas!

Travis loved concocting the dough. Simply dump in 1 (2-ounce) jar of cinnamon into a bowl. Careful to pour slowly so you don’t get cinnamon in your face!

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Add 4 ounces applesauce, stirring until very well combined.

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Turn the dough out onto a cutting board and use a rolling pin to flatten to about 1/4-inch thick.

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Travis was so excited we got to use our holiday-shaped cookie cutters for the first time since last Christmas.

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He loved selecting which shape to use each time we rolled the dough.

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Carefully transfer to a baking sheet.

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Use a toothpick to poke a hole in each ornament, then bake at 200 degrees F for 20 minutes.

The instructions says to thread pretty ribbon through the holes, but the toothpick holes were much too small for this. Next time I would punch out holes with a straw. Thinking quickly, we threaded the ornaments onto pipe cleaners, instead.

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Thread several onto one pipe cleaner (or ribbon) for a pretty garland, or make singles to hang as ornaments. Either way, these would also be wonderful to give away as gifts!

Early Explorers Plants

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Travis’s mailing from Early Explorers this month was all about… Plants! I worried this topic might be dry for a four-year-old, but as always, Little Passports made it approachable and, well, great!

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Travis continues to take to the booklet and its exercises with alacrity now, eagerly telling his dad or friends what unit “Max and Mia” have sent us. To wit, the last time we had a traceable alphabet in our booklet, he did one or two letters grudgingly. This time he wouldn’t let me stop until we’d filled the page.

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Plus we had great mazes, coloring, counting, and even early spelling.

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And of course the mailing included stickers for his wall map, the flashlight find it, and flash cards with more info. Here’s what else we delved into…

Plants Craft:

The suggested art project was very simple: gather leaves and come home to trace them. Unfortunately it’s not the right time of year where we live! I was able to find a few withered oak leaves and a leaf from a holly plant, which at least showed Travis that different plant leaves have very different shapes.

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If it’s spring or fall, you can have a blast with this, and likely make a beautiful collage!

Plants Science:

Here’s where the kit really got hands-on, with instructions on how to grow your own celery plant. Travis returned from school to find pots and dirt, and couldn’t wait. First, help your child cut the base off a full stalk of celery. Place the base in a dish of shallow water.

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Change the water every few days, and dribble a few drops of water on the top daily. You should start to see new celery growth within a few days.

We waited about five days, then placed the celery in a pot, and covered with soil. The fresh leaf tips should stick up from the dirt. Place in a sunny spot, and water every 3 days or so (I watered daily, which seemed to work fine).

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It will continued to grow! You can actually use this celery for soups, salads, or snacks. This is a great way to teach kids where food comes from, and we can’t wait to harvest our little plant!

Plants Keepsake:

The very first thing Travis wanted this month was his “present”, and he was thrilled to find puffy stickers and a garden background in which to place them, and even more thrilled to learn the stickers are reusable.

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He insisted each sticker smelled differently, too. I couldn’t tell a difference, but if so, that is a very clever trick on the part of Little Passports!

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As a parental aside, I was a touch disappointed by the repeat keepsake. Perhaps a flower pot or seeds might have been more novel.

Plants Field Trip:

Head off to a botanical garden of course! Since it’s winter here, we visited a favorite local garden, but concentrated on the greenhouse instead of the grounds.

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Travis loved the hibiscus room, ready for Christmas! And the cacti were a fast favorite.

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It was hard work to convince him that he really couldn’t touch any of the prickles, but I managed. Our garden also had a wonderful find-it hunt for kids.

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Your children might also enjoy drawing some of their favorite plants, though Travis opted out of this suggestion.

Plants Further Activities:

I had previously purchased a game from Little Passport’s website on veggie sorting, and this was the perfect time to trot it out; Travis was delighted by the vegetables he could “plant.”

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He loved to play with it, and as a parent, i appreciated the various math concepts we could explore, such as counting out by type or color, or simple math equations.

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When that fun was done, we also tried out the celery experiment with potatoes and green onions. It turns out the green onions worked best!

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A vibrant bright bean salad was the perfect chance to count the plant-based foods on our plate, especially because it contained multiple plant parts – spinach leaves, corn seeds, potato roots, and more!

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Travis was also eager to try some of the foods he’d read about in the booklet, so this week I picked up bamboo and corn pupusas at the market.

We also took the suggestion to count the plants in our neighborhood. This was interesting for mom, too! Our apartment complex is lined with low bushes, and it turns out there are so many varieties we lost count!

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Finally, we headed to the library for a few books on plants. Check your non-fiction section, and see what you find!

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Visit a Local Store

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Veronika and I were in need of a field trip today. With warmer-than-usual weather and bright sunshine, I simply couldn’t stay in the house!

Rather than heading off to an enclosed, sunless mall, I recommend traveling to your nearest Main Street and checking out local stores. Or if your own town doesn’t feel safe for walking about with a stroller, find a cute Main Street a few towns over.

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Small boutiques were full of interesting things for Veronika to look at, so much to catch her eye from bright colors to sparkle to contrasting shapes. Here she is checking out jewelry displays…

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…and in the kids section!

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In addition to the visual stimulation, many small shops will have a wonderful smell as you step through the door – pine, or incense, or the aroma of coffees and teas, perhaps.

Needless to say, this was the perfect time of year for local browsing. Even if your baby falls asleep, you can knock out holiday shopping! Even just browsing, it felt good to get out of the house with Veronika, and to support local businesses in the process.

This sign says it all:

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Trade Top Tips

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If you’re a new parent, chances are you sometimes feel like you’re the only one dealing with that particular problem – whatever your baby’s current issue is! Fussiness at night, big siblings who suffer from jealousy, spit up, colic, allergies. You name it! It can be such a relief to have other parents as a sounding board, and to learn you’re not alone. These are the people who get it.

