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Thursday, 02 July 2015 12:23

Squirty Sidewalk Chalk

I've been following a blog called Growing a Jeweled Rose for inspiration on activities to do with my girls.  She has two daughters as well, and they are each a few months older than my girls, so I feel like her activities have all been 'tried and tested' for little girls like mine, and I can see a few months ahead into what kinds of activities will be appropriate for my girls' ages. Here is her post on the Squirty Sidewalk Chalk that we attempted a few weeks ago. 

I used only 3 colours because I had 6 bottles and wanted each colour in baking soda paint AND vinegar paint, for mixing.  Also, my girls haven't done a lot of primary colour learning, so this seemed like a good opportunity to do that.

Ingredients: Baking Soda, Corn Starch, Paint/Food Colouring/Liquid Watercolours, Vinegar, Water.

You also need some squirt bottles and a sidewalk or driveway on which to squirt the paint!

The first three bottles I filled about 1/3 with corn starch, and 1/3 with baking soda, then added a splooch of paint and filled the rest with water. Then I put my finger on the tip of the squirt lid and shook them until everything was mixed together. Once the dry ingredients had started to dissolve in the water, I was able to add quite a bit more water to fill the bottles. This was the squirty chalk paint, and I made one each of red, blue and yellow.  I labelled the bottles with a big 'R', 'B' and 'Y' also, since I couldn't see the colours through the bottles.

Next, I divided the vinegar I had into the remaining three bottles and added another splooch of each colour paint and shook those until they were mixed and started foaming out the top of the bottles. 

 Made a mess of my deck.

 I gave the girls the three chalk bottles and let them make designs all over our driveway. The concrete is in really bad shape, but it did what we needed it to.  They were less interested in drawing pictures (or, squirting pictures, as I suppose they would be doing) and more interested in watching the liquid run down the slope of the driveway. They had fun squirting the colours together and watching them blend into one big puddle. 

 When they had emptied the chalk bottles, we walked around a bit and talked about the different colours. I noticed that the thinnest layers of paint had dried very quickly, and they looked just like chalk!

 Then I let them loose with the vinegar. The vinegar reacted with the chalk paint - even the spots that had already dried - and fizzed up into a new colour (unless they squirted blue on blue, etc. which they did often because they seemed to be kind of missing the point).  They again were less interested in the point of the experiment - colour mixing - or the fact that it fizzed - than creating more giant 'oceans' of puddle together. I let it be and decided that the entertainment was worth it anyway, and we could try it again later in the year - or next year - and it would certainly still be fun!

 The paint in the vinegar didn't quite mix perfectly, although it worked well enough. I think liquid food colouring, or liquid watercolour would have worked a lot better. Next time.

This was where the blue and yellow paint had overflowed on my deck. The girls had fun making paint footprints. It's an old deck that is scheduled for demolition as soon as possible, so I definitely didn't care about the mess. As it happens, a few weeks later the deck is completely clean - everything washed away perfectly, in case you were worried!

Published in Blog
Monday, 27 April 2015 22:14

Maple Syrup Snow Taffy

After our awesome Snowstorm in April this week, I took advantage of the fresh snow and made a batch of Maple Syrup snow taffy for the first time ever. I don't claim to have any idea what I'm doing - which will probably come across in this 'recipe', because it's very vague and suggests its own changes - but here it is documented so I can find it again and try it differently next time.

Ingredients:

  • Fresh, clean snow - one recipe I found suggested packing it down, which I did. Since I brought it in on a tray, though, I think I'll skip this part next time. The syrup didn't really sink into the snow, and I wonder if the effects would have been better on softer snow. 
  • 100 % Maple syrup - I used about a cup (didn't measure precisely), and it would have served 8 people easily, although I try to limit our sugar intake, so take that as you will. 
  • Some kind of lollipop sticks, or popcicle sticks for picking it up
Instructions:

I put the syrup in a small sauce pan and boiled it until a drop of syrup in a glass of cold water formed a soft ball.  The boiling took quite awhile (I didn't time it), and occasionally it threatened to boil over and required pretty much constant attention and stirring for the time it took.  If you had a candy thermometer (I don't), you could research the exact temperature required - that would probably be easier than what I did. The syrup drop appeared to be quite liquid still, but I could pick it up and shape it with my fingers. I wouldn't have wanted it to get much firmer - although some recipes said that this would just create a harder, crunchier candy. 

