Tag Archives: science

Playdough Circuits and Outdoor Painting

We have had quite a busy day today.

After breakfast this morning Thomas and Jasmine were having their usual discussion about who is taller and who is older (Thomas is taller and Jasmine is 1 minute older!) when Thomas asked how old the universe was. I suggested he look in our “Children’s Atlas of the Universe” because that was a fact I didn’t know off the top of my head! We actually didn’t find the answer, but they started looking at moons and planets and were happy to look at each planet in turn and found out out some interesting facts.

We learned that Uranus is likely to have been hit by a large object as it was forming, knocking it over on its side and causing its tilt. We learned that Venus and Mercury have no moons and we learned that Jupiter has 49 moons, although Wikipedia has since shown this to be incorrect so our book must be out of date! *Jupiter actually has 67 confirmed moons if you are interested.

After looking at the book for a while we moved on to our next activity; we made Playdough circuits.

I have wanted to do this since I saw it on another blog (An ordinary life) a while ago. All you need is an LED, a 9v PP3 battery, a connector and some playdough, and we finally went to Maplins yesterday to get the connectors!

All you do is connect the battery connector to the battery and then place the red (positive) wire in one lump of playdough and the black (negative) wire in another. Make sure the lumps of playdough are not touching each other. Then simply connect your LED to the 2 lumps of playdough to make the circuit. The positive end of the LED (the longer wire) goes in the playdough with the red wire and the negative end (the shorter wire) goes in the playdough with the black wire.

I drew diagrams for the kids to follow and they had fun making the LEDs light up, especially the flashing “party lights” one that Daddy had left them! Even Ben managed to do it with minimal help and it was great that this was an activity all 3 kids could take part in and enjoy.

When we had finished, as I was packing everything away, Jasmine asked me if she could make some Easter Egg pictures. I explained that as Easter had now passed maybe she could do some flower or spring pictures instead. Somewhere in my sentence I must have said the magic word “paint” and all of a sudden I had 3 children jumping around with excitement because they love painting!

It has been lovely and sunny here today so I thought we’d have our first outdoor painting session of the year! We have a long garage that goes down the side of our back garden. It is painted white, so is the perfect canvas for kids art! I vary whether I tape paper along the side for them to paint on or just let them paint on the garage itself. Today I put paper up so that if it does rain I can take it down and their picture won’t be instantly washed away!.

This afternoon we went to see our friends from Caterpillar Tales and spent a lovely couple of hours with them drawing and playing in their garden.

Today has been a busy day, but we’ve had lots of fun!

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The Big Bang Fair

The plan for today was to head up into London to go to The Big Bang Fair. Well, that was the plan.

Then Jasmine woke up some time around 3am last night and was suddenly really poorly.. so the new plan was for me to stay at home with her and Ben while Gordon and Thomas went to the Fair.

So now I have to try and write a blog post about an event I didn’t go to! Gordon has tried to explain all the things they got up to so here goes..

The first area they went to was “The Next Factor”, which included the space themed stands and activities.  At the Kennedy Space Centre stand they watched a semi-autonomous model moon rover and Thomas got to help launch an air rocket by pumping a foot pump and pressing the air release button. They visited the Herschal stand and had a go at a galaxy spotting game (that they didn’t really understand!), got some space themed posters from the Royal Observatory stand and then went to the Astrium stand where they watched a Mars Rover drive round a mock Martian terrain. The stand team stopped driving the Rover to allow Thomas to have his photo taken with it!

Thomas was getting a little bit overdone at this point so Gordon suggested an early lunch, but even heading to the picnic area they watched some radio control cars and played a bubble organ and during lunch they watched a Landrover driving around a ramp/trailer based assault course

During lunch they met up with our friends from Caterpillar Tales and they all headed over to the Sea Life stand so Thomas could indulge his passion for sharks (and pick up another leaflet!). Then they moved over to a medical stand where they talked about how to stablilse a person who had been knocked of a bicycle. At another stand they looked at some Daphnia under a microscope, which was particularly interesting for Thomas because that is what we feed our fish! Lastly they looked at themselves with a Thermal Imaging camera and noticed different parts of their body were different colours, and they could make hand-heat prints on each other.

On the way out Thomas got another photograph, this time with a Formula One car.

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Magna Science Adventure Centre

We are currently in Sheffield for a few days, staying with Grandma and Grandad (my parents). We have played in the snow (which is much deeper than at home!) and visited my Nana (my mum’s mum, bringing 4 generations together) and then today we went to Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham.

