Discover Colombia: How to make a maraca

In studying Colombia, we were fascinated to learn about traditional maracas made from natural materials. These beautiful instruments are often large hollowed-out gourds with a wooden handle and might contain pebbles, or in the Andes mountain, smaller maraca called gapachos use seeds from the gapacho plant. It’s interesting to see how they contrast with the brightly painted wooden maracas that we are familiar with.

We decided to have a go making our own maraca using a few simple materials from around the house. We did a few different engineering builds and this was what we found worked best for us.

Materials you will need

Making your maraca

Start with a balloon

You’ll want to start by snuggling the empty end of a balloon onto the narrow end of a funnel. Pour in some dry rice or beans (give it a little shake to help them go in). Remove the funnel and blow air into the balloon. Kids are fascinated to watch what appears to be a solid shape still expand as the air pushes the sides out.

Tip: Blow up the balloon to the size of a really big coffee mug; the kind you reach for when the kids have been up till super late and then are awake before dawn the next day. We’ve found that you get better stability of the handle if you don’t make the balloon too big.

Attach a handle

Once you’ve tied off the balloon, take two popsicle sticks and tape these together to make a handle. I found it easiest to stick the balloon upside down and stretch the knot vertical along the base of the popsicle sticks to begin taping it. You’ll then want to use long pieces of tape (like compass points) to attach the handle to the balloon; add some horizontal lines of tape as well for extra support. When you’ve finished, the handle should be capable of standing tall in the air (though probably not strong enough to flip the maraca and give it a shake).

Make paper mache paste

I like to use a large plastic tray and my fingers. You’ll want to mix together equal parts flour : water; I also add salt as a preservative. I like to make mine fresh each day so I use 1/2 cup of flour plus about 1/2 cup water to begin with. You want to stir well so that you have a thick paste (you may need to add a little more water).

The great thing about adding your own paste is that you can be creative! We like to add different colours of glitter to each layer.

Start adding layers

Rip your paper into strips. It’s a good idea to have a mix of medium and short strips (with some variety of width). A small balloon is not the easiest surface to work on for this first layer so kids may need some adult assistance.

Tip: Do you need to use newspaper when doing paper mache? The answer is no. It’s a nice form of recycling but really you just need a porous paper that isn’t glossy. You know what else is brilliant for paper mache? Piles of old paintings and drawings (when you reach the point that there are too many to adorn the walls); these make for a fun and super colourful way of doing the layers!

Aim to paste on one layer of paper at a time. Remember to run strips from the handle down to the balloon, around the base of the handle, and along / around the handle itself.

Tip: I like to lay my strips on the paste (in the tray) and then pull it up, run my fingers along both sides to remove excess paste, and then place it on.

After each layer, leave your balloon for 24-48 hours to dry; placing it in the Hot Water Cupboard can help the drying process. It’s important that it has this time to air to avoid creating a habitat for mould. Paper mache projects teach patience.

You’ll only need 4-5 layers for the project. The top layer will ultimately be what is decorated.

Decorating your maraca

Kids can have so much fun with this! Here are just a few ideas:

Tip: If using paint, make sure that you leave plenty of time to dry between layers. Poster paint can be great for foundation layers but the water content means it has a longer drying time. We did several layers of white poster paint and then used acrylics for the detailing.

Engaging special needs kids

This is a very sensory (and time consuming) activity and not all aspects will appeal to all kids. This is a great opportunity to brainstorm all the different roles that would be involved in bringing this to market in the real world. If your child would prefer an adult to do the goopy paper mache part, help your child play to their strengths and interests by finding a project role that interests them.

Do they like planning? Every project needs a project manager to identify steps, keep the team on task, and create a report.

Do they like numbers? Consider allocating a budget for materials (especially decorations). Consider what kinds of costs you might have for a larger run (i.e. 10 or 100 maraca); what price point would you set your maraca at? How might price impact sales and profits?

Do they like art and design? They might enjoy being the hands-on graphic designer and/or art director. This could involve getting creative with the paste as it is mixed and decorating the finished maraca once it is dry. They might want to draw inspiration from Colombia’s beautiful birds; the stunning natural wonder of Caño Cristales (the rainbow waterfall); or the brightly coloured town of Guatapé.

