Travel with Me Panda Crate

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Veronika received her second crate from Panda Crate today. As I reminder, she’s receiving crates meant for babies a few months younger than her actual age, since I wanted to be sure we didn’t miss a single thing. Read my full explanation here.

So, adapting “Travel with Me” slightly, we still had fun with the following crate items at 11 months old!

One: Travel Play Mat

This item is truly meant for those still doing tummy time, with tactile elements galore. The handy roll-up-and-velcro feature means you can take it anywhere in those early days when you don’t want your newborn on the floor (germs!).

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The reverse is a nice fluffy fabric, which makes it a cozy blanket for chilly fall days even now that Veronika is bigger. The one element she loved as an eleven-month-old was the pocket; hide toys in here for your bigger baby to find and you’ll get great smiles of delight.

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Two: Star Grasping Toy

Speaking of hidden toys, this is the one I secreted away in the pocket. The crinkly elements will be catnip for little babies’ hands. Because so many baby toys are round or square, the shape was also fun to talk about with Veronika.

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I touched each of the 5 points of the star, counting them out as we went.

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Three: Hanging Rattles

These two rattles attach to the loops of the blanket for any babies doing tummy time.

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I appreciated that they work great as travel toys even for older babies, since they fasten easily onto the handle of a car seat. My big girl didn’t let them dangle for long; she loved snatching them down!

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You can also of course use them to talk about the weather (cloudy, sunny). Best of all was using them more like maracas together, shaking along to songs in the car.

Four: Fabric Book

Last month, Veronika received a bath book about Panda, now it was time for a crinkly book. It’s super lightweight, making it perfect to pack as a travel toy. This one was fun because we could name vehicles and Veronika is old enough to imitate the sounds each makes (the vroom vroom of a car, the choo-choo of a train). The book has very few words, which encouraged me as a parent to narrate what we saw on each page, talking about all the details.

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Once again, I perused Wonder magazine, including a Grow section on muscle and movement development. The Learn section was a trip down memory lane: we hit all the suggested activities back in the day, whether tummy time skin to skin as a newborn, reading board books during tummy time at 4 months old, placing toys just out of reach at 5 months old, and encouraging rolling at 6 months old.

The Play section was also a nice reminder of ways I enriched Veronika’s experience as a younger baby: outings like going to a coffee shop, arranging a mommy play date, picnicking in the park, strolling outdoors, or going to the aquarium. If you receive the crate when your baby really is four-months-old (or thereabouts), you’ll love the suggested “Beyond the Crate” activity of Ribbon Play.

For travel-themed musical fun, I sang Veronika Wonder‘s version of “Wheels on the Bus” with cute new verses:

The baby on the bus goes on a trip,

On a trip, on a trip.

The baby on the bus goes on a trip,

All through the town.

 

The baby on the bus looks all around,

Up and down, what’s that sound?

The baby on the bus looks all around,

All through the town.

Finally, we checked out these three books at the local library:

  • Baby Touch: Tummy Time by Ladybird
  • Go! Go! Go! by Nicola Bird
  • Red Wagon by Renata Liwska

The Ladybird book in particular is fantastic, actually an accordion that folds open and can keep Veronika entertained for hours.

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We’re looking forward to more Panda crates, especially as the toys become more appropriate for Veronika’s true age.

Rock ‘n’ Roll

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Veronika is so close to crawling, but her arms still aren’t quite strong enough yet to propel forward. You can build those arm muscles by placing a bolster under your baby’s belly; think of this as 8 month old tummy time!

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I rolled up a beach towel tightly and positioned her with arms over it and legs behind.

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Now lift your baby’s legs. The weight will transfer to their arms, and hopefully he or she will “walk” the hands forward.

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Veronika was delighted! Mom, she seemed to say, I’m doing it!

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You can roll baby forwards a little ways – just make sure you are on a smooth surface, and not a carpet.

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After I let go of her legs, I let Veronika hang out this way for a while. She kicked her feet, and shifted her torso side to side to check out the towel, so she was still getting in quite a little workout.

