Star Box Play for Baby

I love Pinterest almost as much as I love Instagram. With Pinterest, I can type any of my thoughts into the search engine and inevitably someone, somewhere has come up with an activity or craft that matches my thoughts! Recently, I was trying to find ideas on how to use a cardboard box to entertain babies (strange, I know) and came across CanDo Kiddo’s stargazing box.

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This is so simple to make, yet so entertaining for the little ones.

Supplies: A cardboard box, Christmas lights, a knife, and packing tape (if your box isn’t already put together).

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Steps: Put the box together and place it on it’s side, cut “X”s with the knife in different parts of the box to make holes for the Christmas lights, poke the lights through the holes, and voila! It’s ready for cuddly baby amazement.

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In addition to entertainment and attention building, CanDo Kiddo also recommends this activity for babies who prefer to turn their head to one side. My husband and I had been noticing our baby preferred to look to her left. By strategically placing the lights on the right side and top of the box, we encouraged her to bring her head to the center and turn to look to her right. Success!

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The stargazing box is also a great motivator during tummy time.

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I trialed tummy time in the box to see what she would do. When I placed her on her stomach in the box, it was the highest I had seen her lift her head! Now all I need to do is position the lights to the back of the box for her to bring her head to the center!

Have fun!

An Outing to the Topiary Garden

An outing to The Topiary Garden is a unique experience filled with many opportunities to enrich and expand your child’s language abilities. A topiary garden is a garden in which the shrubs and trees are trimmed into ornamental or life-like shapes. The Columbus Topiary Garden can be found in The Old Deaf School Park, which is tucked behind the Main Branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Library in downtown Columbus. It features a one-of-a-kind artistic recreation of a world-renowned painting.

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As you head in to the park, you’ll find the topiary garden in it’s center. The garden was designed in 1989 by Columbus artist James T. Mason to recreate George Seurat’s 1886 painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte (pictured below). It is the only garden of it’s kind in the world and is free to the public.

 

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To begin your speech activity with your little one, look for the “As He Saw It” marker in the middle of the park on a hill overlooking the topiary garden. There you will find a plaque with an imprint of Seurat’s painting. From that spot, you have the perfect vantage point to can compare the painting with the topiary garden.

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After you have compared the two works of art, go explore the topiaries up close!

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To add in the language skills with your child, use the following guided language activities while you are there:

Talk!: While you are exploring the topiary garden, describe what you see and ask you child questions to initiate a conversation (e.g. “Look, this girl is holding an umbrella,” “Are these people sitting or standing?,” “There are three boats in the water,” etc.).

Matching: To do this, print a copy of the painting to take with you or use the plaque located in the park. Using the print out or plaque, identify a person or animal in the painting and help your child match it to the corresponding topiary. This will take some imagination! The topiaries lack the detail of the painting so you will have to discuss with your child how they should look at the size, shape, and position of the corresponding topiary in order to match it to the person/object in the painting. Once you have made a match, you can then discuss how they are the same and how they are different (i.e. the shape of the animal matches, but the they are different colors).

Spatial Concepts: Build your child’s understanding of prepositions (in/on/under) by talking about where the topiaries are located (e.g. “They are in a boat,” “They are sitting on the ground,” “They are standing under a tree”).

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No trip to this park would be complete without a picnic lunch. There are picnic tables spread throughout the park for your family to sit or you can spread out a blanket out under a tree. When I’m there, I like to sit in the grass and pretend I’m one of the people in the painting spending a lazy afternoon relaxing outdoors. I’m sure your child would love to play make-believe during a lunch at the park, as well.

FYIFriends of the Topiary Park is a nonprofit organization created to support and promote the park. It hosts a variety of events at the park throughout the summer. Next up, is “Topiary Park at the Movies” on Friday, September 25th. The family event is free and features an outdoor showing of the film “The Secret Garden” at 8 p.m. under the stars. With summer coming to an end, there are only a few more events left in the year. Follow this link for more information regarding the entire slate of events at the park.

Happy exploring!

What Can Baby Smell?

Recently, I was thinking about my baby’s sense of smell. I was wondering: How developed is her sense of smell? What can she smell? Does she have any scent preferences at such an early age? Of course, I took to the Internet to do research during one of our late night nursing sessions. With the help of everyone’s good friend Google, I found an informative website that provided insight on a Newborn Sense of Taste and Smell

From this website, I learned that newborns initially learn the most about their environment through taste and smell, not through vision and hearing. Newborns can even recognize the smell of their own amniotic fluid. Research has shown that newborns have such a keen sense of smell that they can recognize the scent of their own mother’s breast milk within the first week of life. Familiar smells can calm a baby (mother/breast milk), while strong, unpleasant smells (perfumes) can make the baby turn his or her head away.

With this in mind, I put together a simple smelling activity to do at home with my baby. Introducing babies to a variety of smells supports the development of their olfactory systems. For my in-home experiment in scent, I chose a variety items with distinct and strong smells that I could hold up to her nose to gauge her reaction. I was looking for her facial expressions: smiling, frowning, turning her head away, etc… This little girl did not disappoint!

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Cinnamon Sticks: By far her favorite! I held the cinnamon stick under her nose and she smiled with joy.

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Orange: Not a huge fan. The citrus smell caused her to grimace and then turn away.

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Basil: Not so much. When I held the basil under her nose, her bottom lip went into “pout mode” in preparation for the waterworks. (Don’t worry. I quickly removed the offending scent, and she returned to her lovely, baby self.)

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Lemon: Meh??? She liked the lemon smell better than the basil, but it didn’t elicit quite as big of a reaction as the orange. (Perhaps, she was in olfactory overload by then.)

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Baby and I had a great time doing this activity. This activity can be done with babies four-weeks-old to four-months-old (and older!). If the first time you try it you’re not noticing much of a reaction; don’t worry. Just wait a week and try it again.

When you do try it for yourself, here are a few tips…Be sure to expose your baby to language while you do the activity. Don’t hold the objects up to him or her in silence. Explain to your baby what you are doing (e.g. “This is a lemon. Let’s smell the lemon together!”). Once your child reacts to the smell, you can comment on the reaction (“Oh, you didn’t like the lemon! Was the smell too strong for you?”). Remember, your baby is watching you while you talk and taking in everything you are saying.

My baby and I had so much fun experimenting with different smells. It was great watching her different facial expressions and preferences begin to emerge! We hope you enjoy this activity as much as we did.