Socialize Online

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Whether there’s a big event that far-away relatives can’t make it to, or whether you just a weekly standing date for face-to-face time online, I was reminded today how powerful it can be for children to socialize online with family they don’t often see.

Today’s post is simple: don’t forget the value of screen time when it comes to keeping in touch. I sat Veronika on my lap and dialed relatives who couldn’t make it to an event. They got to admire her party dress, and catch up!

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If you make this a weekly habit, even family who live far away can be regular figures in your baby’s life. And big siblings benefit, too!

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Do you and your baby Skype or Facetime with a relative? Please share in the comments!

Morphing Monster Clay

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Yesterday Travis made monster slime. Today, we morphed it into monster…clay!

You’ll need to start with the slime recipe, whether or not you’ve made a monster jar to hold it in. As a reminder, that’s stirring together 1/2 cup glue, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and a few drops food coloring of choice. Add 1 teaspoon contact lens solution.

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Place the slime in a large bowl. Add 2 tablespoons white vinegar and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

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Travis loved that we were dissolving the monster – scary! Begin adding 1 and 1/4 cups cornstarch (that’s 20 tablespoons!) 1 tablespoon at a time. Eventually you’ll have a clay you can work and mold with your hands. This comes out exactly like the model magic you can buy at the store!

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Travis loved the non-goopy texture since he doesn’t always love sticky and slimy projects. Soon he was rolling up monster snakes.

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And he told me this was a mummy!

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Have fun making multiple colors and see what spooky Halloween monsters your kid will create.

Monster Slime

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The slime craze isn’t over yet, and it seems like there’s always a way to make it new and novel for kids. Travis went bananas for this slime monster he could trap in a jar!

To make the slime, stir together 1/2 cup glue, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and a few drops of food coloring. We decided on an orange monster, so mixed together some red and yellow drops.

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Add 1 teaspoon contact solution and your slime will seize up right away.

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Travis loved watching it stretch. And even better, capturing the beast in its jar!

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To add monster facial features, we cut out shapes from white and black felt and glued on.

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Eek, a monster!

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If you like, make a whole batch of these and decorate a windowsill for the upcoming holiday.

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Baseball Explored

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The final lesson to go with Travis’s Game Day recipes from Raddish Kids was an in-depth look at baseball… with a little art and drama thrown in!

First, I read Travis some facts about the game and we watched a quick video of the rules. Bedtime stories like Pete the Cat Play Ball! by James Dean, I Got It! by David Wiesner, and F is for Fenway by Jerry Pallotta all introduced the imagery and lingo of baseball and its stadiums.

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Even more fun was making a diorama of a stadium! I pulled together supplies, including a large box, construction paper, craft sticks, glue, markers, an egg carton, and tin foil.

We looked at images of Fenway and other baseball fields and I asked Travis what we’d need. Raddish included a full worksheet to fill out before beginning the diorama, but with an eager kindergartner and a one-year-old getting into all the supplies, we had to work a bit more quickly than that!

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Travis noticed what I hoped he would right away: We needed green on the bottom for the field. We glued down green construction paper, then I drew on the baseball diamond dirt with brown marker.

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The baseball field is a great chance to talk about shapes, in general. The dirt lanes form a diamond, the pitcher’s mound is a circle, and the bases needed to be squares. Travis chose shiny tin foil for the bases, a nice touch!

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I helped him think about what else his stadium needed. Soon we had an old egg carton glued on the sides as the bleachers with little pom pom “spectators”. Pipe cleaners were our players.

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Travis’s proudest contribution was adding a mini lantern to be the stadium spotlight.

The worksheet suggested adding food or drinks, which older kids can carefully craft. Travis was quite proud to glue together two craft sticks, crossed to look like soft pretzels.

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Next up: the drama portion! We watched a few suggested clips of movement in baseball, ranging from the best catches of all time, to how to slide into base, to how to throw peanuts in the stands. Travis then put on his acting shoes. Here is his baseball movie, in three parts:

Batting!

Sliding!

Tossing peanuts!

What a fantastic way to get kids up and moving on a rainy evening. There’s lots more that older children can do with this lesson, whether making a painting or collage representing baseball or reading biographies of famous players.

We intend to finish the lesson with a baseball movie (Angels in the Outfield is a great pick for younger kids) and a game on TV once the World Series starts!

Oatmeal with Sauteed Plantains

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Put a tropical spin on your kids’ morning oatmeal and everyone is sure to wake up on the right side of the bed!

Ingredients:

  • 1 yellow ripe plantain
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon Earth Balance butter
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  • 2/3 cup quick oats
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Peel and slice the plantain into 2-inch pieces. Transfer to a plastic bag and add the brown sugar; seal and shake to coat.
  2. Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the plantain and cook for about 4 minutes, until browned on all sides.
  3. Meanwhile, combine the water and apple juice in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the oats and cinnamon and continue to cook for 1 minute, until thickened.

