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Making Memories

Salt dough ornaments are an easy and fun way to get your toddler involved in holiday festivities.  They make great keepsakes, as well as touching gifts that any grandparent is sure to cherish.  And best of all, with a little planning and patience, your toddler can do most of the work, which allows him to experience concentration, delayed gratification, and a feeling of accomplishment!

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The most important thing to remember when crafting with toddlers is that the process is more important than the outcome.  Breathe through the messes, laugh when things don’t go according to plan, and if you feel like you have to take control, ask for a turn.

The recipe we used is very simple:FullSizeRender 2

1 cup flour

1/2 cup table salt

1/2 cup water

Note: We did this activity in four parts over four days – 1) making the ornaments; 2) painting; 3) decorating; 4) inserting the ribbon

Before you start, pre-heat oven to 250F.

1. Prepare all your ingredients so your child doesn’t spill the bag of flour on the floor while you’re getting the water.

2. Help your child measure out the flour and salt into a bowl.

FullSizeRender 33. Let your child stir to his heart’s delight.

4. Let your child pour the water into the flour/salt mixture and stir.

5. Sprinkle some flour on your working surface and transfer the dough.  If it’s very sticky, sprinkle a tablespoon of flour at a time and work it into the dough until you can roll it out without it sticking.

6. Help your child make a ball and show him how to press it down with his hands.  Show him how to roll out the dough with the rolling pin until it is about 1/2″ thick.

7. Use cookie cutters to cut out the shapes and help your child transfer them to a cookie sheet with a spatula or your hands. (This is hard, you’ll probably have to help a lot if you want any of the ornaments to look like anything more than blobs of dough.)FullSizeRender 4

8. Use one end of a straw to poke one hole in each ornament (to string ribbon through).  Or, if you’re my son, poke two holes and call them “eyes”.

9. Bake at 250F for 2-3 hours, then allow to cool for at least a couple of hours or overnight.

10. Put a small amount of acrylic paint (found at any craft store) in a dish and show your child how to paint the front side of each ornament.  I used a piece of sponge because it doesn’t pick up too much paint, but you can also use a small paint brush.  Allow to dry for a few hours or overnight.

FullSizeRender 511. Put glossy Mod Podge on one dish and glitter on another dish.  Show your child how to apply the Mod Podge to an ornament with a brush, followed by a sprinkling of glitter with his fingers.  Allow to dry a few hours.

12. Apply a coat of Mod Podge to the glitter side of the ornaments to seal the glitter in.  Allow to dry.  Write your child’s name and the year on the back of each ornament with a Sharpie, then apply a coat of Mod Podge to the back of each ornament.  Allow to dry.

13. Cut a piece of ribbon about 6″ long and show your child how to insert it in the hole (very thin wired ribbon works best).  Optionally, you can string a small jingle bell for a festive look (and to hide the hole).  Make a knot or bow.

Celebrate because you now have lovely ornaments and beautiful memories!  Happy crafting!

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Gobbi Tutorial, Part II (Hanging the Gobbi)

To see Part I (Making the Gobbi mobile), click here.

My dear friend Junnifa, who’s taking the Assistants to Infancy training, was kind enough to give me guidance and sent me the two pictures that show how to hang the Gobbi mobile.  I love her beautiful results!  Thanks Junnifa!!! 🙂

Materials:

  • Large piece of paper or whiteboard
  • Pencil or marker
  • Ruler or straight edge
  • Dowel
  • More embroidery thread (optional)

Instructions:

First, draw a straight line on a piece of paper or a whiteboard.  Line up the completed balls from darkest (left) to lightest (right).  Center the dowel over the balls.   Mark the center-point of each ball onto the dowel so you know where to attach them.

Next, move the dowel about five inches away from the spheres and tilt it an an angle (a 45 degree angle is pretty good, but you don’t have to be exact).  The closest sphere should be about three inches from the dowel. (Note: You don’t want the spheres to hang too far from the dowel because they get tangled.)

Tie the thread of each sphere to the dowel at the point you previously marked.  (This is the tricky part; you might have to tape down the spheres where the thread comes out of the sphere, so you don’t have them falling out of line, or get someone to help you hold the spheres while you do the tying!)

