Monthly Archives: June 2015

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Summer of Mess: Sink or Float?

IMG_6248This was a perfect activity for a hot day. We gathered up a bunch of objects to test if they would sink or float. We carried them outside to the water table and tossed them in one by one. 

The most interesting conversation we had:

Me: Do you think you would float?

Cam: Yes, because I breathe air.

Me: Are you thinking about your lungs? [I thought this might harken back to a conversation she had last week with my stepdad about lungs and air.]

Cam: Yes.

IMG_6250 IMG_6251

If you try this…

…model what it means to make a prediction. I asked Cam each time we tossed in another object to make a prediction and it took her a little while to catch on to what I meant even with an explanation. I think it would have been faster if I asked her to make one and then modeled it myself. 

…be sure to get a variety of objects including bowls and containers. These are harder to know if they will sink or float. You can also fill them up with water and see if they float when full. We put in several of these and I’m really glad we did because it led to a discussion of boats and buoyancy. 

…this is a great time to break out the loose parts. We got out jewels, rubber bands, Christmas lightbulb covers (it’s a long story), plastic dinosaurs, buttons, and plastic ice cubes. If you’re willing to sacrifice a few, wooden objects might be interesting to throw in because they will float. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 4

This week I swapped out two of our quiet boxes. 

This week we have:

Quiet Boxes Week 4

Box 1: Mixed puzzles. Cam has been off puzzles for awhile, at least at our house. She didn’t really engage with this one last week so I thought I would leave it out a little longer. 

Box 2: Peg Board. She loves to make shapes with the rubber bands then proudly show them to us. 

Box 3: Tiny Books. I took 2-3 index cards and stapled them in the middle, then folded them in half making tiny books. I also put in stickers, markers, and colorful paper (from the collage box). I made a sample book that shows the story of the Hungry Caterpillar, but we’ll see what she does with all this. 

Box 4: Cups and Playing Cards. These must be tiny plastic shot glasses, which makes me laugh. You can stack the cups and cards to make buildings and houses. I saw this on Pinterest and since Cam likes to build I thought we would give it a try. 

New Baby Busy Bags

We’re going to take a break from the Summer of Mess today. Last week got busy and we didn’t get around to our messy play on Thursday. 

One of my best friends has a two-year-old daughter and is expecting her second baby in about a month. While one of the best things you can give new parents are frozen meals, I also decided to give them something that would help their toddler. It’s got to be hard to no longer have the undivided attention of your parents as well as deal with the stress of a newborn in the house. To both keep her entertained and give her something shiny and new I decided to put together a huge basket of busy bags and quiet boxes for her. And since I’ve been sharing our quiet boxes here I thought I would type up a list of the boxes and bags I created for a 27 month old. Some are more challenging than others, but I figured they would serve well over the coming months. 

  1. Large lacing beads
  2. Popsicle stick puzzles: I printed off three pictures and glued them to large popsicle sticks, then cut them apart.
  3. Farm play set: glass jewels, blocks, farm animals
  4. Collage bag: stickers, paper, colored pencils
  5. Jungle play set: play-doh, jewels, animal figures, colored matchsticks
  6. Color matching: I created a paper with columns. Each column had a colored square at the top. Then I laminated strips of colors that can be set in each column. I used animal pictures, but you could use strips of paint chips.
  7. Fabric squares: This is kind of like a puzzle. See a tutorial here. I made a much simpler version with fabric scraps I had on hand.
  8. Shape matching puzzle: I outlined some foam shapes on a card for matching. Included a Cookie Monster shape book.
  9. Nuts and bolts: nuts and bolts to put together and a copy of Anne Rockwell’s The Toolbox
  10. I Spy jar: I filled a jar with rice and a bunch of objects. By turning the jar she can find the different things hidden inside. There is also an I Spy easy reader.
  11. Toy cars
  12. Chalkboard and chalk
  13. Sticker farm scene
  14. Pattern blocks: This was a set I found at the thrift shop. It had both foam pattern blocks and cards with pictures to make. 
  15. Cups and index cards: For making card houses.
  16. Links and bracelets
  17. Doll with bedtime set: I bought a tiny fairy doll and made her a mattress, pillow and blanket. I also put Joanne Cole’s I’m a Big Sister book in there. 
  18. Left or Right?: This is a book that studies left and right with just photographs a la Tana Hoban. I also printed off a beautiful left and right side butterfly matching game which you can find here
  19. Tweezing: foam cubes, plastic cups, tweezers
  20. Bear dress up: This is one of those wooden sets where you match up the head, top and bottoms.
  21. Marble runs: wooden blocks, large bouncy balls, tp tubes cut in half to make channels
  22. Frog world: based on our water play from the other day
  23. Lacing cards: I printed off these, laminated them and then punched large holes for a shoelace to thread through. 

