Posts in activities for children
Making a Rocket (and a Splash)

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Recently, I have been doing a TON of product photography.  Almost every day, something arrives in the post for a quick photoshoot.  I love it.  Its like a beautiful combination of getting cool stuff in the post, a nice change from my normal and we get mailing tubes. Mailing tubes are awesome.  They are car ramps and telescopes and (probably much to my neighbours' delight) trumpets.

I currently have 27 mailing tubes.  So, I did what everyone else would do in that situation...made rocket ships*. 

I put them together, as it seemed like a good idea that I be the only one horribly burned by the hot glue gun, but then I let the kids paint them.

Here is how Ellis paints:

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Notice the serious look of concentration, the deliberate brush strokes?

 

Here is how Georgia paints:

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She then stripped naked and painted her entire body. It seemed fitting that my wildling be painted like one. Oh and did you know that the paint from Tescos stains EVERYTHING? So, she is green. So I hosed her off.

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She is still green. I find it funny (obviously).  Kevin doesn't find it AS funny. Meh. Who cares if she's green.  Apparently you grow a whole new covering of skin every 7 years. And, did I mention we have sun?  So at least my house isn't green.

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* I didn't follow any instructions for the rockets. However, if you want to make some, here are my top tips:

- Hot glue is your friend

- Cut slits in the bottom of the tube to slide the fins in for security (I just freehand drew ours)

- Th nose cone is 1/4 of a circle.  to get it the right shape and size, I just measured around the mouth the of the tube, and opened up my compass the same length and drew a half circle (for 2 rockets).  You could use string to measure the circumference and then attach it to a pen to make a compass yourself.  I learned this technique in the 15 minutes I wasn't goofing around in Mr Bunting's Geometry class. 

 

To The Beach

Saturday was one of those days where nothing got done, no one could get along and then ended with tears for 3 out of 4 of us. And so, when Sunday dawned bright and warm (ish), there was just one thing to do...go the place where we are all our best.

 

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Rather than our usual haunt, we headed to the John Muir Country Park on the East coast...and it was just gorgeous.  Highly, highly recommend this stretch of beach and general area for things to do...play park, huge adventure farm thing, pick your own berry farm.  But for us, there is really only one draw:

to the beach
It never ceases to amaze me how the near constant demands that a 4 year old, 1 year old, and 4 month old place upon us when we are in the house fall almost completely silent as they play and explore the seaside.  
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Even the Theo-bug who is in the "I CAN NOT BE PUT DOWN" phase of babyhood, was happy just to lay on the (made my me 10 minutes before we left the house) picnic blanket, look up at the clouds and accept visitors as and when.

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But mostly they played and Ellis realised his lifelong dream of "building a sandcastle with a moat and a river to the sea"...surprisingly hard to accomplish with a 1 year old sister who is hell bent on destruction.
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As we left, I my mind travelled to a life where we could head to the beach every day...and of course in a place where such adventures could be met by packing less clothes, instead of more and iced tea, instead of hot cocoa.

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Now, That Was Awesome

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Of course, there were inherent lessons about colour theory.

Naturally, there was experiments in viscosity.

Sure, there were discusions about smells and diffusion.

But really, it was just awesome to get naked and paint in the shower with food colouring and shaving foam* and then pretend he was a monster.  

Even better? He pretended to be a fireman and hosed the whole shower down afterwards.

Awesome**.

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* idea from here via pinterest

** I've begun using the word "awesome" with increasing frequency. Its possibly a sign of my mental decay. Or a deep connection to my Americanness. Or maybe because its just a good word. Awesome.  Though, if I start using "dude" too much, please send help.  

 

 

When Inspiration Strikes

As any parent of small children will tell you, when inspiration strikes, you gotta move on it OR ELSE

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So when I saw this post from Angry Chicken, Ellis was out and Georgia was sleeping for the first time in weeks on her own in bed. I seized that inspiration and ran with it.

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Literally.  I ran out into the garden and grabbed some paint left over from painting Ellis' ikea table. I also had a big sheet of plywood that we inherited with the house that had been laying across the roof of the shed. A couple of coats of paint later and we have a 7 foot long outdoor chalkboard. Of course we LOVE it.

