Saturday, January 31, 2009


I've been inspired by Melitsa over at Play Activities with her 12 days of unplugged playtime with our kids. We have had so much fun, even though we haven't posted every day's activities.

But it's gotten me thinking. I love this blog and the few others I also have, and enjoy reading so many funny and talented blogs. I spend an awful lot of time in front of the computer. My 5 month old already insists on typing on the keyboard if she's on my lap and my toddler has been heard to say, "I've gotta blog about that!" With all this time spent online, I'm realizing a few things around the house are being neglected, my desk for instance!

So, in an effort to re-prioritize (that's what the new year's all about, right?) I'm unplugging for 2 weeks to get things IRL under control so I can have a healthy balance of Internet and family time combined with a clean house and yummy yummy dinners.

I WILL still have regular post on Musical Monday, Thinking Thursday and Physical Friday (thank you Blogger for the ability to schedule posts in advance!) so I'll be with you in spirit! I won't, however, be able to respond to any comments. But by all means, leave them so I have something fun to do when I come back! I love reading all the comments and visiting your blogs.

I'll be back February 16 and look forward to catching up with you all. Until then, enjoy the new posts and enjoy a little unplugged play in your own homes, too!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Physical Friday: Let's Make Drums

Hopefully you've found a copy of Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins. Today we'll make some drums to use while reading it.
The drums I made are from a large oatmeal container. I cut the container into three sections to make three drums. Then I cut pages an old small phone book into strips. I made some paper mache glue. I dipped the strips in the glue and covered the top of the oatmeal container. I let it dry overnight and then added a second layer. I let that layer dry overnight again. Then I used some sandpaper and gently sanded the rough glue globs off so the top and edges were smooth. Then I painted the top and upper part of the sides with white acrylic paint. It needed two coats to cover the print on the paper. While it was drying I cut decorative paper into strips wide enough to cover the body of the oatmeal container. I painted the wrong side of the paper with craft glue and then attached to the base of the drum. I let it dry for an hour or so and then handed it over to Sammi for the test.

I admit, this is more of a grown-up craft. I didn't include Sammi in the creation of these drums. The project would be great for older kids, but toddlers aren't ready for paper mache! At least not mine :) So I found several sites with more kid-friendly drum making crafts. Find the one that matches what you already have at home and get busy! I'd love to know which tutorial you use and how it went.

Drum-making Tutorials
Easy Homemade Musical Instrument Projects for Kids: Drum, Didgeridoo, Trumpet
Coffee Can Drum
Native American Drum
African Drum
Little Drummer Boy Drum

Have a great weekend practicing your drum. We'll see you on Monday as we bring Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins and your new drums together and explore more ways to encourage rhythmic development using drums.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

My Messy Messy Desk

I'm taking on @RobynsWorld challenge to share the current state of our desk. She said no cheating and it's obvious I didn't! Here it is, in all its glory, the place where I work. You can see the baby doll and book (so I have something within reach to distract the toddler). You can also see my breakfast bowl. I love cereal! Everything else is basically paperwork. I hate filing about as much as I love cereal. I love my desk and would like to see more of it, but for now it serves its function. Maybe one day I'll get to enjoy its beauty as well. Thanks, Robyn for the challenge!

How does your desk look? If you're brave enough to share, post a pic and leave a comment for me and one over at Robyn's blog. I'd love to see some organizational tips in action, or just another messy desk so I know I'm not alone!

Thinking Thursday: Hand Hand Fingers Thumb

One thumb, one thumb drumming on a drum!I have fond memories from my early early childhood of reading this book with my mom. My favorite page says "Hand picks an apple; Hand picks a plum." I remember my mom holding my hand and pretending to pick an apple or plum out of a tree. I bought this book in college and waited (and waited) anxiously for my own children to share it with them.

When Sammi was under a year but enjoying books I decided to introduce it to her. My precious childhood memory. In true fashion, she got excited about the book and then proceeded to rip a corner off from my favorite page. I learned two things. 1: She wasn't quite ready for non-board books and 2: Books, clothes, glasses are all just things that I can either make do with or replace. I sadly put the book away and waited again.

