Bedtime Tape

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Back in the day, this activity would have required a tape recorder and cassette player. Now all you need is the voice recorder on your smart phone, and you can make recordings for your baby – songs, books, favorite nursery rhymes, you name it.

These little audio clips are great to have on hand when you can’t be there for bedtime. Pass along the files to grandparents or other caretakers, and your little one can hear your voice even when you’re gone!

First, I read through one of Veronika’s favorite bedtime books. As I recorded, she sat in my lap and looked at the pictures, cooing and gurgling.

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It makes the audio even more special that she’s on it!

Next I recorded a short lullaby, while she listened with wonder.

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She seemed to be asking why I was singing the song during the day!

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In fact, don’t feel like you need to save these clips for babysitting nights; Veronika liked listening to the book recording while she played.

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The clips are also great for car trips – it’s exactly like having a book on tape, except one that you made, instead of one you need to purchase.

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Pesto Chick’n Pizza

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This pizza recipe looks gourmet, so shh! Don’t tell the kids that it’s ridiculously easy to put together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound whole wheat pizza dough
  • 1/3 cup vegan pesto
  • 1 cup shredded Daiya mozzarella
  • 1 package Gardein chick’n strips, cooked and shredded
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  1. Pat the pizza dough to the edges of a pizza pan coated with cooking spray. Bake at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes.
  2. Pat the dough with a spatula anywhere it has puffed up, then spread with the pesto and sprinkle with the cheese.
  3. Top evenly with the chick’n and sliced tomatoes. Return to the oven and bake a final 7 minutes.

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Exercise Outdoors

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Veronika was born just before the cold of winter set in, and all winter I couldn’t wait for fresh, spring weather. Not just so my baby girl could feel warm sun on her skin, but also because it means I get to exercise outdoors!

There’s no need to do anything fancy, but today, make a point of getting some exercise in the fresh air. You can find an easy walking or running trail near you – just make sure you have a true running stroller, if you’re going to be moving fast. Veronika loves the change of scenery when I do my power walks around the lake in our park, including a chance to see ducks and geese.

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For something a bit more organized, check out your local Stroller Strides. Veronika gets to check out the silly moves that mom does from nestled in her stroller, plus interact with the other babies! Our class has been indoors all winter, but I can’t wait for it to move out to the park once May rolls around.

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What’s your favorite way to exercise with baby outside? Please share in the comments.

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Who’s That Baby?

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With babies, it’s sometimes fun to return an activity at one month intervals or so. So much change occurs in their brain and their development in that short time!

To wit, today it was back to mirror play for Veronika. Although we’ve played mirror games before, to point out her name or facial features or emotions, today was the first time she really seemed excited by the baby in the mirror.

She’s also sitting up now, which makes a big difference. To make things novel, I sat her in front of the bathroom mirror. Hello baby!

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She was really intrigued to see the “other” baby’s hand reach out when hers did.

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Then we used a child-safe mirror at tummy time to point out features again. The other baby had a mouth and eyes…

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…and a great big smile!

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Your child will love getting to play with “another” baby while you do this activity.

 

Hummingbird Puppets

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We’re welcoming the birds of spring with this little finger puppet craft from Travis’s Ranger Rick Jr.! The pom pom puppets probably come out close to a hummingbird’s true size, which is neat to think about.

First, Travis selected which color pom poms we should use for the bodies. His was dark blue and light blue, and mine was yellow and pink. Glue the two pom poms together.

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Next we snapped toothpicks in half for the long pointy beaks. Glue a half onto whichever pom pom will be the head. Cut triangles from foil cupcake liners, and use two for the wings and one for a tail.

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Googly eyes complete the little birds.

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To make them into puppets, cut a strip of felt and glue into a circle that will fit your child’s finger. Glue onto the bottom of the pom poms and let dry.

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Now flutter your hummingbirds! Ranger Rick even included a sweet little poem to recite as you fly them around.

Look in your garden

And you just might spy

A hummingbird flash

As it quickly flies by.

 

Watch the small bird

Putting on a great show – 

Moving this way and that,

Always on the go.

