Bird Nesting Bags

31 03 2012

I found an idea on Familyfun which involved creating a bag of material for birds to make their nests with. It’s another activity from our Easter discovery box. Even though the birds near us didn’t bother eating the fat balls we left out for them at Christmas (they left them so long that some of the seeds actually started growing) I’m still feeling charitable so we decided to make them some bird nesting bags. We decided to help local birds but not the ones right on our doorstep, who appear to be overfed, so both sets of grandparents have been given a bag for their gardens.

INGREDIENTS: Two netting bags, some ribbon and wool, nesting material purchased cheaply from eBay, blunt needle and a small willing child.

METHOD: Let child stuff materials into the bag – a drawstring one like the first one is easy. The second one was a recycled sweet potato netted bag. We had to sew it together with ribbon which was a great fine motor experience on something really easy to sew up. Make sure you have something to hang it on a tree.

And finally deliver to delighted grandparents. They were excited to receive something so unusual. I’m still wondering if the birds will bother to use such a useful and ready made source of nesting material or if they have another interior designer they use every year. Maybe the birds around here are too proud for handouts, have great work ethics and want to support their own families. We will monitor the bags over the coming weeks and find out!


Easter Discovery Box

27 03 2012

Easter is coming and I’m getting fat. Well actually I’m not as I’ve been walking to and from school and preschool three times a day so it means I can eat the children’s Easter eggs without any guilt and during the brighter lighter evenings we’ve been having! Brilliant.

I thought this was another opportunity to get all the Easter things out and put them into the Discovery box for LBM and BBL to explore. The Easter books aren’t read much the rest of the year so it’s great to have them all in one place and make sure they do get read – they include ones about bunnies, eggs, spring and farms as well as the Easter Story and a factual book about Easter and it’s traditions. It’s sort of combined with spring too as there are some activities to do that include making or doing things for the outside. This box includes:

A Djeco egg and chicken memory game

A recipe for bird’s nest cakes which will use up the desiccated coconut in the cupboard

A nature palette where we can go and look for spring colours on our walks as the daffodils and blossom start showing their colours.

Some seeds and grass to grow including vegetables and flowers.

Easter decorations including signs, tree ornaments and an egg shaped lampshade.

Chocolate because I like Easter egg chocolate more than any other. I think it’s the thickness I find so appealing.

Nesting material for birds which we will put into a netted bag and hang up in the Grandad or Grandpa’s garden for them to decorate their new nests.

And finally – the ingredients for an egg sensory box. I had looked into imitation grass but the one I could find was rather pungent and would have been an overpowering and unpleasant sensory experience. In the end I found some wool in the Tiger shop and we cut it up into smallish pieces and put it in the box with some coloured eggs from Poundland. Inside each egg was either a small chick or an animal candle and BBL had such a great time learning how to pop the eggs open and find out what was inside. He ended up loving one yellow chicken so much it started to get misshapen and greasy with all his fingering. At the moment there are no plans to take him to a farm to meet the real thing because I fear they wouldn’t enjoy the experience as much as him!

I really love this idea of putting everything together in one place. It creates an ever changing set of things to look at and brings a range of activities, toys, puzzles and games together in one place. It also means it’s much easier to find the chocolate when I want it…


Superhero Party

19 03 2012

LBM has reached the grand old Big Boy age of 4. That makes him capable of so many more things (so he tells me!). For a while he didn’t want to to turn four and decided being 3 was better so we had to make sure his birthday party made turning four a good thing. About a week before his party he decided he wanted a superhero theme and I’d been working towards a Cars theme. I suddenly felt like a fairy godmother and his wish came true (and we were in France for the two days before his party so that added to the pressure before his party!)

Food was nice and simple with each plate of party food being given a superhero status. I managed to find some ghost shape crisps in France which children were encouraged to destroy which they gladly did. Each child was sent on three missions instead of standard party games and had them printed out. The first mission involved finding small superheroes in a dark den (no photo’s because they just don’t come out properly.) For some of our party guests this was their first experience of the dark den and they loved it and wouldn’t get out. Glowsticks are currently a £1 for 20 in Poundland.

