Frightfully Fun: Halloween Photo Shoot and Sensory Play

halloween cute bug

So it’s super easy, indoors or outside.

Outdoor sensory fun!

Grab these materials for some fun and some great Halloween pics. Smiles are easy with all the sensory fun!

Materials: Box, Blanket, Halloween costume, nature toys, pumpkins, different texture fabrics, camera

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It’s good to pick a cozy blanket. This makes for a warm and nurturing base for exploration. The spandex costume makes for great deep pressure input, but costumes of any kind make for great new sensory experiences. They are wonderful to use more often than just on Halloween night.

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Toys and blankets should be baby safe, meaning they are safe to explore with their mouth. Babies need input to their mouth and tags and strings are a real treat!

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It’s even great that they explore all the parts of their costume. Babies are learning not only about their body and how it works, but also how it works in relation to the world. Let your baby explore her costume.

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Different textures are a sensory explorer’s dream! Give your baby several different fabrics to explore.

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Different toys are also great! This little bug had the chance to explore some stuffed nature critters. I went with a nature theme. A quick visit to the plush animal bin and we had all we needed.

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We thought we would head outside for more fun and photos. I was amazed how curious baby was about this big pumpkin. Grass, cooler air, more texture, more colors. Nature based sensory play brings its own advantages.

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Baby was happy for a long time out in nature. I was happy because she was happy AND I got some cute photos!

Happy and Calm Sensory Play Baby!

One good way to know your little one has enjoyed their sensory play, is to see them calm and eventually tired. We’re not talking about being over-stimulated from too much sensory input. Calm, fun, new exploration. That’s the way to go.

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As a mom, I hope you use these ideas to get some great photo ops. As a developmental therapist, I hope you get the idea about great sensory play. It’s fun and exciting for baby, but in the end it’s calming as well.

Sensory play is simply the “work” of our kids!

Mindful Halloween Ideas: 2017 Blog Hop

Halloween blog hops make it easy to be mindful of spending quality time with your kids.

Being Mindful of spending time with your kids this Halloween is easier than ever!

 Hope you got the chance to visit the other excellent blogs involved in this Hop. It has been a pleasure working with so many talented bloggers on this project. Happy Halloweening!

Take a look at these Halloween activities from my blogging friends!

Neon Halloween Banner by Projects with Kids

Halloween Sponge Painting with Ghosts by Preschool Toolkit

Counting with Halloween Board Books by Homebound But Hopeful

Halloween Activity Pages by Mosswood Connections

Halloween Teacake Spider Treats by the Gingerbread House

X-Ray Exercises Free Printable by Growing Play

Cardboard Tube Monsters by The Joy of Sharing

Spooky Eyeball Brownies by Moments At Home

If you have a picture of Halloween fun please share it in the comments section. Activities, recipes, or just Halloween mayhem! We’d love to see what your up to this fall!

 

 

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Mindful Music: Jazz Up Their Day With Fun Kid Songs!

songs for kids resources

Mindful Parenting With Music and Songs

The yoga of everyday life includes music. Growing up as a musician and still enjoying my musical gifts, I can’t help but think about what my kids and family listened to each day.

When we really get down to the truth of it, mindful parenting is actually aided by the presence of certain music and music of a certain quality. Karma yoga, the yoga of daily action, would suggest that we select music in a thoughtful way.

For example, when I want to create a calming background for my kids while they are drawing, yoga music for calming such as chanting, ocean or nature sounds, or music consisting of certain musical tones is what I would select. When I want a more upbeat background for activities such as cooking, I play some cultural music such as salsa or swing music from the 30’s.

One of my most-loved musical experiences comes from a beloved collection of music under the Guess How Much I Love You CD/book title. The 3-CD set came along with the book. The CD includes author Sam McBratney’s audio reading of the book, as well as a selection of lullabies, soothing classical music and nature sounds.They are designed for baby or child to play and rest while listening, but they really affected me the most!

When I first got these CD’s my little baby would sleep or play and I would just cry and cry tears of joy that only these sweet little songs could bring up. I couldn’t help myself!  They tugged on my heart-strings so wonderfully, and made me aware of the immense love I had for my baby. I wouldn’t miss out on all this wonderful awe thanks to the music, even if I did feel a little silly for all the tissues I went through. The music helped to bring me to a mindfulness that I might have missed in all my daily busy-ness. It was a gift when I still didn’t know how important it was to be mindful. It allowed me to stop and realize joy. This music would not let me miss out on the love in those moments with my baby.

