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Category Archives: art and craft

There’s No Place Like Space

We’ve spent the day having a fantastic time with friends at a soft play centre. Definitely got our money’s worth with over 4 hours racing up obstacles to zoom down slides.

Sadly this led to sleeping in the car on the way home, and children who are up far too late – how dare they?!!!

We are meant to be bringing our project on Oceans to our Home Ed group tomorrow. E has done hers, not sure it will make much sense when she tries to explain it to others, but she’s done lots of work thinking about it!

H has refused point blank to even think about it. We had a group trip to Weston Super Mare’s SeaQuarium on Monday in order to spark some inspiration. We learned loads about rays:

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Mermaid’s Purses

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Up close and personal with Mermaid’s Purse (Ray Egg)

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Newly arrived (at SeaQuarium) baby rays – 1 yr old approx.

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Adult Ray (thornback?) – approx 10yrs old

and saw lots of other creatures that sparked lots of questions, including a pile of sharks who were not waking up for anyone!

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Pile of sharks

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Fascinating close-up of sleeping shark’s teeth!

H decided last night that her project was going to be on rays, so we looked at google images of them. She was amazed at the different shapes, sizes and patterns of them.

Earlier in the day, we were at our weekly Home Ed social meet, playing with playdough, when H announced that she wanted to make all the planets out of playdough. She carried on thinking about what colour she would have to make to create Saturn, and then how she was going to make the rings.

Today, after our exertions, I was hoping for an easy night. No such luck! She chose a current favourite to read at bedtime: Dr Seuss’ ‘There’s no place like space!’. Every page provoked more questions, and I could see an easy bedtime slipping away! She decided that the planets needed to be renamed after their characteristics. The Earth is now ‘Spinny’, Mars is ‘Sneezy’ because of the dust etc. She understood that the ring on Saturn was made up of rocks and ice, and that you could stand on it, but not on Saturn itself (it’s made of gas, and light enough to float on water), but she wanted to know if you could pick up the ring and throw it. I explained briefly about centripetal forces (compared it to Roald Dahl’s Enormous Crocodile being spun round and round in a circle until it became a blur), and that it wasn’t a solid thing.

We then moved onto the sun being a star, and had to run to the window to see if we could see any stars. L grasping the fact that the tiny stars were big hot suns, just very far away. He thought this was quite funny!

We talked about the moon, and H was eager to know why people used to say it was made of cheese! I had no idea?!

We talked about rockets, and how we know so much about the moon because we are close to it and have been able to land there and learn more about it. Whereas Pluto, in the book, is described as being ‘thought to be covered in ice’. H wanted to know why we didn’t know for sure.

I then escaped, hoping her barrage of questions would lead to deep sleep. Nope. She followed me down, after I’d just had a lightbulb moment.

Maybe there was a way to link the Ocean’s project we need to contribute to tomorrow, and satiate this fascination with space and the solar system. The moon. Ocean tides. Google led us here and it did good:

She watched it. Fascinated. Then I had to explain what a pickled onion was! She then decided to use google to find out more about the sea. She looked at some images of odd sea creatures, until she got grossed out. Then found a video of fishermen at sea, being bashed about by the waves. She asked about floods, and the big floods. I asked if she meant Tsunamis. Turned out she did! She started telling me all about a CBBC programme where they set up a demo of what damage a Tsunami could do, involving a bag of water held by a crane over a shed. The water dropped, the shed was smashed to smithereens. H explained it much better! We talked about Earthquakes, plates rubbing and how these led to Tsunamis.

We then watched the lunar tide video again!

I need sleep, got to be up early to find a chocolate cookie, a smartie, a piece of blue string, an orange and a golf ball before 10am!

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Wow a vacant laptop, I can update my blog!

I had a flash of inspiration earlier, so thought I would use the moment to nudge me into updating my blog for once!

