DIY Zipper Board Tutorial

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Okay, that picture is huge. The next size down is too small! Goodness.

A few months ago my twins took an interest to buckles. It started in their high chairs and spread to the car seat. They couldn’t do anything with them, but they liked when we discussed buckles and clearly there was a fascination there. I went online and tried to see what I could make with buckles, and ended up making a buckle pillow (post to come in a few days). But then, the twins started in on zippers. They loved to pull down my fleece coat’s zipper and we would say, “Down…Up!” and repeat. So I got back on the computer and struggled to find a lot on what I could do with zippers until I came across this post. I knew making a zipper board was exactly what I would do.

I actually made two. It was unbelievably cheap, simple, and best of all – quick to make. I could make one zipper board in about one hour’s time. So fast!

Materials needed: Cheap wood or cardboard, felt (optional), hot glue gun, zippers

Here’s what I did: I had some old, thin board in the basement – the kind that goes in the back of pieces of cheap furniture. It was a large piece and my husband helped me cut it down into four pieces. Each piece ended up being about 17in. X 9 in. I also had leftover neon green and black felt from B’s Frankenstein Halloween costume. Not the prettiest colors, but I’m all about cheap here. I also already had a hot glue gun. Knowing I was going to make these for the twins, I purchased zippers ahead of time. I got craft zippers very similar to this set. Again, the colors weren’t my favorite, but they were super cheap. Each zipper board cost me under $5, and as I said, one hour of my time.

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After I gathered my materials, I spread out the felt and put the board in the middle, exactly like how I would wrap a present. I started in on the top flap, folding it over and hot gluing it little by little, every inch or so until the entire top flap of felt was stuck to the board.

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I did the same to the bottom flap of felt, and then I folded down the sides. The felt was doubled there and thicker, so I glued it down and then also glued in between the layers until the whole side was good and stuck. When I was done gluing, the underside of the board looked like this:

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Let me say here that I only used real wood and felt because I wanted it to last a while. If I didn’t have these materials or preferred, I could’ve just grabbed some cardboard and glued the zippers on them right away and this project would’ve been done in 10 minutes!

At this point I grabbed my zippers and at the top of each one, I cut the tips off diagonally, so that the zipper would move more easily with toddler fingers. If I kept the tips on, the twins would’ve gotten frustrated that they were pulling on the zippers and they weren’t going any higher (they have the metal piece on the inside stopping the zipper at a certain point – if yours didn’t, you could just add a staple). Here’s what I mean.

DSC_0481After I trimmed the zippers, I placed them on the board where I wanted them to go. I was able to fit nine zippers on, and I alternated which way the zippers were facing to make the board a little more challenging. Then I got to gluing. The big thing I needed to avoid was letting glue make its way into the middle of the zipper. If I did that, the zipper would’ve been glued shut. So I went down the sides of the zipper, quickly. Once both sides had glue I flipped it back over and slapped it down. I found I needed to go back and add a little more glue on the sides. You really want the zipper secure because those toddler fingers grab and pull. When all zippers were glued down, the finished product looked like this:

DSC_0483I wasn’t sure how the twins would take to the boards, because the zippers are really small and hard to grasp. I had hoped for larger zippers but that didn’t happen.

Sure enough, C grabbed the board today and got right to it. She was focused, concentrating hard, and surprisingly had very little trouble zipping!

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This activity is so awesome for those fine motor skills, which is so much of what our activities are lately. C was able to grasp the zippers easily and pull back and forth for a long time!

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She tried switching her position many times, as the board was pretty big.

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Luckily the zipper board was also very light. B joined in for a few minutes and I only had to split up their fighting once :-P

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Then B went on his merry way and C got right back to it. This was the first activity we have done where she was more into it than B.

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Given that I spent practically nothing on making these boards and it only took an hour for each one – I’d say it was worth it. Now that I think about it, it would be a great car ride activity!

What are tot trays?

