Tuesday, August 30, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 39: Toilet Paper "Threading"

The Toddler's Busy Book recommends teaching a toddler threading as an activity. Using either sections of an empty paper towel roll, hair curlers, or large empty spools, toddlers are supposed to have fun figuring out how to thread them onto a shoe lace.

A few weeks ago, I tried a similar activity with Oliver that I didn't post on the blog. I gave him a pipe cleaner and showed him how to thread jingle bells on it. He understood the concept but wasn't good at manipulating the small bells onto the thread.

Today, I brought a new pack of toilet paper downstairs to stock the toilet paper holder in the bathroom. Oliver saw me and was eager to help. I realized we were doing the threading activity but on a larger scale. So, I grabbed the camera and took a few shots of him putting the rolls of toilet paper on to the holder.

After we were done stocking, Oliver insisted on taking all the rolls back off and on again. We played for about twenty minutes! Later, Oliver insisted on playing again with Andrew.

Threading Toilet Paper was a great activity. First, it was free. If you don't have a stand-alone toilet paper holder, you can probably just use a broom. Second, it got him thinking and problem-solving. Third, it kept him occupied and happy for a good amount of time. Finally, I think Oliver really enjoyed helping out (I know I like when our activities are constructive instead of destructive!). This activity gets an A+!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Meatless Monday: Grilled Pesto Pizzas

My favorite sister-in-law (OK, my only sister-in-law) posted a photo last month of some individual pizzas she'd made for Meatless Monday. They had assorted roasted vegetables on top, and they looked mouth-watering. She made a lot of changes, but she gave me the recipe she based hers off of. I decided to use her pizzas and the recipe as a guide, and I created my own grilled pizza recipe. With me as the brains of the operation and my husband stationed as grill master, we created some fabulous pizzas. Although Oliver was skeptical about trying them, even he agreed that they were quite tasty. We've made them a couple times since.

A preview of the finished product:

The only cooking that we do for this recipe indoors is for the pesto. You can make this ahead of time and keep it in the fridge. I love when I don't have to be in a rush to get dinner made exactly on time. As for the veggies, feel free to change them up. Some people love eggplant; some hate it. You can probably use summer squash instead, or add extra zucchini. I bet mushrooms would be good, too.

We get two individual pizzas out of this recipe. It easily feeds three people, but if you're entertaining then it's probably nice for each person to have his or her own. I'll provide the calorie count and cost break down for both at the end of this post. As a note, the calorie count will vary depending on how much oil you use on your veggies.

Here's the recipe for individual Grilled Pesto Pizzas:

1 (0.5 ounce) envelope of pesto sauce mix
3/4 cup water
1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 eggplant
1 zucchini
1 bell pepper
Olive oil, for brushing
Salt, to taste
2 pocketless, whole wheat pitas
1 tomato, diced
1 cup shredded, part-skim mozzarella cheese

1. Whisk sauce mix, water, and 1/4 cup olive oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until thickened.
2. Cut zucchini and bell pepper in half, lengthwise. Slice the eggplant into strips, ensuring they're large enough to not fall into the grill. Brush olive oil over the zucchini, bell pepper, and eggplant and sprinkle with salt to taste.

3. Heat grill to medium. Place the zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant on the grill, directly over the heat. Cover and grill for 6-8 minutes, turning once, until the vegetables are crip tender. Remove from grill.

4. Place pitas on the grill and cook for approximately 2 minutes, until toasted.

5. Meanwhile, chop the grilled vegetables. Mix the grilled vegetables, tomato, and pesto.

6. Flip the pitas on the grill. Spread the pesto-vegetable mixture onto the pitas. Sprinkle with cheese. Cover and cook for an additional 4-6 minutes, until cheese is melted. Enjoy!

Per serving (2 servings), approximately:
Calories: 630 calories
Protein: 22 grams
Cost: $4.50

Per serving (3 servings), approximately:
Calories: 420 calories
Protein: 14 grams
Cost: $3.00

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Oliver's First Concert

Andrew's family has some family friends who own and run a couple Goddard preschools in the Denver-metro area. They put on a free concert at Wash Park for kiddos. We met Andrew's mom there and relaxed while listening to the band play a multitude of children's songs.