Immediately after cooking the syrup to desired temperature, I drizzled it onto the snow. We waited a few seconds for the syrup to solidify slightly in the snow, but we found it worked best if we didn't wait too long either, or the syrup became too hard to pick up with the stick. We could still pick it up with our fingers, though, and it still tasted fine, so not a complete waste. Our best technique was to poke the largest end of the syrup strip and roll it up as much as possible around itself to form a lollipop on the end of the stick. 

I set the saucepan down on the stove with the remaining syrup - only half comfortably fit in drizzles on my baking sheet - and I don't know if it became too cool, or what changed, but the rest of the syrup didn't produce very good taffy. It had become opaque - maybe with tiny bubbles - and didn't have the smooth, glassy consistency that the first amount had.  Audrey still ate it, and it was still sugary and candy-like, but not as nice as the earlier stuff.

There you are - when life gives you snow, make snow candy!

Published in Recipe
Thursday, 10 January 2013 11:22

I Need An Active Plan!

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the amount of activity Clara is getting.  My goal after Christmas to simply eliminate a lot of her TV watching, but after getting used to the break I get when she's zombied in front of the TV, I've found it much to easy to slip back into letting her watch an endless amount.  Like, when I'm backed up on housework or other tasks, or when Audrey is sick, or when I'm fighting sickness myself and feeling absolutely exhausted... so far I've only had about three days since Christmas where one of these things hasn't been going on. 

So, I think what I need to do is have an active plan for what TO do, as opposed to simply telling myself what NOT to do.  I need to fill that space with something, and it wouldn't hurt for me to get off my butt either.

After some online research, it seems as though everyone's 'great idea' for children getting exercise is to get outside and just let them play.  That works great for 4-5 months in Saskatchewan, but that leaves me with at least 7 months of too-cold-to-go-outside.  That isn't strictly true, but it is certainly too cold for an infant to be outside - at least for this winter - and I'm not ready to leave Audrey in the house while Clara and I go outside and play.  So there area few stretches of time during the week when Brian or I COULD take Clara outside during daylight hours (which only last until about 6 or 7pm these days), but lately it has been quite cold so it's been difficult to organize ACTUALLY going outside during those times. 

So I need to find some options for keeping Clara active in the house. 

I need help! 

I've been looking for some indoor-friendly action songs or games, and I have a couple but not much.  I feel like there are probably a ton that I'm not remembering from my childhood.  Also, if I DO resort to tv, does anyone know of any good 'active' shows? I seem to remember the Elephant Show from my childhood being somewhat encouraging of watchers to get up and dance along... maybe I'm remembering that wrong.  Does anyone have any great ideas for me?

As far as games go, I think she's a bit too young for Simon Says, and our house is small so 'running' games are out of the question.  

I would like to find some playgroups around where I could take Clara to run around, but I'm waiting for Audrey to be 100% better before I start dragging her all over the city.  I would also like to take Clara swimming again (we haven't gone to a pool in almost a year), but it's extremely expensive around here, and I don't think I'm brave enough to go alone with an infant and a toddler just yet.  I think the biggest downside of not having a vehicle regularly has been that I haven't gotten used to taking the girls out (or even just Clara before Audrey was born), and now I'm scared to do it.  

So please - I need insight here - how do you keep your kids active in a relatively small house when you really don't have the option of going outside? 

Published in Blog
Thursday, 22 November 2012 10:12

Felt Christmas Tree

I've been scouting out activities for toddlers lately, as well as great ideas for Christmas and I saw (on Pinterest, of course) a number of people who had created felt Christmas trees and ornaments for their little ones to play with.  When I went shopping for large sheets of felt, I speculated that I wasn't the first person to have this idea, because all of the packages of red and green felt were all sold out.

So, I made a white one.

And - because I have girls, and it goes with white - picked some relatively girly colours for ornaments. 

