DIY Lift the Flap Book

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If your toddler is at all like Veronika, then a) any lift-the-flap books you have in the house are dearly loved and b) the flaps have all been torn apart! Here’s a simple hack to make your own lift the flap book. All you need are post-its and board books.

Any kind of “First Words” book works particularly well for this game since there are lots of individual pictures to cover up. Technically, though, you could play it with any book on your child’s shelf!

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For variety, I left some of the post-it notes as full squares, and cut others into smaller squares or rectangles.

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Now simply let your child turn the pages (working those fine motor skills) and talk about the pictures he or she discovers as each post-it is ripped off (working those language skills)!

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A note of caution: You might want to avoid books that make noises. Veronika was so sidetracked by a cat meowing that she lost interest in the flaps for a while!

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But once she discovered the post-it notes could be pulled off, they were a hit.

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Plus she figured out they could double as “stickers“.

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This was a simple and novel way to engage a reluctant reader at storytime, and I highly recommend it.

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Flashcards in Envelopes

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I spotted this game online and found it a delight in so many ways. It works fine motor skills for toddlers (taking flashcards in and out of envelopes), requires no fancy materials, keeps your tot busy for ages, and doubles as a lesson on word recognition. If you don’t have a set of flashcards, consider investing in some. You can play this game now, and use them with a beginning reader far down the road.

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To play, I simply put about 10 flashcards into empty business envelopes. If your toddler is closer to 2 years old, consider sealing them shut. For Veronika, I left them easy to open.

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She started out sitting on my lap, as I showed her how to lift the envelope flap and remove the card inside.

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Soon she was concentrating hard on fitting the cards back in again.

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Once she had mastered the mechanics of this, she started to pay more attention to the pictures on the cards. I had deliberately used some that are her early words, and she happily said or signed them to me.

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Hat! Duck! Cat!

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Once she got tired of that, there was simply a big heap of fun envelopes and cards to play with for a while, making this activity great for self-entertainment.

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Chat with Me Panda Crate

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Veronika’s third Panda Crate, which seems to be aimed at a baby aged 5 to 6 months, is about language development and babble. To tie this idea into a theme, the crate focused on farm animals and animal sounds, which are often easier for babies to say than actual words. Certainly Veronika fits this trend, with “meow” “woof” “quack” and “baa” in her proud repertoire.  So without further ado, here’s what she received in this crate!

One: Mooing Cow

This was a very silly cow stuffed animal that moos when you turn it upside-down. Veronika wasn’t quite sure what to make of this little fellow!

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I tried playing pass back and forth with her, but she was a little scared of the cow! Instead, I encouraged her to moo along, and brought the cow back for later books and games (read on).

Two: Stacking Animals

These wooden animals – a pig, a sheep, a duck, and a bunny – are fantastic. They are just the right size for little hands, lightweight but sturdy, and lend themselves to numerous games. We lined them up in a row…

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…and then I showed her how to stack them flat on their sides, easier than standing them upright.

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When I stacked them atop one another, she was eager to topple the animal tower over! I can definitely see how this toy will grow with her, once she’s able to stack them herself.

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Three: Peek-A-Boo Barn

The farm fun continued with this neat vocab-building toy. Because each of the three barn doors opens in a different way (twist, lift, or slide), you can emphasize these verbs while your little one plays. Certainly Veronika didn’t waste any time getting her hands busy with it.

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She even played peek-a-boo with the duck up top!

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We returned to the theme of animal noises as she played, and I asked prompting questions like, “Where is the horse?” to build her animal vocabulary.

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Four: Pull-Along Truck

This gross motor toy was a welcome addition to the crate. The fabric upper body Velcros around the wooden wheel base, although ours was a bit droopy. That didn’t deter Veronika from zooming it everywhere!

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There’s room for onomatopoeia here, making truck sounds like vroom vroom and beep beep as you play. It’s also just right for loading in the wooden animals and giving them a ride.

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I can’t wait until Veronika is old enough to pull it as she walks, but for right now she was more than happy to push it along at a crawl.

Five: Board Book

As with every crate, this one featured a book about our friend Panda. In this one, Panda says hello to different animals on the farm.

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The book features numbers as well as animal sounds, and we recruited our new friends (the mooing cow and the wooden animals) to act out the story!

