Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mini Science Lesson- Bird Feeder

First step, attract the birds...
I recently purchased a bird feeder and a shepherd's hook at the dollar store for $1 each. I picked a bright red feeder in hopes that it would be easier for a baby to spot. I had some thistle seed at home, but even that is a relatively inexpensive purchase at the hardware or pet store.

Ethan enjoys spending time standing and peering out the front door, so I put the feeder just outside where he can view it easily.

It didn't take long for the Goldfinches to find the feeder.

Don't let the tree line fool you--we attract these finches in the suburbs!

What did we learn?
Did you know that by 10 months old the average baby recognizes approximately 20 words?
Add "bird" to the list!!

By observing the feeder, Ethan has learned to understand the word "bird" and will crawl full speed ahead to the door when we point out that there are birdies outside. (the birds do spook easily, although this seems to be lessening over time). Although I find Goldfinches easiest to attract, experiment and try other feeder types too!

This mini science lesson will help any kiddo learn to appreciate the natural world around them, but is a simple, inexpensive activity that even under 3 year old babies and toddlers can enjoy!

Besides, Mommy enjoys the pretty yellow songbirds just outside our front door too!

Interested in bird watching and nature in South Central Pennsylvania? Check out my post: Wildwood Park, Harrisburg PA- Hidden Gem.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Libraries offer lots of free fun!

Baby Activities
Ethan and I started checking out the local library when I saw that they had story, song, and play time for kids of all age groups! Even a class just for babies under 18 months! Did I mention how excited I was very excited to find that some of these times are on the weekend!  :) 

The stories and songs are fun. They are well done. However, even though Ethan loves to read and be read to, he has a real hard time sitting in a reading circle (although many of the other kids do just fine!). He does great with the playtime, though, so there is lots of kid interaction and fun to be had. He loves that part!

So many books, so little time!

Other Library Play
After story time, we play in the Children's area of the library. We have such a blast playing somewhere other than our living room on a Saturday morning! He really enjoys the activity stations and the play kitchen. And of course, there are lots of books and other multimedia to check out.

So excited!
I look forward to checking out some of the other free activities that the library has to offer! What other library resources do you take advantage of?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Confession: I purchased a dog toy for my baby!


I was checking out at the pet store, and in the impulse bin by the register, I saw them--small, squeeky, playground style balls. Great for an infant at the low price of 99cents!

Ethan really likes them! They are small enough to be easy for him to handle. Unlike some of his other balls, they bounce when he throws them. And did I mention that they squeak?! Bonus!


Lesson for the day: Keep your eyes open and imaginations ready!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Modern Canvas Print Art- Watch Me Grow!

First Stop, the MOMA!

Ok, so maybe not the MOMA per say, but after only a few days of life, Ethan had completed his first piece of modern art.  I failed to record the exact date, but somewhere in Ethan's first week we created his masterpiece.

At 9 month's Ethan's hands and feet no longer fit on the canvas.  
I admit, I stole the idea.  You can buy these kits (I'll link to an example at the end of the post) where you can make these handprint sets.  Great idea, although I saw a few flaws with buying the kit.  First, they're a little bit pricey.  Second, I wasn't thrilled with the color selection.  I'll say it--they just didn't match!  Lastly, I wanted to be able to have the control of the original paint so I could fix any terrible mistakes (control freak?), or could repaint the whole square and "redo" if necessary.  (Luckily, I didn't need a redo)

How to

Instead, I bought the 4x4 canvases at Dick Blick online.  They came in a pack of six for $6.99.  The only problem is that the S&H was the same cost.  UGH!  Anyway, we're still saving some bucks (not only are the kits expensive, but the craft stores wanted much much more for similar canvases).  I painted the squares initially before B.E. (before Ethan) using basic acrylic craft paint.  After he was born, I used the same non-toxic paint  and used a cotton pad (or use a cotton ball) to spread on the paint.  I laid him down on an old towel and got to work.  Of course, I did one limb at a time, and made sure to stamp them on quick!  I had a baby wipe in hand to wipe him clean right away.  I actually did both the feet at one time, and both hands later (his attention span for such an ordeal was quite short!)  After the squares were dried, I touched them up.  I painted over smears with the background paint (again why I wanted to paint them myself!).  I also went in with a very fine dry brush and actually touched up in the feet with both the off-white and the background paints.  I was very careful not to paint over the skin crevices, only to touch up smears, or to fill in places where the paint was too light.  Of course, they're not without flaw, but that's part of their charm.

Anyway, I think they're a great way to capture Ethan, and of course, could be done at any time in a child's life (they'd also make a great gift!).  They look super cute in his room too, don't you think?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Maracas ring in Cinco de Mayo! -Even make your own!

Get out the maracas!
Maracas are practically big rattles, and great fun for babies. I got Ethan a "real" pair, but there are plenty of "baby safe" versions out there. I can't think of a way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo that Ethan would enjoy more! He LOVES his maracas--He totes them around everywhere with him!

Don't have Maracas?
You can make some yourself!! In a previous post I covered how to make Discovery Bottles- for free!! These bottles, filled with popping corn (un-popped of course!) or some dried beans will do the trick as a great substitute!

Party it up!
Of course, what Cinco de Mayo would be complete without some great Mexican music!?! Or maybe some Dance of the Cucumber thanks to Veggie Tales?!

Remember, it's not a Cinco de Mayo party if you don't fall asleep with your Maraca!

Like the maracas? Create discovery bottles for free! :)

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Footprint Chili Peppers!

Spicy Cinco de Mayo Chili Pepper Footprints!

Don't underestimate how fun it is to paint your feet. This project was a hit with my 8 month old who thought the ticklish paint brush on his feet was funny! Again, great way to celebrate with the 0-3 year old crowd!

