Kids’ Hearts Valentine Gift

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The kids gave daddy their hearts for Valentine’s Day – literally! This is a great craft for siblings to work on together, and results in a beautiful keepsake for any family member.

First, I wanted the kids to each paint “their” heart, so I cut two heart shapes from sturdy white paper (older kids can do their own cutting), and set out different colors of paint. But neither kid wanted to get messy! So I slipped the hearts into plastic zip-top bags and squirted in their requested colors of paint: peach and green.

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The kids loved smearing the paint on through the bag. Veronika loved that she made circles of paint as she pressed, and Travis loved that he could cover the heart completely without getting a drop of paint on his fingers, my neat boy.

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I set the hearts aside to dry.

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Meanwhile, I removed the mat from inside a frame and traced it onto red construction paper instead. Once the hearts dried, I wrote each child’s name on the one they had painted, then glued to the red mat.

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Write a sweet message along the top or bottom, replace inside the frame, and then wait for the big smile on your recipient’s face!

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Sibling Valentine’s Day Cards

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Here’s a fantastic way for your kids to collaborate on cards for Valentine’s Day even if they are different ages, each contributing according to his or her own skill level. The brilliant hack is to make one big card then cut it into pieces at the end! This can make the task of making Valentine’s for multiple recipients feel less daunting.

Veronika was in charge of the decorating, because as a toddler she loves things like dot markers, crayons, and stickers. I set out pink construction paper and divided it into quarters with lines of pink marker. Then I gave her the above-mentioned supplies, all in various shades of pink and red.

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First she wanted to add jeweled heart stickers, and loved placing these any which way on the paper.

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Some fun with dot markers followed next!

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Keep decorating with whatever other supplies you have on hand, whether pink or red crayons, pink or red colored pencils, or even heart stamps and ink pads.

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When she was done, I cut along the lines so we now had not one card, but four, all decorated and ready to go.

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Travis’s job was to write each cousin’s name at the top and sign the cards with love, all great writing practice!

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We hope these cards bring big smiles to cousins’ faces when they arrive in the mail.

Gratitude Pumpkin

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We’re gearing up for a cozy Thanksgiving just as our family of four, but that only has us thinking all the more about what we’re thankful for or missing this year. One neat idea is to write down all the ideas your family can brainstorm… on a pumpkin!

As the kids came up with ideas (and mommy, too!), I wrote down all their words in permanent marker. Travis named favorites like Star Wars, friends and play dates. Don’t discount a toddler’s ability to name the things they love; that counts as the first step toward feeling grateful.

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Veronika also wanted to scribble with markers as I wrote, which meant our final pumpkin wasn’t “perfect”. But I loved this touch of reality on it.

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The resulting gratitude list was so simple but beautiful, and will make the perfect centerpiece for a Thanksgiving table!

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Sibling Picture Book

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Here’s an adorable activity that can make older siblings feel important and special, as they craft a book just for a little brother or sister.

Travis and I sat down to look through magazines and I encouraged him to find pictures that would appeal to little sister Veronika. He was most interested in a Halloween magazine, so picked out lots of frightfully spooky images, like carved pumpkins, silly witches, and snacks in the shape of ghosts and goblins.

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Veronika wanted to help go through the magazines too!

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Travis cut out the images, and we used a glue stick to attach one picture per piece of construction paper. I cut the construction paper in half so the book would easily fit into little hands. Staple your pages together, and then it’s story time!

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I absolutely loved watching Travis “read” this to Veronika. Older kids might want to craft a careful narrative, or write words below the images. Travis just loved flipping through the pages for her and making up a silly story based on what he saw, sillier each time the kids looked at it.

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Veronika clearly adored being the center of his attention.

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This was a beautiful bonding activity, and one we can repeat the next time we have a batch of magazines on hand.

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Monkey, Monkey

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Thanks to the influence of a certain big brother, Veronika has learned to say, “I want [fill-in-the-blank], gimme!” When I then remind her, “Say please, not gimme,” she becomes impish, doubling down on the “gimme”. So I came up with this incentive to guide her back towards the magic word of please!

We have a set of stacking monkeys that the kids love. I told them that every time Veronika says please instead of “gimme”, a monkey gets added to a tower. Travis’s job is to help remind her that “please” is the word to use. Once the monkeys are all in a pyramid, the kids get a reward.

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To incentivize Travis a bit more, a monkey also gets added when he does a kind deed for his sister.

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I love that this added an element of sibling cooperation to the game. Part of the issue, I realized, is that I taught Veronika to say “please” using sign language. Reminding her of the sign prompted her to start using it, rather than “gimme”.

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By the end of the first day, the monkey pyramid was growing. Travis was so proud when he could add one for his good behavior.

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After two days, the monkeys had all been stacked – success! The kids decided they wanted hot chocolate from a cafe as a reward, a rare treat. And well earned!

