Using Imagery to Calm an Overstimulated Child

posted in: Parenting | 2

If you do an web search, you’ll probably find a plethora of links about imagery and visualization, techniques to calm and focus your mind, etc. Images, whether real or visualized within the mind, really can help anyone to get to a calm state.  And since I specialize in images, I thought it was fitting to share this with you — as October is Sensory Processing Awareness month.  All kids have sensory needs — and use their senses to process and understand the world as it relates to them.

I’m not an expert in sensory processing (what is sensory processing?), nor do I have a child with a sensory processing disorder, but regardless, I wanted to share five tips that I’ve found helpful when my toddler gets overstimulated and need calming (not all related to imagery directly, but worth sharing regardless).

Using Imagery to Calm an Overstimulated Child - BPhotoArt.com

A cluttered environment can be overwhelming for anyone.  I’m not just talking physical clutter, such as toys and “mess.”  I’m talking lights, sounds, even smells.  It can lead to that feeling of needing to “get away” or escape, or inability to function at full capacity.  White noise or background chatter can become overwhelming when trying to focus on a specific task.

Have you ever felt the overwhelming need to step outside, to get somewhere quiet so your mind can focus?

I know I have.  And physically removing yourself to a location isn’t always an option.That’s when calming techniques can come in handy.  What techniques have we used to find that “calm” and peace?

  • Deep breathing – belly breaths are great for grounding yourself.  Your gut should expand and contract as you breath, and it can help to focus in on how much air you can push in and out of your lungs.
  • Visualization – sometimes it helps to close your eyes and imagine/pretend you are somewhere else.  Some place that you find calming.  Maybe picturing a waterfall in your mind.  This can be tough for kids to get the hang of at first, but more on that in a bit.
  • Finding a visual anchor – if you’ve ever been seasick, you may be familiar with the advice to fix your eyes on the horizon.  It’s an anchor, a constant… something that is not moving when everything else is not still.  Find something to fix your eyes on, a visual anchor, something that can help you to feel grounded and become calm.
  • Look at a picture – for kids who have trouble seeing pictures in their minds, looking at an actual picture or photograph can be a good calming tool.  The type of picture will depend on the child.
  • Physical touch – hugs from a loved one can be reassuring and grounding.  Have you ever just needed to be hugged and held?  When someone’s arms encircle you, there is a certain calmness and strength that passes from your comforter to you.

It’s been interesting to teach these techniques to my toddler.  Interesting, but helpful.

Deep Breathing Techniques:

Deep breathing can be demonstrated.  “Here, breathe with me.  In… out…. in… out…”  My toddler will visibly calm down as he focuses on matching my breathing.  You can even invite your child to put their hand on your belly to feel it rise and fall as you breathe.  Or suggest they watch their own belly go in and out.  Focusing on the repetitive action will help take their minds off being overwhelmed and redirect it to something they can control.

Thoughts on Visualization:

The art of visualization is more difficult to teach, but we’ve talked about using our imagination, pretending to see something with our eyes closed, and the like.  Asking my son to “remember” a calm place can be helpful too.  I remember reading in a parenting book about an exercise where you talk about a scene that is all white: “the white snow falling outside, sitting in a white room on a white couch, etc.”  The repetition of a calming color can be useful.  Scenery with water can be very calming too (waterfalls, rivers).  Sometimes my son will visualize the letters of his name  as they hang on the wall of his room.

As a kid, I remember squeezing my eyes shut as tight as I could, and “seeing” patterns.  Try it.  Look at something, say a light, for 5-10 seconds and then close your eyes.  You’ll have something to “look at” even though your eyes are closed. Patterns of light and dark.

It all depends on the individual as to what is calming.  You might find something by trial and error.

Visual Anchor Ideas:

Sometimes there is something in a room that you can focus on — a clock, a light, something stationary. Maybe looking out a window at nature could help if the indoor environment is too stimulating.  The visual anchor doesn’t have to be immovable — it just needs to help your child zone in and concentrate on getting calm rather than continuing to become stressed.

You could also make a “calm down” jar (like this LEGO Calm Down Jar), or a “find it” jar for your child to use.  The simple act of rotating, twisting, and turning a container to look at its contents can be a great visual activity for some kids.

Tips for Looking at a Picture:

Sometimes looking at a serene landscape or peaceful beach photograph can be helpful.  I know that when I’m stressed, photos such as these will help me to become more calm.  But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.  Some kids may respond to images of nature, others may do better with a picture of their family.  Perhaps a book with pictures would be more helpful for another child.  Even those “find it” style picture books (Where’s Waldo #afflink, anyone?) may work, as they require concentration and may redirect attention, helping your child to become calm.

Notes on Physical Touch:

Depending on the child, offering hugs or any sort of physical contact may or may not work.  If a kid is “touched out” they will likely get more stressed from a hug or being held.  But sometimes kids are in need of the physical contact of a hug.  I haphazardly discovered that my toddler would misbehave when he “needed me” — so after a series of hugs and loving talks, I urged him to tell me “I need a hug” rather than getting out of control…. or to ask for my help in calming down.

In the weeks since that discovery, I will open my arms and offer a hug, or remind my son verbally that he can ask for a hug if he needs one.  Sometimes that’s all it takes for us to put an end to things.

Wrapping Up:

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that all of these tips will NOT work for all kids. No two children are alike, and it’s a never-ending process to determine what works for your own child.  Plus, what works one day may not work another.

A child’s sensory system is under construction, so to speak.  Connections are being made, and sometimes kids get overstimulated — they need to calm down, to refocus.  Focusing on the different sensory aspects may help a child calm down, remember to communicate physically only as appropriate (e.g. hugs) and verbally when needed.

Do you have tips for helping kids cope with their emotional and physical reactions?  Ideas for getting beyond physical communication to verbal communication?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors: “Why Does My Kid Do That?”

This post is part of the Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors series. Over 30 bloggers have written posts about classic childhood quirks and how sensory needs may play into them. All children have sensory needs, and these posts will help you understand your child better, regardless of whether their sensory needs are typical or severe.

Additionally, Project Sensory is another resource you may want to check out.  Their mission is to help grow a community that supports all children in their every day lives, whether they have a sensory processing disorder or not.

A Toddler’s Money Bank

posted in: Parenting | 2

Every kid becomes interested in money at some point. I’m not sure when Toby started carrying coins around in his pockets, but the kid has a great eye for spotting spare change. Over the years, we’ve acquired several money banks, including a few family “heirloom” ones. But realistically, they weren’t all that practical for holding money. Who really wants to fish money out from a tiny hole in the bottom of a ceramic pig, anyways?

So, with practicality in mind, I came up with an idea for a toddler-oriented afternoon of fun. Toby would get to design his own money bank!

