Traveling with a Toddler

In March we took back to back trips to see family. The first one was to Reno (via plane) and the second one was to Chattanooga (via car). We hadn’t flown with Gerrit since he was 3 months old. Needless to say, I was worried about it! So I thought I would blog about what worked for us, what went poorly, and what I would have done differently.

Reno

First up was our trip to Reno! I was very apprehensive about this trip, despite Andrew telling me I had to just relax. He likes to remind me that “we can’t just stay at home forever.” I am horrible about worrying things to death before they even happen.

I packed for Reno without a list. That’s a big deal for me! I think as Gerrit gets older, there are fewer things to pack, and obviously space is limited with air travel. And Andrew always tells me that “if we forget something, we can buy it there.” And it’s true… there are few things that we pack that can’t easily be purchased at our destination. So that’s #1: If you forget something, you can almost always buy it at your destination!

Thankfully we had an afternoon flight, so there was no major rushing around the day of our trip. We had to drive to Raleigh for our flight, which is about an hour away. I was hoping Gerrit would take a little nap, and he did… 15 minutes before we got to the airport. So typical of him, haha. He was awesome for everything leading up to the flight though: taking the shuttle to the airport, standing in line, going through security… anytime there’s a lot going on, Gerrit just wants to sit and watch everything and everyone.

20160315_123318Gerrit loved watching the planes! That was the best distraction while we waited for our flight.

Andrew is adamant about safety, especially on planes, so Gerrit had his own seat on the flight so he could use his car seat.

20160315_174510We tried to keep him entertained in there as long as he could, but he wanted to get out, so Andrew and I switched off holding him in our laps for most of the flight. We brought quite a few books to entertain him, since he usually likes books more than toys. My #2: Bring things they like! They worked for awhile, but a 5 hour flight is REALLY long for a 1-year-old. He wanted to nurse on and off, which wasn’t a big deal when he was a newborn. But at 16 months? Either his head or his feet were sticking out in the aisle, so we sat pretty scrunched up most of the time.

We had a layover in Vegas, I think, which was great for Gerrit to stretch his legs. Being in such a confined spot was hard for all of us! The last flight was short, and Gerrit slept for about 45 minutes of it. By the time we arrived in Reno, it was about 7pm there… which was 10pm back home. So Gerrit was going on about an hour total of sleep, poor kid.

You’d think that minimal sleep would mean more sleep at night, but that’s not how Gerrit rolls. That first night in Reno he only got 8-1/2 hours of sleep. We tried to keep him on a consistent schedule, but I really feel like any major disturbance for Gerrit shows up in his sleep. We did our best to do #3: Try to replicate home for sleep. We packed sleep sacks, our sound machine, a night light, his blankets, and Lamby. I don’t know if it’s just a different location or if he truly hates the Pack N Play, but sleep was still crap while we were in Reno. Maybe all the stuff we packed would have been enough to help the average kid, which is why I recommend trying to replicate home.20160317_181838Our flight back to North Carolina was early in the morning. Gerrit and I had had a particularly bad night with minimal sleep the night before, but he did sleep for a bit in the guest room bed while Andrew & I packed up. It was a long day though. My exhaustion did not make me a very happy traveler. I was literally falling asleep while reading books to Gerrit on the plane! I think he took two 45 minute naps all day (one of them being in the car on the way home from the airport).  We had a really rough night that night too. This is why I hate traveling! I love seeing family & friends; I love having fun with them. I hate that it affects Gerrit’s sleep so much.

So the next day, I did a bunch of laundry, then we repacked our suitcases for our road trip to Tennessee! The thing I like about road trips over plane trips is 1) flexibility with time, 2) no limits on what you can pack (you know… within reason!), and 3) you can stop as much as you want! But car trips are l-o-o-o-o-n-g. I usually end up in the backseat with Gerrit at some point to entertain him, so we pack a lot of books! Toys are great, but there’s only so much a kid can do in a car seat. I spent most of my time entertaining Gerrit with books and songs. I was SO ready to arrive at our destination.

At a rest stop on the way to TN

At a rest stop on the way to TN

So one of the biggest perks for us at the house my parents rented was that my little family got the master bedroom. And it had a king size bed. If you have never shared the bed with your toddler, you won’t really appreciate the space in a king size bed. But with Gerrit sleeping so poorly, I opted to bring him to bed with me when he just wouldn’t settle back to sleep in the Pack n Play. King size bed = enough space for us all!! I actually got some sleep with Gerrit cuddled up next to me. So here’s #4: If you tend to bed share, make sure you get a king size bed! It made nights so much easier for me, even when Gerrit didn’t want to sleep.

