Friday, November 30, 2012

How to make butter with one plastic box

This is a simple, interesting and educational activity which also gets rid of excessive energy. I had never imagined that making butter would be so easy. B and I talked about food groups and where food comes from while we made it. Then we ate rye bread and fresh butter when we had finished. It was possibly the best butter I have ever tasted, and all we needed was a secure box!

I had the idea on a morning when my lovely little three year old was running from wall to wall in our apartment, clearly with a lot of energy to expend. I thought dancing around with a box would give him a goal. Then he had the idea to run with it, then we threw it a little, swung it on a scarf, and then he got bored and I was left to shake as I finished my coffee.

Closed Box
How to do it:
1. Find a box with a very very secure lid.
2. Pour in cream making sure there is enough room for it to slosh around. Ours was half full.
3. Shake the box until the butter forms.
4. Eat within 3 days, unless you wash all the butter milk out with lots of water. See link below.

Fresh Butter in Buttermilk

I think he didn't believe me when I said we were going to make butter out of cream. After he lost interest it was starting to get a little boring but then, all of a sudden, there was the butter floating around in the middle of the box. I was as excited as him as we opened the lid for a look and tasted it. It really was wonderful butter and we're going to be making it ourselves more often from now on. We also used the buttermilk in a cake the next day.

There is some useful information on this health food site about making butter. The direction are for making butter in a blender. There are also clear instructions for getting all the butter milk out so it lasts longer. We eat butter everyday and this homemade batch was so good it was eaten up in a couple of days.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Water play for Baby

Keeping little R entertained while we bake is easy with water!


Friday, November 23, 2012

Drawing diagrams of trains and keeping carriages in order

My three year old likes to have his train built in a certain way. He can get very upset when it is broken or when we have to put it away. I had been thinking of a way to help him with this and came up with a matching and sorting activity. We have a wooden train with 13 carriages and engines of four different colours. Using paper and crayons I showed my son how we could draw a diagram of the train and record how the carriages are positioned.
Boy with train carriage

First we organised all the carriages according to colour. B loves catagorising things at the moment and enjoyed seeing them all lined up neatly.

Then we counted them and drew the right number of boxes on a piece of paper.

Diagram ready to be coloured
Then B built a train. Together we coloured the boxes, well, I did most of the colouring. He prefers line drawings at the moment. I decided that the idea of the activity was to talk about diagrams, and colouring was a secondary and less important skill at this moment.
Finished train
Then he decided to make a little change. So we drew the boxes again and coloured them accordingly. He was very pleased.
Two slightly different trains
I hope to add to our list of trains in the future, if he builds different trains. But at the moment, he likes them in this order, so in this order they go!

It was lovely to talk about the differences in the carriages and how they should go together.  I’m sure my little boy developed some important skills as we
  • talked about colour, shape and size
  • created a picture diagram of something real.
  • matched carriages as we built a train.

He also get less upset when the train is damaged as he knows it can be easily put together again - in the same order!

Little Red Caboose and Dad Playing Guitar

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Making the Perfect (Simple) Paper Plane

When looking for something to do which requires little or no preparation, I often reach for a huge stack of paper that is always in the corner of the cupboard. Paper can be made to do lots of things and this day I thought I’d show B an amazing flying plane. Only the first one I made wasn’t amazing. This led me to find out how to make a really good plane from just one piece of paper. I found a lot more than I had bargained for.

The first plane I made for B was met with a blank face and “that wasn’t very good, Mama”. It was a bit of a let down as we’d had fun folding paper together. I hadn’t told him what we were making and I thought I might get at least an “oo” from the first flight., but no. The paper plane flew about 2 metres heading steadily down to the floor.

So I did a little research and found this wonderful site called with lots of different ways to make airplanes. There are many to choose from, some complicated and some simple, all with instructions in video form and step by step diagrams. They all fly a little differently. My favourite is the Rapier as it is quick and easy to make (and to remember).

Instructions (these are very basic and might only be understood if you know how to make a basic school child plane!):
1. Take a piece of paper and fold it lengthways down the middle. Open it.