Money Bank Materials

As you’ll see, we didn’t need to buy anything for this project. Everything was scrounged from around the house.  But, just in case, I’ve linked to Amazon (#afflinks) for your convenience:

Making the Money Bank

As is the norm for us, the project was pretty open-ended.  I covered the counter with saran wrap, set out supplies, and let Toby have at it. He wanted to wear his smock for part of the project; I didn’t complain.  While he painted the sides of the container, I made sure the lid area was covered with saran wrap (so it could still be opened for removing money later).  I cut some shapes out of paper for Toby to stick on, decoupage style.

Once Toby declared the sides complete, we moved on to the top.   He wanted to glue shapes on the top… no problem.  Then I cut out two slots – one sized for a quarter, the other sized for a penny.  This is where I used the knife — making sure toddler hands were safely out of reach.

Wait, two slots?

Yep.

Sure, you can use one slot for everything, but what fun is that?  Toby was thrilled to have coin-specific slots.  (Hint, don’t try to make one for a dime, it’s practically the same size as the penny and isn’t worth your effort).

Once the money bank was dry, I screwed the lid on, and gave it up for toddler testing.  After a few minutes of coins being dumped out by an excited child, I handed the bank to my husband to have him super-tightly screw on the lid.  We can still get it off, but my toddler doesn’t have the arm power to open the lid and dump money everywhere now.

Not so fun for him, but more practical for everyone. Particularly baby brother and the cats.

See some photos of our project below.  Click on an image to enter gallery view mode.

Related Resources

Martin Luther + Katherina von Bora Puzzle

posted in: Parenting | 4

In honor of Reformation day (okay, a bit early), we made a Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzle!  You can see the how-to blog post over at In All You Do, as well as learn some more about Martin Luther — the ex-monk, who married an ex-nun.

I love how easy it is to make photo puzzles like this, …well, painting puzzles, in this case!  All you need is a printer, some paper and cardboard, a glue stick, and a good pair of scissors.  Depending on your child’s age, you’ll have an eager assistant for some of the creation process.

Toby was thrilled to help glue the paper to the cardboard.  Since his scissor skills aren’t quite there yet, I did that portion of the project.  Then we had fun putting the puzzle together multiple times.  Toby’s favorite section of the puzzle was Katherina von Bora — possibly because “she’s a mama” …or because her picture had more details and was easier to assemble.

Head over to In All You Do to read more about this project, learn more about the Reformation, and even download a free printable to make your own Martin Luther and Katherina von Bora puzzles.

Click on an image below to enter gallery view mode.

3 Reasons Mess Making Is Ok

posted in: Parenting | 2

I’ve never been one to keep neat when being creative.  As a child, I came home from school with paint all over myself — my mom probably lost track of how many outfits I ruined.  I’ve been lovingly called “messy Betsy” on more than one occasion — worrying about keeping clean would just hamper my creative process.

Now, as a parent, I’m revisiting the relationship between messiness and creativity.  My older son cares a lot about “keeping clean.”  So I will frequently remind him, “it’s ok to be messy, we can clean up when we’re done.”  It’s not that I’m unappreciative of his desire for cleanliness, but that sometimes focusing on keeping things neat diverts your attention from the creative process.

This came to the forefront of my mind when I invited Toby to help me paint some cabinets I’d acquired.  We were prepared to be messy — painting clothes, drop cloth, paper towel, you name it.  As we painted, Toby enjoyed himself to no end.  But I had to catch myself a number of times as I felt the urge to keep things neat.  “Don’t let the paint drip… Stop getting so much paint on your paintbrush…. don’t get paint on me… you have paint in your hair…” My attention was on managing the mess instead of having fun with the creative process of painting.

I had to chuckle at myself, because Toby was a picture of messy creativity.  He was thrilled to be helping mom with an important project, excited to use big paintbrushes, and just as messy as I was in childhood.  I’m grateful I was allowed to be messy — and I want to afford him that same opportunity.

So, with that in mind, here are several tips to help you release your inner child… or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker.

1. Creativity is messy sometimes.

As I just mentioned, we sometimes try to split our attention between creativity and keeping clean.  But, if you’re worried about keeping from making a mess, part of your attention will be distracted from being creative. To do your best work, to tap the depths of your creative resources, you need to get past that need for being neat, and accept that sometimes… creativity is messy.

Extending this to kids – let them make a mess!  Before painting, have them put on clothes you don’t care about.  Take the project outside so that you don’t have to stress out about cleaning up afterwards.  Use materials that won’t leave a permanent mark behind.  Don’t interrupt your child’s creative process just to remind them to “be neat.”

2. “Coloring outside the lines” isn’t a bad thing.

Maybe it’s from our schooling, or maybe it’s from a desire for outside approval, but we frequently try to stay in the box when it comes to self-expression.  Coloring books galore send subliminal messages that you need to use a certain color, and stay within the lines provided.  You have to get past those restrictions, the rules.  Free your creative mind from the approved “lines.”

3 Reasons Mess Making is Ok. Tips to help you release your inner child... or to encourage you in as you parent a little mess maker. - Betsy's PhotographyIf your kid doesn’t want to color “the right way” …what’s the big deal?  My toddler doesn’t like to color in coloring books.  He’ll cover the pages with elaborate swirls and patches of color, or put splashes of color over the faces on a coloring sheet.  But that’s the extent of our coloring within the lines.  There doesn’t have to be a “right” way to color, it’s the process and the self-expression that we really want to encourage.

3. Making messes teaches responsibility.

On a related note — it’s only by making messes that we learn to clean up after ourselves.  If we keep things ship shape for our children, there’s no opportunity for them to learn what happens if things get a little messy, and how good it can feel to clean up after ourselves.  By teaching that responsibility goes hand in hand with creativity, we can help our kids to get beyond the mentality that cleaning up after ourselves is an inconvenience.  Just like encouraging your kids to help clean house is a skill that will benefit them later in life, picking up after oneself is an essential life skill.  By letting your kid make a mess, you can teach and educate during the clean up phase too.

More Resources on Being Messy

I’ve collected a few posts about being messy, or doing messy activities, that you may find enlightening.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

And, here are several messy art projects that may prove helpful for you as you explore the relationship of messiness and creativity with your kids. These links will open in a new window too.

Do you have any tips or ideas for cultivating messiness (as it lends itself to creativity or other beneficial processes)?  I’d love to hear them.

Frank Asch Inspired Popcorn Bars (GF, Refined Sugar Free)

posted in: Parenting | 2

Frank Asch Inspired Popcorn Bars - GF, refined sugar free - bphotoart.com

While this problem doesn’t usually occur when we make popcorn, every so often, we do have leftovers after popcorn night.  And when we do, I’m reminded of the Frank Asch Bear Book: Popcorn #afflink.  In the story, Sam, little bear invites his friends over for a Halloween party and everyone brings popcorn kernels.  They dump all the kernels in a big pot… and needless to say, they make a lot of popcorn.  So much, in fact that the house gets filled up.

