Thursday, July 9, 2020

Colourful Witches Potion Experiment

Kids will watch on in awe as these bright witches potions bubble and brew to life. This colourful witches potion experiment is a fun activity to do at Halloween or for a Harry Potter or spooky themed birthday party. With a twist on the traditional bicarb and vinegar science experiment, these witches potions combine science and creepy crawlies into one spooky, fun activity kids will love.

witches potions erupting with creepy crawlies
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Double, double, toil and trouble; fire burn and cauldron bubble. 

With this magic witches potion recipe all children can experience what it's like to create potent potions in seconds. The question is will they be wicked witches or white witches? Only joking, there's no malevolence here, we're all good witches of the north.

SUPPLIES YOU'LL NEED


  • Spoon
  • Small bowl
  • Shallow tray
  • Mini cauldrons
  • Bicarb soda {baking powder}
  • White vinegar
  • Food colouring
  • Spooky creatures {bats, spiders, rats etc} 

I have a small stash of Halloween items in a box that we seem to add to each year. We don't go all out with decorating the house and don't trick or treat, but I do love all the mini decorations for play activities. Our collection includes things like mini plastic skeletons, pumpkins, creepy crawlies like spiders, rats, bats, eyeballs and fingernails, skulls etc. You can usually pick them up for relatively cheap in September & October from department stores, dollar stores and even supermarkets. The little plastic figurines are great for sensory play and small world props, we keep them and reuse them each year {just wash and dry before storing them away}. For this activity you can add any creepy crawlies you like {or none if that's not your thing}. If you want to do this activity when it's not Halloween there's usually items still regularly available on Amazon. 


witches cauldron and sign on tray


When I presented the potion pots to my daughter I put three of them onto the tray with bats, rats and spiders scattered across the tray. I also added a the witch is in sign that we had to the tray. I then gave her a small bowl of bicarb soda with a spoon. What she didn't know was that I'd filled the cauldrons with vinegar, a few drops of food colouring and some spooky eyeballs and spiders. It was a complete surprise to her when she added the bicarb to the cauldrons and different colours bubbled out. 

girl making a chemical reaction in a witches cauldron





When the bicarb soda {also commonly known as baking powder} touches the vinegar in the cauldron it immediately causes a chemical reaction which results in carbon dioxide bubbles forming and erupting to expel the gas as fast as possible. The reaction is quite quick and can bubble and foam out of the cauldron and across the tray in a few seconds, which is why it's best to set this experiment up on a tray with a lip so it doesn't flow everywhere. The cauldrons can continue to erupt by adding more bicarb, until there is no vinegar left inside.

child doing bicarb and vinegar reactions
baking powder and vinegar reactions in a mini cauldron




My big girl loved making the witches potions bubble and boil over to see which colours would erupt out. As they erupted some of the little spiders would come floating out and she could see the eyeballs spinning around inside the cauldrons. She kept making them erupt until there was no bicarb soda left. The tray does end up becoming a bit of a mess {and can end up a muddy brown depending what colours you use} however it's perfectly safe for kids to play with as the chemical reaction results in water and carbon dioxide {which is released through the bubbles} so the liquid is safe to touch. It's also easy to clean up by washing away under a tap. The food colouring shouldn't cause staining, however if you're worried only use 2-3 drops for each cauldron.

colourful witches potions for halloween



OTHER SPOOKY IDEAS TO TRY




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Monday, July 6, 2020

How to Create a Fairy Village Small World

Over the past few weeks, as children have spent more time at home than usual, fairy gardens have experienced a huge resurgence in popularity. It seems everyone's setting up a fairy garden or fairy house. What if you want your children to experience the magic of fairies, but don't have a backyard or garden to create a permanent fairy garden in? A fairy village small world is a great indoor alternative to bring fairy magic to life in your home. In this post I'll show you exactly how to create an enchanting fairy village small world invitation to play for your children.


Fairy village and animal small world invitation to play.
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Small world play is my daughter's favourite type of play. She's always had an active imagination and small world play gives her miniature life like environments in which her imagination can run wild. As her play has evolved over the years our small world play set ups have gone from simple trays to more detailed layouts that cover an entire shelf.

Small world play can be as basic or intricate as you desire, so no two small worlds have to look the same, even if they're the same theme. I'm quite partial to setting up more detailed small world scenes because I just find anything miniature so irresistibly cute and I want to add all the things. However, there are no hard and fast rules, so when planning a small world simply choose items you know are age appropriate {no tiny pieces for children who still mouth} and that your child is interested in. I've included items below that we specifically used for our fairy village, as well as similar suggestions, and the process I use when setting up a small world.