A while back I reintroduced the book with much success. We talked about our hands, fingers and thumbs. We also practiced drumming on our tummies. The rhythmic flow of the book is engaging and Sammi asked for it again and again. Finally, the experience I had envisioned and waited so long to see happen happened! Hand, Hand, Fingers, Thumb by Al Perkins is a favorite in our house.

This post kicks off a series incorporating this book into cognitive, physical and rhythmic development. I suggest visiting the library or a local bookstore to find this treasure. Join us tomorrow as we make drums to use with the book!

Monday, January 26, 2009

Musical Monday: A Slippery Fish

After hearing this song for the first time, I realized I needed an online resource where I could go listen again and again to new songs. It's part of what's inspired this blog! This is one of Sammi's favorites. We learned it at the library during laptime. She was barely a year old and she'd do the actions just well enough that I knew what song she wanted. I was so frustrated at first because I couldn't remember the tune or all the words. Every time we went to the library I hoped that the teller would sing it again. After a several weeks I had heard it enough that I could finally sing it at home with Sammi. She was so happy.

Actions to songs are great for pre-speakers. Through the actions they are able to communicate their thoughts and wishes before they are able to tell us with words. Sometimes it takes more attention and practice to understand what our children want when they can't just say it, but it's worth the time to reinforce familiar actions with specific outcomes.

In the same vein, many people chose to teach their children simple sign language as a way to communicate before spoken words appear. Here are a couple of great sites for using signs with your baby: Signing Time and Sign Babies.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Operation Playtime Day 5 Painting

Today's Operation Playtime activity comes from Amy at Let's Explore. She suggested a painting activity using kitchen gadgets and utensils as paintbrushes. Sammi is ALWAYS ready to paint so I thought this would be fantastic. And it was!

I put butcher paper over the table so we could be messy and then I put the kitchen gadgets in the middle of the table. Sammi climbed right up, grabbed the whisk and announced she'd use "this" to paint with. I didn't really remember telling her yet that we were going to paint! But I guess all the signs were there.
I put out three colors: red, blue and yellow. I added a little water to thin them out so they'd last longer and it'd be easier to coat the utensils with. But I think I added to much water because we mostly got blobs of paint at the beginning. But once we got going we developed some technique and enjoyed the project very much.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Operation Playtime Day 4-Marathon of books

Our marathon of books actually began on Day 1 of Operation Playtime (Blocks). Sammi built a house for her baby (almost) then decided she needed a nap. To help her fall asleep, Sammi pulled out a book to read to her. The rest, as they say, is history! We've read every book on every book shelf!

Sammi's favorites include Trashy Town by Andrea Zimmerman and David Clemesha and Nobunny's Perfect by Anna Dewdney. We've read to each other, to the baby, and to all her baby dolls.

Each book is usually interrupted for an impromptu song which may or may not match the theme of the book! (Usually not) We've sung "Once there was a snowman," "Itsy bitsy spider," "Ring around the rosies," and "If you're happy and you know it," to name a few.

It's been fun to focus on books again over the last few days. We had been so busy with the holidays that our reading had been limited to bedtime and we were missing out on a lot of our classics. Thanks for a nudge, Melitsa, in the book reading direction, even if it did inadvertently come from Tuesday's post.

Physical Friday: Fruity Necklace

"I want a snack!"

I hear it all day long; I'm sure you do too. Sammi is a bottomless pit. Most children come equipped with the ability to recognize when they are full and to stop eating. With Sammi, I haven't figured out if she lacks that ability or if we've just never gotten her full. But, in an attempt to help her not overeat, I'm always looking for fun snack ideas that take awhile to consume.
For Christmas Sammi got a box of Fruit Loops. I found some string and an egg carton and we had an instant activity. Stringing the Fruit Loops on the string is a great exercise in fine motor skills. Not only is each hand doing something different, they are required to work together to produce the desired result. Sammi's neckalce wasn't very long, which is a reflection of her two year old attention span. However, the fact that she was able to make a necklace at all, shows that she's developing control of individual muscles in her fingers and hands. She had so much fun making the necklace. She ate a bunch while she was stringing her necklace, so we saved the actual necklace for another day. It was perfect! I had a whole afternoon without a single plea for a snack.

