Dance Like a Penguin

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If a cold winter day means your kids have extra energy to burn in the house, chances are you need some movement play. To wit, today we invented this arctic animal dancing game!

Veronika has a toy penguin that she currently loves, so I’ve been showing her how to “waddle” like a penguin. The silly movement is always good fun for toddlers. And heck, it’s fun and silly for moms and dads, too.

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Then it was just a matter of cranking up the music and doing our best waddle along to the tunes!

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Veronika, of course, didn’t always stick with a waddle, but that didn’t matter now that she was getting in her movement play. Soon she was marching or twirling or knee-high stepping to the beat.

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She loved making her little penguin bounce along, too!

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This gave us the idea to think of how other winter animals would move to the beat. Could we lumber along like a polar bear? Clap like a seal? Jump like an arctic hare?

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No matter what we were pretending to be, there were big smiles and lots of movement.

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Christmas Noisemaker

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I love Christmas music and have been introducing Veronika not just to the classic carols this holiday season but also to fun contemporary tunes (think: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and Jingle Bell Rock). So of course she needed a Christmas instrument to shake along as we rocked (around the tree quite literally!).

An empty frozen juice can makes the perfect size shaker. We filled this was dried beans and a few jingle bells. Popped popcorn pieces would work, too!

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Seal the lid tightly. I used hot glue, but you can also secure with tape. We then covered with red felt and Veronika helped decorate it with Christmas-themed stickers.

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Time to shake!

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She loved prancing around with the shaker and drumming on drums as we put on our favorite Christmas tunes.

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We wish you merry music making!

Halloween Countdown Day 29: Do the Monster Mash

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If you need to pump up the volume in the final stretch before Halloween, then simply queue up the Halloween tunes! It doesn’t matter what spooky song your crew listens to, as long as everyone does the boogie(man) boogie!

Veronika was soon obsessed with the Ghostbuster’s theme song and paraded around singing “ghost busters!” at the top of her lungs. Monster Mash was also a fast toddler favorite.

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Travis wanted super spooky, which meant we had to dig deeper into the Halloween vault. Michael Jackson’s Thriller and the overture from Phantom of the Opera upped the ante!

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We soon decided we needed ghost dancing partners, so put together classic ghosts: wrap a cotton ball in a tissue and secure with yarn. Add marker eyes and an 0 mouth to each, and then break out the spookiest dance moves you know!

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Dance Ribbon

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This easy dance ribbon made the perfect rhythmic accessory for Veronika’s at-home music class today! I put it together just before class, and she continued to play with it long after the Zoom session had ended.

First, tie lengths of colorful ribbon to a ring that your toddler can easily hold. I used a canning ring for this, but a shower curtain ring or even key chain would work, too!

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I alternated strands of green and pink ribbon. You can make your dance ribbon with one color, two, or a full rainbow!

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I handed the ring to Veronika and showed her how to wave it through the air to the rhythm.

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A lilting, slow tune felt just right for making big beautiful ribbon circles. Your toddler can take it from there!

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She loved waving the ribbons around and dancing with them, and requested a tutu to be a ballerina!

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She also later found other uses for it, like pretending it was her doll’s swing on the playground! I always love watching the way toddlers can invent worlds of imagination from just a few simple materials.

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Paint Dancing

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I love throwing in a sensory project for the feet now and then, such a different experience for toddlers than working with their hands! All you need for this project is an old crib sheet (or similar large piece of fabric), and a willing pair of toddler feet.

I squirted two colors of washable paint onto a baking tray and added a little dish soap to each color, which will make clean up easier in case any paint goes off the fabric.

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Fill a second shallow tray with warm soapy water, and have a towel handy. Then tape your old sheet down to the floor securely at all four corners. I put on some tunes (Walking on Sunshine felt just right!) and Veronika immediately started bopping and dancing before the paint was even involved.

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Then I dipped her feet into the paint and set her painted soles down on the fabric. “Let’s dance!” I said.

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She was initially hesitant when the paint was thickest, but as she began to move around, a big smile formed.