#5: Try to keep to your child’s normal schedule. When we were in Reno, this was tricky, because there was a 3 hour time difference. But Chattanooga was the same time zone as us, so that made it a bit easier to stick to our normal time frame for things.

Family photo on Easter

Family photo on Easter

It didn’t always work for us. For example, Gerrit napped on the way home from church on Easter, and he wouldn’t go down for an additional nap because of that. We also left the zoo early when we went with my family, hoping to get back to the house for Gerrit’s nap.

20160328_130731Unfortunately, he fell asleep in the car for 45 minutes and, once again, wouldn’t go down for an additional nap. Ugh… car naps! But a short nap meant that he had a good stretch of sleep first thing that night, so that was nice!

The trip back to North Carolina was really pretty: so many flowers and trees in bloom!
20160329_152606Gerrit took a good hour-and-a-half nap on the way home, but I still had a long afternoon of trying to entertain him in the car. I don’t feel like Gerrit eats like the average toddler (he doesn’t eat a lot and likes to nurse frequently), so do what you want with my #6: Try to keep his/her belly happy. For me, that meant nursing Gerrit while we drove. It’s kind of uncomfortable for me (you know, leaning over the car seat), but it keeps him happy and assures me that he’s getting something in his stomach. We tried Cracker Barrel (no luck with dinner) and Jimmy John’s (I think he ate a tiny bit), but Gerrit is just not a good eater, especially when we’re traveling. My recommendation would be to have favorite snacks packed and ready, and give them a cup of water to have available.

When we got home, we had a rough night! Gerrit fell asleep for 45 minutes in the car, and after we got home we hurried him through a bath and our normal bedtime routine. He had almost a 4-hour stretch to start, but lots of wakings after that. He had another rough night following that, but then settled back into a 3-4 wakings a night trend (which was good at the time).

What do I wish I had done differently? I wish I had just relaxed and been able to “go with the flow” a bit more. I get so worked up about Gerrit’s sleep that I miss out on fun things. I will always look back and wish I had not obsessed over this or that so much though. That just seems to be part of my personality, and it’s something I will probably always have to work on.

So good luck to you if you plan on traveling with your toddler. For us it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but traveling with kids never seems to be easy. I feel like it gets a bit easier as Gerrit gets older, but it’s never my favorite thing to do. It certainly hasn’t kept us from traveling all over and seeing family & friends though!🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Gerrit: 18 Months

Seriously, Gerrit is halfway through his 2nd year already?! This year is just flying by. I was so excited for him to turn one, since I love this age, but I feel like it’s kind of slipping away. I try to savor all the little moments, but, man, they go by so fast!

20160427_114134You’d think getting a good picture would be easier as they get older, but someone wasn’t particularly cooperative the day he turned 18 months!

Age: 18 months on 27 April 2016
Weight: 25.5 lbs
Height: 33.07 inches
Teeth: 11 with 1 more about to come through
Clothing Size: 18 months
Diaper Size: size 4 in disposables
Milestones: can say more words, although they are not always easy to understand; starting to do some ‘pretend play;’ can identify nearly every body part; beginning to understand emotions (he can sign “happy,” “sad,” & “mad” appropriately); beginning to understand time (first we will do this, then we will do that); can complete simple puzzles & shape sorters; shakes head “no” and nods “yes;” can pull off pants once pulled past his butt; dances; spins in circles; can throw, catch & kick a ball; can brush his teeth (rudimentary); showing affection/empathy

I feel like I need to expand on all of his milestones! Things Gerrit can say: Mama, Dada, Papa, Mimi, dirt, bird, ball, bubbles, bowl, no, baby, nose, elbow, Lamb, nut, blue, green, orange… I’m sure I’m missing some.  A lot of these are very rudimentary, and only I can understand him sometimes. But as soon as Andrew hears how Gerrit says something, he understands too. I’m so thankful Gerrit is patient with us, haha! I know some kids get really mad/frustrated when people can’t understand what they’re trying to say, but Gerrit is quite good about repeating himself and complying when I say, “I don’t know, Baby, show me.” I love how he tries to say “lemon” (I posted a video on Facebook), and his newest one that makes me smile is how he says “orange,” which I’m pretty sure is his favorite color right now.