Oliver, who loves music, actually wasn't all that interested in the concert. He was mostly interested in all the snacks his grandma brought!

Oliver really wanted to use the camera during the concert. I gave it to him and showed him how to press the top button to take a photo. This is the first picture Oliver has ever taken (it's his finger):

Dinosaur Ridge

My parents took Andrew, Oliver and me to Dinosaur Ridge today. It's a free exhibit about five miles from our home that features real dinosaur footprints and bones. For $4 a person, you can take a bus instead of hiking up the foothills, and you get a tour for the money, too. We decided just to walk and save our money, but we only walked as far as the footprints. It was hot and sunny!

We arrived at Dinosaur Ridge, and Oliver was delighted to see his stroller. He doesn't ride in it very often, but he loves it.

Hiking from the Visitors' Center to the exhibit:

Oliver fell asleep on the short (half mile) hike:

Dinosaur tracks! The large ones are from an iguanodon, and the small ones are either deom a gallimimus or ornithomimus.

I think Oliver was a little too young to enjoy Dinosaur Ridge. I want to go back when he's four or five to see more. There were a lot of kids around that age who seemed to enjoy it.

After Dinosaur Ridge, my parents decided to treat us to ice cream to cool off. Andrew & Oliver wore matching outfits!

Friday, August 26, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 38: Play-Doh Cookies

I admit it: Today's activity was just as much for me as it was for Oliver.

Oliver loves making cookies with me. Every day, he begs me to pull out the Kitchenaid to make cookies. We don't do it often (maybe once or twice a month), but it really is one of his favorite things to do. We've always made drop cookies and never any roll out cookies.

Today, I thought we'd practice to get Oliver on par for Christmas time.

This activity came from Andrew's mom. A few months ago, she bought some clay, a small rolling pin, and some plastic cookie cutters for Oliver to play with at her house. It sounded promising, but Oliver wasn't very interested in playing with the clay.

I have a few canisters of leftover Play-Doh from Halloween last year (we gave out miniature canisters to trick-or-treaters). After success with yesterday's creative activity, I decided try another creative activity today. I dug out the rolling pin and the leaf cookie cutters from his party last year. Then, I showed him how to roll out the "dough" and making "cookies" with the cutters. Success! Oliver played with me for a solid 10 minutes before declaring that he was done.

In my mind, Oliver's going to be ready for making sugar cookies at Christmas time. I am excited thinking about letting him help me roll some dough and use some cookie cutters. Fun, fun!

Like yesterday's activity, this one earns an A. It's creative and fun without being messy. Cleanup included wiping down the rolling pin, rinsing the cookie cutters, and putting the Play-Doh back in its container. For me, it was all simple, but it will take advanced prep for people who don't have the supplies on hand. If you don't have all the equipment at home, you can improvise. I'm sure you can use a cup turned upside down as a circle cookie cutter, and anything cylindrical can be used in place of a rolling pin. If you don't have Play-Doh or clay on hand, there are some recipes on the internet. I've never tried making my own, so I don't have one to recommend, but this link has three recipes listed. Use whichever one fits the ingredients you have on hand.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 37: Watercolors

As I've stated before in my blog, Oliver isn't that big into art yet. He'll scribble with crayons for a minute or so and then declare he's done. Our outdoor chalk activity didn't go well, and I assumed today's activity (watercolor painting) would have the same result. I wanted to give it a fair try, though.

I set the palate of watercolors and a cup of water in front of Oliver. We used a sheet of sticker printer paper that I had leftover from an activity last fall because it has a plastic backing. Then, I demonstrated the technique for him. I told him, "First, I dip the brush in water. Then, I dip the brush in color. Then, I put it on the paper!" I painted a line of red and handed him the brush.

