Animal Soup

28 10 2011

Another Halloween activity we’ve done this week involved making potions and soup using gruesome items. There is a book called Animal Soup where a little boy disappears into his bowl and his witch mummy has to search through lots of animals before she finds him again. We did a very simple activity of hiding animal shaped silly bandz into a bowl of tinned spaghetti. LBM had to find the animals and use the tongs to get them out. It was reasonably fun and using the tongs helped develop fine motor skills. However, it was a bit limited though so with some creative child input LBM ended up making a rather green and messy soup which used the rubber bandz, the rest of the rinsed cooked spaghetti and a rather large dose of food colouring. The Boyf found the best food colouring in one of the local Turkish food stores and it’s a powder. Highly staining at the time but it makes a really intense colour. LBM had more fun, using the pipettes to move colour from an egg cup to the bowl developed fine motor skills too and the resulting soups looked lovely for Halloween. I shall be serving these to guests from now on.


In Polar Lands

28 10 2011



I was going to save this idea for mid winter but needed another playscene idea this week so I got it out earlier. I wasn’t that impressed with it and would like to do it again but better. I bought the instant snow to go in LBM and BBL’s Christmas stockings so we could have a white Christmas whatever the weather. I was actually disappointed by the volume of the snow so it was quite realistic in that sense!! You can get bigger tubs of instant snow and I’ve used them before. It’s expensive but is fun for children and I used mine last time to create the land of Hoth for a Star Wars mad child. I learnt a lot about Star Wars that week.

This time I created ice floes from packaging, added the snow along with some polar animals, vehicles and the Octonauts toys again. Admittedly it wasn’t quite right as penguins and polar bears don’t live on the same poles but they also don’t live in my kitchen so creativity is allowed. The best part for the two small boys who got to play with it were the large coloured ice cubes and addition of a few pots of table and rock salt. They were very quick to use the tools such as picks and small hammers (not real ones but from one of those dinosaur plaster cast things that are far too much effort for the reward) to break the ice up. Colours mixed with the snow and the ice started melting. Pouring the salt onto the ice cubes even rewarded them with a smoking reaction. Impressive stuff for 3 year olds. There was a lot of science going on – the snow changing from a small amount of dry powder to a larger quantity of wet “snow”, melting ice and its reaction to salt and even learning that their fingers tasted horrible when covered in salt. I think maybe next time I will use a smaller container because the builder tray was too big for the quantity of play items inside. It might also be worth doing it outside in the summer and fill a plastic box up with water so the ice floats like icebergs. Even more learning could be had and it would be great a great way to cool down on a summer’s day. Roll on summer – I’ve already had my white Christmas!

The Fairytale Hairdresser

28 10 2011

I didn’t mean to be stereotypical when I set this scene up but it did coincide with one of LBM’s female friends coming to play. It makes no difference to him though because he accepts anything that’s planned and put in front of him. The day the fairies arrived from ebay he spent the whole day playing with them and they drove a lot of cars and flew a lot of spaceships. Glad to see fairy land doesn’t have an outdated view on women drivers!

I think this kind of play scene is what I would have loved as a child. It’s the rainbow colours and sparkly bits that appeal. If there had been a Strawberry Shortcake doll to add I would have pushed the children out the way to play myself. I’m amazed at how easy this kind of set up is and it’s just collecting stuff you already have and staging it. This one had pink, orange, white and yellow shredded paper and two baking trays with rainbow rice (dyed using food colouring and a little bit of antibacterial hand gel for it’s alcohol setting properties). I added glitter to the rice too and some large glittery purple and silver snowflake confetti. That came off the front of a magazine and I’m always pleased when I can actually find something to do with the free stuff on them.

Then my guests were invited – mini dolls, fairies and plastic animals – to move into the houses (number stacking cubes) and I added a couple of small tupperware pots and scoops for the rice. As it’s autumn there were a few pine cones thrown in for good measure. I’m surprised to say that LBM’s friend didn’t get involved straight away. I’d like to think it was because she was in awe of it! I then read the story of the Fairytale Hairdresser by Abie Longstaff and imaginations were stimulated when I encouraged them to plan for a wedding banquet which extended the story. After that both of them got involved inventing fairy soup and rainbow sandwiches and lots of stories. My favourite line of the day though was when LBM’s friend was having two of the fairies talk and one said to the other “Isn’t your hair adorable?”. Maybe fairy land is still a little bit stereotypical after all.


Dark Den

26 10 2011

As it’s building up to Halloween all the shops seems to be selling glow sticks and I wanted in on the action. I’ve often thought about using a cardboard box to build a dark den (as the ones you can buy from educational retailers are astronomical) but having a box big enough requires buying something big and expensive. Not having a big box was a problem until I realised I had something just as good – the travel cot covered with a dark quilt and put up in a room with the curtains closed during a cloudburst this afternoon. No real planning or expense required and only a small reliance on dark clouds adding to the atmosphere.


