Join a Local Music & Movement Class

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Children are drawn to music right from the start, which is why it’s literally never too early to start a music class. Perhaps that’s why my favorite program, Music Together, (available across the country), bills itself as appropriate for age birth to 5 years.

Veronika and I joined when the winter session began in January, and admittedly she was the youngest in the class. Now at three months, I already see a difference. She’s alert for the entire 45 minutes, so clued in to the teacher’s movements and sounds, and fascinated by the visual of the instruments and the bigger kids (most of them 1 to 2 years old).

My first tip for a baby this young at a music class is to bring a blanket; you’ll want to lay him or her down on the floor at times. Here’s Veronika, ready for class to begin!

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Just as a sample, today’s session included movement and rhythm play through the form of a bouncy ride on mommy’s lap…

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Getting to shake bells…

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And learning to tap or rub rhythm sticks.

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Don’t worry if instruments end up right in the mouth! Babies learn so much about the world this way, and any reputable class for children will have a designated “wet bin” for the germ-y toys.

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In sum, if you haven’t already taken your child out for music play, it’s a great time to start. Check your local library for offerings at little or no cost!

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Wall Mural

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I didn’t decorate the nursery with either of my children, which had more to do with my disinterest in interior design than anything else. And since we rent an apartment, I always felt I couldn’t do too much to walls or windows.

But it seemed a shame to let the chance pass me completely by, and I loved this cute idea to project an image on just a small portion of a wall, trace with pencil, and then fill in with paint.

The activity book I found this in is so old that it recommended an overhead projector for the task. (!) Do they even make those anymore? Failing to have a projector, I was at a loss for how to trace an image onto the wall until shown a neat technique, no artistic skills required:

Print out the image you want (we went with a farm animal theme) and make a heavy layer of pencil on the opposite side of the paper.

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Now hold the paper up to the wall, and trace all lines with pencil – the graphite will transfer through!

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Soon we had four little farm animals to color in.

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I chose a spot on the wall that was fairly low, so it will be at eye level with Veronika once she starts to crawl or toddle about.

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I used acrylic paint, and decided that it looked neater with the outlines of the animals painted, but not filled completely in.

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Little blue sheep was too adorable!

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Veronika was my eager audience, her eyes wide as I worked!

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And ha, then there was the problem of explaining to my four year old why mom was suddenly allowed to paint on the wall. So I let him make a design of his choice in a tiny portion of the corner. Behold his red bird:

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I can’t wait for Veronika to enjoy this beautiful little portion of her room!

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Clothesline Sensory Adventure

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Okay, this activity is probably best done on a warm late spring day, when the air feels good against your skin, and the sun is shining bright, and baby can have bare arms and legs. Not on a winter day with wind gusts up to 60 mph! But I had been wanting a new sensory activity to do with Veronika for some time, so we headed outside anyway!

If you have a clothesline, string it up between two trees or fence posts in your yard. Lacking a true clotheslines, I strung up a length of twine, which worked just fine.

Add a few soft towels and sheets, securing with clothespins.

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Now take baby out for a sensory adventure. (You’ll notice a very bundled up Veronika!).

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First we just walked up and down the line, as I showed her the colors and let her feel the textures. She had quite the grip on the green towel!

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Next we played a sort of peek-a-boo through the sheets, having the fabric drape over her before she emerged with a “pop!” I was hoping this would get big smiles, but she looked a little alarmed by the wind more than anything!

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Perhaps we’ll do this again in the springtime… But oh well, we still had a little sensory adventure today.

Garlicky Green Beans

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Travis opened up his new Raddish Kids box tonight. This month’s theme? Family date night! The kit was intended to overlap with Valentine’s Day, and quite cleverly; these days, Valentine’s is more about the kids than just the grown-ups! But we received our box too late for the holiday, so were happy to settle in for a family cooking night here later in the month.

As with all Raddish recipes, I loved that even my pre-reader could help gather the ingredients, based on the bold, bright pictures.

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First, we prepared the topping (a gremolata, I recognized, although that wasn’t specified). Travis got to help with big boy steps! Together,  we chopped a bunch of parsley. Two tablespoons went into a bowl.

