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My youngest is quickly approaching his first birthday—which means he's still in the “I want to stick everything in my mouth" stage but is also very eager to learn new things. One thing I'm learning this second time around is that babies really don't need a lot of toys to stimulate them. My little guy is much more interested in an empty cardboard box than, say, a new toy with all the bells and whistles.

I'm often amazed by the senses that babies start to use at this age, especially the way they learn to touch and see things. They really start to focus and explore objects. So I want to provide him with easy crafts and activities that allow his little mind to soar!

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Here are 50 activities for 1-year-olds that encourage learning through play.

1. Discovery basket

Fill clear plastic containers you have around the house with little things that baby can explore. Place a lid on them, tape the lid if need be and let the little one spin them around to explore the contents.

2. Paper towel roll chute

Tape a cardboard paper towel roll to the wall (or a toilet paper roll) and encourage baby to drop cotton balls into it. Watch how quickly they catch on and have fun with this "into-the-chute" game!

3. Mess-free canvas art

Pick up a canvas from your local craft store, dab a few different colors of paint on it, wrap it in plastic wrap and let them push the paint around with their fingers. This little craft is safe, an easy clean up and a great new piece for the living room gallery wall!

4. Water bottle shakers

Empty a water bottle (drink up!) and then fill it with popcorn, rocks, rice, etc. Tape the cap on to be extra safe and you've got a homemade rattle.

Activities for 1 year olds

5. Hand and foot painting

There are so many fun handprint and footprint animals you can make with your little ones' hands or feet. Plus, the feeling of the cool paint on their hands and feet is a fun new sensation for toddlers.

6. Mess-free painting

Fill a plastic baggie with some different types of paint, seal it up, tape it to the highchair, floor or table... and let baby push the paint around. Best of all, you can put it away and pull it out again for another day's entertainment.

7. Water painting

Let your little one paint a masterpiece on some colored construction paper with water and a paintbrush. Bonus: The cleanup is simple and easy!

8. Playing with food

You can “paint" a lot of fun things using yogurt or applesauce. And snack while you're at it. (There will be plenty of time to teach better table manners later.)

9. Sensory bottles

Add a few drops of food coloring to water bottles along with glitter and knickknacks like beads. Tape on the top and watch as your little one is amazed by tipping the bottle around.

10. Cereal necklaces

Let your little one string some Cheerios onto a piece of yarn and create a little necklace. This activity is great for fine motor skills!

11. Sand doodles

Take a small box, draw some squiggly or straight lines on the inside, pour sand over it and encourage your little one to trace along the lines.

12. Music makers

Take an empty tissue box, wrap a few rubber bands around it and you have a makeshift harp! Your little one will love plucking the rubber bands and listening to the sounds that come out.

13. Sorting balls with a spoon

Set out two bowls and fill one bowl with ping-pong or golf balls. Then let your little one work on transferring the balls with a slotted spoon to the empty bowl. This is a great activity for hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

14. Sticky note peek-a-boo

Print off some pictures of family members and put a sticky note over the top. Then encourage baby to play “peek-a-boo" with the relatives!

15. Handprint keepsakes

Ornaments, wreaths, canvases...there are lots of cute crafts that let you capture those sweet little hands and toes while they grow. While the process of making handprints may seem messy, you'll look back one day and be glad that you did it!

16. Sock puppets

Grab a few old socks, draw faces on the tops with a fabric marker and have a puppet show with your babe! You can let them slide the socks on their hands to use, too.

17. Paper window mosaics

Tissue paper and press-n-seal food savers make for great window mosaics. Cut up some pieces of paper, craft a mosaic and stick it to a window that gets a lot of sunlight. Your little one will love watching the colors shine through the house.

18. A life-size portrait

Most home office stores print large, life-size photos for just a few bucks. Print one of your babe, hang it on the wall and encourage them to explore themselves and find their eyes, nose, etc.

19. Cardboard tunnel

Save those Amazon boxes and craft a tunnel for baby to crawl through.

20. Wipe dispenser sensory box

Save your empty wipe dispensers to fill with fabric scraps. You little one will love pulling the scraps out and putting them back in. It's like a mini laundry basket for them! (See, you really can get little ones started on “chores.")

21. Whipped cream painting

Spray a little whipped cream on a highchair tray or table and let your little one paint pictures in it.

