Apr 25, 2010

Old tea bags and chalk dust

So, I drink tea like my life depends on it. I live day to day with the knowledge that I am a British stereotype. Love the stuff! Oooooh, love a cup! This means we have an obscene number of used teabags in our sink each day.

As with the post last year on paper making, this activity started with my youngest's curiosity. I throw the used teabags in the sink and then sweep them down the garbage disposal later in the day, but she'd taken to finding them and pulling them apart to play with the tea inside. As with the pulpy toilet roll soup in the bathroom sink, I decided it was time to take this activity outside!

I saved up a couple of days worth of used teabags for the kids to disect and muck around with. Gave them a bunch of kitchen utensils, sieves, bowls, trays and jugs of water, plus a couple of little tea strainers for them to play with.

They had a lot of fun pulling the teabags apart, then mixing the tea leaves up with the water and then straining the mixture through things to collect the leaves again. I threw a few fancy words at them like "sediment" and "filter" and they watched to see how long it took for the tea leaves to settle when you stirred up the clear jug.

With them being interested in that, I thought it might be worth trying to see what happened with finer particles, so I got out the microplane and they grated sidewalk chalk into water too. They got the idea that the fine particles settle more slowly, but by this point there was so much colour and gunge that we just decided to play at "making potions".

All in all about 15 teabags and a three sticks of sidewalk chalk kept them happy for around two hours. I'm diligently saving my used teabags for a repeat performance now. Next time I might give them some sand to put in, so they can see how fast that settles compared to the tea leaves. Also some cloth to strain the mixture through, because they were disapointed that the chalk particles could not be sieved out of the mixture like the tea leaves could.

Right, I'm off to make a cuppa. Kettle's just boiled ;)

Read your fortune from that gross splatty heap of tea leaves if you dare!

Apr 20, 2010

A thank you, and some other mess makers

A couple of top lasses gave me a blog award doodad thingy. It was actually a couple of weeks ago I think. I'm not very on the ball with posting at the moment, so I apologise for only getting around to saying thank you now!

Thank you Sherry and Donna!

These two creative ladies run the site called "Irresistible Ideas for Play Based Learning" The tag line for it is great too "No play, no learning. Know play, know learning!" Love that! Sherry and Donna teach preschool together in Australia, and they share all sorts of fabness through their website. This is the award they passed along. It's worth going to read that, because as well as their own blog being a mighty fine read, the other sites they awarded over there are great too.

I think I'm supposed to pass the award on and tell you an arbitary number of things about me or something, but as you know by now I'm not very good at reading instructions, let alone following them, so I'm just going to pass on some blog karma in my own way if that's ok.

First up, big props to Kami over at "Get Your Mess On". She has gone and started up "Austin Tinkering School" after diving right into not only contacting her idol Gever Tulley, but getting his ass over to her neck of the woods for a three day tinkering event and then starting her own summer camp! People who just get up and DO stuff and MAKE things are the bestest! Kami, you rock!

Next up, I've just recently found Teacher Tom's blog. I only found Tom's blog because he left a comment here on one of the ironing plastic bags onto clothes posts I did last month. He tried it out for himself and discovered that if your shirt has got polyester content then the decals won't fuse enough to go through the laundry, which I had no clue about because we'd only done it with 100% cotton shirts (you can read about his experiments here and here). When I explored the rest of his blog I found the most tremendously awesome progressive preschool teacher ever! Reading through I was ecstatic to find just as much, paint splatty, sand diggy, water poury, dirt rubby, junk fangly exploration as goes on here, but this guy has a whole co-op preschool in cahoots with him, not just a bunch of his kid's mates, like I've got. If you like it over here, then you'll love it over there!

Last of the shout outs is for those of you who think their kids would like to get some mail from around the world (kids like getting any kind of mail from anywhere in my experience, so a postcard from somewhere exotic would blow their little socks off!).

Zoe over at "Playing by the book" is hosting an international postcard swap. You've got until Friday 30th April to sign up to join in, so pop over to her post about it here for more info. You might get a postcard from us, because we're definately in!

Ooh, and while we're doing a bit of a rogue post on stuff and things, here are a handful of links to what other wizards of filth have done after reading about our projects on here!

  • Kami from "Nurturing the tender years" posted about them making our little print, cut out and hole punch lego cars and trucks here.

  • Sandra from "Three pumpkins little" did some further experimenting with our iron on plastic bag decal thing, using tea towels rather than clothing, here.

  • Kristin from "Intrepid Murmurings" made some lovely versions of the shower curtain play mats that we did way back, to give in little gift packs. See them here.

  • Jen from "Creative and Curious Kids" contacted me to show me this gorgeous painted picnic table the family made after seeing the post we did on painting furniture with the kids. I can't imagine a picnic table more beautiful than that!