Making a Cereal Necklace
  • All you need is a piece of string, a donut shaped cereal and an egg carton.
  • Dump some of the cereal into the egg carton so it's easy to see and grab.
  • Begin the necklace by looping the string around one Fruit Loop and tying it off. This will keep the rest from falling off while your child is stringing the necklace.
  • String cereal onto the necklace. Continue until the necklace is full or your child is done with stringing.
  • Loop the end of the string around the same Fruit Loop that the beginning is looped around.
  • Now you have a necklace. Wear, snack and enjoy!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Little Conversationalist

Looking for something ELSE to do with your children today? Check out my guest post for Operation Playtime on Play Activities' blog.

When do babies become little conversationalists? How young are they when they begin to understand the social cues of turn-taking in conversation? I had forgotten about this fun stage in babies' development until just a couple weeks ago. We were videoing a song for Musical Monday and after the song Elli starting "talking" to me. Check out the video; it's really darling!

We are social creatures. From birth we make eye contact with and talk to our babies. Our unspoken goal is to get that smile, to evoke a response. After months of hard work, protoconversation as the experts call it, babies finally start to get it! Around 4 months babies start to initiate interactions and conversations. They are learning to wait for you to pause before they reply with their own actions or sounds. This concept of turn-taking really develops between 4 and 6 months. Watch for your baby to try to get your attention to begin a conversation with you.

When Sammi was about this age Brent would take her with him when he got home from work and went to change out of his scrubs. He would set Sammi on the bed and get down by her and start talking to her. He would ask her about her day and she would flail her arms and squeal. I would sometimes watch these conversations hidden by the door. I can't tell you how many times I felt like I understood the stories she was telling him. It really was like she was recounting our day to him.

I think we often overlook babies' purposeful actions because we don't realize they are purposeful. They develop skills so quickly it's hard to keep up with them sometimes! But by knowing what cues to watch for, we can pick up on their intentions and engage with them in fun, meaningful ways.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Musical Monday: Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

**UPDATED With Actions Below**
Check out more Twinkle Twinkle Little Star Crafts in this post!

Songs with actions are great! But what do you do with a great song that doesn't really have any actions? For Twinkle Twinkle Little Star it's fun to open and close your hands like a blinking star, but it's almost too repetitive, even for the most pattern-loving children. Sammi went through a period of time where she didn't want to sing this song, even though it was her very most favorite, because she didn't get to do anything during the song.

One day we cut out stars, colored them and glued them to a craft stick. Instant success. She loves to hold her star and move it around while we sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. We've since discovered several objects in our home that have a star. Sammi bursts into song pretty much any time she finds one such object. It's good to have her back!

To make it easy, here's a star you can print, color and glue to your craft stick and start singing today:

Elaine shares these actions to use with Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:
Twinkle Twinkle little star (fingers twinkling)
How I wonder what you are (hands out with palms up)
Up above the world so high (pointing / stretching up)
Like a diamond in the sky (making a diamond shape with thumbs to forefingers on opposite hands)
Twinkle Twinkle little star (fingers twinkling)
How I wonder what you are (hands out with palms up)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

My New Campus

I find myself in the pleasant predicament of living in the same area as my Alma mater. From time to time I run over to the campus for one reason or another. A couple of weeks ago I wanted to drop off some German and Bulgarian books (so they could find a better home) and took the girls with me. I arrived on campus with a double stroller during the last ten minutes of the hour. This is the time when everyone is rushing from one class to the next. Talk about timing. As I tried to maneuver through the crowds and snow piles I watch the students around me. Aside from thinking how young they all looked, I saw students waving at friends and hollering their hellos. I remembered my days on campus were pretty much the same. By my last year I rarely walked anywhere without running into a friend or student from the GE class I tutored for. I smiled as I remembered those happy years spent on this campus. I even found myself looking, hopelessly, around for a familiar face. Where were all MY friends and associates? Since all my peers had left the campus years earlier I decided to visit some of my favorite professors. They were all, conveniently, in their offices. Redemption! Except the one I actually had questions for. He has retired. Man, I am old for being so young!