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We dipped her toes and repeated a few times, and mixed up the tempo for a little music lesson, too!

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Arguably her favorite part was washing off in the sudsy water at the end. At first she just dipped in her toes, but then I turned around and found her sitting completely in the soapy tray like it was a mini bathtub. Well, time for an outfit change!

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Strumming Fun

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For some musical fun today, I made Veronika the easiest guitar ever: just a piece of corrugated cardboard ripped from a recent delivery box (thanks, Amazon Prime!) and a few plastic spoons.

I showed her how she could scrape the spoon along the cardboard to make “music”, humming a favorite tune all the while.

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It took her a few minutes to figure out which way she needed to orient the spoon (concave side down) in order to produce the right sound, but she looked so proud when she had it correct.

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Big brother Travis pointed out that the sound was a bit like a duck quacking. So this led to lots of silly quacking fun.

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Because I’d left out extra plastic spoons, she alternated between strumming or tapping two spoons together, adding a percussion element to her one-girl band. When it came time for her online toddler sing-along, she could strum her own “ukelele” alongside the teacher.

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I loved how simple this was for her to use, and how busy it kept her!

Musical Chalk

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This game is the toddler version of a musical art project I recently did with big brother Travis. This time, I sat Veronika down with a long piece of craft paper on the kitchen floor… the bigger the better! I gave her pieces of chalk and turned on some upbeat music in the background.

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Then I invited Veronika to make the chalk “dance”. I showed her how to draw big loops and swirls to the happy music. Obviously toddlers will be too young to vocalize how a song makes them feel, but babies have an intuitive understanding of rhythm and will likely take on the tone of whatever is playing.

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To make chalk less messy on little hands, try wrapping one end in masking tape. This definitely increased the amount of time she was happy to play with it.

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I set out a little dish of water about halfway through her play. Dipping chalk in water makes for bolder, smudgier colors, and she loved the way this looked.

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Of course don’t be surprised if your little dish of water gets upended, which is just fine, too.

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The music kept playing in the background, sometimes faster, sometimes slower. Did she alter her strokes because of it? It was hard to say, but the game was a great intro to emotional learning, while we made messy art in the meantime!

Listen with Me Panda Crate

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Veronika’s latest from Panda Crate was all about listening. Panda used music as a guiding theme to highlight the developmental milestones around this topic, in a crate that would suit babies 6 months and up. At 15 months, Veronika quite enjoyed the toys and activities in this bundle!

One: Loud and Soft Shakers

These streamlined shakers conceal what’s inside, but give a shake shake and your toddler will trot right over. One is billed as “soft” and one as “loud”, though as a small complaint I would have made the difference between them more pronounced. Still, shake them close to your toddler’s ear and talk about the dynamics.

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Hand them over to your little one and see how he or she plays. Veronika liked to shake them of course, but then also discovered she could roll them on the floor.

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Or bang them on the floor and keep a beat!

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Of course then we needed to put on some music and shake along to the rhythm. These will be a great addition to her bin of musical toys.

Two: Panda Squeakers

Squeak squeak, these two adorable panda heads that squeak when squeezed were a big hit.

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Veronika wasn’t able to make the sound herself yet, but loved trying!

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For babies who are still learning about object permanence, the provided bamboo “tree” will help teach the notion. Slip a panda inside, give it a squeak, and see if baby can find panda.

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For Veronika, the trunk was more fun for putting the pandas in and out of their abode. Note: The side hole is smaller, so is a bit tricky and gives a toddler some problem-solving practice!

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Three: Pull-Back Car

A definite favorite, this little wooden car has a wobbly panda who sits inside. Veronika was only disappointed she couldn’t pull it free!

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Show your baby how to pull the car back then release, at which point it zooms forwards. This perplexed Veronika the first few times she had to trot after it, but soon she was loving it!

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For the auditory purposes of this crate, make sure to lift up the car and let the wheels  whir right up by your little one’s ears. We also had fun seeing if it moved differently on different surfaces, like her alphabet mat.