If you want to listen to this book with some of the music in the background to help your little one unwind or get ready for restful sleep, click Guess How Much I Love You Kids Story with Music

mindful listening to music

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Check out these musical resources when mindfully selecting music and kids songs for your family.

Music Together is an organization that provides organic music experiences for families and children through classes and online. It gets the family involved in music enjoyment, and just like a language, when the family speaks the same language, in this case music, the child is sure to learn. Even if you don’t know a thing about music, this organization will allow you to be an example for your child.

Putumayo Kids is the best resource I have found for the classroom and home world music. They pick songs that are easily accessible to both the newly-trained and the seasoned ear. The tunes are fun and very well produced. Putumayo kids has been my favorite and go to source for world music for the past 10 years.

Jazz at Lincoln Center We Bop Program

Kindermusik is a valuable educational music resource.

Calming Music and Songs for Kids:

The Earth Spirit music by R. Carlos Nakai is so focusing it could be used to calm for yoga sessions, used as a meditation, or background music to create a calm home or classroom environment. I listen to this CD even when my kids aren’t around. It is fantastic!

Multi-Cultural Music and Songs for Kids:

The Gipsy Kings are a easy transition to Latin Music. Kids and parents can enjoy their music quickly even if Latin music is unfamiliar.  The GK’s are from Europe and draw from many traditions, including flamenco, salsa, Cuban music and even rock and roll, with an energetic and driving sound.  We listen to The Best of the Gypsy Kings in the car all the time and cook tacos with it on in the background.

A great CD for African music is African Playground. We absolutely love this CD and have some favorites the kids can’t help but dance to. For a more African to American transition in music, we listen to Jazz and Blues Cd’s we pick up from the Library.

Teach Me German is a fun book and music combination that has kids’ songs in German and short reading lessons in an easy format. Kids can color each lesson page, and a few pages can be done at a time. Teach Me More German is the next book in this series. We used these books around the Christmas holidays as their are special holiday sections, but it takes kids on an adventure through the year, so it could work in any season.

In the same vein is Teach Me Everyday Spanish, a book we’ve used year after year. The songs are fun and they have a mix of English and Spanish so even the kids who are listening for fun won’t get lost! It’s really easy and we have also used Teach Me More Spanish as supplement to the other Spanish-language resources we use at home to encourage our kids to learn multiple languages. Fun coloring, story-telling and kids’ songs!

Exploring the Senses with Music and Songs for Kids:

Explore music through the senses, SEEING the universe as never before, with great songs from  The Mighty Sky musical experience. These songs for kids have been awarded the “Smart Media” and “Notable” medals by the American Library Association and Academics Association. This collection rocks and creates a beautiful picture of the universe through music.

A great CD related to all things food and also for all the Barenaked Ladies fans out there! Snacktime is BNL’s take on a kids’ CD that does not disappoint. Whether you have a picky eater or kids who love to eat, this CD makes food a feast of musical fun. We play this in the car just for giggles! Then we sing it in the kitchen because we know all the lyrics.

Auditory Meditations for Kids:

These are tracks I love to use in my work with kids and with my own family. My favorite is Mermaids and Fairy Dust.

Yoga Songs for Kids:

Self awareness allows for mastery of emotions.

Calm parents are a model for calm kids. Music and mindful activities can help!

One of the best yoga recordings I have found is by Kira Willey. Her music in Dance for the Sun takes kids on yoga adventures they can listen to AND do! It is really a ton of fun for the whole family.

Folk Songs for Kids and Families:

John McCutcheon’s music in Howjadoo is down-home fun with a level of musicianship that kids can understand and grow into, while still having fun!

Try the Johnny Cash Children’s Album for a grounding experience for the whole family. Johnny’s voice in it’s booming bass style wakes us up to the grind of daily life but in a fun way which kids can grasp. Great songs.

Family Music and Songs for Kids:

Ziggy Marley does a great job with his album, Family Time. It’s upbeat and a great listen to put the whole family in a happy mood!

music for kids, kids songs about the moon

Coconut Moon is a master music compilation for silly family fun. The Green Chili Jam Band rocks these kids’ songs, so parents can just sit back and laugh. Here is an example of just one silly song called Lard. It’s sure to bring laughter.

Holiday Music for Kids:

An amazing CD that creates the a feeling of warmth and love around the Christmas Holiday is Christmas Folkjul. I cried when I listened to this music in my car, driving home once late holiday evening alone from work. This has become a consistent request for the whole family.  Don’t let one more holiday go by without this true musical gem.