Initially, I stuck the tree to the wall with those Scotch reusable clear squares, which worked ok until a toddler pulled even slightly on the tree - which happened pretty quickly.  Then, thinking this would just help to reinforce the adhesion to the wall, I put three thumb tacks into the tree (through the Scotch tabs) at the top and bottom corners of the tree.

This lasted about 4 minutes, and I had to have a tack-hunt in Clara's bedroom. Fail.

Then Brian went out for a better solution - he bought a set of 3 3M picture hanging tabs.  They work kind of like velcro, you stick one part of the tab to the wall and the other to whatever you are hanging and they velcro together.  They stuck great that evening, and overnight, but the next day when there were TWO toddlers pulling on it, it came right off the wall.  Somehow the tabs stopped sticking to either the felt, OR the wall, and these two brilliant toddlers had no trouble pulling the 'velcro' apart either. 

So, I need advice.  We have regular painted gyprock (or whatever it's called) walls, and I don't really want to spend a fortune on sticky stuff, or put too many holes in the wall since it's a temporary toy... although if we found a good solution it's cheap enough to make something else for her to play with for the rest of the year - the materials only cost about $13!

How can I make the tree stick to the wall???

Published in Blog
Saturday, 06 October 2012 08:00

A Little Bit Crafty...

Here are a couple of crafty activities we've done in the past two days...

Yesterday, while I was babysitting, we created Thanksgiving Turkeys (Thanksgiving is this weekend in Canada).  I wanted to do something with the little girl I babysit that she could bring home with her.  All I needed was disposable plates (all I could find were styrofoam, but I think paper would have been better), tissue paper squares, glue and construction paper.

I gave each girl a plate, and spread a bit of glue on each and showed them how to put the squares of tissue paper on the glue.  One girl played with the glue, and the other crumpled up large amounts of tissue paper and threw it onto the plate.  In the end, I probably did most of the 'sticking'.

Then I made turkey faces and put these on the plates myself.  The girls had already lost interest by this point anyway.  And voila! I thought they were cute...

This morning when Clara got out of bed, she found a craft box set that I had purchased a few weeks earlier at Michael's (thank you, Michael's for having all of the pre-made craft kids for various projects...) that includes a bunch of foam snowmen and foam stickers for giving each snowman hats and scarves, etc.  I hadn't intended to pull this particular craft out until after Halloween, but she found it and thought it looked intriguing.  It also came with about 40 snowmen, so I figured we could make them weekly until Christmas if we wanted to...

Another craft that I did most of, but Clara enjoyed picking the colours of hat, scarf and mitts - and she placed the candy 'buttons' on their bodies.  She was also pretty proud of them and announced to me often throughout the day that they were her 'No-men'.  And she bragged to Daddy when he got home.

I'm excited to have a crafty kid.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 12:12

Plastic Bag Painting... I Think I Failed.

I've seen this idea all over the internet lately - stick some paint in a plastic bag, tape it to the table, and let your kid go crazy, mess free!

I think if I try this again, I'll tape a piece (or six) of white paper behind the bag, so you can't see the ugly tabletop that has been grimified by toddlers and children for almost 30 years...

Note the giantness of the plastic bag - it kind of makes the amount of paint I used look a bit dismal.  I think a smaller bag would probably be a good idea.  Also, because I taped down the three not-open edges of the bag before I put paint in, it was really difficult to sneak my hand in to dump the paint.  This would be better if the bags had been smaller, I may not have gotten so much paint smeared all over the inside of the bag.

Note to self also: prepare the bag outside of toddler view. Clara hovered so closely and couldn't keep herself from poking at the bag before I was done and I spent quite a bit of time telling her to wait, which didn't always go over well.

In the end, the girls (Clara and the little girl I babysit) spent about five minutes investigating the new table top before getting distracted elsewhere.  Maybe it's because I did it wrong, or maybe they're just too young yet? (19 and 21 months) Or, maybe they are just not into this kind of thing...

Or maybe my telling them to wait as I got it ready made the whole thing seem FAR less interesting...

Oh well, I'll make a few changes and try again in a few weeks maybe.

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 11:24

Pom Pom Container Toy

I got this idea after browsing this weeks Toddle Along Tuesday with Growing Up Geeky.  The idea came from Mary over at A Day in the Life - check out her post on this here.

