Archives for October 2012

The art project that wasn’t…

We’ve had a whirlwind few days. The weather was gorgeous for a few days so we spent a lot of time at the park. The girls both love the swings again. We had a period of time where one of them went from absolutely loving the swings to being terrified of it. I worked with her slowly, putting her in and BARELY swinging her and holding her hands which she didn’t mind. After a few times she is right back to kicking her legs with a huge smile on her face! The weather is about to turn ugly here for the next 3 or 4 days, so we also went to Storyville to get some new books since we won’t be able to for at least the beginning of the coming week thanks to the weather (Hurricane Sandy).
In between our outings, we did an art project. It was supposed to be more of a stamping type project, but the girls had other ideas. I was completely fine with this, as I’ve said before art is all about the process not the end result. It ended up being more of a sensory project than I had intended anyway which was good.
I cut one of the gourds that we explored the other day, basically making it into a little cup. The original plan was to paint the edge and have the girls stamp it and smear it around the page, using it almost like a paintbrush. The girls had other plans. 
The girls had way more fun exploring the painted gourd than actually painting with it. They loved touching the inside of it, pulling pieces off, and manipulating it in their hands. I’m not even sure if they noticed there was paint on it, in fact I’m about 75% sure the paint that did make it to the paper was merely because the paper was on the tray and just got in the way. Either way, the girls enjoyed themselves, saw and touched the inside of a gourd, and got messy. Can’t complain about that! 
We also painted pumpkins another day using red and white paint. They mixed the colors on the pumpkin and made partially pink pumpkins instead of orange. This activity took up a lot of time as I gave the girls all the time they wanted to paint them. They were pretty excited about smearing (and smacking) paint onto something other than a piece of paper!
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Exploring Gourds

When we went to the farm I picked up some gourds for the girls to play with. A gourd is a fruit, similar to a pumpkin. They’re usually smaller and really strange looking as you’ll see in the pictures I post. They’re pretty cheap, I got ours for about 75 cents a piece.

I washed the gourds off and then put them on the floor for the girls to explore. They were across the room so I just sat next to the gourds and waited for them to come over. It was pretty amusing to watch them realize I had something new next to me. They both got huge smiles on their faces and then crawled over as fast as they could.

This activity lasted a solid 20-25 minutes easily. They picked up the gourds, dropped them, touched them carefully, ran their fingers over them, banged them together, etc. Surprisingly, they didn’t try to eat them!

While they were exploring them, we talked about what colors they were, whether they were smooth or bumpy, how heavy they were, where their stems were, what they smelled like, and so on. 

This is something we will be bringing out once a week or so as long as the girls show interest in them. 

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Books. They are so important to children. They can be a passport to another world or part of a calming routine at bedtime. There are so many different reasons that books are important and why they should be read with or to children on a daily basis. Reading to babies in particular, teaches them about communication, introduces them to concepts including numbers, letters, colors, and shapes. It also builds vocabulary, stimulates imagination,  and introduces the concept of print and written word.

We keep books in an easily accessible place where the girls can get to them whenever they want. They love to go over to the books and look at them throughout the day. Generally, I read to them when they go over to the books as well as before each nap as part of our nap time routine. Because we read so many books throughout the day, we go to the library once a week or once every other week to get new books.

The girls love books that have different textures as well as ones that have bright and contrasting colors. Here’s a few in particular that the girls are obsessed with.
Peek-A-Love by Salina Yoon
This one has not only bright and contrasting colors, but also simple and bold pictures. Each page only has one word. One of my girls cries when the book is over until we read it again!
In My Forest by Sara Gillingham and Lorena Siminovich
This one has just a few words on each page, perfect for babies. It also has a felt deer that is a finger puppet that the girls love to touch and play with.

That’s Not My Monster by Fiona Watt

This book is their absolute favorite. We borrowed this from the library, renewing it multiple times before finally returning it. After a solid two months or so, we borrowed it again. The girls still have an obsession with this one. They love to open it up and touch all the pages inside. This may end up being a birthday or Christmas present! 
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Visit to the farm!