*Please note that some items included in this small world can pose a choking risk for small children. The items depicted are intended for children over 3yrs of age and to be used under strict adult supervision*

SUGGESTED SUPPLIES


  • Fairy figurines
  • Artificial grass
  • Tree house {or similar}
  • Artificial trees
  • Mossy rocks
  • Felted rocks
  • Vine garland
  • Animal figurines
  • Fairy furniture



HOW TO SET UP AN INDOOR FAIRY VILLAGE


To begin creating a fairy village it's easiest to have an open ended neutral structure you can build your village around. Something that has a few different levels which will blend in well with other small world items will make the small world visually appealing and entice children to play. A wooden barn, small doll house, log cabin or tree house would all work well. For our fairy village we used the magic wood classic tree house as it's carved out of thick tree branches with the bark still on the outside, so it lends itself perfectly to small world play, especially scenes that involve forests.

magic wood classic tree house

We've had the magic wood tree house for a few years now and have used it for countless small world set ups as it's so versatile. It can be taken apart into separate single levels or used connected altogether. I was originally drawn to it because it's quite a sturdy tree house and it's fairly toddler proof {which is what I really needed at the time}. We got ours from Works at Play but you can also find it at The Creative Toy Shop and Entropy Toys.

When setting up a small world I always set up the main items {in this case the tree house} and then layer up the scene with nature pieces and finally add in the smaller details like miniature furniture and figurines. We use the top of our Ikea kallax cube shelves as our small world shelf so I'll usually set up all of our small world scenes on top of that. My big girl played with this particular small world up on our dining room table before I moved it over to the small world shelf so it could be left set up for the week.

Ikea kallax shelves toy storage and fairy small world village.

For our fairy village I laid our artificial grass runner out and positioned the tree house on top of it allowing ample room in front for animal figurines and other small world items to be added. I built up the scene with papoose trees, artificial plants and a leaf garland around the outside edges of the tree house to create a forest vibe. I then added even more nature props by scattering felted rocks and mossy rocks around the grass and tree house. I also used a blue scarf as a waterfall running from the felted pond on top of the tree house to the grass below {Sarah's playsilks are great for this, or you can use old fabric or thrifted scarves}. I then added in some little wood slices as a pathway and a small terracotta pot on its side to add a little more whimsy.

FIND SMALL WORLD ITEMS ON AMAZON



How to create an indoor fairy village small world


THE FAIRY VILLAGE - ALL THE ADORABLE DETAILS


My favourite part of setting up a small world invitation to play {apart from watching how my children play with it after} is definitely adding all of the teeny, tiny details. I just love bringing the fantasy lands I'm imagining in my head to life. Because we do small world play quite a bit in our house, I have a never ending collection of small world items, so there's always bits and pieces I can use to bring scenes to life. Collecting teeny little items has become somewhat of an addiction though, so I'm constantly adding to our collection.

I've bought pieces over the years from various places like op shops, dollar stores, Kmart, pet shops, hardware stores and even garden centres. Pretty much anything small can be used as a small world prop, so I always keep my eye out for new pieces. I also buy small world items from many online toy stores, my favourites are Growing Kind, The Creative Toy Shop, EntropyEtsy and I've also added a small world play section to my Amazon store.

FAIRY VILLAGE ITEMS ON AMAZON




I love to work my way down from top to bottom when I'm decorating the tree house so I started by setting up the pond scene on the very top. We have a small wet felted pond play mat that's pretty much the same size as the top of the tree house so it's perfect to create a little stream pond that cascades down into a waterfall over the edge {our mat was from Works at Play, but you can find loads of gorgeous wet felted play mats on Etsy}. I surrounded the edge of the play mat with small branch offcuts, mossy rocks, tiny mushrooms and added a fairy bridge at the front {which conveniently hides the start of the scarf waterfall}. I then added in some of our Wild Republic fairies and some cute Collecta ducklings {because a pond is the perfect excuse for ducklings!}.

fairy village small world play scene
fairies playing in a pond with ducklings



Once the rooftop was done, I added more fairies to the stairway and the first floor of the tree house. I used blu tack to secure the fairies onto the stairs and our fairy bench seat as they don't stand upright on their own. Of course once my daughter started playing they quickly got moved around anywhere and everywhere as they went on their various adventures. As an alternative to the Wild Republic fairies, Safari have a friendly fairies super toob which has culturally diverse fairies that appear to be freestanding.

