EXPERISENSE NZ REVIEW: Exploring Science Homeschool Box

Lava lamp experiment

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SCIENCE EXPERIMENT HOMESCHOOL BOX?

This kit is all about having some scientific fun with experiments and adding in artistic flair. I love adding a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning! The box provides seven learning activities to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a guide that outlines how to conduct each experiment and also provides information on the scientific principles being demonstrated. It’s a great way for kids to build on prior knowledge, as well as asking new questions!

The ExperiSense NZ Biology Box sells for NZD$27 online; I’ve bought and reviewed a number of their boxes with this one being received free in exchange for an honest review.

How to make your own lava lamp

Have you ever looked at a lava lamp and wondered how they work? Well, this experiment will let you make your own temporary lava lamp! We loved it to so much that we did it twice.

Fundamentally, it comes down to the fact that oil and water do not mix. This is because they are different densities (and oil will actually rise up to float on top of water – which you can see happen in the experiment). As you slowly drop food dye into the oil, watch how the droplets retain their own separate form (“immiscible” was our cool new word of the day). Once water is added, the food dye will slowly dissolve into the water but differences in density mean the oil will rise to the surface.

The magic happens when carbon dioxide gas is created by introducing a fizzing tablet! The chemistry being demonstrated means that as the solid tablet dissolves, bubbles of water-and-gas raise to the surface. As the carbon dioxide gas dissipates, density changes causing the bubbles to sink. FYI – in a real lava lamp what you are watching is caused by thermodynamic changes (i.e. the application of heat).

In our first experiment, we used 1/4 tablet, red + yellow food dye, the oil provided, and the cup provided. In our second experiment, we used 3/4 tablet, a recycled glass jar, our own kitchen oil, the blue dye provided + some red dye.

Extra Activities

The lava lamp experiment looks at both density and states of matter. You may want to explore these further with simple experiments such as:

Why do things float or sink? A great way to start is in natural environments, such as a river or beach, by gathering up materials such as driftwood, shells, rocks, and mangrove pods to experiment with. At home, consider experiments with buoyancy such as why an orange will float (unless you peel it!).

How does water demonstrate states of matter? I love using water to demonstrate how something can so easily change forms between solid > liquid > gas. A fun experiment relating to buoyancy is to freeze water in a bag (food delivery boxes can be great sources of pre-formed ice) and create an iceberg diorama in a sink or bucket; have fun seeing what toys can balance on the iceberg before it melts!

Oil and Water Painting

We really enjoy making marbled paper using shaving foam; this was our first time using oil. We used a large plastic tray and simply recycled our lava lamps (with some extra colours dropped onto the surface of the oil). We chose to use our own paper and dye, in addition to the card stock provided, and made lots of beautiful art work.

Tip: Have layers of cardboard and paper towels beneath your art so that it can absorb the excess oil. We waited until the next day (once the dye was dry) before layering the artwork between layers of paper towels and popping in hot water cupboard to finish drying.

Magic Trick: Once the paintings are completely dry, the oil will have changed the appearance of the paper but any ‘virgin’ paper will still appear white. If you hold the art up to a bright light then not only can you see your beautiful colours clearly but any ‘white’ corners will disappear and smokey ‘shadows’ will appear in their place instead!

How to make a rainbow

The kit comes with a very small prism that you can use to split light. As light enters the prism, it bends, and the different wavelengths will create a spectrum of colours as they exit. For us, the light exited onto the opposite wall and we found creating some shadow helped us see it more clearly. We lined up the prism with the sun after catching a wonderful rainbow that was refracting through our fish tank!

The kit also comes with a second rainbow experiment where a bendable ‘mirror’ is placed in a glass of water to reflect and refract light. We found this one a bit tricky but we did achieve a little colour splitting. Miss 6 actually most enjoyed casting shapes of reflected light onto the shadowed ceiling!

Extra Activity

Want to combine rainbows AND learning about the density of different liquids? Check out this fun experiment to make a sugar rainbow!