Today, we started out by heading to the farm before the girls’ morning nap (usually I don’t dare do this). This farm is pretty great. During the fall, it has so much stuff for kids to do. Mainly kids 2 and up, which is why we went with a 2 year old and a 3 year old (not to mention their mom & nanny are friends of mine!)

The front of the farm
Photo Credit:

One of the girls took the opportunity for a short little snooze on the way there (about 20 minutes) while her sister stayed wide awake. When we got there, we loaded everyone up in the stroller and headed to the back of the farm. They have a huge maze with a bridge over it so caregivers can keep eyes on their children at all times, huge brightly colored tires to climb over and through, a (rubber) duck race using water that you have to pump, a tractor ride (each child gets their own little cart), a hayride, farm animals, a huge (and wayyyyy too fast) slide, etc.

The girls were perfectly content with sitting in the stroller taking in all the sights and all the entertainment going on around them. I wish there was somewhere I could have safely taken them out and let them explore, but there wasn’t. They loved interacting with the kids we went with, and of course I talked to them about what was going on around them. After an hour or so of walking around the farm, we headed up for the highlight of the day – the hayride. I’m pretty sure this was the girls’ first hayride and they loved it! They enjoyed looking at the decorations along the hayride’s route as well as touching the hay with their hands and feet.

Next we headed to the front of the farm to pick out our pumpkins. I chose a nice big one that I’ll be carving within the next few days and then I’ll be bringing the “guts” in to let the girls play with on Friday. We also picked up two smaller pumpkins for the girls to paint tomorrow, some gourds to first explore and play with on Monday, and then paint with on Tuesday.

The girls were exhausted after all our fun and fell asleep on the way home but only slept for 30 minutes (compared to their normal 2 1/2 – 3 hour total of naps a day). Once they were home, they were both in such silly moods! They were cracking me up the rest of the day. Hopefully those silly moods continued until they went to bed tonight and no sleepy grumps came creeping through!

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Painting with babies and toddlers (and a recipe!)

There are so many different ways to use paint with infants and toddlers. The first thing you need to make sure is that you’re using a non-toxic paint. It would be even better if it was edible (I’ll provide a recipe at the end of this post) and while I’m pretty sure most children’s paint is non-toxic, I’ll mention it anyway. 

If I’m using store bought paint (which, honestly I usually do to save on time & because my little ones are too little to help me make our own) I prefer to use finger paint. In particular, Lakeshore’s finger paint. I just think it’s good quality, especially for the money ($2.99 a pint).

With my girls, I’ve done a lot of finger painting. It’s an easy activity to do, and I’ve pretty much got the quick clean up down to a science….which needs to happen when you have two mobile babies! Easiest way for us is one at a time sitting in a bumbo chair (with a tray) or high chair. I put an old towel down underneath because A -We do it on carpet and B – One of my girls likes to smack the paint more than smear (can you say messy?). I don’t have many pictures of the girls actually painting that I can put on the blog because I typically have the girls shirtless while painting (again, for easier/faster clean up). At some point, I’ll be getting the girls art shirts (plain t shirts) from the dollar store. 

First finger paintings (7 months old)!
I write their names on the front of the paper, and the dates on the back, just because I think it’s nice to know when they did a particular piece of artwork and you can look back and see how their skills improved over time. I spoon a quarter sized, maybe a little bigger, amount onto the paper. Speaking of paper, I think it’s much easier/better to use cardstock instead of construction paper. The construction paper tends to absorb the paint while the cardstock doesn’t. I think the paint glides better on the cardstock as well. 

Back to the painting process though. I hold the paper on the tray while they paint. As they get older and they’re not so into trying to eat the paint, I’ll have them both painting at the same time and I’ll use painter’s tape to tape it to their trays. I let them paint to their little hearts content, smearing and smacking it until they show me they’re done (painting the chair, trying to wiggle out, etc). Then quick clean up time.

Paint with salt mixed in – a whole new texture!
Don’t forget about their feet! Feet are another important way that babies and toddlers learn about their world. For the girls first painting, they used their feet. I put them in the jumperoo, and put the paper (with paint on it) underneath the jumperoo on top of the pillow (which I covered with saran wrap and had to use because they were too little to touch the floor even at the lowest setting) and let them paint with their feet. I’ve also done this using the exersaucer (without the pillow). 

