Wednesday, February 13, 2019

New Tradition: Valentine's Cake Decorating

I don't know about you, but I tend to struggle a bit this time of year.  It is cold and snowy and we are all kind of over being stuck inside.  The holidays are over and there are fewer fun things to look forward to.  This year, I decided to fight the February lull by having a bunch of our little cousins over to decorate mini cakes and cookies.

About a week and a half before the gathering, I made some sugar cookies in the shape of hearts.  I made them just slightly thicker than normal, let them cool completely and then froze them.  The day before the party I made three cake mixes, which got me about 30 mini cakes (it should have gotten more, but I overfilled the first set, making them not quite look like hearts).  I used pans like this, except I was able to get a set of six for about $15. Once the cakes were cool, I wrapped them in cling wrap and froze them.
The day of the party, I got the cakes and cookies out of the freezer about half an hour before I needed them.  I just unwrapped them and set them on the counter.
Then it was time for the fun to begin.  We had frosting, WAY too many sprinkles, heart candies, M & M's and other sweet treats. 
Can't have too many sprinkles!
Finished products!
 The kids had a ball decorating away.  The adults had a ball watching all the kids play together. Definitely, a new tradition!

Monday, February 11, 2019

Cupid's Blow Dart STEM Challenge

This year's Midwest winter has been brutal.  Between piles of snow and ice storms, school has been called off early, delayed or cancelled more times than the entire time I worked at the high school. To keep Xander from going stir crazy, I proposed this Valentine's Day STEM challenge to him. 
The idea came from a game we are playing at his school party where the kids use straws to blow Q-Tips at some plastic cups.  I found the lightest plastic cups at the store and added some paper hearts to make them pretty (totally unnecessary). 
For Xander's Challenge, I gave him a handful of straws, some masking tape and a couple sheets of scratch paper.  His goal was to create the straw that would allow him to hit down cups from the farthest back.
He tried cutting down the straws, taping some straws together and attaching paper to the end of the straw.  I also encouraged him to play with where he put the Q-Tip in the straw before he blew.  I could not find any of the fat smoothie straws, but those would be a great addition to see how diameter affects the force.  The trick in experimenting, was that he had to try to blow with the same force every time.
It turned out to be a quick and easy challenge to keep him occupied for a while.  I am interested to see what he does with his findings when he gets to the party at school!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Valentine's Photoshoot 2

I am so in love with baby Valentine's Day photos, so I ended up doing two photoshoots this month.  The first was a baby Cupid one that you can see here.  This one was a little more versatile.  I took pictures of my boys, but also my friend's absolutely adorable little girl.
For the backdrop I used this white brick one from Amazon.  I loved it for the brick, but when I tried to use the whole thing, the kids kept wrinkling the floor.  I think the floor is more meant to work as just part of the background for someone standing where you do not actually see where they touch the floor.  I ended up looping the "floor" behind the backdrop and taping it, so that it wasn't in the shot.  Then I hung a $3 little heart garland from the Target Dollar Spot.

For the floor, I just used some scrap click-lock style flooring that was left over from when the previous owners redid the bathroom floors.  It was perfect, because it was firm enough to allow the kids to walk and twirl, but came apart for relatively easy storage. I might have to look into buying some orphan boxes from home improvement stores if I can get them cheap enough. Then I threw down some fabric rose petals, which Archer enjoyed eating.

Her mom provided the adorable outfit.  She was really happy that the tutu was soft and not scratchy like other ones she'd tried (I would not have even thought to consider that, having not gotten to put a baby in a tutu myself). I can't get over her beautiful blue eyes! 
I used the same setup, minus the rose petals, for my boys.  Unfortunately, I put the garland just a little high and the boys were not feeling very photogenic, so the one good shot I got of both of them doesn't show the garland.  I can still know it was meant to be a Valentine's picture, right?? 

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Valentine's Photoshoot 1

Recently I have been posting about the fun photo shoots I have been doing with the kiddos.  This month, we ended up doing two, so here are just a few pictures from the first.  Here is the link to the second.
For the background, I literally just taped a cheap red sheet to the wall.  Ironing and steaming out most of the wrinkles, took the most time.
For the props, I bought this cupid's set from Amazon. With his name being "Archer," I just couldn't resist getting the little bow and arrow.  He just wore one of our cloth diapers and it went perfectly.  The headband is a bit small, so only just fit Archer.  Xander was very disappointed that the bow did not actually fire the arrow. 
The hardest part was choosing just a few favorites.  I ended up with over 20 that I loved and edited.

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Friday, February 1, 2019

8 Month Learning Activities

This kid loves stimulation and being engaged.  We still follow his lead and do things based on his moods, but I have found that as he gets older he wants more activities and experiences.
Physical Development:
This month was HUGE in physical development experiences.  Archer learned to crawl just after 7 months, and has become an expert.  He wants to get into everything and learn to do everything.  He really wants to be able to go from crawling to standing, but he is having to settle for pulling himself up on things.  I've tried to give him plenty of opportunities.

