Tuesday, July 31, 2012

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 76: Toddler Rock Painting

I came up with a new art project for Oliver, and it worked out so well.  I call it "Toddler Rock Painting."

Here are the supplies you need:
Non-toxic paints (I used acrylic)
Tupperware with a strong lid (choose one that can get icky)
Wax paper

Step One: Take your toddler outside to pick out some rocks.

Step 2: Wash your rocks to remove any dirt.  Let your child help!

Step 3: Squeeze some paint into your Tupperware. Your child can help with this part if you don't mind a potential mess.

Step 4: Put one rock into the Tupperware, and put the lid on, making sure it's secure. Show your child how to shake it.  Let them go to town shaking up the rock and paint.

Step 5: Remove the rock, and set it on some wax paper to dry.  Add a little more paint to your Tupperware, and drop another rock in.  Shake, shake, shake!

Here's a video of our project:

We made four rocks:

Step 6 (Optional): Watch your rocks dry.

By the time we woke up the next morning, our rocks were completely dry.

Oliver put them in the food processor, which I let him play with (without the blade and unplugged, of course!).  He told me he was making rock soup.

This project was a huge success!  Oliver keeps asking me if we can paint again.  This is the most fun he's had with any art project.  I have a feeling we'll be doing this project over and over again.  A+!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Nan's Frozen Lemonade Pie

Andrew's grandmother, "Nan," would have been 86 this week. Grandma Colleen came over to watch Oliver for a bit and told him they were going to make a pie that Nan always made: frozen lemonade pie. Oliver pretends to make pie all the time with whatever he has on hand: magnetic letters, dirt, you name it. He was thrilled. They mixed a can of sweetened, condensed milk with half a can of frozen lemonade concentrate and a 12 ounce tub of Cool Whip and poured the mixture into a graham crust. Colleen popped it in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then we enjoyed a delicious, tart pie. This simple recipe is a good one to try with your toddler helper at home!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Friends and Coffee for the Win

I've been experiencing a few small bumps in the road of life.  One of my best friends popped by with an iced latte on Thursday to cheer me up.  I was on almost zero sleep, and the kids were cranky.  Her visit was exactly what I needed to make the day better.

She helped Oliver select rocks to drop into the creek from a foot bridge.

I think Oliver liked having someone around with as much energy as him.  Phuong enthusiastically dropped rocks into the creek right along with him.

We came home to get out of the sun and cool off.  Oliver thought it was the neatest thing ever that Phuong gave him some ice cubes to drop into his water.

Friends make life infinitely better.  I can't imagine my life without her!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Civic Green Park

I took the kids to Civic Green Park in Highlands Ranch for a MOMS Club meet up.  It's southwest of Broadway and C-470, next to the Highlands Ranch Library.

The park itself is gorgeous.  To enter the park, we passed a plaque thanking dozens of private donors for making this free public park possible. We then walked over a small, man-made waterfall that cascaded into a little river. Around the river bend, kids splashed and played.  Oliver loved watching the water crash!

There was very little shade at the park.  We have very little cloud cover in Colorado due to our altitude, so the sun is brutal.  We walked by a small splash pad, but I just couldn't fathom stopping to let my kids play there in the hot sun.  There was also a play ground, but, again, there was no tree cover.  The equipment looked hot and uninviting.  Across the field, away from the library, we found a second splash pad.

The second splash pad was larger, and it had a large gazebo that provided shade for all the moms there with their young kids.  Oliver, who had gotten crabby walking under the hot sun, improved quickly in the shade.

I was only able to talk him into checking out the water feature a couple times. Every time the water pressure dropped low enough, he'd start to show interest. He'd get close, the geysers would erupt with fervor, and Oliver would step back.  He was definitely a bit nervous about the water geysers.  There were a number of other small children who stayed away from the water, too, but there were just as many little kids who loved it. The kids who seemed to really enjoy themselves were a little older.

Oliver chickened out:

Besides the severe lack of shade, another big problem with this park was how slick the water area was.  We were only at the water feature for about 20 minutes, and I saw two children slip and fall.  One girl was about 10, and she landed right on her tailbone.  Ouch, it looked painful!  If you go, be sure to bring water shoes that have really good traction.

The park is so lovely, that I hate to make it sound like a bad place. It's very charming. There were oodles of older kids shrieking and having a great time in the water geysers and in the little river. I think it would be an ideal stop for kindergartners and elementary school kids. I can see Oliver having a great time here in a couple years. However, as a mother of an infant and a toddler, the lack of shade, the slick ground surfaces, and the strong water pressure were just a little much.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


Joanna's fourth tooth made an appearance yesterday!  There's a corner that's not all the way through the gums yet, which has made for one cranky baby.  I took a frozen waffle, tore off bite-size bits, and let her chew on the chilly deliciousness.  Success!

