Monday, January 31, 2011

Simple Fun

This is ridiculous sometimes what simple things will entertain your toddler to no end! :) I found two caps (I think they are both from different fabric softeners) in my save-for-Kitten-may-be-we-will-come-up-with-something-do-with-it-later drawer (don't laugh, everybody needs one!), which fit into one another perfectly.
 And we discovered that if you pull them apart suddenly...
They will make a popping sound! What fun! She loved doing it :)

Friday, January 28, 2011

Grandfather Frost

Kitten was playing with playdough and I was cooking next to her when suddenly she said "Grandpa" (or rather a Russian equivalent of it - "Deda", that's what she calls my Dad or Grandfather Frost), I looked and she was holding a piece of playdough, pointing at it. And it really does look a little like a head of an old man :) Oh, the wonders of child's imagination…

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pasta stringing

For this activity you need a bowl of uncooked Rigatoni pasta (you can dye them but I didn't have time yet), a shoe lace and a cord stop.
Put a cord stop on one end of a shoe lace and you are ready to string! For some reason Kitten likes to put the end through but immediately pulls it out and starts on a new one and she did not like it when I encouraged her to pull shoe lace all the way through :)
This was the end of stringing but she enjoyed feeding her dolls some pasta!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Doll bedding

I completely forgot until now that I intended to continue showing Kitten's handmade New Year presents. My wonderful family gave her a wooden doll bed (and a doll highchair to match) but it did not come with any bedding. I was not paying $40 for a doll quilt, so I drafted patterns for a mattress, pillow and a simple quilt. They are made from leftover fabric from Kitten's crib quilt, which makes it just a little more meaningful, if I say so myself :) The lucky doll's name is Fedora (with an emphasis on "o", a traditional Russian female name), she was made by my Mom 13 years ago, but I will tell her story in another post.
Kitten quite enjoys putting her babies to bed or to sit and rock in it herself :) Of course, she is not quite at the stage of imaginative playing but she likes to copy me by doing same things with her dolls.

Monday, January 24, 2011

New plate

I just wanted to show what a great plate my 10-year-old sister made for Kitten as a New Year present. She painted it all by herself thinking about Kitten all the time and carefully deciding which pictures to paint so that Kitten will like it. Isn't it the sweetest thing ever? I am very passionate about hand-made presents if you can't tell :) Plus it gives me a motivation to come up with several interesting things to put in different compartments and not just give her one thing. This was today's snack - blackberries, cookies (apparently in English they are called crisp bread rings but it sounds so unappetizing :) ) and apple slices with raisins.
Oh, and while I am on the topic of eating - Kitten is finally able to feed herself completely independently, not just use a spoon but hold a plate as well (except for soup, which I have to hold since it is liquid) and not make a huge mess. It is so exciting, finally I am able to have a normal meal and she is occupied!

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I have to say that I never played with playdough as a child. It just was not all that popular in Russia, we had modeling clay and that's what we used. Flour and salt were food, not play items. But it is so popular here in America that I had to give it a try. I used a recipe for classic playdough (2 cups flour, 1 cup salt, 4 tsp cream of tartar, 2 tbsp oil and 2 cups water mixed and cooked over medium heat for about 3 minutes until dough forms a ball, then kneaded until smooth and soft). I did not want any coloring or spices for the first time, although you could use tons of different things like KoolAid, food coloring, cocoa, cinnamon, glitter, etc. It was VERY easy to make and very nice to play with. Much softer than modeling clay, so much easier and enjoyable for my 21-months-old. She kneaded, tried to roll (although without much success as she was poking dough with the end of the roller :) ), cut out cookies, pinched little pieces off and pressed them onto bigger pieces, squeezed the balls I made and had all sorts of wonderful experiences.
 This is one of her creations:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Season Tree

This is one way you can have a bit of a season reminder in your home if you don't have space for a whole nature table. I drew a tree outline on a cardboard (my picture is sized approximately 12 x 16 inches) and covered it with brown wool rowing (wetting it helps to make it stay where you put it), then covered the whole thing with blue and white rowing. I wet felted it and needle felted bits that didn't want to bond :)
After that it you just decorate it with rowing according to the season and you can change it as the year goes by. This is our winter tree.

And this is how it was in fall.

I will keep you posted on the spring and summer changes! To mount it I just pinned it to a cork board. You could cover the cork board with silk but I didn't have any to spare.
If you need more detailed instructions, you can find them in this great book: More Magic Wool: Creating Figures and Pictures With Dyed Wool

Friday, January 21, 2011


We had a Russian play date at our house this week and we made these suncatchers with kids.
I cut the borders out of construction paper (we tried to do winter theme), taped to it a circle of clear contact paper with a sticky side out and taped the whole thing to the window.
Then I gave kids sheets of tissue paper and they tore it and attached it to contact paper. After everything was filled I put another circle of clear contact paper on top of it and attached another border using a double-sided tape, sandwiching collage in between. I still need to attach a string to ours and it will look so pretty in front of the window.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Sensory Box

It looks a bit like a Christmas box because I bought a lot of stuff on 90% sale in Joann's. But it is our first one and I will switch it before Valentine's day anyway. Kitten and I liked the "ice" best, she spent a long time looking for all of them in rice, which is so great for fine motor. It just feels so nice to run a hand through rice and feel smooth round glass balls. We also sorted snowmen (there are 4 pairs, they used to be tree ornaments but I cut loops off). I wasn't going to introduce this to her yet because I thought it would be too much for now but she herself found a pair and showed me.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Water play