fairies in a tree house




I was so excited to add in a mini terracotta pot {which I bought in a set at Kmart} because I knew it would make the perfect hiding spot for one of the seated fairies. It totally reminds me of when I was a child and fully believed that fairies were secretly hiding everywhere all around us. Even now as an adult my inner child still holds onto a tiny hope that just maybe there really are fairies among us. Can you tell I was as excited about this fairy village small world as the girls?!

fairies hiding in a pot in the forest
miniature fairy village and forest sign post

The final touches were the cute ceramic fairy signpost and some more Collecta woodland animals. I always add animal figurines to our small world play, even if we're using other figurines, because they're a great springboard for imaginary play and I just love watching how the girls make each different animal interact together.

Our fairy village ended up being set up on our kallax shelves for a good three weeks with pieces being added and moved around as the girls played with it. The beauty of small world play is that they can come and go and each time they interact with it they come up with different scenarios. I really love watching their play transpire and getting an insight into how they perceive things by overhearing the little conversations they make their toys have.

OTHER SMALL WORLD PLAY IDEAS


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Monday, June 22, 2020

50+ Connetix Magnetic Tiles Play Ideas

Are you looking for the perfect open ended toy for children of all different ages? Maybe you already have magnetic tiles and want to know just how many ways you can play with them. In this post I'll show you why Connetix magnetic tiles are an amazing open ended resource you need in your house or classroom. With over 50 different play ideas, that work on numerous cognitive and physical developmental skills, you'll find play activities for children of all ages and abilities.


50 connetix magnetic tile play ideas
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Although we have a deep seeded love for wooden toys in this household, there are a few plastic toys that I would never part with because they're just so valuable to play. Magnetic tiles are well loved in this house and will be here to stay for many years because they're a toy that continues to grow with your child. As their imagination, physical and cognitive skills develop the way children play with toys will change, however magnetic tiles are one of those rare unicorn toys that are fantastic for children of all different ages. 

If you have a big age gap between your kids like I do, they're one of the best investments ever, because both kids can play with the one toy in many different ways. There's no need to have different toys for each age group as they can both play with them at the same time. They also wont get bored with them because the play possibilities are endless, continue reading for over 50 different ways to play with magnetic tiles.

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Zoo Cutlery Tray Small World

Do your kids love imaginary play? Looking for new small world play ideas? The great news is you don't need expensive toys to create the perfect small world, I'll show you how to create an epic zoo small world with a cutlery tray, some animal figurines and sensory bases. Keep reading for step by step instructions to recreate this zoo for your kids at home or in the classroom.
zoo small world invitation to play in a cutlery tray


WHAT IS CUTLERY TRAY PLAY?


I have this odd habit where I'm always looking at household objects and thinking about how I could repurpose them for play. I can find play items in all different places like kitchen shops, op shops, hardware stores like Bunnings, dollar stores and garden, stationary or homeware sections of department stores. Play items are everywhere, you just have to think outside of the box, which is how cutlery trays became my second favourite type of play tray {besides my beloved kmart play tray}.

Cutlery trays are perfect for small worlds because each compartment is a ready made predefined space for different animal enclosures or areas within the play scene. Cutlery trays are quite inexpensive and come in various colours, sizes and materials like plastic and bamboo. We've used them for zoos, aquariums, farms and construction sites. They're also great for loose parts play. I even started a hashtag on Instagram #cutlerytrayplay which you can search for inspiration.

zoo cutlery tray small world from above
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We've done quite a few cutlery tray play set ups in the last few years, including this dig, dump, roll bookish play tray, however this zoo small world is probably the most epic cutlery tray play to date. I set this one up when my big girl was 4yrs old and small world play was her favourite type of imaginary play. This was also the first time I mixed wet and dry sensory bases together in a small world. Previously I'd been too scared to because we re-use our dry sensory bases and I didn't want anything wet getting mixed in and destroying them. She's pretty good with keeping everything within each individual section in cutlery trays though so I decided to risk it and she loved it.


