DOUGH-ble the Fun!

As you can see, play dough has been a constant component in our home. Today, I would like to share two other simple recipes and activities you can do with your kids.

After learning about the Solar System and memorizing them, I wanted to teach Micah the different things that men use to explore the moon. When I first presented the lesson, I noticed he wanted nothing to do with it. He got bored pretty quickly and wanted to move on. This is very unlikely because he is usually engaged in concepts that are new to him. I thought about how I can make this exciting.

Again, the sensory bin came to life. The next day, I got him involved in making cloud dough for the moon surface. It is really easy and fun to do. As we knead and played with the dough inside the bin, I started introducing the different space objects once again. It sparked his interest and he paid full attention.

IMG_9262As we manipulated these objects around the bin, he quickly learned the names and their functions. This activity kept his attention for over an hour and by the end of the first 15 minutes, he was able to articulate the lesson back to me. I left him alone, busy with his new found interest in space objects for another hour or so while I got things done around the house.

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To reinforce the names of the objects, I created picture cards for each one and had him play a matching game with them the next day. I had him bury all the objects in the “moon sand” and placed all the cards face down. He then had to flip a card, name it, find the object that matched it, and place it on top of the card.

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Once he got the concept, he started playing the game by himself. I think he got it because he created his own rocket with his magnetiles during his afternoon play time. He excitedly showed me his creation and said, “Mama, this is the Saturn V Rocket!” I realized that going an extra mile to make learning more fun for your child goes a long way.

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Creating the dough and making it an exciting concept allowed him to not only enjoy learning but also encouraged him to correlate his knowledge with his imagination.

Cloud Dough Recipe Cloud Dough2 cups of flour

1 1/2 cups of oil

1. Pour the flour in a bowl.

2. Make a hole in the center of the flour.

3. Pour the oil into the hole.

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4. Mix the oil and flour together with your hands. The nice and smooth texture makes it fun to knead with your hands.

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Another fun activity we did was the volcano eruption and dinosaur sensory bin. We made the volcano with an herbal tea play dough recipe. It was the best smelling volcano I’ve ever seen erupt! As we read and learned about the dinosaurs, I saw a volcano in one of the pages and thought how fun it would be to teach him what a volcano can do.

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We quickly got our ingredients together and made ourselves a volcano. I placed some cloud dough in the sensory bin and used it as the land the dinosaurs played on. I added the volcano on the side and created a hole to represent the crater. I placed baking soda inside the hole and sprinkled a few on the outside to extend the “lava” explosion effect. As I taught him about volcanoes, I poured vinegar into the crater and kaboom! It exploded! I think it caught him off guard but his shock was overruled by amazement. The volcano erupted a couple more times after that before it was time for the dinosaurs to evacuate.

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The three of us were entertained with this experiment, even though we’ve done it multiple times. Some things just never get old! It was fun to see both of them so engaged and entertained by this simple activity. Of course, I couldn’t reuse the tea dough volcano after the eruption but since it was so easy to make, I think we will be having it around again really soon. Micah already wanted to make a new one right after that! It made our kitchen smell really good too!

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Don’t forget to clean up once you are all done. 🙂

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Tea Dough Recipe

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2 tea bags (the more bags you put, the more vibrant the color)
1 1/2-2 cups of water
1 cup of flour
1/4 cup of salt
2 tablespoons of cream of tartar
1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (you can add more if you want it to be softer)

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1. Boil the water and steep the tea bags for about 5-8 minutes.

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2. Remove the tea bags.

3. Add the flour, salt, cream of tartar and oil into the pot. (Have you child help you pre-measure the ingredients.)

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4.Cook and stir over medium heat for a couple of minutes or until it forms into a ball. You can add a little water or oil if you need to.

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5. Once your ball is in the center of the pot, take your dough out and place it on a lightly floured surface.
(Warning: It can be hot!)

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6. Squeeze out the extra water from the tea bags unto the dough, tear open the bag and knead the tea leaves into the dough to add more texture.

7. Have fun!

I used raspberry tea for my volcano and it smelled really good! I should have added more tea bags but I just used up what I had. I will try with another flavor for our next one and see how that turns out. Don’t forget to share yours with me, too! You can always bust out those cookie cutters and make fun creations! Get your hands kneading and have fun!

