Monday, December 17, 2012

Nativity Matching Game

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Last Christmas Erik was given an adorable Fisher Price Nativity set that is perfect for babies/toddlers. I just love it! I want the real reason behind Christmas to be as important to my children as it is to me, and this is a great way to really help a child learn to love the story of Christ's birth. 

 As I was looking for a solution to our Christmas tree dilemma, I found a set of wall stickers that make up a Nativity scene. I was so excited. I pulled them out and with a little bit of help Erik got to stick them up on the pantry door (okay, a lot of help, he wanted to stick them all in a pile so I came back later and rearranged the stickers so he could see them all). We've been talking about all the different characters trying to help him recognize them, and today we made a game out of it. We brought his Little People nativity over to the wall Nativity and started trying to match the 3D figures with the stickers. He loved it. Matching the toy in his hand with a picture or video of the same thing is one of his favorite things to do. We kept this up for a while until I made the mistake of trying to get him to match up the stars. As soon as he discovered how to make the one on the stable light up, that was it. All he wanted to do was sit and push the button over and over and listen to the song play. Oh well.
This was a really fun, festive way to help Erik practice sorting/matching skills, fine motor skills, and language development (we talked lots about the names of the kinds of animals, etc...). 

*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, December 14, 2012

Working on Standing

Now that Paisley has mastered sitting up independently, her next big hurdles are crawling (which she is SO close to figuring out) and standing. She works pretty hard on crawling all day. We make sure there are tempting toys just out of reach for her to have to work towards, and she does the rest. Standing, on the other hand, is something she cannot yet work on on her own. We practice this in a couple of ways. You can hold her hands or around her waist and help her balance while she stands. You can also help her find other objects to gain support from as she works on this. A good example of a place for her to practice standing would be your couch. Nice and soft in case she falls, a great place to set toys to entertain her with, and a comfy place for you to sit while she plays. Another one that we like lately is to just help her stabilize herself against the wall. It helps that right now we have lots of interesting things stuck to the wall for her to look at. Just make sure you stay close by so when she gets tired or distracted you can help her get down without face planting into your solid wall. 
 There's no way she'd be ready to stand on her own any time soon, but she is working hard at building the muscles and practicing the balance she'll need before striking out on her own.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Christmas Tree!

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As we were debated about what to do about a Christmas tree this year, we were really stumped. Where would we put it in our tiny apartment? How on earth would we ever keep Erik from destroying it? We could decorate a mini one and just keep it up on our kitchen table, but could we stand to listen to the 24/7 whining that would go on because Erik would be able to see it but not reach it? We finally decided that we weren't going to do a tree this year, there was just no way humanly possible to make it work. And then, as I was digging around in my box of Christmas stuff, I came across the Perfect solution! Not only would it enable us to have a tree of sorts, but it would make a great activity for Erik. So, what is this little bit of Christmas magic I'm talking about? STICKERS!
Okay, so right before we got started Erik dumped a big cup of VERY cold water all over his shirt, which meant he got to go topless for the tree decorating. Oh well. 
 The main body of the tree was four stickers that had to be lined up perfectly to look right, so the grown-ups did that part, but Erik got to help put on all the individual decorations. He loves stickers and is getting pretty good with them. Now if we could just convince him that the ornaments go on the tree, not the wall...

 We love our little tree. It's perfect. It gives us that Christmastime feel we were looking for with none of the mess and it doesn't take up any of our limited floor space. And...
 ...Erik can even drive his tractors on it without me having to worry about a thing. It's perfect!
As you may remember (or already know) stickers are a great way for a child to have a little creative license while practicing their fine motor skills. Decorating a Christmas tree as a family (even a less traditional tree) gives your child a chance to interact socially with the members of his family, while helping to build his self esteem by making him feel like a valued member of the group. What a great way to learn build some memories!

*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. 

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

"Part of One Fine Face"

Okay, if you can tell me where that title comes from *without* using a search engine, than you win the prize. Don't know what the prize is, but you would win it for sure!

Paisley is getting into a stage where she's realizing the power of her fingertips. No, that's not a typo, I did mean of. She has discovered the hand-eye connection; that she can reach for and explore the things she sees with her fingers. This means that she wants to be able to explore all the things she's been looking at for months now and get to know them better. Things like, for example, the faces of those she knows. Whenever you sit down and cuddle her while she drinks her bottle, those little hands of hers start wandering all over your face.

