Sorting and Swapping

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How do you keep a baby busy while a big sibling makes cookies? With this adorable sorting and swapping game!

I gave Veronika two plates, one piled high with lemons and small oranges, the other empty. These fruits were ideal because they were small enough for her to hold, big enough not to be choking hazards, and the peels prevented her from actually biting into them.

I showed her how to move everything from the first plate to the other. She was eager to get her hands on a lemon!

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It was a great chance to introduce the ideas of empty and full. Then I placed all the lemons on one side and all the oranges on the other, a great way to talk about different colors.

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Obviously this advanced sorting is too much for a ten-month-old to replicate, but it was useful for Veronika to see the grouping. She loved transferring the fruits back and forth for quite some time.

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Plus the plates were fun to play with!

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So in sum, a very easy way to keep baby entertained in the kitchen.

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Fee Fi Fo Fum

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Grown-ups are likely all familiar with the common syllables “fee fi fo fum” from the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk. But there’s no need to include the scary giant as you introduce this word play to your baby! The syllables echo a baby’s babble at about 10 months old, so today, I recited this classic for Veronika… with a twist.

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Sitting in front of her, I said:

Fee fi fo fum,

Here’s my fingers, here’s my thumb (open your fingers and then your thumb).

Fee fi fo fum,

Fingers gone, so is thumb (tuck fingers and then thumb away).

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To add a little learning in, I then repeated the rhyme with a different first consonant. For each letter, I handed her the accompanying foam letter to play with – a little extra learning to absorb! So she played with a big foam B for “bee bi bo bum” and giggled over T for “tee ti to tum”,

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We also did the rhyme on “dee di do dum” and then finally on “mee mi mo mum.”

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A big hit, for little effort!

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Shape-Sorting Puzzles

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I’ve already introduced Veronika to the notion of “in” and “out” with games when she was younger. Now, at nine months old, it’s the perfect chance to introduce a toy that takes this concept to the next level: shape sorters!

Not only are shape sorters fantastic for (obviously) learning shapes, but they also hone fine motor skills and they are the perfect vessel to continue games of “in and out.” Rather obviously, first all the shapes go in…

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…then all the shapes come out!

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Veronika has two shape-sorting puzzles that she loves. The first is a classic bucket with a lid that detaches. Mostly she bangs the shapes against the lid, but she does aim for the holes and gets closer every time. Sometimes I’ll place a square (or circle or triangle) right near its hole so all she has to do is it tap it in.

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“In!” we say, whenever one lands.

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The second shape sorter is a little bus that has three shape slots on top to put them in

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…and a fun compartment in back that opens up to dump them out.

There are plenty of other ways to focus on “in” and “out” if you don’t have shape sorters. Consider mailing a letter together! Today Veronika helped me put one in to the envelope…

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…and then in to the mailbox!

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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.

 

Start Naming Colors

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As a general rule, I tend to pepper my speech for Veronika with mention of colors. They’re all around baby everyday, and you can say simple sentences like, “You’re wearing your green shirt” or “You’re holding a pink toy.” But today, we played a cute game that focused on the three primary colors, plus another very common one, green.

Build up a tower of soft blocks that are all one color for your child. As I placed each block, I repeated the color. “Red, red, red” I said, as this tower rose up, up, up.

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I repeated the process for a blue tower, green tower, and yellow tower.

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Then play a round of baby soccer (i.e. kicking) and have your child knock the tower down. “Now we’re knocking down the red tower!” I told her.

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Once she was surrounded by blocks, we took turns playing with one color at a time, again saying each color’s name as we played.

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This turned out to be such a delight that we had to repeat the building and knocking down several times!

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Once baby tires of it, leave some of the towers up for a great tummy time visual.

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Larger Board Books

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Veronika first graduated from black and white books to those with more colors and rhymes. Now, at just shy of five-months-old, she’s at a great age for large-format tactile books. Look especially for ones that can open flat, so they provide entertainment during tummy time. She’s rolling over to check this one out!

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No need to stick to black and white anymore – babies at this age will love seeing vivid colors.

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Other things to look for include thick, easy-to-turn pages and flaps. Veronika loves playing peekaboo with the animals hiding behind pages.

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Noises are also fantastic. Two that we love, featuring farm animal sounds: I Like to Squeak, How Do You Speak by Jonathan Litton and Poppy and Sam’s Animal Sounds from Usborne Books.

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And don’t forget about texture!

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Pat the Bunny is a classic, and Veronika also loves Noisy Farm Touch and Feel by Tiger Tales.

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In sum, mix it up for your baby with new finds from the library or bookstore, and watch how interactive your little one is with books now.

