Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Baby Friendly Halloween Craft

 Happy Halloween! I'm sure everyone has a fun day planned today. I thought I'd share the little craft we did yesterday in honor of Halloween. I really wanted something that we could do with both Erik and Paisley, and I found this idea online. I wish I'd had better paper to do it on than just printer paper, but oh well, it works.
Erik made his to send to his grandparents, and Paisley's is going to her mommy and daddy when they come to get her this afternoon.

These were super easy to make, although I will admit I wasn't willing to tackle 2 paint covered babies at once. I did one baby's hand prints while the other was asleep. I mixed up my red and yellow finger paints to make orange (word of warning it really only takes ONE drop of red to turn a huge pile of yellow orange. Don't over do the red) and then stripped the baby down to their diaper and went for it. I only did one hand at a time and rinsed it off before starting the next one to minimize paint getting everywhere. With Erik I kinda smeared his prints a little to help make them more pumpkiny. Let the paint dry over night, and then use a sharpie to draw on the faces and there you have it!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Amazing Disappearing Toy

Today we tried a new game with Paisley that is kind of a spin off of Peek-a-boo. I most recently saw this idea on Productive Parenting, but it's in just about any list of things to do with infants. 

I started by propping Paisley up with some pillows against the couch (she's so close to sitting independently but is just not quite there yet) and gave her a toy to play with. I wanted to make sure that the toy I'd selected would catch her interest. 
I'd say she looks pretty interested, how about you?
 Next, I covered the toy with a blanket. It was still within reach, but out of sight. As soon as the toy disappeared, Paisley would start looking around her frantically. I couldn't decide if she was looking for the toy we'd been playing with or just something new to do since her toy was gone. She never did try to reach for her toy, or move the blanket.
Whoa, where'd it go?

I found it!

Again, notice she's moving in this one. The instant the toy was out of sight she'd start looking all over the place. 

I just loved how excited she was to see her toy every time I uncovered it!
The biggest thing this activity helps with is the development of object permanence. Eventually the idea that the toy is still there will stick and Paisley will start trying to get to the toy under the blanket. I think she must be pretty close to that point since she does act like she's looking for something when it's gone.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Halloween Cookies

We recently decorated cookies at our play group that we go to every week and Erik had so much fun that we decided to make this a family activity for Family Home Evening. Erik and I made cookies, and then when Daddy got home we stripped Erik down to his diaper and got things going. 
He was sorta interested in spreading the frosting, but there was something else he wanted to do more. 
He started off with just a delicate little finger-full of frosting for a taste...
But then he just went for it. It was close to bedtime, so we didn't let him eat the whole cookie, but he did get a bite or two. 
This was a really fun little family activity, and it also helps Erik work on his fine motor skills and builds a sense of family belonging as we all do this together.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Imitation, revisited...

I was playing with Paisley yesterday, trying to do an activity for a blog post (which you now have to wait until next week to see) and she was a little distracted. So I started clicking my tongue on the roof of my mouth to get her attention. Next thing I know, she's clicking away too. Needless to say, all other play stopped, and we just sat and copied each other for several minutes.
video

Babies come pre-programmed to want to do everything that other humans are doing. They have a special instinct to seek human faces to look at and prefer a human face over everything else (at least while they're little, I'm pretty sure Erik's outgrown this phase!) Imitation is a great way for a baby to learn new skills and to feel like she's part of the group. This particular skill (tongue clicking) will help to strengthen the muscles that she will need to talk someday. And more than anything else, it's just super cute!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Erik's First Play Dough Adventure

This is one I've been meaning to try for a while now, and have just never gotten around to doing it. I've been waiting for a time to mix up the play dough when Erik was asleep so that I didn't have to try to keep him out from underfoot, and then I realized, why not get him involved?! (Duh, right? I'm not the brightest crayon in the box, am I)

I gathered the supplies we'd need, put Erik in his high chair, and away we went. This recipe is so easy to make, give it a try!

Let's gather our supplies:

2 cups flour
1 cup salt
1 TBS oil
3/4 cup water colored with food coloring

Mix the dry ingredients. Add the water and oil gradually. Add more water if the dough is too dry, or add more flour if it is too sticky. The oil preserves the dough and keeps it soft so it can be used many times. Store it in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. 