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Ellis loves to write with wet chalk, as my upstairs windows will tell you. But its messy, so this is the perfect solution. The spray bottle was a BIG hit and we did all eventually get a shower.

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Fun, easy and cheap...my 3 favourite things!

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It really is the little things, isn't it, that make a life?  No one reminds me more of that than the children I have been blessed to have in my life.
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My own little man teaches me everyday about the small and subtle.  The excitement that charges through his entire body when he hears an airplane or a helicopter in the distance. The complete reverence with which he views taxi drivers. 
 
This weekend saw us stop in a small craft shop to collect a new pair of children's scissors to replace ones that had gone missing weeks previously.  All other items in the shop were forgotten the moment Ellis saw his plastic beauties.
 
Insisting that we go home immediately to do cutting, Ellis has hardly put his scissors down since he got them.  We have been cutting paper, card, playdough, leaves ("weebs"), staws, eggs, bread, and made various attempts at the cat's ears and fur.  Oh and of course, he has been sleeping with them.

 
We probably should have seen it coming.  Since getting a hair cut a few weeks ago, no one can mention the term without Ellis launching into a full blown story about how he got his hair cut with his Dada at the barber shop.  How he sat on his own and got a lollypop from the hairdresser when he was done.  We can't even walk towards the barber's without requests for a further haircut.
 
I thought the fascination was about the hair and the lollypop, but it looks like it was all about teh scissors.
 

You see they aren't just scissors.  They are red.  They occassionally double as an airplane flying in the sky.  They came in a pack of three so both his father and I can "do cutting" when the mood strikes. They are the first thing he asks for in the morning.  All for 99p. Bargain.

Friday 5

5 things we are loving this spring Friday

1. Spring Scene Body Art

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With feet for blue bells and tulips, hand prints for tree leaves and re-purposed painting for a kite, this scene now graces the wall of E Man's bedroom.

2.Resurrection Fern.  Amazing and whimsical art.  I love whimsical.

3. Solar Powered Toy Helicopters. How brilliant are these?

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4. The Noticing Project. I love the simplicity of it.

5. Some thoughts on creativity

- Elizabeth Gilbert on Nurturing Creativity

- Can domesticity be feminist?

Chaos Collage

So what do you do when you have the morning off, a clean house and a toddler? Intentionally create a gigantic sticky, seedy mess that spreads throughout your entire house, of course!

Messy play is definitely Ellis' favourite thing.  Be it jumping (and sitting) in every puddle he comes across, pouring water here, there and everywhere, or painting with his entire body, Ellis and mess go hand in hand.  Thats why this activity from First Art: Art Experiences for Toddlers and Twos was such a hit (In the book, its actually called Touch, Pour and Explore, but in our house it results in chaos, hence my retitle).

Anyway, the basic purpose is to let little one explore a whole range of textures and then make a collage out of the materials.  I gave E man a number of bowls filled with bird seed, oatmeal, breadcrumbs, rice, and died beans. You can use other things, such as cotton balls, fabric scaps, yarn, etc, but for some reason E doesn't like the feel of them. Of course as soon as he got his hands on them, they were all mixed together.

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The biggest "trick" with this activity is to just give them a lot of time to play with the materials.  It is not for the faint hearted.  Stuff goes everywhere. 

Since I am quite keen to let E man dictate how something works, I don't interfere much.  I did give him some utensils, like spoons, measuring cups, and old egg cartons to play with and showed him how they might be used. Of course, children have their own ideas about goes well with mess.
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Once there has been plenty of opportunity to play with the materials (ie most of it is strewn around the room), its time to break out the glue.  I have E hold the bottle and squeeze while he runs around his table. For the first time, most of the glue landed on the paper!

Then its all about the throw.  think of it as really big glitter.

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Uh, I did mention this is NOT for the faint hearted, right?

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 We've done one in the past for the birds using smooth peanut butter for the glue and just bird seed and other bird-friendly nuts mounted on cardboard or a small piece of wood.   

Happy Mess-making!

Yesterday's Lessons

Everyday is supposed to teach you something, right?  Well, yesterday was full of lessons:

1. Peeling and stacking carrots is interesting work:

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2. All forms of painting, even dough painting* must be done with one's feet:

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3. The same applies to doing the dishes.
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4. Toast is best when it has been left in a bus for who knows how many days and then eaten.  When one's mother asks, "Where did you get that toast?" Its best to run away.

