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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Make a Mailbox

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Kids just love the mail and playing mailbox, and this is true even before they fully understand what the pretend play is all about! So today I made Veronika her first mailbox, simply by cutting a slit in an old shoebox.

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We had fun decorating it together; while Veronika proudly scribbled in purple, I added “U.S. Mail” across the top and some red and blue coloration.

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It was time to send the mail! Use old envelopes or stationary or even playing cards for your “letters”. I showed her how to put them in the slot…

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…and then reach in to take them out again. She got the hang of it right away.

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Add to the pretend play by addressing a note or two to your baby. You can then pretend to “read” the mail together.

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For proof that games like this never grow old, big brother Travis needed to horn in on the action.

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Soon he was practicing his handwriting as he addressed letters, mailing them through the slot, and opening them back up again.

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It kept both of them entertained for ages!

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You can finish the fun with a trip to a real post office, or even just a stop to watch a mail carrier at work, delivering letters from the truck.

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Rhythm Sticks

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These easy DIY rhythm sticks lend themselves to so many games, musical and otherwise! To make a few simple pairs, I purchased dowels at the craft store and painted each set a different color. For starters we had blue and purple, but keep adding to your collection for lots of colors if desired.

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Once the paint dried, I showed Veronika a few easy ways to play with them. First I simply encouraged her to tap the sticks while I hummed a song.

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Then I held out one of the sticks from my pair so she could tap against mine. This is almost like rhythm stick Patty Cake.

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We put on music and just played along, of course!

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Then it was fun to challenge her to match color to color. Keep this particular version up as your baby advances to toddlerhood.

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It can also be fun to see how your baby uses the sticks, perhaps in ways you haven’t imagined, and to imitate the moves. Veronika liked rolling hers on the floor…

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…and waving them in the air. So I followed suit!

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We loved this musical interlude together.

Hide the Ball Memory Game

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My dad used to perform a “magic trick” when I was a child, hiding a ball under one cup only to seemingly make it reappear from under another like magic. This is a simpler variation on that old trick, perfect to play with your almost-one-year-old!

I used only two cups and a ball because I knew the items themselves would be of great interest to Veronika, who sure enough wanted to grab everything nearly before I had time to hide the ball. Use three cups if your baby is more patient!

I let her see me hide a ball under one of the cups, then asked her where it was.

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Each time her hand immediately moved to the cup over the ball, almost too fast for me to snap a good picture.

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Obviously this game is great for object permanence. Even cuter, this time she wanted to hide the ball herself. As soon as she uncovered it, she puzzled over how to insert the ball so it was hiding again.

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Inevitably her cup was facing upwards, not down, but I loved watching her brain at work on this one.

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Plan a Treat

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Today’s blog activity wasn’t for Veronika; it was for mommy and daddy!

It’s so important to remember to do something special for yourself now and then, whether that means connecting with a partner over a night out on the town, or having friends in for a movie.

A local “speakeasy” with inventive cocktails was on the menu, while grandparents kept watch.

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It was the best feeling to return and hear that Veronika didn’t make a peep but we got to sneak in some grown-up time. My best suggestion for a night like this is to keep the conversation away from the kids; focus on you.

If you don’t have a grandparent nearby who can babysit but the cost of babysitters is prohibitive, one other great idea is a babysitting circle. You can join an app, or simply watch a friend’s kids one night and they watch yours the next. And everyone gets to enjoy a treat!

Hand Over Hand

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This little game can be played anywhere, and is sure to have your baby giggling!

The idea is simple: Place your hand down, palm facing down, and encourage your baby to cover it with his or her hand. Then continue piling hands. Pull out your hand from the bottom and now it goes on top. Surprise!

It may be easiest to play first with another grown-up or a sibling so baby can see the idea.

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Then Veronika wanted a turn! It’s this kind of simple entertainment that is sometimes the best.Hand over Hand (1)

Little Helper

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Veronika’s at that delightful age, just shy of one year, when babies want to be your little helper. Ever notice how toddlers toddle over to clean up much more readily than your big kid? Yup! Take advantage of this moment to model “please” and “thank you”, and hopefully to set the stage for good habits.