With this experience fresh on my mind, my girls and I started the new year by returning to the library by our house for their Laptime program. After Laptime was over, I was visiting with a few moms. I talked with the Children's Librarian. Former neighbors, current neighbors and even my mom walked by! (My mom stopped, of course.) Another mom asked me about when I would be doing Laptime this month. I was grinning from ear to ear with all this social love happening right there in one of my favorite buildings. In a flash of insight I saw the library converge with and then replace my beloved university campus as the hub of my social life. The bustle is subdued and there are children's voices at every corner and I am in heaven.

*Photo by Spaz Du Zoo

Friday, January 16, 2009

Physical Friday: So Big!

Around two months of age a baby's movements begin to transition from pure reflexes to more purposeful actions. At this point it is fun to help baby move in a more purposeful way. One of my favorite games for the arms is "So Big!" One reason I like it so much is because it grows with your child to offer new challenges and joys in each developmental stage.

How to Play So Big!
Lay your baby on your legs or the floor. Place your thumbs in the palm of baby's hands causing them to close around your thumbs. Start the game with your hands resting on baby's tummy. As you answer the question, raise your hands (with baby's hands holding on) high above baby's head. Here's what you say:

How big is baby?
So big! (raise hands high above baby's head)

Older Infant
How big is baby?
So big! (Child starts to raise hands all by himself)

How big is (use child's name)?
So big! (Child will raise hands and say So Big! with you)

Other Variations
  • An older sibling can help a baby raise hands high above their head.
  • Play with older children using stuffed animals or dolls. They can even throw them up high to see how big they can be!
  • Put your name (Mommy or Daddy) in and raise arms up. When you bring them down, encircle baby or toddler in your arms.
Starting between 2 and 5 months babies start to anticipate actions. This game encourages that anticipation because is has the same action with the same words over and over. Babies will start to anticipate the So Big! line and you'll see their bodies wiggle in excitement as they get ready for their arms to go up. It's also great for moving the upper body and helping baby recognize a purposeful movement. Another way to encourage this purposeful movement: when you see your baby raise her arms high above her head, say "So big!" and then play the game with her again. Look for your baby to initiate this game with you long before he can talk!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Board Books

Reading is a calming but still fun activity that you can begin practically at birth! In the first weeks babies hardly have their eyes open, but their ears are open and listening, processing everything they take in. The sound of your voice is the most familiar to them of all the sounds because they've been listening to you talk forever. *smile* For that reason, it doesn't much matter what you read initially as long as you are reading out loud so your baby can hear you. They are picking up on the rhythm of language and the intonation of storytelling while associating reading with the warm, comfy, safe feeling they have while in your arms or lap.
After a month or two your baby starts to have times of the day where she is more alert. Her eyes are open and she's exploring, visually, her surroundings. This is a great time to introduce board books. Board books have thick, stiff pages that hold up to the unpredictable movements of baby arms and fingers. Books should be short, have bright pictures, be easy to hold while your baby is in your lap. Sammi loved loved loved books that were songs. e.g., Row, row, row your boat, I have 10 little fingers, Itsy bitsy spider. She also loved books that rhymed, e.g., Mary had a little lamb, Jack and Jill when up the hill, Humpty Dumpty. I've complied a list of board books for babies to help you get started!