How to experiment with static electricity

The kit comes with a balloon, templates, and craft paper to make your own ‘jumping bunnies’ or frogs; we also had fun designing our own creatures in a variety of sizes. Rubbing the balloon energetically on clothes creates a temporary static charge which allows your creations to ‘jump’ or ‘dance’.

Extra Activity

Want to see and feel another invisible force? Pop one end of a straw partially into a balloon and secure the neck with a tight rubber band. Blow down the straw and watch the balloon inflate (just like a lung!) and then feel the air exit again out the straw! Talk about how some natural forces we can’t see (like gravity, or air in motion) but we can observe their effects on the world around us.

How to make magic tea

Beautiful colour changing butterfly tea!

The kit comes with two experiments for exploring acids and bases. One is experimenting with litmus paper and the other is making butterfly pea flower tea. I find the tea has a light floral flavour and like to drink it with a little liquid honey. When you brew it, the tea comes out a stunning vibrant blue; the addition of a little freshly squeezed lemon juice (changing the pH level) magically makes it a purple-pink colour!

Tip: Wet litmus paper can leave a yellow mark on benchtops (easily removed with Chemco) so it’s a good idea to place the strips on a piece of white card.

Tip: Hot water will have a more dramatic effect (than cold) when added to a teaspoon of baking soda (alkaline) or a teaspoon of baking powder (acidic).

Extra activities

Explore natural colour changing properties further by using a red cabbage to make a magic colour changing potion! Collect your magic molecules, make a potion, and use the rest to make your own litmus paper!

After watching how baking powder dramatically foams up when a little hot water is added, try making these light and fluffy scones and imagine how the baking powder helps the dough to rise when combined with the heat of the oven.

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 through Art

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring The Human Body Through Art Homeschool Box

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ BIOLOGY HOMESCHOOL BOX?

I purchased the ExperiSense NZ Biology Box for NZD$25 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about the human body. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with a great book and ideas for ways to explore the content in the book (including most of the craft materials required). We added to it with a few great (and inexpensive) additions from Kmart: Factivity: Amazing Body Sticker Activity Book, Write & Wipe Wellbeing Book, and a poseable art mannequin for exploring movements and joints.

This is a great way for kids to ask questions like ‘What is in the human body?’ and ‘How does my body work?’. The kit proved to be fantastic value as the book alone retails for around NZD$20. It’s a well laid out hardback book, aimed at primary school aged children (KS1/KS2), with heaps of colour photos (as well as cool radiology and specialist pictures from hospital imaging).

What are the organs of the human body?

Miss 6 loves the Tinybop Human Body app so was keen to jump straight into having a life-size drawing of herself made on the paper provided. She then did a pretty good job of guessing where the internal organs (supplied) should get blu-tacked on and discussing what human organs do. Honestly, the two she wasn’t sure of (pancreas and gallbladder) I had to google myself to check where to place them. She’s pretty stoked that it’s hanging in the hallway along with other artwork from this box.

We also did reading about human organs in the book provided and did activities about them in our Factivity book. She also made up some pretty cool song and dance routines to demonstrate how organs like the human heart work.

The optional extension activity is to draw an additional system (such as the circulatory system or the nervous system) on the human body and talk about what organ systems these link to and how they support their function.

What does my skeleton look like?

We read about bones in the Human Body book and then did an x-ray activity in our Factivity book. One of the x-ray stickers was of a human hand – which perfectly tied in with our next craft.

The kit provides black paper, white paint, and instructions on creating your own radiology x-ray of a human hand; you will need to supply cotton bud sticks and strong craft glue. Tip: if you add water to the paint you will only need a little amount! Our first learning-by-doing part of the morning was realizing that thinning the paint too much simply has it oozing beneath the placed hand! Our second attempt went much better and we decided that using a smaller brush for flicking the paint also works better than a large brush.

There are lots of ways that kids can approach this activity. Miss 6 decided to have our ‘hand x-ray’ sticker in front of us and count how many bones should get placed for each finger. She was also fascinated by the negative space that our art created and we went on to create more body themed art along this theme.

