Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Things To Do - Our Favorite Activities (18 Months - 2 Years)

Did anyone else have the "Things To Do" books when they were growing up? If I remember right, they were a series, like "Things To Do... With Science," "Things To Do... With Art," etc. I loved those books. (I'm pretty sure my mom got rid of them, which kills me, because I can't find them on Amazon and I want a copy for myself!)

One of the things I've been kind of stumped on since starting with the triplets is what to do during our time together. I mean, we do all the regular peek-a-boo, gonna-getcha, naming-objects kind of play... plus the routine snacks, naps, diaper changes (which takes up a surprising amount of time when everything is x3, lol!). But with them getting a little older and their coordination and attention span increasing, they're also a little more easily bored and really appreciate a new game or activity.

Unfortunately, it feels like this is also the hardest age to find appropriate and interesting activities for. :( They're still putting things in their mouth when tired or distracted (or just ornery, lol), their coordination is improving but not very steady yet, and we're not good at sharing at all. (Like, at all at all.)

I would totally appreciate more good ideas from others caring for children of similar ages... but in the meantime, here are our favorite ways to play so far:

1. Water table and sand box - I begged Amy and Ryan to get a water table, figuring that it would be a mess-free, easy way to entertain the babies for endless hours. I was right - it does keep them occupied for seeming hours upon end - but I was wrong in that it still requires a change of clothes, as their favorite ways to play involve lots of dumping on heads, splashing, and making puddles to sit in. :) In view of the hours of happy play, however, I consider it well worth the mess. Here's an amazing tutorial on how to make an easy, elegant water/sand table that I think is just brilliant. :) Or, if you don't happen to have $50 and a couple of hours lying around, follow this link and create a makeshift table from storage bins.

2. Bubbles - I tried this for the first time yesterday and the kids loved, loved, loved it! I simply pumped out a good amount of Johnson's Baby Shampoo into the water table and added a little bit of water (just enough to make lots of suds!) using the hose on high pressure. The babies started giggling as soon as the suds appeared and couldn't wait to dig in! When the bubbles (or water) get low, refresh with another pump and a whisk. :) I also did the same thing in a couple of aluminum roasting pans we have for water play, but I added a drop of two of food coloring to the suds and swished it around for bright colorful bubbles. Lucy especially thought this was amazing; her play was short-lived because Miles immediately dumped all the colored bubbles out so he could walk around banging the pans together (lol!). We'll be doing this again soon.

3. Ice cubes - Such a simple thing, but it's absolutely fascinating when you're so little! :) Addie loved grabbing the ice cubes and pushing them through the water, feeling them melt when she held them, putting them all in a bucket and then dumping them out again, etc. So far we've only played with regular ice cubes, but I made some colored ice cubes yesterday and stuck them in the freezer for next time. :)

4. Sand Table (or sandbox) - I'm going to be real here: I dread the sandbox. We have a sandbox, and the amount of sand that gets in hair, legs, diapers, etc, is horrifying. But the kids love it, and if they're in the right mood (not obstinate enough to want to throw it everywhere just because I said not to, and not fussy enough that they'll fall to pieces if a sibling accidently throws a little sand in their face) it's a sure-fire way to keep them happy for awhile. I can't wait to try playing with some Moon sand (we'll probably do this in the water table) - I remember Abigail absolutely loving this when she was just a tiny bit older, and I love the fact that it's 100% edible (just cornstarch, salt, and oil) but also discourages eating (because, hello, it's almost 100% salt).

5. Edible finger paint - (1 part flour to 1.5 parts water, and enough food coloring or Jello powder to create the desired hue) We tried this for the first time just yesterday, and while the kids definitely played with it differently than I expected (they wanted to dump it all out and then sort of smear it around, squish it between their fingers, etc), it did seem pretty fascinating and kept them busy for awhile. Next time I will add some baking powder to the mix and give them paper to smear and paint on; when they're done, just pop the paper into the microwave for a few seconds, the "paint" puffs and dries instantly, and voila! Artwork is preserved. :)

6. Dress-up - We only have a few hats and vests, but the babies love putting them on, taking them off, trading them, etc. One of these days when I have a little spare time (HA!) I would like to make a bunch of felt vests (like these) in different colors and styles so they have more to choose from. If I can find some cheap hats, too, all the better. (The other benefit of this sort of play is that they get great practice putting clothes on and off, and handling snaps, buttons, Velcro, etc.)