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Four: See-Through Roller

The visual aspect of the beads made this rattler Veronika’s preference over the loud/soft shakers. She could shake it…

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…or turn it into a drum by tapping with a baby spoon.

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It’s also great for rolling back and forth to each other on the floor.

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Five: Chunky Board Book

Finally, we read this month’s book, Panda’s Friendship Band. As we read the rhyming words, I tapped Veronika’s hand on the pages to the beat.

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The story features tons of fun onomatopoeia, and she was copying along with silly lines like “oompah oompah” and “roo roo roo”.

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I always love a book that gets her to sit still and read!

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Wonder magazine focused on listening milestones, which were a reminder of games we’ve played like special songs to go with different parts of the day, or walking around the house to name everyday sounds. Then we played a game of tempo dance, dancing along to a favorite song but mixing up the rhythm so it was slower or faster than she expected.

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We also loved singing along to Panda Bear, Panda Bear, (to the tune of Teddy Bear, Teddy Bear, Turn Around) with Veronika mimicking the gestures!

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One of the Beyond the Crate suggestions happened to be a recent hit (pun intended!) around here: a Jam Session on pots and pans. If you haven’t done this recently, try it out, whether on pots or on oatmeal canisters. You can also drum a rhythm and see if your baby will copy.

For some reading fun, we read the following three recommendations:

  • Quiet, Loud by Leslie Patricelli
  • Toot, Toot, Boom! Listen to the Band by Surya Sajnani
  • We Are Music by Brandon Stosuy

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Beat to the Rhythm

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No doubt you’ve pulled out pots and pans and Tupperware for your baby already, and discovered that it’s a fantastic way to keep little ones occupied in the kitchen. And while a free-for-all jam session is fun, don’t discount introducing real rhythms at this young an age; kids pick up on it much earlier than you think.

So today, I sat down with Veronika and first we simply banged on our saucepan “drum.” But then I showed her one beat with my hand.

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She banged her hand a few times, but I repeated until she, too, was doing one solitary beat.

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It may have been coincidence, but this worked when I moved up to two beats as well. If I tried for three, it became a free for all of tapping and banging.

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We also tried the game with a spoon, first one beat, then working up to two and three.

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Again, don’t expect your baby to be a maestro, but you’re introducing the idea of beats and rhythms, and your little one gets to have a blast! Big brother wanted to be a demonstrator, too, and loved making one beat with his hand and watching her copy.

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Needless to say, the spoon and pot entertained her so thoroughly that I was able to clean the kitchen undisturbed!

Arrange a Musical Playdate

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Classic children’s songs are so much fun for babies. Parents will likely know the words and motions from their own childhood, making them favorites to pass down (think Itsy Bitsy Spider, Wheels on the Bus, or Open Shut Them). When you make it a group event, it’s just that much more fun!

Today, Veronika and I joined a group singing at our local library. She was thrilled to receive props like scarves and puppets as we sang to favorites like Old MacDonald Had a Farm.

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This is a great way to see other babies in action, too, playing with instruments and moving around. Our group singalong featured an assortment of rattles and shakers.

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Another fun song for movement is Row Row Row Your Boat. After we rowed our babies’ arms on the classic first verse, the library added some cute new lyrics.

Drive Drive Drive your car (move your baby’s hands like a wheel)…

Chug Chug Chug your train (elbows swinging)…


Fly Fly Fly your airplane (arms out)

At home, I made up a few more silly verses. We rowed up a river to see a polar bear shiver, up the stream to see a crocodile and scream, and to the shore to see a lion roar.

You can continue the musical fun long after group time has ended. I’m a Little Teapot is another one that’s great for gross motor movement (and props!).

I’m a little teapot

short and stout

Here is my handle (one hand on hip)

Here is my spout (other arm out straight)

When I get all steamed up

then I shout

Tip me over

and pour me out! (lean over to the side)

The tip gets a giggle very time – mommy is sideways!

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If your library doesn’t have a musical sing-along for you to attend, consider being the host for a musical playdate. Have a few friends over whose babies are about the same age, and scatter all the instruments in the middle. Parents sing while babies bop and shake along!

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