Practice of Spirituality: Parents Reduce Distraction and Increase Joy!

Beautiful place inspires mindfulness and joy.

Out On the Edges of Life Is Where There Is So Much Joy To Be Found.

Everyday, I strive to be mindful of my choices. It’s easiest, of course, when I turn off the devices and don’t over-schedule. As a mom, if I am grounded and centered, the day goes better. As a occupational therapist, it’s the same deal. I can work with my clients more efficiently when I am calm, centered and focused.

I started to wondered if other moms and therapists alike use spirituality in their daily lives. IF they do, how do they do it? In an age where religion and spiritual practice is markedly less evident than the generation of our parents, how were we making it through the day as grounded as our parents? Were we really doing the work as occupational therapists from a grounded place?

I was looking for answers to some of these very questions when I saw that the Pennsylvania Occupational Therapy Association was hosting an upcoming workshop titled “Spirituality in Occupational Therapy.”

As it turns out, I am not the only mom, or for that matter, therapist, that thinks spirituality is an important part of the daily grind. In fact, many of us use it as a coping mechanism, a regular component of our dealings with family and clients alike, and as a buffer to the outside world. When surveyed at the Duquesne University Annual Celebration 2017, during the presentation by clinical scholars studying “cultural responsiveness in current occupational therapy practice”, greater than 80% of therapists reported that they used some form of religion or spirituality during their daily therapy sessions.

As a mother, I often see and hear moms talking about being calm and having the ability to deal with difficult parenting situations. One of the biggest topics on mom blogs and during play-date water cooler talk is how to motivate their kids without yelling! Moms want to know how to live with intention, be more efficient, and be more helpful for their families. They want to feel grounded instead of scattered in a thousand directions. Moms want answers – even moms who feel they are doing a good job. They want to know how to be most efficient, creative and calm.

Moms want to enjoy the bonds they have with their kids. Sometimes, parents are so over-scheduled that they barely remember the amazing connection they once had with their children when they were smaller. There is just so little time and so many more distractions than ever before. Parents want to make life simple. They want to hug their kids, before their kids are grown.

Mindful parents have time to hug their kids.

A Hug Is So Simple, But It Means So Much.

So where can we find answers to all of these questions?

The workshop “Spirituality and Occupational Therapy” strongly affirmed the basic need for spirituality in the lives of both therapist and client. Occupational science is based on the mind-body-spirit paradigm with whole theoretical models based on this paradigm. The presenter, Rebecca Austill-Clausen, drew attention to this basic premise in occupational therapy, much to my delight. It’s what drew me to the profession in the first place.

Ms. Austill-Clausen further reviewed AOTA’s definition of spirituality as “the aspect of humanity that refers to the way an individual seeks and expressed meaning and purpose and the way they experience their connection to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, and to the significant or sacred.” Additionally, the 2005 AOTA Position Paper states that “occupational therapy can use complementary modalities in preparation for an occupational therapy treatment session.” In terms of Occupational Therapy, we are literally swimming in a sea of possibility in how we engage with spirit as therapists.

Mindfulness and connection to spirit brings good days.

Decide That You Are Going To Have A Good Day! Connect To Your Spirit!

BUT do we engage with Spirit?

Do we allow ourselves this simple gift or do we see it as a luxury?

Are we addicted to stress and feel strange if we are centered?

Do we force our patients to do exercises and programs simply because they are billable?

Do we ask our patients what gives their day meaning?

In all of these questions I have a hunch that we do the right thing. We are quite smart when it comes to all things spiritual as a profession in general. However, it’s always good to get a reminder to engage with our own spirituality on a daily basis. This type of self-care is an ever-present need for us to attend to, so we don’t burn out.

What results is joy. More joy with family and friends. More joy at work. More joy in our heart! And choices that result in even more joy!

And that is what Rebecca Austill-Clausen exemplified in her presentation. She showed us complementary techniques that brought her joy each day in her own life, that also spilled over into her work as an occupational therapist. Seeing someone be open about what brought them joy was inspirational in itself.

To tell you a little about what I do for a mindful practice, each morning I start my day with meditation. Honestly, without it, I don’t have very productive or calm days. I have noticed a true quantifiable difference. I have also recently cut down on my Facebook and web-surfing time so I can be less distracted from the moment that exists in the physical world around me. My thoughts are more present and not in cyber-mind space. I have time to give hugs and kisses to my kids.

A mindful mom giving her kid a kiss!

A Simple Kiss Goes A Long Way Through the Day!