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 76: Corn Cob Paint Roller

Earlier this week, I shared some natural teething remedies that I've picked up in my few years as a mommy.  One of those remedies involved a corn cob (click here to read more about that and other teething tips).  My husband actually removed the corn bits from all three of our cobs, "just in case" I needed more than one for my blog.  I didn't.  Or so I thought.

I stared for a while at the leftover cobs on our counter top.  What could I use them for?  A creative idea hit me: an empty corn cob + corn holders = a paint roller.  

Set up an area that you feel comfortable with your kids making a mess.  Take an empty, scraped corn cob and stick two corn holders on the sides to make a paint roller.  If you don't have corn holders, they're not really necessary, but they do help keep your kid's hands relatively clean.  Put a few sheets of plain white paper on the work area.  You can tape them down to keep them from sliding.  Squirt some washable, non-toxic paints on a long sheet of wax paper (or parchment paper or whatever you have in the house).  

Show your child how to roll his/her "paint roller" into the paint.  Encourage your kid to roll it on the white sheets of paper.  

Oliver enjoys figuring out how new things work.  To him, the paint roller was a puzzle.  He dipped it in the paint and stuck his face close to the paper to watch the paint transfer from the roller to paper.

If you use primary colors (yellow, red, and blue), then it's possible they'll end up mixing on the paper and will make new colors. If your child is a little older, you can take that opportunity to teach that red and yellow mix to make orange. Yellow and blue mix to make green, and red and blue mix to make purple. The colors they make--orange, green, and purple--are secondary colors.  If your child is younger, simply point out which colors they are using as they use them to teach the names of colors. Also, if your child is younger, you might also find that he (or she) enjoys the feel of the paint. Young toddlers love to explore different textures! If you don't mind a mess, let your child feel the paint. Be careful not to let him get it in his eyes or shove it in his mouth. Even though it's non-toxic, it's better to be safe than sorry. For kids that enjoy shoving everything into their mouths, you can try yogurt finger painting instead.

Oliver loved using the roller, but, in the end, he wasn't able to resist the temptation of using his fingers to spread the paint around.  Let's just say I ended up with quite the mess, but nothing a little soap and water couldn't clean!

Corn Cob Paint Roller earns an B+.  It's creative and fun.  Because it's new and unique, it engages kids. It's also a very affordable activity.  Corn is currently still in season and is quite cheap.  In my area, it's priced at 20 cents an ear and falling!  However, the activity is also messy, involves both prep and clean-up, and requires a number of materials (paints, corn, etc).

Do any of you upcycle your corn cobs? What do you use them for? My husband told me they make great kindling for fires. I read online that Native Americans used to use them for toilet paper. My friend also told me you can spread a bit of peanut butter on them and roll them in bird seed to create a bird feeder. My son and I might tackle the bird feeder project some weekend soon. I'll be sure to update how it works for us!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Surfside Splash Park

A new splash park is in town!  Surfside opened just a few weeks ago on 9th, just west of Sheridan.  We finally made the trip to check it out on Sunday.  

I'm glad we made the trip!  The splash park is amazing!  Like Ray Ross Park, this splash pad is an oasis in an otherwise questionable area.  Unlike Ray Ross Park, this splash pad isn't free.  They charge $1 per person, but the fee is definitely worth it.  They have lifeguards on duty and everything.

We set our things down on one of the many picnic tables under the pavilion.  There was a really nice, gas grill installed by the seating area.

I spoke with one of the lifeguards and learned it's only for private groups.  You can rent out the whole splash park for $90 for two hours on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday evenings.  She told me they're actually booked solid for the rest of the season.  I could see why.  This would be a great place for a party or reunion.  She told me guests are welcome to use any of the charcoal grills during regular hours, though.

Here's Oliver checking out some of the water features when we arrived.  He was pretty uncertain about a lot of it at first.

I tried to give him a pep talk to run through the water.  When that didn't work, I picked him up and ran through everything myself.

He slowly, slowly warmed up to everything.  We learned that some of those tall water features could rotate.  Oliver was able to rotate even the large ones himself.

There was a tunnel to run through that spritzed water everywhere.

Jo's checking out the water, too.

Check out all the fun to be had at this splash pad!  Incredible!  
Oliver started to get into the fun!  In the background of this picture, you can see a kid using a green water cannon behind Oliver.  There were two.  Kids could aim them at each other and get each other soaked.  They spun, so kids could aim it all over the splash park.  The neat thing was: the water pressure dropped when they were aimed at the benches.  So, parents sitting on the benches don't have to worry about getting soaked.