Popping corn? Great idea.  That much?  Nope.

The story culminates with Sam and his friends eating all the popcorn to “clean up” the house.  As you can imagine, they we’re really keen to eat more popcorn anytime soon.

So back to the topic of our leftover popcorn.  The other day, when at the grocery store, I had a hankering for rice cakes.  Sadly, they were all out.  As we got home and were putting away groceries, I got to thinking — What if I could make popcorn cakes?  Well, a recipe search online yielded nothing but desserts in that category, so I switched to looking for popcorn snack bars.  Most of the recipes used refined sugar, which I can’t have.  So I asked my toddler, Toby, if he we should make popcorn bars… and he said “yes!”

I like to pair activities with books, so of course we decided to make popcorn bars and read Frank Asch’s book while waiting to eat them.

 

Popcorn Bar Recipes

After an extensive hunt for a recipe that used honey or something other than refined sugar to make popcorn snack bars… and here is what I came up with! I used several recipes as inspiration (see below), but ultimately ended up improvising — something I seem to do in the kitchen a  lot lately.

So, what ended up going into our popcorn bars?  Obviously popcorn, but then I ended up using a combination of honey and peanut butter as a binder to hold the bars together.  For those with peanut allergies, another nut butter, or even a seed butter, could be used interchangeably.

We ended up with two variations, one that is more like a Rice Krispie treat in concept, and another that is more like a snack bar.  The nutty sweetness came through much more strongly in the treat version;the snack bar version held together better but the popcorn’s presence was muted.

Before starting on our recipes, we first made popcorn using our Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper #afflink.  Toby loves this thing.

Then, it was time to get cooking…
bphotoart-popcorn-bars-0550

Peanut Butter Popcorn Treat

 

  • 8 c. popcorn (plain)
  • 3/4 c. nuts
  • 3/4 c. dried fruit
  • 3/4 – 1 c. honey
  • 1 1/4 c. nut butter

Combine the popcorn, nuts, and dried fruit in a large mixing bowl (we used one with a lid so it could be shaken later).

Heat honey and nut butter (in microwave or on stove) until runny; stir until well combined. Pour over top of popcorn mix, put lid on bowl, and shake well for a minute or until well coated.

Using a spatula, spoon out into a greased baking dish — size will depend on desired thickness of the bars (we used a 9×13 pan and a 11×9 pan). Cover top with parchment paper and press mixture down well.
Put into oven at 350 for 10-20 minutes.
Let cool, then cut into bars and serve or store.
bphotoart-popcorn-bars-0554

Peanut Butter Popcorn Snack Bar

  • 8 c. popcorn (plain), crushed
  • 3/4 c. nuts (we used pumpkin and sunflower seeds)
  • 3/4 c. dried fruit (we used raisins)
  • 3/4 c. honey
  • 1 1/2 c. nut butter (we used peanut)
  • 1/4 c. flax seed
  • 6 T. butter
  • 1 c. kefir
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 T. coconut flour
  • 1 t. salt

Combine the popcorn, nuts, dried fruit, flax/date paste in a large mixing bowl.  Heat honey, nut butter, and butter (in microwave or on stove) until runny; stir until well combined.  Pour over top of popcorn mix, combine thoroughly.

Using a spatula, spoon out into a parchment-lined baking dish — size will depend on desired thickness of the bars (we used a 9×13 pan and a 11×9 pan). Cover top with parchment paper and press mixture down well –  we used a meat pounder to tamp it down… very fun for my toddler.  If your little one helps, put a small cutting board down so you don’t end up with deep pits in the bars.  Put into oven at 350 for 13 minutes.  Remove, press/tamp down again.

Let cool; break into pieces.  Beat egg well, add kefir.  Coat popcorn pieces with egg mixture, add coconut flour and combine well; spread into baking dish.  Bake 20 min at 350 F.  Cool, cut into bars and serve or store.

Taste Testing + A Verdict?

Well, our first batch looked delicious while cooling.  So delicious, in fact, that my toddler called both of his grandmas to invite them over for popcorn.  However, these bars were a little fragile; they crumbled easily. Our second version held together better, but it was more of a general snack bar rather than a pocorn bar.  If I were to try things a third way, using ground flax seed as binder, like in this popcorn granola squares recipe… might have been a good choice.

But, like Sam in Frank Asch’s Popcorn book, I’m sick of popcorn …bars.  We did a lot of taste testing and I’m calling it quits for the day.  Regardless of how our kitchen experiments turned out, someone had fun in the kitchen.

Halloween Read and Play Blog Hop

This post is part of an AWESOME Halloween Read and Play Blog Hop.  Make sure to check out the other book based activities from fantastic bloggers!

Halloween Books with extension activity ideas (link to book on Amazon in parentheses, #afflinks).  Links below will open in a new window for your convenience.

Some other Halloween books:

50 Things You Can Do With Your Toddler While Caring For Your Newborn

posted in: Parenting | 13

As mom of now two boys, there are days when I’ve reached the end of my creative rope, so to speak.  It’s not that I’m overwhelmed, but that I’ve run out of ideas for keeping my toddler engaged while caring for a newborn at the same time.  Activities with lots of prep work just don’t cut it.  Sure, I can put something together during my newborn’s naptime… or maybe do some prepping the evening before, but it’s really just easier to do something that doesn’t require a lot of planning.

With that in mind, below you’ll find a list of 50 things you can do with a toddler while caring for a newborn.  But first, let me list several books that you might want to have on hand if you’re not one to go clicking on links when you need an activity. I love having books like these on hand! Click on any book title below to visit the page’s Amazon listing via my affiliate link — these have all gotten rave reviews!

Seven Books for Busting Boredom

  1. Busy Toddler, Happy Mom: 280+ activities that will keep your toddler’s attention, using things that are easy to find and inexpensive.
  2. 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids: activities that stimulate creativity and imagination, no electronics!
  3. The Toddler’s Busy Book: 365 creative activities and games that use items found around the home.
  4. The Arts and Crafts Busy Book: 365 creative activities that are easy to put together
  5. Project Kid: 100 Ingenious Crafts for Family Fun: projects and basic DIY tutorials to help build a DIY arsenal
  6. 101 Kids Activities That Are the Bestest, Funnest Ever!: activities for kids of any age that will keep kids from being bored
  7. 99 Fine Motor Ideas for Ages 1 to 5: activities to keep little hands busy (and practice fine motor skills)

books-toddler-activities

50 Easy Activities for Toddlers

50 Things You Can Do With Your Toddler While Caring For Your Newborn - Betsy's PhotographyAnd now for that list of 50 things you can do with your toddler.  No complex prep work, no hours of setup. Easy ideas for when your toddler needs a reprieve from boredom. {links open in a new window}