I have also tried to be responsible in decreasing chaos and clutter in my home and in my head. Less stuff, less shopping, less violent movies, less news feed.  This has allowed me to observe life around me for the gifts it brings and not all the distractions and things to accomplish. Finally, I have worked to reconnect with nature. To take a walk, stop near a stream or enjoy a sunset. Less distraction overall has allowed me to experience nature in a more vibrant way.

The results have been wonderful. I feel like I have regained my sense of direction, with more time in each day, more hope that things will be good, and more self care.

Now, taking you back to the Duquesne University Celebration, with the >80% of therapists acknowledging that they had used spirituality in their daily therapy sessions, I want to challenge you to turn your own spiritual practice and mindfulness up a notch in your own personal life. Why? This will undoubtedly trickle down into your therapy practice and family life, with not only you benefiting, but everyone around you benefiting as well.

You will find that spark of childhood wonder again. I promise.

Mindful parenting can bring a sense of childhood wonder back to your life!

The Sparkle of Childhood Wonder Isn’t Far Away. Find Your Wonder.

It’s quite simply a “feel good” challenge.

13 Minute “Feel Good” Mindfulness Challenge:

Try these simple mindfulness activities for 7 days. Stop. Enjoy. Repeat.

If you try these simple activities for just one week, you will notice a difference.

The “Feel Good” Challenge will run through the Spring of 2017. We are looking for feedback and your own personal stories. Please comment and let us know how this challenge worked for you!

  1. Stop 3 times each day and focus on your breath for 1 minute. Breakfast, on the train, in a meeting, anytime.
  2. Take a walk for 10 minutes. To get a healthy snack, to buy a magazine, to observe a garden or get fresh air and sunshine.
  3. Limit device use. Reduce your engagement on social media by half.

These three activities will take a total of 13 minutes of your day. You may find that by reducing social media engagement you will actually have more time in your day to relax. Try it. See how you feel.

If you miss a day or a few days just add more days until you get to 7. Be easy on yourself, but try to do it for as many days in a row that you can.

There’s no need to journal. You’ll feel the difference and it won’t be easy to forget. You might even decide that you want to continue your 13 Minute “Feel Good” practice well into the future.  I hope it will help you as much as it did me.

*To learn more about Rebecca Austill-Clausen, and her book Change Maker, click here. Living from a place of authenticity makes her an obvious example of spirituality in action.

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Mindful Music: Jazz Up the Day With Good Songs for Kids!

songs for kids, activities for kids, songs for babies, music for kids

“Is it possible to be mindful when listening to music?”

“Where can a mom or dad find good songs for kids?”

“Since when have good listening activities for kids been so hard to find? “

I hear these questions from parents all the time. I’m glad they ask because it’s easy to direct them toward good resources so their children can learn through listening.

Being mindful when choosing what our kids listen to is important. Kids are ALWAYS listening and learning. The lyrics of the songs they hear inform them about what people outside the family are doing. Hopefully, they are wholesome. Exposure to music when our kids are young weaves them a tapestry of understanding and processing sound that they will compare future music to and will influence their choices. Let’s hope the musical tapestry to which they’re exposed is complex and beautiful.

Most important, who they listen to music with as they grow will affect who they listen to music with when they are older.  Let’s set family musical listening and engagement happen as a part of the daily routine!

Did you know being mindful about music is easier than you think? If your kids have ears, you’re in business. Well, kind of.

As a musician since the age of 6, I knew music was my calling. I went to school many years later, specializing in sensory play to help kids of all ages and skill levels learn. Then several years after that, I was certified to teach Music Together, an organic way of bringing music to kids through the family.  You could say I’ve come full circle.

In all these endeavors, it became clear that in order for kids to learn and use music in the long term, it has to be seen as a family activity. I’m not suggesting that every parent pick up a new instrument, but even the most tone-deaf of parents can select music to listen to and enjoy as a family.

So you might be thinking: just turn on the radio, right?

Nope.

songs for kids, music for kids

Sound Advice on Music for Kids

If you turn on the radio today, many stations play the same kind of music. There doesn’t seem to be much variety. The music industry is primarily about selling music, and music that has “different” doesn’t make many sales. So this leaves us as parents with fewer choices and less say in the quality of music we get to choose.

Many radio stations play music with a specific signal frequency. The idea is to make it not different, but mostly the “same”, within a consistent set of frequencies. All of the frequencies are compressed down into a very narrow listening range (or ‘band’). It’s like taking a mega-sized soup pot of clam chowder, with all its diversity and goodness, and compressing it into a sardine can. Not all that exciting.