Off to the side was a water feature set up for kids to explore.  It reminded me a lot of the Children's Museum, actually.  Kids could dam up water flow with foam walls, and then open them back up again.  The surge of water would make the water wheels spin.  It's incredibly interactive and fun.

Oliver, of course, wanted to understand how everything worked.  He loved exploring all the things to do.

I took a video of the little guy in action:

We went back to the main area to get wet!  One water feature was essentially a funky looking bucket.  It would fill with water and then tip under the weight of itself.  Oliver loved watching it fill and dump over and over again.  He was too scared to stand under it himself, so I "helped" him:

In this video, you can see the bucket dumping, followed by Oliver spinning one of the water features.

I think it's safe to say that we had a great time.

Monday, July 23, 2012

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 75: Jack Jump Over the Sprinkler

Temperatures are back up in the 90s.  With no air conditioning, I'm constantly trying to come up with ways to beat the heat.  The pool isn't an option for me during the week because I can't juggle two little ones in water by myself.  So, I decided to hook our new Geyser Blast Sprinkler up to the hose.  

I wasn't sure what to expect.  The little plastic tubes didn't whip around as I'd thought, which was a good thing because they couldn't whack the kids in the face.  The top part spun, which delighted Oliver.  He insisted it was a fan.  

Oliver is a very cautious toddler.  At first, he didn't want to go too close to the sprinkler.  I actually carried him over it a couple times to show him it was safe.

He slowly warmed up.  He examined the whole thing and got comfortable enough to take a drink from the spraying parts.  After testing the water a few times, he finally started to step into the water and the sprinkler itself.

As you can tell from the multiple outfits, we went out again and again throughout the day.  Oliver loved it that much!

It reminded me of when I was a kid.  My sister and I would play in the sprinkler.  We'd each take turns yelling the nursery rhyme, "Jack be nimble/ Jack be quick/ Jack jump over the candlestick!"  Then we'd run and leap over the water.

As I once mentioned, Oliver's music teacher taught us that nursery rhymes really help promote literacy.  She always tells us that using nursery rhymes is the best thing we can do for our toddlers to get them ripe for reading.  I decided to incorporate that into our play.  Before long, Oliver was saying the nursery rhyme himself, and then he ran through the sprinkler.  It was better than I could have hoped!  I took a video of him in action:

This activity is perfect for little ones.  Joanna liked getting her feet splashed in the water.  Oliver loved reciting his nursery rhyme and then trotting through to get sprayed.  He also really liked examining the spinning center of the sprinkler, declaring it was "a fan" and "it's raining."

I nicknamed this activity, "Jack Jump Over the Sprinkler," and it gets an A+.  Try this out with your little ones when you need to stay cool this record-setting summer!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Natural Teething Remedies

Jo's third tooth finally broke through her gums on Friday!

Oliver's first four teeth had come through all at once.  In fact, he got one on the bottom, followed by one on the top before the other bottom one came through. So, when Jo's first two teeth lower came in a couple months ago, I assumed her two upper teeth were close behind.  Nope!  We waited two months for this bad boy.

I'll tell you one thing that's similar to her brother, though: Joanna doesn't teethe well.  All day Friday and Saturday, she wanted to nurse.  Jo usually doesn't care about nursing much, but for two days, she just kept smacking her head on my shoulder and sucking on my skin.  Let's just say we've taken a few steps backward in the weaning process.  She also started shrugging her shoulders, as if her ears were in pain.  I was actually about to ask my mother-in-law, a physician's assistant, to check her ears for infection when the tooth finally broke through.

Teething isn't much easier the second time around.  It got me thinking about first time parents.  I remember how tough it was figuring out what to do to help my baby.  Most of us are very reluctant to use medication to treat gum pain, especially when our babies are very young.  I've asked around and came up with a list of natural teething remedies.  Some have worked better than others for my kids, but all children are different, so try them out to see what works for you.

Green Onions
One of the nurses at the health department swore by this remedy.  She told me it was the only thing that worked for her babies.  She told me that she washed some green onions really well and then stuck them in the freezer.  Once frozen, she handed them to her baby to chomp on.  I tried this remedy with Oliver at an age when he put anything and everything into his mouth.  He would not chew on the onions.  Jo chomped away and seemed to enjoy it, but it quickly lost its rigidity.  After a few minutes, I chose to take it away from her rather than have to fish out pieces of onion from her mouth.