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5. Reading is an aerobic activity
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6. Mischief is usually pretty easy to spot and almost always involves silence.
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I have to say that I am thrilled with the response for yesterday's post. Thank you so much for sharing them. The comments had me alternately in tears and laughing throughout the day! What wonderful simple pleasures. You are all invited 'round for a cup of tea:

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*Dough Painting (From First Art):

1 part water

1 part salt

1 part flour

Mix until smooth.  Separate into squeeze bottles (I used condiment bottles from the pound shop).

Add a squidge of paint to each bottle and mix.

Let LO squeeze onto heavy paper or cardboard.  It dries puffy and sparkly from the salt.

Our paint turned out a bit runny.  It should come out in ribbons.  I added a bit more flour to the bottles and it worked better.

Happy Valentine's Day
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Happy Valentine's Day.  Love is definitely in the air around here.  Other than my lovely boys, I am in love with making felted crochet bowls. 

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I made all of these last night!!

Ellis is in love with cutting playdough with plastic toddler scissors.  Hours of entertainment! 
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Which is good, as its a busy weekend. Hint:

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Craving Green

Remember how I said last week how much I love repurposed stuff?  Well, we have had a huge old ikea bamboo blind sitting in the garden for ages.  On Monday, I woke up to find:

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Kev made it for me on Sunday.  Its for growing my beans up.  You see, I love beans.  Who needs flowers when you have runners, french, peas, and broads inhabiting your garden.  I even grow borlotti's out front because they are so beautiful, I couldn't bear for them to be hidden away.  At the height of Ellis' fussiness and constant crying as a young baby and I could cope with nothing else, I could grow beans.

Year after year, we struggle with the bean teepees being knocked over by errant cats and soccer balls.  Not this year.  It is secured into the ground and across the top with an extra clothesline (plus it gives me another 5 feet of hanging space!) I just love it.  I am going to weave some coloured fibers through it to add some flair. I can not wait to grow some things up it!

It seems like everyone is longing for spring.  A number of the blogs I read are planning gardens, planting seeds and just generally thinking about green. Its hit here too (I know, I know, it doesn't really get cold here and the grass is green all year round, but I still LOVE spring!).  We have been attempting a number of spring-like activities.

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Forcing crocuses (I wanted to write "grow" with letters, but I couldn't find the "R")

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A glue and yarn bird's nest for one of my (20) Spool birds.  This activity didn't go very well.  I don't know if I didn't soak the yarn long enough in the glue, if the yarn was too heavy but E hated doing it and they didn't turn out... I am pretty picky about the crafts I do with the wee man and it has to be very participatory and this just was too complex for him at 22 months.

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And drawing flowers on the glass with wet chalk...well, we tried drawing flowers, but then Ellis wanted choo choos.

However, my current favourite bit of spring is my new bird brooch that my lovely friend made for me at the crafternoon.
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She has more in her etsy shop...I may need more than one!

Whose Idea?

Whose idea was it to offer Ellis a snack everytime he gets into his pushchair so that now even when he sees his stroller he demands, "SNACK!"

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Whose idea was it to set up water play right AFTER I'd cleaned the kitchen, including the floor?
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Who put "earrings" on her son who now demands to wear earrings whenever his mother does?
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Oh and who promised their best friend that she would make sour cherry brownies, when she has none of the ingredients in the house and now has to truck to the grocery first thing on Sunday before Crafternoon?

I think it might be her:

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She is clearly absent minded enough to do all of these things. 

And who wrote on this banana?

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I'll give you 2 guesses...and it wasn't me!

Perfect Combinations
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Cars + Paint = One Very Engaged Boy!!!

He did this activity for ages!!!  Though, he keeps asking to paint with his Brio train set and I have to admit I am a bit wary...

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Adhesives + Throwing Things = Toddler Bliss

One large piece of contact paper, laid upside down on a table (I stuck the non-sticky side down with blu-tack) and a bowl of cut up felt, paper, tissue paper, and snowflakes.  Ellis just threw everything everywhere, then we patted it down.  I folded the contact paper in half to make a stained glass window. He kept saying "again. again".

