Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Learning Colors

I love everything about Cindy's blog, 5 Silly Frogs, from her creative ideas to her book lists.

Check out this activity to reinforce color recognition, which works just as well with toddlers:

Fun with Green
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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Curious Toddlers - Homemade Activities

From the time they open their eyes in the morning until that last yawn of the day, toddlers are on a mission to explore. This leads to their reputation for “getting into things”.

Four ideas to keep them busy:

1. Twist On, Twist Off

Build a collection of different types of containers with screw-on tops like the ones below:

Not pictured, but perfect for little hands are empty plastic spice containers.

With lids secured loosely, let your child explore it a bit and then show her how to use her hand to twist it off. Start with two different types and gradually add more over time. Then add toys or balls to the closed containers to add interest (ping pong balls pictured work well in spice jars, but are still considered a choking hazard for young children. Please do not leave child unattended or only use balls at least 2” in diameter).

Keep your bottle collection in a small zippered duffle-type bag or men’s toiletry bag, and you’ve given your child another fine motor task to master.

2. Hinged Containers

Toddlers love to open and close hinged containers and fill and dump with small toys.

Check Grandma’s house for older tin versions of Bandaid containers (last year Walmart had special anniversary versions for sale,) or maybe you have some novelty types like those below. Bandaid brand also has a new plastic tough-type container.

Baby wipe containers that open and shut in a hinged fashion are also fun. For fine motor finger skills, try adding wash cloths for your child to pull out and stuff back in.

Note: Look for signs that your child is ready for these types of activities. If he is engaged and excited, it's the right level. If he finds any of it frustrating or loses interest, try again in another week. As you know, week to week children grow and develop by leaps and bounds.

3. Indoor “Sand” Box

You’ll Need:

-Plastic Measuring Cups and Spoons

-Plastic Funnel (optional)

-Large plastic storage container (at least 18”L x 12”W x 5”H)

-Your choice of filler
(this will depend on your child’s age and whether he/she still puts things in his mouth):

---Dried Rice

(safe if ingested but do not use outdoors as rice is not safe when eaten by birds)

---Dried Beans

(best for older toddlers/preschoolers as creative little ones might try to stuff one where it doesn’t belong – nose or ears)

---Dried Pasta (small shapes)

---Bird Seed

(this is a terrific green option as once it has outlived it’s play life, it can be used to feed the birds. If used outside, bird seed will not harm any wildlife if it falls to the ground – just remember that you might get a few plant sprouts wherever it drops on the soil).

4. Traditional Toys

If you haven’t introduced these yet, it’s a perfect time for:

-Wooden Puzzles with Pegged Handles

-Simple Shape Sorters (start with only circles and squares to lessen frustration)

-Stacking Cups

-Blocks of Any Type

(create your own stackables using empty cereal/formula canisters or boxes)

Easy Homemade Blocks

Photo Credit: Adrian Lee, Canada
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Mid-Week Mom Tip - Travel Toys for Toddlers

Have you heard of Delicious Baby blog? It's a popular travel blog written by Debbie, mom of three, who has so many great tips for traveling with children of all ages. Her informative city guides alone are worth a look!

Check out this post on Travel Toys for Toddlers (also great for everyday fun)!

Nanny's Note on Find It Games:

You can make your own version of these by filling an empty water bottle with rice or salt and adding small items of interest -- buttons, sequins, tiny toys, small dice, etc. (use white glue to secure the cap and add a layer of duct/packing tape to seal). Shake it up and everywhere you turn, you'll find something new.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Away from Computer

Just a quick post to say that I will not be spending much time at the computer in the next week or two as my father passed away this week, and I am in Florida spending time with my family.

Thanks for all the great comments you've left on my recent posts. I look forward to catching up soon on my blog reading and writing.

Take care -- Dee
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Friday, August 7, 2009

One-Year-Olds – Time for Art!

Once he is past the stage of putting everything in his mouth (some time after his first birthday or soon after his first steps) he’s ready to experiment with art and textures, while learning a whole new range of vocabulary!

Art is a cause and effect experience, so you’ve probably heard it’s the process that is more important than the finished product.

Painting with Water

What, no paint? Using water has the same effect as paint without the mess. This makes it a perfect first art activity. Your child practices using the brush, dipping it into the water, and making strokes on colored construction paper. The water darkens the paper allowing him the same experience as painting with actual paints.

When you feel your baby has mastered the concept (within a few days or even weeks), go ahead and introduce colored paint. Use tempera or other liquid paint rather than the solid paint trays, which are best suited for preschoolers. Mix the paint with a bit of water and dish soap for easier cleanup.