These days, Radio is controlled by a handful of huge media companies, and when they realized that the music that people buy is basically “more of the same”, they decided that originality and sonic variety weren’t qualities they wanted to emphasize.  The effect of this is that when you turn on the radio, yours and your kids’ ears don’t develop to nearly their potential to be avid listeners and develop deep appreciation of music, let alone carry a tune or play an instrument.

Below I have a sample of 6 songs in the current genre of modern country music  (which, I admit, I used to like a lot) that, when mashed up together, actually sound like one song. This means that not only are the frequencies used in the music compressed to exactly the same levels, but also that the words and themes fit together topically. Just watch as the song scrolls and the different songs are played simultaneously. Amazing.

Develop Your Kid’s Musical Aptitude:

Musical Aptitude: refers to a person’s innate ability to acquire skills and knowledge required for musical activity, and may influence the speed at which learning can take place and the level that may be achieved. (Wikipedia)

Knowing that kids have a “window” of musical development that hits its peak between 0-5 years of age, what they’re listening to is important. Educational pioneer Maria Montessori refers to this window of opportunity as the “sensitive period.” There are other schools of musical thought that say this period can go well into the 7th and 8th year of a child’s life, and beyond.

Regardless of the age of your child, the answer here to developing musical aptitude is to get your kids listening to good music. Be thoughtful about what music you choose for yourself and your family.

songs for kids, music for kids, songs for babies

Start Early With Family Music

 

Are you ready for some good music?

Your kids are ready!

You think “Where can I get some good old-fashioned music?”

Here are a few ways to be more mindful in your selection of music as a parent:

1. Try visiting your local library’s music section. By that, I mean the grownup section, and check out some CDs! Don’t check too many out of the children’s section.

Kids’ music is so often very basic.  There are exceptions, of course, but it generally means that if your kid listens to very basic music, their ear learns very basic skills. If that’s what you want, then listening to “kiddie” type music will work.

2. Listening to more complex rhythms, sounds, instruments and tonality will develop kids’ ears so they can understand and enjoy these qualities. Adult music in the classical, Jazz, folk, and world music genres will provide you with great choices. If you pick music you like, so much the better. Just make sure the lyrics are age appropriate.

Here are three resources I use all the time. The first two use kids’ songs in complex ways. The third is a masterpiece all on its own, good for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others.

For little ones, here is an example of Jazz used to teach babies a greeting that can be used when you arrive home or anytime you and your family is up for some fun and singing! It’s called Welcome My Baby.

A resource for kids specifically that utilizes folk, blues, classical, and a variety of cultures is Music Together. This is one of my favorites, and you can find many resources on YouTube for free!  It called Ridin’ in the Car.

This resource my kids heard for the first time at a free symphony concert. They could not be distracted! It’s great for activities for kids that involve dancing and painting to music, among others. In The Hall of the Mountain King

3. Being Consistent with Music Engagement teaches children to be mindful of what they listen to on a daily basis as they grow.

Make family music time a priority. When you hit the library for books, hit the CD rack too. Go to YouTube and see what you like. See what your significant other likes. See what your kids gravitate to. If your kiddo likes the idea of a trumpet, google search “top trumpet players” and see what you can find out.

There is no doubt that your musical ear will be developing on a growth curve if you take this approach. And remember, even if you don’t love a particular genre at first, music has a way of growing on you.

Just make sure to start the habit of Music Mindfulness-and keep it going. If you should break out into random singing and dancing as well, so much he better! If you start singing in the shower, more power to you. Just have fun.

Your kids will surprise you if you give them the chance.

Your children deserve a good shot at a lifetime of good music.

kids play music, songs for kids, music for kids

Different cultures mindfully chose to expose their children to culturally relevant music and teach them how to be a part of it.

We hope this was informative for you and your family. Let us know if you tried some of the ideas shared in this article. We love your comments, because they help us learn what your needs are and what we can do to make Swami Mommi even more relevant.

A baby playing a drum while listening to good music.

 

 

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Make Blueberries an “Event” for Your Baby and the Whole Family.

blueberries muffins

Weather you are trying to teach your baby good eating habits from the start, or just want to have some summer sensory fun with your family, blueberries are the way to go. They are jammed with nutrients and anti-oxidants and are easy to work with in the kitchen. Plus, a trip out to the farm for U-pick blueberries is a great way to show our kids exactly where our food comes from everyday!

