Video Time Capsule

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Veronika turned 2 years old today, and it was a fun reminder to look back on the videos we took last year when she turned 1. We had footage of the expected big moments (blowing out the candles, opening up her first present), but also a birthday dance party with dad and big brother Travis that I had forgotten all about. We loved it so much that we decided to make it a tradition!

So we staged a fun dance video to the same music as last year. The goal is to make this a tradition so eventually we can string together a video time capsule over the years.

Similarly, you can pick anything big or small on your child’s birthday (a tour of your child’s room, asking him or her what their favorite toy is, blowing out candles) and take a clip each year that becomes a time capsule over, well, time!

We also filmed snippets throughout the day, which we know will be fun to look back on. These included opening up gifts…

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…a special trip to a local children’s museum…

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…and of course, cake!

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What are the go-to birthday traditions in your family to film? Please share in the comments!

Happy Birthday Sensory Bin

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For toddlers who don’t entirely understand what it means to have a birthday yet, here’s a beautiful way to greet them the morning of their big day and introduce some of the items they’ll be seeing now and in years to come!

I filled a craft bin with bright and birthday-themed items. Birthday goodies included cupcake liners and candles, lots of bows and ribbons, and birthday-themed stickers. I also added neon pipe cleaners and a huge pile of pom poms, just for pops of color.

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Veronika barely let me finish setting up before getting her hands in the mix! She loved pouring the pom poms from one cupcake liner to another. Then we started baking pom pom cupcakes! Fill the liners and add a candle in the center for an introduction to the tradition of making a wish.

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The ribbons were so fun for to pull at or twist apart.

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Or to place on Veronika’s head like a birthday crown!

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At one point, she realized she could walk all the way around the apartment while unraveling a strand of gold ribbon, which was a pure delight to watch.

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I also set down some construction paper so she could peel off stickers (in fun shapes like cupcakes and balloons), and sticker all over the paper at will.

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In sum, you’ll have a very happy birthday boy or girl on your hands if you start a toddler’s birthday with this activity!

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Sticky Foam Birthday Cake

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Veronika turns two years old tomorrow! To get in the mood for all things birthday, we made a giant cake on the wall today… from paper and foam stickers that is.

This is a fun way to engage siblings in celebrating a younger child. I cut a large square of craft paper and taped it to the wall, then invited everyone to add stickers. We had a huge bin of foam ones in heart and flower shapes.

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Veronika liked the littlest foam stickers best, and placed them all over the paper in a haphazard way.

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Big brother Travis loved proudly adding a piece here and there. If you’re doing this activity for a preschooler’s birthday, it would be the perfect opportunity to practice early patterning.

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I attempted to make stripes across the paper like “frosting”, although of course I knew not all of the rows would be neat and even.

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Once our cake was “frosted”, I added candles made from construction paper. Two candles for my two-year-old!

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Note: If you have foam craft shapes that aren’t stickers, you can do this activity right on the window. Just brush with water and they’ll stick. But definitely don’t use the window if you have sticky ones, or clean-up will be more than you bargained for

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Fall Hair Gel Sun Catchers

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I wanted to make a couple of orange sensory bags for Veronika this morning, with Halloween and autumn in full swing, only to realize I didn’t have any orange food coloring! I didn’t have yellow, either, which meant I couldn’t even mix red and yellow to make orange.

On a whim I decided to see if I could dye things the old-fashioned way (spices!) and there was orange turmeric in the spice rack. The result wasn’t perfect, but adding the spice turned out to be half the fun.

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I squirted a generous amount of clear hair gel into each of two small zip-top bags to start. In the first, I added about a teaspoon of turmeric and mushed around until it was orange. Veronika loved the smell of the turmeric, and wanted to help measure out the spoonful!

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Then I added orange leaves we’d brought home from the playground yesterday. The turmeric did make the bag slightly cloudy and hard to see the leaves, but it worked fine if in direct sunlight.

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For the second version, I drew jack o’ lantern features directly on the plastic bag with a black sharpie. Again I added 1 teaspoon turmeric, along with 1 drop of red food coloring. This made a great orange!

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Because the black features were on the outside, the graininess of the spice didn’t matter this time. Veronika loved playing with this squishy bag where I taped it against the window.

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These turned out to be so fun, and spot-on for the season, too.

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Party Tablecloth

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This is an easy and fun way to get even a toddler involved with the decoration for his or her own birthday party. Set out a long piece of craft paper, along with coloring supplies, stamps, or stickers, and let the fun begin!

