Game of Soccer

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Now that spring is here, I’m taking Veronika on more outdoor excursions. One great way to spend time with your almost-six-month-old is to catch a local game of soccer! Not only will watching the action strengthen his or her eye muscles and tracking skills, but there is so much to see and talk about, and great new vocab to teach.

For Veronika, the soccer “game” was actually big brother’s practice. If you don’t have a big sib or friend to watch play, consider catching a local elementary school game, or even watching the big kids from a high school nearby!

Either way, Veronika seemed to love the atmosphere right away, soaking up the sun on a blanket despite an unusually chilly spring morning. I brought along a little ball so she could enjoy the tactile element, as well.

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We watched the big kids move down the field. I pointed out all their motions to her, which involved some great verbs. Running:

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Kicking:

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Drills where they dribbled or tapped cones with their feet:

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She was very absorbed watching it all – quite the little spectator!

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In sum, a game of soccer is a beautiful way to spend some time with your baby, long before he or she is old enough to play.

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Screen Scream!

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With firstborn baby, I wouldn’t have dreamed of going to a movie theater. I intended to allow no screens for my baby until age 2, and I worried about the noise level, or him making a fuss, or so much more.

Well, I’m a little more relaxed with Veronika as my second baby, and although I never sit her down in front of a screen, she’s no stranger to ambient movies, thanks to big brother.

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Today, I learned that even a movie theater can be an adorable outing with an infant! Even if you don’t have a big kid to take along, I recommend seeking out a matinee – it might be just the outing you need as a stay-at-home new parent, and baby is going to love it.

Here’s what Veronika did. She slept for the first 45 minutes, the loud audio of a dragon movie be darned. You can just see her stroller in the foreground.

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When she woke up, she looked nervous for a moment, but then nursed on my lap and peeked with big wide eyes at the screen. The lights and colors and music will be fascinating to a baby, even though they can’t follow the story!

I bounced her on my lap to keep her happy, which got little giggles. When she grew a bit fussy, I stood up with her in the aisle. Again, this is why I recommend a matinee. There was only one other family in the audience – a grandma with her granddaughters – and they weren’t at all troubled by me standing and bouncing Veronika off to the side.

After that she was tuckered out! She passed back out for the last half hour of the movie, sleeping peacefully on my tummy.

Here we are in the lobby after!

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I wish I’d been able to take pictures in the dark theater, because she was adorable and grinning while the movie was in progress. Here she seems to be asking Travis, “What on earth was that place?”

If a movie theater seems too daunting, consider checking out a puppet show! The kid-friendly atmosphere makes for a great showtime experience. I located a local theater and headed off with the kids to see Little Red Riding Hood.

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There was so much carnival atmosphere to take in that Veronika was instantly enchanted.

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I think she would have been happy just hanging out in the lobby!

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The kids even got a demonstration before the show began.

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Once in the theater, my little girl was wide-eyed and rapt. No sleeping here!

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Obviously the story was way over her head, but the idea is that your little one will take in the motions and colors and movements on the stage, plus get a first experience being part of an audience.

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Then there was a laser-lit dance party for the kids at the end. So yes, definitely a more kid-friendly atmosphere than a movie theater.

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What show will you take your baby to? Please share in the comments!

Where, Oh Where…

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I’ve been saying the same¬†little rhyme¬†to Veronika each night at bedtime since she was about three months old. Here’s a cute corollary we now say in the morning while she’s getting dressed.

Where, oh where, are your little fingers?

Where, oh where, are your tiny toes?

Where, oh where, is your belly button?

Round and round it goes!

Where, oh where, are you two small ears?

And where, oh where, is your nose?

Where, oh where, is your belly button?

Round and round it goes!

Touch each part as you recite of course. It’s so fun to identify those little fingers…

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And tiny toes.

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And when you get to the belly button, make little circles around on the tummy!

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This one always gets giggles and smiles!