Top the oatmeal with the plantain slices to serve!

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Toppling Tower

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Chances are you have lots of empty snack boxes if you have kids. Instead of recycling, set them aside and build up a collection. Now you have all you need for building towers with your baby!

For about a week, I saved every empty snack box and cereal boxes. Tape the tops closed, if needed, so no edges stick out. First, I dumped out the bag in front of Veronika. Instant fun!

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Then we got building. You can encourage your baby to place one box on top of another, but don’t be surprised if the preferred activity is knocking down! This post is called toppling tower, after all.

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We even got into some pretend play and made a garage for her vehicles.

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Add in real building blocks to make the structure more complicated (soft foam ones are my favorite for this age).

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This tower, too, needed to be toppled of course.

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This kind of early STEM activity will help build new connections in your baby’s brain, plus provide lots of enjoyment!

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Kaboom!

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Picture This, Sing That

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At just-shy of one year old, Veronika has very firm opinions about her favorite songs, and your little one no doubt does, too. Make it easy for pre-verbal kids to pick a song with visual clues!

For this activity, I went to the print shop to get brightly-colored high-quality images of a few favorite tunes. There was a cute spider for Itsy Bitsy Spider, a bright yellow bus for Wheels on the Bus, and a farm scene for Old Macdonald Had a Farm. I showed her one image and then sang that song.

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Pretty soon, she made the connection between image and song.

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Her big smiles made it clear she was having fun.

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Wheels on the Bus is her hands-down favorite. She saw the yellow bus and immediately began swishing her “wipers”.

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Later, I gave her the choice of all three pictures in the playroom. Sure enough, she selected the bus right away, so we sang that one.

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To add to the visuals, you can even add props! Soon she was scooting a bus back and forth as we sang Wheels.

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And playing with animals as we sang Old Macdonald.

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What’s your baby’s favorite song? Please share in the comments!

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Glow-in-the-Dark Croquet

Glow Croquet (9).JPGNights are getting longer, which means finally the sun sets before Travis goes to bed. That opens up whole realms of possibility for games we can play! To wit, put those glow-in-the-dark-sticks and bracelets (ubiquitous this close to Halloween!) to novel use with this game of mini croquet.

First, we painted a piece of large cardboard. Travis chose a sparkly blue, thinking that would look like a starry night sky against our glowing wickets. Paint two coats and let dry.

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Glue on paper straws around the entire rim of the cardboard as bumpers; let dry.

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At first, we made straw mallets by cutting a 2-inch piece of straw and gluing crosswise on a second straw to form a T. These didn’t hold up well, so read on for our quick fix.

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To make the wickets, poke holes in the cardboard. Activate 4 glow bracelets (or up to 8 if you want more wickets!) and insert into the holes, bending each one into an upside-down U.

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Add arrows with white-out or white paint showing the direction of play.

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Have each player select a different color pom pom for their ball. Now take turns whacking through the wickets and see who reaches the end first!

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As mentioned, our straw mallets didn’t hold up well. No problem! We snapped a few regular glow sticks to activate them, and used these as the mallets.

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Needless to say, Travis was smitten with the game. Anything that glows is always a hit!

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Rubbings Collage and Puzzle

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Here’s a neat way to create your own shadow puzzle, an advanced version of a game Travis and I played long ago. One child can challenge him or herself with the final product, or invite a friend or sibling fill in the puzzle once created.

First, Travis and I gathered metal items from around the house. We ended up with a coin, a paper clip, a hole punch, a spoon, and a key.

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Place the items on a piece of paper and cover with a second sheet of paper. Rub with the side of a crayon to reveal the shadow of the images underneath.

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It was interesting to see what worked well (the flatter things) and what didn’t; the spoon was quite tricky!

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We removed the items and now Travis had to match everything up to its silhouette, a challenge he enjoyed.

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Again, this was fun with one kid but would be a great game for two kids: one to make the puzzle and the other to fill it in.

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Bubbles on the Breeze

Bubbles on Breeze (5)Don’t underestimate the magic of bubbles. Blowing bubbles is an activity I remind myself to return to at intervals, since children engage with them differently as they age. The last time we did bubbles, Veronika was sitting up and just starting to crawl. Now, she’s fast as can be, and wanted to scoot after them and pop them!

So the instructions for today’s activity: Open up a bottle of bubbles and blow!

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I pointed them out to Veronika, and how they shimmered and floated.

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This little girl wants to walk, so it was also fun to hold her at the waist and help her reach out for them.

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A perfect sunlit pause.

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