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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Cruise Control

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Veronika loves pulling up these days, anywhere and everywhere, and is making those first moves towards walking. To safely encourage those first few steps, one great practice area is a cruising station!

I lined up a few child-sized chair in our kitchen, with the backs securely against a cabinet so they couldn’t tip. I started Veronika at one end and placed a tantalizing toy on the other end, hoping to encourage her to side-step.

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It turned out she was way more interested in the circular back of the chair where I had started her than in the toy!

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So thinking quickly, I reversed her and started her on the other end. Now she had incentive…

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She moved her hands…

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…and then her little feet followed. Soon she had the gist of it, and arrived at her goal so proudly.

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Success!

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Eventually, I did put the toy back on the other chair, and this time she knew how to side-step on over.

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This game was a fantastic success for gross motor development, and enjoyable to boot.

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3 Baby Obstacle Courses

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Veronika can’t wait to break free from “pillowville” (the name I have for the way I currently block her in the playroom with pillows; it’s time to buy baby gates!), and she’s trying to scale the pillows constantly. Today I set up a few obstacle courses to develop her gross motor skills, and boy did she have a blast.

First, I placed a very low obstacle in the center of the playroom with a few toys on top.

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This is lower than couch cushions, so it was great practice for getting her knees up and onto the top, the last piece of the puzzle for her to work out.

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She was so proud when she reached the toys!

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You can make a similar “obstacle course” for any early crawler with low pillows or bean bags to crawl across. Toys at the end as incentive always help!

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Next up was more of a cerebral obstacle course. I had her practice zigging and zagging across the room by placing a series of enticing toys.

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First she crawled to bean bags hidden under cups.

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Then she had to zig to a tower of blocks.

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A current favorite music box toy was up next. She made a beeline for it.

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She probably would happily have stopped there…

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…so I moved it to the final point of her “maze” too. As she moved towards each group of objects, we also worked on language development. “Come get the blue bean bag!” “Can you get the square block?” The activity also builds math skills, believe it or not (the geometry of zigging and zagging) and fine motor skills as baby plays with each toy along the way.

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Finally, it was time for the big girl obstacle course! For this one, I set up the couch cushions so they formed “steps” and “ramps.” I did all of this over a soft floor mat, and added blankets along the sides as added protection against any rolls.

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She needed no encouragement at all; she wanted up! She headed for the toys at the top of the first ramp, still needing a bit of a boost on her bottom.

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About half way to the toys, she got tired. This is hard work mommy!

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I encouraged her with another boost, and she made it!

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Heading down was interesting, and I spotted her along the side in case of a fall. She decided to take a side route instead.

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Once again with a little boost she reached the top.

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What great exercise!

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Baby Pull-Ups

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Veronika will not be contained these days! Not only is she crawling everywhere now, but this girl wants to stand.

Encouraging pull-ups is a great first step towards helping your baby stand, cruise, and walk. To help Veronika, today I placed toys up as tantalizing bait on the couch. She still needs a little boost…

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…but once she’s up she can stand and support her weight and play with the toys as a reward.

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She also loves putting the toys back up on the couch herself.

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This activity works equally well on any surface that is about chest-high on your baby, although be careful with hard surfaces like tables that have sharp corners.

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It won’t be long though before she’s pulling up solo!

Go Get It

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There are so many games I’ve been waiting to play with Veronika with the caveat that she needed to be a crawler first. Well, now she’s a crawler and we’re playing!

Today, it was a simple game of pointing her towards her toys and saying, “Go get it!”

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First, I rolled two balls away from her. She barely needed me to say the words before she was off.

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I asked her next if she could get the purple one.

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Of course the fact that she went for it was probably pure coincidence at this age, but it’s never too early to build the vocabulary for colors.

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You can also turn it into a game for following instructions. Any toys on the “pillow fence” are irresistible to her, so she was off and crawling for them in a heartbeat.

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“Can you put them in the bucket?” I asked, aping the movement for her.

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She crawled happily over to the bucket and… ker-plunk!

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You can even make the game into a “race” with mommy or daddy, which will have your little one giggling. Who would get to the toys first?

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In sum, there are lots of variations you can play with this baby version of fetch, and your little one will love building those crawling muscles during all of them.

ABC Hop

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Yes you can fit in letter writing, alphabetical order learning, and gross motor skills in one activity… With ABC Hop! This simple game requires no more than a paved surface and a piece of chalk.

We headed outside early before the afternoon summer heat sets in. I asked Travis to write the alphabet. This was fantastic practice to write the letters from memory, not following a tracing line. He faltered on only a few, like K, but had a firm grasp of many others.

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I quickly realized his letters were going to be too small to hop on, though, so wrote out a second set for him. Once the alphabet was complete, we began to sing the ABC Song. With each note, he hopped from letter to letter.

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Whoops, occasionally he had to run from the end of one line to the start of the next.

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I thought he might get tired, but he hopped to the very last Z.

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To make this harder, you could even try mixing up the letters or putting them in zig zags occasionally!

Baby Squats and Mama Bench Presses

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Veronika is just about at that age when babies start pulling up. To encourage the motion, today she did her squats!

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Hold your baby on your lap, with his or her feet firmly on your thighs. As many times as he or she will tolerate, let them push up to stand and then squat back down.

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The first few times we played the game, she would hang her feet in the air, uncertain what to do.

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Then she started to get the hang of using those leg muscles. Veronika didn’t know she was getting exercise, she just loved the up and down motion.

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When she put her weight on her feet, I encouraged her with a big grin and a “Soooo big!”

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After baby gets some exercise, why not reverse things and fit in a few quick moves of your own? Because she can support her upper body completely now, it was time for some Veronika bench presses. Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and hold your baby on your tummy, then lift high into the air. A work out for mama and an airplane ride for baby!

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Or why not flip over and do push ups? For this one, I lay Veronika on her back and assumed push up position over her.

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We nuzzle noses and say I love you each time I press down and then she giggles as I push back up again.

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Note: All photo credits in this post go to big brother Travis!