Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Water Beads

Have you heard about the new craze in kids sensory toys?  They are water beads!

 I heard about them various places, but mostly at play at home mom.  I found a dealer that ships for free to Canada (yay!) as long as you buy less than $20.  So I bought a bunch, and they arrived last night.

I wasn't really sure what to expect, so I thought I would blog a little about our experience so far. Here are the water beads in their dry state. They come in small 10 gram bags. I got 10 bags for $15, there are 15 colours available from the dealer above.  The ones I have used so far are their rainbow bags.

You add the beads to 5 cups tap water and wait 6 hours.  They grow to be about 20mm in size, although there was a lot of variance in the sizes in my batch.  After 6 hours you drain the water and you're left with the water beads.

They are transparent and coloured and bouncy and squishy and pretty awesome.  That's my expert discription and opinon.  When I showed them to my husband even he was impressed. I love how they sort of "glow".  They feel really cool when you touch them.

The small 10g bag made over 4 cups of waterbeads.  They are moist to touch, but don't leave your hands too wet.  They are non-toxic and don't leave any residue on your hands either.  They are small, so some would consider them a hazard to babies, but I don't think they are hard enough to cause any real choking hazard.  They are also super slippery, so I'm sure they would just slide right down if swallowed. 

The manufacturer indicates that if one is swallowed it will be passed easily and with no ill effects.  They don't recommend them for consumption of course, and recommend getting medical assistance if a large quantity is ingested.  The only real warning is that they should not go down the drain. I will also mention that the manufacturer also says they are not a toy.  Please note that Sylvie was very carefully supervised while playing.

Interesting fact... sitting in waterbeads does not make your clothes wet!

Sylvie had such a great time playing with these and cried a little when we put them away.  She is going through a lot of developmental changes right now (SO close to crawling) and that has been making her pretty crabby.  She had a great time touching and playing and pouring the water beads.

She practiced picking them up and holding them (see that loose one on the carpet in front of her hand, she managed to pick it up! what a great way to learn those fine motor skills!)

I couldn't get any photos of her looking at the camera.  She was way too busy!  We did a few things with her today - let her put her hands in the whole container, poured the beads around her (while she was in the green bin, shown above), poured the beads on the tray.

Another note: Waterbeads will squish and break if sat
on, knelt on, etc.  I kept a small container nearby
and took away broken water beads immediately
She helped dump out the container and watched while we put them away later.  She just loved playing with these.

One more note: We have lots of pets and I was worried
 the water beads would get all gunky.  They seemed to resist
picking up animal hair fairly well, but I think I will still plan on rinsing
 them everytime we have a major play session.  Just to keep them fresh!

I was surprised that she didn't really try to put them in her mouth.  She usually puts everything in her mouth, but for whatever reason, these kept her hands busy and out of her mouth.  We still watched her very closely and I would never let her play with these unless we were right there with her.

If you're a bit worried, there are a few ideas I think you could use to keep the beads out of a babies mouth. 

I put some in a strawberry type container, she can shake this and look at it without actually having access to the beads.  They would also feel neat tucked into and empty, knotted balloon.

Play at Home Mom has lots of other excellent ideas on how to use these and I can tell you, we are hooked!  Alain even said "We should buy more of these" (then I admitted that I already had 10 packs, not just the one pack we were playing with... haha). He seems pretty excited to figure out new ways to play with them with Sylvie.  He's a science guy and these definitely made him happy.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Letter Press Cookie Cutters

Am I the only one who has a soft spot for fabulous cookie cutters? 

I don't have time to make fancy cookies these days.  Still, I couldn't resist buying these Letter Press Cookie Cutters when I saw them yesterday.

Today during Sylvie's nap I did a quick search to see how these actually look when done.  I searched google, pinterest, all the classic places and can't find any real examples of them made up.

Maybe everyone just buys them and looks at them (I hope I will actually make them!  Maybe for Valentine's Day?).

Speaking of Valentine's Day.  I've got the bug this year. 

So far I have made this:

And sent out these:

as well as a whole stack of Valentine's from Sylvie and I. I can't wait until people start receiving them in a few days.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Sensory Fabric Box

Another one of my favourite sensory toys for Sylvie is her Sensory Fabric Box.  I also got this idea from our baby sensory class, but I recently found it blogged about at another one of my favourite sites the Imagination Tree.  I even used a similar tissue box.

I chose this type of tissue box since it doesn't look like the standard tissue boxes that we have around the house.  I loved the idea of Sylvie exploring different texture and colours and learning about taking things out of the box and putting them back in, but I didn't really want her to do the same thing with our real tissue boxes. 

Basically, you take an empty tissue box (I removed a bit of plastic that usually holds the tissues in) and fill it with squares of different types of fabrics.  Different colours, textures and transparencies are ideal. 

