Aluminum A

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Travis is a pre-k grad, and although we intend to have lots of fun this summer, I also want him to avoid the “summer slide.” To keep him fresh, we’ll be working on the alphabet. This took me back to our journey through the alphabet when he was a toddler! But now the emphasis is different; he knows his letters and phonemes, but needs to work on the fine motor skills of tracing and writing.

After tracing the letter A, both upper and lower case, we designed one from a material that started with a – aluminum foil.

I showed Travis how to roll a sheet of foil into a coiled rope – fun!

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We looked at the “a” in his workbook, and he thought hard about how to shape his foil. For the majority of it, we twisted one coil until it made a circle.

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The second, shorter coil would be the line on the end. Travis has a habit of putting this line closer to the middle of the a’s bottom, but this “close reading” helped him pinpoint that it should go on the side.

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Next we made an Artistic upper case A, using a favorite art medium: crayons.

I presented him with three crayons – two long and one short – and challenged him to decide which should go where.

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After initially making what looked more like an H, he was quite proud when he tilted the two long crayons to make an A.

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One down, 25 to go!

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Pasta Play

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Looking for the perfect sensory game for your baby? Look no further than cooked pasta from your pantry! As soon as your baby can pick up food and chew, you can safely play this texture game.

I cooked a batch of rotini pasta, figuring the swirls and ridges would make for the most exciting texture. Let cool completely, then set out a bowl or strainer of the pasta for your little one. It helps to have a blanket underneath – this game is about to get messy!

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Veronika got her hands right in there.

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First we simply talked about texture. I used words like soft, squishy, and cool to describe the noodles that she pulled up by the handful.

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Picking up individual pieces is great for developing her pincher grip.

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She also loved scattering them about on the blanket.

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And of course a few made their way up to her mouth!

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In sum, this is simple fun, as cheap as it comes and perfect for kicking off a summer of play!

Fabric + Wipes Container

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Veronika and I have played with fabric before as a texture sensory activity. Today, we played with fabric again but it was less about texture and more about the fun of putting in and pulling out!

An empty diaper wipe container is the ideal container for this game. It’s deep, but small enough for little hands. And the pop-up lid is perfect! In fact, before we introduced fabric into the game, Veronika just wanted to check out the box and pop the lid open and closed!

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Next, I filled it with a variety of fabric scraps from our craft bin. I had some eye-catching patterns like bright green and little foxes, which provided visual stimulation.

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A loosely-woven burlap and a few silky scarves provided textural variety. Old washcloths would work well, too!

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Fill up the container and simply let your little one pull out the scraps.

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What fun!

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Then I made it more challenging, putting on the lid so she could pull the scraps up through the opening.

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This was a little tough for her fingers at seven months old, but this is the kind of game we’ll revisit; it will be toddler heaven!

When she tired of the fabric, she went back to the box.

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Playing with it lasted the whole time I made dinner – the perfect way to self entertain!

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Vary Story Time

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Storytime with my eldest has always been about the story; even as a baby he sat and listened to a book. Veronika has been a delightful reminder of just how different all babies are, because she looks at a book and she wants… to eat it.

I still read to her every night, but I have to catch her attention! So today we played this little game, varying my voice in ways that made her sit up and focus a little more.

First, I did a silly read through of Goodnight Moon, reading the first half veryveryveryfast and the second half very…very…very…slow. This got looks of surprise and giggles!

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Next I read a favorite color book, but sang the words to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. This didn’t line up quite right on every page, but she kept looking at me with interest. I sure had her attention!

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Finally, I read in a deep, silly voice for another favorite book; this got lots of looks of delight after every page, almost as if she was checking to make sure it was still me doing the reading.

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This game will work best with books you read often, where baby is already familiar with the rhymes and rhythms and will notice the differences.

Choose books that lend themselves to getting in on the action, too. When the quiet old lady whispers hush, I put my fingers to her lips. Other good actions to copy include: tickling toes, giving hugs and kisses, or waving hello and goodbye.

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One final way to vary your story time? Vary the location! We took our books to a coffee shop today, where the novel space made her pay more attention to sounds on the pages, and less attention to their taste.

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Sneak Through Laser Beams

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Travis returned home from school to discover that, in order to reach his lunch, he’d have to sneak through laser beams!

To set up the surprise, I set out stools and chairs and wound yarn in and out, up and down. For the best results, vary the height and width between your “lasers”.

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Travis practically dove at the setup when he walked in from school, barely sparing a moment to take off his shoes.

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On the first attempt, he got nipped slightly by one of the lower “lasers.” I challenged him to think of how he could go over it, since under hadn’t worked, but this would mean ducking his head from those above.

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Soon there was lots of slithering and maneuvering about. This one will have the kids delighted and sneak in some exercise: a win-win.

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Finish up by sharing this clip with your kids!