SUPPLIES YOU'LL NEED


  • Cutlery tray
  • Zoo animal figurines
  • Sensory bases {chickpeas, couscous, rice etc}
  • Food colouring & water {optional}
  • Mossy rocks
  • River rocks

I knew I wanted to make this an epic zoo small world using as many animals as possible so I used our bigger Ikea STÖDJA cutlery tray because it has more sections so I could make more enclosures. You can use any type of cutlery tray, however if you're including any water sections I would stick to a plastic one and avoid bamboo or wood. I added in a small wooden chopping board, mossy rocks, river rocks and part of our Grimms stacking house to build up texture in the enclosures.

I then looked through our huge collection of animal figurines and chose a selection of animals that would be found at a zoo. All of the animals I used for our small world are CollectA, however we also have a few Schleich animals and both brands have heaps of zoo animals. For the sensory bases I chose chickpeas, couscous, rice {which I dyed green} and chocolate powder which can all be found at your local supermarket. I also dyed some water with food colouring for the wet enclosures.




ZOO SMALL WORLD CUTLERY PLAY TRAY


When setting up a cutlery tray small world the first thing I do is decide which enclosure is going to go where, usually based on the size/number of animals I'm going to put in it, or the amount of each sensory base I have. Usually I only ever do dry or wet sensory bases in a small world, but because I combined them in this one I made sure the water sections were close to each other so it was less likely the water would be mixed into the other dry bases. I also dyed the water different colours so the hippo enclosure would look more like a river and the crocodile area would resemble a swamp.


zoo small world lion and tiger enclosure

I'm a huge fan of using dry food as sensory bases {usually stuff that's expired at the back of the pantry} because it can be kept in ziplock bags for years and it doesn't matter if a mouthing child accidentally taste tests it. I don't encourage the kids to eat our play bases, however I'd prefer they have taste safe ones because I know children initially explore the world with their mouth. For our zoo cutlery tray play I chose couscous for the big cats enclosure as it resembled desert type dirt that would be found in Africa, chocolate powder as dirt for the rhino enclosure, green dyed rice for grass in the zebra/giraffe enclosure and chickpeas for the panda area. Other great food sensory base options are black beans, cannellini beans, lentils, split peas, pearl barley or tapioca seeds. Non edible sensory bases like playdough, rocks, dirt, astroturf offcuts, sand or sticks would also be great for a zoo small world tray.

zoo animal figurines in a small world tray

We're lucky enough to have quite a large animal figurine collection so it was easy to find quite a lot of zoo animals for our small world. We also have a few of the baby animals so I could put together an entire panda family, lion family and mother and baby rhino. We also have other animals we could have included like turtles, elephants, kangaroos, lizards and birds if we had more space.

Without a doubt my 4yr old's favourite animal from this small world was the nile crocodile because it's mouth opens and closes. Previously meerkats were her hands down favourite animal, which is why I added one into the zoo despite not having another enclosure for it. During this play session however, there was an unfortunate incident involving the meerkat and the crocodile {apparently the meerkat is the perfect size for the crocodile's mouth}. Luckily when animal figurines get eaten they're still fine and live on to play another day.

child playing with crocodile and other animal figurines

nile crocodile in a zoo small world

My daughter loved this small world tray and happily played with it for about an hour initially and then came back to it on and off throughout the day. Because it's set up in a cutlery tray it's easy to leave out on a table and move around into another room when needed if you don't want to pack it up straight away. Also, some of the water did get into the chocolate powder which was fine because I couldn't reuse that anyway {the chickpeas, rice and couscous were saved}.

LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES

  • Animal names, sounds, habitats
  • Language development
  • Imaginative play



MORE SMALL WORLD PLAY IDEAS






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Saturday, May 30, 2020

Magic Fizzing Colour Bicarb Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment

Are your kids interested in science experiments but you don't know where to start? Want a really easy experiment you can do together? In this post I'll show you how to create an easy chemical reaction using three simple household items you'll find in the kitchen. It's a fun way to teach chemistry to young children and create some real life magic.

One of the simplest and safest chemical reactions to create at home is the reaction between bicarb soda {also commonly known as baking soda} and vinegar. Both of these items are commonly found in a household pantry as they're both readily used for baking and cleaning. To take this experiment to the next level and add in even more magic, add some food colouring to create magical fizzing eruptions of colour.

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Before you start your experiment get your child to hypothesis by asking them what they think will happen. What will happen to the liquid when we add the bicarb powder? Will it make a noise? Will it make something new? Come up with a list of ideas then perform the experiment to see if they were right.