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Have a Play Date at Home

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One thing little babies often see very little of? Other little babies!

This can be true whether your child is your first born, and thus most often in the company of adults, or if he or she is a second child, who gets to see lots of big kids, but probably not so many small ones.

One great way to introduce your baby to another baby is to host a playdate at home – this will be much less overwhelming than a group class, even though there are plenty of organized activities at local libraries or gyms for babies about 6 months and older.

So today, Veronika and I played hostess!

The babies loved checking each other out, reaching out cautious hands and staring at each other with big smiles. Hey, somebody else my size! Veronika seemed to say.

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We set up a bigger-than-usual tummy time station with some favorite toys where the two babies could look at each other as they got in their exercise and play – built in visual stimulation!

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It turns out Veronika was fussier than normal during our playdate, perhaps sensing that something was different. But eventually both babies were contentedly playing on mommy’s laps, chewing on toys and vocalizing to each other. Perhaps they even understand each other’s gurgles and coos!

Meanwhile this is a great way for you as a parent to connect one-on-one with a family member or friend whose child is close in age to yours. I guarantee that you will have lots to bond about!

Dropping Game

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Here’s a game that’s sure to make your baby giggle, but little will he or she realize there are valuable skills being taught, too! The game covers everything from the concepts of in and out to the fine motor skills needed for retrieving an object.

I placed a plastic beach bucket in front of Veronika, and gathered up a few soft toys.

For each one, I dangled it over the bucket, making sure she saw it first.

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Then I dropped it into the bucket with a big grin and an “oopsy!” This got giggles of course!

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Once the bucket was filled, I encouraged her to pull the items out again.

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This proved to be tricky because she was way more interested in the bucket (a novelty!) than the toys she already knows.

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But we did have a few successful pickups. The apple goes in…

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…and comes out!

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This is definitely a game I’d play again; I love simple activities like this that make me pay careful attention to her skills and really zero in on her development, even for a short period, during an otherwise hectic day.

 

Form an Impromptu Band

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I love musical play with babies – they take to it so readily! Today, we struck up a band for Veronika as a family, using two types of instruments: real ones that we’ve accumulated over the years, and some improvised ones, too.

Because what is a pot and spoon if not a drum?

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Or a rolled piece of paper if not a horn? Big brother Travis loved the way this one sounded.

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We got jamming and handed Veronika instruments to play, too.

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Travis found a new way to play on this pot – with a kazoo as the mallet!

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Then we shifted our focus from playing the instruments to dancing to some tunes.

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Wiggling is such a funny thing for babies both to see and feel. Set your music player to Music Together’s “Wiggle” and, well, wiggle! I wiggled my fingers, my arms, my legs.

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Travis got into the moves wiggling his whole body.

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By the time we wiggled Veronika’s own toes and fingers, she was giggling with delight. Wiggle your hands all over baby’s body, too, for more giggles.

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Don’t forget to just pick up your baby and get your whole bodies into the rhythm. We danced from room to room.

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Now that she’s older, the dance moves can be more active than those with a newborn; we went up and down, spun around, stepped back and forth, you name it. Dance it up!

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Bubbles and Squirty Water

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With Veronika sitting up in the tub, the fun continues to bubble over in new ways!

I mean that literally tonight; it was time to introduce her to the great joys of bubble baths. Make sure you’re using a baby-safe, tear-free formula, especially because your little one is likely to touch mouth or eyes with a sudsy hand at some point. Luckily Veronika seemed unfazed when this happened.

First I just showed her the bubbles as we ran the water.

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Once in the tub, we hid a favorite toy, a bright yellow ducky. She loved digging for it in the bubbles!

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I also blew bubbles gently onto her back and tummy, for a giggly sensation.

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Then we got squirty! I used an empty dish soap bottle to squirt water, both over the bubbles and onto her skin. She wanted to catch the stream of water!

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You can also do this with a funnel.

