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Play for 5

Do you ever plan on working out but keep putting it off, then when you actually do it, you feel so good after?  Playing can be like that.  Sometimes you may want to get dinner ready, fold the laundry, make appointments, or drink a coffee, whatever is on your to-do list, it can wait 5 minutes.  When someone small says “Will you play with me?” Say yes.  just say yes.  Don’t say “in a minute” or “not now” or “okay but only for a little bit then I have to do things”.  Just say “Yes.”

When you play with your child, you are setting off those feel good sparks in their brain.  You are strengthening your bond.  You are teaching to take turns, share, learn new words, providing experiences they wouldn’t get if you were doing the dishes.

So say “Yes” and play for 5 minutes.  This may turn into 10, 15, 20 minutes or more.  Your child will appreciate the time you give them and won’t realize just how long or short it was.

In 5 minutes you can…
play a game of catch,
have a tea party,
make funny faces at each other,
play patty cake,
play a board game,
color,
push cars around,
make pretend soup,
stack blocks,
shake instruments,
have a dance party,
snuggle.

When those few minutes are up you can slowly back out of the game and encourage your child to play by him or her self by setting up a stuffed animal or doll in your place.  You can also weave the playing into wherever you are by asking your child to finish making you tea and bring it to you while you finish an email, have them push a car around the laundry basket and check for lost socks, set her up with a mixing bowl and spoon while you make dinner.

Just to be clear – we can’t play ALL the time.  Someone has to be mom.  This post is just meant to be a check in.  A reminder of how important it is for children to play and how even just a few minutes of your time takes up a big space in their brains.

Now, go play!

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Bubbles!

Bubbles are a baby staple. Every baby, child, and adult enjoys good bubbles. Think about it, isn’t it satisfying to blow through a bubble wand? And isn’t it disappointing when they’re just not good bubbles?

Bubbles are an inexpensive toy that can provide endless activities. Here are ways to use bubbles and activate each area of development.

Cognitive: Babies are in awe of bubbles. “What are these shimmering balls floating above my head?” Blow bubbles to extend tummy time and encourage those eco muscles to look ALL around. For toddlers, they are using problem solving skills as they learn how to shape their mouth and how hard to blow, trial and error at its finest!

Language: “Where should we blow the bubbles? On your head or toes?” “Look! The bubbles are going up, up, up!” Bubbles make room for lots of language. Babies will communicate with you through smiles and reaching while toddlers use their words or hand gestures for “more”.

Social and Emotional: Who wants a turn? Everyone. Always. Practice turn taking with your toddler every time the wand needs reapplication. For babies, they are expressing their feelings of joy when the bubbles pop on their nose (or dislike) and it’s your job to respect their emotions. “It looks like you don’t like when the bubbles pop on you, I’ll blow them farther away,”

Motor Skills: Pointing, teaching, clapping, stomping, running, how many ways can you think to pop a bubble? Get moving!

The best part is bubbles are inexpensive, available almost anywhere including the dollar store, and last forever!

Dollar Store Haul

Wander the aisles of your local dollar store and fill up on goodies that are sure to entertain your kiddos.  Below are a few activities you can throw together with simple materials available from the dollar store, although you may already have most of them at home.  Keep them in a bin and store away when not in use.  Pull out in times of need, ie: prepping dinner, making doctor appointments, checking email, writing a blog post, etc.

Animal Bath: Fill a bin with an inch or two of water, add some plastic animals and a sponge.  Use a plastic table cloth as a catch-all and for easy clean up.  Let your little ones give their animals a “bath”.  Add some dish soap for some bubbles, or not if you have someone who eats everything.

Push and Pull Garden: Poke artificial flowers through a colander, let your little one “pick” flowers for you!  For a toddler, show them how to weave pipe cleaners in and out of the holes then let them work it themselves.

Stainless Steel Fridge Fix: Baking Sheets double as a magnetic refrigerator.   Add magnetic letters for spelling fun.

Tummy Time: mirrors, paper cups, bubbles, masking tape sticky balls, balloons, and items of various textures (cleaning cloths, hairbrush, gift bows, measuring cups, flashlights, practically anything.