Crawling through his tunnel. Xander wanted in on it, too.
 While visiting some friends in Chicago we were able to go to the Ball Factory.  There were lots of places for Archer to crawl around and lots of balls for play. 
Recently we added a Pikler's triangle to our playroom.  My husband is amazing and made it for Archer.  It has two height settings, but we currently have it on the "flatter" setting.  Since he is not quite ready to climb yet, Archer mostly crawls under it or uses it to pull himself up.
As you can see, he also really enjoys throwing toys though the bars and then picking them up.  I'm hoping that we will eventually make a ramp for it.  (If you're a little less handy, Amazon has this beautiful triangle that I initially wanted before he offered to make it).

Another huge addition to our playroom was this foam climbing set a friend of mine was kind enough to lend Archer.  It has been wonderful to have, allowing him to learn to pull himself up.  He likes putting toys up on the steps and moving them between the steps.  He also likes retrieving toys from the top.  We have had them for a couple of weeks and he can now get himself up onto the steps, which of course, translated into trying out the real steps.  Luckily, he only goes up about one step.
He's now gotten good enough at pulling himself up that he is able to do it on the moving footstool of the glider in his room.

Reading is pretty similar.  We do one set of English words flashed three times a day.  He watches Your Baby Can Read or Tweedlewink maybe 2-4 times a week.  We also just started adding in one English Little Reader Lesson several days a week.  He really enjoys Little Reader now, so I'll keep encouraging it!

We try to read as many books as he wants.  Current favorites are That's Not My Puppy, Never Touch a Dragon, Your Baby Can Read books and My Favorite Food/Mi Comida Favorita.

Still doing about one Little Math lesson a day.  We also added in flashing Doman Dot cards three times a day (we do them after words.  Each session takes about 5-7 seconds). Above is what a lesson looks like. He really likes looking at all the cards, so tends to chase after them when I'm done.  I figure that as long as he's looking, he's learning, so it is fine.

We are doing one Spanish  Little Reader Lesson several days a week.  He does not have as much patience for these as the English ones (probably because the words are less familiar), so we only do the multisensory parts, not the entire lessons. We read some of the early readers I made, as well some math early readers he got for Christmas.  

Practical Life:
Archer loves feeding himself.  He has pretty much decided he is done with pureed baby food, although he still has no teeth.
Not a huge fan of the snow.
Practicing drinking through the straw of his water bottle.  I was a little worried he would not be able to do it, since he has to both squeeze and suck, but he figured it out pretty quickly.

Baby Learning Shelves:
Since this post ended up being so long, I posted more detail about our learning shelves earlier this week.  You can check it out here!

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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

8 Month Baby Shelves

With Archer being more mobile and active, I've found that he likes to have more options on his shelves than before.  Here is our shelf setup for the last couple of weeks.
The picture on the right shows what is on top.  We have our two folders for learning to read, one in English and one in Spanish.  We have one set of dot cards for learning quantities.  I also have one math reader in Spanish.  It is part of a set (also available in English), and my goal is to read it daily throughout the week before switching to another.

The left side of the shelves has our Rollipop ball ramp.  Archer has really been enjoying this.  He has learned to put the balls on the ramp and watch them go down.  He's not tall enough to put them in the top, but he can put them in the middle just fine. Sometimes, he gets a bit too enthusiastic and pulls the whole thing over on himself, though.  Luckily, it is pretty light.
 The top right has an art tray with his Tobbles set.  He doesn't actually build with them, yet, but he loves to knock over towers!  
 The middle shelf has both Spike the Hedgehog and his squishy blocks.  I'm not sure why I don't have tons of pictures of Archer with the little hedgehog spikes, because he was always crawling around with them in his hands or sucking on them.  He likes to pull them out of the hedgehog.  He also thought picking them up and dropping them on his foam steps was hilarious.
 The bottom right shelf had the same  Touch and Feel puzzle from last month, in addition to this Hide and Seek Farm, which as little doors to open and magnetic animals inside. 
 He LOVES the farm and opening all the doors (much more than I thought he would at this age).  The only down side is that he kept sucking on all the little animal magnets inside and was starting to wear the pictures off.  I ended up taking the magnets out and he still plays with the doors.
I decided to get down the white board to see what he'd think of the magnets on there.  They are a little flat, so were hard for him to get on and off.  He really enjoyed it, though!  I'll have to keep an eye out for thicker magnets for him.  In the meantime, it is great fine motor practice!

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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year Photoshoot

As I mentioned back in December, I have been trying to do more fun photo shoots with the boys.  They're growing so fast, that it helps me capture them as they grow.  I've started posting about it in hopes of inspiring other budding photographers.

This New Year's Even shoot was our most recent.  Unfortunately, Archer had a cold and was a bit cranky, so these were the best we got.

I used this backdrop and then just black fabric for the "floor."  I got them little New Years hats and noise makers for props.  I'm hoping to be able to use this same backdrop every New Years so I can see them change over time.  I also made sure the hats didn't say the year, so hopefully, I can get a few years out of them.

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