  1. Nature Art – all you need is a box and some “findings” from the great outdoors (nuts, seeds, plants, flowers, etc).
  2. Sculpture Activity With Cardboard Tubes – get creative in sculpting with curved pieces cut from cardboard tubes.
  3. Have Your Toddler Help With New Baby – five ways your toddler can be a big helper.
  4. Smoothie Bottle Bowling – pull those empty bottles out of your recycling bin and save them to use as bowling pins.
  5. String Painting + Printing – experiment with the effects of paint on string.
  6. DIY Sticker Seek + Find – a homemade matching game that will be sure to entertain.
  7. Play Flashlight Games – what kid doesn’t love playing with flashlights?  I know mine is a fan.
  8. Play Outdoors – it’s easy to find ways to entertain a toddler outdoors.  We often just “explore” …and find neat things.
  9. Clean House – toddlers love to clean.  Might as well have that energy be productive.
  10. Seaside Sensory Bottle – sensory bottles are great for calming and entertaining.
  11. Autumn Tree Craft – there’s nothing better than a craft you can pull together in minutes.
  12. Letter Recognition Game – all you need is a deck of aphabet cards and some floor space to play.
  13. Outdoor Photo Scavenger Hunt – have a camera?  Take a walk and see what you can photograph.
  14. Strawberry Planter Pom Pom Drop – pom poms are very entertaining for toddlers, especially when dropping into something.
  15. Painting With Flowers – flowers make great paintbrushes — and clean up is easy.
  16. Slime Sensory Bag – have hair gel and a ziploc bag?  You can do this activity.
  17. Sock Mopping – gross motor skills and cleaning all in one, your toddler will have a blast.
  18. Stacking Cups – not speed stacking, but toddlers love to stack and unstack things.
  19. Snow Sensory Play – if it’s snowy out, there is no better entertainment than a pile of snow with some kitchen utensils.
  20. Egg Carton Train – egg cartons are often on hand, might as well turn one into a cool train.
  21. Water Wall Painting – this activity is great for outdoors.  No clean up required.
  22. Spider Web Discovery Basket – really quick and easy activity, if you can find a spare laundry basket.
  23. DIY Reverse Kerplunk – if you’re a fan of the game kerplunk, you have to try making your own.
  24. Prism Play + Chalk Art – prisms cast cool colors.  Learn about light and trace the colors.
  25. Train Track Bowling – bowling is fun (and easier?) when you can use a train track to keep “on track.”
  26. Go Apple Picking – get outdoors, pick some fruit.  Fun activity, and good harvest for snacking later.
  27. Coin Drop – kids love putting money in banks.
  28. Pre-writing Tray – use cornmeal, salt, or another sand-like item to make a surface for drawing shapes and the like.
  29. Leaf Threading – make a necklace or garland out of leaves from your backyard.
  30. Simple Play With A Ramp – have cars and a piece of cardboard?  You can do this activity.
  31. Painting With Nature – fun activity using different items from nature to apply paint to paper.
  32. Make a Discovery Basket – a list of 150+ things you could use to make a discovery basket.
  33. Balloon Badminton – all kids love to hit balloons up in the air — and your newborn won’t get hurt if it bounces off baby.
  34. Mailing Thank You Notes – give your kid a paper and some markers, and you can send off some lovely thank you drawings.
  35. Make Spicy Paint – use spices and water to paint on paper.
  36. Animal Trackers Club – get a membership to a monthly “club” …your toddler will be excited and entertained when each package arrives.
  37. Gel Paint Mixing Experiment – mixing colors is always fun, and pretty easy to set up.
  38. Sensory Play With Jello – if you have gelatin and water, you can make jello.  And edible sensory play is always fun.
  39. Carpet Doodles – use different toys to make transient doodles in your carpet.
  40. Edible Sand Play – if you have stale bread, you can make tgis “sand” …great for a construction sensory bin.
  41. Toddler Sewing Basket – put together a basket of todder-safe sewing items.
  42. Playdough-filled Balloons – the sensory aspect of squeezing and squishing these ballons is sure to be a hit.
  43. Bird Watching – put out a bird feeder and wait to see what birds stop by.
  44. Stirring and Mixing Free Play – get some miscellaneous kitchen ingredients, let your child loose.
  45. Build a Great Blanket Fort – forts are a surefire way to entertain your toddler.  Perfect spot for playing or reading.
  46. Milk Gallon Clothespin Drop – provide long lasting entertainment with this simple activity.
  47. Masking Tape Roads – if your toddler likes cars, you have to check this activity out.
  48. Read Books – reading is an easy way to give your toddler attention when you are tired or stuck on the couch.
  49. Cooking With Toddler Made Simple – if you have to be in the kitchen, here are some ways your toddler can help.
  50. Cuddle Time – often toddlers just need “mommy time.”  Cuddles can do wonders for any big brother or big sister.
  51. Grow Pea Seeds in Jello – learn about nature and seed germination with this quick project that will last for days.
  52. Create a Childrens’ Garden – while this takes time to set up, once you have a garden your toddler will love “working” in it.
  53. Magnifying Glass Exploration – observe and explore your environment with a magnifying glass.
  54. Play With Bathtub Paint – what better place to get messy than in the bathtub?  Clean up is so easy.

Looks like we got a few extra!  Oh well, the more, the merrier.

So, there you have it.  50+ things that you can do with your toddler while caring for your newborn.  Some require a little more hands-on help from mom than others, but hopefully this list can help get those creative gears turning for you.  I know that sometimes one activity will morph into another at our house.  So maybe this list is even exponentially longer!

Letter Recognition Game

posted in: Parenting | 0

Toby knows a lot of his alphabet, but we’re still working on letter recognition. So, this summer we spent some time out on the deck playing a letter recognition game. It also incorporates gross motor skills, which was great for getting out that extra energy my toddler has on any given day.

I stumbled across this game idea when sorting through some of the resources that were included in a hand-me-down “learn to read” kit. The kit came with a playing card sized deck of alphabet cards — but also with a set of jumbo cards. These things are huge. And what was neat? The cards have the uppercase letter on one side, and the lowercase letter on the other.

So, I had Toby distribute the cards on our deck randomly — all uppercase letters facing up. Then, I called out a letter and had him find it. Toby had a great time running to the letter, jumping on it, and then flipping the card over to reveal the lowercase version. We ran into a few snags on round two, when there was confusion between the “p” and “d” lowercase cards, but that became a learning opportunity to discuss letters with similar shapes.

Letter Recognition Game - Betsy's Photography

This game was easy to get out, easy to pick up, and lots of fun.  I love games that help with life skills and learning to read.