I found that this dough dried out quickly, so I added a little bit more oil, and then whenever it seemed to be getting hard to work with I'd dampen my hands with a little bit of water and knead the water into the dough. It doesn't take much water. The other thing I found is that if you have any hang-nails, paper cuts, etc than the salt in this dough burns! So, check your hands and your little ones hands for cuts/scrapes/sores before using this. Despite those two drawbacks, this is a pretty good play dough and is super cheap to make. I think we'll be experimenting with different recipes though, so keep your eyes peeled for those to come. When I find our favorite I'll be sure to let you know! (update 1/12/15, THIS is our new favorite play dough and has been for a while)
Erik and I each took a stirring spoon and helped stir the dry ingredients together. I didn't stop Erik when he decided to do a little bit of hands-on exploration. It's just flour and salt, it's not going to hurt him. 
It was funny, he didn't seem to mind the taste when it was dry, but once it was wet the salt was too much for him. 
Erik spent several minutes just watching the flour pour through his fingers. 
I gave Erik a variety of tools to play with and let him explore. He loved to stab the dough with a fork (or even just his finger) and make impressions in it. I showed him how to do a hand print but he wasn't too impressed. He also really loved picking it up by the handful and just squeezing it as hard as he could. 
This activity probably killed about 45 minutes of our morning. Erik was completely engrossed. I'm excited to pull out our play dough again in the next day or two and watch him do more exploring.
Play dough is an EXCELLENT way to strengthen those fine motor muscles that a child will need to write, hold scissors, and do so many other things. It also allows a child to explore new textures, and to make a creation unique to them. So much fun in so few ingredients!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Bubbles!

Paisley was feeling a little bored this afternoon, but she wasn't quite sure what to do about it. She wasn't quite tired enough for a nap, but she wasn't really up for any grand adventures either. I started looking around for something that would engage her attention without being too overstimulating. Enter the bubbles...
She really wasn't so sure about this idea at first. Especially when one popped somewhat close to her face. 

The bubbles definitely caught her attention and she tracked them with her eyes as they floated around the room. Occasionally I'd catch one on the bubble wand and hold it close enough for her to touch it. She actually wasn't a huge fan of that, because she didn't like it when they popped. 
Don't worry, she did eventually warm up to the idea, and I think it's one we'll be repeating. 
Bubbles are a fun new way to exercise those eye muscles. As the bubbles flit around the room on different air currents, the baby is fascinated and will follow them as long as they're within sight. They are also a great way to learn about cause and effect, since they have a very distinct and consistent reaction to any interaction. And, they're darn fun too!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Creeping and Crawling

Paisley is SO close to crawling, it's driving her crazy. It's like she knows what to do but can't quite get her body to go along with her. The funny thing is she somehow manages to move all over the place anyways, but none of the adults in her life have caught her in the act. You put her down to play on the floor, step out of the room for a minute, and when you come back she's several feet away from where she started. This only happens when nobody's looking however, so we don't know exactly how she does it. My theory is teleportation :)

We are all anxious to catch Paisley in the act of doing whatever it is she's doing, so to that end today I was trying everything I could think of to induce her to move. I put her on her tummy on the floor and arranged interesting looking toys just out of reach. She'd stretch and wiggle and try really hard, but she never did go for it. 

That doesn't mean that this activity was a flop though. Just having tummy time encourages Paisley to work those muscles that she's going to need to crawl and sit up unsupported successfully. Providing her with interesting things to look at encourages visual development. I was on my tummy on the floor nearby trying to draw Paisley's attention to the different toys, so she was getting some good social interaction. All in all, we managed to squeeze a fair amount of "work" into a few minutes unplanned playing on the floor.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Paisley + Puppets, Take 2

You may remember what happened last time I tried to get Paisley to play with a puppet. Let's just say it didn't go real well. I was sitting on the couch with her today trying to decide what to do with a few minutes of one on one time together and saw the puppet on the top of they toy box. It's been a few months, so I decided to give it another shot. 
 She had so much fun this time! She was smiling and squealing and just eating the whole thing up, sometimes literally!
She went back and forth between flirting with the puppet, to trying to grab it and eat it.
 I wish I had a better shot of her squealing at the teddy, but every time she'd get excited, she started thrashing around, so this is as good as it gets.
 
If you need a reminder of the benefits of playing with puppets, click on the link towards the top of this post, or go here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Little Helping Hands

Toddlers are just dying to do whatever the big people are doing. Everything I do, I have a little shadow right behind me. While I have to admit this can be frustrating, I try really hard to keep it positive. As long as he WANTS to be mopping the floor, cooking, vacuuming, sweeping, doing dishes, etc I might as well encourage him to do it. It would be silly to wait until he's big enough to be helpful, and maybe less interested, to start teaching him how to do these daily housekeeping chores. You've already seen him getting involved in cooking dinner, but here a few more ways he likes to help out around the house. One that I don't have pictures of is him scrubbing the floor. I think that's his favorite.

