Follow the Leader

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Veronika has taken five steps forward on her own… but she’s reluctant to do so and will drop to a crawl more often than not. Today, I was hoping a good old-fashioned game of Follow the Leader might inspire her forward.

We started out with a few copying moves (almost like ‘Simon Says‘) to get her in a follow-along mood. Could she tap sticks like me?

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Stomp her feet like me?

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(Note: We have a silly sloth toy that claps its hands and moves to the beat. Toys like these are also great to teach your toddler to play copycat).

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Now it was time to follow the leader! Big brother marched ahead and we sang “We’re Following the Leader” as we marched around the apartment.

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Finally, I let go of her hands and kept marching to see if she would continue to follow. It’s still a work in progress, but this was a great game to set her steps in motion!

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Don’t forget to play a reverse version and let your toddler be the leader. I took a few minutes to copy her moves, whether crawling after her or tapping our tummies, and she loved being the one in charge!

Bucket of Balls

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While big brother and I were playing math games with balls, I tailored some ball play to Veronika. The set-up? Just grab a bucket and fill it with a variety of balls; that’s it!

From there, I had no agenda for her (like past games that worked on gross motor skills or vocab) but was interested instead to see what she would be inspired to do with this simple set-up.

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First she dug through, pulling out the balls in turn. Then it was so much fun to upend the bucket and watch the balls go rolling.

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I helped her scamper after the balls so we could add them back in one at a time with a “plink”!

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Of course the bucket itself was a toy, too.

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As she played, I did chime in with a few words about the texture of each ball. Some were squishy, some were hard, and there was lots of color variation to discuss, too.

The bumpy one on her belly was the most fun of all!

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Have a Ball with Math

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Travis has shown a keen interest in numbers and basic math lately. So today we had a ball (literally!), playing games that played around with numbers and worked his gross motor skills.

First up, we played backwards toss. Toss a ball back and forth, but instead of counting up each catch, count down. This is a great way to introduce the idea of subtraction, even before a child is ready for equations. Touchdown!

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Next we returned to counting up, but used skip counting. He loved grasping how the numbers went from 5 to 10 to 15 to 20 and so forth up to 100. Plus I noticed improvement in his hand-eye coordination even over the course of a few rounds!

After school, we played a kicking game. I cut three holes in a piece of cardboard, each hole worth different points, again using skip-counting by 5s.

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Travis was in charge of the tally!

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I showed him how to make tally marks in bundles of 5, which we then totted up to find out our final scores.

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Score one for the math team!

Follow Me

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Today I focused on gross motor skills during Veronika’s play. The title of this post refers both to literally having your little one follow you (up, down, and all around an obstacle course), as well as the idea of following directions. Both are great skills for your little toddler!

I set up a few couch cushions for a standard obstacle course, but added a few new twists today, namely a laundry basket and balls. She trotted over immediately to see what was up!

First, I showed her how to roll balls down one of the cushions. She loved doing so, with a big push.

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Next it was time to follow me, modeling how to crawl down the ramp. Crawling down can be tricky for little ones, so supervise closely.

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We headed back in the other direction where she followed my lead to toss balls into the basket.

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Next we upended the basket and I turned it into a choo-choo train. I went first (“Follow me!”) but soon she was the thrilled conductor.

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She played games with the balls on the cushions even after I stopped being the leader.

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You can add so many more elements to an obstacle course like this, whether a jump rope (to walk a straight line), a box (to scoot around the room), or just about anything else that can work your toddler’s gross motor skills.

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Sticky Step

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Veronika is so close to walking, but still walks very stiff-legged when she holds our hands, her knees barely bending. This activity will not only delight your toddler, but is also great for strengthening those little leg muscles and encourage high stepping!

Tape a piece of contact paper to the floor, sticky side up. The set-up itself was of course fascinating for Veronika, who loved “helping” with the tape.

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I held her hands and helped her walk along the sticky surface. At first she looked so surprised, but once she saw my encouraging smile, she bravely marched across the contact paper, knees lifting high to pull up with each step. She kept looking back over her shoulder at me in delight, as if to say, “Mom do you feel this too?”

