Summer Water with Baby

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Recently, I posted a round-up of fun field trips to take with the under-one-year-old set before the summer is out. Here’s a second round-up featuring a few water-centered ideas that – yes! – you can do with a baby.

Turn on the sprinkler:

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This is an easy one! Just head out to your yard or driveway, and set a sprinkler going. Bonus points for silly ones! Just dipping in baby’s toes is sure to elicit laughter or surprised little squeals.

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Find a water fountain:

Many parks have pretty fountains, which you can stop off at after a walk or playground play. In addition to being fun just to watch (splashy water!) you can quickly dip in baby’s toes for a cool off on a hot day.

Hit the beach:

I was worried about Veronika eating fistfuls of sand, so avoided the beach for much of the summer. But it turns out there’s a way to take even an everything-in-the-mouth nine-month-old to the beach safely.

First, bring shade. You’ll still want to slather your little one with sunscreen, but a large umbrella offers extra protection.

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Don’t forget to pack wipes, swim diapers, a change of dry diaper and clothes, plastic bags (for trash or wet clothing), and a nice sunhat.

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And toys!

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Beaches are the perfect place for a nap, so don’t worry about baby missing out on key shut-eye.

Once she was awake, first she wanted to play on a big beach towel.

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Then we took Veronika down to the water’s edge. Choose a beach with gentle water, whether that means a harbor, sound, lake, or other sandy stretch with few to no waves. She could happily sit and let the tiny waves lap at her toes.

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She did like digging her hands into the water and sand, but she only tried one nibble, which I easily diverted.

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In sum, I have no more fear about babies and beaches!

How have you and your baby played with water this summer? Please share in the comments!

 

Mosquito Badminton

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Are you kids sick of swatting away mosquitoes this summer? Then this quirky take on backyard badminton is sure to have them giggling!

To make our “mosquito”, we first inflated a balloon. Any color would work, but Travis chose blue.

I twisted together a mosquito body out of black pipe cleaners. Certainly there is some imagination at work here, but it featured two antennae, a proboscis, and wiggly arms and legs.

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Cut eyes from cardstock or poster board and then tape the mosquito body and eyes to the balloon.

Use flip flops as the “racquets”! Travis thought it was hilarious to bop the mosquito around outside.

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We didn’t make it a true competition, but if you want to keep score, try this: If the balloon lands on the ground on your side, that’s a point for the other team or person. First side to reach 5 points wins!

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Naptime Chill Out

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There always seems to be a pile of bills waiting for me during Veronika’s nap (adulting never ends), but as she moves into a longer, more predictable afternoon nap, I’m reminded that this is a necessary time when I can make room for my own headspace.

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In case you’re struggling to do the same with a baby of about 9 months old, here are a few of my favorite ways to chill out while Veronika naps:

  • Drink an espresso.
  • Do the crossword. You could also read the news, but chances are that might just stress you out more. I stick to the puzzle.Body and Soul (2)
  • Listen to my music. This one is key if we’re on the go during her nap. When it’s just Veronika in the car, her music class CD is always going. When big brother rides along, pop music dominates. But when the kids sleep… mama music! I’m going to date myself but admitting that that means classic rock or classical music on repeat.Body and Soul (3)
  • Finally, remember to do nothing. There is always a room to clean, or a list to make, but sometimes your body and soul benefit best from a little nothing. In five minutes, she will wake up, and I will go back to being a mom. In five minutes, I will be needed again. But right now, I just am.Body and Soul (5)How do you pause and chill out when baby naps? Learn a new language? Meditate? Please share in the comments!

Baby’s Song

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There’s a reason educators use songs as teaching tools so often; lyrics are remembered long after spoken words are forgotten, and simply hearing a familiar tune can become a cue when it is consistently attached to a specific activity. Today, Veronika and I focused on specific songs for specific occasions.

You can make these up entirely for your baby as long as you are consistent. We like to use the songs from Baby Signing Time, which helps connect word signs to specific moments. Like mealtime…

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Or playtime…

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Or diaper time, or bedtime, and on and on.

I always sing the same song when she wakes up (Frere Jacques) which helps her understand the day has begun, and it’s no longer night.

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If you make up your own song, try a familiar melody. At bathtime, I always sing the following to the tune of “Here We Go Round the Mulberry Bush”:

“This is the way we wash your hair

wash your hair

wash your hair.

This is the way we wash your hair

While you take a bath”

Similarly, I have a wordless melody that I hum to Veronika before her morning nap. It works like a charm every time, and I love that we made it up and it’s unique to the two of us.

What musical cues or songs do you use during your baby’s day? Please share in the comments!

 

Crawl Space Race

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Big brother’s toys are so tempting to Veronika, but I usually keep her in a safe playroom filled only with baby toys. When she manages to break free into the hallway, she looks immensely satisfied with herself. Today, I indulged her desire for freedom and turned it into a little game. Here comes trouble…

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Definitely only play this game with toys that are safe for a baby even if they belong to a big sibling. We set up a few large superheroes as the grand prize. You can cover them with a blanket or basket for extra excitement.

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Travis knelt down next to Veronika until I gave the green light. And they’re off!

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She had no idea she was having a race, of course, she was just having a blast! Meanwhile, Travis had the thrill of a chase and the satisfaction of winning.

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Now it was Veronika versus mommy! I crawled along at her pace to her absolute delight, and we reached the toys together.

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You can also deliberately let your baby crawl ahead of you, which gives you the chance to tickle little toes.

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There are lots of variations on this game. Introduce silly concepts like “The last one there is a rotten egg!” or have the race be to a person instead of a toy.