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Baby Felt Play

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I can’t believe Veronika is nearly five months old, and getting to a point where games with her aren’t just about developing her senses, but also interactive! This craft is a perfect example; it was fun to put together while she played on her playmat, and entertained her nearly all morning while big brother was at school.

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To start, cut a long piece of felt from any one color. I only had short felt squares, so ended up tying together three strips of my base color.

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Using additional bright felt colors, cut out shapes. I kept these fairly simple, including circles, squares, triangles, stars, and diamonds.

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From here, there were so many ways to play! First, I simply let her explore with hands… and mouth.

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It was a fantastic toy while she was sitting in her high chair, keeping her hands busy as I prepped meals.

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Next, I lay her on a blanket and we concentrated on some early learning. Point out what your baby is looking at (“Look, a blue circle” or, “You’re touching the red star”).

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We also counted through the shapes a few times, all the way up to eight.

Then I challenged her gross motor skills, putting the felt a little out of her reach at tummy time.

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Her little legs started scrunching in an imitation crawl almost immediately. I gave her a bit of a boost and she was so proud when she made it to the felt.

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Finally, the toy is great for dangling. Veronika loved discovering she could pull off the shapes, one by one.

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Once the shapes are all off, simply thread back on to the long felt and begin again!

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Color Vision

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It’s never too early to introduce colors to your infant! Because your two-month-old’s eyes are now able to distinguish between shades, make sure to include a wide variety of colors in his or her toys. Today, I emphasized color each time she was on her playmat.

We have a set of shape toys that are in easy, bold colors, and they were perfect for this game (as opposed to multi-colored toys). I named each color in turn as I held it up to Veronika, and encouraged her to reach out.

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Some she wanted to grab onto.

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Purple and blue got big smiles – maybe those will be her favorite colors down the line!

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Then I set up all the colors in front of her for tummy time, so she could look at the rainbow.

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We played later in the day with musical instruments, and I showed her a few that were in bold, solid colors, like red rhythm sticks…

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… and purple maracas. What a great way to start introducing a rainbow-hued world.

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Alphabet Rocks

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I’ve been wanting to make these adorable letter-learning rocks for Travis for weeks now, but it required finding 26 relatively smooth stones, and we simply hadn’t had a chance to get to the beach. Finally on a sunny spring weekend we headed to the shore, perfect for collecting rocks.

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Travis adored the collection process, finding rocks and shells and other treasures along the way. Do take care in selecting your rocks. You need them to be large enough and flat enough to paint the letters of the alphabet. Ultimately some of mine worked better than others!

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Once home, we washed the rocks and left them to dry overnight. The next day I painted them with lower case letters using acrylic paints. You can alternate several colors if you prefer. My original plan was to alternate blue and gold paint, but the gold didn’t show up well on several rocks, so all blue it was!

For a decorative touch, add dots of white paint around each letter. Once dry, make a black dot in the center with a sharpie.

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Now the rocks were ready for play!

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There’s so much you can do with these. In addition to just spelling sight words (your child’s name, go, stop etc.) we used the rocks for two specific purposes.

The first was as a learning aid to our Usborne Starting to Read Pack.

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Travis is very tactile, so having to select the rocks that went with each word on the page helped reinforce what he was seeing.

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We also loved using the rocks as a supplement to activity worksheets from Education.com. If you’re not familiar with the site, it’s full of activities and lesson plans for children, ages preschool through middle school. For example, kids will love to discover and learn new words with reading-to-picture match up sheets. Be sure and check out Education.com more learning resources just like the one we used.

For our purposes, Travis first found the alphabet rocks that corresponded with each word before we matched it with its picture.

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This made it so much more tactile and engaging for him than a two-dimensional activity.

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Overall, these rocks are a fantastic tool to reinforce letter learning and early reading. How do you plan to use the rocks? Please share in the comments!

Chalk Bullseye

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We’ve been having fun with chalk this week, whether traditional chalk or our own homemade version. For this game, we simply grabbed a piece of chalk and got drawing! You’ll combine a little exercise with a little math – always a bonus.

For the first variation, I drew a traditional bullseye, and labeled each inner circle ten points higher than the last. This is great for kids who are learning to count by tens.

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Dip a sponge in a bucket of water, than take your best shot at the bullseye. Bigger kids can even keep score over multiple rounds (make the sidewalk your scoresheet!) for addition practice.

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For something a little simpler, we also set up a shape and number review.  Write down numbers 1 through 5, each inside a different shape.

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As he threw, I had Travis shout out which one he was aiming for, i.e. rectangle 4 or heart 5.

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We lost our sunshine before we had very much time to play with these games, but we still had fun while the warm weather lasted!

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