22. DIY ball pit

Pull out that plastic pool and fill it with inexpensive plastic balls—or use your pack 'n' play! Either one will do the trick and keep baby entertained for hours.

23. Polkadot sticker art

Using labeling “dot" stickers, let baby create a masterpiece by sticking stickers to a blank piece of paper. They will love figuring out how the stickers work.

24. Sensory rice play

Fill an empty tub with dry rice and let them dig around with fingers, spoons and scoops. (Just be sure to keep a close eye so they don't down any of the uncooked rice.)

25. Touch-and-feel board

Cover a poster board with different types of things that baby can touch, such as fake fur, sandpaper, bubble wrap and aluminum foil.

26. Plastic egg play

Put those leftover plastic Easter eggs to use by taking them apart and stacking them—and then encouraging baby to try, too.

27. Stack cups

Make cup towers with plastic cups and watch your little one knock them down and rebuild them! (Or just knock them down...)

28. Sort toys in muffin tins

Place an assortment of different balls into muffin tins and let baby play with them. Colored cotton balls are especially fun for older tots interested in sorting by colors.

29. Bottle peek-a-boo

Put a rolled-up piece of paper in an empty water bottle so it covers the bottom portion. Then, stick a cotton ball or rock through the paper roll and show baby how the ball appears when you lift up the paper.

30. Clothes pin drop box

Cut a hole in the plastic lid of an empty coffee can that's big enough for a clothes pin to go through. Then place the lid on the empty tin and show baby how to place the clothes pin inside. Get their little minds thinking by asking questions like, “Where did it go?"

31. Texture walk

Help your little one take a grassy nature walk with bare feet—or bring a few crunchy leaves inside to let them stomp on.

32. Spaghetti play

Boil a package of noodles, cool and let baby play with them. While you're supervising, go ahead and join in on the fun, too—who doesn't love to play with noodles?

33. Kitchen rock band

Let baby safely explore your kitchen by setting some different utensils and bowls on the floor to explore. My little guy loves measuring spoons, spatulas and plastic bowls.

34. Pretend animal play

Show baby pictures of a few different animals and then act out their sounds and motions, such as a cat meowing and licking her paws.

35. Ring some bells

Browse through your holiday décor for some bells and let the little one ring away!

36. Vegetable peel play

While making dinner, let baby play with those leftover potato, zucchini and carrot peels. They will love the different textures and fragrances.

37. Tub drums

Flip over a few tubs or buckets and you've got some makeshift hand drums!

38. Hanging loofas

Grab a few loofas from the store (they are dirt cheap) and string them on some yarn. Then hang them off of a table or the handles of your refrigerator to let your little one bat at.

39. Sensory bags

Sensory bags are a great way to let babies explore and safely touch things that they normally couldn't because of choking hazards or the mess factor. I usually toss things like cotton balls, crayons and other textured items into a plastic bag, zip and tape the top and then tape it to a wall. This leads to hours of entertainment!

Learning activities for 1 year olds

40. Noodle necklaces

Similar to cheerio necklaces, let your toddler experiment with threading different dried pasta shapes on string.

41. Mini sandbox

Grab an empty tub from the attic or the garage and fill it with sand, a few toys, shells, rocks or anything else your little one might like. This is great for the indoors especially in the cooler months. (Just put a garbage bag or towel beneath the tub to help with clean-up.)

42. Snow globes

Using small jars or bottles, glue one of your baby's small animal trinkets upside down to the lid, fill the jar portion with water and glitter and place the lid back on tightly. You now have a homemade snow globe!

43. Stringing pipe cleaners

Poke holes in an old egg carton and stick the pipe cleaners in it to make loops. Baby can pull these out, place them back in and so forth.

44. Magnetic tubs

Fill a small plastic container with things that are magnetic—such as washers, bolts, etc. Place a lid on it and tape it up really well. Then, using a magnetic stick, let them pull the different things around the container safely!

45. Edible slime

There are tons of edible slime recipes that are baby-safe. Make one and let your babe have some fun. Who doesn't love slime?

46. Foam window letters

Those foam bathtub letters also work great on windows—and baby doesn't turn into a prune to use them!

47. Busy board

Grab some latches, zippers, locks and anything else that you could place on a wooden board for your little one to safely explore. Busy boards make for awesome little homemade gifts as well.

