Little Tree Crate

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We loved our Swirly Ornaments holiday crate from Kiwi Co., and the kit for Little Tree turned out to be just as wonderful. The project set the stage for a festive mood inside our apartment on a drizzly December morning. Read on!

To start making the tree, we first needed to do some math, dividing the kit’s green pipe cleaners into two equal piles. This was a neat way to introduce Travis to counting out two sets of something, just as you would for dealing out cards in a game, for example.

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Cut the pipe cleaners from one pile in half, and leave the others long.

Insert the provided wooden stick into the round wooden stand.

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Starting with the long pipe cleaners, wrap around the stand.

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Repeat with the short pipe cleaners. Travis loved the wrapping, and insisted on doing so himself for each one.

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Adult step: snip the pipe cleaners at an angle, so your tree is a triangle shape. Travis was really psyched to see our fake tree in the same tapered shape as our real tree.

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Peel the backing off a provided star sticker, and attach at the top of the tree.

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Next up, thread on the provided beads and bells as ornaments. “Which are ornaments and which are lights?” Travis wanted to know.

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Good question, but either way, all beautiful!

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To make the base, use any round bowl to trace a circle onto the provided red felt.

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Cut out and decorate with the provided gold glitter glue.

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Travis was equally delighted by the “presents” that can go under the tree – two wooden cubes, onto which we glittered-glued pom poms.

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You can set your tree out as a pretty decoration, and we also plan to leave it alongside cookies and non-dairy milk for Santa on Christmas Eve! It’s also the perfect size to be a play tree for your child’s stuffed animals.

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To round out our festive morning, we made hot cocoa and added in a cute Snowman-themed spelling lesson from

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This fun picture word match was a great way to cuddle up inside during the cold winter months and practice Travis’s spelling skills. For more spelling activities and printables like this check out!

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In sum, we had all the makings of a cozy winter morning.

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See a Children’s Play

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Last month we took Veronika to her first art museum, and today it was time for her first play! As with the museum, it’s really never too early to expose children to the sights and sounds of the theater. Although the story and plot will be lost on an infant, the ambiance, sights, and sounds won’t be.

To wit, big sibs will love attending holiday shows this time of year, so off we went off to a performance of the Happy Elf.

The show is full of bright colors, cheerful songs set to jazz music, and vivid costumes.

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To be honest, Veronika slept through a good bit of it.

But her eyes were wide and engaged when she did look around.

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Meanwhile big sibs get to have fun, so it’s a win-win morning for the whole family.

Baby Aerobics

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Veronika is graduating… from baby stretching to baby aerobics, that is! We changed up the exercises a little bit today. By now she’s not so curled up in a ball like a scrunchy newborn, and it’s time to show her other ways her limbs can move.

First, simply hold the hands gently and lift the arms up and down. Cup the feet and do the same with the legs.

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While holding the feet up, you can also move the legs apart and then back in together, then lower back to the floor. Veronika seemed surprised by this motion, but also seemed to enjoy it!

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Next, lift the hands, and make little circles with the arms. Repeat with the legs, holding the feet gently. As we circled the limbs, I sang Baa Baa Black Sheep to help keep her calm and soothed.

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Finally, I pedaled her legs like a bicycle game – I can’t help singing Queen’s Bicycle Race whenever I do this one!

This last is especially good for when Veronika has gas. I also lifted her legs just until her bottom was off the floor, and pushed her knees into the chest, a great way to relieve that troublesome infant gas. Do this just a few times, and you’ll be rewarded by a big baby smile.

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Embossed Metal Coins

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Wrapping up some pirate fun, today Travis and I made treasure.

To make the coins, I traced two sizes of circles onto cardstock, and cut out.

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This project can be as involved as your patience is willing to make it. If you have the time and inclination, go ahead and make piles of coins! This is a more viable option if your kids are old enough to cut out the circles themselves. I confess we only had about 10 coins, but that was more than enough for my little pirate.

I asked Travis what image should go on the coins, and he suggested bugs.

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We did a large “beetle” on the bigger coins, and a dollar sign on the smaller.

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Go over your designs with hot glue. Once it cooled, Travis loved feeling the bumpy effect.

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Now wrap in foil, pressing so the image comes through.

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Our pictures weren’t quite as clear as we hoped, but still neat to feel.

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For the final step, we needed gold coins, of course. A little gold paint, some time to dry, and it was time for a treasure hunt.

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I hid them around for Travis to find, and he loved collecting them in a treasure chest.

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Even better, he loved hiding them from me!

Visual Stimulation

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The counterpart to tactile stimulation is visual stimulation, and today we took ample time to appreciate Veronika’s playgym!

If you don’t have a mat like this for baby, I highly recommend one. Tactile, visual, a soft resting place when you need to get chores done, a spot for tummy time… What doesn’t a playgym do?

Ours is safari-themed, and still perfect four years after Travis used it. As babies can now see more than just black and white (think bright colors like red, green, and blue) the toys help stimulate the vision.

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Each of the safari animals that hang on ours has a different purpose. Rhino plays a little ditty when squeezed.

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Giraffe is crinkly, and crocodile rings like a bell.

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The turtle doubles as a mirror for baby to see their face.

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You can also add other toys inside, but I recommend keeping it simple, so as not to overwhelm baby. Veronika adores lying in hers.

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What playgym do you like best? Please share in the comments!

A Little Flea Went Walking (and Other Fingerplays)

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Fingerplays are such a delight for babies; they provide tactile stimulation, rhyming words, sing-song voices, surprises, and more.