Gerrit and pretend play? So freaking cute. I love his little truck and airplane sounds, I love seeing him kiss his stuffed animals, and I love watching him “cook” with his bowls and spoons. It’s just so much more fun to play with him as he understand more of what it means to pretend. One night, Gerrit was very busy making a puff ball concoction before dinner, and Andrew brought it to the table to include in our dinner (seriously, how adorable is that?!). So we had our dinner plus Gerrit’s “puff ball salad.” We all kept taking more helpings of it (including Gerrit asking for more constantly), and we all pretended to eat it, Gerrit included. We were impressed that he understood that we were just playing and that Gerrit “contributed” to dinner that night.

20160425_143755Gerrit knows so many body parts now: head, hair, forehead, nose, eyes, ears, cheeks, chin, neck/throat, arm, elbow, shoulder, armpit, finger, thumb, nipple, belly, belly button, penis, leg, knee, foot, toe, butt, tongue, teeth, nostril, back… he constantly wants to know what things are and likes showing that he knows what different body parts are. And he remembers everything! I think we talked about our nostrils one afternoon, and when Andrew asked Gerrit where his nostril was the other day (not knowing that I had showed Gerrit where they were), Gerrit promptly pointed out his own and ours. Smarty pants!

I was so impressed when I started seeing Gerrit use sign language for emotions. I know emotions are really tricky for toddlers, and I try to label emotions frequently to expose him to them. He has actually appropriately used “mad” when he was frustrated by something. That surprised me! He is starting to recognize emotions in others. Gerrit will give me a snuggle when I say I’m sad or show him that I’m sad. It’s so sweet. I have not seen a really terrible temper tantrum from Gerrit yet. I don’t know if that’s just his personality, or if it’s all my hard work and effort and being calm with him and trying to help him understand his feelings.🙂 If he hurts me (on purpose or accidentally), he’s quick to hug that area. He accidentally hurt my foot the other day (I think he dropped a book on it), and he gave my foot a hug… too funny. If he stomps on a stuffed animal, he then picks it up and gives it a cuddle. And did you all see my Facebook post about me singing “5 Little Ducks?” Oh my gosh, his tears when the sad mama duck goes out to find her babies just broke my heart! Emotions & empathy are tough things to learn, but I feel like he’s doing really well so far.

Sleeping: January (14 months) was a rough month. Things slowly improved in the sleep department in February & March, although we had some bad nights when we traveled, which is nothing new. Our worst night was 9+ wakings the night before we flew home from our trip to Reno. It was pretty rough! Eventually I just laid in the guest bedroom with him to get through the night. He was so restless; I don’t know if either of us got much sleep. Our best nights were 3 night wakings, which really isn’t great. But compared to the “bad” nights, I’ll take it!

On average, Gerrit got mostly 9-10 hours of sleep at night from 15-18 months. According to the experts, it’s really not enough, but it’s clearly all I could get from him at that time haha. Total sleep was 12-13 hours at 15 months but only 11-12 hours at 16 & 17 months. Seriously, when I read how much sleep kids are supposed to get at Gerrit’s age, I worry that he’s chronically sleep-deprived.

Naps… one thing that I usually don’t have issues with is naps. Gerrit normally gets at least a 2 hour nap, although he’s had some short nap days. When we traveled to Reno, Gerrit refused to nap on the plane, so that was almost a no-nap day. But in February, he also took a 4 hour nap! When this kid wants to sleep, he sleeps! Too bad it doesn’t happen very often haha!

Eating: Back and forth, back and forth… Gerrit eats well, then he goes through a few days or weeks of not eating well. It seriously drives me nuts. I wouldn’t necessarily call him a picky eater, because when he DOES eat, he eats almost anything. Sometimes I think it’s teething, sometimes I just don’t know.

Things we can normally count on him eating: scrambled eggs, fruit, pasta with sauce & meatballs, Goldfish crackers, and Cheerios. He used to LOVE meat, but now he is hit or miss with that too. Some nights he loves broccoli, other nights he won’t touch it. He’s done well with peas, carrots, and corn here and there, but nothing consistent.