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Or with a sieve (we have a bath cup with little holes that’s perfect, and better-sized for baby hands than an actual sieve). I drizzled a little stream of water over her toes and palms, which she loved!

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How do you make bath fun for your baby at this age? Please share in the comments!

Give Your Baby a Massage

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I’ve fallen out of the habit of giving Veronika a massage in the evenings, which I tried to do when she was tiny. This prompt from my baby activity book was a nice reminder, and you can take more time with it now that your baby is older – and perhaps even has sore muscles from all the practice rolling and sitting!

I used olive oil, but any edible baby-safe oil will work.

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To give her the full spa treatment, I laid Veronika down on a soft blanket in a warm room, and started with her face. Stroke the head with your hands, then rub your thumbs gently along baby’s forehead.

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I moved down to the eyebrows and cheeks and along the sides of her face with my thumbs. Continue down to the chest, spreading your hands out around the ribs.

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Now it was time for legs! Rub first down one leg, gently squeezing as you go. I named the parts of the leg as I moved from thigh to knee to shin. Finish with the feet; press your thumbs gently into the soles, then lightly pull each toe. I know this is my favorite part at the spa, ha!

 

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Repeat a similar process along the arms: rub down the arm, then finish with thumbs gently pressing into the palm and tugging on each finger.

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She looked so relaxed by the end! If it feels like this won’t fit into a hectic nighttime routine, consider it before a nap, or even after an afternoon bath.

Go to the Zoo

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Now hold on; as my readers know, normally I don’t advocate taking children to zoos. There are too many sad stories of animals who are unhappy in captivity, and your money is far better spent at a sanctuary. But today, we were invited to an Easter event at a local petting zoo, and I will say that Veronika seemed delighted in this chance to see the animals. So with some hesitation, here is my post about it as a field trip.

For the most part, this place was more petting zoo than exotic zoo. That meant lots of chances to see familiar animals up close, like pigs, goats, cows, and ponies.

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The goats seemed to love Veronika! She also enjoyed seeing her brother feed them special cones filled with treats.

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As we paused by each animal enclosure, I pointed out the name and the animal’s features, and made the appropriate sounds (moo, oink, maa) to turn it into a learning experience.

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I will say, it was neat for a moment to see small primates, such as lemurs, who were kept in an enrichment environment.

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If you do find yourself at a zoo, there probably is a lot more for a young infant to look at and enjoy than just the animals. Veronika also got to see the train ride:

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Enjoy lunch time at a picnic table:

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Take in a silly chicken puppet show:

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Observe a playground with kid-sized houses:

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And so much more. She sure did look happy.

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We kept up the fun at home, going back over some of the animals we’d seen that day in her baby books.

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She seemed to especially like the fluffy bunnies that she’d seen at the special Easter event.

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You can also sing Old Macdonald Had a Farm while using a farm playset.

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It was good “review” of everything she’d seen in the afternoon!

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Bath-time Fun!

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Two months ago, I posted about Veronika’s switch to the big girl tub (well, big baby tub anyway). Now that she’s able to sit up for short spells on her own, we can make bathtime even more fun! As always, never leave your baby unattended in the tub, even for a moment, and keep a supporting hand on a baby even once they’re able to sit; everything is slipperier in the water!

One great new toy we have is a puppet washcloth. You can find these adorable washcloths with animal heads just about anywhere (ours is from Target), and they make bathtime truly entertaining. Veronika’s little fox likes giving kisses to toes and knees and tummies!

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She also loves to pat at the bubbles in the water.

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I pat my hand in the bubbles to add to the fun. You can do this rhythmically along to a song or nursery rhyme. Row Row Row Your Boat is a go-to in our tub.

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And as always, she has her plastic tub toys to play with; she’s getting much more dexterous at holding them even with slippery hands.

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At this age, I recommend skipping any fancy battery-operated toys. As long as its plastic and watertight, it can join baby in the water.

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Happy bathing!

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