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Lately, I’ve been on a wild ride. One that I’ve created. See, when I get excited about something new – I focus on that one thing exclusively for weeks with giddy anticipation for the creation of whatever I’m doing. It started last summer, with DIY sensory boards and a spaghetti sensory bin because – I was on maternity leave, and why not, it would be cute to watch. Then it took off from there. I found myself reading about sensory bins, learning towers, and skills that teach toddlers independence. B, throughout his tantrums, took a liking to all of those things and I realized, we have the need in my house. The same old toys and free play all day won’t work for them, especially B. He needs stimulation, he needs a variety of experiences, and he needs to do things on his own. I found myself drawn to toys that let the twins explore on their own and figure out concepts independently, like our treasure baskets and sensory bottles, rather than those toys that did all that for them.

Then my blog took a turn, focusing on activities and crafts, because that’s my life at home right now – that’s what the twins do. I don’t know what direction this blog will go in the future but it’s my hobby and I enjoy it. And whatever the twins are interested in, I’m interested in. I made buckle pillows and zipper boards (posts coming soon!). I got a sewing machine for Christmas. I got so pumped about all these little things I couldn’t sleep at night. I even got my husband into it, as he’s still making those learning towers (they won’t be done until spring, unfortunately!). And then, I stumbled upon the Montessori Method. I’m not the kind of person who throws all the eggs into one basket – there are many correct ways to do things. HOWEVER. I knew nothing about Montessori, except that it was an expensive preschool. I still don’t know much about it, so this post isn’t about that. But what I have found is that everything B needs, everything that my husband and I believe in (independence at a young age, discovery, problem-solving, etc)….matches the Montessori method, almost to a T. We had no idea. As I read more about it, I’m really in agreement with so many of the Montessori concepts. My twins are only 19 months; they aren’t going to preschool for quite a while. So I wanted to implement something at home that resembled “preschool learning” because the twins love to learn new things.

Since I’m focusing mainly on cheap, simple toys (which typically do fit within a Montessori-type activity), I hosted a Busy Bag Exchange back in December (another future post). The bags were great but I wanted more.

So just recently, through a Montessori lens, I discovered tot trays. And fell madly in love with them. As far as I can tell, “Tot Trays” were coined by Carisa at 1+1+1=1. Her website is loaded with ideas – more than I could ever search through in one night. But the idea is quite simple, and very much like a busy bag. Basically, the child does an activity; a simple, cheap, educational activity on a tray. I just bought trays but when I tried tot trays for the first time, I didn’t have them and used a cookie sheet instead. The activities are not meant to last hours and hours (though bonus points if they do!) – they are short activities that reinforce skills – everything from math or language arts skills to practical life skills (like practicing pouring water into a cup, or picking up things with tongs, or scooping with spoons). It can be anything really, so long as it fits on a tray. It’s not complicated and it doesn’t need to be over-thought. Many people do tot tray activities without knowing they have a name. The idea with the tray is that the child will be responsible for it. As soon as they are able, they will carry the tray with the activity on it over to the floor or a table and return it when the activity is over. From a practical standpoint, trays have raised edges, and raised edges keep messes from going everywhere! I just adore them.

A few weeks ago when it was (shocker) snowing again, we needed something different and quick after nap. I decided to implement our first two tot trays, back to back. First, we started with a color matching tot tray. I printed out the color sorting mat from here, grabbed an old cookie sheet and the large sized pompoms I already had. After realizing I only had one cookie sheet, I ended up giving the babies their coloring mats on the table with a container of pompoms for each of them. Their only job was to take the pompoms and match them to the corresponding colors on the mat.