Letter Recognition Game - Betsy's Photography

Letter Recognition Resources

Letter Recognition Activities + Crafts

Letter Recognition Games

Writing + Spelling

Our Experience With the Animal Trackers Club

posted in: Parenting | 2

Our Experience With the Animal Trackers Club - Betsy's PhotographyWhen I was growing up, I have fond memories of waiting for my monthly subscriptions to several kid magazines to come in the mail.  Filled with fun facts, craft ideas, and a neat pull out poster, these magazines were the highlight of the afternoon after the mailman stopped by.  Now that I have kids, I was pleasantly surprised to learn about a similar, but “better” subscription service for kids.

Enter Animal Trackers Club.  It’s a monthly subscription program designed to help children become engaged as they learn through creative play, hands-on projects, and other learning activities.  Animal Trackers is for pre-readers and beginning readers (3+).  For older kids (6+) who are already reading, there’s a partner company, Space Scouts.  Both of these clubs deliver a monthly package to kids for $11.95 per month (plus $3 shipping).

Each year, the Animal Trackers Club visits a new habitat.  The introduction box introduces the habitat and includes a lunchbox for storing all the components your child will receive in the mail.  For review purposes, we received a complimentary “introduction” box, as well as the “zebra” box in the mail.

Toby was beyond thrilled to receive his Animal Trackers Club package in the mail.  He gleefully unwrapped everything in the package, opened the zebra components, and tested everything out.  The zebra mask was a big hit (although the sounds emanating from the zebra’s mouth sounded more like a lion).

Since then, Toby has brought his Animal Trackers Club lunchbox out on multiple occasions, playing by himself with all the “special things” that are stored inside.

While he didn’t immediately take to the zebra craft (using Magic Nuudles #afflink) for more than a few minute — this has been a long lasting activity for Toby.  He will spend a couple minutes every day putting more magic noodles on the paper.  I love how long this kit has kept his attention!

Learn more about everything you get with your Animal Trackers Club subscription.

Disclosure: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest review.  The opinions expressed here are my own.

5 Things to Include in Your Newborn Photos

posted in: Parenting | 0

It’s always a debate whether you should include accessories in newborn portraits.  Babies are so adorable to begin with… you don’t *need* to add anything else.  But, if you wanted to add some finishing touches, here are my suggestions.

5 Things to Include in Your Newborn Photos - Betsy's Photography1. Baby Blanket

If you have an heirloom baby blanket that is special to you, I definitely suggest including it in your infant’s portraits.  There is nothing more adorable than a baby sleeping on (or swaddled in) a blanket that was handmade by someone dear to you.

2. Handmade Items

By that same token, anything handmade …with significance to you… will add meaning to your portraits.  I try to stay away from clothing items, because they will usually mask the cute little newborn folds of skin, but hats and booties?  Those are accessories that won’t hide how tiny your baby is as a newborn.

3. Cute Diaper Covers

If you cloth diaper, you probably already own some diaper covers with cute patterns or ruffles.  If you’re using disposables, be aware that there are many neat bloomers and covers that can cover the diaper area and be a little more visually appealing than a plain disposable diaper.

4. Heirloom Baby Items

If you have any family baby heirlooms that have been passed down through generations, these can be really nice to include in portraits.  For instance, I have a silver baby rattle that was mine, and probably my mother’s before me.  heirloom baby items like this add so much meaning to a portrait.

5. Headbands or Bows

Over the next weeks, you’ll see some of these in a few sessions… but for now, you can take a peek at the headbands I got.  Aren’t they cute?  I am particularly fond of the yellow one.

Getting Ready for School

posted in: Parenting | 0

This week my son starts preschool. He has been excited since he overheard us talking about whether to do preschool this year or wait another year. We have his backpack ready to go (complete with a DIY decorated name tag), tuition check, change of clothes, all the stuff is set. We’ve been to parent orientation. He’s been to the meet and greet. His teacher is wonderful, the classroom is great.

bphotoart-first-day-preschool-0304

Are we ready? Surprisingly, yes. I think this will be great for him.

Toby’s Favorites

Before school, we ate lunch and I asked him some questions …figured it would be nice to pair with his first day photo!

What is your favorite color?
I like white and red and black, like a super hero!

What’s your favorite animal?
I like all of them. Black like a bull. (like a cowboy rides?) and they buck him off. I’m a bucking bronco, I buck people off my back.

What’s your favorite part of the playground?
The sandbox.

What do you think will be the most fun about school today?
playing in the bounce house (there’s not going to be any bounce house) …… (silence)

Lunch today?
cheese stick, hard boiled egg, sour cream, cherry tomatoes

He was a little nervous about starting school, but I reassured him it would be just as fun as Sunday School, Moms + Tots, etc.  He got himself all ready for school (clothing, shoes, etc), and then off we went.

Off To School

the-kissing-hand-harperOn our way there, we talked about The Kissing Hand #afflink, which is an adorable book about Chester the raccoon, who is sad to leave his mama for school, but she shows him the secret of “the kissing hand” — which will allow him to take his mama’s love with him wherever he goes.

Once we arrived at school, there was no fear, just excitement.  He showed me his hook, hung his backpack up, found his nametag all by himeself, and went into the classroom after saying hi to his teacher.  I pulled him back to give him a kiss (because he’d made me promise in the car to give him a kissing hand, per the book).

No looking back.

And I’m not sad.  I love it.  It’s great to see him grow.  Take a peek at the photos below, including the backpack nametag that Toby colored this morning.  The classroom photos aren’t from today — they’re from orientation.  I decided to experience today, aside from the first day snapshots of Toby.

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

Be Ready for School Picture Day (8 Tips!)

posted in: Parenting | 2

As school starts back up, one of the annual rites of passage, aside from the obligatory “first day of school” snapshot, is school picture day.  After all, these photos end up being handed out to relatives, friends, and schoolmates… and don’t forget those yearbook spreads either.  School picture day isn’t a day you want to forget.

That being said, I remember one year, in middle school (or was it elementary?), that school picture day snuck up on us.  By us, I mean my mom and I.  Neither of us had it on our radar.  I didn’t do my hair, get dressed to the nines, or anything.  I vaguely remember feeling silly as I stepped up to sit on the stool for my photo — sporting a half ponytail and my yellow soccer jersey.  To top it off, the photographer mixed up backgrounds, so instead of whatever I’d requested, my school picture faux pas is forever commemorated with a purple background.  Gotta love it.

So, what words of wisdom do I have to share for you… so you can be ready for school picture day?  I’m going to skip “don’t forget” (because that’s a given), and move onto some more helpful tips.

Be Ready for School Picture Day with These 8 Tips - Betsys Photography BPhotoArt.com

1. Practice smiling.  Teens already know how school picture day works, but younger children are new to the process.  I remember hearing about how one of my nieces told her mom (after school picture day): “I didn’t smile.”  Yearbook photographers have limited time to interact with the kids they’re photographing, and the whole process may leave your child feeling rushed (not to mention caught unawares).  I still remember the drill.  Wait in line with your order form.  Step up to the “box” made from tape on the floor, sit down, smile for the camera.  Lights flash.  Seconds later, you’re done.  By practicing smiling, you can have a better chance of that evasive on command smile showing up in your child’s school pictures.