Opened in 2001, Magna is located in an old steel mill. It is split into 6 pavilions; Air, Water, Earth, Fire, Aqua-Tek and Sci-Tek. Aqua-Tek and Sci-Tek are outdoor zones and only open March to October so we didn’t see these today.

We started in the Fire Pavilion. We actually had some drama getting there because you have to walk through the relics of the original foundry to reach the pavilions and the kids were all quite scared of how dark it was! Add to that the noise coming from “The Big Melt”, a pyrotechnic and audio display of the steel making process, and it made for quite a authentic experience!

So we reached “Fire” and already had 3 children who weren’t sure they wanted to stay! We started off watching an ice crystal melt, did some metal casting and tried a heat conduction experiment. Thomas, at least, started to enjoy himself! We watched an electric arc in action, pressed lots of buttons and watched the Fire Tornado!

Fire Tornado at MagnaNext we moved on to “Air”. As you step out of the lift you see the Cloud Rings display. This was a great introduction to this pavilion and  everyone enjoyed having a go. Finally, Jasmine and Ben thought it would be OK to stay!

Making Smoke RingsInside this pavilion we played with an Air Cannon, made music with bottles, hammers and bells, watched sound waves travel along a tube and blew into an Air Tornado to watch it collapse and reform.

After lunch we headed for “Earth.” Everyone was looking forward to this because they have life-size JCBs to control! After several minutes of diggers, the kids found the Quarry experience and spent a long time blasting, collecting “rocks” in wheelbarrows and grading them on the Rock Sorter.

Lastly, we went into the “Water” pavilion. Here we found out our weight in water, navigated boats through Canal Locks, made waves and squirted water canons. Oh, and got very, very wet!




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Cold Weather Science

It has been rather cold overnight for the last couple of days and this had provided us with lots of learning opportunities!

We began yesterday by simply bringing some ice, that had formed in a water filled barrel in the garden, inside for the kids to play with. They played with it for ages. They talked about solids and liquids, freezing and melting, how to melt it quicker (and then blowing on it) and probably much more that I can’t remember!

Playing with iceBut then of course they started to run out of ice. So they wanted more! I gave them the few remaining ice cubes we had in the freezer and we re-froze some of the pieces we still had left and this kept them going for a while longer.

We did an experiment with hot and cold water and they discovered that ice melts quicker in hot water. They also worked out that smaller pieces of ice melt quicker than larger ones. We talked about how to make ice and I gave them a small cup of water each to put in the freezer and make some themselves. We also filled 2 other containers with water and placed some small plastic toys in the water and then put these in the freezer as well.

Then last night before they went to bed we filled 2 balloons with water and hung them outside. I also set up another experiment with 2 cups of water, one just water and one we added salt to, and these also went outside. Finally I put water in one of the gravel trays to cover the bottom and left this outside as well.

And so today our ice play continued! We looked at the water/salt water cups and found that while the water had frozen, the salt water had not. Then I got the gravel tray in and gave the kids the ice they had “made” yesterday (with and without toys in) and they spent a lot of time “pecking” at ice with toy dinosaurs! The dinosaurs lived on the icebergs and needed to rescue all sorts of friends! It was fabulous to see their imaginations in action!

Dinosaurs on ice!

Towards the end the toy fish/sea creatures got added to the game as well and this gave me another idea. Tonight I have put the fish and other sea creatures in the gravel tray with a very thin covering of water and I am hoping that they will become frozen in ice, to be rescued tomorrow!

We also still have our balloon ice marbles to play with tomorrow. They didn’t freeze so well outside last night (I think we put too much water in!) so they have been in the freezer all day today!

Who would have thought that some frozen water could provide 2/3 days of activities!


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The gluestick is back .. and so is the computer

Today has been a day of 2 halves.

This morning we got the junk modelling out. I was back to 3 kids and a gluestick, cardboard boxes, sellotape, modelling foam, pipe cleaners, pompoms, stickers, cotton wool .. um, and probably more!

Thomas made a “structure” (his words) of trees, a house and grass and snow

Trees, a house, grass and snow

Ben did “cutting and sticking”

cutting and sticking

and Jasmine made several things including a snow picture, a egg box bubble catcher and 2 picture collages made with modelling foam

Sea, Sand and a Boat

Our finished models

Junk Modelling

This afternoon Jasmine asked to “do maths on the computer.” It is the first time in ages that one of them has wanted to do anything on the computer and I had given up asking them because I always got a straight “No” answer! She asked to do “purple maths, you know the one Mummy.” Actually, I didn’t have a clue! I put Education City on and she was happy with that!