Learning to Point

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Pointing is an obvious thing that we do as adults, but such an important skill for a baby to learn. Especially before words come easily, many toddlers will point for what they want, which can ease frustration for a parent trying to understand! Get a head start and encourage pointing with this simple game.

I lined up a few toys in front of Veronika, slightly out of reach so she wouldn’t automatically grab them.

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One by one, I pointed to each object and named it. I made sure to make my index finger very obvious, pointing and tapping it against the toy.

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This inadvertently became a cute game of “you choose”, since she ignored some of the objects I pointed out, but others got scooped up in her hands almost immediately!

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If that was the case, I pointed to it again as she held it.

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Your baby won’t be pointing yet but may wave hands towards a particular toy or pat at it, both of which are good practice towards eventually using just the index finger.

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Whatever the case, keep pointing, and your little one will soon follow suit!

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Animal Diaper Time

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The days of Veronika lying still during diaper changes are over and my little squirmer is constantly trying to grab at diapers or wipes or roll all around. I needed something to shake things up and keep her entertained!

The answer? Animals! I now have a few ways I include them at diaper time. First, I hung a few animal pictures from magazines on her wall. The bright visuals catch her attention!

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I also glued a few animal pictures onto index cards, favoring familiar farm animals and pets.

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I present these to her at diaper time, name the animal, and make its sound. Look Veronika, pigs! Oink oink.

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Finally, if even that doesn’t do the trick, I have a few plastic animals handy.

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I hand her a horse (or cow, or sheep) and name the animal and its sound, and she is happily distracted during the change.

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If all else fails, keep a favorite stuffed animal on hand, who can swoop in for a hug!

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Special Snack for Pets

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Summer always brings so many celebrations for people: graduations, birthdays… or just an excuse to get together with good friends in warm weather. Here’s a really cute way to include your animal pals in the fun! After a weekend of human celebrations, Travis proudly helped put together this cat cake for our cat.

In a bowl , we stirred together 2 tablespoons canned tuna, 1 tablespoon shredded cheese, and 1 teaspoon dry oats.

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Press the mixture into a ramekin or muffin tin. Ideally, this will hold its shape when you invert it over a cat bowl. Ours didn’t, but the cat didn’t mind! Decorate with a few cat treats.

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Travis proudly carried it over to where the cat could “celebrate.” He wanted to make sure the cat enjoyed his cake!

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He then needed to eat some shredded cheese of his own (Daiya mozzarella) and pretended to be a cat the rest of the evening.

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Showing affection and caring for animals is always a valuable lesson for kids, teaching them that all species deserve love and care.

Have a dog instead? Highlights magazine suggests mixing together dry dog food with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and 1 tablespoon mashed banana, then decorating with dog treats and banana slices.

Have an animal like a guinea pig or rabbit who eats veggies? Stack a few sliced fruits and veggies into a “cake”, and top with a treat.

Scrunchy Sock

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This easy DIY toy will delight your baby both in sound and looks!

To start, you’ll simply need to use any old sock. I actually used a pair of girl’s tights, which meant I could have a longer snake… and could also make two, one for big brother, since he eagerly needed one after seeing the project.

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Fill each sock with crumpled cellophane, and securely knot at the end. The sound of the cellophane seemed to alarm Veronika somewhat…

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But already she loved it!

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To make it a snake, I cut out details from felt: a red tongue, white and black eyes, and yellow triangles along the back.

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Hot glue on the pieces securely before baby plays.

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Now our snake was ready to slither and scrunch!

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Look Before You Leap

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As parents, we’re hard-wired to want to step in when we hear a baby mewling for help. But sometimes, it’s good to sit back and wait a minute (as long as your little one isn’t in true distress or in harm’s way) and let them figure a problem out for themselves. There aren’t really “do-overs” in parenting, but knowing I leaped a little too quickly with my eldest, this time around I’m remembering to look first.

To wit, today Veronika was busy figuring out how to get the lid off this box of toys. After a moment, she was quite frustrated.

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I encouraged her with a positive tone of voice and smiles.

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Pretty soon – she’d lifted the lid herself!

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I had one proud little lady.

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Waiting to leap can also help your baby reach his or her next milestone. Veronika is currently trying to crawl, and I deliberately set her up a little out of reach from some favorite toys.

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After initial frustration, she managed to turn herself sideways, but not forwards.

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Even this movement is excellent for her gross motor development, and then mommy could swoop in to help.

Same goes when I placed toys just out of reach during sit-up play.

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She’s become a “scooter” and pretty soon she beamed proudly, having reached a favorite squishy square.

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Remembering to look before I leap will no doubt be high on the agenda once she’s crawling, toddling, or running around on a playground. Start now, and you’ll get in the habit of raising a confident kid who can solve his or her own dilemmas… With you watching safely from close by, of course!

Go get that computer toy, Veronika!

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You can do it…

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Atta girl!

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