If you want to help your kiddo get involved in things like scrubbing the bathroom (or any other job usually associated with harsh cleaners), it's a good idea to look into gentle cleaners that are safe on a baby's soft skin. I make home made cleaners (using mainly vinegar and baking soda) that work great, and I didn't have to worry for a second when Erik decided to get involved in scrubbing the oven. 
Obviously, you get a little free labor out of this one (although remember, you get what you pay for) but there are some other benefits as well. Depending on the job you two are doing, your toddler may be learning/practicing hand-eye coordination, building both large and small muscles, learning new words to add to his vocabulary, building his self worth as he becomes a more integral part of the family and helps with important jobs, and experiences the sensory wonderland of sights, smells, and sounds that come along with every day tasks.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

This post contains affiliate links.

This is something that Erik really loved to do when he was little. I don't remember where I originally found the idea, but if it came from somewhere it was probably my What to Expect; The First Year book. I recently was reminded of this activity on Productive Parenting
I got Paisley all set up in the Bumbo seat and propped a mirror against the wall. It took her a second to figure out why I had her pointed towards the corner, but once she did she loved it! 
What are you looking at?
Playing with a mirror like this is really good for a baby. It gives them someone else to talk to and socialize with. It helps them become self aware, and as they do become self aware, it helps them learn the results of their motions. Here's a little blurb about the "magic" in a mirror.
Paisley really loved talking to herself in the mirror. It was super cute!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Put Holes in the Top, the Fun Won't Stop!

 We are cheap all about pinching pennies around here, so anything I can do to entertain Erik without spending too much money is always a good idea.
I saw an idea for a fun DIY toy with good developmental benefits here, and decided to give it a try. I bought a can of Pringles and my hubby was more than willing to empty it out for me. I wiped the crumbs out with a damp cloth, and then used a pair of scissors to cut several smallish holes in the lid.
 Next I dug around in my craft supply stash and came up with a package of pipe cleaners for Erik to thread through the holes on the lid. Perfect! Except not quite. Erik was able to poke the end of a pipe cleaner into the hole, but then he didn't have enough control to push the pipe cleaners the rest of the way in without bending them. After several unsuccessful attempts, he gave up and refused to even try anymore. I knew I needed to find a way to tweak this idea so that it would work for us. So I went back to my stash and dug around until I found a package of small dowel rods, about the same length and diameter as a pipe cleaner. I handed Erik a couple of those and let him give it a try.
 It worked! He loves to sit and push the sticks through the holes. He's really funny though. There is one stick for each hole, but he doesn't like one of the holes I made (I really don't know why, it's big enough to easily push the stick through, but he just doesn't like it) so he will fill up all the holes except for that one, and then pull a stick out so there's an extra empty hole to put the last stick in. The problem is that this results in another stick that needs to be stuck in, so he gets stuck pulling one out and putting another in its place over and over until I dump them all out for him to start over.
Things I may change about this activity: 
-The dowels are just a little bit taller than the can (but so were the pipe cleaners), but I think it would be nice if they were short enough to fit inside. This would make it so you could use more sticks than there are holes and you could store the sticks in the can when not playing with it. One of these days when I get around to it I'm going to cut the ends off the sticks.
-Maybe it's silly, but it would be nice if this wasn't so obviously a Pringles can. I think I'm going to take some of the paper from our finger painting and wrap it around the can so that it looks nicer. Plus, it'll be fun to use Erik's "art" for something. 
-This change is for a little ways in the future, but I would like to get those hole reinforcers like you use for notebook paper and put them around the holes in the lid. Then Erik can match up the color of a pipe cleaner to the color around the hole, making this a great activity for learning colors. 
***A word of caution. Those little sticks (and the ends of pipe cleaners too) would make an excellent tool for poking out an eye or doing damage to anything else they stabbed if your child was walking around with one and tripped. PLEASE watch your child carefully while they play with this and put it away when they are done or if you don't have time to supervise closely.***
So, now for the boring part. What does Erik gain by poking sticks into an empty chip can? This is an excellent way to build fine motor skills, hand strength, and hand-eye coordination. Once he's older I'll switch him back to the pipe cleaners, and add color into the equation, and then this will also be good for sorting by color. It's a DIY toy that grows with your child, how awesome is that?!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Roller Coaster

This post contains affiliate links.

The idea for this activity came from a couple of different places. This is something I did as part of our daily occupational therapy routine for one of the special needs students I used to work with, and I also saw the idea HERE as I was looking around for ideas. The link I posted has great details about how and why to do this activity if you're interested.
Let's gather our supplies:
-As you can see, I used a large exercise ball for this little game, and it works really well. It's a comfortable height for me to sit in a chair and have the ball positioned between my knees.