Oliver was excited to learn something new. He took the brush and dunked it into the water, and then he selected a color (green). He scribbled on the paper, and then went back to the water. I think this was the longest he's ever enjoyed art projects. His favorite color definitely seemed to be green. He chose it four times. After green, his favorites were yellow, brown and purple.

I loved watching Oliver get into an artistic activity. It makes me look forward to the future when we can do all sorts of creative projects together. He painted for about 10 or 15 minutes, which is a record for him for artwork, and then he wanted me to do some. I painted him a monkey, which he loved, and then I painted a few letters of the alphabet. Oliver painted a few more squiggles and then announced he was done. Watercolors for the win!

I can't speak for all toddlers, but, for Oliver, painting seemed more fun than coloring. I think it's because there was more to learn and do. He really liked doing the technique of dipping in the water, getting color, painting a few lines, and then back again. For parents of toddlers who don't seem interested in coloring, I recommend watercolors. It was so fun! There is a cost to this activity, of course. A palate of kids' watercolors (the basic 8 color set) runs anywhere from $1-$3. If you take care of them, they should last a long time. Oliver barely made a dent in any of his paints. Of course, I remember when I was a kid, and all the colors would mix in with each other. I don't think think toddlers care too much about that, though.

Getting Oliver to be creative was a huge plus for me. The activity required little prep and clean-up. Other than the initial cost behind the supplies, I don't see a downside to watercolors at all. I give watercolor painting a solid A grade!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

28 Week Ultrasound

I had a great appointment today. My ultrasound was done to check on the growth of the little one and to check on the placenta. Well, she's growing perfectly! As of today, she weighs 2 pounds, 14 ounces. Things looked so good that I was told I don't even have to do the 34 week check-up. I'm very pleased with the news.

I thought Baby Girl had flipped already because I'd started to feel some movement high up in my belly instead of really low, as I had been. Turns out, I was wrong. She's still breech! Her butt is down, but her legs are bent up completely in front of her. During the ultrasound, she kept playing with her feet and toes. She still has a few weeks to flip. If she hasn't flipped by my next midwife appointment in a couple weeks, I think she might do some techniques to get her to move head down. In the meantime, I'm told it's totally normal for this stage of the pregnancy.

Here's a shot of her face, which was hard to get since it was obstructed with her legs and hands:

And here's a shot of her long, stretched-out legs:

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 36: Pompom Fun

I read somewhere online that children can begin simple sorting by color close to age two. It reminded me of one of the activities I'd read in The Toddler's Busy Book called Pompom Fun.

Before I started this blog, I'd read through my toddler activity books and made a trip to the craft store. I picked up some pipe cleaners, some containers with lids, and some pompoms. That was also the same trip in which I picked up the cheap glow stick or his Fourth of July glow stick activity. I think the large bag of pompoms I bought was $4. To me, that's a little expensive for a bunch of fuzzy things, but I have a feeling they will provide fun and entertainment for a few years. I suppose it's worth it in that regard.

Anyway, with Pompom fun, you choose pompoms in no more than three colors (or sizes, because they suggest teaching your child to sort by size, too. I haven't done this yet) for your young toddler. If you're like me and haven't really taught your child colors yet, then I'd recommend starting with two. I chose yellow and red because I felt like those two primary colors are very distinct from each other. The book recommends just having your child sort them by color.

Well, in Oliver's case at least, I knew I couldn't just hand him a bunch of pompoms and have him sort them. He hasn't worked with color yet at all. So, I put all the yellow ones in a container and all the red ones in another container. I told him which ones were yellow and which ones were red. Then, I removed a red one and placed it on the floor. I asked him where the red one goes. He did a very good job sorting, but it's not as easy as you'd think. I'd say he got it right approximately 9 out 10 times.
Once he seemed to fully understand the concept, I started grabbing a couple pompoms at a time. At first, when the pompoms were different colors, it threw him off. He'd put both in one bucket or the other. I'd tease him and say, "Oh, no! There's a yellow pompom in the red bucket!" He started to separate them out (sometimes after placing them both in the same bucket first). I'd say his accuracy with two pompoms at a time is approximately 7 or 8 out of 10.