First feet painting (barely 6 months old)

There’s so many different ways to make each painting experience different for babies and older children. Here’s a good starter list:

  1. Use a different color paint each time
  2. Put two colors down and let them mix them together
  3. Add texture to the paint – salt and rice work well
  4. Use different color paper
  5. Let them use their hands
  6. Give them a paintbrush, a plastic spoon, a wooden spoon, a slotted spoon, a silicon basting brush, etc. Think of all the possibilities here!
  7. Let them use half an apple or half of a potato to stamp in the paint
  8. Let them paint with their feet
  9. Give them a toilet paper roll to paint circles and/or to roll in the paint
  10. Willing to get really messy? Strip them down to their diaper, tape a big sheet of paper onto a easily washable floor, give them bowls of different colors and let them go wild!

Here’s a good recipe for homemade finger paint (I did not create this recipe but I can’t remember the original site where I got it. Please let me know if you created this!)

Ingredients –
  • 1 cup cornstarch
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 4 cups cold water
  • 1/2 cup clear liquid dish soap
  • food coloring
  • plastic containers with lids

Directions  –
  1. In a saucepan, whisk together the cornstarch, sugar, and cold water over medium-low heat. Cook and stir until thickened and slightly bubbly.
  2. Remove from heat and stir in dish soap.
  3. Let cool for 30 minutes.
  4. Divide paint into plastic containers and add food coloring as desired.
  5. Paint! Store in airtight containers when not in use.
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The Power of Playdough (& a recipe)

Happy Monday! I’m going to just get right into it and I apologize to those who don’t like reading long posts…this will be one.
Who doesn’t love mushing a good chunk of playdough with your hands? Playdough can teach children from infants (yes, infants) to preschoolers so much! Here’s just a few examples and how you can help –

    – Have children describe what they’re doing (or for younger children, narrate what they’re doing for them)
    – Model words they might not be familiar with (“are you layering your playdough? I see you’ve put the red on top of the blue” “tell me about the texture of your playdough – what does it feel like?”)
    – Discuss what they’re making, what colors they’re using, what tools they’re using, etc
    – Making letters out of playdough

       – Measuring out ingredients to create homemade playdough
       – Making numbers out of playdough
       – Counting out pieces of play dough
       – Identifying shapes
       – Discuss/identifying sizes of playdough


         – Mixing colors
         – Mixing ingredients to create homemade playdough
         – Make scented playdough
         – Add texture w/ rice, sand, etc
         – Observations during cooking process (if using homemade playdough)

        Not to mention, playdough encourages imagination, improves fine motor skills, and it’s a great sensory experience! I could go on and on about what playdough can do for a child.

        Some of you are probably thinking “playdough with infants? She’s crazy!” But, I can tell you that it is a great sensory experience for them as well. I’m all about doing what you’re comfortable with. If you aren’t comfortable giving an infant a chunk of playdough, don’t do it. I’m just sharing my experience with you. 
        This is one of those things (like the fall sensory bags and the pom poms) where you do not want to leave your child alone or take your eye off them. The way I like to do it is with the baby in a bumbo chair or a high chair. I give them a chunk of playdough and let them do what they want with it. I don’t however, let them put it in their mouth. If the baby uses a pacifier (my girls don’t) it would probably be easiest to let them have it in their mouth during playdough time. Imagine how many connections are being made in their brain during this! They’re using so many senses – touch, sight, hearing (you should be describing what they’re touching and what they’re doing), perhaps smell as well! 
        Manipulating playdough in her hands.

        Figuring out what playdough is all about.
        Here’s the Microwave Play Dough recipe. It’s my go-to recipe since it’s the easiest and in my opinion makes the smoothest play dough. It also lasts a nice long time.