The peppers were easy enough to paint. Toes green, feet red. Paint on green stem to finish. Ta-da! Our prints were a bit haphazard on the page, so I cut them out and punched a hole for some string.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Wildwood Park, Harrisburg, PA--Hidden Gem

Wildwood Park, Harrisburg PA
This past weekend, we checked out Wildwood Lake Nature Center for their annual Wetlands Festival. I've seen the "attraction" sign on the highway in Harrisburg many times and have always been intrigued. After some poking around on the internet, I decided that their Wetlands Festival would be an opportune time to see what this place was all about. (Although the festival is over, they offer a number of events and classes throughout the summer, as well as summer camps for kids 7+, all available on their website.) The park and Nature Center are free. Some of their classes and activities are free, and others carry a small fee.

If you look closely, you can spot some Egrets off in the distance.

As you know, I'm forever looking for places to take Ethan to visit, minimal travel of the South Central Pennsylvania area, that are appropriate for the 0-3 year old crowd. Ethan loves to be outside, so the trails around the lake sounded like a good fit.

Nature Center
I was pleasantly surprised by the Nature Center. From inside there was a great bird watching area complete with comfortable chairs. They even have a bird cam you can watch from home! There's a book reading area with books for adults and children. We didn't take the time to sift though their library, but it definitely looked like something Ethan would enjoy! A discovery area for children was in the back full of crafts for kids to do at any time (although not infant projects, I saw potential for baby involvement). Interactive learning areas help you learn about the local wildlife and wetlands. The center isn't large, but it's very well done.

Hiking Trails
We then continued our afternoon by checking out some of the hiking trails (they have a good variety of trails for all skill levels-some of which are wheelchair/ stroller accessible). We took both of the Boardwalk trails through the wetlands and marsh, and back by the lake. Along the way there were multiple identification stations to help identify local birds and wildlife, as well as observation huts where you could watch the birds without spooking them away. I was amazed by how many different birds we saw--even with a chatty infant!

The Verdict
Ethan really enjoyed our walk. He was super happy the whole way, and there was just so much for him to take in! I'd love to go back and spend some time at the Nature Center when we have a bit more time. Some of the displays really caught Ethan's eye too! There's quite a bit to do and explore, and the park is very well maintained. Definitely worth the trip! :-)

Monday, May 2, 2011

Aluminum Foil Stars --And I helped!

I've had this project in the archives for awhile (being new to this blog, I have a backlog of projects to catch up on!). It's one of my favorites so far. It's a great craft project for any 0-3yr old. My baby was only 5 months old when we crafted these fun stars.

At Ethan's "school" there are a few shiny metallic cardboard stars that hang from the ceiling. He is often fascinated by them, and one day before we left it told him we'd try and find him some stars like that for in his room. So I thought about it for a bit, wondering where I was going to find said stars. It didn't take long before I started wondering how we could make these stars ourselves...and then of course, how Ethan could get involved!

Ultimately what I came up with I think is a fantastic (and practically free) craft for baby to take part in, using stuff that can be found around the house. In fact, I wish I had know just what a success it was going to be, or I wouldn't have completed as many of them by myself the night before (Ethan helped make 3 of the 8)!

Don't they look fantastic?!? There are more on the other side of the room as well. Of course, they are great near the changing table!
The stars are especially great near the changing table. They serve as a great distraction if you have a kiddo who gets bored on the table like we do. We bat them around, and sign "star." We count them and sign "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star." We ask him where they are, and he looks up and finds them. And did I mention, they look awesome?!?

So, ready to see how it's done?

Supplies needed: 
Cardboard cereal or snack box
Aluminum foil
Hole Punch
(That's all stuff that you can dig around the house for. How great is that!?)
...oh yeah, and a baby artist assistant!

Now for the fun stuff...
1. Cut open cereal box (or any other cardboard food packaging with a large available surface area. Quickly draw a star or two on the box with a pen. The idea is not to be precise, but to just draw quickly.

2. Cut out the stars. This is where you can refine any errors in the sketch. The idea however, is to not go too crazy making the stars perfect. They are supposed to look somewhat organic and original.

3. Crinkle up some foil. Add one baby. This is the part where baby is incredibly helpful. Not only is it a great tactile experience, but it makes a great noise, is shiny, and a lot of fun! Make sure to keep a good eye on things however, the foil tears easily, and could disappear into baby's mouth. Ethan tried to lick it a few times, but he never really put it in his mouth a whole lot. Warning: baby drool accumulates on foil surface quickly. It's not a bad idea to stop the show on each piece before you have to hang your foil out to dry!

We make baby art first thing in the morning when Ethan is fresh!
4. Smooth the foil and wrap it around the cardboard cut outs. To make this happen, sometimes the foil needs to be torn or trimmed. It doesn't have to be perfect! It's foil. If there is a bald spot, just crinkle in another small patch. Wrap the foil tight to the edges. Again, this is not the craft to be obsessive compulsive! The idea is for them to look a bit messy (I mean, artsy!).

5. Punch a hole in one of the stars points. Hint: Sometimes a star looks better positioned one way over another. Be sure to check this before punching the hole. However, if you "mess up," you can always cover the hole with a foil patch and start over!

6. Hang stars: Loop some thread though the holes. I used a white sewing thread. Any thread will do. I tied the thread in one big loop and hung the stars with tape (they are light enough that regular old magic tape will do the trick). Wa-la! Beware however, the corners are a bit sharp. I would warn against hanging them directly over a crib, changing table, or play area in case they would decide to become shooting stars!

The finished product looks great. Ethan loves them, and best of all, he helped create yet another work of baby art! What a great excuse to spend some quality time together!


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