WHAT YOU'LL NEED


  • Spoon
  • Container
  • Vinegar
  • Small bowl
  • Shallow tray
  • Food colouring
  • Bicarb Soda {Baking Soda}



We used a plastic mini cauldron as the container for our reaction because we have a heap of them saved from Halloween and I thought it was fitting to make a fizzing potion in a witches cauldron. You can of course use any container you have, we've done the same experiment before in glasses and cups, however if you want the colour eruption to be a surprise it's best to use a dark coloured container. Also be aware that the mixture will bubble over so you'll want a tray or plate underneath to catch the run off.

To do this experiment I filled the plastic cauldron with vinegar and mixed in a few drops of food colouring, while my daughter wasn't around, so she didn't know what colour was going to come out. Because the container was black even with it right in front of her she couldn't tell that the liquid mixture inside was coloured so it was a complete surprise to her. 

I gave her a small bowl of bicarb soda for her to spoon into the cauldron to cause the chemical reaction. As you can see from the video below, it didn't take much bicarb soda powder to set off a pretty impressive eruption. Once the fizzing has stopped and the bubbles have calmed down you can add another spoonful of bicarb to make the eruption happen again.

STEP BY STEP INSTRUCTIONS FOR COLOURFUL BICARB & VINEGAR REACTION


1. Half fill a container with vinegar.
2. Add a few drops of food colouring to the vinegar.
3. Fill a small bowl with bicarb soda powder.
4. Set both on top of a shallow tray and add a teaspoon of bicarb powder into the vinegar container.
5. Add more bicarb as needed to create subsequent colourful bubble reactions.




This experiment is a fun hands on way to teach colours as well as chemical reactions. Use different pots for different colours if you want to do more than one. The same experiment is also how the popular erupting volcanoes come to life {just use red food dye to create lava}. The experiment can also be done starting with the bicarb and food colouring in one pot and adding the vinegar, the reaction is exactly the same. We chose for her to spoon in the powder as it was the less messier option {in case she spilt a whole lot of vinegar while pouring it out}.


WHAT'S HAPPENING WHEN THE BAKING SODA AND VINEGAR REACT?


Depending on their ages, the kids may not be interested in the science beyond knowing that mixing bicarb and vinegar together makes an exciting fizzy eruption. I know my toddler would only care that I magically made bubbles appear, however older kids may ask more questions, so it's always good to understand the chemical reaction going on behind the smoke and mirrors of the exciting fizz or volcanic lava.

Baking soda and vinegar react in what's known as an acid-base reaction when an alkaline solution reacts with an acidic solution. Baking soda {bicarb soda} is chemically known as sodium bicarbonate. The sodium bicarbonate which is alkaline reacts with the vinegar, which is acidic to form sodium acetate and carbonic acid which quickly dissolves to water and carbon dioxide gas. The fizzing bubbles are a result of the intensity of the reaction and the quick rate at which the carbon dioxide gas is expelled. For a more detailed insight into the chemical reaction have a look at the equations for the bicarb and vinegar reaction here.

baking soda and vinegar experiment reaction


OTHER FUN SCIENCE EXPERIMENTS FOR KIDS






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Monday, May 25, 2020

How to make a Lava Lamp Experiment Sensory Bottle

Do you want to create all the fun of a lava lamp for your kids without the risk of heat that could burn or glass that can smash? Thankfully it's easy to create a magical lava lamp sensory bottle that's completely safe for kids with this Alka-Seltzer science experiment using four household pantry staples. Follow the tutorial below to make a lava lamp sensory bottle in less than five minutes.

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Probably my most favourite thing about my bedroom when I was younger was having a lava lamp. It was so mesmerising watching the oily blobs float up and down. Of course I didn't really have any concept at the time of how dangerous it was due to the heat it emitted. Looking back now I can see how much of a hazard lava lamps are, not to mention the huge amount of electricity they require and all of the big fire hazard warnings make me much more nervous now as an adult. So, when my daughter found my lava lamp stashed in it's box and begged me to show her, I decided it was the perfect time to do the Alka Seltzer lava lamp experiment I'd been meaning to try for ages. I took it one step further and together we created some lava lamp sensory bottles that she can use over and over again.
Supplies needed to make an alka seltzer lava lamp

SUPPLIES YOU'LL NEED


- Water
- Vegetable oil
- Food colouring
- Alka Seltzer tablets
- Pyrex jug {optional}
- Bottle, jar or glass


To make a kid safe lava lamp you'll only need four common household supplies: vegetable oil, water, food colouring and Alka-Seltzer tablets. If you're in Australia you may not have heard of Alka-Seltzer tablets as they're not as well known here as they are in America. Alka-Seltzer tablets are an antacid and pain reliever combined with three active ingredients: asprin, sodium bicarbonate and citric acid. When placed in water the tablet quickly dissolves and forms bubbles while reacting with the water {which is what makes them great for this experiment}. In Australia you can buy Alka-Seltzer tablets from Woolworths, Chemist Warehouse and other smaller chemists.

