Tag Archives: education

STEM Crafts: Learning with Jelly Bean Architecture

If you want to keep my 7 year old son entertained for an hour; give him a bowl of jelly beans, a packet of cocktails sticks, show him the rudiments and watch him build all kinds of wonderful things. Welcome to the wonderful world of jelly bean architecture.

STEM Crafts: Learning with Jelly Bean Architecture

I confess, jelly bean architecture is not an invention of mine. When we went to the Just So Festival last year, my son spent a happy hour or so building with jelly beans. It’s something that we’ve revisited at home a few times since and it’s great fun; not to mention wonderfully educational and developmental!

You need two things to start building – lots of jelly beans (we get cheap bags of them from the petrol station, there’s no need to go gourmet with these) and lots of cocktail sticks. You will also need the knack. The first few times you try to spear a jelly bean onto a cocktail stick, chances are you will stab your finger instead. The trick is to hold the jelly bean on a flat surface and carefully press down, piercing the hard sugary coating.

STEM Crafts: Learning with Jelly Bean Architecture

You should think of each jelly bean as a corner piece. You can probably fit up to four cocktail sticks into a single jelly bean. Whatever kind of structure you’re building, the only limit is your imagination.

We find it best to warm up by building some simple 3D shapes, pyramids and cubes are great. How many cubes can you stack on top of each other? Can you fit a pyramid on the top? Who will eat the last jelly bean? You can then move on to more complex structures. In the picture here Ben has built a fire station.

STEM Crafts: Learning with Jelly Bean Architecture

Jelly bean architecture is perfect for budding architects and structural engineers. Anyone who is interested in building and construction, 3D shapes, maths, anything like that, plus it’s tremendous fun! It’s probably the most enjoyable STEM craft we’ve done together.

STEM Crafts: Learning with Jelly Bean Architecture

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Christmas is a time for crafting and creating with the kids. We love doing Christmas crafts and we were excited when we heard that ex Blue Peter presenter and craft queen Konnie Huq, had partnered with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to create a selection of homemade STEM toys for Christmas.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Konnie Huq has put her Blue Peter powers to practice for a good cause, making Britain’s most popular Christmas toys at home for a fraction of the cost. The Christmas STEM toys she has created include –

  • Dissolving egg
  • Magnetic slime
  • Icosahedron bauble
  • Marble run
  • Balloon boat
  • Bouncy balls
  • Smartphone projector
  • Living gingerbread house
  • Kaleidoscope

Konnie has put together a set of free to download how-to instructions for all of the above crafts.

Konnie, who spent over ten years craft-making on Blue Peter, is supporting a campaign by the Institution of Engineering and Technology to inspire more children to consider careers in engineering. The toys are designed to make learning about science, tech, engineering and mathematics (STEM) more accessible and affordable. These handmade STEM toys – which include a dissolving egg, magnetic slime, a kaleidoscope and even a smartphone projector – are educational, as well as fun.

Making your own slime is so popular right now, but we thought we would try something a little different. We really liked the idea of building our own living gingerbread house.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Make your own living gingerbread house

You will need:
A number of plain sponges
Scissors
Toothpicks
Small plate
Seeds
Spray bottle (clean)

How to make a living gingerbread house
Choose one or two sponges to be your base. Fix them together with a cocktail stick, remember these are sharp so be careful of your fingers.

Choose more sponges to be the walls. Cut one sponge in half across the longest
side (i.e. make two regular rectangles, not two long strips) and fix those onto the shorter sides of your base with cocktail sticks. Fix two sponges onto the longer sides of the base.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Take two sponges and cut them down their long side on an angle so that they fit together to form the apex of a roof. Fix them together with cocktail sticks, put on the top of your structure and fix into place with more cocktail sticks. You should now have a house shape made of sponges. Put your house onto a plate.

If your house is a bit wobbly, you can secure it using a glue gun or some craft glue. If you have used glue, allow time for the glue to dry and set before you move on to the next stage.

Next, you need to cover the house with seeds. You can use mustard or cress but
there are many fast sprouting seeds, so the choice is yours. We chose cress.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

Dab some water onto the roof of your house and spread the seeds onto the roof.
Pour a little water onto the plate so the sponge base can soak it up. Check the
sponge is nice and moist. Then sprinkle the seeds onto the base.

Leave your house in a warm, bright spot for the seeds to germinate. Spray the house with water using a spray bottle each day, and pour a little water over the house if it feels dry. In a few days the seeds should start to sprout, in a week they should be thriving.

Crafts: Make Your Own Christmas STEM Toys

It’s so easy and lots of fun to make too!

 Disclosure: We were sent a shopping voucher to buy the materials for this craft.

Learning: Encouraging Creativity in Kids

When I was pregnant with the boy we sat down and had a number of earnest discussions about how we would bring him up. We made many decisions and made plans for him, whilst understanding that if he was like us he’d be stubborn and stick to his own path, so we’d let him follow that, but we knew we wanted to encourage some creativity in him. So we did.