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What games do you play with your little crawler? Please share in the comments!

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Refresh Your Wardrobe

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Today’s activity is one of those for mama, not baby. The goal: to refresh your wardrobe.

I knew I needed this challenge! My go-to dresses all summer have been the same ones I wore last summer (i.e. maternity clothes) because they are loose and are perfect for nursing. But it was also nice to think about shopping for clothes that were just for my body, not for a body that’s pregnant or lactating.

I headed off to the mall, but somehow this didn’t feel right, too indulgent. At least Veronika was napping so the mall was a nice cool place for it!

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I kept getting distracted by baby stores; I was out of the habit of indulging myself since I only buy kids’ clothes these days!

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I backtracked to a local store, because it always feels good to shop local. Veronika was awake now, and loved playing in the dressing room.

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And mama got a little wardrobe refresh after all. In sum, take the time to do these things for yourself. Baby gets a fun outing, and you get to practice some self-care.

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Meteor Meatballs

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These meatballs were the second recipe in Travis’s cosmic cuisine-themed Raddish Kids, meant to mimic meteors from space (and get it meat-ier meatballs?). We made ours with Raddish’s excellent vegan suggestion for chickpeas in place of chicken.

To start, Travis helped peel 3 cloves of garlic. I minced them and we put in a large bowl. Finely chop 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves and add to the garlic.

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Next I showed him how to grate zucchini against a box grater; he loved it! Add 1 cup to the garlic mixture, along with 2/3 cup canned or frozen corn.

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Next we made a flax egg: whisk 1 tablespoon ground flaxseed into 3 tablespoons water and let stand for 5 minutes. Stir into the zucchini mixture, along with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper.

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Add 1/4 cup vegan Parmesan sprinkles and 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs. Finally, drain 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas and pulse in a food processor until crumbly. Add to the mixture. Time to get messy! I was so proud of Travis, getting his hands right in there to mush it up, and I showed him how to roll a meatball.

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Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet covered with foil and greased with cooking spray. Bake at 425 degrees F for 15 minutes.

Travis ate – I kid you not! – half of the recipe in one sitting. This either means he’s having a growth spurt or speaks directly to how awesome the meatballs are. Or both! We served with onion ring “Saturn rings” for a fun veggie side dish.

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As he dined, we read the recipe card facts about various space rocks (meteoroids versus comets etc.), and learned a bit more about meals in space for astronauts.

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For a little dessert fun, we repeated an old favorite: marshmallow constellations!

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All you need are marshmallows (try Dandie’s for a vegan brand) and toothpicks. This time, I really challenged Travis to follow along with a provided diagram and piece together one of the simpler star formations.

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After some puzzling, he was able to put together Libra!

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Meanwhile, mommy worked on some intricate ones, like Ursa Major and Scorpius.

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Travis then decided he preferred to make his own, and soon had this stick person constellation.

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Don’t forget to clean up – by eating them, of course.

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Melted Crayon Suncatchers

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It’s so fun to harness the power of the sun when you make art in the summertime. Travis and I used melted crayons in a project once before, but that one relied on the indoor heat of a hairdryer. This time, we put the sun’s heat to work!

To set up, lay a piece of black construction paper on a baking sheet. The dark surface and the metal will help absorb as much of the sun’s heat as possible. Cut two equal sheets of wax paper, and place one on the black paper.

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The next step was a bit tricky: remove the paper wrapper from crayons and use the edge of a craft stick to shave off bits of wax. Travis found this to be quite difficult, and in all honesty, I did too.

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After he’d tried for a bit, I made sure our wax paper was covered with enough shavings. Cover that with the second piece of wax paper.

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Now place in direct sunlight (just like we did with a solar oven a few days ago)! Depending how hot the day is, your crayons may need anywhere from 1 hour to several in order to melt. You can press down, on occasion, to help the process along.

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To turn it into a suncatcher, cut the wax paper into rectangles or other shapes, and punch a hole in the top of each piece.

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Thread them onto a dowel (or attach with string), and hang up in the window to catch the sun.

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What beautiful sunshine!

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I Spy Adjectives

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No doubt you’re teaching your baby a lot of nouns: mommy, daddy, cats and dogs! But don’t forget about adjectives. Here’s a cute way to incorporate them into your baby’s vocabulary.

As Veronika and I went for a walk today, I made sure to mention at least one adjective for each item I named. Although you don’t need to, I find it fun to say, “I spy with my little eye…” before each one.

There were tall trees.

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Big dogs (and some small ones we passed, too!).

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Cold bottles.

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Tiny things like clovers and bugs.

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And so much more! You can continue the game as you drive or walk around town; fast cars are a great one, or name the colors of cars or buildings.

And certainly keep it up at home. We had mommy’s long skirt.

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And a big bite of food for my big girl!

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Consider reading a book together that same evening that focuses on adjectives, like Mouse is Small by Mary Murphy or Big Little by Leslie Patricelli.

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What does your baby spy with his or her little eye? Please share in the comments!

Nature “Size Hunt”

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This mini scavenger hunt will inject some math into your next nature walk. We had a  beautiful family afternoon along a local trail, and I challenged Travis to find a few things of various sizes compared to something else along the way. You can vary your list, but here are a few ideas:

First up, he needed to spot something smaller than his fingernail. I thought he might find a bug, but he surprised me with this little pebble.

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Longer than his arm? A stick!

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A rock was bigger than his hand, and an acorn was smaller than his foot.

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For the last one, he needed to spot something larger than a leaf. The leaf we found was cool all by itself, almost mitten-shaped! 

Nature Size (1)What items do you find on your “size hunt”? Please share in the comments!