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Quiet Boxes: September 1

For the next two weeks I have two new quiet boxes set up. Cam is officially transitioning out of her nap. Thankfully she is willing to have quiet time every day and I get a couple hours to do things mostly Cam-free. More often than not she wants to continue doing what she was doing after lunch, but as the two hour mark nears she gets fatigued and needs some guidance. The quiet boxes are a quick go-to that she knows about and I can remind her of. 

We have:

2015-09-01 15.42.34Mega Magnet Fun: Cam has been into tangrams for ages and this was an extension of it. I like that it adds in the extra dimension building the shapes up even though they are still flat pieces. They appear to sell a slightly different version (no color pieces) on Amazon which you can see here

2015-09-01 15.43.13Popsicle Stick Puzzles: I had these foam popsicle sticks and found some puzzles. I’ve had them out for a long time, but I just don’t think Cam was seeing them. The activity is pretty tricky- she has to look at the picture and copy it with her own sticks- but she’ll 

I don’t think this is the place I downloaded them from, but you can get a set of cards here. You’ll have to provide your email address to get the download link. I’m sorry I can’t find where I got them from. 


Summer of Mess: Colored Noodles

2015-08-27 15.33.55Another fun sensory experience from 150+ Screen Free Activities. Cam actually did this one on her own. If I had been there she might have stuck with it longer, but she still played for about 15 minutes which for a messy activity is great for her. 

The idea is simple, cook some noodles, put them in a plastic bag and then add a splash of food coloring and water. I chose blue and green and then added some plastic sea creatures. Also per the book I added a pair of scissors and, interestingly, she was more inspired by those. I am still finding tiny pieces of noodle stuck to my feet when I walk through the kitchen (okay, not exactly, it’s mostly dried up by now).

2015-08-27 15.33.42If you try this… 

…put out the splat mat. Cooked pasta is nasty when it gets stepped on so the more you can contain it, the better.

…you can do uncooked pasta. It’s more like the colored rice. If you don’t want to go through the hassle of cooking the noodles first or you want it to last longer, then you might try that. 

…the scissors (a suggestion from the book) were brilliant. Cam had so much fun snipping away. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 10

Just two more this week. We have…

2015-08-16 12.07.18Stencils. These are old Tupperware stencils. Stencils are excellent for developing finger control and pencil grip. They’re nice because they’re rigid plastic which makes them easier than some flimsy plastic and paper stencils we have. Cam can press fairly hard against the edge and the pencil doesn’t jump out, tear the edge, or deform it. I’ve seen these in thrift shops so you could keep your eye out or eBay has them inexpensively and readily available.

2015-08-16 12.07.00Blocks and animals. I found some little Jenga-style blocks at the dollar store. I’m not sure how she’ll combine them. She did pull this bin out right away, but she was trying to build something tall and it wasn’t working so she was really frustrated. I was prepping for her birthday party and didn’t have time to step in an help her so I don’t know how successful this one will be in the end. 

Summer of Mess: Colored Rice

2015-08-12 09.25.56 Making colored rice is incredibly simple. I scooped out a cup or so of rice into a Ziploc bag, mixed a splash or two of food coloring with some rubbing alcohol in a small dish then dumped that on top of the rice. Then I zipped up the bag and shook until it was fairly evenly coated. 

I did a rainbow of colors and laid them out to dry in the sun. 2015-08-12 13.19.31It took a couple hours, but the rubbing alcohol dries out pretty quickly. Then I told Cam we were going to make tie-dye rice and mix all the colors in a box. She was so excited and got out her metal play dough molds. There was a lot of scooping and pouring. I mixed in some magnetic letters for her to find and match up to their outlines. She was less interested in that and more interested in cooking with it, making cakes and pies and soups. 

2015-08-12 13.19.18If you try this…

…make sure the rice dries all the way before playing with it. Otherwise the food coloring will get all over your hands.

…use liquid food coloring. The gel stuff doesn’t dissolve well in the rubbing alcohol.

…this stuff pours nicely so get out cups, bowls, scoops, and funnels. 

…it keeps for awhile so make sure you can dedicate the bin you’re using to the rice for a week or so.

…also get ready to be sweeping and vacuuming rice up for the time it’s out. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 9

I moved the quiet boxes into Cam’s room this week since I usually have her do quiet time in there. In theory she could have brought them into her room when she wanted to do them, but more often than not she just wants to read and play with her stuffed animals. Moving them in there, though, meant I had to pare down to two. They’re both essentially repeats from last week.