We keep books in every room in our house. That way, no matter where we are, we can grab a book and read. Reading is a terrific stand-alone activity, but it also works great as a quick time-filler. I usually have a couple of books in the car and my diaper bag too. It's an easy way to entertain babies and toddlers at the doctor's office or any other place you find yourself waiting! For more information on reading to your babies and children, check out Jim Trelease's book The Read-Aloud Handbook.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Tuesday Review: Baby Games for You to Play

Angela England, a pregnancy and neonatal expert, has compiled a wonderful assortment of games to play with baby from birth through the first year. The book is divided into age categories that follow general stages in development over the first year: 0-3 months, 3-6 months, 6-9 months, 9-12 months. Each stage has game ideas in 7 areas! That's a lot of ideas to keep you busy during the months your baby is in each stage.

Angela explains how to play the games in an easy-to-follow manner that inspires action. I was so sad I read this book after by baby was sleeping for the night. It was tempting to wake her up and engage her in some fun games!

In addition to describing games you can play, Angela incorporates general information about babies' development throughout the first year. I especially enjoyed the BONUS section where she describes the benefits of music for infants. She reminds us that "[b]abies show a marked
preference for a song sung by their own mother or father than a song sung on tape or
CD." No matter what we think of our musical abilities, our babies are our #1 fans!

Angela will be showcasing, in video, one of her song ideas in a future post on Because Babies Grow Up! We're looking forward to her guest post. Baby Games for You to Play is available as an ebook for just $1.99. I highly recommend this ebook for new moms looking for ways to interact with little ones and encourage their development.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Musical Monday: Welcome Song

Will you stand up and let me see your smile? This line from the Welcome Song gets my toddler moving and grinning every time! No matter where we are, how close to a meltdown she is or how uncooperative she's being, if I start singing this tune, she jumps up, runs around smiling and becomes rather compliant. While not the purpose of the song, it is a much appreciated benefit.

We were first introduced to this song at a play group. All the children sit in a circle. The leader begins with one child, using their name, to start the song. For example, "Sammi, will you stand up and let us see your smile?" The child stands up and shows their smile to the group. After the verse is over, the leader moves to the next child in the circle and so on until all of the children have had a turn. It's a great way to help all the children (and most parents, too) remember or learn the names of all the children in the play group. I really like it because it involves all the children. New children aren't singled out, which can be uncomfortable for some, and returning children aren't left out, which doesn't sit well with some (mine, in particular!)

The group of children Sammi usually sings this with have developed their own tradition around the song. When it is a child's turn, tha child not only stands up and smiles, but also runs around the circle trying to return to their original spot before their turn is over. In the video you'll notice Sammi take off and then return. Enjoy the video. The words follow.

Welcome Song
Name, will you stand up
and let us see your smile?
We're glad you're here today,
won't you stay awhile.

When to sing the Welcome Song
  • At the beginning of a play group
  • At home with all your stuffed animals and dolls each taking a turn
  • When you need your child to stand up and they are not cooperating
  • Anytime you need to calm or distract a frustrated child
Don't forget to include yourself in the song! You deserve a chance to smile and run around the room, too. The melody of this song is so upbeat and bright that it almost instantly dispels any dark moods in our house. Let it works its magic in yours.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Physical Friday: Jumping

Indoors or out, jumping is a fun activity for toddlers. Many times a day I hear my toddlers voice, "Mommy, want to see how I can jump?" She's so enthusiastic about it every time that I can't help but join in with her energy and do a little jumping myself!

Jumping is a gross motor skill, meaning it requires the coordination of large muscle groups. It emerges, generally, between 2 and 2 1/2 years of age. Sammi's interest in jumping really took off after she watch the Sesame Street Podcast on the word "Jump." (Find it on iTunes Sesame Street - Sesame Street Podcast - Sesame Street Podcast) I'm still trying to figure out why my toddler loves jumping so much. Here are some guesses: the wind in her hair, the free-falling feeling coming back down, shear joy in the ability to jump and the fact that she can jump anywhere! I may never know for sure but I do know that she loves it!