I noticed it today while folding laundry; Veronika was so eager to help me put the socks in the laundry bin.

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Don’t harp over the fact that socks are unpaired or washcloths unfolded, just accept the help! With each item in, I gave her a big thank you. “Can you please put the socks in the bin?” I asked her. Yes indeed!

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Another great opportunity was at meal time.

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“Can I please have your cup?” I asked her, instead of simply taking it from her when she looked finished.

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She handed it over with a big smile.

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How do you teach your baby manners? Please share in the comments!

Homemade Playdough

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If you’re excited for your baby to play with playdough but don’t like the ingredients in the store-bought stuff, look no further. This easy no-cook dough comes together so quickly I could whip it up before the morning school bus!

In a big bowl, stir together 3 cups flour, 2 tablespoons cornstarch, 1 cup salt, 1 cup cold water, 2 teaspoons food coloring, and 2 teaspoons vegetable oil.

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Stir to form a dough, then turn out onto a surface and knead until it comes together and feels like playdough. I found it helpful to divide the dough into four smaller portions during this step.

It was time for Veronika to play! We sat down on the floor and I showed her the dough. She seemed hesitant to touch it at first!

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I made a few shapes for her, showing her how to roll it into balls or snakes, or how to pay it into flat discs.

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She got into the action a little tentatively, but with smiles.

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Then of course she wanted to lick it. Uh oh, yucky!

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Luckily the high salt content means even the most curious kids won’t take more than a sample.

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Have fun making animals and name them for your baby. We had snakes and perhaps a green frog or two. The playdough will keep in an airtight container or bag for about 1 week. Next time we’ll try a different color.

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Want a more fall-themed version for your baby? My all-time favorite homemade playdough is pumpkin pie scented.

Think Outside the Gender Toy Box

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I’ve always tried to give my children toys that are gender neutral, especially as babies and toddlers. Partly this is by accident; there is nothing inherently gendered about many fantastic baby toys, including stacking rings, farm animal sets, building blocks, and textured books. Partly it’s by design; as a gender studies major, I had strong beliefs about not gendering my children’s play, especially with my eldest.

But the gendered toys do happen, and thus we’ve accumulated “boy toys” over the years for Travis: cars and trucks, big construction vehicles, and action figures (oh boy the action figures).

Today, I let Veronika have at this “boy” play bin! Not only was this a fantastic way to swap up her toys (something I recommend regularly in any playroom), but Veronika had no idea the toys were gendered and was quite simply thrilled to have her brother’s things. As an eleven-month-old just starting to enjoy imaginative play, it’s a great time for a swap like this.

First up, lots of vrooming! Veronika likes to scoot boxes or toy telephones around on the floor with a “vvvv” sound, so I knew these would be a hit.

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No sooner did I place down a police car and firetruck then she was off. “Vroom!”

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We added in a few smaller cars and trucks on the town playmat, and there was lots of happy scooting for quite some time.

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Then I gave her two superheroes (if your baby is under three, choose wisely, as many have small parts; a big Spiderman and Superman were perfect). She was thrilled!

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Spiderman and Superman had no idea what hit them. This little lady wanted to play for ages. She twirled them around, carried them around, put them in trucks, you name it.

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Other fun options for “boy” toys included a train…

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…and a rocketship.

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So whether you’re giving your little girl “boy toys” or your little boy “girl toys” (dolls, tea sets), mix it up today! Chances are your baby will have a blast.

Foam Sheet Bath

Foam Bath (5)There’s a new favorite bath toy around here, and it’s as simple as this: leftover foam sheets from the craft store!

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I happened to have circular ones, which were the perfect material for the tub. They are slightly smaller and thus easier to manipulate than standard rectangular sheets you can purchase. If you have big rectangular ones, consider cutting into smaller shapes in a variety of squares, circles, and triangles.

Veronika was soon squishing them in her hands in the water with glee.

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I showed her how to stick them up to the wall as soon as they were wet, and she proceeded to pull them down and stick them back on all bath.

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Rather obviously, the game was great for talking about colors, too! Could she put her hand on the blue one? Could she hand me a green one?

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As a bonus, leave them in the tub for older siblings; big brother Travis turned these into “lily pads” for toy animals!

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