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Colorful Scarf Circle

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This activity takes all of two minutes to set up, but your baby will reap great benefits from it. It’s perfect for times when you want to visually stimulate a baby who can’t sit up yet; great for tummy time; and also encourages gross motor development towards rolling or crawling.

Here’s the set-up: lay a soft blanket on the ground, and simply surround it with pretty scarves. Before I draped each one down, I let Veronika see it and grab it if she wanted to, then added it to the circle.

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Now baby goes in the middle! The bright colors immediately caught her eye. Since Veronika isn’t rolling on her own yet, I nudged her gently to her side.

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From here, she could complete the roll, and seemed intent on getting closer to the bold blues and reds. If your baby is already rolling, he or she might enjoy rolling back and forth between these scarves for quite some time!

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Once on her tummy, she had plenty to look at, which was a nice way to shake up tummy time.

Back on her back, she enjoyed running her hands over soft fabrics, or grabbing on to the tassels, leading to great tactile play.

Scarf Play (7)Note: There’s also no need to wait until your baby is rolling for this game. I’ve been setting Veronika up in a similar circle of scarves since she was tiny. The only difference is that now the game is more interactive.

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Varsity Tummy Time

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Veronika started with basic tummy time, moved on to advanced activities, and now she’s pulling out the varsity moves!

Once your little one is comfortable up on his or her elbows, try these tricks to encourage them to last longer on their bellies, and make the time more enjoyable. Ideally at 3 months old, you should be fitting in about 20 minutes of tummy time daily.

First, I held up one of her favorite toys, just above eye level. This was great for strengthening her neck muscles even further – a big first step before crawling!

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Next, we played games to encourage her to turn her head. Place a baby-safe mirror first on one side…

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then directly in front…

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and finally on the other side. Good turns, Veronika!

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You can also continue to get right on your belly, face-to-face with your baby. This time I made funny faces, puffed out my cheeks, and talked up a storm of encouragement. Don’t be afraid to get silly if it helps your baby stay a few minutes longer!

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Finally, we did another pre-crawling activity. I placed a toy with lots of colors and parts in front of her, but just out of reach. Well hello toy, Veronika seemed to say!

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I placed a rolled blanket behind her feet to encourage her to press her weight against it, and shift forward, pushing ever so slightly.

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She got the idea right away, although she isn’t quite strong enough yet! Later, I actually pushed against her bare feet and did away with the towel, and this seemed even easier for her.

Overall, have fun with tummy time, and your child will be loving it before long. What’s your favorite tummy time game? Please share in the comments!

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Advanced Tummy Time

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At almost three months old, Veronika can now keep her head up at a 90 degree angle during tummy time. So it was time for some advanced tummy time play!

Today, I placed her on a soft blanket, and helped prop her up on her elbows.

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Then I got down with my belly on the floor and looked right at her. Well boy was she ever surprised!

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We sat this way for a good five minutes, and she wanted to chat the whole time. It was an absolutely adorable tete-a-tete. If your child is hesitant still about tummy time, talk to them reassuringly, or perhaps sing or play a song they find soothing.

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Veronika jumped right in to the game, though! And I wasn’t the only one she wanted to check out at floor level; the cat caught her eye, too.

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Another way to do tummy time with babies who resist it is to place them right on your chest. Nothing says you need to be on the floor to strengthen those little muscles, plus you get great skin-to-skin time.

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Either way, on the verge of three months old, we’re aiming for 15 to 20 minutes of tummy time daily, so it’s time to step it up!

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Faces & Emotions Cricket Crate

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This week, Veronika and I cracked open the last of the newborn three-pack from Kiwi Co., originally termed Cricket Crate, and now having shifted to Tadpole Crate. The theme of this last box was faces and emotions, and the keepsake was just what we needed – a new tummy time prop!

The tummy time mirror folds out in four panels on two sides, for eight visual panels total. You can lift the flaps and explore on each, where silly fruits wear different facial expressions.

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These are great for starting the conversation with your wee one about emotions – hey there, silly blueberry! Hello happy banana!

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Oh look, a sad cherry. I giggled and so did she!