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They did it in about two seconds. I don’t know if that’s good or bad! That’s the thing with tot trays – I mean, I obviously started them with one that was not a challenge for them, which made the activity short. I would imagine the goal is to challenge them at least a little bit. I love the many skills being applied here – knowing the colors, but also identifying letters, feeling textures, and the fine motor skills necessary to place pompoms on a small circle. B was especially into this tot tray, and kept trying to get the pompoms to stick to the paper. (I added pink, white and black pompoms at first because I knew they knew those colors – but when your mat doesn’t have those colors on it? Yeah – don’t do that. Lesson learned!) B practiced saying the colors a few times.

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And that was it for our first tot tray! Luckily, I had one more planned. I grabbed two sheets of plain paper and as this was around Valentine’s Day, I drew a big heart on each paper. Then, on the “tray”, I gave the babies a sheet of heart stickers and two Dollar Tree crayons. So simple and so cheap! My kind of activity!

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I tried to get the twins to put the stickers “inside the heart”. That didn’t work out exactly, but that’s okay. C was especially into this tray. She is madly in love with stickers right now – they both are. I had to peel them off for her but she stuck every one down and then went to town with the coloring.

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She couldn’t stop smiling through the multiple sheets of stickers she went through! She really had to work her fine motor skills around pulling stickers off my fingers and then sticking them onto paper.

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This tot tray lasted much longer than the first one, which was nice. When they were done, we hung them up on the slider with our other heart crafts. My first introduction to tot trays was a success. I’m not sure how I’m going to post about them and organize them here on this blog, but I plan to do many more tot trays with them in the future. Next up – learning to carry a tray!

On a side note, I won’t have a blog post about this one but my nanny made amazingly adorable weather sensory bottles.

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This picture is not my best work, but the bottles demonstrate “snowy”, “windy”, “rainy”, “sunny”, and “cloudy”. I’ve just set up a Facebook page and there you can find the link where my nanny found the idea!

Repurposing Containers: A Fine Motor Activity

I am so over this cold weather. We are desperate to get out of the house, but the temperature has been below zero for days, if not weeks. Yesterday I bit the bullet and took the two 19 month-old toddlers to the library for the first time. By myself. I knew what I was getting into. It was every bit as exhausting as I knew it would be, but the twins played with some new toys and took out a few board books. We just needed a change of scenery, and on a Friday afternoon after a long work week, I didn’t have it in me to think of something new and fun for them to do at home.

Today, however, we had a nice, relaxing morning together. We started off with dried beans in the water table, which I’ll post more about in the future. After that, we moved on to a basket I had been working on for quite a while – repurposed, recycled containers. DSC_0519

Most toddlers seem to get a kick out of household items that aren’t toys (or is that just my twins?). They constantly want what they can’t have and it’s frustrating for them and myself when I have to repeatedly tell them “no”. At this age, they are also going through a phase of wanting to open everything themselves. So a few weeks ago I began collecting containers. I tried to choose those that varied in size and difficulty in opening. As you can see, some containers only need a quick twist to open, while others are much more challenging.

I washed all the containers thoroughly with soap and water, let them dry, put them all in a basket and let the twins go to it. Judging by their silence and focus – I’d say it was a hit. Of course they chose to sit with the light from outside at their backs, not helping my photography efforts, but I still managed. :)

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Both toddlers focused on this repurposed ice cream container as it had an easy to twist lid.

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It was really fascinating to watch them work their fingers around the small lids and their entire hands around the large ones – it was really a wonderful fine motor exercise for little hands. Not only did they seek to put the lids back on the containers, but they practiced matching which lid went to which container, and C even stacked smaller sized items into the bigger containers. It kept their attention for a good 30 minutes.

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Fitting with my theme, this activity was FREE (not counting the money spent on the containers from their original purpose). It was easy to set up, easy to clean up, and a simple concept – my kind of activity! When the twins got bored, I packed all the containers up and stored them away, to be used again when we need an instant filler activity!

Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers

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Well, I’m almost done posting about Valentine’s Day activities and crafts. I’ve got just a couple more to go. After that, I won’t want to see or work with another heart for a long time. Until next year, obviously.