LBL, BBL and a friend were more than happy to climb in and see what was going on. I didn’t have any books about dens so we read a book called When Darkness Slipped In by Ella Burfoot. Not directly relevant but I always love an opportunity to get a story into every activity and it was about darkness. All I added were a few packets of glowsticks purchased from the supermarket – and let the children try and crack them on their own. Pretty successful and very rewarding as their den was suddenly filled with different colours which glowed interestingly. This was the hard part to photograph so I didn’t bother. The best thing about this activity was that BBL could get involved. The packet says not suitable for under 5’s but without using the plastic bits to turn them into bracelets I couldn’t see what damage he could cause. The addition of a piece of bathroom plumbing from the Boyf’s cupboard under the stairs also allowed for interesting colour mixing which I could photograph. I’ll be doing this again and plan to stock up on any reduced glow sticks following Halloween. I only wish I could have fitted in there too.

Frank was a Monster…

25 10 2011

…who wanted to dance. This is the title of a very simple book about a Frankenstein like monster who wants to dance, has a go and ends up unzipping his brain and eyes onto the floor whilst dancing. Nicely gruesome for small boys and Halloween. It is written with American spellings and has the dubious rhyme of France and pants but you can get round that by using a Northern accent…

In order to bring the book to life I made some purple slime and added a few eyeballs to make it a bit more realistic and grim. The slime is surprisingly easy to make – recipe below. Two small boys have spent a happy half an hour this afternoon searching for eyeballs and then collecting them in muffin tins or silicone muffin cases. I think the addition of a few worms would have been good but I forgot to get them out of the discovery box.

Slime Recipe

8oz PVA glue (one of those small bottles from somewhere like the ELC is perfect.)

1 cup water

food colouring

1 cup tap warm water

1 and half teaspoons borax (bought mine on Ebay as I have no idea where to get it from otherwise!)

1. Mix the PVA, food colouring and water in one bowl. Use as much food colouring as you want to get a strong colour.

2. Mix the warm water and borax together in another bowl.

3. Pour the coloured mixture into the borax mixture and stir constantly.

You will produce a weird swirly mess which looks quite separated and wet with a small amount of water left over. Pick the large mass out and knead hard onto a greaseproof surface (I put mine straight onto a granite worktop which seems to work but use greaseproof paper otherwise) and you’ll end up with slime. I’ve made this an accidentally forgotten to add the food colouring until the second stage. It doesn’t make much difference other than a mottled texture for a while which isn’t a bad thing.

The slime moves slowly and left to it’s own devices will gently ooze off of a table onto the surface below. I’ve ended up with several chairs with pooling slime on as it drips off the table before I remember to clean it up. It’s easy to pick up off a painted or varnished surface but does stick to clothes. It comes off in the washing machine though which is always nice!

It also seems to last a couple of months in a sealed container but becomes spectacularly runny and difficult to wash off fingers if you leave it too long. It’s great fun though and has been a part of a trick or treat game we’ve been playing this week too.

Circle Play

21 10 2011

I haven’t done this type of activity very often but actually – it’s really simple, a great idea and helps with a baby’s development. It’s also easy because you’ll probably have lots of suitable things around the house that aren’t even toys. I basically gave BBL a selection of circles to play with and explore. There are so many learning opportunities – big, small, hard, soft (the edges on the cogs are foamy). Cold metal, warm wood, smooth edges, textured edges, cardboard, plastic. Some have small holes in the middle, some have none, some have huge ones. You can see where I’m going with this and include whatever you can find that’s circular and safe. Your baby learns about the continuous line of a circle exploring with their fingers and mouth. This is an exploration in 2D shape which can then be extended if you were to give them a pile of different sized and textured balls – think soft balls, hard balls, oranges etc. This is easier though as they don’t roll away. This type of exploration can be themed with shapes or textures – wood, metal, fabric and allows a baby to fully understand the nuances in colour or texture of the same material. Activities like this are worth repeating regularly and give you an opportunity to help develop language too. Describing how things feel, look, sound, taste and even smell will have positive benefits too.

The circles do still get tested for gravity though and BBL is continuing his experiments just to be sure that when you drop something it does hit the floor – today he’s purposefully dropped pieces of toast, his hat and pine cones. I think he is developing a good cause and effect understanding and can report back that every time he drops something, it hits the ground and it causes mummy to pick it up. Not sure what all this is teaching me though but I think it’s that I don’t have the patience of a saint!