2015-08-12 09.24.28Magic Mosaic. This one is still out. I’ll see if she wants to play with it again. If not back in the closet it goes on Sunday. 

Sewing buttons. Last week she simply had the burlap sewing on an embroidery hoop. This week I added some buttons and intend to show her how to attach them if she’s interested. 

Summer of Mess: Soap Foam

2015-08-06 17.14.14This is an activity I came across on Pinterest. I had planned on making colored beans to put in a bin, but for the second time this week discovered that I don’t have the material I need. *Sigh* We did however have several bars of soap that I had bought to do this back in May so I decided to break it out again.

2015-08-06 17.14.26All you do is pop the bar of soap on a plate and put it in the microwave. It foams up, but not in the way you would expect soap to foam up. It resembles whipped cream and is soft, crumbly and smooth to the touch. I microwaved a bar and half for about a minute. You can always add more time and I err on the side of less time because our microwave has the power of an atomic bomb. 

Cam was pretty excited to do this again and she got out some little pipettes and asked for a dish of water. We laid out the splat mat so the floor wouldn’t get slippery and put the foam on a tray. I would say Cam was engaged for a good 10-15 minutes squishing and rubbing and dripping water. 

2015-08-06 17.14.34If you try this…

…it’s got to be a soap that’s fairy light. We used Ivory, but I suspect other brands would work.Bar soap, especially Ivory is really inexpensive (a couple dollars for three bars). What I think is happening is that the moisture in the bar of soap is heating up and essentially boiling which causes the tiny air pockets to expand in the bar and pushes the soap up and out. I suspect if you have a denser soap, such as one with a lotion in it, it will have a more difficult time foaming up. 

…remember the foam will be hot coming out of the microwave. Don’t give it to your child right away. Let it cool. And know that it will remain hot in the middle so breaking it open might be a good idea. 

…you can cut the bars of soap in half and make less. Or I suggest cutting them in half to cut down on the microwave time and to ensure that most of the soap foams up. 

…don’t do this with kids who put things in their mouths. Eating soap is not such a great plan. 

…clean up is easy! Your kids already all soaped up. Just rinse and they’re clean. Same with the floor or splat mat, it’s soapy so a few good wipes cleans it up nicely. 

2015-08-06 17.16.18

Cam said this looked like a piano.


Summer of Mess: Tie Dye

We were going to do shaving cream paint, but at the last minute I realized I didn’t have any shaving cream. Whoops. Good thing we’ve had this tie-dye kit lying around that Cam has been wanting to use. This is not a sponsored post. Cam got into tie-dye a few months ago and I have NO IDEA how. NO IDEA. We don’t own a stitch of tie-dye clothing. We don’t have any tie-dyed stuff. I think it’s just her natural hippie personality. 

I was prepared for a total mess with this project and that’s why the kit sat around for so long. But it turned out to be surprisingly simple and, with a few precautions in place, it was SO much fun and turned out an awesome outfit for Cam. 

So the kit came with two pairs of gloves. They were enormous, but thin so Cam was able to wear them. I set up the splat mat outside and then laid paper towels down under the shirt and shorts we were going to dye. I also kept the paper towel roll outside with us. We both put on our aprons and I mixed up the dye. You just add water to the bottle and shake it up. Before getting started we had looked at a project online to see how you’re supposed to apply the dye, but once we got out there Cam started squirting the shirt and shorts like crazy and I realized that it looked way better than the project we had in mind. I did do a little demo for her first to show her not to squeeze the bottle too hard and how she could move the bottle around instead of pointing it straight down and squeezing. 

About half way through I flipped the shirt and shorts over so we were sure to get the other side (some of the dye soaked through, but it didn’t have nearly enough coverage). Cam did get a little wild at a couple points, but I reminded her that this was permanent dye and that if it got on her clothes we wouldn’t be able to get it out. There were also a few puddles of dye on the splat mat, but I made sure to mop those up right away with the paper towels so we didn’t step in them. 

When we were all done I put out some plastic wrap and laid the shirt and shorts on top, then put another layer over the top. This apparently keeps the clothes damp while the dye sets. After about 7 hours of sitting outside (it was relatively cool yesterday so I knew it wouldn’t dry out) in the shade I brought them in and rinsed them out until they ran fairly clear. Then I washed and dried them. Cam was so thrilled she put them on right away. 