Today we have made a second trip to a new Home Ed group in our area.  This was yet another opportunity to have a picnic (we’ve been having them daily for the last week or so) and enjoy the fantastic sunshine we have at the moment.  As well as running round with sticks (L), drawing beautiful pictures of rainbows and snails (E), and making up complex role play games with friends (H), we had a fun time playing with some ‘squishy circuits’, which if you haven’t heard of, then you need to have a go! The main details and ingredients can be found here, there is also a pdf ‘classroom guide’ under the ‘publications’ section which is well worth printing out as an easy to follow guide. You essentially make 2 types of playdough, one with lots of salt, and one made with sugar and distilled water. One is a conductor, one an insulator. You then alternate your playdoughs to create your circuit structure, add a battery, some LEDs or a motor, and off you go. Very simple, cheap and easy.:And if you’re H, you can just play with the playdough…

I then had to rush home, and walk the puppy with L.  Well, I meant to rush the walk to as we were meant to be meeting B at Ikea, but L will not be rushed.  He came armed with a bowl of snails (his sisters had been racing them earlier), which HAD to come on our walk with us. After they had fallen out of the bowl at least 3 times, I managed to rehome them into a happy looking hedge to save them from any further trauma. L was mortified when he realised what I’d done, but I distracted him by looking for tadpoles in the ponds. We recently hatched and raised a batch of frogspawn, which we returned to our local pond as froglets a couple of weeks ago, so we go and check on them regularly. Armed with his bowl, L scooped up some water and was delighted to catch several tadpoles (obviously a bit behind developmentally from the ones we released), and prodded them, examined some water snails, and puzzled over little whizzing insects he also scooped. The bowl was emptied and refilled several times, examined and oooh-ed over, before I made him hurry along. L then spent the rest of the walk gathering stones and other exciting finds in his bowl all the way home.  That bowl turned out to be a brilliant thing to bring on our walk…though the snails probably didn’t think so.

Girls racing their snails yesterday

We then bundled ourselves into the car and dashed to Ikea. We’ve decided to buy a double bed for H and L to share. We’ve tried bunk beds and midi-sleepers, and no bed arrangement has so far worked for these two. E has her own room and bed. L still co-sleeps with us, but we are all for encouraging him out of our bed 😉 H sleeps in her bed sometimes, sometimes wanders into ours in the middle of the night. She claims she needs company. They both sleep beautifully in our bed together, but I would like to sleep in our bed too! So we’ve invested in a double bed in the hope we can get them to sleep together in their own bed, in their own room. Its always good to have goals and aspirations right?!

It’s not often that L gets to spend time with us all on his own, so he was quite spoiled this evening. We bribed him round Ikea, letting him choose a toy from the children’s area as we passed through. We then went to pizza hut, which he thought was the best thing ever: “Me love pee-ba” says L. I have a fab photo of L eating ice cream covered in sweeties, with a huge grin on his face! Will have to add it in later.  Ah, found it:

L (Buzz) enjoying his ice cream without sibling interference!

H is at a friend’s house for a sleepover, E has a friend here for a sleepover, so while they’ve sorted themselves out watching Springwatch and having a bath, I’ve painted H’s room ready for her new bed to be installed. I’d forgotten how quick it was to paint a wall without small children wanting to ‘help’ me!!

Typical Home Ed day huh?!

 

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Time flies, particularly when you’re having fun!

I feel like we are so back on track at the moment, reading my last blog post has actually made me laugh, which  I guess is good, in a cleansing sort of a way!

Here’s today in pictures…awful, grainy pictures from my horrible phone, but at least they give an idea of what we’ve been up to 🙂 Actually, I say from today, they are all from this afternoon, as I spent the morning completely clearing this room and sweeping the floor :-O Then look what they did!

Toddler L painting his aquadraws - d'oh! After scattering magnetic letters everywhere :-S

L playing with his favourite toy, and H drawing beautiful pictures of her family with 'flowers in their hair'

We drew round L's hands and feet and turned the shapes into fish, birds, penguins, ghosts etc.

H's plate monster, with smile, letter H and necklace!

Inside the monster - shows his tongue, oesophagus down to its stomach!

E constructing her mummy case

The books and equipment required!

Constructing the mummy

E constructing her mummy from kitchen foil - look at the concentration required!