Today's activity is something we did with Erik when he started showing interest in what his hands could do, and now Paisley can get in on the fun. Whenever she reaches out and grabs your nose mouth ear or whatever else she may grab, make sure you tell her what she's got. She seems to have a different favorite facial feature each day, and today's favorite is my nose, so we've be talking a lot about noses all day. Whenever Erik's handy I'll point out his nose to Paisley, and let him point to hers. We make sure we verbally label whose nose we're talking about. "There's Erik's nose" or "Here's Paisley's nose". Before too long Paisley will have all the parts of the face down well enough to start pointing to things when you ask her where they are. It's so much fun to watch these little guys learn and grow!

This seems like such a simple thing, but just making sure you talk about everyday things will help baby's vocabulary explode. It builds their confidence and the bond between the two of you.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Piggy Bank Play

I want to welcome my first ever guest poster, Carolyn. She blogs over at Carolyn's Cozy Corner and Cookies 'n' Cows. Carolyn's little guy Wyler is just a few weeks younger than Erik, so they are often doing and learning the same things at the same time. When she sent me this idea for an activity to do with Erik I invited her to share her experience with Wyler. Here's what she had to say:

I wanted to share something I discovered with Wyler that Erik might enjoy. From reading your Playing to Learn blog this would work on fine motor skills and hand eye coordination. I was putting spare change in Wyler's piggy bank and he came over to see what I was doing. So I emptied out all the change (thanks to Grandma Darla there was about $2 in dimes and a small (really small) hand full of random change I have added.) He picked up a coin and tried to put it in the slot. The coin didn't fit with the way the slot in the bank was oriented, so I turned the bank and after that he was hooked. (If I had left the bank where it was he would have had problem solving skills as he tried to figure out how to get that coin in.)
 Once all the coins were in he picked it up, and shook it. Nothing came out! He handed it to me so I could take the coins back out, and once they were dumped he put them right back in. This happened anther time or two. He wanted to keep playing, but I had a few other things I needed to do, and couldn't supervise this activity all day long.

I think this sounds like a great activity. As you know, I'm a big fan of taking things you've already got around the house and turning them into a playing/learning activity. I can't wait to try this one out with Erik!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Surprise on a String

This activity sounded like it would be pretty fun, and required very little set up, so we went for it. The gist of it is that you take a few toys, tie each one to its own piece of string, attach the string to baby's highchair tray, and then they have to pull the toy up on the tray to play with it. In practice it just wasn't working out. I used tape to attach the strings to the highchair tray, but instead of pulling up the toys, Erik just pulled the tape off his tray and dropped the toy, string and all, without ever even trying to pull on it. He just wanted a snack, after all he was in his highchair! 
So, we made a few adjustments to the idea and it became a hit. As you can see in the pictures below, we tied the toys to the back of a chair and then Erik sat on the seat and pulled the toys up. It worked out pretty well. This activity is a great way to help your child develop problem solving skills, hand-eye coordination, and work on those arm muscles. 
 We did discover that the longer the string is the harder it is to get the toy up and over the back of the chair. Erik just couldn't quite figure out how to pull it hand over hand to get that toy.

 I shortened the strings and things went much better. That is until Erik noticed the empty box in the room. Don't you love how something as simple as a cardboard box can trump any cool activity you try to put together? He was never this excited about the toys on the strings.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Rock 'n' Row

Okay, so not only did I steal the idea for this activity from another website, but I stole their name for it too. It was just too cute and I wasn't feeling clever enough to try to come up with something of my own.
Basically you sit on the floor with your legs in a V. Place the baby sitting up on the floor between your legs facing you. Holding baby's hands, gently pull/push baby forwards and backwards as you sing the song "Row, Row, Row your Boat". Simple, right?


Both Paisley and Erik love this one, it's been a lot of fun (and depending on how far you rock, it can be a good ab workout for mom!). This is a great way to work out those back and tummy muscles that baby (and mom) needs to be able to sit up and become mobile. It's also a good, interactive music activity, which is SO good for your baby. It you didn't see my previous post on the importance of music, read it here.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Muffin Pan Sorting

This is another example of the awesomeness of pinterest. I love all the great ideas that are to be found there, especially when they're as simple as today's activity (which comes from here).
I've collected a few paper tubes from paper towel rolls and toilet paper rolls as they've become available so that when I had enough we could do this. The prep work is pretty simple, you just cut your tubes into pieces and give them and a muffin pan to your little one and you're good to go. Toddlers love to put objects into things and take them back out again (especially the taking out part!).
This activity takes advantage of that built in desire to put in/ take out, and builds hand eye coordination and fine motor skills at the same time.