The second mission was to disarm a bomb. It was a more active version of pass the parcel with less mess. They had to throw the bomb from child to child until an adult shouted bang. Whoever was holding it at the time had to sit down and were out (softened by being given a Milky Way to eat). I liked this game because 8 under 5 year olds had a great time and practised their catching and throwing skills and there was no paper to clear up!

The final mission was the messiest one though as it involved throwing sponges at aliens while the bubble machine blew asteroids. This was one of those games where no-one was a winner or a loser and everyone had fun. One guest enjoyed the game so much he was there for about 10 minutes just throwing his sponges into the bath!

After all the party games we had cake and I’d been given some candles that burnt with different coloured flames. An excellent superhero touch to the mini cupcakes. And almost immediately after LBM decided to hand out his party bag superhero kits which included sweets, superhero disguise masks, a packet of Kool Aid each to make rocket fuel (parents. you’re welcome!) and a glowstick to act as a Positronic Laser (name courtesy of The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man which is LBM’s favourite birthday present book). I think everyone enjoyed themselves – especially me but I’m glad all my kids birthday parties are now out of the way until January next year. They’re so stressful!!


3D Chalk – you have to see it to believe it!

12 02 2012

I didn’t really believe this could be true until we tried it this morning. I bought a Crayola outdoor chalk set with 3D  glasses. It’s half price in the Early Learning Centre and I admit even paying half price for some 3D chalks seemed expensive. I had planned on going outside and drawing on the car park and it’s lovely clean tarmac but it was raining (and cold). Apparently that’s more helpful for when you want to clear away any drawings! Black paper works just as well though. We drew some pictures using the chalk and following the instructions to make 3D shapes that worked and it was a great lesson in understanding depth perception. LBM had been wearing the glasses whilst I got dressed this morning (helpfully commenting that my skin looked funny. Mmm maybe I’ll lock the door next time). He spent a while looking at different things around the house like lights which become rainbow rimmed and a pair of scissors that really did become strange looking and as if they were floating.

The chalk pictures were amazing though. A red centre with a blue border really jumped out when you put the 3D glasses on and LBM reached out and tried to pick it up. We did something similar with a circle with a yellow border and a green centre and the frame looked as if it was jumping out. On both occasions it tested both our powers of understanding! We ended up drawing a rocket (well I did) but LBM added the window and then shooting starts which criss crossed through the rocket. Watching him draw whilst wearing the 3D glasses was interesting too because the stars  and rocket overlapped each other. I have to admit to needing to do a bit of research now into the differences between 2D and 3D so I can explain why. That’s the best bit about kids though – they ask you why and sometimes you just don’t know. I’d recommend these chalks though because they have scientific as well as creative value and there’s loads of colours to use. Can’t wait for it to stop raining and warm up now.

Ice Sculpture

10 02 2012

This rather cold winter weather that has arrived has given LBM so many opportunities to explore on a big scale. Even though the first dump of snow was fairly short lived, LBM asked to make some more snow ice cream. I went out onto the roof terrace to see what snow was left and discovered very little, mainly icy snow. But I also discovered the large lump of ice which had formed in a trug. That had more potential for exploring something interesting on a bigger scale than an ice cube so I changed his plan! We spent a while exploring the shape of it and looking at the thin piece round the edge that had lots of cracks in it. It was a lovely sunny day too so the ice really sparkled and picked up the light. I’d made some coloured ice cubes the morning it had first snowed using food colouring but they didn’t freeze in time so this was a good opportunity to use them.

LBM added the ice using tongs (and his winter Olympics mittens because this was serious winter sport!) and began mixing salt in. We used a combination of rock salt used to keep the path clear and table salt which was easier for him to pour. When you first add it the ice crackles and starts to melt almost immediately. If you’re very lucky you create steaming reactions. The tongs and spades were used to hack and smash the ice but he soon realised that there was effort involved in that and resorted to pouring more salt. The addition of the pipettes and liquid water colours made it an even more exciting exploration. I find pipettes are highly intriguing to small children and they love collecting colour and squeezing it out. Squeezing the paint down the gullies and cracks created by the salt melting the ice is just as intriguing. LBM spent nearly a full hour engrossed in pouring, smashing, digging, hacking, squeezing and we revisited the ice again and again over the course of the day. The table salt also froze so we discussed what else we could add to melt the ice and used some hot water. By the time LBM went to bed we still had a largish lump of ice but holes had appeared in it all the way through to the bottom. Some of the melting gullies had collected pools of paint so there were little coloured lakes in it too.

