Musical Animals

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Here’s a fun riff on Musical Chairs, although there are no winners or losers here: just music and stuffed animals and a way to get moving indoors!

To start, I set up several of the kids’ stuffed animals in a circle on the floor. Note: You can also sit every stuffed animal on a chair if you have enough chairs in your home. But the floor worked just fine in a pinch.

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Since our circle was on the floor, I opted for stuffies that could mostly “sit up” on their own, although that’s not a requirement. Then I set some jazzy music playing and told the kids to run around the circle of animals.

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When the music stops, everyone freezes and sits with the nearest stuffed animal in his or her lap!

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There’s no element of elimination to this game, as in normal musical chairs, but between music, freezing, and giving big stuffed animal hugs, this game is a reward in itself.

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Soon, the kids found some extra pillowcases in the closet and were tucking the stuffed animals into little “beds”. Veronika even leaned in to give this one a kiss!

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So it turned into a very cozy way to pass a cold morning.

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Depth Perception Walk

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It might seem like there’s less to seek and find on winter nature walks than in other seasons, but the opportunities to leran are still abundant! To wit, we had beautiful cold sunshine today, and used the walk to play with concepts of distance and balance for Veronika!

As we walked, big brother Travis and I took turns pointing out items that were either near (“These branches are so close!”)…

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…or far. “Those leaves are far away!” Travis said. “Let’s race to them!” I was so proud of his teaching, because the racing was his own idea, and helped highlight the difference between items close by and those we needed to get to.

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After that we played around with how fast or slow we could cover the distances. Travis loved leading Veronika with the trail of a stick in the snow, too, sometimes close to her…

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…and sometimes far up ahead. For some final fun on the return walk, we collected a few nature treasures (winter-brown leaves were the most readily available!) and lined them up like a balance beam in the snow.

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Veronika loved testing her balance as she walked along the line. Once the leaves scattered, she repeated the task but this time her footsteps took her in a zig-zag! All in all, these activities kept us warm and active on what could have been a frigid walk.

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Dance Like a Penguin

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If a cold winter day means your kids have extra energy to burn in the house, chances are you need some movement play. To wit, today we invented this arctic animal dancing game!

Veronika has a toy penguin that she currently loves, so I’ve been showing her how to “waddle” like a penguin. The silly movement is always good fun for toddlers. And heck, it’s fun and silly for moms and dads, too.

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Then it was just a matter of cranking up the music and doing our best waddle along to the tunes!

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Veronika, of course, didn’t always stick with a waddle, but that didn’t matter now that she was getting in her movement play. Soon she was marching or twirling or knee-high stepping to the beat.

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She loved making her little penguin bounce along, too!

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This gave us the idea to think of how other winter animals would move to the beat. Could we lumber along like a polar bear? Clap like a seal? Jump like an arctic hare?

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No matter what we were pretending to be, there were big smiles and lots of movement.

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Dance Ribbon

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This easy dance ribbon made the perfect rhythmic accessory for Veronika’s at-home music class today! I put it together just before class, and she continued to play with it long after the Zoom session had ended.

First, tie lengths of colorful ribbon to a ring that your toddler can easily hold. I used a canning ring for this, but a shower curtain ring or even key chain would work, too!

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I alternated strands of green and pink ribbon. You can make your dance ribbon with one color, two, or a full rainbow!

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I handed the ring to Veronika and showed her how to wave it through the air to the rhythm.

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A lilting, slow tune felt just right for making big beautiful ribbon circles. Your toddler can take it from there!

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She loved waving the ribbons around and dancing with them, and requested a tutu to be a ballerina!

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She also later found other uses for it, like pretending it was her doll’s swing on the playground! I always love watching the way toddlers can invent worlds of imagination from just a few simple materials.

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Paint Dancing

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I love throwing in a sensory project for the feet now and then, such a different experience for toddlers than working with their hands! All you need for this project is an old crib sheet (or similar large piece of fabric), and a willing pair of toddler feet.

I squirted two colors of washable paint onto a baking tray and added a little dish soap to each color, which will make clean up easier in case any paint goes off the fabric.

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Fill a second shallow tray with warm soapy water, and have a towel handy. Then tape your old sheet down to the floor securely at all four corners. I put on some tunes (Walking on Sunshine felt just right!) and Veronika immediately started bopping and dancing before the paint was even involved.

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Then I dipped her feet into the paint and set her painted soles down on the fabric. “Let’s dance!” I said.

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She was initially hesitant when the paint was thickest, but as she began to move around, a big smile formed.

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We dipped her toes and repeated a few times, and mixed up the tempo for a little music lesson, too!

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Arguably her favorite part was washing off in the sudsy water at the end. At first she just dipped in her toes, but then I turned around and found her sitting completely in the soapy tray like it was a mini bathtub. Well, time for an outfit change!

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Dance and Fall Down

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Sometimes the simplest activities are the best, and sometimes you just need to have a Saturday morning dance party. So there’s nothing more to this idea than that!