I've also come across some unexpected benefits from jumping. I recently read about a study in a parenting magazine which found linked jumping with preventing osteoporosis. The study looked at a group of 5-8 year old girls, half of which jumped 100 times a day and the other half who didn't. The half that jumped showed an increase in bone density. Higher bone density protects the bones from the effects of osteoporosis, a decrease in mineral bone density that leads to increased risk for fracture.

Jumping Activities
  • If You're Happy and You Know It: Do a verse with "If you're happy and you know it jump up and down"
  • This Is My Jumping Song from Janeen Brady's Watch Me Sing Volume 2
Action Plays:
  • Count the number of jumps
  • Jump from one place to another place
  • Hopscotch

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Sorting by Color

Color identification is one of the core abilities we anxiously wait to see emerge in toddlers and preschoolers. According to Sandra Anselmo learning colors can be reinforced through four steps: adult repeating color names; recognizing colors when asked to identify (the blue crayon); naming colors of objects; matching like colors. Today's activity focuses on the fourth step: matching.

Color Sorting Activity
Materials: empty egg carton (for a dozen eggs), bowl, Fruit Loop type cereal
Set-up: Place one color of loop in each egg spot across the top row; Pour cereal into bowl
Play: Invite child to sort the cereal by color. Place matching-colored loops in egg spot below original loop. Play until all loops are sorted (or eaten!) Once activity is completed, enjoy your snack.

When I asked our pediatrician about knowing colors, he said that he does not ask if a child knows colors (or counting) until the 4 year old check-up. Bottom-line: color games are fun and help reinforce developing knowledge and skills, but don't expect perfection from your kids.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Tuesday Review: Car Seat ID Card

I love a "good mail" day! Just the other day I opened my mailbox to find an extra intriguing treat. From My Precious Kid I received a Car Seat ID Card. I first learned of My Precious Kid through Twitter and was curious about the car set ID card.

The ID card was accompanied by an explanation card highlighting the features of a car seat ID card. I had never before considered the need for a medical release in case of an accident where I am left unable to verbally give permission for my children to receive medical treatment. The card also includes space for medical history, allergy information and emergency contact names and numbers. I am amazed that so much information fits so compactly in a business-card-sized ID card. I am even more impressed that it is easy to read and, while bursting with information, is not cluttered.

While browsing the My Precious Kid website, I found a few other safety accessories that I really like, especially as the mom of a toddler! First is a child locator: child holds the locator receiver and the parent holds the transmitter. With the push of a button the parent's transmitter causes the receiver to chirp and reveal the location of an out-of-sight child. The other item that caught my attention is a disposable ID bracelet. You write family contact information on the bracelet worn by child, baby or adult during an outing and then it can be cut off and thrown away. There are so many ways to keep your kids safe through identification; there's bound to be something for every preference!

On a personal note, I am really enjoying My Precious Kid's Kay Green's article on Potty Training 101. I've already done pretty much everything on the "before you start" list. I've been afraid of diving in full force, but I think I'm ready to take the plunge. Thanks for such great advice!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Musical Monday: Bumpin' Up and Down

Bumpin' Up and Down in My Little Red Wagon is a fun, energetic song. It's great for when kids are restless or if they are falling asleep when you really want them to be awake (how often does THAT happen?) It takes a lot of energy on your part, so prepare yourself! I've never been able to do this just once with my daughter. She always asks to do it again...and again!

This video is a bit longer because it includes several variations, including with a baby. Here are the words to the song:
Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Bumpin' up and down in my little red wagon
Won't you be my darlin'

One wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
One wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
One wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
Won't you be my darlin'

Other wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
Other wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
Other wheel's off and the wagon's draggin'
Won't you be my darlin'

If you get tired of singing this song, consider these versions available on iTunes:
  • By Raffi Raffi - Singable Songs for the Very Young - Bumping Up and Down
  • By Barney Barney - Start Singing With Barney - Bumpin' Up and Down
  • By Kidsongs Kids Kidsongs Kids - My Favorite Kidsongs Collection - Bumpin' Up and Down
  • By Bob McGrath & Katharine Smithrim Bob McGrath & Katharine Smithrim - Songs & Games for Toddlers - Bumpin' Up and Down

Friday, January 2, 2009

Physical Friday: Piggy Banks

Piggy Banks are a great activity for developing fine motor skills. Holding small coins requires the fingers to work together with the thumb. After about 9 months of age children have usually developed the ability to grasp an object between their pointer finger and their thumb. This is called the pincer grasp. Once a child has developed this, putting coins in a piggy bank is a great way to fine tune this fine motor skill.