Folded Piece of Paper

2. Fold the top edge over about one centimetre. Then fold it over again, and again and again, about 8 times.

Paper with One Fold at the Top

Paper with Top Fold Folded Over

3. Then take the top outside corner (with lots of folds) and fold it down to the middle. Do the same to the other side (like you do for a traditional basic plane)

Corners Folded Over

4. Then fold along the middle crease again.

Middle Crease Folded again

5. Lastly, fold the lower corners (now joined in the middle flat against each other) down to create the wings.

Wings Folded Down - The Finished Plane!

There is an instruction video for this plane if my instructions aren’t adequate, and diagrams when you scroll down. And through this link you will find more plane which will no doubt keep an older child happy for a long while.

If you have lots of time and patience, you might be interested in this complicated paper plane. I can’t vouch for its flying ability though, there are 35 steps and I didn't have time to finish it. I'll have to try again when my son is able to follow.

Testing different paper planes was a lot of fun and it gave us lots of opportunity to use words for describing the way they flew and how well they flew. We also:
  • Practiced folding - great for fine motor skills
  • Ran around and followed the planes - whole body co-ordination and dodging doorways and furniture!
  • Experimented with the concept of motion
  • Watched a simple plain piece of paper take on new dimensions and almost a personality as it zoomed through the air!

Do you have a favourite paper place design? Comment to tell me about it.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Making Mini Jack-o-lanterns

We collected so many chestnuts over recent weeks that we’ve been able to do lots of different Autumn crafts. One of our favourite was making mini pumkins. My son loves pumpkins, they are his favourite thing this time of year. We wanted to try to cover chestnuts in wax to use in our crafts. We used chestnuts, wax and cocktail sticks to make some of our chesnuts into mini jack-o-lanterns.

We used hot wax. Please supervise all children if you do this.

To coat the chestnuts in orange, we needed a fair amount of wax. We made a mixture of candle wax and an orange crayon which we melted in an old jam jar in a hot pan of water. Then we put the wax pot  in a large plastic tub, we stuck cocktail sticks in the chestnuts, dipped them in the wax and set them on kitchen paper. 

Dipping the Chestnut in Orange Wax

Adding the Second Coat of Wax to the Chestnut

We found the wax gave a lovely smooth finish once dry, especially when we gave the chestnuts two coats.
Contrasting Chestnuts

Mini Jack-o-lantern waiting for a face


Then we drew faces on the chestnuts with a permanent marker. They look good enough to eat! Although this is a disadvantage when around small children, I‘m hoping they‘ll look less appetising as part of a candle or wall decoration.

Mini Jack-o-lanterns sitting in a row
Tip: when you take the cocktail stick out, twist it first so that it doesn’t take all the wax with it!

This can be quite dangerous as the wax is very hot. All children need supervision.
With care and patience children learn many things about wax, shape and temperature. I loved the result and am looking forward to trying this again with other colours to suit the changing seasons.

Do you have any ideas for coating other things with wax? I’d love to read about them, and try them. Please comment and/or leave links to your blog.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Autumn Leaf Decorations that last more than a day.

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. I love to walk through the park as the leaves fall and the sun shines through bright seasonal colours. I often collect leaves and imagine all sort of decorations for the home. Unfortunately they crumble quickly in the central heating and are left forgotten, broken and brown on the balcony. So this year I decided to find ways of keeping the memory of autumn leaves in my home longer.

I have been playing around with wax in recent weeks and we thought it would be fun to try to coat the leaves with wax. Unsure of what the result would be, we steamed ahead with an improvised candle melter. We put white candle wax in an old jam jar, put it in a pot of hot water on the cooker and watched it melt slowly. Then we put the hot wax in a litre sized plastic bucked to do the dunking.

We carefully dipped each leaf and lay it on cardboard to dry. This is quite dangerous and needs lots of supervision.
Dipping a Leaf in Hot Candle Wax

Then we simply tied the leaves to a piece of string and hung them from a lamp. Lovely.

Even a few days later the leaves look great and aren’t falling apart. They look like they may last all year.