The dollar store is a treasure trove if you think outside the box. Stroll through their aisles and look for loose pieces, fun games, etc. For about $50 I was able to pull the vast majority of these together and buy bags and containers for them all. The two exceptions are the lacing beads and the dress-up bear. Those are Melissa & Doug and I bought them online. 

Summer of Mess: Frog World

This was so much fun! Cam played with it for a long time and we used it as a set up for a playdate too and our little friend also liked it. Set up was super simple: throw a few foam lily pads and a few plastic frogs into the water table and, voila!, you have frog world. I am saving the pieces to do this again. 

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If you try this…

…I think this is a great “small world” play for kids who don’t like really specific set ups. The frogs and lily pads are just out there and they don’t have to make up stories or anything to go with them. Just squirt, dump, and splash water. 

…look for little frogs at the dollar store. I found this set of plastic jumping frogs that are similar to tiddlywinks and they worked beautifully. The book set up had those expensive, accurate ones and I didn’t want to spend $12 on a tube of frogs that might not get used again. 

…bust out the jewels. I have a ton of those glass jewels that go in vases. You can find bags of them at the dollar store or check thrift shops. But they make excellent additions to frog world. 

…be sure to use foam to cut out lily pads (again check the dollar store). It’s lightweight and floats. 

…I set this up in our water table, but you could just as easily do this in a big plastic tub or the bathtub. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 3

Once I again I kept a couple of our quiet boxes from last week. The collage box was really popular and the counters and numbers box didn’t get used at all. I have to admit these are not being used nearly as much as I thought they would be. Cam has been taking naps every afternoon we’ve been home and she is keeping herself happily entertained with her trains, doll house, and stuffed animals lately (with lots of requests for me to join her) so we just haven’t had a need for a quick, quiet activity. That’s fine! I have the boxes there in case we do need them and if we don’t I’m not going to stress and, as I’ve been doing, I’ll keep the good activities and untouched ones for another week. 

This week we have: 

Quiet Boxes Week 3

Box 1: Numbers, counters, and popsicle sticks. What really needs to happen with this one is a Montessori-style presentation. The materials are flexible, but not that flexible so I think she needs a little direction for what to do. She does love to count so I think this could be a hit when we get around to using it. 

Box 2: Collage box. Cam made a bunch of pictures out of this last week and has been dipping in for the supplies to use in other “projects” so I just left it as it is. 

Box 3: Peg board. I’ve had this peg board out with a bowl of rubber bands for a long time, but I thought popping it into a quiet box might draw a little more attention to it. Cam does use this from time to time so I think she will enjoy seeing it again. I have thought about including some shape cards to encourage her to make shapes, but she seems to do fine on her own so I haven’t done it yet. 

Box 4: Mixed puzzles. Cam has loved these Melissa and Doug puzzles for a LOOOOONG time. I thought I might challenge her by mixing two of them together. In theory she could just look at the shape on the back of the puzzle and sort the pieces, but I don’t think she will. I put the two picture cards in the basket to give her a hint that there are two puzzles in there. 

Summer of Mess: Fizzing Car Wash

Another fun sensorial activity from 150+ Screen-Free Activities. You make some colored baking soda, some colored shaving cream, and fill a squeeze bottle with vinegar. 

2015-06-13 10.08.11I put down a towel inside on the floor and put everything in a deep bin. I was so surprised how much Cam enjoyed this. She asked to play with it twice the first day and as we were going to bed asked to play with it again the next day. And it kept her entertained for quite some time. She did want help really rinsing the cars off at the end and help washing her hands. 

If you try this…

…fill another squeeze bottle with water for real rinsing. 

…when mixing food coloring into the shaving cream, don’t use a whisk like I did. It gets trapped inside the whisk and is a huge pain to get out. Just use a spoon. 

…don’t use wooden cars and don’t use those cars that you can pull back and let go. They have a spring in them that will rust. 

…have rags on hand for wiping hands and wiping wet cars. 

Summer of Mess: Egg Geodes

This is a pretty simple project that I got from Tinkerlab. It shows how salt and other materials form crystals once water has evaporated. It’s also a great way to teach observation (you have to have the eggs sit for several days) and potentially journaling or recording the progress of the experiment. 

All you do is clean out some egg shells, mix water with salt and food coloring, and then pour into the egg shells. They sit for several days as the water evaporates out and the salt forms crystals inside the shells. We also mixed water with Borax.

Cam did all the mixing and I helped her pour just so it didn’t end up all over the place. I also placed a large baking sheet under the materials to catch spills more easily. 

24 hours

24 hours

Five days

Five days

 If you try this…

…I think you could add some glitter to the water mixture. We only added food coloring, but glitter, especially fine glitter might make this a wee bit more sparkly. 