If you are new to being a parent, and don’t have a network yet, check out your local library – many have new mom groups just for this reason: venting sessions, and a chance to share tips!

I tapped into the network from Travis’s school, eagerly seeking advice of veteran moms of two (or more!). It’s great to take a moment just for coffee together while the big siblings are in school.

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That left the moms free to gab. I love finding moments of solidarity (her husband sleeps through all kid interruptions at night, too!) and also being the one to offer tips sometimes (time management, craft ideas).

So today’s activity is to take some time with your own pack of parents. Find a stroller-friendly restaurant or coffee chop, and get talking! Chances are you’ll find more similarities than differences, plus enjoy the adult socializing after a morning of cooing at a newborn.

Also P.S. None of us are having a good night’s sleep. Whether it’s the older 4-year-old having nightmares, the middle child needing milk, or the newborn baby (Veronika) nursing at 3 in the morning, we’re all popping up and down. Somewhere out there in the night, another mom or dad is up! #solidarity

Scarf Play

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Here’s a variation on dangling toys for a winter baby – turn the tassels of your warm scarf into the latest fascinating object to watch!

First, I simply dangled my scarf, and let Veronika look at the tassels.

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Seeing her wide-eyed excitement, I next held the tassels closer to her fingers. Sure enough, she clasped her fingers around them once in reach.

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I then held the tassels very still within arms-length, to see if she would reach out. Yes indeed!

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She also seemed to enjoy it when I made the tassels “jump” down to her belly and back up again.

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What an easy and delightful game! It was just right for a few moments of one-on-one play, and perfect for the season.

Cookie Sheet Prints

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This is an old idea from Parents magazine that I’ve waited to trot out forever. It turns out there was so much for Travis to love about it, including the first fact that your art canvas will be a cookie sheet.

To set up, set out cups of tempera paint and a cup of water for your child, along with paintbrushes. Dip the brush in the water, followed by the paint, then apply to the back of the cookie sheet.

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Travis couldn’t believe he was able to paint on one of mommy’s dishes, a fact which got him over initial skepticism about the project. Pretty soon he was eagerly smearing gold paint all over, and adding highlights of other colors.

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Your child can just scribble, or make deliberate designs like circles or other shapes. When Travis was satisfied with his work, we pressed a piece of thick paper down (watercolor paper works well), and pressed firmly.

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Now for the big reveal! Travis loved peeling back the paper all by himself.

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You can make the resulting prints even neater by drawing deliberate lines in them, either with the back of the paintbrush, or with fingertips.

I showed Travis an example, writing in his requested word (in reference to the shiny gold paint).

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But he had way more fun just smearing everywhere with his fingertips. “Now whole hands!” I loved watching him.

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Needless to say, we needed to make lots of prints before he tired of the project. A great crafty idea for a cold winter’s day.

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Pouch Present

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We’ve loved the edible gift suggestions from High Five magazine in the past – perfect for teachers this time of year! The craft in Travis’s latest December issue was a bit different – the wrapping for the gift, instead of the gift itself. Put the pouch together now, and fill it with a little token of appreciation for teachers this holiday season.

There is a bit of adult prep-work for this one. Cut a circle from a 9×12-inch piece of felt. Green felt seasonably appropriate.

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Punch about 12 holes around the edges of the felt. This is definitly a grown-up step, since felt is much tougher to hole punch than paper.

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Finally, cut a piece of yarn that is 36 inches long, and tie to a paper clip; this will be your child’s “needle.”

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Now it’s the kid’s turn! Encourage him or her to decorate the bottom of the felt with markers. Travis made scribbles, but your kids might prefer to draw something seasonable, like Christmas trees or ornaments.

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Travis was so proud lacing all the way around the felt pieces with his needle and thread. He insisted he could do it all by himself, including knowing when to sew up and when to sew down.

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Once you’ve gone all the way around, leave the two ends of yarn dangling. Pull the felt slightly, and it will cinch closed.

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What will you gift your child’s teachers this year? Do share in the comments!

Record Your Baby

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Remember when you started your baby journal? Right, I barely do either – it’s so easy to full behind on chronicling things when you are sleep-deprived plus over the moon about a new baby.

Today, I made a point to pull out the camera and capture moments; not with the still camera, but the video recorder. It’s one of the best ways to ensure you remember this fleeting period, even those simple moments like lying down and kicking those little legs and making those little gurgles.

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Veronika was an easy subject of course, happily starring in the little video clips I took.

I recommend keeping these short (I have footage of Travis cooing at this age that goes on for five minutes, and even I get a bit bored!), but definitely hit “record” and you’ll play through the memories so happily years from now.

Other cute moments to consider – tho not posted here on the blog – are bath times, nursing, and those adorable little naps where Veronika grunts in her sleep.

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Yoga Relaxation Walk

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It’s useful to have poses or tricks for those times your baby is hard to settle, and today I tested out this yoga-inspired method.

If you don’t own a yoga belt, no worries – simply lay a long strip of fabric down on the floor. My husband’s ribbon belts were perfect for this!

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I held Veronika over one shoulder, and walked along the belt with small steps. Keep your knees slightly bent and your spine straight, and concentrate on putting your feet one in front of the other. It was great to hum to Veronika as I walked, too.

I confess that I like the calming pose better, but this move had the advantage of taking up so much concentration that it gave me a mental break from a crying baby.

If baby’s cries are getting on a big sibling’s nerves, the game can also be fun for them. I told Travis I was challenging him to walk in a straight line along the belt, and he had a blast setting them up on the floor and testing it out, a nice distraction.

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In sum, this is a good trick to have up my sleeve!