Add Sounds to Feelings

Sounds to Feelings (7).JPG

There are so many sounds we automatically attach to a specific feeling or emotion. You probably do many of these already (without even thinking about it!) but it was fun to focus on such sounds for a day with Veronika. Your budding communicator may start to make these sounds back, even before words form.

So when she was happy today, we said, “hurray!”

Sounds to Feelings (5)

When I bounced her up and down or she spun around, we said, “whee!”

Sounds to Feelings alt.JPG

Then there was a big “oh no!” when her favorite stuffed animal fell down.

Sounds to Feelings (2)

And a “mmm mmm” for meals and snacks.

Sounds to Feelings (3)

And of course a sleepy “aaah” yawn sound around naptime.

Sounds to Feelings (4)

Connecting these sounds to emotions can help your little one connect the dots with what he or she is feeling, and help ease frustration in expressing emotions.

Plus saying “hurray” is always just fun.

Sounds to Feelings (1)

Share a Special Snack

Special Snack (3)

Veronika is old enough that she doesn’t need “baby food” anymore, and the best way to develop a love of healthy foods in your little one is to savor them together. I love making recipes that my two kids (and the grown-ups!) can share together now. To wit, this kid-friendly version of guacamole is a hit with everyone at the table.

Scoop the flesh from two avocados and transfer to a bowl; mash.

Special Snack (1)

Stir in 2 teaspoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice and 1 chopped tomato.

I served the guac with cucumber sticks and bell pepper sticks, as well as toasted pita bread. You could also add toasted bread slices or roasted carrot sticks.

Special Snack (2)

Travis and Veronika had a blast sharing this afternoon pause together!

Special Snack (4)

Naptime Chill Out

Body and Soul (4)

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.

Body and Soul (1)

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

Baby's Song (2).JPG

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…

Baby's Song (1)

Or playtime…

Baby's Song (3)

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.

Baby's Song alt.jpg

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!

 

Refresh Your Wardrobe

Refresh Wardrobe (1)

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!

Refresh Wardrobe (5)

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

Refresh Wardrobe (6)

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.

Refresh Wardrobe (3)

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.

Refresh Wardrobe (7)

 

Express Emotions

Express Emotions (4)

Veronika had a tough day today. My hunch is because of teething, or perhaps a Wonder Week, but sometimes babies just have fussy days and we as parents just ride them out.

But it was a good reminder to focus on emotions, not just teaching her the positive ones, but also giving her words for the sad ones. So today, when I felt happy (or Veronika did), I made a big show of it on my own face.

Express Emotions (2)

And when she was sad, I mirrored that. “You’re feeling sad,” I commiserated.

Express Emotions (5)

You can do the same throughout the day (or any day!) with surprised, angry, scared, tired, or any other emotion that crosses your baby’s face. Here she is a bit worried by loud noises.

Express Emotions (1)

If you’re looking for inspiration, flip through some children’s magazines or books together and point out the various emotions.

Express Emotions (9)

Either way, it’s healthy for your little one to learn about all these emotions. And maybe a happy face in a book will cheer Veronika up!

Express Emotions (3)

Summer Baby Field Trips

Summer Zoo (2)

If it’s your baby’s first summer, you may be hesitant to get out and about in the heat. But here are a few of my suggestions for places that – yes! – you can take baby. Veronika is 9 months old for all of the ideas below, but you can adapt them for your child from birth on up.

Head to the Pool:

Ideally, there will be a kiddie area with shallow water where you and your baby can sit together. Worst case scenario, camp out on the shallowest step.

Head to Pool (1)

Veronika loved hanging out here, kicking her feet and dipping her hands in the water. Bigger kids brought her a few pool toys, which made fantastic teething rings.

Head to Pool (3)

Tips: Make sure to stay in the shade as soon as you’re out of the water and dried off, and come prepared with plastic baggies (for wet bathing suits), swim diapers, regular diapers, a change of clothes, and snacks or milk (depending on age).

Head to Pool (2)

If you’re inclined to go deeper, take baby in your arms to swish around; babies love this feeling of weightlessness.

Butterfly Garden:

We stopped by a small butterfly garden that’s been in our local area for almost 30 years. The wonder in Veronika’s eyes was immediate as she watched the butterflies swirl and dance above her.

Butterfly Garden (1)

One landed on her shoulder and it was pure magic. She looked over at me after watching this one, as if to make sure I saw it too.

Butterfly Garden (3)

She also loved just touching the plants and bright flowers.

Butterfly Garden (7)

There are so many colors and scents for a baby in this experience! Just make sure you help keep little fingers away from the delicate insects themselves.

Butterfly Garden (5)

Tips: Go early (right at opening is ideal!). Many places like this will host camp groups in the summer, and I wanted her to marvel at the butterflies without lots of kids in the way. We were lucky to share the room with only two other families.

Butterfly Garden (2)

Also, consider leaving the stroller behind. She was much more into it when she was out where she could swivel her head and take in the butterflies from all directions.

Admire New Construction:

Big trucks are fascinating to babies and for good reason! There’s noise, there’s movement, there’s lifting, there’s digging. Veronika and I stopped by a local street that’s been under construction all season. There goes whirly swirly cement truck!

Construction Site (4).jpg

She had no idea what was coming around the corner, but grinned once she saw this bulldozer go by.