Dough it yourself!

Who doesn’t love play dough? Squishy, bright, fun, and cheap! Come and enjoy this homemade project with me!

What you need:

1 cup flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup salt
2 tablespoons oil (you can add a pinch or two more if you feel like it’s still a little too sticky)
1 tablespoon cream of tartar
1 package of sugar-free jello

1. Have your little one measure and mix all the ingredients together in a saucepan-even if takes a little longer and a little messier. Not only is it fun for them but it also encourages them to work on those motor skills! Whisking is can be challenging for their little hands but it’s a great way to exercise those muscles. Keep going until those lumps are gone!

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2. Now it’s ready to hit the stove!

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3. Get those muscles moving! Cook it over medium heat, stir continuously until it thickens to a ball of dough.  This step takes a while, so be patient and keep stirring until it doesn’t stick to your fingers.

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4. Once it is done cooking, place it on a mat to let it cool for about 20 minutes and you are set for hours of fun! Once you are done, store the dough in an air tight container. If it starts to get sticky, just add a little more flour.

5. HAVE FUN! There’s a whole lot of squishing, rolling, kneading, cutting, and endless exploring with this simple and fun sensory activity. 🙂 You can even use cookie cutters to make shapes! Check out my other post for how I used these for our lesson on land and water and on fine motor skills activities.

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If you haven’t tried this, I highly recommend it! I think my husband does too!He even made himself some taro ice cream!

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Sensory Bin Success!

My interest sure has shifted from tiaras and tutus to trucks and trains after having a little boy. I’ve driven by construction sites countless of times but it has never caught my eye. I never even stopped for a glance. Heck! It wasn’t even on my radar! But having boys has definitely diverted my attention. Now, I would spot it from a distance!

After I saw how much he loved his construction book “Goodnight Goodnight Construction Site” (great book by the way!) I thought it would be fun to make it come alive by allowing him to have his own little construction site. A couple of weeks ago, we were also fortunate enough to get up close to a real bulldozer when we saw the tow truck drop it off onto the site. I asked permission from the driver if we could get close and take a picture with it. Micah was “truck-struck.” He couldn’t believe how gigantic the machine was. It never looked that big in the pictures!

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Thumbs up indeed!

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I gotta admit, that was pretty cool even for my husband and I!

 

We built our own construction site sensory bin. A sensory bin is a small container with a variety of materials placed together to stimulate the senses. Sensory bins give your child opportunities to assume the role of a scientist and explorer as he handles, manipulates, sorts, and examine the items in the bin. They also increase your child’s ability to be attentive. The potpourri of items in your bin will give him the ability to make decisions on how he may want to use them. Creativity and imagination are given a free reign. Self-discoveries allow for new concepts to form such as new vocabulary, sorting, and integrating old and new knowledge. You are also giving your child the opportunity to develop the essential sensitive period of refining his senses. For those of you who have a couple of children, it gives them a chance to work together. As an added bonus, did I mention that it is so much fun?

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Micah enjoyed these sensory bins so much so that not only did it occupy him for 1.5-2 hours in the morning, he asked to do it again after he woke up from his nap. It fostered lot of independent work, exploration and self-entertainment. I observed how he worked with his materials and used his imagination. Phrases, sounds, and memorized paragraphs of books that contained those items were being recited. He even got the books that he associated those items with and integrated them to his activity. He also cleaned them all in the sink after he was done because the coffee beans made them a little sticky. 

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He even asked to wear his crane truck pjs to match his work for the day!

 

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He was reciting the lines he memorized from each page as he matched each truck.

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Clean those trucks!

After seeing how much he enjoyed the trucks, I decided to do it with dinosaurs too. I was able to find a book that included the dinosaurs and had information about them (which made it so much easier for me since I don’t know what they are called). He had a blast and I did, too! It brought me joy to see that such simple things can bring such delight to him. Best of all, we used everything we had at home and incorporated them into the activity.

Materials:

Construction Site: plastic bin, Toy State Caterpillar Construction Mini Machine 5-Pack Target about $5.89 (vs Amazon $15), old Folgers coffee, pearl barley


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Can you see what I picked up? The bulldozer, excavator and the dump truck all had their share of fun…now it’s your turn!