2. Go with tried and true hairstyles.  Don’t get a new haircut the day before, or try a new hairstyle you’ve never attempted.  While it won’t be the end of the world, school pictures are really a capture of your child as they are that year… doesn’t it make more sense to have a haircut or hairstyle that is actually representative of your child, as my toddler would say, “in real life” ?

3. Do a clothing check.  If your kid is messy and has a good chance of spilling on the shirt before photos happen, maybe a patterned shirt will be more practical.  But generally, busier shirts detract from the face (especially once you add in the background).  For older kids and teens, make sure the shirts fit well, and aren’t too revealing.  Here’s a good guest post about dressing modestly for senior portraits — the concepts can be extended to picture day for younger grades as well.

4. Reminisce with your kids.  What better time to pull out your old yearbooks (if you still have them) and laugh about all the clothing trends, big updos, or glasses that kids wore “in the old days” …right?  In the very least, it may reassure an anxious child about the fact that school picture day is not something to stress out over.  Being able to laugh at yourself is a really important life skill — take it from Roy Rogers!

5. Avoid glitter.  This stuff often shows up in photos looking more like dandruff than sparkles.  And while sparkles are fun — no one wants to look snowy.  Stay away from glitter makeup or hairsprays for school pictures.  You won’t regret it.

6. Glasses are fine, but pass on the transition lenses.  I’m not sure how many kids who wear glasses actually have transition lenses, but if you do — leave them off for the picture.  They don’t photograph all that well. Aside from that, glasses won’t be a problem. Professional photographers know how to make sure there will NOT be any glasses glare.  Speaking of glasses, I remember one of the Babysitter’s Club books where the protagonist had to get glasses and was embarrassed at first, but then decided to “own” it and wore both sets of glasses for her photos.  Whatever floats your boat, right?   all seriousness, though, if there is something your kid feels will make school picture day be easier for them, it may be worth it to oblige.

7. This is a good day for bribery.  Yeah, I’m not one for bribery, but I know it works.  If it’s important to you that your kid smiles, or that you avoid the dreaded retake day, then make a deal with your kid.  Good pictures?  Reward.

8. Schedule a real portrait session.  Let’s face it. Some kids just don’t open up well with less than a minute in front of the camera.  You may prefer to hedge your bets on something that will produce those genuine expressions.  Plan a yearly portrait session with your favorite photographer so that you can document your child’s growth …with pictures you know will be great.

Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear them.  This will be my toddler’s first year of preschool, so it will be interesting to see how things go for him.  Here’s one of my first school picture days (I think).

Baby Photos With White Eye Instead of Red Eye Might Be Cancer…

posted in: Parenting | 6

So, you’re probably familiar with red eye …it’s that pesky red dot that appears in photos when you use the on camera flash. Red eye is normal — the flash is reflecting off your retina.  What’s not normal, though, is if a child’s eyes look like a cats — “white eye” instead of red.  It could actually be the sign of a serious medical condition.

white eye
A child with a white eye reflection as a result of retinoblastoma. By J Morley-Smith (talk).Morleyj at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
I recently learned about “white eye” while at my pediatrician’s office for a newborn well visit. To paraphrase my pediatrician:

Do you know how sometimes you get red eyes in photos? If you ever see a photo where a kid has a white eye, they need to see their doctor right away to make sure it’s not cancer

I did a little research, and learned there are a number of serious eye diseases that can cause this white eye glow instead of red eye in a flash photo. There are two main ones:

  • Retinoblastoma (a rare childhood eye cancer)
  • Coats’ disease (a disorder where the blood vessels in the retina develop abnormally) .

You can learn more about retinoblastoma at Daisy’s Eye Cancer Fund page: What to Do Next.   You’ll find information on when there is cause for concern, and if the appearance of white eye in a photograph might simply be the flash capturing the optic nerve (usually if the white eye is an isolated occurrence). Retinoblastoma is pretty rare (11.8 cases per million kids, ages 0-4); if it’s caught early enough, it can sometimes be treated without vision loss. However, as Heather, one of my readers, pointed out:

Retinoblastoma cannot always be treated without vision loss no matter how early it is detected. Sometimes it develops in the womb, and by the time the baby is born, it will already have progressed too far. It will depend on the size and location of the tumors.

So, vision loss might not be avoidable, but the sooner it is diagnosed, the better. According to the awareness campainn, Know The Glow, it’s important to take immediate action, but usually pediatricians do screen for these sorts of diseases at infant well visits:
Baby Photos With White Eye …not Red Eye? Might Be Cancer. - BPhotoArt.com

If you believe you see a glow, you should obtain a referral immediately to a pediatric ophthalmologist for diagnosis and treatment. Pediatricians can easily screen for Coats’ Disease, Retinoblastoma, and a host of other serious vision disorders using a simple red reflex test. This test is generally performed by a child’s pediatrician at a well-child exam, preferably within the first two months.

So, there you have it.  This information was new to me, and I thought it was too important not to share.  I’ve included a few links below, including one where a family friend spotted this white-eye effect in photos of a young girl.  The earlier it is treated, the better the prognosis.

White Eye Resources

“Normal” Red Eye

I culled my archives looking for a sample of “normal” red eye, and finally had to resort to taking a new photo.  Guess I’m good at avoiding red eye for some reason ;).  Must be my photographic training.  So, that being said, here are my intentionally created red eye snapshots. {click on an image below to enter gallery view mode}

Red eye is typically more pronounced in individuals with blue eyes rather than brown.  Interesting tidbit, no?

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

posted in: Parenting | 2
Today I’m welcoming Emma from Adventures of Adam! The snapshot below has special meaning to Emma because of what she had to go through to have her son. In a moment, she’ll be sharing her story with you.

After a very difficult pregnancy, during which she suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), Emma vowed to make every day an adventure. Her blog is the outcome of completing a 100 day play challenge with her toddler as part of that promise. On her blog, you’ll find HG-friendly play activities that require no preparation, do not involve smells or food, and are easy to clean up. These activities to allow moms suffering from HG during pregnancy to still enjoy playing with their children.

— Betsy

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy
35 weeks suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum
245 days of vomiting and suffering from nausea
Over 2,200 tablets taken
1 month in hospital
Countless medical tests
Pre-eclampsia

This is what it took to get this photo of my son, Adam.

Adventures of Adam - Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum - BPhotoArt.com

I had never heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) until I was 7 weeks pregnant and found myself unable to function. I was vomiting 20-40 times a day and unable to go about my day-to-day life. Nothing would stay down. I would eat an ice cube and seconds later bring it right back up again. Even the mention of food made me vomit.