48. Touch and feel frames

Using empty frames, remove the glass and tape sensory objects to the back portion of the frame. Great items to use are sponges, dusting cloths, sandpaper, bubble wrap, etc. Place the frame back around it, close it up and ta-da!

49. Bathtub painting

Stick baby in a water-free tub with some washable paint and let them get creative with washable paints. When they are done, rinse the bathtub out and give them a quick wash.

50. Busy basket

I use a busy basket almost every day with my little guy. I keep it tucked away so when I pull it out, it's all new and fresh to him. It's filled with odds and ends, such as blocks, baby-safe kitchen utensils, sensory bottles, music makers and more.

The beauty of these activities is that they promote brain development, let baby have fun—and usually give mama a few moments to have her hands to herself!

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

This week isn't going to be an easy one for most of us. There are hard things happening in the world right now as the coronavirus pandemic continues. We're not going to pretend like this is an easy time to be a parent, because it is not. It's okay to say you're not okay today. But it's also okay to allow yourself to enjoy the lighter moments of life because these moments are still happening inside our homes during the pandemic.

This is a hard week, but there are still so many things making us smile.

Here are a few of the good news headlines we're loving right now:

This baby's quarantine style birthday party is going viral 

So many events have been canceled because of the pandemic, and many first birthday parties are among them. For parents who were looking forward to celebrating their little one's first birthday with friends and family having to cancel the guest list is hard.

Mama Kylie Najjar was one of the many parents having to make the hard choice to cancel her baby's birthday party, but she decided to make it special by doubling down on the theme of social distancing.

Her baby's big day has now gone viral because even in a difficult time like this pandemic, small moments still matter and can still make us smile.

This viral illustration highlights how the pandemic is impacting newly postpartum mamas 

The artist Spirit Y Sol touched so many mamas this week, letting art speak for the women who have had their postpartum experience changed so drastically by the pandemic. Through an essay and accompanying illustration Sol describes what was stolen from those currently in the fourth trimester.

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no "mommy and me" yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park." Sol writes.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Sol is right. We are in this together, mama. And we are here for you.

Some Good News with John Krasinski has a surprise for Hamilton fans 

Last week we told you about John Krasinski's new coronavirus YouTube series, Some Good News, and this week he's going viral again with his second episode.

He gets his wife Emily Blunt to make an appearance and organized a treat for Hamilton fans, having Lin Manuel Miranda and the rest of the cast put on a performance (through Zoom, of course).

We love how Krasinski is using his creativity and connections to make people smile during this tough time.

This mom just welcomed baby no. 22, 30 years after her first child's birth! 

Back in February we told you the mom of Britain's biggest family was going viral after announcing she was expecting her 22nd child.

Now, Sue Radford's 22nd baby is here. She's a girl and her name has not yet been announced by the Radfords, Sue and her husband Noel.

Sue was 14 years old when the couple's oldest child, Chris, came into the world in 1989 (Noel was 18). Both Sue and Noel were adopted at birth and when they found out they were expecting as teens they decided together to make the choice to parent.

Four years after Chris was born they got married, and a few decades (and many kids) later they became reality TV legends in the UK, starting with a show called 15 Kids and Counting. They now have more kids than their American counterparts from 19 Kids and Counting, the Duggars. Besides TV appearances, the Radfords also own a pie shop.

In total, Sue has given birth to 12 girls and 10 boys so far (one son, Alfie, was stillborn), but giving birth during the coronavirus pandemic was a bit different. "I was so worried that Noel wouldn't be allowed to stay with me," she told The Sun.

Radford continued: "We have all been isolating and it seemed wrong to leave our safe bubble to go to a hospital, but when I got there I felt safe straight away."

Kristen Bell's Hello Bello launched a new 'camp' you'll want to check out 

Everyone is looking for extra ways to keep kids entertained these days and that's why Kristen Bell + Dax Shepard have launched Camp HelloBello on Instagram Live and IGTV!

Each week there's a new schedule for activities like singing, dancings and crafting (and Hello Bello is paying people creators to participate, you can apply to be a "camp counselor" at CampHelloBello.com).

According to a press release, "Schedules will be released on a weekly basis with lots of special guests (like Kristen + Dax and their friends) and members of our community to add some extra creativity to kids' days (and fill up some time for the parents too!)."

Sounds super cool!