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Next, we experimented with four different ways to position the mirror:

Hanging in her bassinet (Note: this is great when I need to entertain her as I cook dinner!);

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Upright for when she lies on her back;

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Folded into a triangle for tummy time;

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And lying on the floor for tummy time. This last she isn’t quite ready for yet, but it definitely encouraged head lifts.

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Don’t stop there! The Wonder magazine had lots of suggestions for games. First, we played ‘Look BothWays’; I used it as a way to encourage her to turn her head to the right, since she favors the left. By putting the panels on the other side, she turned her head and strengthened the muscles on that side.

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Next we played ‘Name That Facial Feature,’ similar to the game we play when she touches my face. This time, I touched the mirror, then the corresponding part on her face, naming each feature as I went.

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Lots of wonder in her eyes!

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It’s also great for helping your child learn their own name. Your baby won’t realize that the reflection is them – not until much closer to one year old – but this was a chance to say ‘Veronika,’ and point first at the mirror, then to her body. I taped a photo of her to one of the mirror panels to reinforce the notion.

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Next we played ‘Emotional Me’; I made silly faces into the mirror, naming each emotion. To further this idea, I lay down next to her on the blanket (she looked so surprised finding us face-to-face!), and held up my phone in selfie mode. She was instantly captivated – who was that baby staring back? We went through emotions – happy, surprised, sad – and you could see her trying to copy each. Take some adorable pics while you’re at it!

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Another great way to talk about faces and people is to go through photo albums with your child. Veronika loves the one I have with crinkly textures and soft pages, full of family pics.

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Or you can even look at strangers; babies will take any faces they can get. We flipped through a magazine together, and I pointed out what each person was feeling, or if they were old or young.

Finally, start to actually engage your little one in “conversation.” Ask a question or make a comment then… Wait! Give your baby time to respond, and they will start to pick up on the rhythm of how a real conversation goes. I was rewarded with lots of little “ah ooh” and “ah geh” responses, and she seemed to happy to be “talking” with me just like she sees big brother do!

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The book this month concentrated on emotions too, aptly titled Cricket’s Feelings. Don’t be afraid of getting overly dramatic as you read each page in this book – happy, scared, excited etc. You might feel silly, but Veronika was wide-eyed!

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We also read:

Baby Faces by Margaret Miller

Huggy Kissy by Leslie Patricelli

Happy Hipp, Angry Duck by Sandra Boynton

Little Gorilla by Ruth Bornstein

Gideon & Otto by Oliver Dunrea

and From Head to Toe, by Eric Carle

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The website bonus this month was a downloadable Tummy Time tracker. This sheet was definitely a reminder for a mom like me who never makes enough time for it.

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Now it’s on my counter and jogs my memory every time I walk into the kitchen. As mentioned, this was our final Cricket Crate – eager to delve into Tadpole next, once the series is fully up and running!

Where Are You?

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This sweet activity is great for bonding plus gross muscle development; it’s a nice variation on standard tummy time.

Today, do your baby’s tummy time on… your tummy!

I lay down flat on my back, and placed Veronika on my chest. At first, she was quite content to lie there with her cheek against my shirt.

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I lifted my head slightly, and called her name. You could instantly see her eyes light up, alert to the communication. Continue to say your child’s name, and help lift the head slightly if needed. Here she is trying to lift her neck.

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Good work, Veronika!

Apple Art for Tummy Time

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This is an adorable black-and-white art project you can use to enhance baby’s tummy time – and big sibs might want to get in on the craft, too!

First, I cut an apple in half, and painted the halves with a thick coat of black paint.

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Press the apples onto sturdy white paper. I made a row of three apples per page.

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To vary the image, you can also paint in full apples with little stems.

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I invited Travis to have a go at making a print, too, and we came up with this more abstract version:

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For Veronika’s tummy time, we folded the papers in half so they could stand upright, and surrounded her with a little apple forest. These are great for pointing too, and talking about the image.

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We also sang “One little, two little, three little apples…” etc. to the tune of Ten Little Indians. You could also make up stories about apples!

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What is your baby looking at for tummy time? Please share in the comments!