 

Jurassic Park: plastic bin, Junior Groovies dinosaur book with dinosaurs inside, small container with vinegar (as lake/”bath tub”) with a drop of vanilla extract, blue food coloring (to make it look like a lake), baking soda, marbles, trees collection from Safari Ltd.

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Check out both their smiles! These two are such eager learners!

Micah loved being in his Jurassic Park dream world. My original thoughts were, the baking soda would be the ground, the vinegar would be the lake and the marbles as the rocks. But he had a completely different idea in mind. He pretended that it was a dinosaur bath party! The baking soda was the soap that he covered the dinosaurs in and he gave them a bath in the vinegar tub. The fizzle effect caused by the reaction of the vinegar and the baking soda really entertained him. I would hear him say words like dinosaurs take turns, wait in line, and “Yehey! Bath time!” It was fun to see and hear him use his imagination and get creative. I changed the vinegar every 20 minutes when it stopped fizzling. Towards the end, Micah asked for two containers with different colors, he used it to sort out the marbles from the dinosaurs.

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Concentration and fascination at its finest!

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Vinegar + Baking soda bubble bath was a real dinosaur treat!

I hope you’ll get inspired and create your own little spaces for your little ones to enjoy. Feel free do share your ideas here, too!

Teaching the Creation Story the Creative Way

Teaching my boys about the Lord is a top priority in our family. Raising them to love God’s Word and obey it is our desire and prayer for them. This week, as we went through our Bible study, I decided to teach them about creation. I wanted them to know and understand how great our God is since I knew that at the end of the week, we would be visiting the Cal Academy of Sciences. We went through each day following what God had created. I came up with these activities to go with our lesson to make it more fun and exciting for Micah and Titus.

Genesis 1:2-3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. Then he separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day” and the darkness “night.”

Materials: flashlight and a dark room

ACTIVITY: I would shine the flashlight on different parts of a dark room. As the flashlight is on I would say, “light” and if it was off I would say “dark”. He also learned day and night. He had a lot of turning the flashlight on and off and shining it on different parts of the room.

Genesis 1:6- 8 Then God said, “Let there be a space between the waters, to separate the waters of the heavens from the waters of the earth.” 7 And that is what happened. God made this space to separate the waters of the earth from the waters of the heavens. 8 God called the space “sky.”

Materials: clear glass with half-full water, blue food coloring, and shaving cream

ACTIVITY: I had a lot of fun with this one too! I got a clear glass and filled it half way with water. Then I filled the top half with shaving cream to represent the sky. I asked Micah to drop blue food coloring to emphasize the difference. Then later, we learned about the different kinds of clouds as we continued to experiment on it.

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Genesis 1:9-10 Then God said, “Let the waters beneath the sky flow together into one place, so dry ground may appear.” And that is what happened. 10 God called the dry ground “land” and the waters “seas.”

Materials: play dough to represent land; a cup of water with blue food coloring, a tray/container, globe

ACTIVITY: I showed him the globe and had him point out the land and water areas to me. He recited the continents as we did it. I purposely made green play dough so I could use it in this activity. I took a chunk of the green play dough and placed it at the center of the tray. I told Micah that it was land. I recited the verse to him and while we were doing so, I asked him pour the water into the tray. He noticed that it went around the “land”. I made him feel the top of the play dough and he told me it was dry and I said, that was land. He then pointed to the water and said, “seas.” I’d like to think think he got the point somehow. 🙂

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Land & Water!

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Genesis 1: 11-12 Then God said, “Let the land sprout with vegetation—every sort of seed-bearing plant, and trees that grow seed-bearing fruit. These seeds will then produce the kinds of plants and trees from which they came.” And that is what happened. 12 The land produced vegetation—all sorts of seed-bearing plants, and trees with seed-bearing fruit. Their seeds produced plants and trees of the same kind. And God saw that it was good.

Materials: soil, seeds, shovel, watering can

ACTIVITY: I took him outside and had him touch the soil and water the tomato plant that his auntie had helped him plant a few weeks ago. He pointed out the flowers that were on the table and he said, “God made plants.”