  • Lastly, I was sent a really cute photo by Lyndsay from Scotland. These are her family's larger versions of our little tin foil toadstools. Aren't they great! I asked Lyndsay if I could post her picture here, because it's an awesome example of just using what's on hand to make a project work. They didn't have the plastic eggs or BBQ skewers, so they just crunched the foil over sticks. Worked beautifully!

    just before I go, seeing as a lot of you have emailed me with questions about stuff to do outdoors with the kids that are slightly less insane than an entire city made of trash, here are a few more sedate outdoor projects that worked well for us when the kids were a bit younger...
  • Aluminium foil river

  • Nails, screws and cardboard boxes

  • Chalk and water painting

  • Reusable mural

  • Snail painting

  • Paper making?
I totally skipped on the earth day post. I guess every day should be earth day shouldn't it. If you're into no impact building fun though, the easiest thing if you live near the coast is to find a beach that has a lot of drift wood! My two can't get enough of building strange forts out of things they find on the beach. I guess that's what happens when you perpetually forget to bring buckets and spades with you.

Another tip top beach art collaboration to join in with is the "World Beach Project" over at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Doesn't hurt to see if you can find any trash to pick up and bin while you're down on the beach too. We never seem to make the official beach clean up days, but there's nothing stopping folk from picking up trash whenever they happen to be there.

Well, I think that's about all I had to get off my chest ;) I have ooodles of unposted stuff, half written or with only half the pictures ready. I really need to get my act together so I can click publish on a lot of them. I like it so well "in the lab" that it's sometimes difficult to get my act together to write up ;) Did I just compare parenting to a scientific experiment? Um, no one call child services ok?! It's me experimenting WITH the kids, not ON them!

Apr 16, 2010

junkhouse shantytown in the back yard

All that cardboard from the end of the last post was used today and yesterday to construct a whopping mess in the yard. A gorgeous mess mind you! I was sad to have to bring a lot of it in tonight (we are supposed to get rain).

Bedsheets, pvc plumbing pipes, clothes pegs, gaffer tape, electrical tape, string, rope, an old hula hoop and a golfing umbrella, other misc, lots of cardboard and lots of paint!

We had help from three other familys over the course of the two days to play, build and decorate, and some very sunny weather, so it was nice and relaxed.

They made artwork with my lazy suzan to put up as kind of prayer flags, and when it got dark tonight, we let them stay up late to play with toches in the cardboard city with the christmas lights all around. Paul read them their bedtime story in there too.

They really wanted to camp out, so I think we need to find a proper tent asap!

Apr 13, 2010

Junk in our trunk

Noooo, not that kind of junk in the trunk. Although my trousers are kinda tight these days, following a very kind and frighteningly enormous (bordering on wholesale) delivery of custard creme biscuits from a couple of mates in the UK! Anyway, back on topic...

We started collecting "junk" a long time ago, when we realised the kids were really really into making things out of random stuff. It started off with a set of toy bins in the house that was full of stuff that I saved from the recycling bin, like loo roll tubes, yoghurt pots and other interesting bits of cardboard or plastic rubbish. The kids had scissors and plenty of string, tape and stuff like pipe cleaners and clothes pegs to construct with (no glue though, because white glue gets too frustrating waiting for it to dry in this kind of scenario) The kids are just getting to the point where they can safely handle the lower temp hot glue guns, so that should open up a load more possibilities for them soon. I just have to protect the carpet with something, because all this is in our livingroom (I know, we're classy like that) Here's the set of bins with cardboard swiped from between the pallets at Costco stored behind it...

Generally if the kids aren't already stuck into this stuff then all it takes to get them interested is for me to sit down with it and start tinkering myself and they soon come and join me to see what's going on and to join in or start on something else.
Well, about a year and a half ago we started a collection of "outdoor junk", like nails, screws, a few hand tools, and lots of random wood bits, plastic bits, wheels, pvc plumbing left overs and just, well, junk really. All this is in a big wooden trunk, and when the weather doesn't suck we drag it out and let them do whatever with it. They are both pretty darn good with hammers and screw drivers now! We scavenge electronics from old appliances for their dad's electronics tinkering addiction, so they have had plenty of practise with screwdrivers from that. Here are a couple of pics from last year when they were just getting the hang of taking things apart with screw drivers...

My youngest, who's just turned four, still loves the ease of banging the nails into cardboard boxes, like we did back in this post, but my five year old is now hell bent on "inventing".
Here are a few pics of the junk in my trunk (shut up)
Now that the rainy season is drawing to a close, we can get back outside with this stuff and by the end of the summer I hope they will be confident in using little hacksaws and a manual hand crank drill (I keep waiting for one to show up at a thrift store or garage sale, but it hasn't happened yet). I have some balsa wood to start on that'll make it easier for my younger daughter. My five year old is also going to get extra practise with basic math and measurement out of this stuff that seems to fascinate her too I reckon.

After a while, a lot of friends started to gift us with interesting things from their recycling bin! Yesterday we got given a load of those weird plastic Costco apple containers and today we got a load of honeycomb structured cardboard to play with. I'm always rather excited by these kinds of things and the many possibilities they present for construction. Happily these days, having had the blog for nearly two years, I am lucky enough to have run into a lot of other people out there that find the contents of their friend's recycling bins as full of potencial as we do! Yay intertoobs! I actually have to say a few thank yous to some of these people in my next post.
When el hubberino brought home all that cardboard from his workplace today, the kids were just as excited to handle it and talk about all the things it could become as I was, and that makes me loopy kinds of happy. Please let it be sunny tomorrow!

I know some of you hoard this kind of stuff for your kids to create with. C'mon, share your set up with us in the comments! Have you written a blog post about it? I want to see the junk in your trunk, or rubbish in your bin if you're from the UK :)