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A Hero’s Tale

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I’m still juggling how to handle storytime, now that Veronika wants her bedtime book at the same time as big brother Travis. This can sometimes make Travis jealous of what used to be our time together! Last night I stumbled upon this useful alternative and although we probably won’t repeat it every night, we’ll certainly do it again.

The idea is simple: instead of reading a story, I spun a tale. Of course it was about a little girl named Veronika, who happened to have… a Superhero Brother Travis!

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For each of the stories I told, Superhero Brother swooped in to save the day, whether rescuing the family during a hurricane, or saving a field from a giant pumpkin.

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I simply made these stories up on the spot, and chances are you can do the same. The idea is to make the older sibling feel special. To add to the fun, we acted out the tale with dress-up dolls.

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I also suggested that Travis draw illustrations. He loved adding to his picture as the stories unfolded.

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Not only was he so proud, but Veronika clearly could tell the stories were special.

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If we keep this up, soon we’ll have a whole binder full of Superhero Travis illustrations, depicting the ways he can care for and save his little sister.

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Note: This game would work equally well if you keep the story less farfetched. Just play up the ways that an older sibling actually helps the younger one on a daily basis, and he or she is sure to feel special.

How I Feel

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Here’s a great activity for siblings that gets giggles (because it tickles!), checks off the arts and crafts box for the day, and will have siblings thinking about what they love best about each other. You can do this with two or more siblings of any age.

I needed to first trace both kids on a big sheet of craft paper, and Travis volunteered to lie down first. Veronika laughed as I traced around him with crayon.

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She was clearly eager for her turn!

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This little one loved being traced!

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Next, fill in the outline of each sibling with how they feel about each other. I posed the question to Travis, asking him to describe words about Veronika and his emotions. I thought he might mention some of their inside jokes or games, but instead he said, “I love her, that’s all!” Can’t argue with that, so we wrote that in.

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Pose the same question to a second sibling. Obviously if you play the game with a baby or toddler, he or she won’t understand the concept. In that case, older siblings get to fill in words about the baby inside their outline. Travis said “copy” (because she always loves to copy him!), “cute”, and “love”.

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If your kids want to get creative, you can then draw on faces, hair, or other feature. My kids just liked rolling around on the paper afterwards, and that was fine, too!

Video Visits

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We tend to take lots of photos in our current era, but less so home videos. Here’s a cute project to encourage home video memories, as well as to promote bonding between siblings.

The idea is to have an older sibling narrate a video about any favorite destinations for your younger tot. Our first stop was the playground and Travis described where we were (with a little bit of cheeky humor!), as well as Veronika’s favorite things on the playground, and what they were having for snack.

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I then filmed several fun clips as they played on the equipment together!

Once home, I played the video back. Both kids were so delighted to see themselves on screen, little mini celebrities!

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They loved it so much that we repeated the game the next day on a bike trail. Travis once more narrated the scene.

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And one more the kids were smitten as they watched themselves, after. I intend to keep up this activity, since it’s clear that the kids are going to treasure these clips for years to come.


Food Fair

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We turned snack time today into a chance for the siblings to bond! Travis gets a kick out of how messy Veronika can be when she eats, but sometimes older siblings resent the attention a messy baby or toddler receives at mealtime: help with a spoon; wiping off trays and bibs, etc. So today, Travis was in charge of Veronika’s snack! This got laughs all around.

We headed outside with a picnic blanket and a tray full of snacks. I included: applesauce, fruit pouches, chocolate pudding, juice boxes, and soft cookies.

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At first I asked Travis just to help Veronika explore the foods. Were they hot or cold? What did they taste like? Which did she like best?

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Then Travis began to make her concoctions. A simple cookie topped with a little applesauce…

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…soon became a big glob on a plate. Applesauce + pudding + juice, oh my! Travis then dipped a cookie in it and offered it to his sister for a taste with glee.

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Don’t be fooled by Veronika’s sleepy, sour expression. She kept asking for more bites!

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Travis delighted in this activity, and I loved watching them share this moment.

Puppet Pop-Up and Theater

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Puppet play is always fun for a toddler, but here are two ways to specifically involve an older sibling in the action!

For the first game of the day, we made a proper puppet theater. Decorate the outside of a large box, big enough that an older sibling can crawl inside. After the kids were done coloring with markers, I cut a large “window” in one side.

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Veronika wanted to be the first one inside with our set of puppets! She loved that it was like a little house.

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It was fun to trot the puppets along the ‘roof’!

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It only got better once I hot-glued fabric along either side of the window as curtains. Now she could peak through with delight.

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Then it was big brother Travis’s turn to crawl in and put a puppet on his hand… for a real show! Veronika delighted in seeing the puppets perform.

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Plus she loved peeking inside the box to see what Travis was up to!

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For a simpler version, you can nix the big box and just play puppet pop-up at the highchair. Because kids can’t see over the rim of their highchair tray, it’s the perfect spot for a game like this.

Simply have a big sibling (or grown-up) hold a puppet just below the tray.

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Then pop up for a performance. Hello!

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This one is sure to elicit giggles every time.