Bonus, the shorts were an all-white pair (who makes all-white clothes for kids?!) that my mother in law had bought. Cam liked them and had worn them a lot so, not surprisingly, they were more gray than white. The look totally new now. You can’t tell how dingy they were. The shirt was also all white (bought by my dad this time), but Cam had never worn it so it didn’t really matter. 

This was so easy and so much fun that I want to do it again soon. Because I was worried about dye everywhere I didn’t bring the camera out so I never got a picture of the process. Next time we do it I will. If you are interested you’ll need some white or light colored clothes or fabric to dye and they I recommend the Tulip One-Step tie dye. There’s no fixer for the dye and it comes with the powder in the bottle. Just add water. The kit I’ve linked to has 18 colors, but they make much smaller kits. You can also buy refills which I assume are powdered dye you add to the bottles. You can also mix the dyes to make other colors so you could in theory buy just the primary colors, but create a rainbow. Target also sells the dye and they were on clearance recently so keep your eye out for that too. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 8

I have to say these are not as popular in our house as they appear to be in other houses. It doesn’t really matter to me though. My intention in creating and setting them out is not to have an activity Cam will surely do, but to have something in reserve for those days she needs some direction or need to have a quiet activity instead of a nap. 

This week we have only two:

2015-08-04 07.28.24Magic Mosaic. This is still available on Amazon (now called Mosaic Mysteries) where it’s kind of pricey, but we found it in the thrift shop as did my mom. Keep your eyes out or go for pattern blocks. It comes with a booklet of designs, but Cam just likes to put the pieces in willy-nilly. She was really excited about this one and has already played with it. I will say it’s hard to get the pieces in once the frame gets about half full, but it’s also a toy that can grow with her. 

2015-08-04 07.28.30Burlap sewing. Yes, again. And again and again. I’ve been working on a lot of sewing projects and Cam really wants to sew too. She’s at that point where she wants to make what I’m making, but has no skills. She needs to practice, but the practice feels tedious and like it isn’t working toward a goal. I don’t know what to do about that, but keep putting out the practice boxes. 

Summer of Mess: Ocean World

2015-07-30 11.52.59It’s been really hot here this week so I decided to do another ice excavation/exploration. I took two plastic bowls and froze some sea creatures and stones in layers. The effect was pretty cool, but Cam was ready to go in after about 10 minutes because it was just so hot. That and all the ice had melted. 


2015-07-30 11.53.17So freezing in layers was pretty easy:

  • Choose a smallish bowl (I used our IKEA children’s bowls) fill the bottom with a thin layer and put it in the freezer for about an hour.
  • Once it’s firm enough to take some objects on it plus more water, layer in your ocean bottom (or whatever ground cover you want). Don’t cover all the ice on the bottom, you’ll need some exposed to the next layer of water to keep the ice “cube” solid. Pour water into the bowl and fill it up enough to cover the tops of your bottom objects. At this point I also added in a plastic eel in one bowl and a starfish in the other.
  • Freeze for another hour or so until the layer of ice is fairly solid. The time this takes will, of course, be dependent on how large a bowl or container you are using. To keep track of time I set our kitchen timer which kept me from completely forgetting about them.
  • Again remove the bowls from the freezer and add another layer of objects. This time I put an octopus and a ray in them. Then I filled up nearly to the top with water and popped them back into the freezer for two days until we were ready to use them.
  • When it was time to play, I filled the water table and dumped them right in. In a couple minutes the bowls slid right off and Cam could see the bottom and top layers. The ice was not clear which made for some fun discovery of what was in the middle. 

Summer of Mess: Cloud Dough

We made cloud dough yesterday and it was a lot of fun. Cam still doesn’t like to get too messy, so it really only held her attention for 15 or 20 minutes. It’s very simple to make: use a ratio of 8:1 flour to baby oil. I found this a little dry so keep the bottle of baby oil around to splash in some more.

If you try this…

…our clay toys were fun in this. Cam got them out and even though they didn’t work perfectly because the dough was so crumbly they worked well enough.

…little dishes and molds are also fun. We had a few out. Just know that the dough can really get packed into them and be difficult to get out. 

…have your child help you mix it up. Creating the activity extends it and adds to the fun. We started mixing with spoons then dug in with our hands. 

…know that because this is made with flour it can get gloppy if you clean up with water. I rinsed Cam off outside, but swept up as much as I could inside. 

…look for unscented baby oil if you or your child is scent sensitive.