Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Toddler Chemistry Lab

This is something I've been wanting to try for a long time now. When I was a little girl, I used to play "chemist" in the bathtub, pouring one cup of water into another. I knew Margaret would get a kick out of a chem lab setup, but let's be honest here, I'm the one who really wanted to play with test tubes and petri dishes and pretty colored liquids.

I purchased the test tubes and stand from Amazon. The tubes hold (l-r): vinegar with liquid watercolor, water with liquid watercolor, olive oil, dish soap, straight liquid watercolor.

The petri dishes are also from Amazon. They hold: crushed Alka Seltzer tablets, food coloring,

baking soda, corn starch,

food coloring, (not pictured) bath tablets, and (not pictured)shaving cream.

Tools: whisk from Ikea kitchen play set, droppers, coffee stir sticks, measuring spoons from Dollar Tree. I also offered empty glass baby food jars, not pictured.

Vinegar bottle from Dollar Tree holds white vinegar. Salt and pepper shakers, also from Dollar Tree, hold baking soda and corn starch.

When Margaret woke up from her nap, I told her there was a fun surprise waiting outside. She ran out and got straight to work. She was very focused throughout the activity, and she didn't speak much. I offered some vocab and descriptions, "Whoa, that made it thicken!" "When you stir it quickly, the bubbles grow!" but she was just too into it to respond. She did let out a few "Oh my!"s, though! I didn't guide her as to what would react to what, preferring to let her freely explore and find out for herself.

By pure chance, she chose to add the vinegar to the baking soda first thing!

Water in corn starch

Dish soap with Alka Seltzer

Oil on shaving cream (liquid watercolor on bath color tab beside it)

She broke out the vinegar and poured it into each dish.

She always wants to shake salt into her food at restaurants, so using the shakers was a big treat for her.

Then she moved into the droppers and transferred the liquids between the dishes.

The shaving cream was my favorite.

She said she was measuring the powder like Daddy does when he's cooking.

Then she began transferring the liquids into jars and back into the tubes with droppers and spoons.

She got braver as she went on and started overflowing the dishes with explosions.

This is the last picture I got before my camera battery died, but she kept going until all the solutions were gone.

I was worried this activity would be a once and done sort of thing, but she was enthralled until the very end, a good hour and a half. She likely would have kept at it if the liquids had held out longer. Now that she's familiar with the concept, I'd like to try some extension activities I was dreaming up while she played. There are so many more substances that can be used for this, and now that she knows the properties of the ones we've already used, we can build on that. I'm also planning to do a glowing "mad scientist" extension sometime soon.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Pipe Cleaners and a Colander

I don't know who was the first to do it, but I've been seeing the idea all over Pinterest of threading pipe cleaners through the holes of a colander to create loopy sculptures. My kid loves pipe cleaners and she really enjoys fine motor skill activities. Can't miss with that one, huh?

I offered her a colander and the basket insert from my salad spinner, as well as a container of pipe cleaners. I demonstrated how to push the pipe cleaners through the holes and left her to it. She quietly worked at the activity for a good hour or so. Most of the pictures I've seen of others doing this activity have the pipe cleaners poked halfway through the holes or looped from one hole to another. Meg preferred to stick them all the way in until only a little nub remained visible. While it wasn't as pretty or sculptural, it did make for a fun magic trick, as she'd grab the nub and pull to make the pipe cleaner reappear!

The loop was mine. She wasn't impressed.

It got smashed down, too!


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Painting Wooden Birdhouses

The other day we'd planned on heading over to playgroup at the water park when the winds picked up massively and sent us back inside. I needed some Velcro dots to finish the My Day schedule board, so we trekked off to JoAnn's. There was a big display of unfinished wood birdhouses when we walked in the door, and our fun day was back on. We took home 5 of them, got out the paints at the kitchen table, and spent the afternoon painting together companionably. We discussed important topics like "Jessie and Woody" and what to make for lunch. What a happy accident that wind turned out to be, as I traded an afternoon of shooing my kid back into the water features while I chatted idly with adults I barely know for good conversation and engaging activity with my favorite friend.

Meg started off painting each roof a different color.

Then she began layering other colors over the top.

The white paint made the layers especially lovely, I think.

After the roofs were done, she went back and did splotches of color all over the house sides. (Mine is the purple in back. I've got to admit, I like her free-form ones a lot better!)


Friday, May 25, 2012

Magnetic or Not?

I bought this awesome magnet kit for Meg a few months ago, and it's been sitting in my craft room, waiting for the perfect moment to introduce it. That moment came the other day when we were having a cozy at-home day.

I set the activity up by putting a number of the magnetic kit items (rods, disks, horseshoes, balls) into a basket along with some non-magnetic items from my craft room (laundry scoop, empty paper towel roll, wooden turning, empty glass baby food jar, seashell, piece of felt, etc.). I also offered two empty containers, a metal bucket and a woven basket, and some magnetic wands from the kit.

The metal bucket offered the extra delight of attracting the magnetic objects.

I did a lot more guiding in this activity than I normally do, so Meg could get the gist of what the magnets can do. We sorted the objects into the containers, touching each one with the wand and proclaiming it "magnetic" or "not magnetic." She caught on quickly and repeated the activity many times on her own, before moving on to exploring the magnets more organically.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Baby Heueristic Treasure Basket

I've been intrigued with the idea of a heuristic basket for some time, so I went ahead on a lark the other day and tossed one together for James. He's 6.5 months old, sitting unassisted, and just hitting the "explores everything with the mouth" stage.

A heuristic basket, or treasure basket, contains everyday household items, preferably made from natural materials, that are safe for a baby to explore while supervised. I just filled mine with natural materials I had laying around my craft room, the playroom, and the kitchen. I would not leave James unattended with these things, but I feel comfortable with him touching and mouthing them while I'm present.

natural sea sponge, cotton sack with wool drawstring, glass baby food jar, woven basket, wooden spoon/block/turning, simple wooden instruments Meg got at a Musik Garten class once, and a playsilk

In the future, I might add more metal items, but don't currently have any food-grade metal objects (no lead or other gross stuff) with blunt edges on hand. A pinecone and large, smooth shell would be nice as well. Perhaps I'll knit some small lovies or toys from wool yarn. I'd love to also make him some Big Gnomes for Wee Hands, but I need to find a source for affordable wool felt first.

I love that this is a toy I can change up to keep fresh and add to little by little.