        1 cup water
        1 cup flour
        2 tsp cream of tartar
        1 tbsp oil
        1/2 cup salt
        food coloring (optional)
            1. Mix all ingredients together except water and food coloring in a microwave safe bowl.
            2. Mix water and food coloring together.
            3. Mix water/food coloring mixture with the rest of the ingredients.
            4. Microwave play dough for one minute, then 30 second increments, stirring after each increment (will take around 3 minutes total, give or take – playdough will easily form a ball and look like playdough… hard to explain but you’ll know it when you see it)
            5. Play dough is HOT, put on lightly floured surface and carefully knead till cool
            6. Play! Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag when not in use. 


              Fall sensory bags

              Today, while the girls were taking their first nap, I was brainstorming things we could do. We went to Storyville yesterday, so the library was out of the question, we recently did a painting project, and it was pretty chilly out so the park wasn’t an option either. I decided I wanted to give the girls a chance to explore the falling leaves and the acorns that are strewn about their yard without the risk of them attempting to eat them. 
              I went outside and collected some leaves and acorns and put them into two sandwich size plastic bags (one for each baby). I ended up trimming off some of the plastic from the top (above the seal) and putting them in another plastic bag upside down so that even if the outside bag was opened it still wouldn’t spill out. We only had brown and a few yellow leaves, it would have been really nice if there were other colors to fill the bag with. 

              Fall sensory bag with leaves and acorns inside.
              Regardless of the lack of color, the girls enjoyed these bags. They spent a good five minutes or so shaking them all around and at each other, smiling and giggling the entire time. After shaking them, they got settled down and began to touch the bag with their fingers and hands. They really enjoyed squeezing the bags and making them crinkle. 
              Exploring the bag with her hands.
              After a few minutes of them manipulating the bags with their hands, Madeline in particular wanted to see what the bag tasted like. She especially enjoyed chewing on the seal of the bag. Luckily I had double bagged them, so there wasn’t a huge concern about her ingesting the leaves or acorns. In the end, they used their sense of taste, touch, sight, and hearing with this activity. 5 out of 6 senses used in a baby safe activity? I’ll take it! This goes without saying that since these are plastic bags, this is another activity where you shouldn’t leave your child alone while they’re playing with them. They should be closely monitored and the sensory bags should be thrown away if they get a hole or rip in them.
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              Visiting the Library

              Sometimes it’s difficult to find places to go for children under the age of two and it’s especially difficult to find places to go for children under the age of one. Typically, there aren’t many places where children that young can be “free to roam” so to speak. 
              One place where I love to take the girls is our local library. My girls love books and we read one before each nap every day as well as reading throughout the day. After a while, reading the same book over and over gets boring (to me anyway, they don’t mind!). So we like to head to the library once a week or once every other week to pick up new books. 
              Not just that, but one of our closer libraries has a room just for children. I’m pretty sure it’s geared mainly towards children 1 1/2 and up based on the toys they have, but there’s room for the girls to play on the floor and a few toys that they can play with, even if they aren’t using them the way they’re supposed to be. Plus there’s more books than I would want to count to read to them and to borrow. The girls also love older kids, and usually a few come in during our time there. 
              We’re lucky enough that we have quite a few libraries pretty close to us and we’ll be working our way through visiting them all as the year progresses. One of mine (and the girls’) favorite places to go is another library in our area that has something called “Storyville” in it. It’s a little bit of a longer drive (20 minutes or more depending on traffic) but well worth it. Storyville is basically an indoor town for children. It has a house, post office, grocery store, puppet theater, construction zone, etc in it. All child friendly and ready to be explored. Only children under age 5 are allowed. 
              The Baby Garden inside Storyville
              Photo credit: R. Schaefer, from
              Right now, we stay in the Baby Garden. It’s a fenced in area specifically designed for infants and toddlers who aren’t walking. They have tons of board books, infant friendly toys (which are sanitized as needed and throughout the day at regular intervals), boppy pillows, bumbos, and even giant flowers which the children can use to practice standing. Mirrors are on both the walls and on the floor. Storyville as a whole is a wonderful place and we will definitely continue to visit on a regular basis. I can see it becoming a great place to go when the girls are older and there is bad weather outside. 
              Our libraries offer story times for different age groups as well, but we haven’t made it to one yet since baby story time is right before morning nap. The girls can usually do fine with a shorter afternoon nap, but need a decent morning nap to avoid the grumps for the rest of the day. As they get closer to a year old I’m sure they’ll be transitioning to one nap that will start later in the day so I’m looking forward to eventually making it to story time!
              Be sure to check out the library in your area to see what they have to offer your young child or children!
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              Tendinitis and Pom Poms!