I used a cottage cheese container and decorated it with some colorful 'duck tape' that I found at Michael's the other day, and was excited to find a use for. I used sliceez cutter to cut the holes, but I think any kind of Exact-o knife, or scissors would work fine too.  I used a penny to trace the circles for the holes - they are slightly smaller than the larger of the two sizes of pom pom balls are.

I happened to have a half bag of leftover pom pom balls from some crafting Clara and I had done for my Dad's room when he was in the care home.  They weren't the best things for that kind of crafting at her age anyway, so I was excited to find another use for them - especially since she likes to just play with them as they are anyway. 

Clara didn't really pick up on this right away, but the little girl I babysit for absolutely loved it.  She poked all of the pom poms through the holes and then asked me to dump them out again for her - about thirty times, I think.  Clara became interested then, but only because her friend was, I think.  I might have to make another one for tomorrow so they don't fight!

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 12 September 2012 10:12

Handprint Mug - and Signs of a Great Babysitter

A few days ago, I started babysitting for a little girl who is the same age as Clara.  I only watch her for a couple hours each morning while her Mom is taking classes at the nearby University, but it's enough to get me up in the morning, give me a bit of extra money and to keep Clara entertained at home.  I have heard it said that after babies are a year old, it's actually easier to look after 2 at a time instead of just one, because they entertain each other.  I'm hoping that not only will the arrangement benefit Clara - so she has some social interaction during the week - but also me, after the baby is born and it will be helpful for Clara to have a playmate to entertain her.

For now, it is also keeping me busy researching ways to entertain toddlers.  I had a great role model in my friend, who watched Clara while I was working over the summer.  She is naturally gifted when it comes to finding ways to play with and entertain kids, and many of 'my' ideas have actually come from her - I am far from creative, I've discovered - but I'm pretty good at finding and using other people's good ideas.  That's ok, right?

This is not a post about Father's Day... because I'd be a little late for that! :) The Friday before Father's Day, Clara came home from her babysitters with this.

Which I thought was adorable and brilliant.  And probably a lot of work - getting a toddler to put a handprint on a mug and not all over everything else, which she probably did also. 

I remember thinking that this was a sign of a great babysitter.  She went out of her way to find activities and crafts that toddlers at any age could do.  It was this friend that encouraged me to start having Clara help decorate cookies when she was less than a year old.  That post is here.

It was also her who, when Clara was fussy as I was washing dishes asked 'Why don't you let her help?' when I was thinking 'What? She's 18 months old!!?', but after I pulled a chair up to the counter and let Clara play in the rinse water she was MUCH happier.  So, I'm always on the lookout for cool things to do with toddlers, and great ways to keep them entertained. 

Wish me luck! If you have any great resources, please pass them along!

Published in Blog
Monday, 10 September 2012 21:39

Milk Carton Building Blocks

I unfortunately didn't manage to get a picture of Clara actually playing with these blocks, however I did happen to have a couple of milk cartons ready to go so I can demonstrate this complex procedure! ;)

First, collect as many 2L milk cartons as you can get your hands on.  They need to be cartons, not jugs.  We put the notice out to our family members and switched to using cartons exclusively for awhile, and they started pouring in!  Each block uses two.

Cut the tops off of both milk cartons.  Depending on how soon you cut the tops off after each carton is used, it's easier to clean them after they are cut.  If you clean them immediately, just a few quick rinses seems to do the job.  Avoid waterlogging them, though - the outside and cut edges are not as liquid proof as the inside!

Make sure the cartons are completely dry, and then slide one carton inside the other until they are as tight as they can go. That's it!

These are a little cumbersome to store, but trust me when I say these are awesome toys.  I remember my preschool having about a zillion of these - we could build forts that were taller than we were, and we even managed to build windows and doors into them.  I want to continue to collect these over the next couple of years until Clara is old enough to really appreciate them, and to build forts! Now she just waits until I build a tower and knocks it down, followed by some evil laughter... she'll get there.

Published in Blog
Tuesday, 04 September 2012 21:36

Blanket Fort!

Published in Blog
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