On another day, we spent some time looking at the different shapes of the leaves and we drew around a few different ones on coloured paper. We cut them out, folding the paper a few times to make the process quicker. Then I stuck them to string to hang by the windows. The result is a simple paper decoration to cheer the windows up on dreary days.

Paper Leaves Cheering up my WIndow

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Being Creative with Chestnuts and Following the Paths of the Imagination

Over the last few week chestnuts have been hammering down from the enormous tree behind our apartment. One collection gave us over 300 of these beautiful fruit. I wanted to make some chestnut figures of animals and people. ( gave me some knowhow.) But we actually ended up making roads and racing cars around.

Sticking in Cocktail Sticks

To make animals with chestnuts I needed scissors and cocktail sticks. I used the scissors to make a little hole in the outer shell and then the cocktail stick went in pretty easily, but not easily enough for a three year old to do. I had to press the stick in with the hard floor, and it often broke, and it was hard to remove. So for my three year old it got a little boring. He liked making people, but the “little man” wouldn’t stand up, so we made it into a snowman. We also made a spider and a cat. There is a special tool available for making holes, but I didn't order it in time! Try this Drill for Chestnuts if you need one.




The next day I started to make a train, but it looked more like a caterpillar, and he was more interested in rolling around in a big pile of chestnuts. So that is what he did.

Big Pile of Chestnuts

Then we counted them. This became a really interesting activity for him. We had never had so many things to count before and he was interested in how we could possibly count so many items! We put them in rows of 10 as he is comfortable with this number. He helped as we went up to 100.

100 Chestnuts

Then he watched as I did some more rows, then played around with his cars as I did the rest. In the end he politely listened as I told him how many we had (316) and then drove his bus straight though them all. He loved destroying the neat rows!

Bus in Chestnuts

So we made some roads as he wanted to transport some chestnuts in his trucks. We drove them along the paths we made. This was such a simple thing to do yet sparked his intrest. As he drove his cars around, he moved carefully and with great control so as not to destroy the road edges.

Loading a Truck with Chestnuts

Road Made with Chestnuts

Later on we came back to the sea of chestnuts and explored them in more detail. When I started drawing faces on them, he gave them names. Then we made up a few stories with them. Again we had found an unplanned game and created a lot of laughter.

Faces on Chestnuts

Much of the play we did with the chestnuts was made up as we went along. I had wanted to make more things and get crafty, but maybe next year he will be a more willing sculptor. This year, pretend play is definitely top of the list.

Cars Driving through Chestnuts

Our big box of chestnuts gave us many surprise opportunities for counting, pretending and conversation. My first thoughts had been to make things, stick things and create something to keep. But sometimes I have to remember that the creative process takes different paths, often unexpected paths, and each one is food for the imagination.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Jumping and Counting with Painting Tape

One day we were measure how far B can jump using some painter’s tape. This tape was the perfect thing for quickly marking how far he went each time, as we didn’t need scissors and it is easy to take up too. This tape has become an important part of our craft cupboard as it is simple and quick for both of us to use. It is great for finger control as he picks at the end and strengthens them as he rips the end.

A Roll of Painter's Tape

After jumping long distance, I had the idea that he could jump from one piece of tape to another. I could place them in shapes or spirals or around the room. He loved the idea. It became a perfect opportunity to practice counting as the tape is easy to write on. 

Tape with 4 written on it

He’s an expert at counting up to 10, but higher than that still needs practice, so it gave him opportunity to recognise the higher numbers and hear them over and over as I said them and he jumped up to 20. A few days later, I heard him practicing on his own!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Autumn Begins

We had a lovely summer. We spent time in the park, on the balcony and building lots and lots of train tracks. Trains are my three year old's passion at the moment. Living in Berlin without a car, we ride trains here, there and everywhere. So it isn't surprising that they are important to him.

The weather was unpredictable and I found it easiest to take each day as it came and follow my kids' lead. Craft was put on the back burner as we lost ourselves in pretend play, buckets of water and football. 

Now the days are shortening and I'm looking forward to painting, baking, cutting and sticking. I will be following my favourite blogs for inspiration and I hope to bring you our twist on some great ideas at least once a week.

I'm looking forward to your comments and feedback.