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Next he grated the zest from one lemon; that joined the parsley in the bowl.

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I smashed three garlic cloves for him, and he carefully peeled back the white paper.

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Then we got to use this month’s keepsake: a garlic minced. I’d never seen one quite like this before that rocks back and forth,  and to be honest, I found that it didn’t mince a clove as well as a knife. But for kids, it’s great, since no knife is required. The recipe card also featured a run-down of all the ways to mince garlic.

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As he worked, we read the facts about garlic and its history of medicinal use on the recipe card. “Is lemon good for me?” he asked after. “Is parsley going to keep me strong?” I love that he already has an understanding of the connection between what we eat and our health.

Next up, we heated 1 teaspoon olive oil in a large skillet. Add 3 tablespoons panko and the minced garlic; cook for 4 minutes, until lightly browned.

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Add the garlic mixture to the parsley mixture, along with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons vegan Parmesan sprinkles.

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Next up we trimmed 1 pound green beans, using scissors to snip off the pointy ends.

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(Note: For all of these advanced kitchen skills, Travis loved helping for a moment or two, and then preferred to watch me finish. I recommend the same if you also have a young chef, but big kids can take on more ownership of the recipe).

We cooked the green beans in a pot of boiling, salted water for 7 minutes, which was the recipe card’s suggestion for medium tenderness. Drain the green beans in a colander, then transfer to a bowl; drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil, and sprinkle with the gremolata.

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Proud chef! This is actually his happy face saying “Garlic!” though it looks like a grimace. He devoured every last green bean, and the grown-ups, too!

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Visual Discovery

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A relative praised Veronika’s strong eyesight over the weekend, a nice compliment and a reminder of why I take the time to play little games at each stage that strengthen her vision. At three months old, we’ve moved beyond black and white and beyond bold colors, and now she can start to enjoy complicated patterns.

I sat her down comfortably and pulled out a variety of household objects with colors and contrasts for her to enjoy. First up, a ball of multi-hued yarn.

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Then I showed her one of daddy’s ties. I talked about what the item was, as well as descriptions of the color and images on it.

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This bandanna from big brother Travis was a hit!

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So much so that we tied it in her bassinet for visual fun later in the day.

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Even a two-tone hairbrush can be fun in this game.

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Just be careful; unlike some games we play, items from this one weren’t meant to end up in the mouth!

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If you’re stumped for what items to show your baby, head to the closet. There are sure to be racks full of interesting colors and patterns.

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She especially loved one of mommy’s dresses!

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Energy-Boosting Smoothies

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This past week, I noticed my energy levels flagging a little; it’s right around this point that breastfeeding takes a lot out of you! Baby isn’t quite ready for solids yet at three months old, but needs upwards of 600 calories a day of milk alone. With my son, I hadn’t realized how many calories go into producing milk each day, and soon found myself underweight. Smoothies were my life saver.

So feeling like my supply has been a little low for Veronika, today’s activity was to make some energy-boosting smoothies to keep us both healthy and strong!

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I played around with a few variations, and here are three that I loved. For all of the following recipes, simply combine the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. You can add ice if you like, but I prefer my smoothies without it.

Smoothie 1:

  • 5 ounces vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1/2 cup fresh mango
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup carrot juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger

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Smoothie 2:

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 1 teaspoon lime juice
  • 1 cup chopped Granny Smith apple
  • 1/2 cup chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves

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Smoothie 3:

  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 6 ounces apple juice
  • 1/2 cup avocado
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach or watercress
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds

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This last was my favorite, rich and creamy from the avocado, and an instant energy boost. Feel free to play around with the above suggestions. Use oat milk if you like it better, or pumpkin seeds in place of the sunflower etc. If you have a recipe you like best, please share in the comments!

 

What Type of Family Are You?

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Today’s activity for my three-month-old was more for parents than for baby, but will benefit the whole family. It turned out to be a great bonding moment, and an important one, too.

Adhering to a list of prompts and questions, the goal is to decide what type of family you will be with your baby. I looked through some questions and reflexively figured I already knew all my answers… before stopping to remember that parenting is a team sport.