20160407_200841Gerrit is still very actively nursing both day & night. This goes up and down as well. Sometimes I think, Wow, maybe he’s starting to wean! And then he goes back to wanting to nurse every hour or two. Sometimes I think he’s genuinely hungry, because he just doesn’t eat enough solids. Other times I think it’s primarily for comfort and affection. I do think the nursing increases when he’s teething, but giving pain reliever doesn’t seem to do much for him, so I guess nursing is what helps.

20160406_101209(Andrew took this sweet photo of us while we were sleeping)

Any night wakings are still dealt with with breastfeeding. I’m very back-and-forth on pushing Gerrit to night wean. My heart wants to continue waiting for him to do this on his own. My head tells me that this is really hard on my body. It’s hard on my body to not be sleeping enough for this long. So we’ll see what happens over the summer… stay tuned!

Mommy Update: I have good days and bad days. When Gerrit is sleeping better and eating well, my stress level is lower and I’m feeling pretty good. When things go downhill, I feel exhausted and frustrated. I get impatient and angry. But maybe that’s just parenthood!

20160402_175825A few weeks before Gerrit turned 18 months, I started working out. I was hoping the exercise would be enough to start losing some weight. When the numbers on the scale didn’t budge, I started making healthier food choices. Still nothing. I knew that it could be hard to lose weight while still breastfeeding, but I found out that it can be very hard to lose weight if you’re not getting consecutive hours of sleep at night. So for now I’m still working out, still making healthier choices… but I guess I won’t be surprised if I don’t see any changes for awhile.

20160330_195105

This momma turned 31 in March!

I also made the decision to start selling Usborne books in April! I’m still learning a lot and figuring out how all of this works, but Gerrit loves the books, and I love that I can get him and other kids access to them!

20160327_140128Best Moments: From now on I’m going to combine this with our Memorable Events (down below)

Likes & Dislikes: Gerrit really likes “helping” us. He likes helping us unload the dishwasher, and he is actually getting really good at remembering where everything goes. Although he started out not being very helpful, he actually does make the job go faster now! He also likes helping me vacuum (he’ll use the attachment I’m not using to vacuum the floor near where I’m cleaning), wash up spills on the floor, and do laundry (he tells me who each item of clothing belongs to haha).

20160304_185551He also loves being outside! It’s definitely one of his favorite things to do. He loves coloring with chalk, digging holes, making and playing with mud, splashing in any water he can find, and just exploring.

20160403_170528He loves the garden! We have to watch him to keep him from playing in the dirt, damaging any plants, etc, but I’m pretty sure he thinks that is HIS garden!

20160417_183101When he sees the little onion plants, he shrieks, “Bee-bee!” (baby) since I first told him they were baby onions growing in the dirt. He loves checking on the progress of the poblano peppers and the tomatoes, and he has learned which plants he can pick (salad greens) to sample from the garden. I hope we can always have a garden, because I think it’s a great way for him to learn about plants and growing your own food.

Gerrit dislikes coming in from outside, haha. Usually I have to suggest that we go in for some Goldfish to get him to agree to go inside without tears. He also dislikes getting his diaper changed. I don’t think he so much dislikes getting a new diaper, he just doesn’t want to stop what he’s doing to get changed.

Memorable Events: I feel like February was a pretty quiet month for us. The only “exciting” thing to happen was our switch to cloth diapers! I had wanted to use cloth when Gerrit was a newborn, but that time in our lives was super stressful. I was so overwhelmed with everything (breastfeeding, sleeping, my crying baby, preparing to move), that I thought adding in learning how to cloth diaper would just be too much. I told myself that once we got settled at our new home, I would give it a go. By the time we were settled into our house in North Carolina, Gerrit was nearly 6 months old. And I thought, Well, it’s too late to switch to cloth diapers now. How silly, right? I was talking to someone about how I wished I had cloth diapered Gerrit, and she said, “Well… why don’t you do it now?” So I bought some inexpensive diapers from Amazon and we gave it a shot!20160216_201102Overall it has been a smooth transition to cloth diapers. We get leaks occasionally because Gerrit has a tendency to “flood” (he holds his pee and releases it all at once, and the diaper can’t absorb it fast enough) his diapers once in awhile. But I’ve just gotten more diligent about checking for wetness so I can change him more often.