I got these cute tiny plastic shot glasses from our grocery store and Kitten LOVES them. We sort them by color, scoop with them, stack them and today we incorporated some water play with them. Originally I planned to transfer water from one glass to another with a pipette but I guess Kitten is too young to perform such complicated manipulations. She was good at squeezing the bulb but was doing it so hard that she could not place it in water at the same time.
Eventually she succeeded but could not understand that she needs to release it and take it out of water. She quickly grew tired of it and moved on to a much more exciting task, that occupied her for a while - pouring water from one cup to another.
She was surprisingly good at it and most water got into the cup. Of course some was spilled, so I showed her how to wipe it with a sponge and squeeze it into the dish to dry the pan. She enjoyed it but obviously did not understand the purpose as she was just squeezing water back into the pan :) Oh well!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Knitted slippers

We spent 5 weeks around holidays in cold Midwest and I made Kitten these slippers.

They are very easy to do and are knitted in one piece each. Basically you are making a T-shape. Start from the horizontal bar. Measure your child's leg from the point where you would like the slipper to stop, around the heel and back up to that point again. Determine how many stitches it will need in your yarn (or just cast on, knit several rows and try it on like I did). Continue working in whatever stitch you like, mine is garter stitch until your piece is long enough to wrap around child's ankle. After that measure around child's sole and determine how many stitches you need to cast off on each side. Continue until you reach the sole's length and a little extra to go around the heel. Decrease by knitting every 2 stitches together every other row until you have less than 10 left. Break off yarn leaving a long tail, pull it through remaining stitches and stitch until you reach your cast off row (if you would like for it to look more like a sock keep going to the top). Sew the back together.
Now, if you want these to be slippers and not socks, you need to make soles from leather or suede or they will be very slippery. I traced Kitten's foot with the slipper on and just did a mirror image for the other foot. I cut soles from suede and pre-made holes because it was pretty thick. After that I just stitched them on trying to keep them on the opposite side from the opening, which was trickier than you may think!

The idea came from All Year Round (Lifeways) book but I modified all the directions and came up with a more generalized way, so I thought I'd share :)

Friday, January 14, 2011

{this moment}

{this moment :: inspired by soule mama}
A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. 

Squeezing Rainbows

We made this recipe from a wonderful book First Art : Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos by MaryAnn Kohl. It was easy enough, although did require about 30 minutes to be ready. I put blue and yellow jelly in one bag and blue and red in another. I did not tape the tops as the author suggested because I wanted to reuse the bags and this was a mistake - Kitten immediately started trying to open it and was not really interested in squeezing, although I bet if I had taped it she would be trying to peel off the tape :) But we did mix the colors even though I was fascinated by the process more than she was. The texture was very nice, but it must be not the time for it. Oh well, we will repeat it later!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

First Collage

Today Kitten and I worked on her first collage. I taped clear contact paper to the glass door and gave her cotton balls, paper, lint from the dryer (I know, I am crazy, I can't throw anything out now) and confetti that I saved from New Year celebration. Kitten really enjoyed it, I didn't even expect that she would spend so much time doing it. She was pulling lint and cotton apart and tearing paper before sticking them, so it was an excellent fine motor practice as well. We also discussed sticky vs. non-sticky and she liked pressing her finger to window and then to sticky paper. After Kitten attached all that she wanted, she enjoyed pulling it all off, so the end result looks a bit bald :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Handmade matching cards

This Christmas I decided to mostly make presents for Kitten. This was one of the presents: a set of wooden matching and sequencing cards. I got the idea from Make Baby Stuff but decided to add storytelling and sequencing potential to the memory game and make pairs of characters from the Russian tale "The Giant Turnips". My husband cut wood into squares, I sanded the edges, transferred images found in Internet, burned them, painted with milk paints and finished with olive oil and beeswax, so they are completely nontoxic. Instructions on finishing are from WeeFolkArt. Of course, Kitten is too young to play a memory game but she is enjoying finding pairs and listening to the story while pointing to the next character.

Chalk games

To help Kitten learn balancing I came up with this game: I drew a river and a line bridge across it, added fish and a crocodile. You need to cross the river and not get eaten by the crocodile. Kitten really enjoyed being eaten and she did not really understand why she needs to walk the line, although when I led her she was very proud to reach the other side. I guess she is still somewhat young for balancing, but we will definitely be repeating this game.

Another game I did not invent, it's a popular Russian game, called "An owl" (I am sure Americans have something similar). You draw circles for houses and little mice can run around during daytime but need to hide when night falls and an owl starts hunting. Kitten did understand that she needs to run to the house when I say "Night!", although she probably was wondering what that was about :)

Making muffins

My Mom is allergic to gluten and lactose, so we decided to make her muffins that she can eat. Kitten really enjoyed helping me and was very content. She first was transferring flour from one bowl to another using a spoon,

then she was adding flour to the liquid that I was mixing, she barely spilled any, despite being only 20 months old.

Then she oiled muffin tins and helped me put berries in each tin. She was very good at moving on to the next tin once she put enough berries in, until she tasted a raspberry, after that she only wanted to eat them :)

I used a Berry Corn muffins recipe from "Flying Apron" cookbook and they came out pretty good, especially the second batch, after I added an egg. I will try to make baking a weekly activity now, I did not realize how much Kitten will enjoy it and how much she can participate even at this age.