Today I learned a new one for Veronika, and we both loved it! The words and actions are easy as can be. Simply walk your fingers around baby’s tummy as you say:

A little flea went walking

To see what he could see

But all that he could see…

…was baby’s little tummy!

Tickle your baby on this last line of course.

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Some other favorites that we love include the following.

Circle baby’s palm as you say:

Round and round the garden with my teddy bear.

Now walk fingers up the arm:

One step, two step, tickle him under there!

End with a tickle under the chin or armpit.

You can also do the classic Old Macdonald Had a Farm. This one is more auditory, but we have a great glove that allows me to act it out.

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She loves staring at the animals, and this is great for engaging big siblings, who know the answer to each animal sound.

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Finally, we love Where is Thumbkin. If you don’t know this classic, here are the words:

Where is thumbkin, where is thumbkin?

Here I am, Here I am.

How are you today sir? Very well I thank you.

Run away, run away.

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Repeat for each finger, naming them in turn, and bring out from behind your back so the thumbs (etc.) on each hand talk to each other. I also like to rub Veronika’s finger at the beginning of each verse, so she feels her Thumbkin, Pointer, and so on.

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Swirly Ornaments Crate

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Kiwi Company occasionally puts out special holiday-themed crates, and we’ve been holding on to this one since last December! Reading the title on the box, I imagined the final product would be ornaments with beautiful swirls. Little did we know the method to make the ornaments was swirly, too!

Travis was so excited seeing the three plastic globe ornaments, since we had just set up our tree. Add two of the provided watercolors (in primary colors) to each globe for a quick lesson in color mixing. You’ll be able to make one orange, one green, and one purple ornament. Next squirt in a drop of the glittery silver paint.

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Add a marble, and get swirling! As you swirl, the marble will help the paint coat the entire globe.

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As a parental aside, this was very precarious proposition with a four-year-old. Of all the Koala projects we’ve ever done, this was by far the messiest! It was quite hard for Travis to swirl enough to coat the inside of the ornament without also spilling paint, so step in if you need to.

He loved the drying method that came next though; upend the ornament over a provided paper cup. The marble and any excess paint will fall out.

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We set ours aside to dry for about an hour.

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Ideally, flip the ornaments at this point and allow to dry on the inside, too, overnight. Travis was too impatient though and wanted to pop in the provided corks and seal them up!

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To finish each ornament, we wrapped a sparkly pipe cleaner around the neck.

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Add a silver ribbon (a great chance to practice tying a bow), then thread a provided bell onto the pipe cleaner. Hook the end.

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Now it’s ready to hang on your tree!

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The kit also suggested gifting the ornaments (just slip on a gift tag and it’s ready to go) or attaching one to your stocking as a sparkly decoration.

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Let the holiday season begin!

Stop and Watch

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It’s hard to believe, but here we are with Veronika a full month old already.

“Look at how she’s looking at you!” marveled the woman at the toy store when I stopped in today, and I peeked down at my little girl in her stroller. Indeed, her wide-open eyes were laser-focused on me; I get to be a celebrity a little longer.

It was a good reminder to take the day and just pause: to take stock, to stop and look closely at her, and to see how much she’s changed in one month already.

If you do the same, simply stop and watch your baby for a little while. I placed Veronika down on her cricket blanket and just watched.

The eyes are more alert.

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The expressions are more varied.

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The hand gestures are more deliberate.

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And of course the snuggles and time together are still just as wonderful.

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What is your baby’s behavior like at the one-month milestone? I’d love to hear in the comments!

Juice Box Pirate Ship and Flags

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This is likely the last of the boats Travis and I will make for a while, but a few lemonade juice boxes in the fridge made us decide to construct one last version before we put our pirate games to rest!

First, enjoy a juice box of course.

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Once it’s empty, I recommend taping over the hole where the straw was, to avoid juice leaking out (or your boat filling with water in the tub).

Pierce two holes in the top of the juice box for the masts (grown-up step!).

You can use the juice box straw for the mast, but we found that thicker, regular plastic straws were sturdier. Snip these into thirds, and use two of the pieces for this project.

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Travis loved snipping the straws so much, I had to redirect him for the rest of the boat!

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Decorate a piece of paper with markers or stickers to make your sail, then cut into a triangle shape.

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Tape onto the two masts, and you’re ready to set sail on the seven seas.

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These are perfect little boats for bathtime, although they won’t hold up very long – the paper sails especially are only good for a short while.

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Travis decided the paper sail was too flimsy. We had leftover pirate stickers, so decorated a big piece of red foam instead.

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Although not attached to the ship, he loved doing this, and waving it around. You could even teach a bit of the history behind pirate flags, often flown to scare merchant ships so they could take them over without ever having to fight.

Pretty scary!

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Fruit Boats

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Origami boats might be fun to play with, but fruit boats are even bettert\ to eat! After a busy school day, Travis helped me create these adorable boats for snacktime.

First, cut a whole cantaloupe into wedges. Travis asked at first if it was mango – it’s amazing how we forget that kids can be disconnected from food, when it’s served to them already cut up. He loved discovering that the big fruit in front of us was his favorite melon.

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Put a toothpick in each wedge, and add watermelon pieces as the sails.

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For the pirate, cut a circular piece of banana as the head. Cut the banana lengthwise into pieces for the torso and arms. Use toothpicks to stick your pirate man together, and then another toothpick to affix him to the boat. We made a boat and pirate for Daddy, too!

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Travis loved it, and delighted in pulling apart the pirate ship piece by piece. There goes your hull, matey!

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A super cute and fun snack for pirate lovers.

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