Ideas for Family Activities that Center Around Blueberries

This past fall we went as a family to pick apples on a nearby farm, and having had such a great time with the experience, we decided mid-July blueberry picking was worth a try. Two trips to the farm, 13 pounds of blueberries and two cans of sweet cream later, we find that we are quite a natural picking bunch!

Our first trip was in 90 degree heat, and we literally all almost melted. My husband with the spray bottle, my daughter with her sun hat, and myself with the bottled water in the middle of the blueberry fields to pick the plumpest of blueberries. But all of our “cooling provisions” could not sustain us in the heat, and we left with a mere 5 lbs of berries. Actually, we ate so many directly off the bushes, it was probably more like 5 1/2 lbs.

Several days passed, and my husband’s idea of berries and cream had hit full stride.  We were soon to run out of berries and I knew we would be back in the fields soon.

Friday came with wild storms, and a cooler weather forecast for the weekend. When I suggested that we go pick berries, there were smiles all around. This time, the weather was breezy and sunny. We spent a good hour in the fields and left with 8 pounds of blueberries. On the way home we stopped for another container of ice cream ! Yum!

So here’s a few ideas to make blueberries an “event” in your home too. I start with berries and cream, progress through berry muffins, and end with a song we sang while in the fields. I posted the song so you can learn and sing as a family too!

Berries and Cream
Fresh blueberries
Vanilla Ice Cream
Cute dessert bowls for fun eating!

blueberry muffins for kids, toddler recipes, blueberry toddler recipes, baby food

Gluten Free Blueberry Muffins (or try a regular recipe if you are not gluten intolerant)

1/2 cup organic canola or safflower oil
1/2 cup maple syrup
11/4 cups soymilk (or rice milk)
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup Sucanat, date sugar, maple sugar, or org. unrefined sugar
4 cups brown rice flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups whole fresh-picked (or frozen) blueberries

Preheat the over to 350 degrees F. Oil a 12-cup muffin pan or line it with paper liners and set aside. In a small bowl, mix 2 teaspoons maple syrup or sugar and 1 teaspoon brown rice flour as a topping to drizzle over the muffins just before putting the muffins in the oven.

Mix the oil, syrup, soymilk, vinegar, and vanilla in another small bowl. In a separate, larger bowl place the sugar, flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt. Sift the flour to ensure there won’t be clumps. If you are good with the mixing, and feel it is consistent throughout, you really don’t need to sift. It’s up to you!

Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Do not overwork the batter. If the batter is stiff, add 1 teaspoon of milk at a time. Fold in 2 cups of blueberries and do not overwork the batter or it will turn blue. (This actually could look interesting if you dare try it!)

Spoon the batter into the muffin cups and sprinkle with the topping mixture prepared ahead of time. You may place a few berries on top of each muffin to make them extra juicy on top.

Bake for 20 minutes and rotate the pan a half turn to ensure even baking. Bake 5-6 minutes more or until a knife inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Let cool for 15 minutes, remove from the pan, and let cool completely on a wire rack.

(This muffin mixture was adapted from “Simple Treats: Wheat-Free and Dairy Free Guide to Scrumptious Baked Goods by Ellen Abraham)

Blue Belly Button Boy/Girl (A song/recipe For Fun!)
Once we were out in the fields, we had a blast with this song! With each verse I would pick a blueberry and put it on baby’s  belly button. We would cover it up with her shirt and after each round of the song, we would look to her bellybutton to see if she was the blue belly button girl! She loved it and asked for more over and over again!) The next day, and for weeks to follow, we were singing this song and having fun with these berries in baby’s highchair. I cut them so they were not a chocking hazard, and baby got a great snack with tons of great nutrients and anti-oxidants.

Check out the audio of the song Blue Belly Button Boy here. It’s a fun song about blueberries!

Chorus:
There once was a blue belly button Boy (girl)
Boy oh boy was his belly button blue
If you could see blue belly button Boy (girl)
You would say it’s the bluest too!

feeding baby, baby food, baby puree, developmental milestones for feeding

Feeding Milestones: What do you need to know to feed your baby and toddler blueberries?

Feeding a baby who is just starting solids should try blueberries in a very liquid type puree. Some recommend steaming fruits and veggies before making puree, but I never did. Baby didn’t have any difficulty so I never bothered, but if your baby seems to have digestive difficulty with them, I would suggest giving them a little steam.

Once baby turned toddler, I could cut the berries into tiny bites and put them on her tray. I would usually cut them in half and then cut them again to be extra sure they were not a choking hazard. Remember to do whatever you need to insure your baby or toddler is working with a safe texture or size during feeding. If you aren’t sure what is safe, ask you pediatrician.