With Veronika a little aimless this morning, I put on some music. To make her laugh, we twirled and danced but then I said, “Fall down!” and showed her how to plop to the ground.

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The first few times, we sat down together.

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But then she got the hang of it. Twirl, and twirl, and twirl, and…

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…fall! This game will get giggles every time. Silly props like scarves and hats are not required of course, but certainly add to the fun.

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Line Dancing Fun

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Travis is growing tired of class videos we’ve used to get our afternoon wiggles out during home school, so today I turned to Raddish Kids for inspiration. With a musical theme this month, one of the lessons was all about line dancing!

We kept the “lesson” part of it short, since really I just needed to get Travis moving. Big kids can delve further and talk about the genre of Country and any singers or song titles they know. You can also give some history of the genre. Instead, I just focused on common instruments (banjo, fiddle) and explained that line dancing allows dancers to move as a group, instead of with a partner. In other words, it’s meant to be shared!

To get our toes tapping, we listened to clips of the Boot Scottin’ Boogie and Watermelon Crawl. A few quick tutorials from YouTube showed us basic steps like the heel stomp and grapevine. Travis was a little skeptical but then we watched a quick how-to for an Achy Breaky Heart line dance.

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We cranked up the music and danced! Of course, it’s totally fine if your kids make up their own moves.

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For giggles, we finished with a clip of a line dance from Ice Age.

Arrange a Musical Playdate

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Classic children’s songs are so much fun for babies. Parents will likely know the words and motions from their own childhood, making them favorites to pass down (think Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, or Open Shut Them). When you make it a group event, it’s just that much more fun!

Today, Veronika and I joined a group singing at our local library. She was thrilled to receive props like scarves and puppets as we sang to favorites like Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

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This is a great way to see other babies in action, too, playing with instruments and moving around. Our group singalong featured an assortment of rattles and shakers.

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Another fun song for movement is Row Row Row Your Boat. After we rowed our babies’ arms on the classic first verse, the library added some cute new lyrics.

Drive Drive Drive your car (move your baby’s hands like a wheel)…

Chug Chug Chug your train (elbows swinging)…

and

Fly Fly Fly your airplane (arms out)

At home, I made up a few more silly verses. We rowed up a river to see a polar bear shiver, up the stream to see a crocodile and scream, and to the shore to see a lion roar.

You can continue the musical fun long after group time has ended. I’m a Little Teapot is another one that’s great for gross motor movement (and props!).

I’m a little teapot

short and stout

Here is my handle (one hand on hip)

Here is my spout (other arm out straight)

When I get all steamed up

then I shout

Tip me over

and pour me out! (lean over to the side)

The tip gets a giggle very time – mommy is sideways!

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If your library doesn’t have a musical sing-along for you to attend, consider being the host for a musical playdate. Have a few friends over whose babies are about the same age, and scatter all the instruments in the middle. Parents sing while babies bop and shake along!

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Ribbon Dancer

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April showers bring May flowers, or so they say! Which means we’re having a rainy month and we’re on the lookout for rainbows these days. This easy craft is a cute way to bring a little color and rainbows inside, even when the days are cloudy and gray.

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First, we measured out a length of red ribbon that was as tall as Travis – he thought it was neat to see a piece so long!

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Once we had our red, we could measure out the other colors of the rainbow against it. This is a good chance to review ROYGBIV order for preschoolers. Travis used scissors to cut each to the right length.

Now fold one ribbon in half, and loop through the ring of a canning jar. Pull the ends of the ribbon through the loop.

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Pretty soon we had our rainbow strings for dancing!

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Put on some good music and just jive.

Rainbow Dancer (6)Or perhaps do a raindance.

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If you’re lucky and it’s beautiful outside, this little rainbow looks even prettier out in the sunshine!

Pumpkin Leapfrog

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Wondering what to do with all those pumpkins from the pumpkin patch? Get in a little exercise before you carve them!

Pumpkin patches are such a fantastic outing this time of year; ideally head to one where your child can truly see where pumpkins come from (attached to the vne), instead of a big lot where pumpkins have been placed in a row.

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Travis was so proud picking out our pumpkins, especially since he could lift them all by himself. At home, I asked if he wanted to play pumpkin leapfrog, which earned an eager and curious “Yes!”

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Set your pumpkins up in a line (use as many as you’d like – we had 4, but you could go up to 8 or even higher, if you want to make the course harder), and cut a line of string to mark the start and finish of your course.

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Take turns leaping over the pumpkins, and see how long it takes! You can make this competitive for older kids by using a timer, or just be silly with it for younger ones.

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Next we ran a slalom “S” course around the pumpkins, great for practicing fancy footwork.

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From there, go on and make up your own silly versions. Travis loved straddling each pumpkin, running circles around them, and more.

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The perfect activity to tide us over until its time to carve, and yet another fantastic suggestion from our Barefoot Books Kids Garden set.