We've been working on this activity for about a week now. Today was the first time I stopped to take pictures because I'd been working with him so closely at it. The activity doesn't keep Oliver occupied for very long. He'll usually do a few pompoms and then wander off to do something more fun. So, I can't claim that this activity will keep toddlers entertained for a long period of time. That said, I felt good about stimulating him and teaching him something new. I've probably waited a little too long to introduce him to colors, and I think this activity was a good way for me to begin. Soon, I'll grab a third bucket of pompoms (maybe purple, since we don't have blue), and start challenging him with three different colors.

I give Pompom Fun a B grade. I liked the activity, and I feel like it's teaching Oliver something new. However, it takes advanced preparation, it costs a bit of money, and it doesn't keep toddlers entertained for any lengthy period of time.

UPDATE: At nearly 23 months old, Oliver now enjoys dumping out all of his red, yellow, and purple pom-poms. He then sorts them into the three buckets. His mistakes are fairly rare, but when he puts the wrong one in a bucket, he usually dumps out the entire bucket to start again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Daddy's Message to Oliver

I took this video to capture Oliver's reactions to the answering machine message for Andrew. Oliver looked so happy to hear his special message. The video is a little repetitive, but I think it's sweet.

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 35: Reflections

Mirrors aren't just for babies; toddlers love them, too! I think Oliver has officially figured out that the reflection is him because he enjoys putting on hats to look in the mirror. He also will lift up his own shirt to see the belly button in the mirror.

I hadn't put Oliver in front of the mirror in months, but I started again last week. He begs me to put him up on our dresser so he can see himself over and over again. He'll crawl along the dresser and watch himself. It's a lot of fun, and it doesn't take too much energy from this pregnant mama! Sometimes, he'll point to his reflection and point to himself and say, "Two!" It's also helped him recognize himself in photos. I had a photo up on the computer that I'd taken of him, and he pointed to it and said, "Olv!"

Here are a few snapshots I look for my little man enjoying his reflection. I have no idea how those smudges got on our mirror.

I give Reflections an A. It helps kids learn and develop, and it's a lot of fun for them, too! Virtually everyone has a mirror in their home, so it's a free activity, too. If your mirror is set up like mine, it takes supervision. I don't mind because I enjoy watching him so much.

For the Love of the Camera

Oliver has recently fallen in love with getting his picture taken. His favorite part? Saying, "Cheese!" My favorite part is getting some good pictures of my sweet little toddler.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 34: Bubble Wrap

For a few weeks now, whenever I'm at a grocery store, I've been keeping my eyes peeled for canned pumpkin. There are no shelves stocked anywhere I've been. For those not in the pumpkin know, there's been a shortage over the last couple years, and it stinks. I finally decided that I wasn't going to mess with waiting and hoping, so I went online to Amazon.com and ordered four cans. Easy, peasy.

The pumpkin arrived today. Guess what? They sent me five cans! Score! The cans were wrapped in bubble wrap, which gave me a great idea. Anyone who's ever been a kid knows where I'm going with this. I put it on the ground and demonstrated to Oliver how to step and jump on it to create marvelous pop noises.

Thankfully, he wasn't afraid and was quite interested. He was still his timid self, though, and preferred to poke at the wrap instead of walking all over it. Here are a few photos of Oliver's fun with the pumpkin and the bubble wrap:

Hours later, I caught him tentatively walking on it. He wasn't heavy enough to pop the bubbles.

I think bubble wrap is something I'll do with Oliver whenever we get some. He liked it, and he was interested, but he didn't go crazy jumping and stomping on it as I'd hoped. He just kind of poked at it. I give this activity a C- because it has potential, and I know he'll eventually learn to love it.

Walking On His Own

Oliver is finally over his cold. After being mostly cooped up in the house for a week and a half, I decided we needed to get out and about. I took him to the mall so he could run and climb in the play area. When we arrived, I opted not to use the stroller. Instead, I told Oliver, "We're at the mall. I'm going to carry you through the parking lot to the mall, and then you're going to walk. You're going to walk in the mall with me. OK? You're going to walk, and we're not going to cry."