I also use puree blueberries and small blueberry bites to practice with the spoon too. Babies and toddlers love the challenge of getting the berries into their mouth and they love to taste the reward too!

So have fun this summer, with baby and the whole family. Make blueberries an annual “Event” in your home for some real down home fun and for a family of happy eaters!

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A Better Way To Swing Your Kids

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If it’s warm or cold, doesn’t matter. Find a place outside to get moving with your kids! It’s good for you and your kids, and babies especially love movement play. Fresh air, natural light, and good old fashioned movement stimulation for the brain! Ahhh….life is good!

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I took my little one and first grader out for a swing ride, and although this may seem simple, there is an easy way to get provide great movement with little effort. All you need to know is the Sensory Movement Hack!

I can assure you these smiles you see are the real deal. Baby loved her time in the swing, as did my first grader, but having a developmental therapist as a mom, well, you get a little more bang for your buck!

The official name for movement input, in sensory integration theory  is “vestibular” input. (OT Nerd Alert!  🙂 The term was first coined by Jean Ayres, Phd., OTR/L, an American occupational therapist, educational psychologist and pioneer in sensory integration theory. She wrote many books and published many research articles in her day, as well as made great contributions to the field of occupational science. She was the one who started it all. Without her, we might not think about sensory play in the same way we do today.

Her groundbreaking book in the 70’s was entitled Sensory Integration and Learning Disorders.

I was fortunate to have one of her colleagues as my master’s thesis advisor. My advisor worked with Dr. Ayres in California for years before switching to University life. I somehow won the lottery to get her as my advisor! Jackpot!

And so began my complete obsession with all things development and sensory. I have been learning ever since, and have enjoyed applying my findings to thousands of kiddos. Let me share my #1 favorite sensory hack for movement play so you can indulge yourself in a little movement play geek-dom too!

Movement Hack for Brain/Language Development

When you are providing linear movement for your baby or child (like swinging!), make sure you stop every 30-60 seconds to ensure that you re-activate the brain. After approximately 1 minute, there is a brain habituation process that happens. Habitu-what?? Brain habituation means that the brain detects the sensory input coming, but quickly gets used to the input and stops sending signals to the higher brain centers. To short circuit this habituation process, you simply have to change the movement.

Remember to keep the movement linear, and simply stop the movement and restart the movement. That’s all you need to do. Tell the brain movement is starting. Then tell it that it is stopping. Then tell it again it is starting over and over, every 60 minutes or so.

Do this in a consistent manner, and bingo, you have sent the upper centers of the brain all kinds of great movement input that not only is calming and organizing for your little kiddos, but also great for developing their gross motor skills. Plus, calm and organized kids = healthy emotional development. 

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2 common questions I get from parents:

1. Do you have to change the direction of movement? You can if you like. But stop and go movement works the same way.

2. Should I add some spinning or circular movement? Well, you can, but for truly                    calming and organizing input you want to keep it linear.

So, try this on your backyard swing. Try this playfully in a swimming pool as you play tug boat, or in a wagon on a trail. Just remember this hack is a simplicity hack. Simple is best.

For even more giggles for babies, I usually add the game of “stop” and “go” with sign language to engage language skills. I have noticed significant increases in how my baby initiates sounds and words during this type of play. This actually makes sense scientifically because the movement receptors are located in the inner ear, so, of course we see greater language engagement! Movement and language play- all in one!

For my older kiddo, I usually play “red light/green light”. Giggles ensue, I promise you.

One last piece of advice, be sure to have fun!! Make memories with this simple hack, that you will remember long after your kids are grown.

For more fun outdoors,  try to design some fun outdoor time with your kids. It’s Easy!

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Design Awesome Outdoor Sensory Play

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Most kids can’t get enough outside time, but how do you provide sensory play outside that is not overstimulating? Play that actually helps kids regulate and chill out?

It’s true; some kids can get so wound up at the playground that playdates with friends can get out of hand, and outdoor smells and sights can be just too much for some kids, especially if they have already had a full day tagging along for errands, or a day with too many activities.

What about kids who just naturally get over-stimulated easily, or kids who really just need to calm and regroup after the constant barrage of distractions they run into on a daily basis?

Outdoor sensory play is an ideal way to provide sensory soothing and regulation. We could make it so outdoor play provides the opposite, of course, where it amps up our kids too. But outdoor and nature settings seem to intuitively provide calm. So let’s take what nature gives us and use it to our advantage in designing a Outdoor Sensory Soothing Playdate!