Chubby handled brushes are best since toddlers use large muscle arm movements when painting or drawing at first. If you can’t find a chubby brush, you can try one from the hardware section like the one I found at Walmart:

Finger Painting

Sure, there are finger paints and papers, but there are other fun options for use right on a high chair tray:

Whipped Cream or Cool Whip*

I prefer this option to shaving cream for very young children, as shaving cream can sting sensitive skin and eyes as little ones tend to rub their faces. However, shaving cream is perfect for older preschoolers.

For the first experience, keep it simple and plain white. The next time you try it, mix in some yellow food coloring to add some interest. Use bolder colors only if you don’t mind possible staining of hands, clothes and tray. Another option: flavored extracts with scents like lemon, orange, or maple.


Add a drop of food coloring when mixing instant vanilla pudding

*Note: Some people have issues with using food of any kind for early childhood projects because food is a luxury for some. While I understand that view, babies play with their food every day as they learn about new foods and how to eat, and to me this is a similar learning experience.

Sticky Stuff

Masking Tape or Painter’s Tape

Pull off a strip and wad it into a ball – then stick it to the back of your child’s hand while introducing the word STICKY! He’ll figure out how to pull it off or might try to shake it a bit.

Next, stick the wad of tape on the wall or on some other object for him to pull off. This can be a great motivator for cruisers or crawlers to make their way to the location to try to pull it off.

When your child is ready for more of a challenge, stick strips on the wall for him to pull off and play with. For older children, post-it notes are fun to peel off, stick and re-stick. Post-its come in all shapes and colors, or you could add your own letters, numbers, or smiley faces for a new twist.

Shiny and Crinkly

Introduce a piece of aluminum foil and the word SHINY! Shake it a bit to listen to it rustle. Let your baby explore it a bit. After a minute or two, you could show him how to CRUNCH it and talk about how it is CRINKLY. Once it has been compacted, gently pull it out to a larger size while baby watches. Now it has creases and crinkles and reflects light in different ways. Let him crunch it again and repeat the process a couple of times until the foil starts to rip.

Other Experiences:

brown paper bags (ROUGH and CRINKLY)

waxed paper (SMOOTH and CRINKLY)

cotton balls (SOFT and FLUFFY)

fine grit sandpaper (ROUGH and SCRATCHY)

waxed bag from inside Cheerio’s box (both ends opened) (CRINKLY and LOUD)

Traditional Art Tools:

Chubby Crayons

Young children are fascinated with picking at the paper on crayons, so it helps to take it off first.

After a few initial coloring experiences, break a few crayons in half. Using shorter crayons makes children adopt a hold that is similar to one they will use when learning to write properly. At first they will grip the longer crayons with their whole hand – like a monkey grip.


Although markers offer an additional writing experience, many parents dislike the fact that they aren’t usually as washable as advertised. It doesn’t take much to get them all over hands, clothes, and the high chair tray.

A good first option is to try highlighters on white paper. These lighter shades of green, orange, pink, and blue will offer a similar experience but tend to be easier to clean up with baby wipes. Look for non-toxic types as some are not labeled.

Sidewalk Chalk

Chubby size perfect for small hands and can be used on darker colored construction paper.

Colored Pencils

Offers the same writing experience as pens and pencils without marking the skin easily.

Little M and I have had lots of fun with these projects and hope you enjoy them too! A fun note: Sticky was one of his first words! He would laugh every time he heard me say it.

Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.

Photo Credit: Craig Jewell; Brisbane, Australia
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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Ages and Stages – Don’t Compare

Have you ever sat in a group of parents and children and noticed major differences between children where milestones like crawling, walking or talking are concerned?

While it is true that most children pass through predictable stages of development, there is no specific age that they will occur.

Although much is written about typical behavior at certain ages or stages (myself included), a span of three to five months around the target age is entirely typical.

For this reason, it’s important not to compare children or their abilities to other children.

Communication, gross motor (large muscle groups), fine motor (hands and fingers), personal-social, and problem-solving are five major areas of child development. In my years of working with children, I’ve come to recognize that each child has their own individual areas of strength or interest. Early talkers may not be early walkers and vice versa, but they will eventually conquer each domain on their own time table.

As a home visitor/parent educator, parents and I used the Ages and Stages Questionnaire provided by our agency to periodically assess children’s development. Not only did the parents get reassured that their child was progressing on target for his or her age, but the questions themselves provided clues as to what types of activities they could or should be doing.

The University of Oregon’s Early Intervention Program is currently studying the development of infants and young children between the ages of 3 months and 5 years. As part of this study, they are allowing any parent to fill-out (anonymously) an Ages and Stages Questionnaire online for their child. They do ask for basic demographics information for their study, but no names or locations.

The questionnaire itself takes only a few minutes and once completed, you will receive the confidential results immediately through your e-mail address. You can also print out the completed questionnaire and additional activities for your child’s stage. There is no cost for this service.

Take the Ages & Stages Questionnaire at:


Nanny's Note: As always, please discuss your concerns with your pediatrician.

Photo Credit: Anissa Thompson; Carson, CA

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