Move Your Body

Who wouldn’t like a morning massage to wake up your muscles?  How about a nighttime rub down to settle stress and set a calming tone for sleep?  From babies to adults, we can all use this addition to our daily schedule.

Each morning, help baby to wake up muscles, alert their senses, and recognize body parts each morning.  Provide small repetitive squeezes up and down their arms and legs, wiggle toes and fingers.  Sing a little tune naming body parts as you do.  Before bedtime, repeat squeezes with a calmer, slower pace to set the tone for sleep.

Toddlers can give squeeze their own bodies or participate in a short series of yoga poses.  Good Morning Yoga and Good Night Yoga are great books with simple poses for children.

Similarly, when singing songs throughout the day that contain hand/body movements such as “Wheels on the Bus” or “Itsy Bitsy Spider” don’t simply put on a show for your baby.  If he is too young to complete the movements himself, move his hands with yours.  Using “hand over hand”, he will begin to learn the movements not just from watching, but from feeling his muscles move in the repetitive motions.

Now, go play!

 

 

It’s getting hot out there…

When mother’s sun’s rays are so powerful for days upon days, it can feel like a blizzard.  Snowed in, or sunned in, with babies and toddlers is the quintessential Reality Survival TV Show.  So plan your allies ahead and you won’t be left for the hyenas.

Homemade instruments with rubber bands and a meatloaf pan.  Break out the wooden spoons and pots to keep a beat.

Paint+Ziplock Bag+Packaging tape=Mess free finger painting.  Tape the bag to a wall for those learning to stand, to the high chair tray while you make dinner, or to the floor for tummy time.

Don’t be afraid of a little water.  Lay down towels or a tablecloth.  Have your little one help clean up.

Paint with water – dip a paint brush in water and paint on construction paper.  The water temporarily shows up on the paper.

Ice cubes – with or without food dye are fun, slippery entertainment.

Make it rain!  Poke holes in the bottom of a plastic cup, pour an inch of water in a tin pan.  Scoop and drip.

For more beat the heat activities.

Now, go play!

Day by day and Room by room

How many rooms are in your house?  How many has your newborn seen? Most likely the living room, the kitchen, and a bedroom.  Branch out!  And put all of the rooms in your house to use!

Kitchen:
Sights, Sounds, Feels – blenders, mixers, timers, cold refridgerator, scented candles            (you don’t have to light them!), mixing spoons (jingle jangle!)
Baking Sheets and Muffin Pans – water play and magnetic letters
Silverware Sorting
Containers, containers, containers
Food! – messy play or tasting, that’s what baths are for!

Bathroom:
Bath – water play, finger paints, edible paints,
Lotion
Brushes – hairbrush, comb, loofa, sponge, lightly rub on hands and feet, legs and arms      for a tickl-y sensory experience

Bedrooms:
Blanket Burritos! Wrap/swaddle baby up in a blanket, rock back and forth singing                   “Row Row Your Boat,
Gently down the stream,
If you see the alligator, don’t forget to scream!”
On the last line, unwrap baby for a tickle attack
Blanket Peekaboo – cover baby face and slowly pull off to say Peek a Boo, or cover                   your face and let baby pull off of you
Lotion massages
Books
Baby/stuffed animal make believe

Living/Family Room:
Pictures – babies love to look at pictures, let them look at picture frames, photo                    albums, books and even magazines.  Tape pictures on a wall for baby to look at during      tummy time

No matter the age, allow baby to explore her environment.  Cabinet locks and gates are great for keeping baby safe but not for containment!  If there isn’t anything dangerous in a cabinet, there’s no need to put a lock on it!  Let baby explore the Tupperware, pots and pans, and pantry.  As baby starts crawling, different surfaces will help develop coordination and fine motor, rugs to hardwood or a step down into a sunken living room.

That being said, just a friendly reminder to never leave baby alone, even for a few minutes.  Be sure furniture, televisions, and large pieces of decor are secured to the wall or out of baby’s reach.  Even the shaking of a coffee table leg can vibrate a lamp off the edge.

Now, go play!