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How to Design Your Own Outdoor Sensory Playdate:

First of,  you have to think ahead. Think about what your kiddo likes and what soothes them. It takes planning, but a little prep work will save you time in the end. And just think, your kid will be sensory regulated, focused, and ready to enjoy the rest of their day.  Sensory regulation has a lot to do with how the environment is set up; you as their parent or teacher have the greatest impact on how this activity is structured.

So let’s use an example of a sensory playdate I planned last week, when the sun was so inviting I couldn’t stay in the house any longer. It should give you an idea of how to go about planning your own sensory playdate.

My setup was really basic, one that could be easily duplicated. All you need are some basic materials you have around the house. Then, think of which ones are soothing in general or for your child specifically. I thought soft and warm things, and of course, a way to provide MOVEMENT! When outside, I can’t help but think big, big movement. Baby loves it! And so do the older kids!

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The old Town and Country wagon set the stage for a good supported surface. Baby is still developing her righting reflexes, and the older kids found it a fun and novel challenge. What are righting reflexes? They are the reflexes that keep you sitting if you tip and lose your balance. If you have a baby that is sitting or learning to crawl or walk, this activity will be a bonus workout for your baby’s abs, a few other trunk muscles, and the righting reflexes themselves…but who’s keeping track, right? This is all about fun!

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After setting baby up with a few extra blankets and pillows for safety, we were ready to move. The blankets and pillows provided a back up support in case baby fell off balance and couldn’t catch herself. Safety first! A soft bunting was added texture for her to feel and extra cuddle to make the ride all that more nurturing! We packed in the other kids and were off!

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I had a textured ball with knobby extensions, so I threw it into the wagon. Baby loved it, and it was safe to mouth. I thought this was a good alternative to her usual outdoor mouthing choice of leaves or random dog food kibble (yes, I had to stop her once!) Her ability to mouth something is really calming to her. Even better, I wish I  would have had something she could have sucked on, as the sucking reflex for babies is also very calming. Since babies suck naturally, it’s like they come with a built in calming device. Too cool.

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Once we started to move it was all smiles and eye contact. A true “Hey mom, this is so awesome!” memory making event!

I pulled the wagon in a circle to the right first, and then after a few starts and stops, we turned the circle in the direction to the left. I wanted to stimulate her inner ear in opposite directions. This really makes a difference; changes in movement during vestibular sensory play (aka movement sensory play), especially in direction and position, always deliver a more robust experience. Huh? I mean you get more bang for your buck. More input is registered in the brain so more neurons are formed, and more regulation results. Input and regulation are so important, and so beneficial, for natural development and soothing.

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Movement, in itself, is really soothing. Well, at least the kind a wagon provides.  Straight lines and a little curve. The wheels provide the rhythmic sounds of linear movement and nothing is chaotic. It’s predictable, for the most part.

When movement is wild and unpredictable, or if there is too much movement, as a rule of thumb, it can turn from soothing to over-stimulating. We sure didn’t want to over-stimulate baby or the older kids right before a nap, so we took it slow and steady.

After about 20 minutes, baby was so calm and was all snuggled in the wagon. It really was too cute. And I felt great. The big kids felt great too. Plus, this simple activity met some of my nurturing, sensory and nature activity goals for the week. (Yes, I have goals I write for the week….total developmental geek… I know.)

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We ended up having a super fun time, with baby LOVING it and asking for more! She really did ask for “Wa-gon-train”! She tried to say it. It came out more like “wa-wa-ta” but I was happy that she was trying to speak in order to get more rides on the wagon! It looks like the inner ear stimulation activated her brain for speech! How cool.

What about your own outdoor sensory play design?

I hope you try to create your own Sensory soothing playdate sometime soon. Or if you have done this already, please let us know what worked or didn’t work for you.

The weather is getting to be just perfect for this type of activity, and all you need is five minutes to think and plan for your children specifically.  Then just grab your kids and the materials and head outdoors!

As an update, since the initial “Wagon Train” as the kids now call it, we have gone out two more times to enjoy the weather. It appears to be an activity that both the kids and I really enjoy.  The kids feel like they are on a festival ride, and I get out and move for some fresh air and sunshine. Ahhh….life is good.

(Please note that a helmet is recommended for kids in this activity. I did not use one but I have almost two decades of safety training in working with kids with special needs. I know my safety limits well, and was OK not using one with my set up. I strongly recommend that you use one with your kids.)