Summer Baby Field Trips

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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She also loved just touching the plants and bright flowers.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!”

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

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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!

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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!

Homemade Butterfly Feeder

Butterfly Feeder (5)Travis and I have made bird feeders before… but never a butterfly feeder! So we were delighted to make this simple little craft, connected to his Garden Party Raddish Kids crate.

Bring 1 cup water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in 1/4 cup sugar; reduce heat and simmer for 2 minutes, until the sugar dissolves. Cool completely.

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Use a pen or pencil to punch a hole near the top of a sponge. Travis loved this part! Thread twine or string through the hole.

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Carefully submerge the sponge in the sugar syrup. We found that it helped to use a stick to push the sponge down, so our fingers didn’t get sticky.

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Hold the sponge over the bowl to let any excess drip off, then hang some place that will attract butterflies outside.

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The craft was beautiful already, even without any visitors. I will post an update picture if a butterfly comes calling!

Leaf Drawings

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A recent nature walk yielded up the first of fall’s changing leaves, and we knew we had to make art with them when we got home!

My original title for this post was going to be “leaf butterflies”, since when I saw all the pretty leaves, I immediately thought of little butterfly and bug wings. Travis had plans of his own, hence the more generic title of “leaf drawings.” Read on!

For the original butterfly idea, I drew a few bug bodies in crayon, and Travis helped select which leaves would be their wings.

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Liberal application with a glue stick was all we needed to attach “wings” and googly eyes to each critter.

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But Travis wanted to make his own picture with the remaining leaves, and began gluing and coloring.

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“It’s you and me in a leaf pile!” he explained proudly, showing me his first one. A second “leaf pile” work of art soon followed.

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What other drawings would you make featuring leaves from a nature walk? Please share in the comments!

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Make a Changing Caterpillar

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After a recent documentary on Bugs, Travis is in love with caterpillars. It was perfect timing for a story unit on caterpillars turning into butterflies in our latest Ranger Rick Jr. We downloaded the template and put together this neat felt project that illustrates metamorphosis beautifully.

A note on the project: unless your kids are at the upper age range of Ranger Rick Jr., grown-ups will likely need to assemble the caterpillar and butterfly. But then the kids can play with it!

First, use the template to cut the large butterfly shape from black felt. Cut the small butterfly shape from orange felt, and glue onto the black. (You’ll need fabric glue or a hot glue gun). Set aside.

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To make the caterpillar, cut a rectangle from black felt. Cut a long strip from felt for the antenna (Travis wanted blue instead of black). Fold the strip into a V and glue onto the top of the black body. Add two stripes each of yellow, white, and black felt. Glue on googly eyes (Travis wanted 3 eyes, not 2, hence the odd appearance!) and then 2 eyes onto the back.

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For the final component, cut the large butterfly shape from green felt. Glue onto the back of the black butterfly; this will be your chrysalis.

To put it all together, attach 2 Velcro dots to the body of the caterpillar on the black stripes, and line up with Velcro dots on the butterfly’s body.

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Place additional Velcro dots on the left top and bottom of the black butterfly wing, and then on the opposite sides of the green “chrysalis” so you can fold it closed.

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Now it was time for Mr. Caterpillar to crawl into his butterfly wings and fold himself up into a cozy chrysalis.

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Travis loved it! Note: You can also attach a string to the green felt so the chrysalis can hang.

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Open back up again for the butterfly transformation.

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Symmetry Butterflies

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In a day with wind chills in the teens, we needed a little reminder that spring always comes after winter! Butterflies always seem to fit the bill, so I set up this butterfly craft in the morning for Travis.

It’s yet another great way to emphasize symmetry found in nature for little kids, a tiny science lesson thrown in with the art.

First, I traced a butterfly wing on paper that was folded in half, and cut out. Open up and you’ll have symmetrical wings.

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I tried to persuade Travis to paint only on one side of the wings, which he did at first…

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…but once he knew that was my request, he became impish and painted on both sides. (Don’t worry, the final design will still work; the result just won’t seem as “magical”).

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Once your child has finished painting, fold the wings in half and rub firmly to make sure the paint transfers over.

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Open up for a symmetrical surprise!

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I painted one a bit more cleanly for him,  so he could learn from the example.

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After the paint dried, we added butterfly bodies (cut from additional construction paper) and drew on faces. Travis has just begun drawing noses and mouths, so I loved watching him do this part.

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Even if the butterflies look a little grumpy!

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We were out of googly eyes, but sparkly stick-ons worked for eyes in a pinch. Hang your butterflies in the window, and enjoy watching them soar!