Genesis 1:16-18 God made two great lights—the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars. 17 God set these lights in the sky to light the earth, 18 to govern the day and night, and to separate the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good.

Materials: Oreo cookies!

ACTIVITY: I prepared the 4 cookies and I ended up using just the full moon and new moon because the quarters were a little hard for him to understand. I took it away and focused on the two he concepts he was able to grasp. Of course, you guessed it. He ate the cookies after! But only the bottom part of the full moon without the cream (I didn’t want him to get hyper! Haha!). When we were done, we went outside and sang the song Mr. Sun as he pointed the sun to me and we even got his sunglasses because he said it was too hot.

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Who doesn’t love oreos?!

Genesis 1: 20; 24 Then God said, “Let the waters swarm with fish and other life. Let the skies be filled with birds of every kind.”24 Then God said, “Let the earth produce every sort of animal, each producing offspring of the same kind—livestock, small animals that scurry along the ground, and wild animals.”

Materials: different kinds of animals, a container of water with blue food coloring, one tray with shaving cream (sky) and a green placemat (our veggie chopping mat)

 ACTIVITY: I had him lay them all out and name the animals one by one as I shared the verses with him. He had to put the birds in the “sky” (shaving cream container), land animals on the green mat and sea creatures in the tub of water. Then of course at the end, we had to wipe down the sea creatures before putting them back in their proper containers. We sorted the animals according to their habitat, (farm animals in one container, jungle animals in another, etc) and as a reminder to which container they go, I placed a picture on the outside.

Even Titus got to do it!

Genesis 1: 27 So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

Materials: Titus, Micah, Mama 

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 ACTIVITY: We thanked God for all that He has made and Micah said God made Micah and Titus and Mama and Papa and He started naming everyone he could think of that God made—all the family and friends he could recall. We close in prayer after each lesson and throughout the day, we talked about what God had made. Now, when we’re driving he would be pointing things out and telling us that God made it. We finished off our fun week with a visit to the Cal Academy of Sciences and it was great! He was able to acknowledge what His creator has done and appreciate the beauty of all that He has made! He even got the fish guide and pointed them out and said, “Mama, God made the fish!”

Teaching your kids about God can be done in a fun and exciting way. I hope that these activities will inspire you to make Bible stories come to life in the eyes of your child. 🙂

CAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCE was a great way to end our lesson! Everyone had a blast learning about the beautiful creation of the Lord!

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Titus was mesmerized by the fish.

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Stick your hand in the touch pool!

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Titus touched the sea urchin!

I love how he attributed it to the Creator!

Mama! God made the fish!

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Grandpa and Titus!

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Everyone learned something new that day!

Everyone learned something new that day!

Instant Infant Fun!

       Different Ways to Engage Your Infant

Congratulations! By the ripe old age of three months, your baby is no longer a newborn. Your little one can now turn his head when he hears your voice, waves his hands, and kicks his feet when he feels excited. He has mastered the much-awaited grins, gurgles, and giggles. Not to mention the infamous cry to express joy or pain. Good bye passive newborn, hello active infant!

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Your buddy is now stronger, more active, and can use his body to reach, pull, and manipulate the world around him. How amazing it is to see all the creative ways they explore! These activities aren’t just a source of entertainment for our little one they are all learning experiences through which life skills are developed along with his sense of self. This is the time to usher in the new era of exploration! Sing songs with hand movements. Give him toys that shake, rattle, and roll. Get him to scream in laughter with high flying rides and tickle games that require the use of his whole body.

The reward of exploring with your baby and his body is the wonder of interaction. Seeing him enjoy it will bring a huge smile to your face, too. Bonds of love and trust are formed through early interaction and play. Spontaneity can make these interactions even more fun and rewarding, so find an opportunity at every turn! You can play peek-a-boo games during diaper change, tuck your baby in a sling while you vacuum the floor, throw in a little dance or two while you do the dishes while he watches you, and burst into song or whistle while you work can help turn a fussy infant into a giggly one.