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Hungry people + left over vegetables from the weekly veg box = Deep Seated Satisfaction for All

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Feb

Sun in Scotland + A Long Walk = One very Tired Boy
Work in Progress

After coming to the realisation that I never finish anything, I am now viewing everything in my house with wariness.  It seems every time I walk into a room, there is some reminder of something I intended to do.  A room needing painting, a pile of papers needing filed, a raised bed needing building, a mountain of laundry needing put away, a course needing working on, a toddler needing his ears cleaned...ignorance was much better.  You would think that in a 4 room house there would be somewhere that was finished!

Of course, I can always say my excuse was that Ellis needed something more pressing...the Brio train needed to be moved from the floor to the table to the floor to the table.  We HAD to find out what the snail did when the whale got beached and whether or not Max got home in time for supper. We desperately needed to go and make sure the tractors were still at the farm next door. And we couldn't not chase the cats madly around the house...that would have been obscene and they would have felt neglected and move out.

The reality is that I use a lot of "my" time to do other things.  To read, to write, to sew, to see friends and neighbours...things that nourish and sustain me, but aren't going to get me into Good Housekeeping Magazine.

To be fair, I do have my moments. Yesterday, after a burst of "I've been awake since 2am" adrenaline, i transformed this:

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I got to sew without having to dig out the machine.  I got to get some books down without toppling the whole pile over.  I even found some lovely fabric scraps to make these fabric circles from here. E Man particularly enjoyed stacking paperclips and rubber bands on top of them...
February 2009
 

So, my question of the day is: How on earth does one do it all?  How do you get everything done and still have time for playing, friends, relaxing and being?  Is it a choice between sacrificing your own needs for those of the house and family? Do you hire staff? Do you just igore it?
I know you want one!
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Forget about Tiffany's. I have a salt dough bead and button necklace! So how do YOU get one of your very own??? Well, I'll tell you:

Ingredients:

Salt Dough: 1 cup salt 1 cup flour 1 T. oil aprox 1/2 cup of warm water

Poster Paint

Large Buttons

Twine (or pipe cleaners) 

Toddler (optional)

1. make up the salt dough. I do this by having Ellis measure the dry ingredients (with help) and mixing them together. Then add the oil for elastcity, then the warm water. Add water bit by bit, mixing as you go until the dough is a good pliable consistency.

2. make into bead shapes. we did this a number of ways. by rolling balls and leaving them. by rolling balls and flattening them. by rolling the dough into a worm shape and cutting them with a butter knife. E Man hellped by giving me the dough to roll, by flattening the balls and doing the cutting with the butter knife.

3. lay them out on a cookie sheet. We used our silpat baking tray liner, but they would be fine on any non-stick surface.

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4. Poke holes in each bead. For older kids, you could easily use a skewer, but as Ellis is only 21 months, we used a 1/4in dowel. Ellis helped poke the holes, but it was a very violent experience that I would not want to repeat anytime soon. No one was injured, but some of the beads had to be made 3 and 4 times!

5. Bake in the oven at 100 deg celsius (about 200 deg Fahrenheit). Ours took 2 hours and were about 1/2 in thick. the smaller the beads are the shorter baking time is. When they are dry, just turn the oven off and let them cool so they don't crack.

6. Painting them was the tricky part. I couldn't figure out how to have Ellis participate. we tried putting splodges on paper for dunking. We tried using a paint brush. We tried just shaking the paint over them. Then I had the miraculous idea of putting them in a plastic baggie with paint and shaking them. It worked a treat.

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7. We laid them out on baking paper to dry for a couple of hours.

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8. Then the fun begins. Ellis picked out some bright buttons from my tin. He really liked laying them out and organising them before stringing them. I used simple packing twine, with a very large darning needle (rounded tip, of course) but you could use pipe cleaners, but they are hard to get here. If I would have had wire in the house, I might have tried that as we did struggle a bit with the stringing.

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each step really engaged with a lot of the things he is want to do and explore at the moment:cooking, painting, stringing. He kept calling the beads his "balls" and was asking all morning if we could make more...too bad I've run out of salt!!