Straighten the dowel and check to see if the spheres hang in a straight diagonal line.

Trim the remaining thread where you made each knot.

Cut a piece of thread or fishing wire about twice as long as the dowel and tie it on both ends of the dowel (This will make a triangle with the dowel as the base and the thread as the two legs).  Cut another piece of thread or fishing wire and tie it to the vertex of the resulting triangle.  Use this thread to hang your mobile.

Optional: If you have leftover thread, you can wrap it around the dowel (see picture above).

I hope this makes sense… I’d love to see you finished creations and as always feel free to comment with questions or suggestions that could make this process even easier!

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Dog Days of Summer

When Zach was a newborn, we had a hammock set up in our family room/bedroom.  I spent several nights dozing with him on that hammock in the fog of early motherhood.  We  eventually took it down to put up the mobiles, but a few days ago Zach was grumpy, so my husband decided to rock him.  Within minutes, our baby was asleep with his hanging wooden ring safely tucked in his hand (check out the toes!!)…

When my husband’s younger sister was a baby, she received as a gift a cloth frog that could assume endless poses due to its birdseed innards.  Over thirty years later, the frog – named “Bleh” – still lives in my in-laws’ basement.  We recently received Bleh in the mail with a request that I clone it, since the poor amphibian is losing its stuffing through tiny holes in its fabric.  Using an old pair of yoga pants and a felted green wool sweater, I whipped up Bleh the Second in two nap times and a swim lesson.  Zach cracks up every time he looks at the frog… Wouldn’t you?

And finally… What do you do with a baby who refuses to sleep on his bed?  Why, you let him choose where he wants to sleep, of course!  (If you look closely, you’ll see he took his stuffed animal with him!)

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Texture Beanbags

Zach wants to touch EVERYTHING these days.  I have to be careful where I stand when I am holding him, because he’ll reach out for anything within arm’s length!  I’ve learned to keep the shopping cart in the middle of the aisle after a few near-catastrophes in the juice aisle.

I wanted to capitalize on his interest for tactile experiences, and I could tell he was getting bored with the objects in his activity area and needed new objects to manipulate.  A quick dash to the fabric store, four small pieces of fabric, and a dusting of the ol’ sewing machine was all it took to whip up these bean bags.  I chose all four fabrics in similar neutral tones to encourage isolation of the fabric textures, and filled them with rice instead of beans because I don’t want to worry about Zach swallowing beans if a bag bursts open while I’m not with him.

Flannel, burlap, cotton and corduroy.

The fabrics I chose are: cotton, burlap, corduroy and flannel.  In the Montessori Children’s House we have a fabric-matching activity with natural fibers (cotton, linen, silk, wool); I made my choices based on interesting and contrasting textures more than whether they were natural or not.  I whipped them up in one nap time, and Zach had a good time checking out the new contents of his basket!

(Sadly, our dogs found one of the bags pretty attractive, too… grrrr…)

 

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Suggested Color Gradation for the Gobbi

Hi crafty reader!  If you’re planning on making a Gobbi mobile, I have some info that might come in handy (don’t hate me if you already started, because I just got this from a helpful friend who’s taking the A to I course!  You can always make another one; babies LOVE these mobiles!).  Here are the suggested DMC embroidery floss shades for each of the potential Gobbi colors:

Yellow: 745 – 744 – 743 – 972 – 742

Green: 703 – 702 – 701 – 700 – 699

Teal: 3811 – 3766 – 3810 – 3809 – 3808

Blue: 3752 – 827 – 813 – ??? – 3760 (note: there’s missing shade, I’ll update this if/when she figures out what it should be)

Pink: 3608 – 3607 – 718 – 917 – 915

Purple: 211 – 209 – 553 – 552 – 550

Cranberry: 816 – 3831 – 3832 – 3833 – 761

Rust: 349 – 350 – 351 – 352 – 353

Here’s the DMC color chart so you can see what these shades look like before you go shopping.  Ooooooh, makes me want to run to my nearest craft store and stock up on thread!!

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Gobbi Tutorial, Part I

Disclaimer: I am NOT what you would call “incredibly crafty” and I’m also pretty bad at writing tutorials (How I successfully wrote 12 Montessori albums, I’ll never know).  I also haven’t taken the Assistants to Infancy training, so if there’s a different/better way to do this, please leave your comments below for the benefit of all readers.  