If you've never done this before, make sure you are holding the ball firmly between your knees as you place the baby on it. Make sure you always have a firm hold on the baby, both so they are safe and so they feel secure and comfortable enough to have fun. You can either place the baby laying down on the ball with your hands holding firmly on either side of the baby's chest, or (this can be a little trickier, so maybe work up to this one) hold the baby in an upright sitting position, with your hands placed on either side of the baby's waist or hips (how high up the baby's torso you hold them will depend on how well they sit up alone. The lower your hold the more work baby has to do) Let baby just sit and get used to feeling the ball under her for a minute before you start moving it slowly around. Rock it back and forth or side to side, or even bounce the baby gently up and down. Remember to always watch your baby, and when she is done don't push it, just let her be done!

The benefits of this activity are amazing. Having to balance on the ball helps to strengthen baby's neck and back, making sitting up and rolling over easier in the future. When you are holding your baby in a sitting position and rocking the ball, you are helping them to learn to lean to one side or the other to help keep their body balanced and avoid falling over (a handy thing to know how to do as baby is sitting, crawling, and walking). Babies crave rhythm, so using a gentle bouncing motion can help soothe a cranky or upset baby. You are also helping your child learn about their surroundings in a new way as they get a new point of view from the different angles presented by the moving ball.

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finger Painting

This post contains affiliate links.

Erik was bored the other day and we needed something to do, so I decided to try something new. I have some finger paints left over from a project we did a while back and I decided to get really brave and give them a try. We have a very small area of no carpet in our apartment, and Erik still likes to taste just about everything, so I had visions of this not turning out too well.
We started by taping a large piece of plain wrapping paper (purchased at the dollar store) to the floor as far from walls and carpet as possible (which is not too far in our case, unfortunately!).
Next, I plunked Erik down in the middle of that paper (stripped to his diaper of course), put a few squirts of paint around him, and let him figure it out from there.
As he smeared the paint all over, I'd add a little bit more here and there. He had a blast, especially when he discovered the joy of painting himself. He never did try to eat the paint, so at least I didn't have to worry about that!
 I let him paint until he got restless, and then I picked him up and hauled him straight to the bathtub for a good scrub. He thought this was WAY fun, AND now I have some fun, custom decorated wrapping paper for a shamefully overdue birthday present for someone.
 I love the places where you can see his little fingers and toes. They're just so cute!
Erik did manage to get a little bit of paint on both the wall and the carpet. I was sure I was doomed. I grabbed some stain remover (you know, the kind you use on your laundry) and went to work. Except it wasn't work. This stuff just came right out without leaving a trace. I hadn't planned to say what brand I used or anything like that, but I was really impressed that these just rinsed right out. So, I don't know what kind of paint you use, but I am now converted to Crayola. (update 1/12/15, We still love these paints and use them often, here's where you can get some too.)
In addition to keeping a bored boy busy for a minute, this activity also helped Erik work on his hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. It gave him a great sensory experience while also allowing him to create something of his very own. 
Is there anything I'd change for next time? Well, had I really thought this through I'd have realized that after we were done painting I'd have to carry a paint covered boy to the bathtub (while also covered in paint myself). Next time I will have the bathroom all prepped and ready to go, unlike this time when I had to figure out how to hold Erik (finger paint is VERY slippery on a naked baby) while I opened the door. Then I had to clear all his toys out of the bathtub so they didn't get painted. Let's just say I had to do a little more cleaning of paint off of walls and doors than I wanted to do. Next time I won't make that same mistake again!

*Diedre Mower is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Peek-A-Boo Song

In my first Peek-A-Boo post, I posted a link at the bottom to a cute little peek-a-boo song that I'd found. We've been singing that song any time we play peek-a-boo, and Paisley really loves it! Just thought I'd share a video of our fun.  
video
The music helps to keep her attention, and just adds a whole new dimension to the fun. She was pretty distracted by the camera, so you don't get to see how she normally reacts. She often laughs out loud while we're singing this song, she just loves it! Try it with your little one and see what they think.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Playing at the Park

I've already done a post about playing outside, so I'm not going to say too much about it again today. Mostly this is just me making an attempt at having something to post today when I am behind. Erik's had a pretty bad cold all weekend, and I was busy putting together an event for the women's organization of our church so we didn't do anything new in the last couple of days. But, I did finally take my camera along the other day while we were at the park, so I thought I'd put up a few pictures of the fun. Unfortunately, Paisley wasn't with us this time, so we'll have to get pictures of her at the park up here some other time.