You can create a lava lamp in any clear jar or bottle, I've even seen them done in big wine glasses. If you want to make a sensory bottle that can be used again, I recommend using a plastic bottle with a screw top lid so you can save the mixture to reuse. For ours we used plastic candy jars from Kmart, but they would also work well in plastic Voss water bottles that we've used for other sensory bottles, or you could even use an empty softdrink bottle.



HOW TO MAKE AN ALKA-SELTZER LAVA LAMP SENSORY BOTTLE


You can make a lava lamp sensory bottle following these four simple steps. Yes it really is that simple. If you follow these steps you'll have a bubbling lava lamp sensory bottle in under 5 minutes. It's so easy to do my 6yr old did steps 3 and 4 by herself. The chemical reaction will last 5-10 minutes, however if you want the lava lamp to erupt again simply add a new Alka-Seltzer tablet to the sensory bottle.

How to do a lava lamp science experiment inside a sensory bottle.

STEP BY STEP PROCESS TO MAKE A LAVA LAMP



1. Fill your bottle {or jar/glass} 2/3 full with vegetable oil.

Pouring water into a lava lamp sensory bottle

2. Pour in water so the bottle is almost full. Make sure you allow some space at the top of the bottle as the chemical reaction will cause gas and bubbling. The water will settle on the bottom under the oil layer.

Lava Lamp Step 3: Add a few drops of food colouring

3. Add in a few drops of food colouring of choice. You can use any colour, however we found that darker colours worked best against the yellow background of the oil. Also using squeeze bottle food colouring means children can do this step themselves, however if you only have normal food colouring bottles you could use a pipette.

Child adding alka-seltzer to a lava lamp sensory bottle

4. Add the Alka-Seltzer tablet to the bottle and replace the lid. We found it works better if you slightly crush the tablet in the packet before adding it. Click play on the video below to see the lava lamp come to life with the Alka-Seltzer chemical reaction. *Please note it is safest to let the reaction occur with the lid off, especially if using a glass bottle due to the pressure created by the gas*




HOW DOES AN ALKA-SELTZER TABLET REACTION MAKE A LAVA LAMP?


If you're doing this lava lamp experiment with a toddler they obviously won't care about the science behind the chemical reaction that makes the lava blobs occur, however we all know older kids have loads of questions so here's a simple explanation. When you initially create your sensory bottle the water and oil layers will split with the oil floating at the top above the water. This is because oil is less dense than water so it rises to the top and the water collects at the bottom. When you drop in the food colouring it will fall through the oil layer without mixing and once it reaches the water layer it will mix together to make colourful water. The real fun happens when you drop in the Alka-Seltzer tablet.

Alka-Seltzer tablets are effervescent which means they're water soluble. When the tablet drops to the bottom and hits the water layer the sodium bicarbonate and citric acid react with the water to form carbon dioxide bubbles which shoot up to the top of the bottle in a fizzing motion because gas is lighter than liquid. Once the bubbles reach the top and pop the air is released and the coloured water blobs sink back down to the bottom. The process continues until the entire Alka-Seltzer tablet is completely dissolved.

Blue lava lamp sensory bottle


LAVA LAMP SENSORY BOTTLE VS REAL LAVA LAMP


My 6yr old was still really intrigued by my actual lava lamp after we'd made our own lava lamp sensory bottles so we decided to set up the lava lamp next to the sensory bottle to see the difference between the two. I set it up high on the kitchen bench so the girls couldn't touch it as it got hot. It took over an hour to get hot enough to start working properly and in the end we decided the sensory bottle reaction was actually a lot more impressive. So, overall a lava lamp sensory bottle is not only a quicker, easier and safer option for kids, it's also a more impressive eruption of lava than an actual lava lamp.

