4 Fantasticly Fun, Simple, Inexpensive, & Mouth Friendly Sensory Activities for Babies & Toddlers!

Hi All & Happy August to you!  For Love of Learning this week has been a crazy, but fun one, filled with babies, babies, babies, and lots of sensory play! It can sometimes be hard to find age appropriate activities for very little ones because they put everything in their mouths, which can be harmful. Each of these activities is totally baby (mouth) friendly in that way. Babies learn through each of their 5 senses and each of these activities engages each sense. What more could a baby ask for?! All you need for most of these activities is a plastic storage bin (medium or large) and some common household items.

Our first activity this week was one of the most simple, and one of the most engaging.

What You Need: A Plastic Bin, Cornmeal, Toys from Around the House

What We Did: Fill the bin with cornmeal and throw in a couple of baby’s favorite toys. Voila! The cornmeal feels like sand and baby will love to sit in the bin and play.

When You’re Done:  Put the cornmeal in a Ziploc and it becomes a sensory bag!

Our second sensory activity of the week was edible paint!  It was so much fun & the babies loved squishing around in it!

What You Need: Water, Flour, Food Coloring, Vanilla or Kool-Aid, Paint Brushes (large) & Sponges (large), and a Roll of Kraft or White Paper.

Recipe:  You need 1 & 3/4 Cups water to 1 Cup flour.  I did about 4-5 batches at once.  Bring water to low boil, then add flour (can be gluten-free flour if your child has an allergy).  Stir until thick.  I left it somewhat lumpy for texture.  Then separate into jars and food coloring to each jar.   For smell I added a few drops of vanilla to each jar, but would have used Kool-Aid if I had any on hand. Lastly get out a few paint brushes, sponges, and brown paper if you have any. I just laid the paper on the deck. afterwards it washes right off.

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Our third sensory experiment of the week was a little messy & gooey, but great fun!

What You Need:  A Plastic storage bin,  Cornstarch, Water

What We DId:   First, I sat the baby in the storage bin (in a diaper only) and poured the cornstarch on his legs and feet.  I let him play in the dry cornstarch for a while , then began to add little bits of water.  This way he can see what water does to the texture.  I let him play for a while with the gooey cornstarch water mixture.  When he was done I fille the tub completely with water and let him play in that.  It was really 3 sensory experiences in 1!

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Our last sensory activity for the week was definitely my favorite, and was really the most unique experience of them all.

What You Need:  A Storage Bin, 2 Boxes Fettuccine Noodles, Water, Food Coloring, 4 Ziplock Bags, oil

What We Did:  Cook Noodles and separate into 4 large Ziplock bags,  I added a little oil so the noodles didn’t stick.  Fill the bags about halfway up with water.  Add food coloring and let them sit for a while to soak up the water and cool down.  Once cool dump out the water and put the noodles in the sensory bin.  Put baby in the sensory bin (in just a diaper).  Let baby explore!

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I hope You are able to enjoy all of these fantastic activities with your little ones!

5 Great Reasons to Read to Your Baby (Yes, From Birth!)

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It is a common misconception that because a baby cannot yet speak, and cannot understand what you are saying or reading to them, that a baby doesn’t need to be read to until they have a better understanding of language. In fact, it’s just the opposite! Reading to your baby is what is going to help them grasp their native language.

Another reason I have found many people choose not to read to their baby is because the baby seems more interested in grabbing the book, or trying to put the book in their mouth. This is perceived by parents to be a sign of disinterest. This is not true. When your baby gets to the stage of grabbing and putting EVERYTHING in their mouth you should let them play with the book for a few minutes before reading to them, and then when you begin to read, hold the book just out of grasp. This way baby will focus on the pictures and sounds. When you have finished reading the page, let baby touch it. Babies learn through all of their senses, so letting them touch and chew is still a great learning experience for them!

It may feel a little strange at first, reading to a person who doesn’t respond as you’re used to. However, reading to your baby from the beginning can help give them a great start, and a leg up. Here are 5 great reasons to read to your baby:

1. If you don’t read to your baby from a very young age, by the time you do start reading to them it will be very difficult to get them interested. The earlier you start the more likely it is that your baby will have a positive relationship with reading that will last throughout life.

2. It has been found that “Kids whose parents frequently talk/read to them know more words by age 2 than children who have not been read to. And kids who are read to during their early years are more likely to learn to read at the right time.” – Kelly Meyer, DO

3. Reading to your baby exposes them to the sounds they need to learn to be able to speak (they should have all the sounds necessary by age one). The more exposure they have to the language the better they will be able to speak.