Do they like big ideas? Would they like to be marketing director? This means working alongside the graphic designer to consider what style of art and use of colour would be a good idea. What will make this maraca unique?

Do they like building and creating things? As engineer, they might want to test different strategies for connecting the balloon and popsicle sticks to create a single stable unit capable of being shaken vigorously.

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – Madagascar (Deluxe Box)

What is in the Madagascar crate?

You begin by opening your travel mail from Milo and Anya to find out about their latest travel adventures! Miss 6 enjoys seeing them posing for selfies in the photos of Madagascar.

There is a passport sticker to add to our Adventure Passport and various cards about Madagascar to add to it as well. These range from a country map and cultural information, to activity cards with things to do. You can learn a few Malagasy words, discover unique animal species, have a go at painting Masonjoany, and make Godrogodro (a caramel spice cake).

We read our deluxe box book, Thank You, Baobab Tree, learning about how important these incredible trees are in Madagascar and how many uses they have. The baobab trees form an important part of the ecosystem as well as providing food, rich in vitamin C, and medicine.

One creature fond of the baobab tree is the lemur. The craft for this box is creating your own baobab tree, a launcher, and three lemurs. I did appreciate their eye for detail as you are given instructions on creating a ring-tailed lemur, an indri lemur, and a sifaka lemur.

Tip: You may want to use sellotape to help secure the inside flaps of the tree’s scooped branches and craft glue to help form a stronger attachment with the lemur components.

Learn to play Fanorona

Fanorona is a game of strategy indigenous to Madgascar. It is a game played by children and rulers alike. I love that it’s a visual-spatial non-linguistic game (perfect for kids whose learning strengths are in these areas).

The rules of Fanorona are reasonably simple but gameplay shows there is plenty of room for strategy, logic, and thinking ahead. We have very much enjoyed playing this multiple times.

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

#3 Discover France

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Exploring the Human Body through Art

Exploring Spring: Flower Press and Life Cycles

Exploring Science through Experiments

Madagascar chicken

While studying Madagascar, I was fascinated by their terraced rice fields (unusual for an African nation). The Malagasy people use rice as a part of all three meals and also draw on many cultural influences in their cooking.

One dish that particularly drew my attention was this idea for a simple marinade that would allow me to make good use of our bountiful lemon tree.

Ingredients

  • Fresh lemon zest
  • Ginger
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Coconut oil / Coconut cream
  • Chicken
  • Rice

Directions

Unlike most recipes, I’m keeping this simple since the focus is really on the combination of flavours used.

In a deep dish, place your chicken. You want something that will stay tender like chicken thighs or whole legs.

Onto the chicken, rub fresh lemon zest (the finely grated skin of the lemon), fresh grated ginger (or ground ginger), some crushed garlic, and coconut oil. Alternatively, use rice bran oil and add a little coconut cream to your finished dish.

Marinate the chicken overnight to absorb the flavours. Cook until tender using your choice of BBQ, skillet, or air fyer.

Serve with rice.

Consider adding a popular Malagasy side dish, such as Lasary Voatabia or Mofo Sakay.

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – France (Deluxe Box)

So many ways for kids to explore France and French culture!

What is in the France crate?

There are all kinds of fun activities to do in the France Crate including making a Tour de France cyclist, making your own ‘stained glass’ facade of Notre Dame, cooking, activities to try, and learning a little about France!

You begin by opening your travel mail from Milo and Anya to find out about their latest travel adventures! Miss 6 enjoys seeing them posing for selfies in the photos of France.

There is a passport sticker to add to our Adventure Passport and various cards about France to add to it as well. These range from a country map and cultural information, to activity cards with things to do. You can learn about famous places in France, learn about Impressionist art, have a go at mime, play the game escargot, and bake Gougères.

We did all of the activities in the box and had a lot of fun with them! Miss 6 especially loved doing mime work! We also added to the activities with additional resources from various sources. We used a variety of resources from Twinkl, including content on France, Paris, learning a little French, the Tour de France, and Monet. From our local library, some of our favourites were: “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been? I’ve Been to Paris and Guess What I’ve Seen…“, “Katie Meets The Impressionists“, “The Magical Garden of Claude Monet“. We enjoyed learning more about the Impressionists – like Monet, Renoir, and Degas. We also liked having a go at making our own impressionist paintings while talking about using art to express or inspire emotions.

Our Deluxe Box Book was “The Way to the Orsay Museum” by Hyo-Mi Park. It’s a lovely picture book about a mother and daughter travelling through Paris and the sights / landmarks they see on their way to view Monet’s painting at the Orsay. We liked that the Mother discussed Impressionism and conveying meaning through encouraging the viewer to reflect on their feelings and responses. We also liked the Afterword with its information on France.

How to make your own Tour de France cyclist

We did a little extra reading about the Tour de France using Twinkl resources and had fun making our own cyclist. Miss 6 found it a little tricky holding and pulling the ends of the string to make the cyclist’s legs move so I tied a wee knot. We worked out it could hang easily from a door knob or picture hook and then she can concentrate on just moving the string.

How to make your own ‘stained glass’ window

Notre Dame in Paris is such a stunning cathedral. We enjoyed researching it and after seeing it depicted in numerous books, Miss 6 was keen to make her own. The craft involves lining up a special piece of ‘plastic’ with the cardboard frame and then using the particular paint provided to create your own ‘stained glass rose window’. I found that using blutak to ‘clamp’ the sides in several places helped to secure it for the painting and drying process (we did two layers of paint). Once it’s dry, you move the painting to the back (it will still be slightly sticky to the touch when dry), remove the backing paper to reveal the layer of double sided tape, and secure the two pieces together. You now have a beautiful piece of artwork to display!

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Exploring the Human Body

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – Japan (Deluxe Box)

WHAT IS IN THE JAPAN CRATE?

Each Atlas crate includes a new sticker and country map for your Adventure Passport

There are all kinds of fun activities to do in the Japan Crate including making a game, a craft, cooking, drawing, and learning a little about Japan!

You begin by opening your travel mail from Milo and Anya to find out about their latest travel adventures! Miss 6 enjoys seeing them posing for selfies in the photos of Japan.

There is a passport sticker to add to our Adventure Passport and various cards about Japan to add to it as well. These range from a country map and cultural information, to activity cards with things to do. You can learn some karate, find out about cultural festivals, do some cooking, and learn to draw in kawaii (super cute) style. We did all of the activities in the box and had a lot of fun with them! We enjoyed learning how to make onigiri. Miss 6 loved the kawaii style so much that we picked up a copy of Mini Kawaii Doodle Cuties: Sketching Super-Cute Stuff from Around the World. It’s a handy addition to our World Studies library as it features food and monuments from around the world; i.e. for France you can learn to draw a kawii-style Eiffel Tower, macaron, and beret.

Our Deluxe Box Book was “I am Tama, Lucky Cat” by Wendy Henrichs. It’s a lovely picture book and we found the Afterword with it’s historical information and photographs really interesting for helping us learn more about why Manekineko (招き猫, lit. ‘beckoning cat’) are popular.

How to make your own koinobori

How to make your own koinobori

These carp streamers (or windsocks) are hung to celebrate Children’s Day  (こどもの日 or Kodomo no Hi), this is celebrated annually on the 5th of May. The carp represent courage and strength and this is reflected as well by the popular Japanese saying “koi no taki-nobori” (“koi climbing the rapids”). “The carp, evoking images of energy, power and courage, is a worthy symbol for overcoming life’s difficulties and achieving ultimate success.” [Mark Brazil].

I love how the everything is provided for the craft and, in true KiwiCo style, it is well thought out so that it appeals to a range of ages / abilities and no fiddly glue is provided. Children can customise their beautiful koinobori choosing from a colourful array of fabric ‘scales’ that are laid in an overlapping pattern over strips of special double-sided ‘tape’. There are many more scales than required to ensure plenty of choice and children are encouraged to explore their creativity by making each side of their carp different. Miss 6 finished one side of ‘Mr Carp’ then made him a bed, played with him, and added a row of scales each day to the second side so that he could slowly ‘grow’ and become older.

How to make your own Daruma Otoshi

Make your own Daruma Otoshi だるま落としゲーム

Daruma Otoshi is a traditional game played in Japan. ‘Daruma’ is the name of the doll and ‘otoshi’ means ‘to drop’. Taking the wooden mallet, you need to try and knock out the bottom wooden circle in such a way that everything above it falls straight down. If you can continue until Daruma drops, without it toppling over, then you win! The game can be played solo or with friends and is harder than it looks!

The crate comes with everything you need for the game. You get to design your own face from the range of stickers provided and there are plenty of spares 🙂

Tip: This ties in well with the physics of Kiwi Co’s Kiwi Crate Disc Launchers Box with its demonstrations of the law of inertia.

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

Flavours of the World: How to make Japanese onigiri

Onigiri is delicious and easy to make!

One of the wonderful things about homeschooling is that being in the kitchen can definitely be part of the curriculum! We’re studying Japan at the moment and one of the suggestions in our Kiwico Atlas Discover Japan box was to try our hand at onigiri.

At it’s simplest, onigiri is a fun gluten free snack that uses a sticky rice to create a treasure box sandwich around a delicious filling of your choice. They are wonderfully easy to make and can be as creative (or quick) as you like.

The key ingredient that you will need is Japanese Short Grain Rice. This is sometimes marketed as ‘sushi rice’ in Western supermarkets although this is actually a misnomer, the same rice can be used to make sushi but while sushi uses vinegar, salt, and sugar to provide seasoning, onigiri uses plain steamed rice and relies on the nori (dried seaweed) and filling for flavour.

Ingredients

Your choice of fillings; for instance:

  • Smoked salmon and cream cheese
  • Tinned tuna chunks + mayonnaise + cooked corn
  • Bonito flakes and soy sauce
  • Cooked chicken and avocado
All kinds of onigiri designs are possible

Think about what design you would like to use for your onigiri. If you want to keep it simple, use scissors to cut the nori sheets into smaller and shorter strips that you wrap around the base of the onigiri as a handhold. You can also get creative and decorate them into whatever you can imagine! There are fascinating videos on YouTube with plenty of ideas – be aware that fancier designs may utilize special tools to cut the seaweed and moulds to press the rice into. These can often be picked up cheaply online or from stores specializing in Japanese homewares.

Directions

  1. Cook your rice fresh and allow to cool slightly (it should be warm while making the onigiri). I like to use a rice cooker and make just enough rice for the meal.
  2. Prepare your filling while the rice is cooking.
  3. Have a bowl of water available to wet and wash your hands (the rice is sticky!).
  4. Traditionally, salt is rubbed onto both hands and helps to flavour the rice while you shape it. You then scoop some warm rice onto one hand, make it into a flattish nest shape, place 1-2 tsp of filling in the middle, then gently squeeze into a ball or triangular shape. Tip: If this feels a bit tricky, try lining a small bowl with gladwrap and laying the rice on top. Apply filling to centre, pop a little more rice on top, and then pull the gladwrap up at the corners (into a raindrop shape) and mould the rice (keeping the filling in the centre).
  5. You can then decorate the onigiri as you like.

Tip: You don’t need to use any nori but it does provide a pleasant umami flavour. You may prefer to simply dip your onigiri in soy sauce or coconut amino acids (an allergy friendly substitute). You may also like to sprinkle a furikake seasoning onto your onigiri; there are a range of flavours.

KiwiCo Review: Atlas Crate for 6-11 Year Olds – Introducing the World (Deluxe Box)

KiwiCo – discover the world!

WHAT IS IN THE WORLD CRATE?

The World Crate is in an introduction to the Atlas series and will be the first box that you receive. It introduces the children to careful Milo (the prepared planner) and carefree Anya (let’s go!) as they realize they would love to see the world.

Learn about maps, continents, and the world!

There are a number of activities for kids to do in this first box 🙂 After reading the welcome story from Anya and Milo, they can choose what they would like to do next.

Spinning Globe

KiwiCo – Atlas World Crate – Create your own globe!

The first thing activity that Miss 6 chose was making her own globe. This activity provides a great introduction to teaching continents, introducing concepts of Latitude and Longitude, and talking about 2D vs 3D representations of the world.

You can personalise your globe by adding a cool red felt heart. For kiwi kids, be aware that despite the branding this is produced by an American company and New Zealand is not included on the globe (neither are other non-continental islands such as Japan, Indonesia, or Madagascar). I told her this was simply because New Zealand is full of so much aroha that we get a heart icon ❤ [There was also a less well received explanation about continents].

How to explain Day and Night

A fun activity to do with your new globe is exploring why the Earth’s rotation (spin) creates day and night cycles. All you need is a lamp or a torch! Miss 6 loves to spin the globe in front of the sun (lamp) and see where the heart lands. If it’s facing the sun then it’s morning, if it’s facing away then it’s night time, and if it’s half way then she decides it’s afternoon. It’s a great way of demonstrating why it might be daytime where you live but night time for friends or family living elsewhere in the world!

Learn how to read a map (treasure hunt style!)

KiwiCo – Atlas World Crate – Introducing Longitude and Latitude

The World Crate comes with a World Map for the wall. This allows you to extend on the concepts being introduced to go from continents to countries. It also introduces how to read a compass rose (North, South, East, West), and how to read latitude and longitude (i.e. 38’S, 175’E).

It also comes with a colouful activity sheet with a number of questions for kids to answer by finding co-ordinates on the map.

Make your own passport

KiwiCo – Atlas World Crate – Create your own passport!

Kids get to take charge of their ‘Atlas Adventure Book’ by personalising it with stickers and adding their name. They can also choose what order the continent (or section) cards are arranged in. These are: Australia & Oceania, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica.

Each continent card comes with some colourful photos and cartoons, trivia, and a basic map. Subsequent boxes, themed by country, will add a country card and passport sticker to their Adventure Book.

WHAT IS THE DELUXE BOX BOOK?

KiwiCo – Atlas World Crate – Deluxe Box Book

We received “The Atlas Obscura: Explorer’s Guide for The World’s Most Adventurous Kid” by Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mosco (retailing at NZD$47).

It contains “47 countries and 100 extraordinary places to visit” and is themed around interconnectedness. Rather than grouping countries by continent, or ordering alphabetically, this takes you on a hopscotch tour around the world to illustrate how our world’s wonders can be curiously linked.

It begins in Iceland by descending into Thrihnukagigur volcano, before imagining the Blue Whale migration near Husavik. It then speeds you across the world to Zambia for a different kind of migration: the fruit bats of Kasanka National Park. The Devil’s Swimming Pool is next, followed by a different wild waterfall – the Blood Falls of Antarctica.

Each country visited has a map icon showing it’s location on the globe, a few facts (including one obscure one), two interesting locations, phenomenon, festivals, or human achievements, etc. A key tie-in to the World box is that each ‘place’ visited provides Latitude and Longitude co-ordinates for locating it on the giant world map.

Was it worth it?

Pro: It’s a colourful and unique book that we can tie in with the world map. It also retails well above what was charged for it.

Con: Miss 6 isn’t particularly interested. She has about a 5 – 10 minute attention span for jumping into the book randomly. She’d rather be able to spin the globe she made and have that determine where we visit in the book; what we really needed was a world map included in the book with stars for all 100 locations visited!

Overall: One of the tricky things with books and the Atlas line is that it’s aimed at quite a diverse age (6-11 years); I suspect this book is probably of more interest to 8-10 year olds. What we will probably do is reference it with each subsequent Atlas crate and also look up photos/videos online of the places referenced.

Alternative books

KiwiCo also provide book recommendations on their website for each crate. For the World box, they suggest Barefoot Books World Atlas and The Barefoot Books Children of the World. We picked up a free secondhand copy of ‘Children of the World’ and Miss 6 loves it. It’s very approachable for younger kids (and those that struggle with reading) as it’s highly visual in its approach illustrating ways that different families might live, eat, dress, and play around the world.

HOW DO I ORDER ATLAS CRATE?

This is not a paid review. I spent a lot of time searching the internet to find out more information about the Kiwi Crate and Atlas Crate boxes before deciding to try them and found the blog posts / photos that people shared were really useful!

If you would like to try Atlas Crate (or one of their other lines), you can receive 50% off your first box by clicking here.

What I like about the Atlas Crate kits is that they provide a colourful and imaginative way of exploring the world through hands-on activities. I like that they use a mix of STEM and art to explore different concepts and ideas. Their products are also very well made, with clear instructions, and kids feel a real sense of pride in what they accomplish with each box.

There’s no obligation to sign-up in an on-going capacity so it’s easy to tie them in with birthdays / Christmas; the boxes are quite compact so they also store easily in a cupboard for bringing them out on a rainy day. Other families will choose to sign up for a longer period (like a 3, 6, or 12 month cycle).

WHAT IS IN AN ATLAS CRATE?

Each Atlas Crate comes with a special airmail envelope from Anya the Cricket and Milo the Sandpiper revealing where they’ve been on their latest adventure. There is a special passport sticker for your child’s Atlas Adventure Book plus seven new pages to add about a new country (highlighting geography, customs, landmarks, history, and foods).

There are supplies for two activities (which might be a mix of art, STEM, and games) as well as suggestions for more DIY activities to try at home – from things to make, to things to bake!

If you choose the Deluxe option, then you will also receive a book that helps you explore that month’s destination. This upgrade is an additional USD$9.95 (approx. $15 NZD) and can impact shipping costs as well. Since we’re homeschooling, I decided that we’d try the Deluxe option for 6 months to see how useful we find it.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

Discover the World with ATLAS Crate

#1 Introducing the World

#2 Discover Japan

Explore STEM with Kiwi Crate

#1 Arcade Box (and the Claw!)

#2 The Amazing Animation Box (make your own 19th century movie with a Zoetrope!)

#3 The Mechanical Sweeper Box (make your own baleen whale!)

#4 The Disc Launchers Box (play games with physics!)

#5 Kaleidoscope Puzzles (explore symmetry and mirrors!)

ExperisenseNZ

Exploring Maths through Art

Exploring Space through Art

World Studies: How to make your name using a secret Inca code!

How to make your name in a secret Inca code!

Ways of recording information

The Inca civilisation had a complex administration system keeping detailed records of supplies, people, tributes, and stored goods. They also maintained over 40,000km (25,000 miles) of paved roadways with an State chaski messenger relay system.

As well as a rich oral culture, detailed records and messages were kept using quipus (kee-pooz). Instead of a system of written symbols (such as hieroglyphics or an alphabet), the Inca had a woven system of multi-coloured knots suspended from a central string. Different kinds of knots, their colour, and their position had different meanings that translated into a numerical system.

Creating a simple number cipher

To explore the concept of recording information without using a written language, we will begin by creating a simple number substitution cipher where A=1, B=2, C=3, etc. This will then get translated into a series of knotted beads.

Simple number substitution cipher

Weaving words

Materials

  • Coloured yarn
  • Beads
  • Scissors

Directions

  1. Start by choosing a word that you want to record (such as a name); as in English, you will read this from left to right (with each letter being read from top to bottom).
  2. Weave a simple plait to act as your top anchor; it’s a good idea to have a loop at the left end so that it’s clear where to start reading from.
  3. Knot a piece of yarn to the top anchor (you can slip it through the plait before tying it to help make sure it doesn’t move). Attach the relevant number of beads to correspond with the letter you are recording and knot beneath them so that they don’t slide off.
    • Letters A – I (numbers 1-9) will be represented by a corresponding number of beads close to the top anchor (i.e. A =1 bead).
    • Letter J (10) will be be represented as a single bead further down the strand.
    • Letters K-S (11-19) will be represented by a single bead further down the strand (representing one 10) with a knot to hold it in place, an approx. 5 cm gap, and then a group of beads to represent the ‘ones’ (i.e. S/19 will be one bead = 10, and then a group of nine beads = 9), and a knot to hold in place.
    • Letters T – Z will be represented by two beads further down the strand (representing two 10) with a knot to hold in place, an approx. 5 cm gap, and then a group of beads to represent the ‘ones’ (i.e. Z/26 will be two beads = 20, and then a group of six beads = 6), and a knot to hold in place.
  4. Keep following Step 3, with a separate piece of yarn for each letter.

Example:

Lily (12/9/12/25) = One top anchor with four strands hanging from it. Reading from left to right, these will hold the following beads: low 1 (10) + 2 (2); high 9 (9); low 1 (10) + 2 (2); low 2 (20) + 5 (5).

Sam (19/1/13) = One top anchor with three strands hanging from it. Reading from left to right, these will hold: low 1 (10) + 9 (9); high 1 (1); low 1 (10) + 3 (3).

Tip: Older kids may want to create their own variation of this code by creating meaning based on the colour, size, or type of beads being used.

Want to find out more about the Inca?

One of my favourite books is proving to be Inca Discover the culture and geography of a lost civilisation. It’s well laid out, has plenty of pictures and infographics, and (very importantly) it has lots of ideas for easy to complete projects to help develop learning. This craft is inspired by one of their projects.

A wonderful animated short video for children is The Rise and Fall of the Inca Empire.

Want another project? Why not try making your own Inca Rope Suspension Bridge. This particular project references the Inca using rope bridges made of woven grass to cross narrow river canyons (such as the Keshwa Chaca – Quecha Bridge).

Want to learn more about Quipus? Try this short National Geographic video: Threads that Speak – How the Incas used strings to communicate.

Homeschool STEM: How to make your own rope suspension bridge

Make your own Inca Rope Bridge.

What do you do all day when you homeschool?

Well, lots of things really. It also differs so much from family to family. One unifying factor tends to be the freedom and flexibility to embrace a learning style that works for your particular child (or children). We tend to do lots of hands-on project based learning that weaves together different disciplines. This project for instance encompasses literature, world studies, art, engineering, and problem solving.

We flowed down the Amazon River, away from Brazil’s Pantanal and portion of the Amazon rainforest, to Peru with its vibrant surf culture, Cabillitos de Totora, and the towering Andes mountains – historically home to the Inca civilisation. We have a number of resources from documentaries, to Twinkl, to books; one of my favourites is proving to be Inca Discover the culture and geography of a lost civilisation. It’s well laid out, has plenty of pictures and infographics, and (very importantly) it has lots of ideas for easy to complete projects to help develop learning. [My only wish for improvement would be the addition of colour to make it more visually appealing for children].

This particular project references the Inca using rope bridges made of woven grass to cross narrow river canyons (such as the Keshwa Chaca – Quecha Bridge).

Materials

  • A shoebox or similar (We made excellent use of a KiwiCo box!)
  • Yarn or string
  • Pencils
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Craft materials for decorating the landscape (such as construction paper, markers, or paint).

Directions

  1. Imagine your box is a deep canyon with a river at the bottom. You can decorate it pretty much however you like (from marker pens, to paint, to showers of glitter). We opted for blue construction paper glued in as the river, and crumbled green construction paper as a mountainous landscape in the distance.
  2. Use a sharpened pencil to create a hole near the top edge of one side of the box (and a matching hole on the other side). I was delighted to find that my Kiwico box width was exactly the length of my pencil which made the whole hole making process delightfully easy! I was happy doing things by eye, but a ruler will come in handy if you’d like to be more exact.
  3. Measure a piece of yarn or string so that it will travel from one hole to the other with length left over at each end. This will form one of your handrails.
  4. Thread the yarn through the hole and secure it with a large double knot. Then thread it through the opposite hole and knot it again (check the tension to ensure it is tight).
  5. For your second handrail, move along the box about the length of your little finger. Make another hole (plus one opposite) so that you can repeat Steps 3 and 4.
  6. Now you’re going to make the bottom of the bridge. Imagine a triangle (base facing the sky). Find the mid-point between two holes, measure down about 5cm, and create a new hole (see photo). Create a matching hole on the opposite side of the box. Thread the string through and knot if off (making sure to keep it taught. I used a pencil on each side to help weight the bridge (twisting to add tension).
  7. The final step is making the sides. Cut lengths of yarn (around 15cm). Tie each length to a handrail, loop it twice around the bottom, continue up to the other handrail, loop it around, and then knot. Techniques will vary; I opted to loop mine back and do two sliding knots on the upward slant of the ‘V’. Repeat this process until have traversed the canyon!

Involving kids…

You can tailor this project to the age and interest of the children involved. A simple way to get them involved is by asking them, ‘What would you make a bridge out of?’ and then talking about their answer (and relating it to the real world if applicable – easy to do if they say wood, stone, or steel, trickier if they say marshmallow clouds!).

Ask them at each stage of the process what else they think the bridge needs. After explaining that the first piece of yarn is a handrail, they will hopefully start thinking about the other hand and the feet!

Give them a couple of toys to test the bridge as it is built. Explain that testing designs is an important part of engineering. They may well delight in seeing the figures plummet to the depths below and swim to shore to try again. We found the best ‘to scale’ figure was a Playmobil child crossing the river to meet a grazing Peruvian llama at home in its Andean highlands.