Lava lamp vs lava lamp sensory bottle




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Monday, May 18, 2020

Baby Doll Bandaid Shape Matching Play Activity

Last time I cleaned out and reorganised our medicine cupboard I  discovered we had a heap of really old homebrand bandaids at the back of the cupboard. They'd obviously been there for a while and had started to lose stickiness, but instead of simply throwing them out, I decided to use them for a fun fine motor activity

My girls are obsessed with bandaids and always say they've hurt themselves purely so they have an excuse to get a bandaid, because they know they're special and only get them if they're really hurt. So I decided to put together a quick doctor themed invitation to play using their two favourite things, a baby doll and bandaids. This baby doll shape matching activity was a fun way to reuse the old bandaids and I snuck a fair bit of learning in too.
Baby doll shape matching bandaid activity.
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WHAT YOU'LL NEED



This activity works best with a plastic body doll as there'll be more surface area to draw on. It's important to make sure you're using a washable marker so it'll rub or wash off after they've finished playing. You don't want dolly having permanent boo boos! We used a cheap Kmart doll for this activity, but we now have a few miniland dolls and love them because they're anatomically correct and look super realistic. I've also found that the more plastic style bandaids {plasters} are easier for kids to peel on and off rather than the thicker fabric ones, but you can do this activity with any type of bandaid.



It only took about five minutes to set up and that included the time it took me to find her baby doll {why are toys never in their correct spot!}. I drew a circle, square, triangle, heart, star and moon onto the dolls body in spots where it would be relatively easy to stick a bandaid and then I drew matching shapes onto 6 bandaids. I left the bandaids sitting beside the doll so she had to peel off the backing paper and stick them onto the correct spot.

Peeling off the backing paper was a fine motor workout in itself then she had to find the matching shape and stick them in the right spot. Some of the bandaids like the chest and head were easy to stick down and others on the arms and legs needed more manipulation to get the bandaids to stick the whole way around. It was also good for hand strengthening as they had to be pushed down to stick {especially ours as they were losing a bit of their stickiness because they were so old}.
Child putting baindaids onto a plastic baby doll
Shape bandaids stuck onto a plastic doll

My big girl loved this activity so much that she peeled the bandaids back off the doll and stuck them down again for about twenty minutes. It was a really simple and creative way for her to practice and reinforce shapes. You could include trickier shapes like a hexagon, octagon, pentagon or oval if your kids already know basic shapes. Once the bandaids stopped sticking to the doll properly we wiped off the marks on its body with baby wipes and then gave it a bath to make sure it was really clean.


This is a great activity that combines imaginary play, fine motor skills and shape recognition into the one process. Including items she normally wouldn't get to play with meant my daughter was focused a lot longer than she would be with a traditional learning activity or worksheet. The same doll bandaid activity can also be done to help learn colours, letters and numbers instead of shapes.


OTHER FUN FINE MOTOR ACTIVITIES FOR TODDLERS


Plastic doll shape matching invitation to play with bandaids




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Sunday, May 17, 2020

Dinosaur Egg Small World Sensory Play Tray

There seems to be many phases kids go through with toys as they're growing up, but one that's almost certain for both boys and girls is the dinosaur phase. When I was little this was all thanks to The Land Before Time cartoons. Little Foot, Petrie, Cera, Ducky and Spike were soooo cute I used to watch the movie and cartoons on repeat.

When I had my girls and they first started getting into animal figurines I thought dinosaurs would quickly become favourites, however it took them a little while to get interested. Once Dinosaur Train was on ABC Kids however they got into dinosaurs in a big way. Then when Dino Dana and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures were added it just cemented their love for dinosaurs and the history of them. We've done many dinosaur play activities now, but this Dinosaur Egg Small World Tray we did recently has been a firm favourite.

DINOSAUR EGG SMALL WORLD PLAY TRAY


Do you ever come up with awesome ideas at the most random of times? It happens to me all the time {probably because my brain never switches off}. This dinosaur small world idea popped into my head while I was cooking bacon and eggs for breakfast. I had an idea to do a dinosaur small world in the back of my mind for a while, but when I started cracking the eggs for breakfast it's like a light bulb suddenly went off in my head. 

Straight away I knew if I carefully cracked them right I could keep them and set up an awesome small world complete with real hatching eggs. So the rest of the eggs I cracked right down low near the base and carefully got the egg out then thoroughly rinsed them and put them aside. I wanted to set up a dinosaur nest loosely based on the intro to Dinosaur Train where Tiny, Shiny, Don and Buddy hatch out of the eggs as the theme song plays.