The twins and I made Valentine’s Day Sun Catchers on yet ANOTHER snow day this past weekend (yes, that’s my back deck piled almost to the top with snow).

Materials needed: contact paper, tissue paper, painter’s tape

As with all my other activities and crafts, I was going for easy and cheap. It was pretty easy to construct, I’d say, and it was FREE. I had already purchased the contact paper which I used for our pom pom window activity and the tissue paper came from recent Christmas and Valentine’s gifts the twins received. It’s funny, I’m starting to think differently about items I would normally recycle or throw away. Tissue paper is a perfect example. Over the years I’ve no doubt wasted TONS of tissue paper – open the gift, throw away the paper. Now I find myself thinking, “Could the toddlers use this for something?” I’ve been doing the same thing with containers I normally recycle. Now I’m a junk collector – ugh.

Anyway, I contemplated ripping up the tissue paper myself the night before this activity so that it would be ready for the toddlers to use but then I thought that perhaps they could rip it themselves. That ended up being their favorite part of the whole activity. I gave them sheets and sheets of tissue paper and they went to town, ripping it, throwing it off the table, and making a massive confetti mess all over the dining room floor. That alone could have been our activity!

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When it was ripped up (with my help), they had a bucket full of pieces, ready to go.

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Meanwhile, while they were ripping I cut out a long piece of contact paper and folded it in half. Then I drew a heart onto the folded sheet and cut out the two hearts. (I did this twice, of course). This way I had the front and back of the sun catcher done and ready. After taking the back of the contact paper off, I taped two of the four hearts to the floor, sticky side up.

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Then I invited the twins to come over and stick their tissue paper to the hearts on the floor. I remembered how, the day before, B was disappointed that his alphabet hearts didn’t stick to the butcher paper and he got frustrated as he pressed down hard, only to find the letters slipping away. I was hoping I could make up for it with this activity. Both B and C understood quickly what to do and started sticking the tissue paper pieces to their hearts.

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Of course, there’s always something else these guys want to do with the activities I plan that I never think of. This time, B was happy to have the tissue paper stick, but unhappy that it didn’t unstick. He wanted to practice putting the pieces on and taking them off again. And he kept trying to stick the tissue paper to the blue tape, which of course did not work. Regardless, he squished his pieces on until the heart was sufficiently covered. C did the same. Then I peeled up the hearts off the floor and took the backs off the other two hearts I had. I stuck them together, sealing the tissue paper pieces inside the two layers of contact paper. I handed B his heart and he admired his handiwork. (In typical C fashion, she took off for other toys after a minute or two.)

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I showed B where we were going to tape the sun catchers to the slider and he tried his best to get it to stick.

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Of course, then I made a silly parenting move and taped them right there where B and C could reach them. They immediately peeled the hearts off the slider and tried their best to destroy their crafts. So I taped them again, higher and out of reach this time. Since we’ve done the activity, the twins have enjoyed pointing out their hearts and commenting on the colors they see. One more heart activity for the books!

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Valentine’s Alphabet Matching Game

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Well, once again we’ve been stuck in the house, as blizzard #87 came and went over the past few days. Honestly – I have always loved snow and cold weather. But that was back when I could appreciate the silence and peacefulness a fresh snow brings, or when I could still leave the house whenever I wanted, or when I was young enough to put on my snow pants and flop down in it. Nowadays, there’s nothing silent in my life ever, the temperatures are in the negatives so we can’t go run errands or leave the house, and the snow is layered higher than the height of my twins, so no, I can’t enjoy the snow and therefore wish for it to go away. We have had six snow days in a month or so and have averaged a big storm once a week. On a positive note, there have been plenty of opportunities for us to try out some fun, cheap, educational activities.

The twins and I have been on a Valentine’s Day kick lately. We enjoyed Valentine’s Day Soup in a water bin, a peppermint-scented Valentine’s Day themed rice bin, and played with Valentine’s Day colored pom-poms. I decided to finish up our Valentine’s Day activities with a few more over the weekend.