…use Tinkerlab’s suggestion and try other mixtures. Next time I would use baking soda, another type of salt (we only had Kosher on hand), and maybe gelatin. This shows what materials form crystals and which don’t. The gelatin would show something else entirely!

…I would premake the mixtures and have Cam add just the food coloring. The recipe calls for hot water which I microwaved to achieve, but heating the water on the stove and stirring in the salt (and Borax) would have gotten more of the salt into the water and would probably have a more impressive effect once the water evaporates. The more I watch the geodes form, the more important I think this is. I think we did not get enough of the Borax and salt incorporated into our solutions to make better geodes.

…it is the perfect summer activity. You have to wait for the water to evaporate and the warmer it is the fast this will happen. It might be neat with older kids to try the experiment at the height of summer and during the winter and compare how long it takes for the evaporation to occur. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 2

Cam enjoyed last week’s boxes and played with them a bit, but she actually took naps so in the end they didn’t get as heavily used as they potentially could have. This week I left the stitching box and added three new boxes.

This week we have: 

Quiet Boxes Week 2

Box 1: Sewing on burlap. Same as last week

Box 2: Popsicle sticks, counters, numbers. I am not sure if Cam will go for this on her own. She tends to shy away from these really Montessori-style activities, but she is into counting so I thought I would give it a shot.

Box 3: Popsicle sticks and clothes pins. There are two sizes of popsicle sticks and she can use the clothes pins to clip them together and build with them. I got the idea from the book Loose Parts. She got pretty excited about this bin and started coloring the popsicle sticks with markers. 

Box 4: Paper scraps, stickers, and glue. I also put scissors and larger paper in the basket for her to make collage pictures. She made three and then glued them to the wall, the bookcase, and the sideboard in our living room. It’s a mini art show. (The glue is just and Elmer’s glue stick so it will clean up easily.) I wanted to encourage her to practice with the scissors and the glue and she certainly did!

Summer of Mess: Baked Cotton Balls

This project was in the 150+ Screen-Free Activities, but I also saw it a few  months back on Mummy Musings and Mayhem (you can find that post here, it has tons of ideas for extensions for what to do with the cotton balls). 

The basics of baked cotton balls are making a flour and water paste, add food coloring, and then coating cotton balls in it. You then bake them in a medium oven until they are dried out. The result is bizarre. The balls are hardened on the outside, but once broken open are soft and cottony. 

IMG_6230Cam helped me mix up the “paint”. I made the paste and poured it into a muffing tin. She added food coloring and stirred. I have to say she was not into this project. I’m not sure if it was texture or the mess or the pull of another activity, but she lasted through the mixing and long enough to coat maybe four or five cotton balls. She was way more interested in smashing the lone balls with a hammer the following day. 

Our cotton ball owl

Our cotton ball owl

If you try this…

… and you don’t want to have your oven on very long during the summer I suggest letting them sit out for awhile to dry. Once they have dried out a bit they can go in for a significantly shorter period of time.

…you can do single cotton balls or draw a picture on some tin foil and fill it in with cotton balls. Smoosh them together and a bit and they will harden together. 

…have a damp rag nearby to wipe sticky fingers on. Many kids may not care, but moms and finicky children like my own who don’t want colors to mix will need to wipe off before dipping in a new color. Jode on Mummy Musings put out tongs for kids to use to dip the cotton balls. That would also work for keeping fingers clean, but it won’t stop colors from mixing.

…definitely smash a few with a hammer the next day. It makes such a satisfying crunch. 

Summer of Mess: Easy Dough

The first project we tackled in our Summer of Mess was the Easy Dough from 150+ Screen-Free Activities. It’s just a mixture of baking soda, food coloring, and a splash of water, which means the term dough is being used loosely. Pretty simple. 

IMG_6227Cam had a great time. I had her help me mix it (using our hands) and then we dumped it into a large cookie sheet. She ran off and got some of her play-doh toys to use and she had a great time playing with it for about 20 minutes. When she was done I used one of the additional suggestions in the book that said to pack balls of the dough and stash a little treasure in the middle. I hid some polished stones in four or five balls and she can use vinegar to excavate them on Friday. 

IMG_6228If you try this…

…and are having a hard time finding liquid food coloring like I am, you can use gels. I used close to the amount the recipe called for (1/2 tbsp.) but I could have used WAY less. 

…mix the water and the gel together first and then added to the baking soda. The color would have been more even and mixed faster. 

…and the dough is pretty crumbly, add more water. I think this was partly due to the fact that the food coloring didn’t add any liquid. 

…know that the food coloring will definitely stain your hands, but it only lasts the evening and Cam thought having blue skin was awesome. I did have her wear an apron to protect her dress. 

…this would be a great material to set out with some loose pieces and/or tools.