 

When it finds flowers

So bright and so fair, 

It sips sweet nectar

While still in the air.

Travis even had the birds drinking “nectar” from some other toys!

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Jack-in-the-Box

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Here’s a cute and easy jack-in-the box that you can make for your infant. It’s a little less startling than the kind you buy where a wind-up figure pops out, making it a good intro to the toy. And you only need a few pantry items to make it!

Poke a hole in the bottom of a Styrofoam cup with a pencil.

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Push a straw through the hole, and attach a small   to the other end of the straw (I just taped one on).

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Hold the straw so the puppet is hidden in the cup, then… Peek-a-boo!

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Here’s a cute rhyme you can say before the big reveal:

Jack in the box, still as a mouse,

Deep down inside your little dark house.

Jack in the box, resting so still.

Will you come out? Yes, I will!

Lots of giggles and delight for this one.

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Big siblings will probably want to take a turn doing the popping, too.

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Ribbon Dancer

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April showers bring May flowers, or so they say! Which means we’re having a rainy month and we’re on the lookout for rainbows these days. This easy craft is a cute way to bring a little color and rainbows inside, even when the days are cloudy and gray.

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First, we measured out a length of red ribbon that was as tall as Travis – he thought it was neat to see a piece so long!

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Once we had our red, we could measure out the other colors of the rainbow against it. This is a good chance to review ROYGBIV order for preschoolers. Travis used scissors to cut each to the right length.

Now fold one ribbon in half, and loop through the ring of a canning jar. Pull the ends of the ribbon through the loop.

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Pretty soon we had our rainbow strings for dancing!

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Put on some good music and just jive.

Rainbow Dancer (6)Or perhaps do a raindance.

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If you’re lucky and it’s beautiful outside, this little rainbow looks even prettier out in the sunshine!

Build Your Own Tacos

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When Travis came home for lunch today, we set up a whole taco assembly line in the kitchen. He loved the hands-on nature of this recipe, care of his final issue of High Five magazine.

Ahead of time, I cooked a package of Gardein chick’n strips, and let cool. Travis helped shred the chicken, and we sprinkled it with 1 teaspoon taco seasoning. Microwave for 1 minute to rewarm.

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Meanwhile, warm up hard taco shells according to package directions. Travis then got to hone his knife skills; together we chopped a tomato and a little lettuce.

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Time to assemble! We made a big line with everything.

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In goes:

  • Gardein chick’n
  • Tomatoes
  • Lettuce
  • Shredded Daiya cheddar
  • Non-dairy sour cream
  • Guacamole
  • Mild salsa

Travis loved it! We made one version that was a stuffed taco and one that was more like nachos.

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If your kids don’t like Gardein chick’n, try the recipe using black beans or roasted sweet potatoes as the base instead.

Yes and No

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I once knew a couple who were trying to raise their daughter without using the word “no,” the thinking being that toddlers start spitting this word back at us parents all too soon. I remember thinking this was brilliant; yet at the same time, there are moments when “no” is a very important word, especially when it comes to dangers a baby needs to learn. In fact, when my son was little I referred to outlets simply as “nope-ity nopes” for the first two years of his life!

So it is important for a baby to learn yes and no, and it’s good to start early. Today, I made a point of saying yes to all the good things Veronika did, and firmly saying no to the actions that were a little naughty. Of course, nothing she did today was terrible, usually just silly, but it’s good to set the precedent for when the real nos come along.

Whenever you say the word, you can also sign it. A fist “nodding” means yes, and your pointer pinching to your thumb means no. So, playing with toys always gets a yes.

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As does sharing with big brother.

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No, Veronika, you can’t eat big brother’s book!

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Yes, Veronika, play with your own soft book.

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No, Veronika, you can’t steal mommy’s list at the grocery store (and yes, she wants to eat this).

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Yes, Veronika, those are better toys to play with while in the cart.

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You can further highlight the difference between the two words by smiling for a yes, and frowning for a now. I definitely have an impish girl on my hands already, because she loves throwing her package of diapers off the diaper table. No, no, no sweet girl.

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But a hug from mommy or a nap on my tummy always gets a yes.

