What We’ve Been Up To

I realized that I haven’t done a real “what we’ve been doing” kind of post up since mid-October. So, without further ado, here’s what the girls and I have been up to!

Let’s start with the end of October and November. These were some of our fall activities!

Fall wreaths. Dirt pudding. Thanksgiving “thankful turkeys”. Pine cone bird feeders.

Next up is December. These are some of our Christmas activities. We spent a good portion of December at my other nanny family’s house since his school was closed for the holiday, so we didn’t do as many arts and crafts things as we typically do, and somehow I didn’t take as many pictures of what we did do as I usually do.

Gingerbread house. Christmas presents for their parents.

Here’s some of the other activities we’ve done to keep us busy during the brutally cold days we’ve had.

Baking soda and vinegar science project. Bounce house. Kinetic sand. Microwave play dough. Making snow in our sensory bin.

I try to do one outing or one bigger project (art, science, working on math, writing, etc) each day. We still don’t watch TV or have any screen time (with the exception of the very few sick days, and even then it’s limited to one show). Occasionally, I let the girls have more of a free play type day where I don’t necessarily structure something, but we still have a schedule we follow which I’ll elaborate on in another post.


Welcome Fall!

Finally! I have my computer back. Every single thing is gone though. I’m trying to think positively and think of it as a fall cleaning for my computer. Although, I will admit, it did just hurt a bit when I went to save a picture for this post only to find none of my folders (and all of their contents) were there anymore. Lesson learned though…within the next few days I’ll be getting an external hard drive where anything remotely important will live. 
Speaking of fall, even though it’s not technically fall just yet, I’m totally in fall mode. If it weren’t for 70 degree temperatures you’d already see my boots and scarves making an appearance. I already have a ton of fall art and activities I want to do with the girls. 
Today we made our seasonal craft. At the beginning of each season we do a different one (who cares if we’re a week early for fall). For spring we did chicks/ducks, for summer we made paper ice cream cones, and today we made a handprint tree.
I started by drawing a tree trunk on a piece of cardstock and gave each of the girls a brown crayon. Once they colored the trunk to their liking I helped them put their handprints as the leaves of the tree. This was the end result – a quick, easy, fall craft you can modify just a bit to do even with the youngest of children. 


Fun with Leaves

Even though lately it’s felt like Winter here, with the temperatures dipping into the 30’s after the sun goes down, it’s still technically Fall so I’ve been trying to give the girls more fall things to experience. Since the girls are too young for some good old fashioned leaf pile jumping (not to mention I wouldn’t want them eating leaves), I decided to find a safer alternative. I found pre-cut fabric leaves at the Dollar Store. While the girls were playing with toys, I quietly opened the packages and dumped them on the floor. I called their names and immediately upon seeing the new “stuff” on the floor, they crawled right over. E was a bit more hesitant (as she always is), but M jumped right in and started picking up the leaves and manipulating them in her hands. After a minute or so, E joined in. 

We had a blast with them. The first few minutes were spent simply picking them up, manipulating them, dropping them, and picking them back up. Then the next chunk of time was spent crawling through them, turning around, and crawling back through them. I then started to throw them in the air. The girls got huge smiles on their faces as the leaves slowly fell back down, with some even landing on them! Surprisingly, there where very few attempts to put the leaves in their mouths.
If you don’t want to go out on a search for fabric leaves, you can make your own “leaves” out of a paper bag. This was more of an accidental discovery on my part. It was too chilly to go outside and I didn’t have anything really planned for that day. After brainstorming and remembering this viral video, I decided to go get a paper bag and let the girls rip it. Neither girl was particularly interested at first, so I let them continue what they were doing and eventually both came over. M was into it the most, letting out a short giggle each time I ripped a piece of it. She ended up sitting on the bag and pulling the strips I had torn, which caused them to rip more, which she loved. In the end, we ended up with a bunch of paper strips. I put them all in a pile and let the girls play, much like we did with the Leaves. As a bonus, these “leaves” are recyclable! 
As always, this is an activity where you want to closely monitor your child to make sure they don’t eat any of the materials.
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Pumpkin Guts and Spider Webs

Happy Halloween (almost a week late…) The girls had such a good Halloween. They dressed up as cupcakes, and were in a little neighborhood parade. Too cute!

I decided instead of opening up the pumpkin I had bought and bringing the guts in, I’d open up the pumpkins that they painted in front of them so they could see where the guts and seeds came from. I put them in their high chairs a few feet from the table and cut the pumpkins open on the table. I gave them the stem first and then a few spoonfuls of guts and seeds.

Talk about a fun activity! The girls LOVED it. They played in them for quite a while. They loved manipulating the seeds around on their highchair trays as well as pulling apart the stringy parts of the pumpkin guts. I narrated what they were feeling while they played with the guts and seeds – “what does it feel like? Is it slippery? It’s pretty stringy too. Look! Your hands are turning orange from the orange pumpkin!” and so on. Remember, babies need to be talked to about everything. They don’t know what “slippery” means until they’re able to feel it and it’s up to you to tell them what they’re feeling is slippery.

I’ve done this with many groups of kids, as young as 7 or 8 months and all have loved it. The older kids I’ve done this with don’t mind getting their hands messy and sorting seeds from the guts. We’d then roast the seeds and let them try them. The orange from the pumpkin will turn clothes orange, so be prepared to wash clothes or put them in a shirt you don’t mind messing up.

We also made a spiderweb painting. The girls painted with white paint on black paper. When they were dry, I drew a simple spiderweb on each. This was a super easy and quick project.

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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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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: http://www.weberscidermillfarm.com/

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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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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