This viral post highlights how our kids are 'little heroes' during this crisis 

There is a viral post floating around the internet that gives some credit where it is due: To our children.

Our kids have been champs during this crisis, as the post notes, "their little lives have been turned upside down...[but] every day they get up and carry on despite everything that is going on! Painting pictures, drawings to show their support to the heroes out there and to make other children walking past feel better!"

We see you, little heroes.

You're doing great and we are so proud of your resiliency!

Viral video shows even social distancing can't stop toddlers from 'socializing' 

Twitter user Toby Marriott went viral this week thanks to an 8 second clip of his nephew, "the friendliest toddler you'd ever meet." According to his uncle, this 3-year-old always says hello to anyone he meets on the street, but he's not running into any people on his daily walks these days...so he has to pretend.

"Hope this brightens up your day!" Marriott captioned a video of his nephew saying hello to an invisible friend. It's super cute and if we hang in there, one day this little guy will be able to say hello to his neighbors again.

News

There's so much happening on a daily basis I think I control that I do not. All of us have been affected by the spread of the coronavirus in the last few weeks—some more than others, of course—but all of us in ways big and small.

We all want life to return to normal. But if protecting others means we need to stay at home for a few weeks, we can do that. We can do our part to protect our communities and love those around us a little better. Our family has decided to take the guidelines and advice of those with more knowledge than us on this so we're being diligent about staying in and staying home as much as possible.

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Which means spending a lot of time together as a family right now. We have had many slow days, filled with great conversation, meaningful prayer time, games, delicious food we've cooked together and lots of time outdoors.

It has been opening my eyes to just how much we were on the go on a regular basis, pre-coronavirus, preoccupied with this, that or the other thing. It has given me pause to be able to appreciate the people in my home even more than I did before by connecting more than we usually do. That part of all this strange uncertainty has felt gratifying.

Our normal weekly schedule typically consists of running around non-stop to work, sports practice, church functions and music lessons. Our quarantine time has forced us to connect with each other on a daily basis—time that we usually don't even get in one month! We now have time to play games together, do puzzles, organize our home, watch movies and have full conversations we don't have to rush through.

This is what we need as a family unit. With all the busyness of our society, it's been a blessing to give ourselves permission to simply slow down and just be with each other.

I think oftentimes we under-appreciate things until they are taken away. I am really grateful for the freedom I experience on a daily basis, like going out to dinner with friends or even if I'm just going to Target or running errands. Because freedom is limited at this time, I don't think I'll ever take it for granted again. I hope I don't.

But right now, where I'm finding freedom is within my faith. My relationship with God has given me the freedom to surrender control and trust this path.

Stepping back to realize for me, that God is truly in control and I can trust Him even in the hard times (or maybe especially in the hard times) has been both challenging and rewarding. It's easy for me to say, "I trust in God..." or sing along at church and say "Amen" in prayer when everything feels perfect. But when things feel difficult, that is when my faith is tested and I must step up in order to practice what I preach.

This time in our lives has caused me to lean into my faith in God like never before. I I have had to put every tool I've learned over the years into practice lately.

I've been challenged to lean on God for my own sanity—when my fears and anxieties threaten to overtake me. To see the joy around me and not just the difficulties. To acknowledge my gratitude. For the first time in my life, my relationship with God is all that is keeping me together. I am desperate to see things through His eyes—the good and the bad.

I have often felt as though I have no time for mindfulness and connection with God with all I had going on. Now there is plenty of time, and I need it more than ever. When I look to Him and have time with Him daily, my perspective changes from stress to thankfulness. Without it, I'd never be able to see the lessons I'm learning all around me—I wouldn't be able to recognize that I'm living life with clearer eyes now.

That clarity is soul-filling. Because what's coming out of that clarity is love. The most important thing. I can love my people whether things are perfect or challenging as if tomorrow is not promised. Because these times remind us that it isn't. Whether sitting in our home or busy with our "normal" schedules, the shortness of life has been a good thing to keep in my mind.

Because I'm living more intentionally, and hope I now always will.

Life

A trip to your local coffee shop is a thing of the past, but turning to social media to find ways to get your caffeine fix at home is the new normal. Now mamas are becoming their own own baristas while social distancing and creating mini Starbucks in their kitchen.