HG completely took over my life and has changed my view on so many things. It is such a debilitating and all consuming condition; it robbed me of everything. I was unable to have any type of life, lost my independence due to needing full time care, and became dependent on my family and medication to keep me alive.

As if that wasn’t enough the isolation and misunderstanding of the condition made the vomiting harder to deal with.

My Breaking Point

Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, I was at my breaking point. It was weeks since I had eaten anything substantial and it was a constant battle to keep any fluid down.  After talking to a midwife, I was introduced to the world of “ketones” – a word that every HG sufferer dreads. Excessive ketones in the urine indicate that the body is not using carbohydrates from food as fuel and is subsequently trying to break down fat as fuel. Having ketones is a sign that the body is beginning to operate in starvation mode. I was severely dehydrated and admitted to hospital where I spent an entire week on an IV drip.

It took several lengthy hospitalizations to reduce my ketone levels and find a combination of medicines that reduced my vomiting. I was still sick frequently, but I was starting to retain some fluid.   Despite the improvement, Hyperemesis never leaves you; even when the sickness was controlled the condition still took over my life.

I felt dizzy all the time, was left confined to my couch with no energy and unable to prepare food myself. The nausea was unrelenting and felt worse than the sickness. My sense of smell was heightened so much that I could not stand the smell of my own husband and couldn’t go near him without vomiting. I couldn’t go into our kitchen due to the smell and I was unable to wash myself due to exhaustion. I couldn’t cope with noise, light, heat or movement. The only thing I could do was lay still and wait. This state continued on for me, week after week, month after month.

Adam’s Birth – And Relief from Hyperemesis Gravidarum

As soon as Adam was born the May 2nd, 2012, the vomiting stopped. I no longer felt nauseous and wasn’t reaching for the sick bowl. Still, recovery has been a long process. Because I was bed ridden for so long, my muscles didn’t  work well; oedema worsened the problem. The emotional impact of my condition resulted in my having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum Support Networks

When Adam was 7 weeks old, I found out about the Pregnancy Sickness Support (a UK charity). It’s unfortunate I didn’t learn of it sooner.  The UK charity is the only one supporting women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum; it provides a telephone helpline, a national peer support network and educates healthcare professionals treating the conditions.

I have volunteered for the charity for two years.  I now administrate their online forum for sufferers and survivors, and have recently become a trustee.

For International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day I created this video (mobile version):

For those in the United States, the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation is a worldwide network of HG survivors, and a great resource for information on HG. The Hyperemisis Education and Research Foundation is dedicated to helping hyperemesis sufferers (and surivors!) and to finding a cure for HG. and its complications.

— Emma

Other Articles on Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What About You?

The last article listed above, by the Syndey Morning Herald, mentioned 70% of pregnant women are affected by nausea and vomiting — and up to 3% of pregnant women experience HG. It also discusses how Charlotte Bronte suffered from HG and did die from the condition according to The Life of Charlotte Bronte (#afflink) by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Have you had acute morning sickness?  Do you know someone who survived HG?  I’ve love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

posted in: Parenting | 4
I love the title of today’s snapshot series – freedom really does ignite a love of learning! Join me in welcoming Andrea of Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries. She is married with two kids, two dogs, and two cats. Andrea is also a certified Aromatherapist, Herbalist and has a B.S. in Natural Health Sciences; she homeschools, cooks and gardens in the foothills of Western North Carolina.

Thank you Andrea for sharing this wonderful memory that displays the love of learning you’ve cultured in your children!

— Betsy

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning - Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries @ BPhotoArt.com

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

Every time I look at this picture I smile; I think about how lucky we are that our children have the freedom to learn without countless constraints. Now, that does not mean there aren’t rules and expectations, but they are given the chance to “let go” and to see where the day may take them.

This happened more often than not when we lived high up in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Since we homeschool, we thought our five acre tract of land that housed many animals (for instance bears, snakes, raccoon, bobcats and several species of birds) would be a special place to educate them.

Mud Alert

The day this photo was taken, we were in the midst of a study on weather. Each morning the children would take out their weather journals, document temperature, wind velocity, snow fall etc.

On this particular day the rain was falling especially hard.  We decided to collect water in several types of vessels to see how quickly each would fill up and to measure how much water we could capture. The containers filled rapidly and the yard began to look like a muddy pond. That’s when the decision was made to throw on winter garb and slide down the hill in our yard!

Granting Freedom to Learn

Now most mothers would be apprehensive about their children sliding downhill into the woods, let alone allowing them to put on ski wear to do so, but I was all for it. I helped them suit up and off they went — for hours.

Sliding down the hill turned into mud pie making, dredging the yard to construct streams, digging a hole that swiftly turned into a small pool, and of course the day would not have been complete without a good mud fight!

After several hours of fun it was time to come in, clean up and have a hot cup of tea. I sat there watching the two of them measure the water they collected and laughing continually as they discussed the day’s adventures. I beamed with satisfaction at the thought that this day would be one they would remember forever!

— Andrea

Have you cultivated a love of learning?

Are there times you’ve been intentional about letting your kids think outside the box in order to cultivate a love of learning?  Did you cringe inwardly or was your inner child thrilled at the prospect of engendering freedom?

I’d love to hear your stories, to know if you have a memory like Andrea’s that sticks out in your mind as one your kids will remember fondly in years to come.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

posted in: Parenting | 14
Today I’m welcoming Michelle from Divas With A Purpose. She’s here to share about living life to the fullest and how silliness is a must. You’ll also learn some simple ways for embracing your divatude (read on for more explanation).Michelle blogs regularly about inspiring and encouraging women in their personal and professional lives. You can connect with her on Facebook or sharing glimpses of her world on Instagram.

— Betsy

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

This little bugger is my youngest son. I have this snapshot posted on my vision board as a reminder to smile and remember the fun, silly moments of life.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness A Must - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

My pregnancy with him was rough – emotionally and physically. I was miserable and depressed the majority of my pregnancy. It hurts to say that now but there were many a nights that I cried myself to sleep. There was so much turmoil going on in my marriage, my career and my overall outlook of life. The moment I first laid eyes on him – I was overcome with emotion. I am sure I am not the only mother who wondered throughout their second pregnancy how her heart could possibly love a second child as much as their first. I quickly learned it was very much possible and came quite naturally.

While I was home on maternity leave with my son, my passion for writing returned. It had been years since I had truly been motivated and inspired to write anything. I had let life bog me down and extinguish the passion that I had for the written word.

“What is it that you stand for? When your name comes to mind, what do others think of? Is it something positive or negative? Is it what you’d want your legacy to be? Is it what you’d want your children to pass on to their children’s children? If not, what are you doing to change that?”

I believe in living life to the fullest. Life happens – the good, the bad, and the in between. Some of it we can control and some we just have to roll with the punches, regroup and continue to press forward. The silliness that you see in this photo – it brings a smile to my face many a day. It reminds me to not let life pass me by.