Art for the Ages

You talked, we listened!  Here are some easy art activities to do with the wee ones.  They also carry over to simple art activities for toddlers.  Remember, just because they are capable of more, doesn’t mean its going to be any easier for you.  Keep all of your activities simple, no matter the age, and everyone will be a lot happier.  Try a project with 18 steps where it has to dry and then you peel it off and then add glue to the corner aaaaaannnnddd the two year old is eating a googly eye.  Simplify with these easy activities:

 

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  1. Ball Painting: Get the smock out.  Roll a ball through paint.
  2. Shake Paint: Place paper in any container/box with a lid.  Add a few drops of paint, any small objects (marbles, golf balls etc).  Put the lid on and shake it up!
  3. Paper and Plastic: Similar to above, squeeze a few drops of paint on a piece of paper.  Carefully place paper in a large ziplock bag.  Seal and seal again with packaging tape.  If you are afraid of baby biting plastic, double bag.  Tape to the floor for tummy time, to the wall for those learning to pull themselves up.
  4. Sensory Bags:  Fill a ziplock bag with oil (baby, veggie, canola, etc) and a few drops of food coloring.  Double bag and seal with packaging tape.  Let baby squeeze and poke away.
  5. Mess Free Baby Bubble Wrap: Drops of paint on paper.  Tape bubble wrap over top.  Again, place on the floor for tummy timers, on the wall for walkers.

 

These too!
Picasso: Place a few drops of paint on a canvas.  Wrap in plastic wrap.  Let baby create a masterpiece for the museum.

Car paint:  Cars or plastic animals, let baby drive cars through paint blobs on  black paper.

Animals in mud:  Sprinkle hot chocolate powder on paper.  Spritz with water to make a paste.  Use plastic animals to “get dirty”!

Edible Fingerpaint:
yogurt
cocoa powder + water
strawberry preserves
squashed blueberries
pureed baby food ( orange- carrots, green-peas, etc)

Have the wipes ready, and have fun!

Now, go play!

Move it!

Music and movement go hand in hand with child development.  This Valentine’s Day, sing a song to your sweetheart and dance a little dance.

Lullabies – Singing a song to your sleepy newborn helps to develop a positive bond that soothes and comforts.  As this song becomes familiar it can come in handy when your child is upset or scared.

Finger plays – Songs that incorporate simple words and repetition support language development.  Wheels on the bus, Old McDonald, 5 Little Monkeys, all provide opportunities for children to anticipate or choose what comes next.  When singing these songs, pause at the end of the verse to allow your child to finish the rhyme.
“Old McDonald had a farm, e-i-e-i-………..o!
“And on that farm he had a……..”
“The wheels on the bus go round and round all through the…….”
When your child responds by vocalizing, whether clearly stating “Cow!” or just “Ga”, take it!  Accept any attempt at communication to instill confidence in your child.

Movement Songs – Let’s dance!  Fast or slow, your child can follow directions to get their bodies moving and practice body awareness.  Songs can provide directions or simply spark freestyle based on the genre and style such as Latin, Bluegrass, Classical, or New-Age.
Try incorporating these into your daily morning routine to wake up the body:
“Head, shoulders, knees, and toes”
“Row, row, row, your boat”
“Cha Cha Slide”
“Hokey Pokey”

Now, get up, get moving, and go play!  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Love and Crafts

The key to arts and crafts?

SIMPLE. SIMPLE. SIMPLE.

The easier the craft the more fun it will be for your child AND you.  Think of an easy project, then find a way to make it easier.  And now, make it even easier.

How?  Plan activities that have few steps.  You can even set up the activity before beginning.  Break it down into steps so you know exactly what you are doing next.  Of course, have clean up materials handy and a space to place items to dry if necessary.

Here are three activities to try this week.

SHAKE UP HEARTS

  1. Cut a heart out of art paper, place in container with paint and mixers -heart candies, marbles, bells, dried pasta or beans.
  2. SHAKE IT!
  3. Let love dry 🙂

 

HEART STAMPS
heart-stamps-for-toddlers
Squeeze a toilet paper roll to form a heart and place tape around to hold the shape.  Stamp in paint then on paper.

***With all of these, projects, don’t ever let the stock photo fool you.  With a babe under 2, you will be doing most of the work.  Try the “hand over hand” method.  Here, place your hand over you child’s hand on the cardboard tube.  This way, you are completing the motion, but your child is a part of the fun.

“Stamp the heart, thump, thump, thump.”
“Dip and stamp, stamp, stamp.”

