Birthday Memory Book

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Veronika’s birthday has come and gone, so we thought it would be fun to put together a memory scrapbook. Not only is this a perfect art activity for toddlers (markers! glue! glitter!), but you’ll have a wonderful keepsake at the end.

I put together several sheets of construction paper and folded in the center to make a crease. Together, Veronika and I went through all her cards and photos from the day and we taped them into the book.

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She loved looking back at party images. “There’s the sheep!” she said, remembering her tractor-themed tour at a local farm.

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Now it was time to decorate each page. Don’t worry about making this scrapbook look professional; messiness is encouraged here!

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Veronika then wanted to dribble glue all over the cover. “More glue!” she kept insisting.

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When we had a nice big goopy layer, we sprinkled glitter on top. Shake off any excess and let dry.

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A few more stickers and scribbles inside completed the book.

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I love knowing that she can leaf through this booklet for fun memories in the years to come.

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Video Time Capsule

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Veronika turned 2 years old today, and it was a fun reminder to look back on the videos we took last year when she turned 1. We had footage of the expected big moments (blowing out the candles, opening up her first present), but also a birthday dance party with dad and big brother Travis that I had forgotten all about. We loved it so much that we decided to make it a tradition!

So we staged a fun dance video to the same music as last year. The goal is to make this a tradition so eventually we can string together a video time capsule over the years.

Similarly, you can pick anything big or small on your child’s birthday (a tour of your child’s room, asking him or her what their favorite toy is, blowing out candles) and take a clip each year that becomes a time capsule over, well, time!

We also filmed snippets throughout the day, which we know will be fun to look back on. These included opening up gifts…

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…a special trip to a local children’s museum…

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…and of course, cake!

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What are the go-to birthday traditions in your family to film? Please share in the comments!

Happy Birthday Sensory Bin

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For toddlers who don’t entirely understand what it means to have a birthday yet, here’s a beautiful way to greet them the morning of their big day and introduce some of the items they’ll be seeing now and in years to come!

I filled a craft bin with bright and birthday-themed items. Birthday goodies included cupcake liners and candles, lots of bows and ribbons, and birthday-themed stickers. I also added neon pipe cleaners and a huge pile of pom poms, just for pops of color.

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Veronika barely let me finish setting up before getting her hands in the mix! She loved pouring the pom poms from one cupcake liner to another. Then we started baking pom pom cupcakes! Fill the liners and add a candle in the center for an introduction to the tradition of making a wish.

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The ribbons were so fun for to pull at or twist apart.

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Or to place on Veronika’s head like a birthday crown!

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At one point, she realized she could walk all the way around the apartment while unraveling a strand of gold ribbon, which was a pure delight to watch.

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I also set down some construction paper so she could peel off stickers (in fun shapes like cupcakes and balloons), and sticker all over the paper at will.

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In sum, you’ll have a very happy birthday boy or girl on your hands if you start a toddler’s birthday with this activity!

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Sticky Foam Birthday Cake

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Veronika turns two years old tomorrow! To get in the mood for all things birthday, we made a giant cake on the wall today… from paper and foam stickers that is.

This is a fun way to engage siblings in celebrating a younger child. I cut a large square of craft paper and taped it to the wall, then invited everyone to add stickers. We had a huge bin of foam ones in heart and flower shapes.

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Veronika liked the littlest foam stickers best, and placed them all over the paper in a haphazard way.

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Big brother Travis loved proudly adding a piece here and there. If you’re doing this activity for a preschooler’s birthday, it would be the perfect opportunity to practice early patterning.

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I attempted to make stripes across the paper like “frosting”, although of course I knew not all of the rows would be neat and even.

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Once our cake was “frosted”, I added candles made from construction paper. Two candles for my two-year-old!

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Note: If you have foam craft shapes that aren’t stickers, you can do this activity right on the window. Just brush with water and they’ll stick. But definitely don’t use the window if you have sticky ones, or clean-up will be more than you bargained for

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Second Birthday Party: Tractor Harvest

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Veronika is obsessed with tractors, and since her birthday is in the fall, it was a natural fit to tie the vehicle in with a farm theme for the autumn harvest.

This party was very different departure from others I’ve planned, since it was the first time an event took place off site, followed by the party finale back at home.

But as always things start with the invite! I ordered a classic green-and-yellow tractor design (from Amazon) to fill guests in on the deets.

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The birthday girl got a tractor dress to fit the theme (Etsy), and was so thrilled when I pulled it out on party day. “It’s cozy!” she told me.

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The rest of us didn’t want to overdo it on the tractor theme, but plaid prints seemed appropriate for farmers and harvest time.

Onto the decor! Yellow and green balloons matched with a set of party ware (also Amazon) including plates, napkins, paper cups, and cutlery.

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Outside, where the two-year-old guests would be playing, we set up a mini farm! Small straw hay bales (from Party City) were topped with our farm and tractor toys.

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Don’t forget a few seasonal pumpkins. A vinyl tablecloth underneath meant cleanup of all that straw was, well, a piece of cake.

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I kept food primarily to single-serve noshes to keep the party safe in the era of COVID-19.

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Packets of Cape Cod trial mix, applesauce pouches, and clementines (which looked like mini pumpkins), all fit the harvest feel, as well as veggie chips in a trio of harvest colors: orange, yellow, and green.