E has been very focussed on finding out all about Ancient Egypt for a while, and it has become an obsession over the last few weeks. We started with a ‘Read it Yourself’ ladybird book ‘Mummies’ which was simple, easy to understand, and provoked too many questions for the poor little book to answer. So we skipped to this amazing book: Egyptology – the search for the tomb of Osiris, which E bought for with birthday money last year, which answers many questions, but sidetracks you a lot! I also trawled Pinterest for ideas, and made a board of all the things I found. E particularly liked the paper dolls and we’ve printed these a few times now, for different eras. E also found this audiobook: There’s a Pharoah in Our Bath by Jeremy Strong, at our local library and found it hilarious 🙂

We also made a disastrous trip to Bristol Art Gallery and Muesum. Their newly refurbished Egypt exhibition housed some amazing exhibits, but they were poorly explained, and really hard to interact with – everything was accompanied with a touchscreen for ‘more information’ except they either didn’t work, or were appallingly slow. It did not engage E at all 😦

I’d also bought her the usborne ‘Egyptian things to make and do’ which led to the activity in the photos above. First she made the mummy case – cutting out the base shape, self-drawn, then using the base as a template for the lid, making the edges, and sticking it all together. Covering the whole lot in metallic-coloured tissue paper and pva glue. Then she wanted to make a mummy to go in the mummy case, luckily they have instructions for that too, so she constructed her mummy parts from silver foil, and wrapped them in strips of wet kitchen towel, dried them, then covered in pva glue too. Tomorrow she is all set to draw hieroglyphics all over the mummy case, ready for her ‘museum’.  After her rubbish museum trip, a lovely lady on twitter (@mamacrow) gave us the idea of making our own exhibition. This has totally gripped E’s imagination, and this will be the first exhibit! The intention is to create some canopic jars, some egyptian jewellery, and other ‘artefacts’. It’s all keeping her busy anyway!

 
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Posted by on February 22, 2012 in art and craft, history, Home Education, housework

 

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So…back to school?!!

I came back from camping this week to find my facebook stream filled with photos of H’s friends in their school uniforms, all off to school for the first time.  It really hadn’t dawned on me properly that she is now ‘officially’ home educated. With E, it was a huge decision, that we discussed at length, had to write scary, grown-up letters to  the school and LEA about.  We had her last day at school.  With H, although we had discussed whether she should go to school or not, ages ago now, when the registration letters first starting coming through last year, there was never a defined line where home education began. It was/is just all part of our day-to-day lives. She is, and always has been, home educated.

So the term has started.  Better get to work!

To celebrate the fact that we didn’t have to go back to school this week, we booked a camping trip with some friends, and had a fantastic few days away: swimming, playing and chilling out.

While we were away, BBC Radio Gloucestershire broadcast an interview they recorded the week before with me at our house.  A lovely lady called Rhiannon Fitz-Gerald arrived on our doorstep with a funky looking microphone, and herded me into the kitchen away from the noise, and asked me lots of questions about Home Education. She came from a lovely, balanced viewpoint, basing questions both on what she knew listeners would be interested in knowing i.e. is it legal? Do you worry about socialisation? You know the kinda thing! But she also asked more informed questions prompted by an email conversation I had had with her, when she first approached me about doing the interview.

Hi Amanda,

Thanks for getting back to me! Let me properly introduce myself and explain now that there’s no limit on how much I can type! I work to the Mid Morning programme on BBC Radio Gloucestershire. I came across your blog recently and found it really interesting reading about how you took your daughter out of school in favour of home education and then the fact you’ve been blogging about it over the past couple of years! I thought our listeners would be really intrigued by this and interested to hear about why you chose to do this and what it’s been like homes educating your daughter as well as hearing about it from her perspective.

If you’re interested in doing an interview with us, I thought it might be interesting to come and record a piece at your home and sort of record a bit of you with your daughter etc and get some nice atmosphere of you teaching her at home etc. How would that sound? It’s the perfect time in many ways because it’s the school holidays but I wonder if it’s the same for those being home educated?!?!

Let me know your thoughts,

Many thanks,
Rhiannon

The bit about recording the nice atmosphere of me teaching my daughter at home, set my alarm bells ringing! So I thought about it all for a while then replied:

Hi Rhiannon,

Sorry it’s taken me a little while to get back to you.  I think what you are suggesting sounds great, unfortunately I think you’ll be a little disappointed!  I don’t actually ‘teach’ my daughter, you will rarely find us seated at a table surrounded by workbooks.  We learn through playing, experiencing life, trying out ideas we’ve read about or seen in a book or tv.  If we have a question about something and don’t know the answer we look it up either in a book at home, going to the library or through Google.  I have 3 children at home all day, so my attention is split between my 2 daughters aged 7 and 4, and also my 2 yr old son.  Sometimes they play nicely together, but more often than not, they are all trying to 3 different things!  Our house is generally a very messy chaos, so I try and spend a lot of time out of it!
Most days we squeeze in some maths, literacy, science and history, but we don’t call them as such, and we don’t always do all of them.  We mainly aim to have fun, and learning just seems to happen on the way.  We follow a mostly autonomous educational philosophy, which means we support our children’s learning in any we can, but we don’t force them to learn anything, as we find they learn everything we want them to when they are ready.  I have a 7 yr old who has only just started learning to read because she is finally interested in doing so, and is ready.  I also have a 4 yr old (would technically be ready to start school in september, but isn’t), who in the last couple of weeks has gone from not ever holding a pencil, to figuring out how to and can now write the names of everyone in her family, and is well on the way to knowing every letter in the alphabet, and is really good at maths and numbers.
Today for example, my eldest daughter has set up and filled up a paddling pool in the garden, found everyone’s swimming costumes and got herself and 2 little ones changed and splashing 😉 She has built a bubble blowing robot with her dad, that she got for her birthday, then helped him rearrange all the furniture in the kitchen!  She has made a costume for her teddy from material I had in the cupboard and designed a ‘little red riding hood’ outfit for it too. She’s been to feed our neighbour’s cats, and posted a letter in the post box for me on her own. She took her dad and brother to the park, and helped me tidy the kitchen so she could do some painting. My 4 yr old daughter has done some painting, made a cake to surprise everyone while they were at the park, iced and decorated it. She’s played in the paddling pool and on the trampoline, and has played with her lego, and lined all the lego men up in a line, and has watch Tangled on DVD.  She has made me a card with her name and mine on, and she has drawn lots of pictures. The toddler has done drawing, followed his sisters, made a mess and made lots of noise!  So yes, while many other children are on holiday, our children don’t get a holiday as such, we make the most of all the opportunities for learning as they arise, whether that is term time or not, weekday or weekend.
I’ll have a chat to the kids about being interviewed.  My eldest tends to tell everyone that the reason she is home educated is because she didn’t like school dinners!  And when asked what she’s done today, mainly says ‘umm…nothing’!  She’s not very talkative unless she feels very relaxed and unthreatened.
I, on the other hand, as I’ve just demonstrated, am happy to talk about HE an awful lot.  I find the whole subject fascinating, particularly as no 2 families home educate the same way.  Every child is different, and so is every family.  Some do ‘school’ at home, some do a small amount of structured learning during their average week, but not every day.
Anyway, don’t know if any of that made any sense, but hopefully gives an overview of our home ed life,
Amanda

She seemed happy with this, and we did an interview with just me, and she had my email in hardcopy, covered in highlighter pen and scribbles!  Then we went through to the room full of children and she recorded E doing some impromptu reading from one of our ORT books (I think we only own 2), and she was far too good at it, so definitely needs to go up a reading band or two.  B had created a pot to make volcanoes with, and E had decorated it to look like a giant flower, then Rhiannon recorded us putting all the ingredients in: bicarb of soda, vinegar, and washing up liquid, and E’s fab commentary of what happened next.  L then demanded I drew Harry Potter all over our whiteboard, and H hid in the kitchen, refusing to come out. I knew that around 20 minutes of interview and play/noise had been recorded, but was to be whittled down to around 5 minutes, so I wasn’t sure what would actually come out of it.

I listened to the broadcast interview while sitting on a bench in the playpark at our campsite, where we managed to get a wifi signal, but it was had to hear properly. I’ve now, nearly a week later, managed to sit down and listen to it, and the phone interview with another home educator we know well straight afterwards, and I hope it helps someone who was listening, whether to inform those who’ve never really heard of home ed, or to help someone who had been looking for an alternative to the school system, for whatever reason that may have been.

