Set Up a Book Corner

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Veronika’s big brother loved books from the earliest age, engaging directly with them and sitting still for story time. Veronika has way more of her own agenda, which means I often find myself reading solo while she crawls around the room. But she does love to pull out a book and flip through pages on her own.

To encourage this early “reading”, I set up a cozy book corner that can be her own special space. Think: blankets, pillows, and anything else that makes the nook cozy.

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Next, add a dedicated book basket. You can decorate it, but I had a hunch Veronika would just view the decorations as invitation to tear them off, so left the basket plain.

Now fill it! I put in copies of her Hello magazines, as well as books that engage with more than just pictures: tactile elements, jigsaw puzzle books, you name it.

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Imagine my delight, then, when I saw her scoot over to the corner, pull books from the basket and “read” to herself.

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Veronika does this with a little drone or humming noise, almost like she’s pretending to read the words as I do.

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She loved the big flaps of one book, and was quite content to read for a while.

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This is definitely our new go-to story spot! Do you have a story nook in your home? Please share in the comments!

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Counting Fish

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Veronika was gifted an adorable counting fish game, which reminded me of a rhyme I used to sing for big brother Travis.

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Both the tune and the counting elements are fun in this one, and Veronika is at a great age for counting rhymes. As we played with the fish, I sang:

One, two, three, four, five,

Once I caught a fish alive.

Six, seven eight nine, ten,

Then I let him go again.

 

Why did you let him go?

Because he bit my finger so.

Which finger did he bite?

This little finger on my right.

We counted out the fish one by one to the words…

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Or practiced letting the fish go when I sang that line.

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In sum, this is an adorable one to add to your repertoire, if you’re in need of new songs!

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Developmental Bath Toys

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It can be hard to keep Veronika in one place long enough to “learn” from her toys these days (think: shape sorters and stacking rings). One great option for babies who just won’t sit still is to take advantage of a bathtub’s confined quarters. This makes bath time ideal for developmental learning and play!

I found a tub-safe shape sorter on Amazon and brought that to the bath, along with her plastic stacking ring set.

The shape sorter was an enormous hit! Whereas in her playroom she’ll fiddle around with the shapes for a moment and then lose interest, now she was fixed in front of the shape sorter.

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She spent quite some time trying to insert the circle into the square. Hmm, that didn’t work. I showed her the circle space. Tada! She was fascinated and wanted to play over and over.

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As a bonus, tub toys like this often have water wheel or pouring features, which further engaged Veronika.

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The stacking rings were also novel in the tub. She usually just likes to pull the rings off the center post, but now she had the time and incentive to stack the rings on.

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For any toys like this, keep up the dialogue as baby plays: shapes, colors, relative sizes. There is so much you can say!

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As an added bonus, all these fun toys kept my little imp from trying to pull up on the side of the slippery tub… but that’s a topic for another day!

Flashing Colors

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Most often I carve out time to play learning games with Veronika during the day, but there are also unique opportunities for games at night. Namely, flashlight games!  This one is fun for getting your little one interested in colors, and works better the darker it gets.

Set out a variety of play scarves in different colors, and take turns shining a flashlight on them. As you do so, name the color.

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Veronika loved watching the light move from scarf to scarf,

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…and wanted a chance to hold the flashlight too, of course!

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Once it’s very dark, hold the flashlight right up to a scarf and shine against the wall; you’ll see the colors reflected back, a beautiful effect.

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Big brother loved helping out as flashlight holder, which makes this a great way to involve older siblings in a little one’s bedtime routine.

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What games do you play with your baby after dark? Please share in the comments!

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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