20160324_184612I have a good wash routine, and I’ve only had one little hiccup (we needed to switch to a stronger detergent) so far. We still use disposables at night, not out of necessity, but to get through the big box of size 4 diapers Andrew bought! Overall I am glad we switched: I love that we are not going through so many disposable diapers, I LOVE the cute designs, and I’m hoping it helps Gerrit with potty training when the time comes.

March was a busy month for us! In the middle of the month, we boarded a plane headed to Reno to visit Andrew’s parents. Traveling with a 1-year-old can be a little crazy, but our time in Reno was a lot of fun! Andrew’s parents LOVED their time with Gerrit and made some cute memories with him. Gerrit notoriously sleeps terribly when we’re traveling, so I slept in most mornings. But that was fine, because Gram & Gramps had a great time entertaining our little guy.🙂 Andrew’s mom got a lot of fun books and toys for G to play with, and Gerrit loved playing with Andrew’s dad on the pool table and exploring outside with them.

20160316_16142520160319_173515Another exciting thing happened while we were in Reno: Andrew found out that he was accepted into Officer Training School for the Air Force! He had applied earlier in the year, and it was great timing that he got the call from his commander while we were at his parents’ house so they could celebrate with us! He leaves for OTS this summer, and we will be packing up to move again sometime this fall.

Right after we got back from Reno, we unpacked and repacked our suitcases to drive to Tennessee to spend time with my family for Easter! It was a little hectic having back-to-back trips, but I figured if Gerrit’s schedule was going to get off track, might as well just keep it off track, right? My parents rented a house that would accommodate all of us coming in from out of town not far from their house. It was great! The house we stayed in had lots of room for the kids to play, a nice kitchen with a dining table that could fit all of us, and enough beds for all of us and our kids. Plus it was out in the country, so it was quiet (minus the frequent trains passing by haha) and pretty with all the plants blooming.

20160326_200354

Rub-a-dub-dub, 3 babies in the tub! Gerrit, Lexy, & Nolan

Easter morning

Easter morning

The day before we headed back home to NC, we went to the Chattanooga Zoo with all the kiddos.20160328_123633 I feel like the zoo was just the right size for Gerrit (and toddlers in general): we saw lots of animals, but in only took a couple of hours to get through the whole thing.

20160328_130731It was a fun outing with my mom, sisters, nephews, and niece! The weather was pretty much perfect that day too.
20160328_135628As you can see, we’re still getting a lot of use out of the ring sling. Gerrit still loves it, and gets excited anytime I tell him to “go get the sling” so I can carry him around with me.

I think the memorable part of April was getting outside! The weather was beautiful, and Andrew spent a lot of time building raised beds for a garden in the backyard. Gerrit wanted to help with all of it, of course, but he really just enjoyed being outside.

20160403_17262420160413_112053Gerrit would stay outside all day if he could! We’ve gotten him a slide and some outdoor toys. We’ve also gotten him some plastic gardening tools to play with.

20160407_163851Of course the beautiful weather quickly moved into hot weather. I got Gerrit a little sprinkler to play with, but he’d much rather let the water turn our yard into a muddy swamp than run through the water!

20160425_163222
So that wraps up months 16, 17, & 18! Gerrit continues to grow and learn, and we love watching him figure out new things. He is becoming quite the handful (toddler terror!), but he is also very sweet and loving. I love that I am still able to be at home with him, and I try to cherish all the special moments we have together!

20160427_114104

Happy 18 months, Gerrit! We love you, you silly boy!

 

 

Our Favorite Sensory Activities

Gerrit was a high-needs baby. He needed to have something occupying his attention almost all the time, and he got bored with toys fairly quickly. One way I found to keep him entertained was by making him “toys” and doing sensory activities with him.

Around the time Gerrit was 6 or 7 months old, I started noticing that he was really interested in sensory things. I think this may have been the age that he started seeming more interested in his touch-and-feel books, but I honestly can’t remember. I just know that this was around the time that I started busting out all my “teacher” activities, haha! I had been itching for Gerrit to get to the age when I could start doing some more interesting things with him, so I didn’t waste any time once he started sitting on his own and moving around a bit.

When we lived in England, I spent some time working at the child development center on the base we were stationed at. I worked in a few different classrooms, but all of them were the pre-toddler age group (12-24 months of age). It was not the age I wanted to work with initially, but I grew to love it. I even got to be the lead teacher in one of the classrooms, which was really fulfilling. I was sad to leave that job, that’s for sure! Anyway, we did a lot of different sensory activities with our kids, and I really got into planning fun things for the little ones to do and explore. Needless to say, I was eager for Gerrit to get closer to that pre-toddler age so I could start having some fun!