 

VALENTINES FOR THE BIRDS

Spread a thin layer of peanut butter (or soy butter, or sunflower butter, or almond butter) on a piece of bread.  Use a cookie cutter to cut out a shape.  Dip into a shallow dish filled with bird seed.  Thread with a string and hang outside the window.
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Stay tuned for monthly crafty ideas to do with your babes.  Touching on creativity is important on so many levels.  Creating helps children develop knowledge of objects such as crayons and paint, while experiencing sensory materials while getting messy or squeezing play doh.  As children grow, they begin to express themselves through art.  They can also begin to communicate through art where their words have yet to develop.  Children should be creating every day.  This doesn’t mean you have to plan an elaborate project every day.  Provide children with different materials.  Crayons and paper one day, chalk and chalkboard the next, or a white board and dry erase markers.

Now, go play!

 

Snow Day? Play!

This winter weather calls for some sensory play.

The snow makes everything look beautiful and peaceful.  And then your kids wake up.  Being snowed in can be tough.  Cabin fever is real.  Here are some ways to embrace the winter weather with your little ones.

  1.  Play in the snow of course.  Bundle up and get outside!  Walk around, crunching through the snow, get out the sled, and throw a snowball.  Pull the beach toys out of the garage and build a snow castle!
  2. If you want to keep the snow play low key, put towels down and place some snow on a baking sheet.  Throw a hat and mittens on your babe for fun and let her have an indoor snow day
  3. Hot Chocolate!  Cozy up with a cup and share with your little one.
    -If you have a wee babe who is solely on breast milk or formula, pour some hot chocolate in a cup, swirl it around and dump it out.  You can even wipe out any excess.  The cup will still smell like hot chocolate and makes a great sensory toy.
    -Pour some cocoa powder on a piece of art paper and spritz it with some water.  Edible fingerpaint!
  4. Snow Day Bubble Bath – who says baths have to be just for getting clean?  Play!  Blow bubbles in the air and throw some kitchen funnels in the tub. You could even bring some snowballs inside and watch them disappear as you drop them in the bath water.

Other ways to cure cabin fever…
Whether Sun or Snow

Cloud dough, snow dough, same thing

Warm up with movement

It was Mommy, in the library, with the legos.

Art you brave?

How do you stay sane when snowed in?
What was your favorite thing to do when you were a child and school was closed because of the snow?
Comment below!

It’s over.

The holidays may be over but the cold, wet, windy, snow, icy, stuck inside, winter is only beginning.  Now is more than ever is the time to explore indoor fun before you go stir crazy.

  1.  Still, get outside!  Bundle up and get out there.  Take the dog for a walk or just go out to get the mail.  Whether your child is walking, in a stroller, or in a carrier on your back, the sensory stimulation from outside is infinite.  The fresh air will give you a little boost of energy too.
  2. Rotate toys.  Now is also a perfect time to make space for all of the new goodies you child received.  Donate or storage is up to you.  Either way, put some toys out of sight for a week or two.  Bring them out and put others away and it will be like Christmas all over again!
    0-6 months can be focused on an activity WITH caretaker for up to 3 minutes
    7 months – 2 years will play with a toy or book for about 30 seconds before reaching out to engage with you
  3. Libraries and Book Stores: Both of these have free story time and activities for all ages.  If not, go anyway, there’s bound to be another exhausted parent and energized child.  And don’t think just because you have a newborn of 3, 4, 5 months old you can’t go anywhere.  Although a wee babe may not be engaging with other kids yet, he/she will still appreciate the sensory input from varying environments.
  4. Indoor play: Here are a few of my favorite specifically indoor activities…
    1. Kitchen – while you may have dishes to do, dinner to prep, or coffee to make – set your little one up right on the kitchen floor with a wooden spoon, a few plastic mixing bowls, and even a heaping of flour if you’re not afraid of a little mess (exhibit a).  You’ll be Suzy Homemaker and he’ll make you flour soup!
    2. Book forts – drape the living room in blankets and sheets, turn off the lights, toss some books underneath with a flashlight and lay on your bellies.  A different scenery can make old things seem new and exciting.
    3. Mirror, Mirror – take turns making silly faces in the bathroom mirror.  A great way to practice sounds, body parts, and who’s who. Note: babies don’t recognize their self until around 2 years old.  Before that, it’s just another baby!

 

Getting Messy

“Agh, you’re a mess”. It’s easy to forget they have go-go gadget arms. If you are getting ready to head out the door and you’ve got an 8 month old covered in applesauce, this can be a problem.  But otherwise, let the children play!