4. Fostering social and emotional development in children is very important. When babies are read to they hear the emotions in your voice along with the many expressive sounds we hear in some of our favorite children’s books.

5. When you take the time to read to your baby/children it shows them that reading is something to be valued. You are teaching them that it is an important skill, and one that should be appreciated. When you are excited and joyful about reading, and you make reading time a time of closeness for you and your child, they will associate reading with happiness and positivity.

Here are a few books that are great for babies!

              Read to Me Baby PC: http://www.bookshopsantacruz.com/read-me-baby-tee-onesie

The Mark of a Good Childcare Provider & the Important Questions Parents Should be Asking

I have spent a good portion of my life learning about children, education, and all things childcare. I spent the last 13 years working with children in one form or another, however, as of yet I do not have any children of my own, so I have always been on the providers end of the childcare spectrum. Now, as I open my own childcare and begin to meet parents and their little ones who are looking for care, I have found myself thinking about what it must be like being on the parental end of the childcare arrangement. I imagine that choosing a childcare provider must prove to be a daunting and frightening task for many parents, especially if they have not had any educational experiences, or otherwise, in childcare. It is hard to know who to trust, what to look for, and what questions to ask, so I’m going to help you out! I am going to outline the most important questions that parents should be asking, as well as a few things to look for, when interviewing with a provider and touring their space.

1. The first and MOST IMPORTANT thing you should ask a home childcare provider or the director of a childcare center is how much early childhood education they have, and what the highest level of early childhood education their staff is required to have. Many people who work in childcare centers are young and aspire to be educators. A childcare center is a great place to learn and gain experience while they complete their college education. These people are often motivated, energized, and want to do a great job because they love children. However, there are also many people working in childcare simply because it is a job, and generally this group does not have any early childhood education. This does not mean that they cannot be good providers or that they do not love children, and I’m sure some will disagree with this, however, in my experience education is the mark of a great provider.

2. The second extremely important question to ask (especially in large centers) is: “What is the provider to child ratio?”. For infants and older babies the max ratio should be 2 babies to 1 caregiver. Obviously, 1:1 would be even better. For toddlers, the ratio should be 5:1. If there are more than 5 toddlers to 1 adult care becomes strained. For children over three years of age the ratio should be no more than 8:1, and as I said before less is even better. The most important aspect to this question is making sure that the center is being truthful. When you are taking a tour of the center you should do a quick headcount and ask about any discrepancies you see.

3. The third question that parents should ask is “What is your philosophy?”. This is more of a subjective question because something that I believe may be very important in a philosophy may not be as valued by someone else. I believe that a good philosophy is child centered vs. teacher centered, and that play should be a platform for learning. I also feel that a positive philosophy values each child as an individual and tailors care to each child’s needs.

4. Once the philosophy has been explained you should ask the provider how their philosophy is carried through in their curriculum. Ask them for a specific example of a literacy or math activity. Make sure to stick around a while and observe at least one activity to see if you feel the values that they are claiming to have are being carried through to the actual experiences that the children are having. This question may not seem important to parents who have babies right now, but it is, because knowing that the provider truly believes in something, and that they are making it happen is a very positive sign. You should also take into consideration that when you do choose a provider your little one will soon grow up to be taking part in their toddler and preschool curriculum.

5. The fifth thing you should ask about the providers visitation policy. A good provider will have an open door policy. You should be allowed to walk into the center at any time of the day to see and observe your child. Being able to check in at any time might help parents to feel more relaxed and confident in the care their child is receiving. I recommend going in to observe twice before putting your child into care.

6. The last thing that you should take note of is what type of materials they have in each room. This is not something you should ask the provider, rather it is something you should observe yourself. Are the toys age appropriate? Are there lots of materials for the children to choose from? Do the materials draw you in and make you want to play or do they appear lifeless and stagnant? You should ask the provider how often they get new materials and how often will materials be changed? These questions may seem odd, but many providers will have the same uninspiring, non imagination inducing, plastic toys in the same space for years and years at a time. Children get bored with that type of setup and it will hinder their play, which is the most important work that they do all day.

I hope that this little list will be somewhat helpful as you make your childcare decision!

Please visit http://www.loveoflearningchildcare.com and click on the link for parents for more information and resources to help you during the process. Best of Luck!