Yesterday, we played a Valentine’s Day alphabet matching game. I got the idea here and loved it as soon as I saw it. The twins know most of their letters and love to point them out. Plus, it wasn’t messy, and best of all, it was FREE.

I have a roll of butcher paper that has so far been well worth the purchase, and cut a long piece of it for this activity. I also had some pink and red construction paper, which I cut into hearts and wrote the uppercase letters of the alphabet on. The night before I planned to use it with the twins, I laid the hearts down along the butcher paper and traced them with a sharpie. Note – sharpie runs through, and I almost learned that the hard way. Luckily, I remembered in time and slid an extra piece of construction paper underneath the butcher paper to avoid writing on the wood floor.

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When I was done, I had 26 hearts traced onto butcher paper with the letters of the alphabet on them and 26 red and pink hearts to match.

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The next day I set it up. We have a small house, so to get the space I needed I had to move the dining room table. Now – I keep trying activities with my 19 month old twins (as of yesterday!) that are typically used with 2+ year olds. I imagine that 3 year olds don’t try and tear off the ground or table whatever you stick there, or immediately take what you’ve been creating for them and crumple it into a ball. Or maybe they do. Whatever the case, I waited until the twins were in another room playing to tape the butcher paper down to the floor with painter’s tape (the best invention ever). I had to be quick about it – they would step all over it and crinkle it up before I even got it taped down.

When it was ready, I called them in to check it out. As is the case with almost every single activity I throw at them, C is only interested for a few minutes, then goes to play elsewhere and comes back later on, while B puts all of his attention and interest in whatever he is supposed to do. He really loves a new activity and the new stimulation that comes with it.

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They both enjoyed identifying the letters, which is what I hoped for. They were almost overstimulated, with the letters written twice for them and so close together. But they had fun pointing them out.

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I was able to bring in the hearts to school a few days ago, and during recess a few of my fifth graders started drawing on the backs of the hearts with a picture that corresponds to the letter. They weren’t able to get all of them done, but B enjoyed checking out the car on the back of the “C” heart.

As for the matching – C had already taken off and checked in every few minutes, but she wasn’t interested in trying to line up the letters. B was very interested. The only problem was that he wanted the hearts to stick to the paper when he found a match. He would slide the hearts down the butcher paper, line them up and be disappointed that they moved again so easily. I can understand – it was almost like a puzzle, but it wasn’t. Thinking about it now, I could add a little piece of velcro to the butcher paper and the hearts, and then they would stick. Next time!

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I would absolutely consider it a success, though I’ve rolled up the butcher paper and clipped the hearts to save for next year. My kids were on the young end of being able to do what the activity is meant for, but they still had a great time with letter identification.

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Coloring on Butcher Paper

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As you know, I’m constantly looking for new activities, crafts, and projects for the twins. Because we have a nanny and they don’t go to a daycare, they are here all day with the same old toys. They don’t get a change of scenery often until the weekend. So on lazy Saturdays (and Sundays), we try to engage the toddlers in activities that are different, educational, and frequently sensory based. Both B and C get very excited to see what fun games we have in store for them, and I certainly think the independence many of these activities provide is right up B’s alley, considering his strong-willed, passionate nature.

What I look for in a toddler activity first and foremost is simplicity. Unfortunately, as much as I wish it weren’t true, I lack creativity (which is not helpful as an elementary school teacher and a mom of toddlers). What games can toddlers engage in that involve the least amount of materials? From there, I look for price. It needs to be super cheap, if not free. If I can find a simple, cheap game or craft for the toddlers to play or create, I’m in.

That’s why when I came across this so simple and cheap activity from Jamie at “Hands On As We Grow”, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it myself.