As a mother, I strive to embrace my divatude on a daily basis and encourage my children to do the same. Divatude? For many that may be a new concept. I believe that we all should strive to be driven, inspiring, victorious and called to action – our divatude! Sometimes when I share that it sounds quite grandiose and time-consuming, but it is really a simple concept to embrace:

Divatude - exactly what is it? - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

Simple Ways To Embrace Your Divatude

  • Believe in yourself. Tell yourself regularly how awesome you are. It’s not cockiness – it’s self-confidence
  • Encourage others. Tell your children what they do well and support their endeavors.
  • Give back in your community – donate your time, talents and/or tangibles.
  • Support others with their endeavors, when possible. Your presence, alone, makes a difference.
  • Be positive and uplifting. It makes a difference.
  • Set goals for yourself personally and professionally. Strive to continue growing and learning.
  • Be the friend you want to have.
  • Share your story with someone that can be encouraged or motivated by it.
  • Practice gratitude regularly.

— Michelle

How Do You Live Life to the Fullest?

I love how Michelle challenges us to make sure we’re living life to the fullest.

So, what do you think? Are these ideas practical for you? What are you going to try first? Have you already found ways to remember the silly moments in life? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.

Making Stone Soup

posted in: Parenting | 6

This summer, I’ve had the honor of participating in Rainy Day Mum‘s Story Book Summer series — it’s always fun to do activities that are based on a book!  Toby and I have enjoyed reading several renditions of the stone soup story during our forays to the library. Most recently, we picked up Marcia Brown’s Stone Soup (#afflink), but we’ve enjoyed more modern adaptations such as Eric Kimmel’s Cactus Soup (#afflink) too.

Stone Soup by Marcia Brown Cactus Soup by Eric Kimmel

Since making stone soup “for real,” Toby has also been hard at work in his pretend kitchen.  His concoctions have been an amalgam of stone soup and shepherd’s pie… such as stone soup pie, or shepherd’s pie soup.

I’ll share a few pictures, but be sure head over and read Story Book Summer – Stone Soup for more pictures, and the recipe!  Click on any image below to enter gallery view.

Making Stone Soup (Marcia Brown)
Making Stone Soup (Marcia Brown)

And finally, I just found a neat looking Stone Soup board game (#afflink) that I bet my toddler would love.  It’s a memory card game with the added twist of “fire’s out” cards — you have to gather all the ingredients for making stone soup before you get too many “fire’s out” cards.

Welcoming Baby Finn! (Meet Zachary)

posted in: Parenting | 4

What a blessing to welcome another healthy boy to the Finn family! Zachary arrived less than a week after his due date, after about 10 hours of labor (less than three of which we spent at the hospital).  Here’s a photo of me holding him at the hospital, I think he was still under 24 hours old at this point.

Newborn Baby Photo -Welcoming Zachary! - BPhotoArt.com

There are so many wonderful moments and memories to share with you from Zachary’s arrival and first days.  Since I have had my hands *a little* full, I figured it would be easiest to share them all as a video slideshow (like I did with Toby’s birth story).

Zachary is mellow, calm, and a phenomenal sleeper.  At birth, he was smaller than his brother by quite a bit.  We actually had to stop at our favorite kid’s store, The Little Seedling, on the way home from the hospital because our infant car seat wasn’t fitting right.  Had their carseat tech check the setup, and we ultimately left with a new carseat that fit much better.

Making the transition from one to two kids has been ….well, not without problems, but overall we are all doing well.  The cats didn’t bat an eye at the new human we brought home.  Big brother has done really well; we’ve been working on using words to communicate when Toby is feeling in need of attention.  He is such a big helper, and has been so excited to hug and kiss his little brother.  We parents are doing pretty well too.  Recovery for mom has been fantastic… as I just mentioned we made our first outing on the way home from the hospital.  Night and day difference from last time — and for that, I am more thankful than words can express

I’ll be sharing some official newborn portraits in the near future, but for now, you can enjoy the video slideshow here, as well as the snapshots I’ve been sharing on Instagram.  Here’s one of both boys at a recent chiropractic visit:

And one of Zachary sleeping, wrapped up snugly in the baby blanket my mother crocheted for me when I was a baby myself.

Planting a Rainbow Book Activity

posted in: Parenting | 14

This summer, we have been enjoying reading — a lot.  I’m a bookworm myself, so it doesn’t surprise me that our toddler is a bookworm himself. Proof that we love books around here?  Here are some ways the books in our personal library (and at the local library) have been getting a lot of mileage:

  • Summer “read-to-me” program at the local library (our goal for the summer is 150 books)
  • Bedtime ritual includes 3 books
  • Naptime is preceded by 3 books (yes! naptime still!)
  • Spontaneous reading throughout the day (car rides, free time, etc)

So, when I heard about the Love Books summer book exchange, I knew we had to participate.  I’m not sure which part of the book exchange was more fun — preparing our book activity package and mailing it, or getting one in the mail.

Now, onto the package that we received from Jen (Plain Vanilla Mom) for the Love Books exchange (see Jen’s post about the book and activity we sent). As we has just mailed our package a few days prior, Toby was very excited to see something in the mail for him.  We retrieved it from our mailbox late one evening, so waited until the next day to open it.  There is no fun in opening a package you can’t play with right away, right?

What came in our package?  Take a peek below (click on any image to enter gallery view mode).

The book, Planting a Rainbow (#afflink), by Lois Elhert, was a big hit.  We talked about all the flowers and colors in the book, and then my son decided to find the flowers that “matched” the cookie cutters we received.  From there, we started into the Planting a Rainbow book activity in full force.  If you want to replicate the Planting a Rainbow book activity with your kid, here’s a list of supplies (#afflinks)

As you can see from the images below, the entire activity was a huge hit!   (click on any image to enter gallery view mode)

The finished flowers are sitting on the windowsill of my kitchen, where I can admire them as I do dishes.  Sadly, the pom poms didn’t stay stuck of the glue dots, but ended up in my kitchen sink.  Though, there’s a good chance that one of my cats could be the culprit in regards to that… I can’t say for sure.

I love that this Planting a Rainbow book activity was open-ended, and that Toby took the craft and made it his own.  It’s so fun to watch kids be excited about being creative!  I may need to create some more book-based activities for us to do, as this project went over so well.

Planting a Rainbow Book Activity - BPhotoArt.com #lovebooks

love-books-summer-exchangeLove Books Summer Exchange

This post is part of the Love Books Summer Exchange. Over 50 bloggers are participating in the 4th Annual LOVE BOOKS exchange, hosted by The Educators’ Spin On It.

Participants select one book and one amazing, open ended activity to go along with it, and exchange it with another family via mail. Each blogger shares about the book and activity they got.

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