Dinosaur sensory small world play tray with chocolate flavoured mud.
*This post contains some affiliate links*


SUPPLIES YOU WILL NEED





We didn't have to buy anything to do this activity as we have a tub of small river rocks that we use for all sorts of small world set ups and we have a growing collection of CollectA dinosaurs. I was going to set up the dinosaur nest on the rocks, but because we had 6 eggs to use I decided to go on a nature walk with the girls and collect other items so I could set up two different nests in two different dinosaur habitats. We found some bark in our garden and picked some fern fronds, curly leaves and a big leaf that reminded us of the tree stars in The Land Before Time.

We don't have any real dirt in our backyard so every time we need mud or dirt for small world play I make my own edible version. It's edible purely because I make it from pantry staples, not because I actually want my children to eat it {especially in a play tray like this where it will mix with leaves and bark}. However, it does mean if your children are curious and sneak a taste it won't do them any harm.

EDIBLE CHOCOLATE MUD RECIPE


1 cup plain flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
Water {add as needed}

To make edible mud it's very similar to oobleck. I simply started with flour and then added cocoa powder until the mixture was brown enough to look like mud. The flour does make it a lot lighter than the normal dark brown colour of cocoa powder, however you can just keep adding more powder until you get the colour you're happy with. Once the powder is mixed together, slowly add water while stirring until you get a mud like consistency. 

DINOSAUR PLAY TRAY LEARNING OPPORTUNITIES


Pincer grip
Hand strengthening
Hand/eye co-ordination
Tactile sensory stimulation
Hypothesising {what babies will hatch}
Dinosaur names & facts
Imaginary play

Dinosaur small world kmart play tray

I set up the dinosaur play tray inside while the girls waited outside. As soon as I decided to add chocolate mud to the small world I knew this would 100% be an outside activity, but I wanted to surprise them. They were so excited when I put the tray down and it had dinosaur eggs in it. When we went for our nature walk they knew we were collecting things for a dinosaur small world, but they had no idea I planned on adding eggs and babies

I gave them a little wooden mallet we have so they could crack the eggs open to make the babies hatch. Hitting the eggs was a great way to sneak in lots of fine motor practice while they gripped the mallet. They also had to concentrate and try to hit the eggshell in the right spot with the right amount of pressure to make them crack. This was of course quite easy for my eldest at almost 7, however it was a good way to get my 2yr old to work on her hand/eye co-ordination.

Children hitting egg shells in dinosaur play tray

Brachiosaurus close up in small world tray with other dinosaurs in the background
Both girls played together really well with this small world, despite their big age gap. Some of the activities we do descend into arguments pretty quickly or need to be done separately due to their different skill levels, however this play tray entertained them both for a long time. They even took turns sharing the mallet and smashing eggs one at a time.

Toy dinosaur baby figurine hatching out of an egg shell.

Using real eggshells made the hatching process look quite realistic. The baby dinosaur figurines looked so cute emerging from the cracked shells. The girls also had lots of fun guessing which dinosaurs would hatch out as I'd hidden them so they didn't know which mini figurines were under each egg. The eggshells also ended up providing lots of sensory stimulation as they cracked and crushed them while playing.

Baby stegosaurus dinosaurs hatching from eggs in small world play.
Children playing with chocolate sensory mud and toy dinosaur figurines

The chocolate mud was a huge hit, especially with my sensory seeking big girl. She loves getting her hands dirty and squishing, splashing and splatting any type of sensory material. She especially loves it when we use liquid based ones {which we don't do as often because of the extra mess}. She loved scooping up the mud then dripping it all over the dinosaurs.

Eventually it all descended into a big sensory play mess of gooey, slimy mud and crushed bark and eggshells. It actually looked quite reminiscent of a fancy body scrub when they were finally finished playing. Despite all the mess, it was really easy to clean up and the girls even did most of the clean up themselves washing all the rocks and dinosaurs in their mud kitchen. They've since asked on more than one occasion to repeat the play tray again.

Child's messy hands in chocolate mud sensory play.


DINOSAUR LEARNING RESOURCES ON AMAZON


If your kids are as inquisitive as mine then this dinosaur play activity may spark an ongoing interest in dinaosaurs {or maybe they're already firmly obsessed with them} so I've added a selection of dinosaur learning resources available on Amazon. There's lots of dinosaur books full of fun facts for children of all different ages and reading levels. There's also puzzles for toddlers through to older children and our favourite dinosaur shows The Dinosaur Train and Andy's Prehistoric Adventures.


Dinosaur small world play tray with real eggs.




Disclosure - This post contains some affiliate links for your convenience which means I may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to you, should you make a purchase.
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