Dollar Store Shopping List (all materials noted above plus some extra)
Bins/Containers
Plastic Animals
Sponges
Dish Soap
Colander
Artificial Flowers
Pipe Cleaners
Baking Sheet
Magnetic Letters
Mirror
Paper Cups
Bubbles
Masking Tape
Balloons
Flashlights
Velcro Hair Rollers
Toy Cars
Baby Doll
Kitchen Utensils (spoon, spatula, tongs)
Gift Bows
Tissue Paper
Streamers
Paper Plates
Coffee Filters
Spray Bottle

Want more?  Drop a comment with a random dollar store item and we will make an activity out of it!

Now, go play!

Sign it to me, baby!

Children are constantly absorbing language.  That’s why when your child does begin to talk, the words will come out like the flood gates are opening.  A trickle at first, then full blown word flood. Children hear anywhere from 13-45 MILLION words in the first four years, depending on how much parents talk and read to them.   So as the saying goes, the more you read, the more you know.  

However, before the word vomit, it can be hard to understand your child’s wants and needs.  And it can be frustrating for your child.  It’s not a temper tantrum or a meltdown.  It’s a roadblock in communication.  Instead of getting equally frustrated, try to figure out what your child needs or let him know that you understand his frustration.

How can I help my child communicate?  Simply by exposing him to those 45 million words.  Talk, sing, narrate your day, read, read, and read.  And one more thing – use sign language.  Think about it.  When you hear the chicken dance, does your body automatically turn you into a wing flapping chicken.  When you’re at a noisy restaurant do you pretend sign your name to signal to the server you would like your check?  And when baby wants to be picked up does she raise her arms to you?  All of these are uses of body language, gestures, and sign language!

WHY BABY SIGN LANGUAGE WORKS

  1. Signing builds on your baby’s natural abilities.

ALL babies gesture. As your baby gains more control over his arms and begins interacting with you more, he will start to clap, wave & point.  Exposing your baby to sign language provides a tool that builds beautifully on his existing natural abilities.

  1. Signing highlights key words for your baby.

Your baby is exposed to hundreds of words each day and her amazing brain is busy trying to differentiate all of these sounds AND figure out what they mean. Adding signs to what you are saying highlights key vocabulary AND gives your baby a visual clue to what the word means as many ASL signs look like the word they represent.

3. Signing engages more areas of the brain
Exposing your baby to both auditory language (speech) and visual language (signing) you stimulate multiple areas of your baby’s brain, building more neural connections and ultimately improving intelligence.

The Bump has a great article of 25 signs for baby.  These are signs that you and your baby most likely use on a daily basis and can help identify baby’s wants and needs before she can use words.  Start using one or two on a daily basis and your baby will pick up on the words and hand sign that goes with it.  If every day you sign “potty” when you are changing her diaper, soon she will be able to tell you she needs her diaper changed or eventually, **exciting!**,  when she has to use the potty!  If every day you sign milk when you are getting ready to feed your baby, she will understand that not only does a bottle or breast mean food, but that she can convey to you that she is hungry instead of crying.

When using sign language, not only should you sign to your baby, but at times, make her hand do the same.  This will help create muscle memory and strengthen the bond between the word and the action.

Now,

go
Go
play
Play!

Crafting With Love

Paint, glue, and glitter? Oh my. Wait! Don’t go! Crafts with kids does not have to be messy (okay maybe a little). But we can promise you easy clean up, skill building, and fun. Remember, it’s about the process not the product. It may not end up in The Louvre but your child will have fun while creating and spending time with you. He will work on fine motor skills, hand eye coordination, asking for help and independence. If you can handle it, don’t “fix” their artwork. Let the finished product be theirs. Hang it in the fridge and encourage him to show everyone that stops by to sky rocket self esteem.

Valentine Craft #1

To start, let your child free paint on pink construction paper. Whether with fingers or paint brush, he will be working on fine motor skills and sensory play. Afraid of mess or someone eating paint? Paint with water. That’s right. Place a little water in a cup or shallow dish. When your child “paints” with water on construction paper it will look like he is painting. It will dry of course, but will experience the same skill set as with actual paint. Or place the paper and paint in a big ziplock bag. Tape the bag to the floor or table and let your child spread the paint around through the plastic.