So I set up a chart, and my husband and I sat down to see if we lined up on all the questions.

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Ask yourself things like the following:

Do you want a set bedtime every night, or will you be flexible?

Will you leave the baby with a sitter, or take him or her along to events at a friend’s house?

Should the baby sleep in their own room, or in your room?

Will you always want a calm story before bed, or is excited playtime okay if one parent hasn’t spent much time with the child that day?

Feel free to add to this list an tweak as necessary, to fit your household!

It turned out we were more in sync than I thought on these big, prevailing parenting questions. Although I’m more of a stickler for the same bedtime each night, I was glad to learn my husband agreed, with the caveat that we could shoot for six exceptions annually, on important dates.

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We both like bringing the baby along to events at friends’ houses, and decided the splurge of a sitter was better reserved for true dates!

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Take the moment to talk about what else matters to you For me, for example, it’s extremely important that the baby has a consistent number of naps every day; I care less about duration and timing of the naps, as long as Veronika naps four times now, three times once she transitions to three naps, twice when she transitions to two naps, and so on. It helped my husband to hear this!

In sum, make the time for this activity. Your partner will no doubt appreciate it, and you’ll be a stronger parenting team for it.

Busy Bee

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It was a bee-themed day with Veronika today!

For some tactile fun and auditory fun, first we played a game where my finger was a “bee.”

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This little bee would buzz buzz buzz around her, only to land on a cheek or a tummy or a tushie and give a little tickle.

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She soon seemed to anticipate the landing, and watched my finger in delight. Note: this move is also great for developing your baby’s eyesight, since he or she should track your buzzing finger with their eyes; I remember playing the same game with Travis!

I then made her own finger the little buzzing bee, directing her hand up to her cheek with a buzz.

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To continue the apian fun, I drew some very cartoonish bees on yellow construction paper, which were a great visual while she lay in her bassinet.

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I also pulled out a favorite book with bees to look at (Buzz Buzz Baby by Karen Katz).

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We even found a little stuffed bee to play with, all of which made for fun at tummy time!

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Smell New Scents

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As you help your baby learn about the world and develop their senses, don’t neglect the sense of smell! Your infant is born with an acute sense of smell already, but new items will be a delight.

While she was happy and alert today, I sat Veronika down for this little game, and gathered together a plate of items with strong smells.

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The vanilla bean was a great hit. Her eyes went wide.

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Hmm, she wasn’t so sure about pungent nutmeg.

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Cloves also got a big wide-eyed look; offer the whole jar in this case, since the cloves are so tiny.

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She also really seemed to love the rosemary.

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And was tickled pink for fresh lavender.

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Fresh flowers make a great option, too.

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As you play, definitely let your little one feel the items as well (just be sure to supervise closely, as several are choking hazards).

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Since the sense of smell is strongly linked to memory, I had the fond thought that these scents might imprint in her brain. Will vanilla forevermore take her back to a feeling of infancy and comfort, now? It’s a nice thought!

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Up-Down Walking Tour

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As your baby grows more aware of how his or her body moves through space, you can play games that strengthen the notion and help develop balance, too! One fun idea is to give a tour of a visually striking place, playing around with movement and altitudes. For a change of scenery from our house, we headed to a local garden!

Since it’s winter, we made this a trip to a greenhouse instead of an outdoor botanical garden. As we walked around the lush plants and vibrant flowers, I moved Veronika’s body up and down.

Look up at the red fronds.

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Look down for these amazing coffee-colored flowers (mmm, did someone say coffee?).

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Look up to the mango fruit in the tree!

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Look down to this blazing pink flower.

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I even said the words “up” and “down” as we walked, to help build her vocabulary.

To be honest, there was so much to take in that Veronika seemed a little overwhelmed, between the movement and the sights. But the whole family welcomed a trip to see such lush colors in the middle of winter!

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If you don’t have a garden near you, try this up and down “tour” in a house, whether your own home or a historic home in the area. After the greenhouse, we headed inside, to see tall sconces and bookshelves, and low period-piece armchairs and trinkets.

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