Friday, August 24, 2012

Making Fortune Tellers and Using Up Some Energy

I love paper crafts. They can be really simple, or complicated when you have the time, and can be wonderous for little kids. This one is super simple and easily fills 30 mins with fun and movement for the child. Fantastic.

My friends and I used to make fortune tellers (or chatterboxes or cootie catchers) at school all the time and somehow predicted wonderful things about the coming years. They are folded pieces of paper which can be moved in two directions. Numbers and colours provide choices and the ‘future’ is written under the hidden flap. This time, I put simple actions under the flaps and my son loved it.

This is how to make one:

Take a square piece of paper, fold it diagonally both ways and open again.

Fold the corners into the middle.

Turn it over and again fold the corners into the middle.

Turn it over again so that you are looking at squares and not triangles. Fold it across the middle. Open it. Fold it the other way across the middle. Open it.

Now, slide index finger and thumb of each hand under the squares and, using the folds you just made, pinch it together. Push index finger against index finger and thumb against thumb to make it move the other way.

I wrote numbers on the squares on top, coloured in the triangles on the other side and wrote actions under the flaps. My actions were simple things: jump five times, spin around, moo like a cow, touch your toes etc. Write things that you know your child will enjoy doing over and over.

This is how you play:

Ask your child to choose a number. Move the chatterbox that number of times. Choose a colour. Spell the colour and move the chatterbox with each letter. Choose another colour then look under that colour and do what it says.

The finished chatterbox can be packed in a bag for entertainment on the road. For a long trip you could make a few. I found a great site dedicated to chatterboxes with print outs which you just need to fold - great for a long drive. Have a look at this one for playing when flying.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exploring Sound with Balloons

One thing guaranteed to fill half an hour with giggles for a three year old is a balloon. My son’s favourite thing to do at the moment is to (have me) blow a balloon up, hold it without a knot and then let it fly around the room. He loves trying to catch it, following every movement with his eyes, and he loves the sound it makes. Taking this cue, I decided to spend some time with him exploring all the different sounds a balloon can make.

The wonderful thing about sounds and balloons is the wide variety. There are loud and soft sounds which encourage both belly laughs and quiet patience. It is fun to try to imitate the sounds. This is great for developing speech and giving young children confidence in their voice.

After letting a full balloon fly around the room a few times, I needed a rest from blowing it up. So we made some sounds with a deflated balloon. We made it snap by stretching it and letting go of one side near the floor. Then we made it go "boing" very quietly as we stretched and loosened it quickly.

Stretching the Balloon

Once the balloon is blown up, listening to the air escape is hilarious. We heard the classic raspberry as it flew around the room and made a screech when we pulled the end open.

Screeeeeeeech! (My son took this picture - very proud) 

The full balloon makes a very satisfying "doof" and "boom" when hit on objects around the room. My son enjoyed hitting things he usually can’t, including my head! It was very satisfying for him. Scraping a finger over the surface of the balloon gave an odd scraping noise. He called it "binga-binga"!

Making More Noise on the Balloon

Copying the sounds was fun - slow at first but he soon got the hang of it. Maybe he’ll be more inclined to make an effort when his little brother is giving some noise competition!

I’m sure there are more sounds to be made with balloons. I’d love to read about them in the comments, let me know what you hear.

Balloon on Balcony

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Making Cork Boats with Colourful Shape Sails

A friend gave me a big bag of corks. The most obvious thing to do was play around in a big tub of water. We watched them float. We laughed at them pop up through the surface when we pushed them under. We blew them over the surface and had cork boat races.

Then we talked about how they looked like little boats and how we could make them look more like boats. "Let's make some sails" was the joyous suggestion.

So we chose six shapes.

Colourful Shapes

We picked six corks and found some cocktail sticks.

Corks and Cocktail Sticks

And we watched them float, tip and capsize.

Circle Sail on Cork Boat

Triangle Sail on Cork Boat

Heart Sail on Cork Boat

Then we made a giant sail which, to my surprise, worked!

Huge Pink Sail

And then the corks were under attack!

Trying to Cut a Cork with Plastic Scissors