The twins go through phases of interests, as I suppose all kids do. They were on a letter kick for a while as they learned their ABC’s. Then they obsessed with numbers while they practiced counting. Lately, they can’t get enough of colors. My goodness – they want to name them, screaming out loud of course, pointing, getting their hands on color. On our first snow day I provided crayons after an unsuccessful mess-free paint experience. I gave them a piece of a paper and let them have at it. But it wasn’t the best way to get them coloring.

No, the right move here was to buy butcher paper. I bought it on Amazon, and I can’t say it was super cheap/free. It wasn’t (almost $40). However, the roll is huge – it’ll last YEARS for sure. It was absolutely worth the purchase.

A few times a week, I cut butcher paper to the length of the twins’ little toddler table and tape around the edge so it can’t be lifted up or ripped while they color.

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As soon as I put the jumbo crayons out (Dollar Store find!), the twins start grabbing and scribbling at top speed.

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Sharing between siblings is going to be a constant work-in-progress, especially since both kids want the colors their twin is holding (obviously!). B has lately been entranced by orange. He can’t stop pointing out what’s orange, and he requests his orange cup, bowl, plate, socks…you name it.

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On this particular day, my husband “the artist” wasn’t home, so I drew what only a non-artist can draw – letters. (In previous coloring sessions my husband has been caught drawing farm animals and creating comics, much to the kids’ enjoyment.) The twins enjoyed going around the table and shouting out the letters they saw. C was getting hung up on a Q looking so much like an O, and B kept turning his head this way and that to see how the H was also an I.

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I was even able to catch C working on her grip to get the crayon to paper just right.

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Colors are so much fun for toddlers and putting crayons to butcher paper is a guaranteed success in our house every single time. Getting B and C to hug each other on command though, not so much.

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Stubborn Toddlers & Baby Sign Language

Thank you for the support in regards to my last post. B was throwing some mighty fits for a few days there and since then, it’s decreased a lot.

I figured out the problem. He was sick of his oatmeal. Yes, his oatmeal. Every day for breakfast, B and C were eating 5 scoops each of baby oatmeal, mixed with one ice cube of pureed pears and a few dashes of cinnamon. Apparently, B is done with it. Not only that, but he was starting to associate his orange bowl with the oatmeal.

Those breakfast meltdowns that occurred a few days in a row were because he didn’t want what he had been eating for months. I was confused, because he had insisted I hold him while I made the oatmeal – mixing in the water, stirring it up – and he would even let me give him a taste off the spoon with no complaints. But as soon as I put him in the chair, the meltdown began. I assumed it was the chair, and after my last post, we switched out the high chair tops to the booster seats…and now I know it wasn’t the chair at all. He just didn’t want oatmeal. (We know this because we tried serving it on a plate – no luck. Since then, he won’t touch a bite.)

On the day I couldn’t take it anymore, he also had a one hour meltdown at dinner. No, there was no oatmeal served. However, I put out his orange bowl to put his dinner in – and as soon as he saw it, he started screaming. He even said the word “bowl” a few times, and I thought it meant he wanted it. But he didn’t.

I hadn’t realized how “deep” the issue had gone – he didn’t want oatmeal and he didn’t want the orange bowl because it reminded him of the oatmeal. Now that I’ve figured it out (and B has taken a 2 hour nap for the last three days in a row) – he hasn’t had a single meltdown. The kid was trying to tell me something!

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That said – he’s still extremely stubborn. C would never have a meltdown over a bowl. She’s never had a meltdown, period. And that’s okay – they’re two different children. But man oh man – B knows what he wants. He’s independent and strong-willed: two good qualities that happen to be exhausting for parents.

I have to say that this was a learning experience for me. I learned to start parenting a toddler instead of a baby. I’m much more on my game. I’m trying my best not to be wishy-washy with what B can and can’t do, and my husband and I are on the same page about the little issues, where we weren’t before, which was giving the twins mixed messages. We’re actively parenting now, and I guess we weren’t doing that before. What do we feel comfortable letting B do and not do? Some things don’t bother my husband like they bother me, but he’s great about agreeing to them if he knows it’s something I don’t approve of, and vice versa.