A few months ago I wrote about the Gobbi mobile, which is a favorite among babies starting around 8 weeks of age.  Several readers have asked me for a tutorial, so here goes…

Materials (can be purchased at Michael’s, JoAnn’s, or other craft stores):

  • Embroidery floss (aka, thread) in five ascending shades of one color (you will need 2-3 skeins of each shade).  Take a look at this list of suggested shades!
  • Five styrofoam balls, about 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter
  • One embroidery needle (MUST be longer than the diameter of the balls)
  • One dowel (about 12 inches long)
  • Scissors
  • The patience of a Buddhist monk

Only one shade of floss is shown here, but you need FIVE shades!!

Instructions: (Click on pictures to enlarge)

Use the dowel to carefully bore a hole in each of the spheres.  Try to get the hole to run straight through the center of the sphere.  You can wiggle the dowel a bit as it’s going in, or scrape the sides of the hole once it’s made, so that the diameter of the hole is slightly larger than the diameter of the dowel (this will be helpful when threading the embroidery floss over and over again through the hole).

Prepare a long piece of floss (about 48″) and thread your needle.  (Note: I’ve seen some people thread the entire skein of floss at one time, but I have found that it gets tangled up and frayed.)

Pass your needle with the floss through the hole in one sphere, until most of it has passed through and you only have a small “tail” of floss sticking out.  Smooth that “tail” onto the sphere (the styrofoam will help to grip the thread) and bring the needle around to the hole where you started.

Insert the needle again, pass the thread through, and make sure that you “step” on the tail with the thread that is now wrapped from one end of the sphere to the other.

Bring the needle back around, and repeat, threading it into the hole and pulling the thread through.  Try to keep the resulting strands of thread as close together as possible, so they begin to cover up the white of the sphere.

When you’ve used up all the thread on the needle, leave a little tail and smooth it down onto the sphere.Thread your needle with more floss, insert in the hole, and repeat the process from step #3.  Eventually, your entire sphere will be covered in floss and no styrofoam will show through.

When you are done, pass the needle through the hole one last time and leave a length of floss about 12-16 inches long (this will be used for hanging the spheres).

Repeat the entire process with the next ball, using the next shade of embroidery floss.

Click here for Part II, where we discuss hanging the spheres.  Happy crafting!!

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Mobiles, part II – Yo Gobbi Gobbi

I previously posted about the first two mobiles that are introduced to the newborn: the Munari and the Octahedron mobiles.  The third mobile that the young infant is exposed to (somewhere around 6 weeks of age) is the Gobbi.

This beautiful mobile consists of five balls in five graded shades of one color.  Its purpose is to further refine the child’s developing sense of sight by providing a slight change in tone from one ball to the next.  The baby tracks the change of shades back and forth, and his eyes work on adjusting focus from the closest ball to the one that’s farthest away from his face.

The Gobbi is easy to make (but a little time consuming).  You will need five styrofoam balls, which can be found at any craft store; a dowel; embroidery thread in five graded shades of the same color; and a very long embroidery needle.

With the dowel, make a hole through the center of each styrofoam ball.  Wrap each ball in embroidery thread of oneImage shade, making sure that it is entirely covered and no white shows through.  When you’re done, string the balls onto the dowel with matching embroidery thread, making sure each ball hangs slightly longer than the previous, but equidistant from each other.  The darkest one should have the longest thread (be closest to baby’s face) and the lightest the shortest.  You can wrap the dowel in embroidery thread if you have any left over.

Hang the mobile about 12 inches from the baby’s face either near a window or near a fan so that it turns SLOWLY on its own.

How you present a material is just as important as how you make it.  There is no need to direct the child’s attention to the mobile; he might not seem interested the first few times you place him under the mobile but with a little patience he will discover it and enjoy it for long periods of time.  Make sure that you don’t interrupt or praise your baby while he is concentrating on the mobile (or any activity, for that matter).  He doesn’t work for our approval, but for his own development.  The joy of discovery is the only reward he wants and needs.

Here is the Gobbi in action: