Tag Archives: STEM

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

A few weeks ago I spotted a packet of Gelli Baff in my local toy shop and decided to treat my son to a Gelli Baff bath. It was brilliant fun and we all ended up having a go. It’s really tactile so I thought it would be something we could use for some sensory play. Today it’s been too grey and wet to go to the park, so I assembled some stuff and we had an hour or so of dinosaur sensory activities.

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

The Gelli Baff is available in a range of colours but I opted for “slime green” which seemed about the right shade to create a dinosaur swamp with. Gelli Baff comes with a sachet of dissolver, so when you’ve finished it just washes down the plughole like water. It’s safe for children and fine for sensitive skin. It also has a pleasant fragrance.

A packet of Gelli Baff costs £5.99 and there’s enough for one bath in the pack. But if you want to use it for sensory play you can probably get a minimum of five trays of goop out of a packet.

How to create a Dinosaur Sensory Activity box

You will need:
One plastic storage box. I used an IKEA Trofast Storage box
Gelli Baff
Warm water
Selection of dinosaurs and dino accessories

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

How to make your dinosaur sensory activity box:
In your clean plastic box pour in six pints of warm water, you can add more if you need to later. Weigh out 30g of the Gelli Baff powder and stir it in. It should turn to jelly fairly quickly. If the texture is too firm for you, add some more warm water until you’re happy with it.

Grab your dinos and put them in the box, let your imagination run wild.

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

Once you’ve finished playing with your dinosaur sensory activity box you can sprinkle over the dissolving powder and then just pour it down the sink.

Tips:

Although Gelli Baff doesn’t stain (or shouldn’t), you might want to wear an apron to protect your clothes.

My son LOVED this activity and decided he wanted to make a pond for the dinosaurs to drink out of and swim in. We used a small plastic bowl, this definitely added an extra dimension to his play.

I put the washing up bowl nearby so any dinosaurs he’d played with could go in there and be rinsed off afterwards. Some of the goo did cling to them a bit. I’m a big fan of tidy as you go and this helped.

We played with this in the kitchen which was fine because if there was mess it could be mopped up. If you’re playing with this in a carpeted room I’d but a wipe clean cloth down under the box to minimise the mess.

Children might like to use tools in the sensory box; we used some normal teaspoons to dig the goo out for the pond.

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

What did we learn?

My son loves dinosaurs, so for him this was a really good way of stretching his imagination by creating a habitat for his dinosaurs. For me it was a good way of expanding his vocabulary and exploring new ways to describe things.

We founds words such as; squishy, wobbly, gooey, warm, cold, soft and grainy which all described the Gelli Baff well.

We also closed our eyes and felt around for tiny dinos in the goo. When we found them we had to try to feel to guess what kind of dinosaur we had. This was a great game and one he really enjoyed.

For a more interesting tactile sensory experience; make the Geli Baff up with quite warm water and children can explore the different temperatures as the gelli cools while they play with it.

He mostly enjoyed just playing with the dinosaur sensory activity box, and who can blame him?

Learning: Dinosaur Sensory Gelli Baff Activity Box

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like to try Growing Egg and Cress Heads.

Book Review: Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti

We’ve been learning a lot about nature recently, going on nature trails and exploring our local environment. Alongside that we’ve been doing some reading about nature and the natural world. To complement that, we’ve spent some time doing some o the nature activities in a really interesting book called Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti.

Hello Nature is a wonderfully illustrated 160 page nature scrapbook. It’s full of interesting facts and activities to help you explore and learn more about nature. The book encourages you to “draw, colour, make and grow” all over its pages.

Book Review: Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti

Colour in butterflies, leaves, frogs, pebbles and much more; discover more about what different kinds of snowflakes there are; learn about how leaves are formed; make your own leaf prints and twig sculptures; and make bird feeders and grass whistles. Hello Nature is packed with simple nature activities for children.

Hello Nature is aimed at children aged 7-11 years, but it’s so beautiful it would make a great present for anyone interested in drawing or painting nature.

You don’t have to live in the countryside to make the most of this book. You can use it to explore your back garden or local park. Take it with you to the beach and find out more about the shells you find and the creatures you may find in a rockpool.

Book Review: Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti

The book is split into four seasonal sections; with crafts, activities and things to draw, paint and colour in each section. It’s a wonderful nature scrapbook you can dip in and out of throughout the year, noting the changing of the seasons and the nature around you. It is the kind of book which you can pull out at half terms and school holidays and spend a few afternoons working on. It’s a lovely project to do throughout the year and something special to look back on at a later date.

The illustrations by Nina Chakrabarti are beautifully detailed and the words are insightful, encouraging the reader to explore what the see, feel and experience. How does bark feel? How does the forest smell? It encourages you to be more aware of the natural world and experience it will all of your senses. Something I very much approve of.

Book Review: Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti

Hello Nature has arrived at just the right time for us. We are going camping in the woods later this month; so we will take this and use it to help identify trees, leaves, insects and do some lovely nature based activities.

Hello Nature by Nina Chakrabarti costs £12.99. It’s published by Laurence King and is available from a wide range of bookshops including Amazon.

For details of more children’s books published by Laurence King, visit their website.

Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Hello Nature for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

Book Review & Giveaway: Space Number Crunch!

A little while ago we reviewed Dinosaur Number Crunch! by Kevin Pettman and we were very taken with how the facts were presented in a bite-size style, you could really dip in and out of it and it’s a firm favourite. We knew there were more books planned in the Number Crunch series, so we were pleased to get our hands on Space Number Crunch! which is published on 12th July 2018.

Space Number Crunch! contains 96 pages of facts, figures and out of this world stats to please any space fan. From the biggest planet, fastest asteroid to astronaut facts, every page of the book is packed full of space data.

Book Review & Giveaway: Space Number Crunch!

It’s aimed at children aged 8+, but it’s just right for my space loving seven and a half year old. Space Number Crunch! is full of colourful illustrations and graphics. These’s even a quiz at the end to check your learning.

Space Number Crunch! covers a whole range of space related topics, from the planets and stars, the astronaut training, comets, galaxies and space agencies. It’s a really handy reference book; we’ve been reading in a few pages at a time before bed, and in the car on long journeys too.

It’s very much the kind of book you can dip in and out of and absolutely perfect for fact fans like my son. It’s very well put together. I like the themed pages and it means you can find the facts you want quickly. It’s probably the most informative and interesting book about space we’ve read.

Book Review & Giveaway: Space Number Crunch!

If you’re interested in everything to do with space, this Space Number Crunch! book is essential reading. This flexicover book is available to buy from 12th July 2018. This would make a truly out of this world gift for space enthusiasts!

Space Number Crunch! is published by Carlton Kids and costs £9.99. It’s available in all good bookshops and online now.

 

If you enjoyed this, you might also like my pick of five books about science.

WIN A COPY OF Space Number Crunch!

To be in with a chance to win a copy of Space Number Crunch! simply complete the Rafflecopter widget below. Good luck!

Check out our other giveaways over on our competitions page.

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Disclosure: We were sent a copy of Space Number Crunch! for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own.

STEM Toys: Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure Range

Living next door to a nature reserve we often find we have unexpected visitors in our garden. We try to do our bit to encourage and support wildlife and we’re always on the lookout for interesting birds or insects to learn more about. Brainstorm Toys have recently launched an Outdoor Adventure range designed especially for junior explorers. We put a few of them to the test.

Toy Review: Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure Range

The Outdoor Adventure Magnifier is a handheld 2x-3x-4x magnifier which is ideal for on-the-go explorations, field trips and outdoor adventures. We put it to the test in our garden, taking a closer look at some plants and flowers and having a good look at some tiny aphids we found feasting on my rose bush. The magnifying glass is a pretty essential bit of kit and has so many uses. It costs around £12.99 and although that may seem a little pricey, it’s much better quality than cheaper kids magnifying glasses.

STEM Toys: Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure Range

The Outdoor Adventure Binoculars were a real hit. They are pocket-sized and light weight and have 4x magnification; 30mm glass lenses and they have a break-away lanyard for safety. We especially liked the built-in compass on the top, which helped us to talk in greater depth about navigation skills and North – South – East – West (or Never Eat Shredded Wheat as we’ve been teaching him).

He sat for some time in the garden listening out for birds and looking to see them in the trees. We will definitely be taking these on holiday with us, he will really enjoy nature hunts in the woods! These Outdoor Adventure Binoculars are an ideal first pair of binoculars for children and cost around £9.99. A solid investment for nature loving kids!

STEM Toys: Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure Range

Lastly we tried the Outdoor Adventure Night Vision Torch. The night vision torch has a bright red LED light which works with your natural adapted night vision to help you see more easily in the dark. It’s perfect for night hikes and map reading and would be great for taking on camping trips.

Unfortunately once we’d set it up and put batteries in it, it got dropped and we can’t get it to work again. So it remains untested, which is a shame because my son was super-excited to take it camping with us in a few weeks.

Despite dropping the night vision torch, we’ve had lots of fun with the Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure range. We will definitely be packing the magnifier and binoculars to take camping in the woods with us later this year. If you’ve got nature loving little ones, these Outdoor Adventure products are well worth a try.

For more information about the Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure range, visit their website.

Disclosure: We were sent some items from the Brainstorm Outdoor Adventure Range for review purposes. All images and opinions are our own. This post contains affiliate links.

Children’s Books: Five Roarsome Books about Dinosaurs!

I write about our love of dinosaurs quite a lot on this blog. We have toys, games, dino figurines, DVDs and stacks and stacks of books about dinosaurs. We have a good selection of non-fiction books about dinosaurs, but we also have a couple of fiction books about them too, like Dinosaurs love Underpants. For this round-up we’ve chosen five of our favourite non-fiction books about dinosaurs; because if there’s one thing we love, it’s a big book of dinosaur facts!

Children's Books: Five Roarsome Books about Dinosaurs!

Five Roarsome Books about Dinosaurs!

Lift-the-flap Questions and Answers about Dinosaurs by Katie Daynes has been one of our favourite dino books for a year or so now. It’s beautifully illustrated and wonderfully engaging. This interactive flap book will answer all kinds of questions. It’s great for young readers, my son sits for hours reading and lifting the flaps. It’s a real favourite!

Dinosaur Number Crunch! by Kevin Pettman is a snappily written, fact-packed overview of the world of dinosaurs. It’s jam-packed full of colourful, well-illustrated facts. It contains all the essential info that dinosaur fans need to know; such as where they lived, what they ate, how big they were, how fast they could run, how many teeth they had and their key weapons. You can read our full review of this book here, but it’s one of our favourites!

National Geographic Kids: Little Kids First Big Book of Dinosaurs by Catherine D. Hughes is for children aged 4- to 8-years-old who LOVE dinos! This fact packed book brings the prehistoric world to life with dinosaurs small, big, giant, and gigantic. The book is easy to read and contains lots of age appropriate information, better still, there’s an interactive element, so if you want to find out more, you can do!

The Complete Book of Dinosaurs by Dougal Dixon is the ultimate guide to 355 dinosaurs from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous Periods. It includes more than 900 illustrations, maps, timelines and photographs. It is the ultimate dinosaur guide for children who want to take their knowledge to the next level.

Usborne Pop-Up Dinosaurs by Fiona Watt is perfect for littler ones. This adorably illustrated book is ideal for mini dino fans. The book features all kinds of dinosaurs which pop up and move. Learn a little more about each dinosaur, from the long-necked Brachiosaurus, the triceratops with sharp horns, and the most famous dinosaur of them all, Tyrannosaurus Rex! It’s simply written and a delightful book to share with small children.

We are always looking for new books about dinosaurs to read at home. Have we missed any that we absolutely must get? Please let us know in the comments.

Children's Books: Five Roarsome Books about Dinosaurs!

This post contains affiliate links.

5 places to take Science mad kids in the North West

As the parent of a science mad child, we seem to spend a lot of our free time in science museums and visitors centres getting hands on with the sciences. As a result we’ve had some brilliant days out in our hometown of Manchester and across the North West. Today I’m sharing with you five of our favourite places to visit in the North West for science mad kids.

Manchester Museum of Science and Industry

I can’t even contemplate writing about science in the north without mentioning the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry. It’s a huge and iconic site, you can pop in for a quick hour or very easily spend a whole day exploring, learning and getting hands on. They have a wide range of permanent and temporary exhibits as well as lots of hands on things to do.

Tim Peake science

As I write this they have Tim Peak’s Spacecraft on display as a temporary exhibit as well as the vast number of permanent displays including the Power Hall, Air and Space Hall, Textiles Gallery, Revolution Manchester and explore some artifacts from the Liverpool and Manchester Railway. Take a ride on one on the working steam trains along the track at the museum.

It’s such a great day out, slap-bang in the heart of Manchester City Centre. Find out what’s on at the Manchester Museum of Science and Industry on their website.

Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, Widness

The Catalyst Science Discovery Centre is the only museum in the UK which explores the science and technology behind the chemical industry. Packed with lots of hands-on exhibits, activities and demonstrations it’s one of our favourite places to visit with our son. They have an ever-changing programme of hands on exhibits as well as a fabulous observatory, a “Scientrific” Gallery and the Alchemy Theatre & Catalytic Discovery Lab.

It’s a brilliant science-packed place to visit, we love it there! For more information about the Catalyst Science Discovery Centre, visit their website.

Jodrell Bank Observatory, Cheshire

Most people will recognise the Jodrell Bank Observatory in Cheshire as the place where Stargazing Live is filmed. Jodrell Bank is owned and run by the University of Manchester and it is the home of the Lovell Telescope, the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It is open to the public and has a lovely new visitors centre as well as fantastic hands-on exhibits and gardens to explore, as well as the chance to have a look at the Lovell Telescope up close and personal.

You can read about our visit to Jodrell Bank Observatory here. For more information about Jodrell Bank Observatory visit their website.

Jodrell Bank science

Spaceport Planetarium, Wallasey

Spaceport is small, but well worth a visit if you’re in the area. With its focus on space and space travel, this attraction is suited to visitors aged 7+. Visitors learn about space as they walk through different themed galleries, which all have a variety of interactive and audio-visual exhibits, the highlight of which is a visit to the brilliant Spacedome planetarium itself.

Read this review of Spaceport Planetarium from Mini Travellers.

For more information, visit the Spacedome Planetarium website.

Manchester Museum

Manchester Museum is such an iconic place to visit for Mancunian children. It has so many interesting things to explore and is packed full of science exhibits. There are lots of natural history exhibits, plus geology, archaeology, botany and Earth sciences to go and see. The big draws for us are Stan the reproduction cast of a fossilised Tyrannosaurus rex and upstairs the frog filled Vivarium, home to a large collection of endangered Costa Rican Frogs.

We visit Manchester Museum with almost alarming regularity. It’s a brilliant place to spend a few hours exploring and learning about all kinds of things.

For more information about Manchester Museum, visit their website.

There are so many fantastic places to visit in the North West. Where are your favourite places to take the kids to learn about science?

5 places to take Science mad kids in the North West

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Tasked with coming up with some interesting crafts and things to do with three children during the half term, I thought we’d start our week by making some egg and cress heads. I thought it would be interesting to watch them grow over the week. They’re easy to put together and all three had great fun making them and watching them grow over the week.

This activity is perfect for my 7 year old who is in Year 2. Cress grows incredibly quickly, and almost before your eyes. This fast growing crop was really exciting for the children to watch growing. Each day they found a new thing to be excited about. The best day was when they got to try eating the peppery cress, it’s a rare sight watching three children delightedly eating their greens!

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Growing egg and cress heads is a great opportunity for children to talk about their observations about how the seed grows into a plant and guessing what will happen next. It can also help to promote scientific thinking and helps with linking science to real life experiences.

Growing Egg and Cress Heads

You will need:
A hard boiled egg each
Cotton wool
Cress seeds
Felt tips to decorate your egg

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

How to make your egg and cress heads:
Hard boil your eggs and get a grown up to carefully take the top off and scoop out the egg inside.

Gently decorate your egg however you want. We drew pictures of cats and dogs on ours, but you could do almost anything.

Fluff up some cotton wool and put it inside the egg. Then pour some water over the cotton wool. Sprinkle some cress seeds on the top of the cotton wool and put on a windowsill in an egg cup.

Check the progress of your seeds every day, sprinkle more water on the seeds every so often. Within a week all of your seeds should have sprouted and your egg head should have a thick crop of cress hair!

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy this Jelly Bean STEM Architecture

STEM Learning: Growing Egg and Cress Heads

Learning: Take the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge

We are getting quite into STEM crafts and activities at home now. We’ve been busy with jellybean architecture, made a sponge house to grow cress on and this week we’ve been using the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards from Mrs Mactivity and seeing what we could create.

Lego play is well known for having all kinds of great developmental benefits, these include –

  • Promoting fine motor skills
  • Encouraging team work
  • Improving creativity
  • Developing problem solving and mathematical thinking
  • Improving communication skills
  • Developing lateral thinking and planning skills

Crafts: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

Developing STEM (Science, technology, Engineering and Maths) skills and encouraging an interest in these areas is so important for all children. I’m lucky that my son is very keen on science and engineering; not so much maths, but we’re working on that. He absolutely loves playing with Lego too, so these Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards were absolutely perfect for him.

We printed out the Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards and gathered a few boxes of Lego together. We each chose a challenge and got to work. I made the heart, the present and spelled out the word LOVE. He did an arrow, a heart and he also wrote the word LOVE in Lego.

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

It was really interesting for us to do something a bit different with our Lego and nice to build something which wasn’t a Lego City or Ninjago set. I can see how it worked his problem solving muscles, trying to find the right piece to go in the right place, picking and choosing colours and carefully following the visual instructions on the cards.

I think it’s also helped to show him that he doesn’t just have to build the sets, that he can be a little more creative with his Lego. He especially enjoyed writing with it and went on the write his name and mine. This is definitely something we can build on together at home.

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

This was most definitely a fun thing to do together and the learning is obvious to me, but it’s just fun for him!

The Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards are available to download on the Mrs Mactivity website. You can also find a good selection of other activity sheets there – all designed to be fun and educational too!

 

Learning: Valentine’s Lego STEM Challenge Cards

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.