Remember to build a relationship with your child by engaging in intimate activities that will help him master certain skills but also create a lasting and joyful bond. Here are 5 fun ways to keep our little ones—including ourselves—entertained! Who doesn’t love to see their baby smile back at them? 🙂

IMG_22181. This Coo is For You!

From 3-6 months, your baby is often a social being full of the cutest coos and irresistible smiles. Although he can’t say real words yet, the adorable sounds he utters are his way of exploring the world of communication. He learns from the responses you give to these vocalizations. To help boost language by understanding what he hears and saying his own words, keep talking (and talking and talking) to your little one. Speak slowly, clearly, and simply. By responding to your baby, you are showing him that you value what he has to say and will encourage him to communicate even more. A squeal or squirm is a great way to see that he realizes you are following his body movements and are interested in what he has to say.

Keep your baby interested by repeating his own sounds back to him. When he says “ga-ga-ga,” respond excitedly with your own “ga-ga-ga.” He’ll love the attention but will also get in the habit of imitating your real words too. By encouraging your baby to mimic, you will inspire him to try even more complex word patterns which eventually will result in his attempt to say words and phrases. Titus loves being talked to. He responds with his ear-to-ear grin and starts cooing back. It never fails to make us smile. (This a great way to get your older child involved too. T loves it when M talks and sings to him.)

cooing with grandpa!

Grandpa and Titus enjoying a fun conversation! 

2. Mirror Mirror in Front of Me, Who is that Cutie that I see?

Watching his own face and interacting with his own image in the mirror increases your baby’s budding awareness of himself as a separate person. This is very amusing to him. You gotta admit, I bet you can name some adults who can look at themselves for a pretty long time! Here’s what you can do.
a) Prop a mirror against a wall, (I usually use the coffee table) and lay your baby on his tummy (instant tummy time!)
b) Point to the baby in the mirror and introduce him to himself. You can name the parts of his face as you point and touch each part. The mirror helps your learn to track, focus and explore.

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It promotes upper body strength and visual stimulation. Follow his lead, he can quit if he has had enough but don’t be afraid to challenge him by going a little longer each time. Our little Titus used to dislike tummy time. We would put him in his tummy and he would fuss and fret for a while, when he realizes help isn’t on the way, he plops his head and goes to sleep! It happened every time! 

He tends to do this...haha

So I checked out Target but they ran out of mirrors and when I finally found one (I bought two because extra is always good!) Titus realized it wasn’t the worst thing in the world to be on his belly! By the way, I got those mirrors for five bucks only! Tummy time got longer and longer and now, he has finally learned to love it. 🙂

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I SEE ME!

3. Movement Motivation: Just a little out of reach

This encourages your baby to make early efforts to grab things and move his body towards something or someone he wants like a ball, a colorful toy or you! Creeping forward, rolling over, or just s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g as far as he can go will help him develop those little muscles. Be careful not to tease him. Make sure to build success into the activity. If you see him getting frustrated, move it a little closer or give him a break, sing a song or two then try again.

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These were taken when he was about 2.5 months. 

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These were taken when he was about 4.5 months. He got the concept pretty quick! He even pulls   on the blanket so Sophie gets closer. Good problem solving skills there bud! 

4. Bathtub Ballet

Make bath time fun and exciting is a great way to encourage motor skills. Sitting and splashing in the bathtub is a thrill for both my boys. With the tub filled with lukewarm water and your baby seated on a non-slip mat, encourage your little one to kick and splash and play! When he starts kicking, you can start chanting, “Kick, kick, kick!” This will encourage him to continue kicking. Kicking helps strengthen his leg and abdominal muscles which is important for crawling and then eventually walking. This activity also helps develop his confidence in water which helps when he starts swim lessons.  Titus absolutely loves this! He can stay and kick in the tub for a really long time.  

5. Toe-Knee-Chest-Nut

Kicking feet and waving hands are generally the signs that your baby is beginning to understand that he can somewhat control the movements in his body. Reinforce this by drawing attention to the major body parts for him. Place him on a bed or changing table or the floor then touch his face and say “face.” Hold his hands and make him feel your face, too. Repeat with each body part and make him feel both his own and yours. This provides tactile stimulation and helps him become aware of his body parameters. The song Tony Chestnut is a fun one to sing while pointing to each body part. Tony Chestnut knows I love you. (Toe-Knee-Chest-Nut, Nose, eye love you!) I didn’t get it the first time but now I’ve discovered what a fun song it is! Accompanying these exercises with playful interactions help build a close relationship between you and your child and sows the seeds for a healthy self-esteem, too.