It all began with a simple coffee TikTok video posted on March 14, that has since garnered more than 10 million views. Since then everyone has begun making a foamy beverage named, "whipped coffee."

Boston Food & Travel | Emily’s Instagram photo: “Friday mornings with my Dalgona coffee ☕️💕 — Recipe (vid in highlights) 3 tbsp instant coffee 3 tbsp white sugar 3 tbsp hot water Milk (I…”

FEATURED VIDEO


What is whipped coffee?

Before you get excited and think that TikTok created this trend, think again. The drink originated in South Korea and is better known as Dalgona coffee, a frothy sugar-coated Korean drink that's topped with cocoa, crumbled biscuits or honey.

The cool thing about Dalgona coffee, AKA whipped coffee, is that it only has four ingredients—instant coffee, sugar, hot water and milk—and can be made in 5 minutes. You basically mix the ingredients with an electric mixer and it's it!

If you're into sugary-drinks this is perfect for weathering the quarantine, but if you're not, no worries. Try coconut sugar or a sugar substitute like stevia.

Here's how to make a yummy whipped coffee:

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsp instant coffee
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • Milk of your choice
  • Ice

Directions:

  1. Add the hot water, sugar, and instant coffee to a bowl.
  2. Either hand whisk or use an electric mixer until the mixture is fluffy and light.
  3. To serve, spoon a dollop over a cup of milk with ice in it and stir.

Recipe from Tasty.

Note: If you don't want the consistency of a light mousse and you're just here for the caffeine, you can easily make this drink hot or iced. Just don't use a mixer to build the foam. Enjoy, mama!

Lifestyle

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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But I've never experienced a fourth trimester amid the chaos and heaviness of a global crisis. A scary pandemic keeping people away, keeping new mothers home—increasing the isolation, increasing feelings of being trapped.

I haven't quite experienced that. And my heart goes out to the postpartum moms who are crying on their couch right now wondering why exactly, this is the maternity leave or introduction into motherhood they're getting—and not the one they envisioned.

She wrote:

"This is not what you had planned. This is not what you'd envisioned. There are no visits from friends, no loving doula bringing you soup, no 'mommy and me' yoga classes, no coffee dates, no stroller walks through the park. There is empty space where you had planned comfort and company. There are long days with no one but your little one to talk to and this big transition to navigate all alone.

"I know it's lonely, mama. I know the walls of your house feel tight and the days feel so long, and you crave a warm hand on your knee and the soft embrace of a friend. You wish for someone by your side to marvel at this beautiful baby of yours and to wrap an arm around you when the feelings get too big and scary.

"We were never meant to do this alone. Motherhood has never been a solitary sport. And yet here we are, in this odd chapter of isolation and distance, with no choice but to do it by ourselves.

"But mama, know this—We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing.

"This too shall pass. And when it does, hugs and coffee dates and visits from friends will taste so much sweeter. Soft kisses on your cheek and arms around your waist and gentle laughter in your ear will be the joyful medicine after this trying time.

"Until then, hunker down mama. Find the coziest, warmest spot on your couch, sink into the pile of unfolded laundry, and sleep the Spring away, with that sweet babe warm on your chest."

I cry for the new mom who has to introduce her new baby to their grandparents over FaceTime instead of an in-person visit.

I hold onto hope, knowing the day you can finally parade your baby around out in the world—showing them off to everyone you love—will be one of the proudest moments of your life.

I cry for the new mom desperate to go to a mother's group to commiserate and celebrate together with other mamas who are in this.

I hold onto hope, knowing that there are opportunities for virtual connection that are helpful and soul-filling, too.

I cry for the new mom wishing she had an extra set of hands around to hold her baby while she showers or naps.

I hold onto hope, imagining this time is a really special (albeit, intense) period of bonding and connection for your brand new family.

I cry for the new mom needing to break free from the walls of her home, the surroundings she looks at all day long.

I hold onto hope for you, praying you're able to get out for a walk or even a quick drive by yourself—with the music turned up on full blast.

We cry for you—with you—mama. But we're wildly inspired by you, too. You're the mothers birthing and raising new babies during a global pandemic. You are strong. You are resilient. And you are certainly not alone.

We are with you in spirit and solidarity. The fourth trimester you're getting might not be the one you hoped for, but that doesn't make it any less real, or any less significant.

It's powerful and it's yours.

Life
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