Construction Site (1)

Tips: If the noise is too loud for your little one, consider standing far back, or investing in Baby Banz.

Construction Site (3)

There will still be plenty of movement and excitement to observe from far back, without overwhelming the senses. Also, try to go on a day that’s not too hot, or when you can be in the shade, since construction sites tend to be sun-drenched dusty places.

Construction Site (2)

Botanical Garden:

Don’t think your baby will be bored in a place with no toys; as with the butterfly garden, the draw here is for all the senses.

Botanical Garden (7).JPG

There are bold colors to take in visually; the feel of wind on hair or sunshine on skin or grass on toes; and of course the smell of pretty flowers.

Botanical Garden (2)

Many botanical gardens can be overwhelmingly large, so either find a small one or stick to a small area.

Botanical Garden (5)

If allowed, lay down a picnic blanket and spread out a few toys or books to read together and make a little afternoon of it.

Botanical Garden (6)

Tips: Just because you’re not at a pool or beach, don’t forget a big sunhat and sunscreen. Also make sure to bring along bug spray, especially if garden trails lead through wooded or shady areas.

Botanical Garden (1)

Animal Fun:

I don’t take my kids to zoos, but I love exposing Veronika to animals through local sanctuaries. Although we’ve visited such farms in the past, today she was very alert and focused on the animal’s behavior. She loved watching the chickens and roosters.

Summer Zoo (2)

Their crowing startled her a little, but she was fascinated watching them take dirt baths or roost up high.

She also loved the cows! For each animal we marveled at, I reminded her of their noises. “Moo moo!”

Summer Zoo (4)

The sheep were enjoying a morning munch on grass, which she seemed to love.

Summer Zoo (3)

There’s lots of great ways to expose your baby to new vocabulary on a trip like this, too. Barns and tractors come to life, instead of being abstracts in a board book!

Summer Zoo (5)

Tips: Go in the morning. Animals will be more active before the hottest part of the day, and your baby will notice movements more than sleeping animals.

Where have you taken your baby this summer? Please share in the comments!

Suitcase Sandbox

Suitcase Sandbox (4)

If you’re hesitant to bring your baby to the beach during his or her first summer, then bring the beach to your baby! This little activity is one step up from the sand sensory play I did when Veronika when she was only 6 months old.

This time, I found an old craft suitcase and completely filled the bottom with sand. Any old suitcase with hard sides would work fine for this purpose! I briefly considered that bigger might have been better, but the small one had an added bonus: I could do the entire activity in the tub, making for fantastically easy clean-up.

Suitcase Sandbox (1)

I stripped Veronika down to a diaper and sat her in the sand. Beach day!

Suitcase Sandbox (2)

The most fun was burying her hands and feet and then helping her uncover them. She loved just kicking her legs in the sand, although looked confused by the grittiness, too.

Suitcase Sandbox (3)

I sprinkled some over her upturned palms, but found that in general it was best to keep the sensory play to her feet, so she didn’t eat any sand.

Suitcase Sandbox (6)

After a time, she seemed frustrated by the small box so I moved her to the side.

Suitcase Sandbox (5)

I loved watching her reach in and draw patterns in the sand.

To clean up, simply close the suitcase and save it for next time! Any extra sand that had spilled was simply rinsed down the tub drain.

Suitcase Sandbox (7)

Make a Noise

Make a Noise (3)

Admittedly sometimes parents just want the kids to be quiet (is that even possible?) but likewise sometimes it’s great to encourage loud play. Babies and toddlers love banging things together for a reason; they reap an instant reward for their efforts, and they provide themselves with instant entertainment. You can help them get the loud out of their system with this quick-as-can-be game.

I took two of Veronika’s teacups and banged them together. That’s it! Then I handed them over.

Make a Noise (1)

She didn’t need to see it twice.

Make a Noise (2)

Soon she was tapping with glee…

Make a Noise (5)

…and occasionally eating the cups.

Make a Noise (6)

You could also play this game with two stacking cups, or any other two toys, really, but Veronika seemed to like the teacups best!

Make a Noise (4)

 

Quick Make & Play Edible Sensory Bottle

Edible Bottle (4)

This fantastically easy sensory bottle is quite possibly my new favorite thing in the world…and Veronika’s, too!

To set up the bottle, save any clear plastic juice bottle with a wide mouth and a lid you can screw on tightly.

I gave Veronika the bottle (which of course is a toy all by itself!) and set out a few easy-to-hold snacks in front of her, including Plum Organics super puffs and Earth’s Best letter of the day cookies (both vegan!).

Edible Bottle (1)

I showed her how to drop some of the snacks into the bottle, making a nice plink sound each time. She soon was following suit, with the added fun that she could nibble as she worked.

Edible Bottle (2)

Once she paused to enjoy the puffs, I filled the bottle a little further and put on the cap.

Edible Bottle (3)

Now it was a sensory bottle to shake!

Edible Bottle (5)

The real beauty of this sensory bottle became apparent as soon as we were on the go. At the grocery store, first Veronika could just enjoy playing with it, shaking it or chewing at the cap.

Edible Bottle (8).jpg

But when she got a little fussy, I unscrewed the cap and surprised her: a snack!

Edible Bottle (9)

She kept handing me the bottle over and over, asking for little puffs with sounds and gestures. I loved watching her enjoy the toy in multiple ways during our shopping trip and I may very well always keep one of these on hand from now on.

Edible Bottle (6)