“Messy Play” is a great sensory experience.  Allowing babies and children to explore with their hands, fingers, and more helps develop fine motor and hand eye coordination.  Using different materials engage all of senses including tactile, sight, smell, and most likely taste.

Sit her in the high chair, put on a plain onesie, bib, or smock and let her go to town.  It might seem icky to you but its just fun play to her.  Try a variety of textures like shaving cream, lotion, applesauce, chocolate pudding, crushed goldfish, finger paint, etc.  You can also make homemade play dough and mix in coffee grounds, crushed candy canes, or cocoa powder for a scented experience.

Other projects by age:

6 months-1 year: Babies at this stage are at the beginning stage of food exploration.  Drop a dollop of pureed food and a spoon on their tray.  If baby is reluctant to get messy try using your finger or the spoon to draw in the puree.  Baby see, baby do!  You can also start but placing some on babies fingers and letting him eat it, so he knows that this stuff is good!

1-2 years: Cooking in the kitchen?  Doing dishes?  Sit your little one on the floor with a baking sheet/cake pan that has some flour, sugar, or breadcrumbs inside.  Throw in a spatula or whisk.  Then get out the vacuum.

2-3 years: Washable or edible finger paint in the bathtub.  Let them go wild then hose ’em down.  Edible paints: smashed blueberries/strawberries, applesauce, cocoa powder or Kool Aid and a spray bottle of water, yogurt, hummus, or pudding, the possibilities are endless!

Tis the season

With Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa quickly approaching, you may be shopping for the little ones on your list.  As I have mentioned in a former post, toys are not everything.  And they shouldn’t be.  The best toys are those that promote interaction.  When interacting during play, a child is communicating, even if he is just tapping your leg to continue the activity.  He will also practice social emotional skills such as sharing, or experience various feelings such as joy, suspense, and boredom, all of which are accompanied by body behavior, and you can bet he will pick up on that!  Children also build their imagination during play which encourages turn taking, sharing, role playing, and more.  When you are shopping for toys, it may be easy to pick a toy that gives you some “me time” which is definitely needed at times.  But overall, choose toys that do both – enable you to take part in your child’s imagination while allowing room for independence.

Below is a guide to my favorite toys, grouped by age, from 0-3 years.
You will see books for every age, and some toys overlap age ranges.  Toys that grow with a child are great because a. it saves money and b. less toys=more floor space/less cleanup!

Toys that are good for any age:
Picture Album: include family members, pets, and pictures of baby!
Stacking Blocks, Nesting Toys, Legos
Balls

0-6 Months
Books:  Baby Touch and Feel: Animals – or any of book from this line.  Each page shows one simple picture on a blank background, usually with some type of material to feel.  Run babys fingers over the pages and tell her what you see.
Black & White – A tummy time spectacular!  Each page is contrasting black and white images, perfect for infant’s developing eyesight.  It folds out, accordian style.  Open it up, stretch it all out, and stand it in front of baby during tummy time.  All your tummy time problems solved (haha).

Toys: Babes at this age are taking in their world.  They are exploring with their eyes, ears, hands, and mouths!  Look for toys that are easy for their little hands to hold and safe to mouth (but not small enough to put IN their mouth). Some favorites are Crinkle Teethers, Floor Mirror, and the famous Sophie or mini Sophie

6-12 Months
Books: Books with flaps or windows.  The classic Brown Bear, Brown Bear has a great “slide and find” option.

Toys: Containers! Anything with containers!  This age loves to put things in other things, and take the things out of the things.  Think sorting bins, shopping baskets with fake food, or a building blocks that come with a storage container like Duplos from Lego or Mega Bloks.

Also, push toys and activity cubes will encourage motor activity as baby begins to pull himself up and take steps.

1-2 Years
Books:  Books that ask questions or encourage baby to interact such as Where’s Spot and Where is Baby’s Belly Button?  As well as books that have repetitive phrases.

Toys: More containers (see above, ages 6-12months), as children will forever like doing this.  Musical instruments are a great gift, and it works on their fine motor skills.  This simple piano is perfect and this doguitar is hilarious.

2-3 Years
Books: As long as it’s not bedtime, books that involve acting out parts are great for this age.  We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and My Many Colored Days (a Dr. Seuss I bet you didn’t know about!)

Toys: Imaginary Play!  These toddlers are starting to model the daily routines they see, that means YOU!  Kitchen sets, tool kits, baby dolls, and stuffed animals are the way to go. Also, puzzles.

I hope this guide makes your shopping a little easier!