For example – standing on the couch. The couch is pushed up against our big living room window, so sometimes we all look out the window together. But if the TV is on and the twins are looking out the window, they might turn around to watch TV, still standing. My husband and I weren’t being consistent enough with our couch rules – deciding if they could stand on a case-by-case basis. As long as they didn’t jump or move around. Or as long as they didn’t turn around to see the TV. B didn’t understand the rules, and I wasn’t thinking that he was of age to NEED to understand the rules. But he is old enough, so it’s time to be clear.

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The day after the double meltdown, we were looking out the window together, pointing out birds and the snow and cars. They sit up there with us behind them to see better. When we were done, I sat them on the couch. B immediately stood up and moved his foot to the side, staring at me. I said, “You need to sit down now or you’ll be off the couch.” He took another step; looked at me. I picked him up and put him on the ground. He stamped his feet for a second and decided it wasn’t worth it. That was it – he went to play with his toys. This seems so obvious – and we WERE doing this. We just weren’t doing it every time, so B was confused. Now I feel better, and with confidence- we’re on the right track.

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Where I’m going with this post is how we use Baby Sign Language. I can’t say enough good things about it, though I wish the twins knew more signs than they do. The fact is, B didn’t want his oatmeal anymore and he didn’t want his orange bowl, and the only way he could tell me was by saying “bowl” and screaming. I can’t imagine how many more fits he would have if he didn’t have any sign language to use. It has REALLY been handy for these 18 month olds.

We started when the babies were 8 months old. Well, I started. I knew they wouldn’t sign back for a long time, but since they were eating solids and they sat in their high chairs, I would say and sign “more”, “eat”, and “all done”. Again and again and again. As they got used to seeing me do this, they started to smile and laugh, thinking it was a game. I just wanted it to become ingrained in their brains. Those were the only three signs I used for a long time. It was around 12 months or so that B began using his hands to speak to us, and he started on his own. He was obsessed with our ceiling fan and he pointed to it, letting his arm go around and around. That just happens to be the sign for “fan”, so I went with it and incorporated it into the babies’ sign language vocabulary. If you are hoping to do baby sign language, as soon as they start signing just one sign to you, they’re ready for many more signs. They’re in learning mode.

After that, I taught them a few signs that were important to me, such as “water”, “milk”, and “again”, but I also let the twins show me what they wanted signs for, based on their interests. They went through a dog phase, so we taught them the sign for “dog”. We recently taught them the sign for “snow”, because we now have a ton of it and the twins are paying attention. They also learned “please” and “thank you” and use them appropriately all the time.

Before I started this, I was worried about how long it would take them to learn the signs. Honestly, once they start signing, they pick up new ones so quickly. I would show the twins twice, maybe three times and then say, “You do it!” and they would. When they forget (like tonight, they forgot “again”), I just did it two times and they were back on.

One worry that people who have never tried Baby Sign Language have is that it might slow down a child’s verbal vocabulary – as in, they’ll sign instead of talk. That is absolutely NOT the case at all – in fact, it’s the opposite. As long as you are modeling by saying the word with the sign, they’ll do the same. The twins have a great verbal vocabulary of at least 40 words and Baby Sign Language has only enhanced it. I find it amazing when one of them wants something. If their mouths are full, they’ll just sign “please” by itself. If they can talk, they’ll sometimes just say “please”, or sign and say it together. The signs are just another tool in their toolbox to use when they want to express themselves.

Like I said, my only regret is that we (my nanny, my husband and I) haven’t taught them more. Next up on the list (especially for B): “Feeling” signs – “mad”, “happy”, “hungry”, “tired”…etc.

If you’re just starting out, I get all my signs from one source: www.babysignlanguage.com. I would definitely recommend it to anyone!