Bugs Crate

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For a boy who loves bugs, our latest kit from Koala Crate was sure to be a hit. Without any further ado, here’s what we put together – as always you can copy most of these ideas with materials from a craft store.

Travis delighted right away in the first project, a Ladybug Pouch. He proudly added dot stickers, a felt semi-circle at the head, and two eyes to the provided felt pouch. In contrast to when we started our subscription, I barely have to direct Travis now for where each piece should go.

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He also enjoyed lacing up the edge of the pouch with the provided thread, after which I added the foam button and tied a knot. Sliding the button allows kids to open and shut the pouch, and this is sure to be a delight for secreting away many a treasure in weeks and months to come.

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To wit, the kit came with a “bug eye viewer” to store in the pouch, and included information for kids on this “compound eye” that bugs possess. I loved the science lesson thrown in with the art! Using the viewer was tricky for Travis at first, squinting shut the eye that was up to the lens. When he finally mastered the art of it, he announced, “There are multiple mommies!”

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We’d barely finished the ladybug before he asked to see the next craft: Bug Dress-Up, featuring a felt cape to decorate as beetle wings and a headband to become antennae. For a little science, we discussed how bugs in nature (like beetles and butterflies) often show symmetry. So as Travis added a decoration sticker shape to one side of his wings, I would mirror it on the other, until we had a symmetrical costume.

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To prepare the antennae, wrap a pipe cleaner around the middle of a plastic headband. Add two felt stickers at the top for a finishing touch.

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When we received our Bird Crate over a year ago, Travis balked at wearing the wings. Not so this time; he asked to wear the wings right away and began buzzing about with glee, reminded me that I’d forgotten to put his antennae on, and pretended he was a beetle for quite some time!

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A singing beetle, I should add.

Travis hasn’t had much practice with memory-type games, so I was quite happy to see that the third project in the bug crate was a Bug Matching Game. Twenty sets of insects are shown on hexagonal cards (very clever, to mimic a beehive). First, we talked about all of the bugs shown. Then, we mixed the cards and placed them face down to play a classic Memory-style game.

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For younger kids, start with just 4 pairs of bugs, and work your way up!

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To end the bug fun, we followed one final suggestion from Koala Crate, very similar to a coffee filter butterflies we put together when Travis was small. I remember it being beautiful then, and this time Travis had a bit more impish fun with it!

We gathered our supplies – coffee filters, washable markers, and a spray bottle with water.

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Color all over the filters with the markers. Travis tired of coloring fairly quickly, so I made sure to fill in one filter completely for him to see the results.

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Next, spritz your filters with the water, letting the marker colors bleed together; let dry.

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Travis had a blast playing with additional filters and pretending he was fashioning them into all sorts of creatures as I finished the project later.

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Twist a pipe cleaner around the middle of each filter, fanning the sides into “wings.” Twist the top of the pipe cleaner down to look like antennae.

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You can draw on smiley faces as the finishing touch…

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…Before your butterflies flutter away.

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High marks for Koala Crate on this one!

Tablecloth Clip Creatures

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A recent dot painting extravaganza reminded me that it’s useful to cover our work space (also Travis’s table for eating), when a craft gets particularly messy; a tablecloth clipped onto a table does the job in a pinch – so why not make the clips to hold it functional and adorable?

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To craft these little creatures, we used small pom poms and clothespins. Travis actually lost interest in forming insects quite quickly when he discovered that he could pick up pom poms with the clothespins – but this was such great practice for his fine motor skills that I was happy to let him continue!

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Meanwhile, we ended up with a variety of bugs, including a butterfly, caterpillar, and bee. Older kids will definitely love mapping out how their creatures look, and selecting which materials work best for which insect. Construction paper made for easy wings, and pipe cleaner pieces were perfect for antennae.

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We’ll be busy and buzzy as bees at our craft table now!

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When not in use, our little creatures love hanging out at the windowsill.

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Spread Your Wings

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Butterflies are everywhere this time of year, whether flitting past us on the beach, at the playground, or in the nearest batch of pretty garden flowers. If your little one wants to bring home the butterfly beauty, try out this creative suggestion from High Five magazine.

To start, grown-ups need to cut a butterfly wing shape from a large piece of cardboard.

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To make our wings shiny, we covered them first in strips of aluminum foil – this part was a huge hit, since Travis loves the way foil looks and feels. Plus glue is always fun!

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Once the glue dried, it was time to decorate our aluminum foil. Use anything crafty you have, including markers and paints.

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Butterfly stickers added a whimsical touch.

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To attach the wings to your little butterfly, punch holes in the middle where the wings meet. Thread string through the holes, and then tie over your child’s shoulders.

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Time to flutter away!

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B Week!

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It’s hard to believe this is our second to last week of our Letter of the Week journey, begun last September. We had a (n appropriately lettered!) blizzard hit, and frigid temps, but that didn’t deter us from B week fun.

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Bird: My favorite moment of the week was a stop into a local bird sanctuary, where we spotted early spring birds, including a beautiful cardinal! A great way to get out into nature.

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Bubbles: Bubbles are always a childhood favorite, so to make them different this week, we used bubble bath and played bubble barber, piling on silly beards and hairdos. Travis loved giving me a beard and rubbing bubble “lotion” all over his and my arms. We also made a painting with bubbles (simply add food coloring to bubble solution, hold up to paper and blow!), for a neat way to visualize them.

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For more bubbly fun (but not the soap kind), we also painted with bubble wrap.

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Boats: Speaking of bath time, make an easy boat that will really float in the tub. Use an empty Styrofoam tray from the supermarket as the base; place a blob of playdough in the middle, and insert a straw with a paper sail taped to it for the mast. Travis loved it so much he didn’t wait until bathtime to play, and he loved that it really floated.

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Balloon/Bounce: Balloons are another constant favorite, so we needed to make them special for B week. What could be better than balloons that bounce? Buy large balloons, and smaller rubber bouncy balls. Slide a ball up inside each balloon before inflating, then inflate and watch them bounce – they’ll be off balance and wonky and super fun. The bouncy balls turned out to be a huge hit on their own. Travis used them in musical play, to bounce backwards off the wall, and more.

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Backwards: Be silly this week and do whatever you can backwards. Bounce a ball backwards, wear a shirt backwards, or even eat a backwards meal (dessert first of course, or breakfast for dinner and vice versa).

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Baseball: Read a cute intro to baseball like Little Baseball from Sleeping Bear Press, listen to “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”, and then take a few practice swings with a soft bat and ball!

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Beanbags: Beanbags have nearly endless possibilities; race with them on your back, squeezed between your knees, on your head – the sillier the better!

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Beanbags also make great musical props or color-learning tools.

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Buttons: With the help of some sticks we collected, Travis made a button tree. Or just play with buttons! Travis loves sorting them by color, or piling them into and out of containers.

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Butterfly: This word was the prompt for three fantastic art projects, one messy and fun (footprints), another a touch more scientific (balancing), and one just beautiful (zipline butterflies). It was nice to think about spring butterflies flitting about, here in our late winter weather! Of course you can also flutter like a butterfly using scarves as wings.

Our weekly extras…

Fine art: Travis helped construct an entire block city for our 3-D art project this week. Admittedly, I did most of the crafting, but he loved building stacks and towers in the final creation.

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Food: Some favorites this week were baby bananas, blueberries, and bagels… And of course we had to take a field trip to a bakery for a brownie.

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Books: Your child will get gales of laughter for The Pigeon Needs a Bath! by Mo Willems. You might also check out any of the Angelina Ballerina books, The Bear in the Book by Kate Banks, Blueberries for Sal by Robert McCloskey, or The Lamb and the Butterfly by Arnold Sundgaard. Our favorite reading moment this week was with our Usborne Young Beginners Bugs, matching them up to Travis’s bug kit.

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Songs: Make sure you listen to Baby Beluga this week!

Math: We talked about the concept of before, as in 1 comes before 2, 2 comes before 3, etc. Floor puzzles or number mats are nice ways to visualize this idea.

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I’ll be posting our final installment – letter A – next week, so stay tuned!

Zipline Butterflies

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We’ve been on a butterfly kick lately, and as a final cute project, we put together these coffee filter ones.

The toddler appeal here is that you need to use dot paints to decorate them – and you need to press down HARD. Travis didn’t need to be told twice – he loved pressing the paints and then lifting up to see if the color had bled through.

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Once he’d made as many dots as he could ever wish to, I opened up the filters to show him that we now had… symmetrical butterflies!

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When the paint dried, I twisted a pipe cleaner around the middle of each, twisting at the top to form two antennae. Tape the antennae to a small piece of plastic straw, and now your butterfly is ready to zip along!

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We attached a string in our kitchen and living room for the butterflies to fly. As an alternative, thread your string from tree branch to tree branch in warm weather, or have two adults hold the ends of the string so the butterflies can zip back and forth as you raise or lower your arms.

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One way or another, your toddler will be delighted.

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