I have to admit, I love the fact that they wanted to do some “learning” on the computer. I don’t do any formal work with them unless they ask and even though this is the choice I have made and I know it works for us all, I do sometimes start to feel guilty that I am not “teaching” them anything. It is a load of rubbish of course. They are still learning all the time through the world around them, the places we go, the books we read, the people we see, the toys they play with every day, but still I have these moments of guilt. So when she asked to go on the computer I could have jumped for joy!

She did some maths and science on Education City and did really well. My mind was put at ease to see she hadn’t forgotten everything she’d done previously. In fact, even without the computer “learning” for the last few months she had improved! She did some addition (with the help of the sorting bears), a coin recognition game, a game about today/tomorrow/yesterday, a floating/sinking game and a caterpillar/butterfly life-cycle game.

Maths on the computer

The sorting bears got everyone else’s attention (they all love the sorting bears), so once Jasmine had finished it was Thomas’ turn. I wasn’t surprised he had wanted to join in because I think it is him that started this “academic” phase in the 2 of them.. 4 days ago he decided he would read the bed time story to everyone! As with the computer, neither of them have shown an interest in reading for a few months, and then he picked up a book and read it! It took him a bit longer than it would have done a few months ago but he did it and he has wanted to read a book every day since! Today he did some maths, science and literacy on Education City, watched diligently by Ben.

Boys on the computer

And then it was Ben’s turn. Well, of course he wanted a turn. He has to do everything his brother and sister do! So first I got the animal counters out for him and we did some sorting and grouping. I discovered he could name red, blue, green and yellow! I know he can count to 10 but today he wasn’t interested in demonstrating this.. Oh well, I can’t have everything can I! Then I loaded a Numtums game on the CBeebies website and he loved that! His first ever game, just for him, on the computer!   The game involves lots of very short games all to do with the number you have chosen and there is lots of repetition. As I chose the “play with an adult” option all Ben had to do was press the spacebar, which was perfect for him. He loved it! We selected the number 3  and after a while I asked him what number we were looking for…….. wait for it…… “um, six mummy!” He does love the number 6. I think it is because it is Percy’s number (from Thomas the Tank Engine, Percy being his favourite engine!) Ah well, maybe I should get the corresponding Engine to show him next time and see if that helps!

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The Best Type of Learning

Learning through play…. At Home Ed Group today (actually our first time at this particular group), they had some electronics kits out and one very happy little girl came and showed me this:

All her own work, and very proud she was!

My phone battery then ran out so I didn’t manage to get any more pictures but both her and Thomas made a few more circuits with switches and buzzers included too! I think I may need to ask Santa for this 😉

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Trip to Greenwich Observatory

Yesterday we went to the Royal Observatory in Greenwich with one of our lovely local Home Ed Groups.

We had been looking forward to this trip for a long time as Thomas and Jasmine both love anything to do with Space and Planets, and I imagine Ben will go the same way (he can’t not do really as he is surrounded by Space books and other resources in our house!).

Our first session of the day was a Moon Walking Workshop. This included an introduction to the planets and then a role play journey to the moon. Jasmine did really well with this and it is lovely to see her developing confidence and joining in. She even sat (with me) under the Parachute “rocket” on the return journey to Earth 🙂 Thomas still struggles with this type of thing though and at one point got quite upset about the thought of “going to the moon”. He did enjoy the clips of a Rocket launch and the Apollo Moon Missions however!

After lunch we had a quick look around the Weller Astronomy Galleries before our session in the Planetarium. The show we saw follows Ted (a teddy bear) in his search for the Great Big Bear. Ted visits the Sun, the Moon and all 8 planets, before retuning to Earth and finding the Great Big Bear in the night sky.

I was slightly concerned about how this would go with all 3 children as Jasmine is currently scared of the dark, Thomas is very scared of the unknown and Ben .. well, he is only 2! There were a couple of “moments” where eyes were closed and hands were grasped a bit tighter but on the whole, they all did really well and I was so proud of them!

We ended the day with the obligatory trip to the museum shop 😉

We all had a really great day and, as usual, I came away feeling very lucky to have such a fantastic Home Ed community on my doorstep 🙂

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