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Micah loves doing this with Titus.

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Micah likes blowing on his tummy while singing songs with him.

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Your newborn has surpassed the eat-sleep-poop routine and is now a responsive infant. Take advantage of this stage by keeping your little one engaged with these fun and simple activities. I’m sure you’ll have a blast, too! 🙂 

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Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Almost every parent feels the pressure to make their children write right now. But teaching your child how to write isn’t as easy as putting a pencil in his hand and showing him the alphabet. Children greatly benefit from experiences that support the development of fine motor skills in their hands and fingers.

They should have strength and dexterity before being asked to manipulate a pencil on paper. Working on this first can eliminate the development of an inappropriate pencil grasp. This happens when children get engaged in writing experiences before their hands are really ready. The following activities involve the use of practical life materials that will support your child’s fine motor development and help build the strength and dexterity necessary to hold a pencil appropriately in the future.

All these items can be found either at home or purchase from the dollar store or at Ikea. They have child-size items that will make it easier for the child to handle. These simple practical life activities may seem “easy” for us but it goes a long way with your child. These are indirect preparations that help in the coordination of your child’s movements and development of concentration.

Friendly Reminders:

1. Demonstrate how to do these activities next to your child so they can see what you are doing. Usually, you have your child sit first and you sit to the child’s right.

2. Name the objects you will use before you start.

3. Try to use as minimal words as you can and let your movements do the talking.

4. Make sure he/she is watching how you manipulate the items you are using.

5. Your goal is to demonstrate these actions clearly so the child can repeat the activity successfully and independently.

6. These activities aim to develop his/her coordination, concentration, gracefulness, and independence.

7. Repetition is important. If your child wants to do it over and over, encourage him/her to do so. It helps your child master the skill involved and allows your little one to gain more confidence in himself/herself as well.

8. Make sure to watch out for these important skills: concentration, hand-eye coordination, patience, and hand control.

9. Don’t forget to have your child clean up!

10. HAVE FUN!

Now let’s look at some easy activities:

SPOONING GRAINS:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical bowls, spoon/ scooper, grains (in this case, I used expired popcorn)

STEPS:

a. Wrap your three right fingers around the handle and firmly grip the handle.

b. Make sure the child sees you positioning the oval mouth of the spoon in the center of the bowl, so the grains fall into the bowl and not onto the tray.

c. If the grain falls, show the child how to remove the bowls and pinch the grains one at a time and replace into the bowl.

Variation: You can use jars to practice pouring grains, too.

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

POURING WATER:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical glass cups, sponge/towel to wipe off the spills, apron

STEPS:

a. Pouring water from the right hand jug into the left-hand jug then from left jug into right jug.

b. A cloth is to be used to wipe the spills.

Pouring Water Variation: You can have different size jars, some may even need a funnel.

Pouting Water

Pouting Water

SQUEEZING WATER FROM A BASTER:

STEPS:

a. Show your child how to hold the baster by the bulb to draw up the water by squeezing it and releasing the pressure on the bulb.

b. Move the full baster over to the second container and squeeze the water out.

c. REPEAT!

This was a little tricky especially with learning how to manipulate the baster so it took him a few rounds of spills and practice before getting the concept of releasing it after he puts it over the other jar. Micah also realized that it was easier for him after he held the bottle in place by moving it to edge so it wouldn’t move while he squeezed the water out. A towel close by is very handy because this takes a while to get used to. You can use a medicine dropper too. But because of the size of the baster, it makes it easier for their little hands to start with.

Squeeze me Baster!

Squeeze me Baster!

SPONGING:

(See the smile? He loved this!)

Materials: 2 buckets or 2 different containers (mixing bowls are good for these too)

STEPS:

a. Take the sponge and dip it in the water.

b. WAIT a few seconds for the sponge to absorb the water.

c. Pick it up and move your hands with the sponge over the other container.

d. Squeeze the sponge with both hands over the other container.