              After a day full of pain (and periodic pain over the past month) I headed to the doctors after work.  Long story short, after an exam and some x-rays, I was diagnosed with severe tendinitis in my elbow. Fun right? The gave me a prescription (pain/anti-inflammatory) and sent me on my way with instructions to ice it throughout the day and rest it. Ha! Rest it with twin babies? Funny! So tomorrow, my goal will be to carry the girls on my right. I’m right handed so I typically carry them on my left side so that I can use my right hand. Not anymore I guess. Hopefully that (plus the ice and meds) will help soon. Anyway, onto the fun stuff!
              Today, we played with pom poms! First, I put multicolored pom poms into a recycled plastic pretzel jar. I put it on the floor (with the lid on) and let the girls roll it around and look at it. Then one at a time, I put the girls on my lap and held the container so that they could reach into it. I also sat both girls on the floor (again, one at a time) and dumped pom poms on their feet. After each girl had a turn I had them go play with other things for a bit, just so they didn’t get “pom pom-ed out.” 
              Exploring pom poms in the jar.

              Exploring pom poms with her feet.

              Then, the real fun began! I sat the girls on the floor, facing each other with their feet almost touching their sister’s feet. I put a handful of pom poms in front of each and let them explore them. This was a great sensory experience! This kept the girls entertained for at least 30-45 minutes. It was insane how into it they were. I made sure they were fed not long before, but there were still some attempts to taste the pom poms (as expected). I just stopped them before it got into their mouths. They were pretty good about it. Just a few tries and they stopped. 

              Such a fun activity!
              I was able to see just how much Emily understood “more.” I started with just one handful of pom poms for each baby and after a few minutes of playing with those, she looked up at me, signed “more,” and waited for me. Once I put more in front of her, she got SO excited, played with them and then a few minutes later, would sign “more” once again. This continued until the pom pom jar was empty! This reminded me of just how much a baby understands and how much they want to communicate with you!

              **Cautionary note**

              Please, if you choose to do this activity don’t take your eyes off your child. These are choking hazards after all. I’m the first to admit it! However, with complete and focused attention this can be a very fun and enjoyable experience for your child and you!

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              Art vs Crafts

              Let’s chat about art with young children and infants. To me, there is a difference between art and a craft. Art is more “free”, more open ended. While with crafts there’s a set outcome. For example. Art would be a child in front of an easel with multiple colors of paint, just painting their little heart out, painting anything they’d like. A craft would be giving a child green construction paper cut into stems and leaves and yellow construction paper cut into petals and asking them to create a flower.

              Ideally, most if not everything would be art, not a craft. Giving children the chance to create what they want without limitations is ideal. However, with that said, I’m well aware that sometimes this can’t happen. Sometimes you need a footprint turned into a ghost, or hand prints in the shape of a Christmas tree, or other things to give to moms and dads or as gifts to other relatives.

              There’s a saying that definitely applies to art with children – It’s about the process, not the end result. This couldn’t be more true. With kids, it’s much more about the act of getting there. Through art a child can learn SO much – color, texture, shape, I could go on and on.

              Here’s some open ended art I did with my old class of kids.

              With this project (7  two-year-olds), I started with placing bowls of different colored paint on the table along with paint brushes. After some time, I allowed the children to use their hands to paint the roll of paper I had taped to each table. (Thank goodness for art shirts from the dollar store!)

              Here (7 two-year-olds), I gave each child their own watercolor palate  and a cup filled with a very small amount of water. I demonstrated how to use watercolor paint (this was their first time) and then let them do what they wanted with it. 
              With this project (4 three year olds, 1 two and a half year old, and 3 two year olds), we were not only working on art, but also practicing communication skills and sharing. I purposely put one bowl of each color on the table and instructed the children that they needed to ask their friends to pass them the color when they were done using it. The older children grasped this concept very easily and I was there to help the younger ones.

              Stay tuned for more!

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