Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Surviving Isolation - Activity of the Week #1

We are in our second year of isolation.  For us that means JAM doesn't go to public places (with doctor/therapy appointments and a twice a week in-home daycare being our necessary exceptions) and we limit the amount of people that come in to our home.

Last year things were even tighter. We had a nanny to watch him while I worked half-time, and he qualified to have a visiting nurse administer shots. It was only about once a week that we brought him out of the house -- usually for specialist appointments. Our girls did and do scrub in when they come home from school, and last year we instituted a "jammies on, school clothes off" rule as soon as they walked in the door.  It helped. No RSV.

(In case you think I'm insane for all these rules, read more about RSV and micro-preemies here. When I was pregnant I was sure I wouldn't be even bothering to dust off pacifiers before sticking them in my third child's mouth. That's before I had a medically fragile micro-preemie.)


SO -- in the interest of helping caregivers of premature babies stay sane during the winter months, Wednesday JAM sessions for the month of February will be a way to celebrate all the fun that can be had at home.  Each week we will showcase one game that a baby/toddler might like to play. Since I DON'T have the ability to go shopping (see the first paragraph), every activity will:
1. Use common household items.

And, since so many of the kids in isolation are still developing gross/fine motor skills, these games will also:
2. Be able to be performed in a high chair or bumbo seat (most likely - I'm opening this to guest bloggers, and they can do whatever they like) and
3. Be appropriate for two month to two year olds

They will all be JAM tested-and-approved (or, in cases of guest bloggers, guest-blogger-baby-tested-and-approved) and I will post my rankings and JAM's rankings at the bottom.

ENJOY! And if you try these, please comment below so we can hear how other kids responded. (Anonymous commenting is enabled, so you don't have to sign-in or anything.)


Shallow bowl or muffin tin
Objects that are (a) baby appropriate (b) easy to grab and manipulate for baby (not choking hazards).

Set up & "game":
Put bowl or muffin tin in front of baby.
Demonstrate dropping objects into bowl or tin.
Let baby pick objects out of bowl. Encourage (but don't expect) baby to put objects back into the bowl.

For a challenge put a plastic lid on top of the bowl. Cut a hole in the lid that is larger than the objects given to the baby. Encourage baby to find a way to put the toy in the bowl even with the lid on.

Baby will be able to pick objects out of a bowl long before they are able to drop objects into a bowl. Don't be surprised if after they get an object in each hand, the next several minutes are spent banging the bowl/muffin tin or (if your kid isn't oral-adverse) chewing on the toy. (I don't think I need to say it again -- but make sure the toy/object is something the child won't choke on...)

Also, we didn't do it below, but it'd be super easy to throw a dish cloth over the muffin tin or bowl and start to teach some object permanence (or "play peek-a-boo with the objects").

The above sounds fairly plain, obvious, and probably not very fun. But as JAM (and his sisters) demonstrate, it's actually the BEST-GAME-EVER. (Reminds me of how kids like the box a toy comes in almost as much as the toy...)

We used:
  • Blue plastic wash basin inherited from JAM's NICU stay
  • Plastic bottle tops also from the NICU (Our NICU provided lactating mothers with sanitized storage bottles. We didn't save the bottles, but we did save the tops, because I figured we'd be able to find something to do with them.)
  • A muffin tin
 First we practiced putting bottle tops into a plastic bowl. I tried to put tinfoil on the top of the bowl and make an opening, but that does NOT work. So don't try it. The tinfoil fell apart and would have been a choking hazard. So, yes, stick to plastic tops if you're going to create your own opening.

Then we took out a muffin tin.  First we sorted, then we stacked. Then the girls joined in the game. The decided that they were making muffins, which made JAM a bit hungry (even though he's never eaten a muffin, he's often thought they sounded like a good idea).
Sisters stole my game, but I didn't care.
Then I started to care...
So we all played together. Mom has a LOT of bottle tops.
I thought our bottle top muffins looked VERY tasty.

Believe it or not, it took about 20 minutes before this inevitable thing happened:

I took a few videos to demonstrate how JAM felt about the activities.  YouTube is still processing the videos, but they will be available here and here.


Overall Activity Score:
5/5 for ease & flexibility (you could probably use this to teach colors/shapes as well, and can be done with independent play or as an activity together to teach many things.)
5/5 for cost (free!!!)
4/5 for ease of cleaning. There were LOTS of bottle tops on the ground after this activity

3.5/5  This toy didn't make me laugh. I like to laugh. But it DID make different cool sounds when I hit different parts of it together. And I had to concentrate really hard to do this puzzle. I worked at it for a long time before it got boring. And then my sisters played with me, so that was a bonus! For once I understood one of their games!

Mom's Score:
5/5 Easy to clean up, he can play in the kitchen, and it kept his attention for a long time. If I hadn't been holding the camera, I could have done a load of dishes while talking to him about what he was doing. LOTS of possibilities for expanding on the theme. 
(You can't tell it on the videos, but we did some talking together about what he was doing.  I just hate hearing my own voice on film, so I cut it out in the edits.)

Hope this inspires!
Please post your comments/ideas/inspirations or similar things you've done below.
I am opening up this blog theme to guest bloggers this month (I've already got one lined up! So excited!) so if you either:

(a) have a blog you'd like me to link to
(b) want to guest-blog about activities you and your child have done, please send me a note at

Have a fantastic February!  Make the best of it.


  1. What a great post! We've been having to get a bit creative with our second isolation winter too. Year 2 is much harder than year one was. Yesterday Nate played with a bowl full of ice cubes for like 20 minutes...whatever gets us through the day :)

    1. Fantastic idea!! I'll have to pull that out in a few months. For now the cold outside is too much for me -- the idea of having cold inside the house-- nope. Not ready for it. :) Maybe on a March day when the snow hasn't all melted yet, but the warmth has returned -- maybe then I'll bring in a pail of snow for him to play in/with.

  2. Love the muffin tin idea! I've used a metal colander and Jax likes the noise it makes when he bangs on it. Also, love the idea in the comments above about bringing in a pail of snow and / or ice cubes! Very fitting for this long, cold winter. :)

  3. What a great idea! The videos are great, too. My 3 1/2 year old keeps asking to see "the cute baby videos." I was a little skeptical about whether actually playing with bottle lids and a muffin tin would hold my girls attention all that long after they had already seen JAM play in the video. But my 18 month old played with it very intently for more than half an hour. Then my 3 1/2 year old came over and they played together for another half an hour before I had to break it up for excessive roughness. And then the next day it was a hit again. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Isn't it amazing how little things can be so entertaining for these kids? Glad it worked for you too!! I was astonished that my older kids wanted to play, too.


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