So all that took us to Thursday. Then tired, and in camping-recovery, we set off on Friday to Over Farm and an ‘educational visit’.  The term always fills me with dread, as we’ve been to so many at different venues, some fab, some we’ve vowed to avoid in future! This trip however was fantastic. It started with us all perched on hay bales, and given an introduction, then we set off to have a look at some farm machinery, and their giant piles of onions! We weaved our way round to look at all their crops: runner beans, beetroot, carrots, pumpkins, courgettes, and got to pick an example of each to put in our bag to take home.  We had a trek through their crop of asparagus that had been left to go to seed, and got to run our hands through their lovely featheriness! Then got lost in the runner bean jungle. We we were let loose in their chicken enclosure, and got to touch the newly laid eggs in the nest boxes. We met their ostriches, and said collective ‘ahhhhs’ at the one ostrich chick being dutifully guarded by its dad, while the mum continued the vigil on her nest. We had lunch while perched on sawn-off tree trunks, then had a question and answer session with the farmer. Then the best bit, we all piled into the trailer, and were pulled by a tractor down to the animals, and were given a bag of food each, and were let loose on the goats, sheep, pot-bellied pigs, donkey, pony and cows. E and H absolutely loved it, learned loads, got to share the day with lots of their friends and will have some great memories of the day 🙂

Today, we went to the wedding of two friends of B, which was a good trial run for my brother’s wedding in a couple of weeks.  The kids were pretty good considering there were several tedious bits, but H sat down next to me at lunch, and decided to doodle on the place name-things.  She practised writing her surname, then the name of her guinea pig ‘Little Whistle’.  Turned out she could write ‘little’ without any help, and could write ‘whistle’ just by me saying the name of each letter. She does scare me sometimes!!

The wedding couple had put together a kids box full of craft things: stickers, glue, plasticine, holographic card, scissors, lots of fun! So we hardly saw E!

I think that’s enough for this week, Sunday is definitely cancelled, I’m just too exhausted!

 
 

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The day of rest??

It’s Sunday. We are in mid-tidying frenzy as I am determined to get our kitchen reorganised and the hallway clear in anticipation of the arrival of a large Essentials delivery. Scary scary. In between tidying and directing, we have been very busy today.

We finally dug our potato council potatoes up. Got a fab haul is year, really pleased with our efforts, and having a roast chicken with beautiful, fresh, boiled potatoes to celebrate!!  We didn’t quite the timings right, so can’t enter our results in 😦 Will try harder next year!

E and H are into baking at the moment, so asked if they could make some biscuits. Not best timing when mid-kitchen mayhem, but we managed it. E couldn’t cope with the stickiness of the dough, so H and I followed the recipe directions, which said to put the dough between a folded sheet of greaseproof paper and roll away. This worked really well, and will be definitely using this method in future! H and I cut out all our shapes, H rolling her own dough and doing her own shape cutting, then piled them in the oven. Recipe was for 30 but we seem to have made double that using small cutters, so all good!

E then decided to make the hairy caterpillar from her Rainbows handbook. I bought the bits to do this about a year ago, and she finally decided to do it today…probably to do with clearing out the hallway and finding the stash! Required a pair of stockings, elastic bands, sawdust, grass seeds, decorations to make a face. E mixed the saw dust and seeds (we didn’t have any grass seeds, so hoping cress and mustard seed will work??!) then spooned mixture into one of the stockings. she then tied the end with an elastic band, then 3 more bands along the length to make a series of caterpillarish bulges. She then drew a face on the front with permanent marker and put it in an old ice cream tub and covered in water. Will see how it grows!!

L took the remaining sawdust mixture and happily sat spooning it backwards and forwards between two bowls.

It’s E’s birthday next week, and we are planning an outdoor mini-celebration with hopefully lots of bubble-blowing. I’ve been gathering bubble blowing ideas from Pinterest, and tried out one of the ideas today. We bent a pipe cleaner so it had a heart-shaped loop at the top, then dipped in fairy liquid and water mixture. It blew lovely big bubbles. Here are a few more of my bubble-blowing ideas!

Right got more washing to put on, and a dishwasher to empty. Oh and must get dressed…it is nearly 2pm after all!

Later update…ended up going on a nature walk this afternoon, we’ve found our local ponds (very newly made) are finally teeming with life.  We saw loads of different butterflies, beautiful dragonflies, watersnails, and lots and lots of frogs!

 

E catching frogs

 

 

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Dog days

Today has been a bit of a special day, as we were adopting a dog for a day.  Radley is the Dad of the puppy we are hopefully bringing home to be part of our family towards the end of this year 🙂 B and I got up stupidly early (i.e. before 9am!) to tidy up the downstairs bits, not having had a dog before, we weren’t sure what Radley’d make of the array of buttons, barbies, fridge magnets etc. that are normally scattered all over our floor, and certainly were this morning!