SPONGING!

SPONGING!

PLAY DOUGH:

We made homemade Jello Play Dough! They smelled so good and I wasn’t too worried if he tried to eat it. (Thank God he didn’t! haha) Squishing, squeezing, stretching and moulding play dough helps to build muscle strength in the fingers and hands.

Providing small items like buttons, sequins, pasta, pebbles and shells with the play dough will also encourage the child to use his/her hands when picking up and placing these objects in the dough. Put out some shape cutters, a grater, blunt plastic knives and tweezers which can all be used to mould and transform the play dough.

In our picture, we used the Melissa and Doug set I found at Ross for $5. Rolling pins foster the development of the precision muscles of the hands. The precision muscles of the hands are the muscles that support the pencil grasp and teaches the child how to adjust the amount of pressure when holding a pencil.

Mold & Make Me Something!

Mold & Make Me Something!

These are just some of the many things that your toddler can do to exercise his/her fine motor skills. Show excitement and delight when your child accomplishes these tasks! Encourage them to continue doing it. As parents, be in the moment and pay full attention to your child. Developing motor skills is the first step to writing without stressing your child and yourself, too!

Toddler Tasks: These little hands can do big things!

When you live a busy life, sometimes it’s easier to do things yourself. You get things done quicker and just the way you want it. Juggling between nursing and caring for a newborn and running around after a toddler, it’s easier for me to finish the chores, put away the dishes, fold the clothes and clean up the toys while the kids are napping instead of waiting for my 22 month old to wake up and help me. But by doing everything myself, what am I teaching him?
What if I actually waited for him to do it? It shows him that mommy trusts him to do big tasks. That she believes that I can do it by myself and that I am able! Oftentimes, I’m tempted to put away the dishes from the dishwasher so when my son wakes up, we can read a book or play or do something else. But I am reminded that doing so would deprive him of learning the valuable lessons of taking responsibility, caring for the household and allowing him to build confidence in his abilities. This encourages independence and allows us to share the joy of seeing him accomplish various tasks with big thank you’s, double high fives and big bear hugs – making us both feel like a million bucks! There are lots of ways your toddler can help you. It may take extra time in the beginning especially when you initially teach him, but when he/she gets it, it’s all worth it!

Here are some suggestions:
Bedroom:
Show your toddler how to:
1. Fold his own blanket or fix his bed after he wakes up in the morning or at nap time.

2. Put his dirty clothes in the hamper.

3. Pick out his own clothes and even put them on (shoes included).
Micah has a pair of “home shoes” that he can practice putting on around the house so when we need him to put on his “outside shoes”, he can do so quickly.

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5. Put away the folded clothes in the drawers or closet.
Warning: your perfectly folded clothes may not be so perfect once your little one carries them to the drawer and shoves it in.
*Micah told me after I folded his clothes, “Mama, Micah help.” I said “OK!” But before I could help him carry them to his room, he picked up the pile and brought it to his room. He placed them (it felt more like dropped them) on the floor, opened the drawer and put them in. By the time I got to the room, he said, “Mama all done” with a huge smile of his face; he proudly moved out of the way to show me the clothes in the drawer. I had to remind myself to say thank you and acknowledge the helpful spirit of my little boy instead of the sleeves that were hanging out and the shirts that were unfolded. He did put them away in the correct drawers and I had to applaud him for helping. I wanted to rearrange it so they would look neat, but I knew it would break his confidence. I had to let it go because the bottom line is my 20 month old helped me with the laundry. On the bright side, it was one person’s clothes I didn’t have to put away. 🙂

Bathroom:
1. Ask him to remove his clothes, socks and get ready to shower.

2. Get his towel.

3. Wash himself with soap and put shampoo on his head.
*TIP: Put some shampoo in a smaller container (put those hotel shampoo containers you take home to use!) so if it spills, you won’t waste a lot. Give him a small bar of soap so he can hold it in his hands. Micah loves holding the shower head and washing himself when he takes a shower.

4. Clean up wet spots on the floor.

5. If you are potty training, ask him/her to dump out the pee in the toilet. Remember to remind him/her to wash his/her hands after!