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Even the cake featured veggies from the earth: Carrot cake perfectly fit the bill.

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Before all of that, though, our guests gathered at a local farm for a behind-the-scenes tour. Including of course, tractors!

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Then it was back to our patio for cake and socially-distanced play outside. Entertain big kids with pumpkin bowling while the little ones play with the farm toys. If you want to organize a toddler circle time, sing classics like Old Macdonald Had a Farm or Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.

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Favors were very simple: mini bottles of farm animal bubbles to take home!

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Needless to say, this party girl had fun on the farm.

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Party Tablecloth

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This is an easy and fun way to get even a toddler involved with the decoration for his or her own birthday party. Set out a long piece of craft paper, along with coloring supplies, stamps, or stickers, and let the fun begin!

Veronika loved the ink pad and tractor stamp I handed over in anticipation of her tractor-themed party. She dotted it all over the paper, with a little mommy help to make sure the ink prints were dark enough for guests to see.

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Then she wanted to use markers. I gave her green and yellow since these were the party theme colors, although she asked for blue, too!

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If you have stickers or even images cut from magazines that fit your child’s birthday theme, add those, too. It was the perfect homemade touch to the decor for her second birthday party! We even got half of a little footprint in red ink, making it a neat keepsake

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Happy Birthday Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

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Everyone will love this carrot cake: Parents will love that all the sweetness comes from pineapples and maple syrup; birthday boys and girls will love that it tastes great! It’s perfect for toddler parties, in sum.

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup canned crushed pineapple
  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup grated carrot

For the cream cheese frosting:

  • 1 cup non-dairy cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup canned crushed pineapple
  • 2 tablespoons apple juice
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 teaspoon baking powder with 1 cup crushed pineapple. Add the Earth Balance butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract, stirring until combined.
  3. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, stirring until wet. Mix in the grated carrots.
  4. Spoon the batter into a lightly-oiled round cake pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.
  5. To prepare the frosting, combine the cream cheese, 1/2 cup pineapple and apple juice in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Spread the frosting evenly over the cooled cake.

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The birthday girl loved watching this bake in the oven.

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The best kind of anticipation!

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Birthday Celebration

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It’s Veronika’s birthday!

Whether you’re celebrating with lots of family and friends or just a few close loved ones, if you have been following along on this first-year journey, then happy birthday to your little one, too.

Veronika seems to know she’s one now, no longer acting like a baby. She wants to walk, is full of impish personality, and tries out new sounds, words, and ideas daily.

A few ways to make this day special, even though your little one won’t understand the hype:

When big brother and I entered her room this morning, we came bearing balloons and a gift she could open right in the crib. She might not know what a birthday is, but she certainly understood this was different from our usual routine!

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I also took the time to pen Veronika a letter in a journal. Hopefully this is a ritual I will continue to follow each year, for a treasured collection of words she can look back on.

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You might also consider taking a trip to the bank together to open an account in baby’s name. Chances are your baby will receive a gift or two in the form of cash. Whether it’s a regular checking account or something more forward-thinking like a 529 or UTMA, this will be a birthday gift that keeps on giving!

Finally, take a moment, at this milestone, to celebrate yourself as parents. You made it one year!

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Here is to treasured memories for the year ahead.

Happy Birthday Vanilla Cake with Cider Glaze

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This apple juice and maple syrup sweetened birthday cake is just right for a baby’s first dessert. Line up those cameras for the big smash cake moment, and enjoy!

Ingredients:

For the cake:

  • 1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder, divided
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 1/2 cup thawed apple juice concentrate
  • 1/2 cup vanilla soy milk
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the frosting:

  • 6 tablespoons Earth Balance butter, softened
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons boiled apple cider
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  1. To prepare the cake, combine the flour, oat flour, 2 teaspoons baking powder, and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  2. Whisk together the applesauce and remaining 1/4 teaspoon baking powder in a large bowl. Add the apple juice concentrate, soy milk, canola oil, maple syrup, and vanilla, whisking until combined.
  3. Add the flour mixture to the applesauce mixture, stirring until combined. Spoon into a greased 9-inch round cake pan.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes; a wooden pick inserted in the center should come out clean. Cool in the pan on a wire rack before turning out onto a cake plate.
  5. Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Combine the butter, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and cider in a stand mixer; beat until combined.
  6. Add the powdered sugar gradually, beating well after each addition. Spoon onto the cake. Store loosely-covered in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Fluffy White Cupcakes

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In the past, I’ve outsourced birthday party cakes to vegan bakeries in our area, but this year I decided to be brave and go homemade. I’m happy to report these cupcakes are nearly foolproof, and were a huge hit!

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 cups vanilla soy milk
  • 2 and 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 and 1/8 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  1. Line 20 muffin cups with paper liners (find a color that fits your party theme!), and coat with cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. Pour the cider vinegar into a measuring cup, and add soy milk to equal 1 and 1/2 cups; this will sour the mixture.
  3. Meanwhile combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl; set aside.
  4. Combine the soy milk mixture in the bowl of a stand mixer with the canola oil, vanilla, and coconut extract. Add the flour mixture, beating until combined.
  5. Divide the batter evenly among the cupcake liners (about 1/4 cup batter per cupcake).
  6. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before frosting.

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Ok, I did cheat on the frosting and opted for a jar of Wholesome Sweeteners’ vanilla flavor. Go homemade on the frosting too if you have the time!