Only E was awake so she made a sign to go on the front door saying: ‘Don’t ring the bell, knock on the door’, so the little ones didn’t wake up when Radley got here!  By the time Radley arrived at 8.45am we were ready!  E then got to spend some time playing with him on her own: following him round the garden, round the kitchen, round the dining rm, up and down the stairs (we swore we weren’t going to let him upstairs…!).  We got a running commentary of his every move!

When H woke up finally, she got a lovely surprise, and had fun joining in the Radley-adoration-club! L was a bit more shocked by Radley’s appearance, but once he’d woken up properly he loved him being here too.

We made some communal rounds of toast for breakfast, and then we all went out for a walk with Radley at about 10am. This led to a session at our local playground, then an introduction to the downside of having a dog…cleaning up after it (bleurrggghhh!), not my favourite bit!  This a big pet hate of mine – people not clearing up after their dogs – so kids were well up on what was needed, we had nappy bags with us, and E found us a red dog bin too.

Back home and friends came over to admire Radley and see if they could still visit us with a dog in situ!! Radley was beautifully behaved, and loved the increased attention! The small girls disappeared off to play, and E dug out a find from a nearly new sale we’d been to at the weekend, a Crayola Illumination Station and we figured out how to get it to work, and replaced the batteries!  E then set to work on her creations! That was her set till lunchtime, which is a pretty impressive concentration span for her 🙂

After lunch we set the kids up with playdough, and B and E took Radley out for another walk.  When they came back, L took Radley out into the garden to show him his sandpit, and generally mess around in the dirt with him!

Our friends went home, and we set to work converting a punnet of strawberries we picked yesterday into Strawberry ice cream using this recipe! I’m leaving out the vanilla bit, and just sticking with the strawberry bit!  E cut up and measured all the strawberries, blitzed and sieved them.  I separated the yolks and creamed them with the sugar, but she poured the cream in and stirred on the hob.  She then stirred it all together, and sieved it into the tub we had ready for it. It’s now in the freezer and I’ve got to remember to stir it every half an hour!!

Radley is now fast asleep.  We’ve exhausted him!  We’ve just made some popcorn and covered it in icing sugar. It has now been mostly scoffed, and the kids all have icing sugar all over their faces! We’ve sat down to watch H’s Angelina Ballerina DVD, and having some down time. Phew!

Radley will be going home soon, and we’ve had an absolutely fantastic day with him.  We’re really pleased with how he’s fitted in with our family and really looking forward to meeting his puppy progeny in a few months time!

 

A positive start to the day!

Usually our days start quietly, E using her initiative to rifle through the craft cupboard or wherever, to gain inspiration for something to amuse her.

Last night, for once, I had the inspiration for an experiment.  Can’t remember where I saw it, so can’t put a reference in, but it involved putting drops of food colouring in a bowl of milk, then adding a drop of washing up liquid in and watching all the colours move and swirl.

The girls were setting up a gymnastic show, which involved drawing posters to advertise it: “Plese cm to r jim nastic cho”, then scouring the house for blu-tac to put them up, then shouting all over the house about it.

Meanwhile the monster baby L and I were having breakfast, and he was playing with the remaining milk in the bowl when I remembered my idea.  So I got the food colouring, the washing up liquid and the straw, and we set to work!  L just wanted to blow bubbles with the straw, so I had to go and get my own bowl and start again!  Then the girls caught us playing, so wanted to join in too, so they had bowls each.  They watched the initial trick with the washing up liquid, then set to work on their own concoctions.

E decided to make a bubble picture, where you use the straw to make the bubbles really big, then put a piece of paper of the top. Then I poured a little bit of the mixture onto some paper and blew it around with a straw with the idea of making a monster picture – drawing on wings, eyes etc. when it’s dry.

E tried it, but couldn’t make a pattern she was happy with, so they all got screwed up in a ball and launched across the room <sigh> so of course I had to start a paper fight! Unfortunately the monster baby L thought this looking great fun, first launching a book at my head, then the bottle of milk :-O  So it all ended in a great clean up operation, and we will probably be able to smell off milk for many months to come, but otherwise we had great fun 🙂  On the plus side, with washing up liquid in everything, the clean up was very easy!!

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2011 in art and craft

 

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