IMG_7358Living Room/ Study or Play Area:

1. Pick up and put away his books and toys after he uses them.
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2. Straighten up the pillows or rugs.

Kitchen:
1. Assist you in food preparations.
a. Rinse fruits or vegetables (while you do this, talk to him about the colors, names and importance of each one).

b. Slice bananas if he wants to have it for snack or dessert.
Show him how to hold the knife properly with the blade side down and away from him.IMG_7336
c. Bake with him!
Show him how to mash bananas, or crush crackers to make them crumbs. I had pre-measured the ingredients and placed them in different colored bowls and had him put them into the mixing bowl. Mixing is so much fun!

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4. Show them how to scoop and drop!
Micah loved it! He got upset at me when I took the tray away to bake it in the oven because he wanted to keep doing it! He was pretty mad -while I thought it was pretty funny. I told him I had to bake it or we couldn’t eat it.

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5. Breakfast anyone? Slice the bread and spread the jelly! Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

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6. Empty out the plates and bowls from the dishwasher and sort out the utensils.
REMINDER: SAFETY FIRST! I remove all the knives and sharp objects or anything that can potentially injure him before I call him to help me.
With Micah, I had him put the plates and bowls on the floor because the shelf was too high for him to reach. I placed one of each on the ground so he would know where to put what item. I found it interesting that he made another pile for the 2 plates that had a design on them from the plain plates pile.

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7. Setting up the table.
Ask him to get the utensils one at a time for each member of the family. He can help put the plate on the table or give each person a napkin.

8. Clean up!
They generally enjoy doing this. Micah likes using the sponge to wipe down the table or the counter. He likes tossing trash in the garbage and sweeping the floor.

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Laundry Room:

1. He/ She can help load and unload the washer and dryer.

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With a newborn around and countless diapers to change, Micah has been officially the diaper & wipes helper! He is in charge of getting us a diaper and the pack of wipes while throwing out the yucky ones. He also our little errand boy and helps with getting the blanket, the milk bottles and sometimes the TV remote. I sometimes purposely leave the dirty diapers on the floor or the table because he loves finding them and saying, “Mama, Micah tapon sura.” (translation: Tapon: “throw away” and sura (basura) “trash” in Tagalog) and he happily runs off to dump them. (I didnt teach him this but he started started stepping on his footstool so he can push the diapers down the chute. In the last picture, he returns it to his room.)

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With a little help and a lot of patience, teach your tot to participate in keeping your home clean and tidy. While they may often leave a whirlwind of chaos in their footsteps, they actually need order as much as you do. So take the time to teach your little learner and it will benefit you too!

1. Keep his physical limitations in mind.
Micah struggled with putting away the plates because reaching for the counter that was too high made him feel frustrated, thus I let him lay them out on the floor instead. I also took out the baskets of utensils and placed them on the table with the tray so he can easily see and place the spoons and forks properly into their proper compartments.

2. Keep your instructions simple.
Instead of telling your child to clean up his toys or tidy up this mess, you can say, “Honey, why don’t we put all your balls into the basket.” Or, arrange your books on the shelf. Giving him a specific instruction makes it easier for him to comprehend what you are asking him to do. You don’t want him to feel discouraged because his inability to meet your expectations.

3. Model the behavior.
In the beginning, demonstrate how to properly put away the toys or arrange the books and work with him. Describe the steps you are taking such as picking up the balls one at a time (because realistically we can pick up 3 balls at a time and they probably can only pick one up at a time.) Eventually, you can slowly fade away and help only when necessary. It will get to a point when you don’t have to help because he knows the routine.

4. Make it fun!
Sing a song, google one or make one up if you don’t know any clean up song. Whistle while you work just like how Snow White and the 7 dwarves did it! Putting away the toys with a song can transform this dreadful task to a fun game.

5. Turn helping into a habit.
This takes time and patience. Gentle reminders help your child establish the habit of helping out. Praise their efforts especially when they remember to it on their own initiative. Some people use a chores chart to remind the child on what he has to do.

6. Be realistic!
This will not happen overnight and it will not be perfect. Building character takes time but investing in teaching your child how to be a good helper is well worth the wait!

Now go have fun with your little helper!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13