Samples of the fabrics, lots of colours and shine here. 
Sylvie REALLY wanted these fabrics as I lay them out for the photo

I think Sylvie is a little young for this sensory toy as of now, but she still enjoys pulling all the fabric out (great for developing fine motor skills) and touching it.  Eventually she'll learn how to put it back in too.  Won't that be fun!

I don't recommend taking a baby fabric shopping with you, especially at the only fabric store available to me locally - Fabricland.  The aisles are narrow and you have to carry around huge bolts of fabrics and wait in line over and over again to get it cut.  I lucked out and a friend of mine picked up a bunch of fabric for her son (while he was at home) and gave me leftovers.  I tried to go with Sylvie and found it my own personal h_ll on earth.  I got so hot carrying around Sylvie (in the carrier) and all the fabric. I never thought I'd be one of those moms to give things up once baby came along, but my experience at Fabricland with Sylvie made me not want to go back - ever.  It was just a big pain and it annoys me that the place isn't more baby/ child friendly.  haha rant over.

PS.  As with other sensory toys, not all materials in this toy are baby-safe.  Please supervise your baby while using this toy.

PPS.  I didn't finish the pieces of fabric in any way.  I just left the edges raw.  This does mean that they will fray, and occassionally I go in and clean them up, cutting away long tangly strings.  You could choose to finish the edges, but it hasn't been a problem for us yet, so I haven't. 

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Baby Carrier Strap Protectors

There are several tutorials out there describing how to make your own baby carrier strap protectors (see here and here for some examples).  The straps are in the perfect location to end up being chewed by your little one, and since most carrier companies don't recommend washing carriers regularly, it's nice to consider protecting those straps (also, they get very wet and clammy - ew!).

This is a quick fix with no sewing required and uses a pair of babylegs / leg warmers. Yep, it's that easy.  Unbuckle your adjustable carrier strap and slide a legwarmer up the strap to the shoulder area.  Mine are doubled up to add another layer of protection, also because they are long and doubling them up made them fit a little snugger.

I got these leg warmers from BmodDesigns.  There are tonnes of colour options available there and they are pretty thick and of good quality.  I've even seen some tutorials on how to DIY lately (like this one for example) using a pair of knee socks.  If you're feeling crafty.

I loved how simple this fix was.  I hope you do too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baby Sensory Box

Back in November, when Sylvie was about 4 months old, we enrolled in a Baby Sensory class.  We did all sorts of neat things in the class to stimulate the babies in different ways.  Sometimes we used finger puppets, or mirrors, or lights.  One of the favourite games as a table cloth aquarium (I'll explain that in a future post, I promise!). 

Before the classes started, I did a few web searches on baby sensory activities, and kept coming back to the idea of a baby sensory box.  I grabbed an old sewing box that I wasn't using (which is covered in faux suede, a neat taxtile experience in itself) and threw in a bunch of things I thought Sylvie would enjoy touching or seeing.

At first, Sylvie would sit in my lap and pull things out.  She seemed to enjoy it, so we kept at it.  Lately though, Sylvie's interest in the box has increased dramatically.  She can sit easily on her own now, and is starting to lung forward (a precrawling move I assume), so she can also easily get into the box and pull out whatever catches her eye. 

It is a great activity for developing fine motor skills.  Sometimes it takes her several tries before she can grab what she is after and she is learning a lot about the world around her too.

I grabbed some photos today of Sylvie playing with her sensory box, as well as a photo including the type of things I have put in there for her to explore. 

Sylvie examining a shell

Do these two things fit together?

Developing fine motor skills - I want that red bow
and will work hard until I get it!

Keep in mind that everything will go in the baby's mouth!

A few tips:
  • I think it helps to have the items in a sturdy box that won't easily be pulled over. 
  • Keep the items in the same box or container, so the baby can start to recognise it and know "what to do" when they are playing with box.
  • This is definitely an "open play" activity.  There aren't any rules or expectations.  Just let baby touch and learn at his / her own pace and stop when she is no longer interested.
  • Not all items are strictly "baby safe" so this is an activity that requires parental supervision.  I probably don't need to say that since I'm sure everyone out there is generally supervising their six month old baby at all times, but there's the warning anyways.
  • Choose things that have different shapes, textures, materials, colours, sounds etc.

From Top Left: beaded necklace, wooden sheep, teething toy, silky scarf, knit ball
Middle from Left: ribbon, felted wool stripes, strawberry cage with cat toy inside, mirror, crinkly toy money
Bottom from Left: wooden baby brush, bottle with sparkly liquid, red bow, bottle with dry beans, small whisk, ribbon strap with velcro

There are a lot of resources online for baby sensory play.  I really love Play at Home Mom.  Blogs focusing on Montessori Schooling have great ideas too.

PS.  I had a shower and wrote this whole blog post while Sylvie played with her sensory box.  She loves it so much that I just created a portable sensory basket!