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Now it was time to check out this crate’s Wonder magazine. There were linguistic tips for every age, including activities we did when Veronika was 0 to 3 months old (sitting close and cooing back), 4 to 6 months old (repeating single-syllable sounds) and 7 to 12 months old (narrating the day). I liked the tip about praising language use instead of correcting it, which we’re prone to do as parents.

Wonder also had a page about baby signing, featuring 6 signs that Veronika already knows: milk, eat, more, all done, play, and help.

The suggested “Beyond the Crate” activities were mainly ones Veronika and I have done before. First up: Sounds All Around i.e. playing with onomatopoeia. She loves to copy sounds, so I thought of some fun new ones. While playing with her tea set, I added a  “pssssh” pouring sound.

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She was soon eagerly pouring for our tea party and shoving the cup in my face for a “sluuurp!” We also love to “beep boop” our light switches and to “choo choo” our trains.

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And of course, animal toys are ripe for onomatopoeia play, so we circled back to the new wooden ones.

There was also a recommended game of Tot Talk (responding to your baby’s babble as if having a real back-and-forth conversation). We do this often, and Veronika loves to monologue at me!

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Lastly, we played In Full Swing, a cute way to teach hello and goodbye as you push your baby on a swing. Veronika is just starting to wave and say hi to other babies, so she loved this game. Add other words like “forward” and “backward”, too.

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For musical fun, the natural song to sing with this crate is Old Macdonald Had a Farm.

Finally, we checked out three recommended books:

  • Farmyard Beat by Lindsey Craig
  • Listen to the Pets by Marion Billet
  • Who? A Celebration of Babies by Robie Harris

Baby’s Poem

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If your baby has older siblings, then he or she is likely eager for the day when a baby brother or sister can truly talk. Help keep things amusing in the meantime with this cute, family-friendly activity.

Make a list of the words your baby can say so far. For Veronika, this is a mix of vocalizations and baby signs, and she’s picked up some funny first ones. On our list we had:

  • diaper
  • cat
  • socks
  • tickle
  • bus
  • mama
  • dada

Big brother Travis loved brainstorming the list, adding the “ta ta” that she says for Travis.

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Now it was time to turn her words into a poem! Take turns as family members adding sentences. I started things off on a silly note with:

“The cat in socks likes to tickle the bus.”

Travis immediately latched on and added:

“The bus got to tickle the cat.”

Our poem ended with:

“Veronika put a diaper on ta ta

And mama and dada took it off.”

As you can see, there are no rules and no need to rhyme. But it had Travis laughing, had all of us marveling at the words she can say already, and now has us excited for what word comes next.

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What was your baby’s first word? Please share in the comments!


Circle of Objects

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If you’re looking for a simple way to encourage your one-year-old to start using nouns and names of favorite toys, a circle of objects is a fantastic idea.

I cleared other distractions from the room and set out a few items for Veronika in a big circle, keeping the number manageable (aim for 6 to 8 things). I included: a box, stacking rings, a ball, a scarf, a toy car, a small book, and plastic cow. The idea was to have a variety, but also things that could be named with one word.

I placed her in the middle, and the choice was hers! When she trotted over to the box first, I named it. “Yes, that is a box.”

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She wanted to put the stacking rings inside it. More great opportunity for talk! “You found the ring. You found the green ring. Can the green ring go inside?

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Next the scarf caught her eye. “You found your scarf. The scarf is soft.”

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I draped this over a few of the items in the circle that she hadn’t made it to yet, to draw her attention. Soon she was happily uncovering and then playing with the car and small book.

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“The car goes fast!” I chimed in, as she spun the wheels and drove it around. This could go inside the box, too!

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You get the idea. Whatever it is your baby picks up from the circle, say the noun and some simple sentences to go along with it. And wait for that thrilling moment when your baby says the word back!

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Shape Sounds and Have a Chat

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No doubt you’ve been talking to your baby from the start. Having full conversations and exposing babies to the words and rhythm of conversation helps immensely with language development. But now there’s an exciting new development; Veronika isn’t just babbling nonsense, she’s saying real words back.

My soon-to-be one year old has 3 words officially under her belt. Her first word is “cat”.

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She pronounces it more like “dat” but there’s no mistaking what she means; she says it whenever our cat walks by, or when she presses the cat button that meows on her musical piano, or when holding a toy cat.

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She’s also just started making a “ffff” sound when I say “woof” or she hears it on her toys. Listen for these moments, being aware of the word your baby is trying to shape or say.

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Her second word was diaper. She started signing this word to me during diaper changes. I realized she also thinks it means having your pants off in general on the day I tried on a new pair of jeans. Seeing my pants come off, she dropped her toy and signed diaper and said “dai!” in glee. I guess mommy needed a change, to! Again, be in tune with what your baby is saying, as the words won’t quite be like yours yet. I get down at eye level and sign and say “diaper” back to her so she can practice further.

Finally, she signs “bus” and says “ba” whenever the bus brings big brother home from school. Knowing the sign for bus helps me understand that’s what she means, to differentiate from the thousands of other words that start with “ba”. But there’s no mistaking her little pull-down of the arm (like you’re pulling a bus chain for the next stop).

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She also signed this when she saw the UPS truck in town, so we had our next chat about a new word: Truck!

Be on the alert for these signs of early language. “All done” is more of a “ahda”, but in context I can understand it.

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I chatted with her about what she might want instead, and we settled on banana.

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I can’t wait to see what word she learns next!

I Spot

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Recently I played a fun game with Veronika just before bed flashing colors through scarves. Tonight, we put the flashlight to a different use!

Simply walk around and shine the light on various objects in your child’s room (or elsewhere in the house). For each item, say in a soft voice, “I spot a…”

I spot the light switch.

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I spot a treasure box.

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And so on. Sometimes, Veronika wanted to hold the flashlight and help. I spot a clock.

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Sometimes she wanted to reach out and touch, and sometimes just look. I spot an apple.

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This can easily become a cherished routine; if you repeat items nightly, it will reinforce the names of familiar and treasured items, and can also help lull your baby. Veronika loves it!

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Roly-Poly Pictures

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This rolling “book” is a fantastic craft to put together for your baby. It’s a toy and a book at the same time, with so many possibilities for play!

Cut out pictures from magazines that feature items your child will recognize.

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Good candidates include animals (big brother’s Ranger Rick is full of good pictuers!), foods (apples, veggies), everyday items (watches, shoes), or holiday and seasonally themed images (like pumpkins and leaves).

Veronika loved “going through” the magazines with me!

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I glued all of the pictures around an empty oatmeal canister. Any food box that is cylindrical would work just as well. Cover with a layer of clear contact paper to ensure your little one doesn’t rip the pictures right off.

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At first I just showed the cylinder to Veronika to see how she would interact with it.

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Next we played roly poly along the floor!

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But here’s where this toy gets educational. As it came to a stop, we talked about which picture it landed on.

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This becomes a great leaping off point to discuss colors, nouns, or little stories about the pictures. “Once upon a time there was a little cat…” The possibilities are almost endless!

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Out and About

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Instead of the usual verses of Wheels on the Bus, here’s a fun song I’ve taken to singing as I’m out and about with Veronika, to teach her about sounds that things in the world make.

First name the thing. It’s helpful to use the real word (think: dog instead of doggie), and then say the appropriate sound. You might sing:

The dog in the town goes woof woof woof

Woof woof woof

Woof woof woof.

The dog in the town goes woof woof woof

All through the town.

Repeat for every appropriate item in your day, varying the verses as needed! Here are some fun ones we found just today.

The tractors on the farm go brrrm brrrm brrrm.

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The guitars at the fair go strum strum strum.

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And the cars on the road go vroom vroom vroom.

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There are so many verses of this you’ll probably never run out! We finished with a read-through of a fun sound book at home! Try Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck.

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Fee Fi Fo Fum

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Grown-ups are likely all familiar with the common syllables “fee fi fo fum” from the giant in Jack in the Beanstalk. But there’s no need to include the scary giant as you introduce this word play to your baby! The syllables echo a baby’s babble at about 10 months old, so today, I recited this classic for Veronika… with a twist.

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Sitting in front of her, I said:

Fee fi fo fum,

Here’s my fingers, here’s my thumb (open your fingers and then your thumb).

Fee fi fo fum,

Fingers gone, so is thumb (tuck fingers and then thumb away).

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To add a little learning in, I then repeated the rhyme with a different first consonant. For each letter, I handed her the accompanying foam letter to play with – a little extra learning to absorb! So she played with a big foam B for “bee bi bo bum” and giggled over T for “tee ti to tum”,

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We also did the rhyme on “dee di do dum” and then finally on “mee mi mo mum.”

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A big hit, for little effort!

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