1. Boxes

I don’t know why, but kids love boxes. My mom tells me about one birthday or Christmas when I unwrapped a gift and gleefully exclaimed, “It’s a box!” I didn’t even care what was inside. I still love boxes. I have a bad habit of saving them to re-use. Usually they get used for shipping gifts to people, but now I’m always thinking of ways to use them for Gerrit.

Sensory Box
I already knew that Gerrit liked his touch-and-feel books, so I decided to expand on that and make him a sensory box.

20150615_162742It’s just a large-ish box that I wrapped in colorful wrapping paper. I covered all the edges and corners with packaging tape, since I knew they would get chewed on eventually! Then I just looked through the house for different textures. The ones you can see in picture above are the green mesh from a bag of limes we had purchased and some fine grit sandpaper. I’m pretty sure the side he’s playing with is bubble wrap — his favorite! The other three sides had a piece of felt, some rubbery material meant to help one open jars, and a plastic baggie filled with gel (aloe gel, although I was looking for hair gel). I ended up covering the entire plastic baggie with packaging tape since Gerrit loves to use those sharp little fingernails on everything.

Ribbon-Pulling Cause-and-Effect Box
I made this box before Gerrit really knew how to use it, just to have it ready for him. I think he (at nearly 10 months) started realizing that when he pulls one end, the other end gets shorter.

Inspecting his ribbon box

Inspecting his ribbon box

I have a pretty large supply of craft items on hand (including ribbon of various widths), so this was a fairly quick project. All I did was punch holes in the sides and top of the box with some sharp scissors and push the ribbons through. I used a crochet hook to help get them through on the opposite side, then knotted the ribbon as many times as I needed to to for it to not go all the way through no matter how hard I tugged on it. I made sure I varied the lengths of the ribbons to give some variety to the box. Then I taped the box closed and covered the edges and corners with packaging tape.

2. Finger Painting 

Mess-Free Painting
I think I found this idea on Pinterest. I was hoping it would encourage Gerrit to tolerate Tummy Time a bit longer, but it didn’t really work, haha.

20150427_162611This was simply a piece of paper with some dollops of finger paint placed inside a gallon size zipped plastic bag taped to the floor. He was mildly interested in this. Gerrit has always enjoyed standing, so I moved the bag to the window to see if he’d be more interested.

20150427_163119He was… for a few minutes. Eventually I just took it down and gave it to him to play with:

20150427_163947Like everything else, it ended up in his mouth. But that was fine, since everything was in a plastic bag. He enjoyed moving the bag around, hearing the plastic sound, and moving the paint around. Even though he crunched and squeezed the heck out of it, we still got a nice finished product:

20150427_170007It was the first piece of artwork to go on our fridge, and it was made at only 6 months old! I used to let Gerrit do this activity occasionally until he was about 9 months old, but that’s when he started losing interest.

Edible Finger Painting
I’ve seen several different recipes for edible finger paint, but the quickest and easiest for me was to use infant rice cereal. Plus we already had rice cereal on hand that Gerrit had no interest in eating, so I needed to figure out how to use it up!

Finger painting with colored rice cereal

Finger painting with colored rice cereal

Here’s what you need for this one: rice cereal, food coloring, water, container for paints (I used a muffin tin), and a cheap white plastic tablecloth.

I had the idea to use a plastic tablecloth because it wouldn’t get saturated like paper, Gerrit wouldn’t be able to tear it and eat it, and it would be an easy clean-up! In the picture above, I had taped it to the backside of a waterproof blanket for some padding for us to sit on and, again, easy clean-up.

The thing with rice cereal is that while it’s really not nutritionally significant, it’s also not bad for your baby to eat. I didn’t even know if Gerrit would want to eat it, since he wouldn’t eat it when I tried to feed it to him as cereal! But, of course, since it wasn’t presented as food, he needed to try it! The other thing with rice cereal is that you can change the consistency of it. Add as much or as little water as you’d like to get the thickness that you want.