Both LBM and I enjoyed this and it really helped that we’d watched an episode of Frozen Planet with David Attenborough the weekend before. They’d explored ice caves and melting ice bergs so this brought the whole thing to life. Now I’m going to have to go and fill the trug up so we can do it again. Let’s hope it stays cold because I don’t have space in the freezer to make another one without the weather’s support!

It’s Snowing!

5 02 2012

It’s finally started snowing in the UK – and now LBM thinks it snows every year. It has done since he was born and he’s going to have memories of snow filled winters and wonder why it’s not the same when he grows up. I struggled to get him out of the house this morning as he told me it was going to be too cold. Great knowledge and understanding of snow but it made no difference to me! After layering him into lots of clothes and getting him into his new dragon boots (with flashing lights – bought because Grandma thought converse were inappropriate footwear for the forecast snow) we finally left the house. Two squeezy bottles filled with green food colouring and water were our first mark making tools. Green is the colour du jour and we squeezed it everywhere. LBM walked up and down trailing it,  he squeezed it over the snow, he flicked it and spun round holding the bottle. For a child who had decided it was all too cold I couldn’t get him to stop once he started. The only reason he stopped was because both bottles were used up.

We then moved on to throwing our water balloons – again filled with food colouring and water. They were soooo hard to fill this morning that I almost didn’t want to smash them into the snow! I’d recommend getting water balloons that understand their purpose and actually fill up with water. Mine didn’t like the idea but we got there in the end with me getting splashed several times with the occasional broken one. They didn’t smash straight away either and bounced and rolled about which was just as much fun as they kept slipping out of mittened hands. Eventually we resorted to throwing them on the floor and jumping on them until they popped. The snow looks lovely with bright colours all over it and makes an excellent canvas for making big messy art. Let’s hope the neighbours like it too because it’s all over their snow…

Winnie the Witch Potion Lab

8 01 2012

Father Christmas has been and gone and there is a certain sense of relief that it is now over for another year. We did loads of things including making mince pies and elf cakes (elves don’t like fairy cakes apparently), place name cards, hot chocolate etc etc. Christmas is an interesting time though because we also had a first birthday on Christmas Day (LBM and BBL’s cousin) and yesterday we had BBL’s first birthday party too (I’m going to share the theme because I was quite proud of myself and my last minute planning). It seems as if future Christmas periods are just going to be one long round of presents and parties and I’m going to need a holiday for the month of January. I’ll admit to having got a bit bored of Christmas stuff so a rather splendid opportunity presented itself to steer children away from it but to make good use of some cupboard items and stocking fillers.

Father Christmas left LBM some Tinti Crackling Bath powder in his stocking (effectively space dust for the bath for those of you who remember it and can also be bought on Amazon). We tried it whilst he was in the bath and he was rather scared by it. It did sound as if the bath was boiling and our cast iron bath seemed to amplify it. However, I realised there was fun to be had so following a visit from a friend and a quick scoot round the cupboard I thought it would be more successful in a potion lab. I laid out set of experiments each after reading Winnie the Witch which was the only magic colour changing book I could think of. It looked quite unexciting which may explain why they both decided to dress up as Buzz and Woody!.  However, bicarbonate of soda tipped on top of powder food colouring makes a very exciting fizzing and bubbling potion when you add lemon juice. The colour was a surprise as the second picture shows. Vitamin C tablets mixed with water also create a great fizzing mess which smells lovely and creates orange water. And finally the crackling bath dust. Far more successful  this way. They had so much fun tipping and pouring that we used up all the rest of the sachets, all the lemon juice and all the bicarbonate of soda. Using pipettes and spoons is great for fine motor control, tipping and pouring is great for understanding volume, mixing the colours is great for discovering everything goes brown when you mix it together. I love afternoon’s like this. Especially as it was a break from a month’s worth of Christmas ideas.