Frozen Wash Cloth
I'm not going to lie to you.  I learned this teething method back when my last dog, Bailey, was a puppy.  When puppies are teething, they chew up everything.  This worked for her, so I reasoned, why not try it for my babies?  Run a clean wash cloth under water.  Ring it out so that it's just damp, tie it into a knot, and then stick it in the freezer.  By tying it into a knot first, it stays frozen longer.  Hand it to your baby to chomp on, or, if they're too little or don't like touching the cold cloth, just hold it yourself.

Thumb Knuckle

You're not going to always have something handy for your baby to chew on.  When you're in a pinch, just wash your hands and let your baby chomp on the bottom-most part of your thumb.  Babies can bite hard, but I've found that the fatty part of my thumb and that bottom knuckle can take the pain well.

Corn Cob
My friend told me her boys loved chomping their gums on empty corn cobs.  I was so intrigued by her suggestion that I went out to the store and bought some corn that very day.  After we cooked and ate our corn, my husband took a knife and scraped off the remaining bits of corn from the cooled cob.  He also cut off one end that was pretty flimsy.  Once we were confident our baby wouldn't be able to break off any pieces of the cob, we gave it to her.  Oh my.  I'm pretty sure this was the baby equivalent of winning the lottery.  She wouldn't give her cob up for anything.  I can't say for sure that it helped with any teething pain, but, at the very least, it distracted her from it because she cared about nothing but that cob.  Since then, we've given her a scraped cob every time we've eaten corn on the cob.  She's always overjoyed.  In fact, she recognizes corn cobs now, and she kicks excitedly and yells at us in anticipation during dinner when we serve corn.

Frozen Waffle
Would you believe that I first heard about this idea back in the 90s, watching an episode of Home Improvement?  I gave Oliver a frozen waffle when he was still quite little to help with teething pain, but he gummed hunks of waffle off.  I kept having to fish the pieces out of his mouth to prevent choking.  I nixed the waffle idea until he was a bit older.  At about a year old, the frozen waffle worked like a charm.  We'd give him a waffle straight from the freezer, and he'd eat it as is.  Chewing the frozen waffle helped numb his gums and gave him relief.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Little Monkey Bizness

Andrew's car spent a couple days in the shop this week.  I drove across town to drop him off at work.  Not wanting to have to drive back across town in the heat, the kids and I spent a few of our days at my parents' house.

It opened up a few more play options for us during the day.  I took the kids to Little Monkey Bizness.  Little Monkey Bizness has a huge play area set up for young kids, and it's walled off with a door you can only open from the outside.  Next to the play area is a cafe, so parents with independent children can sit, sip on a coffee from the coffee bar, and watch their kiddos play.  At $8 per child ($5 for crawlers under 1), it would be pretty pricey to make regular visits there.  I have to say, it's a very nice place to go as an occasional treat, and their discounted prices on Friday evenings looks inviting.

We were there all morning, and almost all the kids there were around Oliver's age: 2-3 years.  I loved that because I didn't have to worry about him getting trampled on by large children.  It's summer time, so it's safe to assume older children could go there but don't.  Most of the equipment is clearly for small kids.  I wonder if older kids are more likely to come in the evenings.  Thankfully, there's a second area set up for crawlers and toddlers, with a sign posted on the door asking that no kids over the age of 2 enter.

Oliver found a jump area that he loved.  He's only just started to jump with both feet, and, even then, he prefers to hold on to something when he does. Hanging behind him in the photo are some "U" shaped pads that the kids would straddle like a horse and then jump up and down. Oliver was hesitant at first to do it, but by the end of our morning there, I could hardly get him off of those things.

Friday, July 20, 2012

100 (Attempted) Ways to Entertain a Young Toddler, Day 74: Exercise

When the weather is nice, I take Oliver outside at least once a day even if it's just for a walk to the mailbox.  If we're cooped up from bad weather, I do a series of exercises with Oliver.  He loves it!  It not only gets him active, but it gives him a chance to show off his counting skills.

I choose what exercise we're going to do.  He loves it when we punch.  He punches his arms and counts each one to ten.  We also raise our arms over our heads ten times, lift our knees ten times, squat ten times, and jog in place for ten seconds.  The repetition of counting to ten over and over really helps get it ingrained. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if 8 month old Jo recognizes the sound of counting to ten.

I don't want exercise to be taboo for my kids.  I want it to be something they feel comfortable doing, even if it's just for a few minutes a day.  Besides, it's really good for me to make sure that I get my body moving a little bit every day, too.  I like that Oliver has fun doing exercises with me.

Moving around and doing these type of simple exercises is easy, fun, educational, and free.  This is the type of thing we can do when we're waiting in lines to keep Oliver occupied.