7. "Rock Band" - My music teacher grandmother would call this "ear training," but I jokingly referred to it as "Rock band practice" and Amy thought it was pretty funny, so the name stuck. :) This is a great activity for when it's too hot (and I imagine this winter, when it's too cold) to be outside, or when everyone is bathed for the evening but still has energy to work out, in that it involves nothing messy. I generally pull out several bowls of different materials (plastic, metal, wood, etc), and several "drumsticks" (wooden spoons, metal spoons, plastic spatulas, etc) and let them go to town exploring the different sounds. Often this is total free play while I fix a meal, clean up after a meal, or do something else that needs my attention, but just as often I sit on the floor and bang with them. :) They love to hear and try to copy different rhythms! And just a warning: once you hand a kid a drumstick, almost everything - cabinets, walls, plastic trays, baby gate, the floor, etc - becomes a drum. There's nothing they can hurt in the kitchen, but if you don't want to turn your house into a giant drumset, teach "only on the drums" early and consistently. :)

Some other things we haven't tried yet, but hope to soon:

Sensory bottles - All the babies like things they can hold and manipulate (shakers, toys with bubbles inside that move, mirrors, etc) so I imagine they'd love a set of sensory bottles with lots of stuff inside to find and experiment with! I've already started a collection of bottles, and I just need to make a shopping trip for stuff to put inside. :)

Fine motor skill activities - Specifically, I'm thinking of this and this. We only have one "shape sorter" and it is high on the list of favorite toys; in fact, whoever finds it usually drags it over to me to play with so that I will fend off greedy siblings from taking it (although we've also used it a few times to practice sharing LOL).

Circle time - Lucy especially really loves sitting next to each other and singing with hand motions. I think Circle Time is a really great activity in general, since it teaches kids to sit and pay attention, listen for instructions, copy, etc in a low stress way, so sometime in the very near future I'm going to burn a CD of easy songs and finger plays (Eensy Weensy Spider, I'm A Little Teapot, If You're Happy And You Know It, Where Is Thumbkin, etc), and start introducing this as an activity. :)

More water fun - Since the water table is such a sure-fire hit, I'm starting a list, including this cool idea (gotta pick up some pool noodles at the dollar store and hack them into giant "beads"), water balloons (I think they kids would love this, even though it falls into the "closely supervised play" category), making our own sprinkler (or finding a cheap one on clearance somewhere), and maybe even making a "water blob." Until it gets too cold to spend afternoons soaking wet, I'm gonna rock it for all it's worth!

If you're looking for more details on these or other fun activities for kids, you can check out my Pinterest board where I collect fun ideas. :)


Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

... not to be all "Where did the time go?!" again, but, really - it's July already? It feels like summer just started and now it's almost halfway done. 8(

The summer has already been pretty full though; here's a little mid-season recap:

Maggie and I had an awesome time with Abigail and her parents at the beach. I have seriously never been so pampered in my life, and I just can't thank them enough. :)

Every morning I would sleep in, then wander out to our balcony to eat my breakfast of muffin and orange juice (in a goblet - because I could) while listening to the ocean waves crash.

Our hotel had a Starbucks in the lobby - hallelujah!

I'm not normally much of a sun worshipper, but the temperature was just perfect all week, so one day I chilled out under the umbrella and worked on finishing a book I'd been working on all spring, while Abby played in the sand a few feet away.

Abby loved the water. :)

One night we went to the boardwalk and let Abby do rides, then ate dinner there before playing miniature golf (Maggie beat me, but only by one point!).

The swim-up bar at the hotel made the most amazing virgin mojitos. I got one at lunch one day and Maggie and I snuck in one last one before we had to check out.

I turned twenty-seven and had a little bit of an identity crisis which was, thankfully, short lived. My mentor Susan gave me the most wonderful birthday card that really spoke to my heart just when I needed it.

Abigail started piano lessons!

She's doing so well and practices so nicely. :)

Summer means random "Where are you? Wanna meet up for Sweet Frog?" calls to cousins. ;)

We do lots of arts and crafts together.

She's also taking swim lessons.

She really enjoyed our VBS this year.

The drama program was easily the most challenging one we've pulled off, but we pushed through and the cast did great! I'm looking forward to putting in on for the church in a couple of weeks.

Inspector Noclue and Flo

Inspector Noclue

The Chancellor and Hans

Our three secret agents, Casey, Jess, and Dresden. Ignore Jess's stocking feet; her boots hurt and we were just rehearsing ;)
 My poor damaged, dry hair was driving me nuts...

... so I cut it off! Love, love, love. So much easier to care for, so much cooler, aaand...

... I can wear it curly now. How awesome it that?!

The triplets have grown. (Solution: rolled up paper towels placed just above the doorhandle. They stiffen it just enough that little hands can't open the door.)

We spend lots of time outdoors, which I love!

Finally managed to get a picture of all four of us together...

... after multiple tries.

I had a really bad day, and one of my cast members made it better by showing me this:

A Sonic opened by our house and I am over-the-moon happy! I also discovered how to ask for a "mojito" slushie! Amen!

First pedicure in over a year. My feet thanked me! (This color is called "Eternal Optimist" and makes my heart happy. :) )

The green bean plant I started for the triplets has little tiny green beans growing! So cute! Can't wait to harvest them and feed them to my babies!

So, that's been my summer so far. I hope yours is going great too! :) I'll have dinner with my family, including shrimp and the pound of Conecuh sausage I brought back from Alabama. Then we're planning on watching the fireworks tonight from my uncle's boat (wish we could take ours, but we're not quite there yet) with some friends, so I chocolate-dipped some strawberries for the occasion. :) Looking forward to spending some time with friends and family!