A baby and coins? What a terrible combination, you say! Fortunately I have a solution. My husband is fascinated with pigs: stuffed animals, pictures, figurines; you name it, he's probably got one! So at a baby shower for our first, a friend of mine introduced us to this incredible Fisher-Price Laugh and Learn Learning Piggy Bank. It has settings for Learning Time and Music Time. Within hours of my daughter figuring this toy out we had all the songs memorized and we still sing them to this day! This post isn't meant to be a review of this particular toy, but it is one of my favorites and I could go on all day. But I'll stop now because it speaks for itself. So the coins are large and plastic and not a choking hazard, so it's great for little hands and mouths.

As our daughter grew, we introduced her to her own piggy bank that was collecting real money. She loved to shake it, then to dump it out and eventually to put the coins in herself. We have passed many happy hours dumping coins out and putting them back in. I was just amazed to see her dexterity in not only holding the coin but in turning it just right to drop it in the little slot.

Before you right this off as not relevant for daily life, there are advantages to such a skill. It takes fine motor control to hold a utensil and use it to pick food up off a plate and successfully guide it into your mouth. Putting coins in a piggy bank is a fun, playful way for your little ones to practice that skill and develop the dexterity necessary to actually maneuver food their mouths. Now isn't that useful!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Thinking Thursday: Peekaboo

Looking for a fun, engaging game that can be played anywhere? And I mean ANYwhere! Then peek-a-boo is the game for you and your little one. At the very least, all you need is you and the baby! You can elaborate the game by bringing in a blanket, towel, clothes, or anything on hand.

To Play Peek-a-Boo:
Arrange you and the baby so you're facing each other and your faces are fairly close together (12-18 inches.) You can use your hands, a blanket, or any other object to cover your face. Then reveal your face and say "Peek-a-boo! I see you!"

As baby becomes familiar with this game, you can switch it up by covering up baby instead. I hold one end of the blanket and shake out the blanket so that it lands over the baby's head. My baby loves the wind on her face as I cover her up this way. Then I quickly pull the blanket away, saying "Peek-a-boo. I see you!" Once she trusts that I will remove the blanket, I leave it there just long enough to ask, "Where's baby? Where's Sammi?" Then I pull it away to reveal a big smile and usually some giggles.

As my daughter has grown, more variations of peek-a-boo have developed. She initiates the game by hiding and saying, "Can you say 'Where is Sammi?'" Then, when she reveals herself, she says (often with a flourish!) "Here I m'am!" But she started playing this game with me when she was just a baby. When I'd change her diaper she'd grab her pants and pull them over her head. It took several times before I realized she was doing this intentionally. Peek-a-boo became one of our favorite games!

Peek-a-boo helps children establish object permanence, meaning they remember that an object exists even when it is out of sight. So when your face disappears behind your hands or a blanket and then reappears consistently, your child learns that you exists even when he or she doesn't see you. This game also helps establish trust. When you consistently reappear then your child learns to trust that you will be there, even when you're not seen. As you lengthen the "hiding" period, you create a trust that will help your baby endure longer absences, e.g., staying with a babysitter.

This is also a great game to play when waiting anywhere with your child to help ward off boredom and trouble! Some place you may find yourself waiting: the doctor's office, the line at the post office, a restaurant, the grocery store. You can no doubt think of several other places!

Fun Books about Peek-a-boo:
Where Is Baby's Belly Button?
Peek-A Who?
Peek-a-Boo Who?
Peek-a-Boo Jungle
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