Tag Archives: Activities

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. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 7

I went simple again this week (read: lazy).

Quiet Boxes Week 7

This week we have…

Box 1: Pattern Blocks. Sometimes Cam goes for these, sometimes not. She is actually more fond of tangrams, but I like the variety. I wish she would do designs with them and I go back and forth on wanting to give her a book or pictures with pattern block designs. I can’t decide if that would be too suggestive or just right. 

Box 2: Owl crafts. I don’t usually do crafts with Cam like this, but we got them at our school’s 50th anniversary celebration. Cam loves owls so I thought they might draw her in. 

Box 3: Pencil sharpening. I sharpened her colored pencils last week and she was enthralled. Who knew that would be interesting to her? I thought I’d let her have a try with it. 

Summer of Mess: Silky Play Dough

IMG_6261I came across this blog post some how, possibly through Pinterest, and the dough just looked so inviting. I had planned another ice activity, but bumped that in favor of this dough. It was really simple to whip up and Cam was able to help me mix and knead it. She also had a blast playing with it. She got out all the little metal gelatin molds I have for her play dough and she baked a huge cupcake. She even wanted to mix up more. 

The ratio of cornstarch to water is 2.5:1. We did a half recipe (so, 1 1/4 cups cornstarch and 1/2 cup conditioner) and it made a good-sized lump of dough. 

IMG_6263If you try this…

…know that it will smell quite strongly of your conditioner. So if you or your child is sensitive to scents choose a lightly- or unscented conditioner.

…I think I made this several years ago with hand lotion and corn starch. You could certainly give that a try too. 

…the dough, being made from cornstarch and a semi-liquid, has properties a lot like oobleck. It was really strange to see this stuff that looks like a dough but acts like oobleck which tends to a lot more liquid. When you squish and knead it, it firms up and even gets a bit crumbly. But if you hold a glob in your hand, you can feel it getting oozy and if left sitting on the table it kind of oozes out. It’s not nearly as runny as oobleck, but it gets soft. 

…you could probably color this either with powdered coloring or a few drops of liquid water color or food coloring, but it’s totally not necessary. 

Summer of Mess: Paste Paper

IMG_6259This was a lot of fun, but didn’t go exactly as the Tinkerlab book seemed to think it would. The basic premise is you make a gelatinous paste with cornstarch and water then color it with food coloring or liquid watercolor. Then your child “paints” with it on paper.

Cam glopped it on and I set out a number of scrapers (no brushes, although you could put those out too). She also likened the texture to snot and poop, but it didn’t stop her from digging in. The actual art portion of the activity lasted about five minutes and then devolved into her rubbing it ALL OVER her legs. It got in her hair, on her diaper, and on her shirt. However, it was so easy to wash off. So easy. I popped her in the shower and hosed her down with the shower wand. Easy peasy. I had used liquid water color so the color mostly washed out of the clothes and didn’t stain her skin.

I was actually really impressed. Cam is a lot like me and doesn’t like to get messy, dirty, or have weird textures on her hands. So the fact that she rubbed it everywhere (and I do mean everywhere) was a big change for her. I think maybe the texture was smooth and wet enough that it didn’t bother her. 

IMG_6260If you try this…

…do it outside or on a large splat mat. Things will get messy, as they should.

…this actually makes an EXCELLENT color mixing/color theory lesson. The paste mixes together really well and makes other colors. 

…bear in mind that this is process art. It’s unlikely that you will get anything you want to frame out of this, unless your child is good with texture. 

…food coloring will stain their skin, and this could end up all over. Use liquid water color if you’re worried about it or put on old clothes that can get stained.

Summer of Mess: Ice Excavation

This was the perfect activity for a hot day. It took some prep effort, but was worth it. The basic idea is you freeze a bunch of stuff in water then pop out the giant ice cube and let your kid pick at it to get the stuff out.

I used a deep plastic cup and layered items, and this is where the effort comes in. A few days in advance you have to start with your first layer and let it freeze fairly solid. Then you can add more things and more water. I kept forgetting to check on it so it took me four days to add four layers. I suspect if you really keep your eye on it you could manage to get a number of layers within 24 hours, but set a timer. 

We did the activity on a nice hot 100 degree day. I filled the water table and put the cup in. In a few minutes the ice cube floated out and Cam was able to see all the treasures hidden in it. The ice melted pretty quickly because it was so warm, but Cam had a great time trying to pry stuff out, pushing the cube around and finally eating it like a popsicle. 

If you try this…

…be sure to do it in layers. That made it A LOT more interesting. You could theme the ice cube/layers (pirate treasure, color, etc.) or even go rainbow or make it a mini world with plastic animals and plants and things. 

…it would make a great experiment to time how long it takes the ice to melt. I was even thinking of doing it again when it’s cooler, maybe this fall before the water table gets put away, and see if the ice lasts longer.

…be sure to try a mix of objects. You could do cars, animals, loose pieces, even sponges. 

Summer of Mess: Quiet Boxes Week 6

I am back from my two weeks of teaching summer school! It was tough for our family to have me out five days a week, but we made it and are happy to be getting back into the swing of things. And because we are getting back into the swing of things I went minimal (read: lazy) on the quiet boxes this week. I did not change them out the last two weeks because Cam just wasn’t home so even though I’ve left out some of the same activities they still feel fresh to her.

This week we have:

Poch-Poch. Cam has a difficult time with this one, so it isn’t a bad thing that she keeps playing with it and practicing those fine motor skills and hand strength.

Pattern blocks. I think I need to include a sheet of felt or something with these so she can lay them on a flat blank surface (as opposed to our striped carpet). These are a lot of fun to draw attention to and play with patterns. Pair them with some pattern books for an added literacy piece.

Geo board. This is always a hit when she gets it out. Cam loves to make shapes and tell us what they’re called. 

Summer of Mess: Oobleck

IMG_6257One of the most basic science/sensorial projects. Mix water and corn starch and it makes this funky liquid/solid. It will drip and run, but it also becomes firm if pressed, patted or squished into your hands. 

This project went a lot better than the marker explosions and entertained Cam for 30 minutes. Plus she asked to do it again! I put down a splat mat on the kitchen floor then dumped a box of cornstarch into a tub. I had Cam pour the water in and mix, first with a spoon then with her hands. We got out some dinosaur figures and our plastic play dough toys. I also threw in a colander. There ended up being a bit too much water so it was a little too runny, but it sat out on a warm day and by evening the consistency was a lot better. Ultimately it didn’t matter, Cam loved it.

IMG_6258If you try this…

…know that if it falls on the floor it will dry fairly quickly and can be easily swept up.

…add some food coloring. I didn’t have time or the inclination to do that, but it would make it even cooler. 

…add the water slowly. I didn’t know the ratio so we just poured and mixed. This lead to oobleck that was a wee bit too runny.