This is obviously not a piece of artwork you’re going to keep and hang somewhere. But I do try to get a picture of the finished product just for the memories.🙂

Regular Finger Painting

So once you trust your baby/toddler with regular finger paint, be prepared for things to get messy! But you can offer finger paint in a variety of ways:

  • Sensory
    – Finger paint on wax paper
    – Finger paint on felt
    – Finger paint on aluminum foil
    – Finger paint on bubble wrap
    – Finger paint on sand paper
  • With objects
    – animals/dinosaurs: let your child make footprints with their plastic toys on paper
    – sponges: kitchen sponges, sea sponges, make-up sponges, kitchen scrubbers, etc.
    – plastic shapes
    – fly swatter
    – cotton balls/pompoms
    – toy cars
    – balls (roll them within a high-sided container)

3. Sensory Bottles

Sensory bottles are great for a variety of ages. You can make them very simple for babies and tailor them to your child’s age as they grow. Gerrit’s first sensory bottle was just a half-full water bottle that I put a few drops of green food coloring in. He loved it!

Chewing on a sensory bottle

Chewing on a sensory bottle

The plastic was thin enough that he could squeeze and crinkle it for fun sounds. He could gnaw on the covered end. He could shake it, roll it on the floor, and tip it any which way. What an inexpensive and entertaining toy, huh?!

Since Gerrit enjoyed that green sensory bottle so much, I started thinking of new items to put in bottles for him. We took a trip to Michael’s for some craft items, and I got to work during nap time.

20150822_16102520150822_161138

The things I used are beads, little rubber bands, pipe cleaners, pompoms, water, and some baby shampoo.

There’s baby shampoo in the bottle with the rainbow beads so when Gerrit shakes it, it gets bubbly.

Side note: Gerrit is currently 17 months old, and still really enjoys the bottle that has the baby shampoo in it. He brings it to me to shake up, and just loves all the bubbles it creates!

Gerrit’s favorites are still the bottles that are made of thin plastic, because he loves to squeeze them and hear them crunch and crinkle. I haven’t made any bottles in awhile, so that it probably going on my to-do list!

Other items that I have put in bottles (not pictured) are water with vegetable oil and food coloring and popcorn kernels (makes a fun shaker!). Basically the things that are great for infant sensory bottles are items you don’t want them to play with… things they can choke on, things that are messy, and things they could hurt themselves with (like pipe cleaners). At Gerrit’s age, I haven’t had to seal the bottles yet, but you really should close them securely with super glue or hot glue.

Not wanting to make sensory bottles? Just give your child empty bottles to play with!  I also wash out and remove labels from other containers for him to play with. His favorites are a plastic cornstarch container, a parmesan cheese container, and the container his puffs come in.

4. Fine Motor Activities

Now that Gerrit is older, I’ve come up with some fine motor activities that he really enjoys. The first one was

Large Bottle with Opening

All I did was cut a wide opening in the bottom of an apple juice bottle and cover it with duct tape. When Gerrit was younger, he would push pompoms through the top of the bottle. When he had that mastered, I gave him clothes pins to drop through the top opening. He always seems to enjoy a bit of a challenge.

Parmesan Cheese Container

I offered Gerrit a Parmesan cheese container and straws cut to about 3″ length. It’s great for dropping the straws into the holes, and they can shake out the straws from the other opening. Another idea is cut-up pipe cleaners, but they do have sharp ends to watch out for.

5. Large Bin Activities

“Sand” Play

When Gerrit was a baby, I did not want him playing with sand, only because I knew he would try to put handfuls of it in his mouth. An alternative? White corn flour. It’s very fine, so be careful about your baby’s eyes, but it’s a fun alternative to sand play.

20150604_171900Water Play

I think kids of all ages love water! When Gerrit was really young (like 6-8 months), I put water in a walled cookie sheet for him to play with with a few toys.

20150503_154517

Once he was sitting on his own, I would put water in a bowl with toys or put him in an under-the-bed storage box filled with water as a tiny pool for him to splash and play in.

20150531_145238

 

 

 

 

 

 

Noodle Play

Noodles are fun! They are squishy, edible, AND they hold food coloring! I’m sad to say I only did this with Gerrit once: I dyed elbow macaroni with food coloring and let him play with it with bowls, spoons, and measuring cups. He had so much fun with it!

 

I am sure I have more ideas, but I wanted to get this published sooner rather than later. I need to dig out more photos to add to this post, but just picture an adorable bald-headed boy having fun with a sensory activity.🙂 I hope to follow this up soon with a Sensory Activities Part 2 Post!