I carried Oliver through the parking lot to the mall's entrance. I put him down, and he started to walk with me... to the Panera bathrooms. Not this again! I decided to have another talk with Oliver and I asked him, "Do you need to use the potty?" He said yes. I said, "OK, we're going to go use the potty, but we're only going to use it one time, OK?" So, we went and used the bathroom. On the way out, Oliver froze when he saw all the large groups of people sitting around. He asked me to pick him up. I told him that I'd carry him to the mall, but then he was going to walk all by himself. I walked him through Panera to the empty mall. I set Oliver down, and he happily walked with me! I was ecstatic.

We walked all the way to the play area. I took off our shoes, and he started climbing and playing. After about five minutes, he walked back to his shoes and asked me to put them on by saying, "Shoes?" I told him the shoes were for when we go home. Oliver ran and climbed through one tunnel and then went back to his shoes. Then he waved and said, "Bye." I asked him if he wanted to go home, and he said yes. Then he gave me my shoes, too. What the heck? A ten minute drive for five minutes of play? I wasn't going to force him. I put our shoes on, and Oliver waved to the playground as we left. On the way out, he tripped and stumbled. A lady was walking the mall and saw and kind of laughed (not in a mean way). Oliver was so embarrassed. He buried his head into my legs and said, "Up!" I picked him up but didn't walk. I held him for a bit until the lady passed.

I put him down, and he happily walked with me all the way back to Panera. When we were there, he wanted to go back to the bathroom. I reminded him that we were all done there. I asked him if he'd like a split a scone with me, and he said yes. There was no one waiting in line behind us, so I let him give the lady the credit card. We ate our scone together, and when we were done, he walked with me to the mall doors. He wanted to be carried once we got outside, so I did. I carried him halfway to the car, and then I gave him the car keys and set him down. We walked the rest of the way to the car together.

I was so, so proud of Oliver and kept telling him so. I told him what a good boy he was walking all by himself, and I told him he helped Mommy so much. It really does make me feel good, and a little less nervous for when our little one arrives. Oliver is the sweetest little boy, but it can just be physically challenging to take him anywhere since he likes to be held and carried so much. Also, I feel like a much better mom now that I'm setting boundaries in public and sticking to them. I have to admit, though, that I'm nervous for the future and all the future tantrums that he's sure to have as we continue to move into the Terrible Twos.

Monday, August 15, 2011

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 33: Silicone Cupcakes

As a wedding shower gift, Andrew and I got some silicone cupcake liners. I also got a silicone cupcake pan, and it works much better. And, so, the liners went mostly unused.

Then, we became parents. In desperation to entertain my baby, I used almost everything in the kitchen to try to capture his attention. Silicone cupcake holders were always a winner. I'd put them on things, like his feet, and let him figure out how to get them off. I'd put them on my head and nose to make him giggle. I'd put one partially in my mouth and shoot it in his direction. They did wonders. When I watched Owen for those few months last fall, he, too, enjoyed the cupcake holders. I have no idea why, but they're great baby fun.

Here are some throwback pictures of Oliver & me from November 2010:

They've gone mostly unused for the better part of six months. Occasionally, Oliver uses them as water scoopers when I let him have a bowl of water to play with. Anyway, I decided to bust them out again today to see what kind of fun we could have. The winner? Cupcake towers!

I stacked the cupcake liners in a pyramid, and Oliver enjoyed destroying it. He'd try to rebuild it, but it seems like he can't stack things in a pyramid form with his current developmental level. He just stacks them directly on top of each other. Here are a couple shots of his stacking efforts:

Here are shots of Oliver enjoying some cupcake tower fun:

For us, this activity was free because we had the cupcake liners on hand. I think other parents can use other random objects to have fun stacking. Clean, empty yogurt containers might work. Heck, even regular, paper cupcake liners might work. The ease and simplicity of the activity demands that I give it a good grade, so I give silicone cupcakes an A-. It kept Oliver occupied, and we got to play together for a good ten minutes.