We both love music and we knew we wanted to encourage a love of music in him, we’d love him to play an instrument and enjoy playing for himself, but we would be happy if he just enjoyed listening to music. He does love listening to all kinds of music. He has a few small instruments, he likes his guitar, but he’s developing a real love of the drums, so much so we’re taking him African drumming over the weekend. Drumming gives him a lot of pleasure, though less so the people around him but I’m sure he’ll find his rhythm eventually.

We knew we wanted to encourage him to lose himself in a book. Reading is such a wonderful gift for the imagination. Since before he was born we’ve read to him nightly. When we have an afternoon together we often snuggle up with a pile of books. He’s too young to read by himself yet, but reading has given him such a wonderful, bright imagination, I love sharing that with him.

encouraging creativity in kids

It’s well documented that despite a three year stint in an art college (doing a journalism degree) that I am terrible at arts and crafts. I am comfortable with the shonky nature of what I produce and my main aim is to teach the boy that arts, music and general creativity are for fun and personal enjoyment. It doesn’t matter so much if it isn’t perfect, it matters more that you enjoyed doing it. If you happen to have a talent or a gift for the arts then so much the better.

One way we try and encourage his enjoyment is by taking him to various creative learning events such as arts festivals, the theatre and to see interesting and diverse things such as African drummers and such like. It’s lovely to see him respond positively and enthusiastically to the new, exciting and colourful things he sees, and the feedback from school nursery is that our efforts are paying off. We have a boy who gets stuck into music, dance and drawing, we couldn’t be prouder!

How do you encourage creativity in your kids?

Teaching children about money

I was in a shop this morning when I spotted a cute purse in the shape of a foxes face, it was only £2 so I bought it for my son. He is four and doesn’t get pocket money, nor do we intend to give it to him until the sheer weight of peer pressure is so great we can no longer fight it. Despite this he is starting to understand that money is important and that we use it to buy things. I thought it was high time he had his own purse to put in the money which other people sometimes give him.

I gave him £1 to start him off and his Dad gave him a few other coins. Over the next few weeks we’ll be talking about what the different coins are and their value and what you can buy for that, but really he’s just interested in going to a shop and swapping some of his money for some sweets, which is something we’ll be doing with him this week.

When I was growing up I used to get 50p pocket money each week from my Grandma, some of which I’d spend at the corner shop (in the days where you could still buy sweets for 1/2p) and some of which I would save. Saving is a really great habit to get into, I was a compulsive saver and the money I saved from when I was as young as 5 helped me during the lean times at university and beyond.

I still save today, as much as I can, it’s very little really but it’s a habit I can’t break but I know I will be grateful for when I come to the end of my working life. I’d love it if I could get him into the saving habit, but first things first, he needs to understand more about what money is and its value. I’ll let you know how that goes!

Teaching Children About Money

 

If you’re looking for lots of useful information on financial education, investments and money management you could visit the WealthWithin website to find out more there.

 

Toddler Fun Learning Videos on YouTube

I hate this time of year, if you’ve got a poorly toddler and the frozen rain (otherwise known as sleet) is lashing against the window; you’re less inclined to go out and about for ambles round your local park. Poorly toddlers are notoriously narky and difficult to entertain, which can result in some delightfully epic tantrums (not always his).

This afternoon it was particularly nippy and the toddler was particularly grumpy, so we decided to snuggle in mummydaddysbed™, drink hot chocolate and check out the YouTube videos from Toddler Fun Learning.

Toddler Fun Learning is a family-run British production company who produce videos for toddlers that look fantastic, but help your little loved ones with their counting, spelling, vocabulary and lots more. I was all over this concept because the boy is obsessed with YouTube, plus he has hearing problems which means his speech is a tiny bit behind, so if this can help then all the better.

watching videosWe watched a selection, including Twinkle Twinkle, Learn to count on Number Farm and The Wheels on the Bus. He loved them all. We watched them together (I’m very firm that the iPad is NOT a babysitter) and we sang along and chatted about what we saw; a cow; a hopping rabbit; a red tractor etc.

photo (28)He watched some of them several times over but particularly fell in love with “Lets Build a Steam Train: Learn about train parts“. He adores everything train related and this video showed all the pieces of a train with the words, I left the room briefly and returned to find him watching it for about the eighth time and reciting the words, which for me was brilliant I was so pleased.

He seemed to love all the videos, was engaged with them, laughed and got excited by them. We loved that the farm cartoons were mixed up with real footage of animals, he got so excited by that. I think the videos are great and a lovely learning tool for parents to enjoy with their toddlers.

NB. In a toddler nod to Hitchcock an orange cat appears somewhere in each of the videos. There’s no bonus prize if you spot it, but it is kinda fun.

The Toddler Fun Learning YouTube channel can be found here.