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Have fun with the contact paper while it is out! It’s great for sticking on lightweight toys.

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And she kept dabbling in placing her toes on it, as if just to make sure it was still sticky.

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A play tunnel is a fantastic gross motor toy, and worth investing in (you can find them for under $20 on Amazon). Of course there’s just the fun of crawling through it, which Veronika loves endlessly!

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I like to put my head on one end, say “peek-a-boo”, and watch her proudly crawl to catch me.

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Another cute idea is to have your baby “commute” items from one end to the other. This helps with the idea of sorting and categorizing.

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We played first with her pretend food set, having her bring the food from a basket at one end to where I waited with a second basket at the other.

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Then we tried the game with puzzle pieces.

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Veronika trotted back and forth through the tunnel, filling in pieces to the base each time.

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What games do you play with a crawl-through tunnel? Please share in the comments!

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Get Down On All Fours

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Recently in our music class, Veronika’s instructor had the grown-ups get down on all fours for a train song, and the looks of surprise and delight on the babies’ faces were priceless! So today, I did something similar with Veronika at home. When you get down to crawl on baby’s level, it not only makes him or her feel special, but it also leads to lots of fun.

First, it was big brother’s turn to crawl. I challenged them to a “race” towards a toy. You’ll notice that he crawled so fast I barely had time to get in a picture of the race!

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But Veronika was undaunted and giddily crawled over to join him.

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Next, I set up an obstacle course. She thought it was so silly to see mommy zig and zag through the pillows on my knees. The obstacle course led us up and over, so not only were we having fun on all fours together, but she got to practice her climbing skills.

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Then I copied that train game from our music class, pushing a toy train around while I crawled behind it.

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It was plain to see she loved it! Definitely consider this game if your baby is close to trading a crawl for a walk.

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Walk Like a Wheelbarrow

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If you’re from a certain generation, chances are you remember wheelbarrow races in the backyard as a kid! It’s a classic that never grows old, even with little babies.

Back when she was learning to crawl, I propped Veronika up slightly with a towel for a sort of modified wheelbarrow. Now, she can fully support herself on her arms, and I turned it into a silly game to reach her stuffed animals.

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Those stuffed animals had her motivated! It took her a moment of hesitation, but once I had her palms on the ground and her ankles in my hands, she began walking her little hands forward. What a great strength-training exercise!

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And she had three soft friends waiting to play at the end of the race.

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Roll It Out

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One thing I love to do with the kids is find items around the house that aren’t actually toys, but that can easily be used in play. Large exercise balls fit the bill perfectly, and here’s some simple fun Veronika and I had with one today.

First, I tapped on the ball; it made a perfect vibrating drum. Have fun with this, alternating the rhythm fastfastfastfast and slow    slow    slow.

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Then I placed Veronika on her tummy on the ball and rocked it ever so slightly.

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This is a fantastic way to build muscles if our little one is still doing tummy time, but even as a “big kid” Veronika loved it.

What’s your favorite “non toy” toy around the house? Please share in the comments!


Croquet for Crawlers

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Stuck inside with your baby on a rainy day? Look no further than this indoor game of “croquet”, perfect for crawlers, to keep the little one entertained.

Cut the square ends off a shoebox and discard; you’ll be left with a rectangle.

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Cut the remaining rectangle into pieces so you have 3 to 4 “wickets”.

If you’re using an adult-sized shoebox, tennis balls work great for this game. Because I used a child-sized shoebox, the tennis balls were too large but some balls we have from a shape sorter were just right.

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I lined the wickets up in a row and showed Veronika how to roll the ball through them. She immediately gave her ball a little half-roll half-push.

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She loved both watching me roll balls and taking her own turns. (Plus see the cat waiting to catch the ball? Everyone was entertained!).

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After we had played with the wickets in a row, I set them up more free-form and encouraged her to roll balls back and forth and all around, crawling between wickets all the while.

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Picking up wickets was half the fun, of course.

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In sum, she loved this little game!


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