While that is drying, trace their arm on brown construction paper, cut it out and glue it to your backdrop paper.

Next, take their painting masterpiece and cut out as many hearts as you’d like on the tree. Cut out various sizes to quiz your child on big and little.

Lastly, place dots of glue around the hand and let him place each heart on a dot of glue. For toddlers and older children, let them handle the glue or glue stick. Just don’t use super glue. All else will dry and clean up easy.

Valentine Craft #2

Paper Towel Stampers

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Pull a cardboard tube out of your recycling and break out the paints.  Bend the tube into a heart shape.  You can wrap a rubber band round to help hold the shape but you don’t have to.  Instant stamper.  Dip into paint and blot on paper.

Painting Tips:

  • Preparation is key.  Lay project on a plastic tablecloth you reserve just for art projects or lay out newspaper.  Have wipes ready. And put a smock on your child or go bare.
  • Less is more.  A little paint is all they need.  They will be satisfied with the smallest amount of paint.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t plan a 17 step Pinterest worthy craft.  Remember to follow your child’s lead.  If she wants to finger paint instead of use a paintbrush let her.
  • Clean up. Place paint on paper plates. Soak paintbrushes in a cup of water in the sink.  Use wipes for quick clean up and the rest will come off in the bath.

 

Check back each day this week for a new craft!

Now, go play!

Time Out for Mom

Recently a mom asked, “How do I get 15 minutes to myself? 5 minutes? To make a phone call, wash the dishes, send an email, check Facebook, whatever?”  The underlying issue is “How do I get my little one to play by him/herself?”

As a parent, we deserve all the free time we can get.

There are a few ways to go about this.

  1. “New” Toys
  2. Sensory Play
  3. Helping Hands

“New” Toys
Does your house seem to be overflowing with toys?  Are you constantly putting toys back into bins, shelves, closets, etc.   An easy fix is to put some away in closets.  Away where your little won’t see them.  Once a month, pull out a couple and put away a few more.  Voila!  New toys!

Sensory Play
Search Pinterest for “sensory play” and you will get a few hits.  A few million.  Stimulating different senses activates parts of the brain that typical toys don’t.  Find a bin, a bowl, a tray, or a bucket. Spread out a beach towel, shower curtain liner, or plastic table cloth.  Fill containers with various sensory stimuli.  Think touch, sight, hear, smell, taste(!).  Sensory CAN be messy.  But it doesn’t have to be! Water dries, rice vacuums up, and other things can be contained.  Here are 5 examples of sensory play for each sense:

  • Touch- Water play, may be the easiest set up and clean up.  Remember, a little water      goes a long way.  Start with a baking sheet and just enough to splash in.  Fill a container with and inch or two of water.  Add spoons and cups.  Ice cubes or plastic animals.  Give toy cars or baby doll a bath.
  • Sight- Add flashlights to a blanket fort or teepee.  Get outside.  Natural light is much more stimulating than indoor light.
  • Hear- The classic: a wooden spoon and pots and pans.  Or make homemade shaker   instruments by adding various materials to a small plastic container and seal it shut with packaging tape.  Beans, rice, pasta, popcorn kernels make different noises.  Join the band!
  • Smell- Open up scented candles and sniff!  At bath time, smell different soaps.  Identify likes and dislikes
  • Taste- For picky eaters, start out with bland, mild tasting foods then move to stronger tastes.  Over sensitive taste buds need time “warming” up to various tastes.   For older children, experiment with blind taste tests and see if they can guess the type of fruit or veggie with eyes closed.

Helping Hands
Children love to “help”.  So teach them to fish.  Teach them to fold laundry, put silverware in a drawer, put clothes in the dryer, sweep, feed the dog, put toys in a bin, anything that will help you out!  It may not be perfect, ie spoons in the fork spot and dog food on the floor, but they are doing it!  And it makes them feel like super kid.  Between the independence and your praise, their self-esteem will shoot through the roof and you’ll have a happier kid (and maybe a cleaner house?). Plus, once they know how to do it you can say “Remember when you helped Mommy put the dishes away, can you help me again while I make a dr appt/send an email/start dinner?”

Looking for more?  Follow us on IG and FB @weplaytogrow !

Now, go play!