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Early Explorers Art

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Travis’s latest package from Early Explorers was, in a word, fantastic. Based on art around the world, this month’s kit was so full of ways to craft, create, explore, and learn. As always, he was excited about the usual finds like stickers for his map, flash cards, the activity booklet, and a new tag for his suitcase.

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He especially loved coloring in images of Australian rock paintings and filling in the shapes on a Native American dream catcher.

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Art Craft:

We couldn’t wait to try the booklet’s first activity: Paint Like Pollock. Wow did this make a splash, pun intended, of course. At first Travis seemed skeptical when he saw that I’d layered nearly the entire living room floor with newspapers. But when I told him we’d be splattering paint, he was intrigued.

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Lay a large piece of poster board in the center of your newspapers, and set out plates with at least 2 or 3 colors of paint. A wide paintbrush will work best. Dip the brush in one color, and show your child how to flick their wrist so the paint splatters.

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After a moment of smearing paint on normally, Travis understood, and was delighted. “Again!” he insisted, dipping in another color. We tried a few Pollock-esque tricks, like flicking the paint in a circle, seeing what happened if we flicked with more or less paint on the brush, and moving around the canvas.

The most fun though was getting up high!

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Travis climbed our step ladder, and I handed him the paint brush. Splat! He did almost the entire painting from up here.

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Messy but so worth it!

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Art Science:

For wont of an actual “science” this month, I’m using this section for the suggested sculpture project. I simply set Travis loose with a bunch of air-dry clay, a few sculpting tools, and his imagination. Soon we were etching baleen onto clay whales.

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Then: “Look mom, a three-legged turtle!” he declared, leaving this present for me on our counter.

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Art Keepsake:

This was actually what we did first, since Travis couldn’t wait to find out what his present was from “Max and Mia”. The included canvas, mini watercolor palette, and mini paintbrush did not disappoint. Instantly he became my little Monet, painting in the three landmarks depicted on the canvas.

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He loved learning a few new color combos to mix, like blue + brown = black. When the canvas was finished, he didn’t stop there.

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He immediately painted another picture which he decided was a gift for a friend, and a third which became a map. I loved that he was off and running with art, no doubt exactly the kind of play Early Explorers hopes to inspire with their kits.

Art Field Trip:

Head to your nearest museum or art gallery, of course. This doesn’t need to be anywhere big or fancy, but do challenge your child to find their three favorite pieces in the museum.

We were just in time for an exhibit featuring the best of local youth art, mostly by 11th and 12th graders. Travis enjoyed seeking out the one that had won first prize.

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And we couldn’t believe this one was done with yarn!

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Art Further Activities:

Unlike last month’s topic on food, which felt a touch one-note, this topic lent itself easily to so many activities! First, we did an imitation of French “pointillism.” After looking at paintings by Seurat, we set out to make dot pictures. Inflate a balloon just slightly, and set out a paper plate with a few colors of paint.

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Dip the balloon in the paint, then dab on the paper. I showed Travis how to make small dots by pressing the balloon on lightly, but he liked pressing hard for big dots. A very cool result! If you don’t have balloons, you could always just illustrate pointillism with some dot markers.

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Next, we became photographers! I set Travis loose with the instant camera, and challenged him to find interesting scenes or to get right up close to patterns in the apartment, like those on the carpet or fabrics.

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Then we glued them all down in a collage!

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Next up, he played with the art Constructibles set from Little Passport’s online shop.

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Travis immediately began slotting them together (each is based upon a specific textile pattern, for those interested in the designs), and soon he was building detailed creations.

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These could be buildings, animals, sculptures – whatever your child thinks they are!

You can expand the fun with research online. We followed a link from Little Passport’s blog to the Google Art Project. I was so impressed when Travis immediately recognized a painting from a magnet on our fridge!

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This is a great way to learn in depth about a specific artwork, theme, or artist.

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The library had ample offerings on art to further our learning, almost too many. We particularly liked the projects in a book about Impressionism.

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Surprisingly, the booklet said nothing about origami, which surely merits a place in any discussion of art around the world. So we thought we’d round out the lesson with some origami fun, and this origami easter basket from the blog was timely and cute.

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