Veronika loved the ink pad and tractor stamp I handed over in anticipation of her tractor-themed party. She dotted it all over the paper, with a little mommy help to make sure the ink prints were dark enough for guests to see.

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Then she wanted to use markers. I gave her green and yellow since these were the party theme colors, although she asked for blue, too!

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If you have stickers or even images cut from magazines that fit your child’s birthday theme, add those, too. It was the perfect homemade touch to the decor for her second birthday party! We even got half of a little footprint in red ink, making it a neat keepsake

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Maze Through Lentils

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Veronika is obsessed with tractors and other farm machinery, so this sensory bin was a great way to bring the farm play home. It also doubles as a learning maze!

To set up, make a line of masking tape on the bottom of a shallow tray, forming a path from start to finish.. I wanted this to be fairly simple for Veronika to follow, but made a few zigs and zags.

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Add the words ‘start’ and ‘finish’ for early sight words!

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Next, I covered the whole tray with red lentils. Add miniature farm-themed items, whether miniature animals or seasonal miniatures, or anything else that fits the theme. We used mini hay bales, tiny gourds, and of course a little wheelbarrow.

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Could we get the wheelbarrow from start to finish? I showed Veronika how to scrape her finger through the lentils to uncover the path.

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Big brother Travis wanted to jump in for this part!

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Now the goal was the drive the wheelbarrow along the path, making this count as Veronika’s very first maze. Of course she also loved driving it all through the lentils, leaving the tape path behind completely.

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The mini farm items were so fun to play with in further imaginative play.

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She moved items around and “planted” the gourds in the field, and kept busy with the sensory tray for nearly half an hour.

Glow Sticks and Balloons

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We’re having a dreary wet Memorial Day, but we’re not letting that stop the fun! In lieu of a parade or fireworks, we created our own display at home!

Enlist your child’s help in snapping glow sticks – Travis’s face lit up for each new one we set aglow, no matter how many times he’d seen it happen.

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Slightly blow up a balloon to let it stretch out a bit, then carefully insert a lit glow stick into each.

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Blow up the balloon the rest of the way and tie off.

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Let the illuminated fun begin! For the best results, dim the lights or wait until dark.

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Patriotic Rocks

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A very happy Memorial Day to all, and a sincere thanks to all those in our country who serve or have served. We had a very patriotic weekend, catching a local Navy parachute demonstration in honor of the holiday. Travis was smitten, so we brought the patriotic sentiment back home with this easy craft.

Take a walk to collect a few rocks, and then lay them out with red, white, and blue paints.

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Older children will definitely have fun drawing replica American flags on their rocks, but for a three-year-old, simply decorating in the colors of our flag was a joy.

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He liked choosing which colors should go where!

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I added a few lines of paint to a few rocks so that they more closely resembled our flag.

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Let the rocks dry, then proudly display as holiday decorations. These would be great for the 4th of July, too!

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Pond Play Dough

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This was an activity that first got botched, then turned out to be fun with a plan b, and then which we finally made correctly!

My first batch of homemade play dough didn’t come together quite right – I think because I ought to have left it on the heat a little longer. But I had already promised Travis “pond-scented” play dough, so thinking quickly we added tea tree oil to the store-bought play dough we had at home.

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Travis was fascinated by the way it smelled, and soon our play dough became lily pads and water for frogs and fish to play around on.

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For extra gooey fun, I pulled out the botched batch of play dough anyway. Travis loved the way the frogs sank into it and left impressions behind. Goopy but a good time!

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The next day I pulled up a more foolproof recipe. In a bowl, combine:

2 and 1/4 cups flour

1/2 cup salt

2 tablespoons cream of tartar

3 tablespoons oil

1 cup boiling water

Travis helped combine all the ingredients, except the water, which I poured in last (definitely a grown-up step). Let your dough cool slightly, then need until smooth and workable.

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We added natural food coloring for a blue pond.

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And then of course the tea tree oil.

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And had fun all over again!

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Tornado in a Jar

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Show your child the whirling power of wind with this tornado-in-a-jar. They are sure to love adding the ingredients and watching the results!

First we needed to put our tornado together. Travis helped pour water into a mason jar until it was about two-thirds of the way full…

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Then we squeezed in a little dish soap…

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A few drops of food color…

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And glitter. (Because of course a tornado needs glitter – but actually this will help make it easier to see the water swirling around).

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Travis had seen some clips of big tornadoes online, so he had a reference point when we turned our mason jar upside down and spun it a few times to create a tornado effect. Glue on the cap if you’re worried your child will try and open it up to explore the contents of the tornado, of course!

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