We also used our poseable mannequin to explore the interplay between bones, joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments. We had fun taking turns posing the figure while the other person tried to replicate it in real life. We also used it when looking at how to draw a person.

What is in human blood?

Human blood is made up of several components: red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, and plasma. We’d already had fun learning about blood in our Factivity book – including exciting face-offs between red and white blood cells in a Tic Tac Toe championship.

The kit provided us with the materials needed to make our own sensory exploration of the human blood stream. We were supplied with both red and white water beads (Orbeez) which we used as red blood cells (pretending these were a mix of ones carrying oygen outward to the body, and depleted ones returning to get pumped to the lungs); red foam platelets for clotting, and wooden white cells for fighting infection. You’ll also need a container for soaking them in water; we had fun using our test tubes but as they grow dramatically we had most of them in a plastic tub.

We had lots of fun making this up and playing with it in the garden. We found the water beads were also useful for exploring other scientific principles such as: refraction of light; gravity, momentum, and incline surfaces; and applications of force. The last one included everything from experimenting with how much weight the water beads could support (i.e. like lily pads), the best way to crush them, how many could fit into various containers, and what size funnel they would fit through!

How to perform a simple magic trick

Squawking chicken magic trick!

Miss 6 enjoyed watching Disney’s Magic Camp so she was excited that the final activity in the box was a simple magic trick to help us explore amplification and hearing. We did a series of experiments to explore how the cup helped to amplify sound and really did get a chicken like sound (the secret being to have a highly waxed flattened strip at the end of the string and using a damp bamboo cloth). We also talked about natural environments we have visited the shape of the land has created a natural amphitheatre that amplifies sound.

Wondering what to do with those candles afterwards? We lit ours (parental supervision required) and discussed how the candle demonstrated changes to states of matter and what the causal factor was (heat). We also toasted marshmellows and created another magic trick – using paper, the melting candle wax, and dye to create simple batik art on paper!

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

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Space Through Art Homeschool Box

Our own moon art under UV light!

WHAT IS IN THE EXPERISENSE NZ SPACE HOMESCHOOL BOX?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for your child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Space Box for NZD$28 to add a kinaesthetic dimension to our learning about space. The box provides fun learning crafts to do that are fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and are highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs.

The kit comes with craft materials to explore our solar system through five activities. It anticipates that you will also have access to books / resources that provide additional learning information and you may want to supplement with your own craft materials also (we did).

Exploring the Solar System

We spent a few days creating and painting our own solar system (comprised of: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune). The kit comes with paint (red, UV yellow, blue, green, black, white) but we also supplemented with our own paint, glitter, and tinsel. We loved experimenting with the UV flashlight that is included!

We then took one of our Kiwi Crate boxes; painted it black, added silver and iridescent glitter over white glue; and created a solar system background that was a perfect fit for helping our solar system to stand safely while being interacted with.

Exploring the Sun and Moon

Creating the sun

I’ll confess that we jazzed this activity up a bit with materials of our own! Miss 6 wasn’t keen on painting the iceblock sticks with the UV yellow paint so instead we used the yellow yarn and big wooden beads that were provided and then bulked it out with our own multi-coloured yarn and created a Pippins-style sash of additional beads 😀

What I liked about the big wooden beads that are provided is that they can be used to create a wonderful ring for then hanging your finished display in the window. Draw the curtains in the evening and – Voila! – you put the sun to bed.

We also used the globe we’d created with our KiwiCo ATLAS crate and a lamp (as the sun) to explore the Earth’s relationship with the sun and how this creates both night/day and seasons.

Agamographs are fun to do! Colouring in the alternating strips is a visual processing exercise and then there’s the fun of folding them to reveal the illusion. These kids crafts are inspired by the works of artist Yaacov Agam.

Craters of the Moon

Our own moon art under UV light!

There is a visual provided showing the phases of the moon as well as an artistic rendering of the moon’s face. Kids can then keep their own moon journal for a month to watch how the moon’s appearance changes in the night sky (note: this is a great winter activity when it’s dark earlier!).

They can also mix up their own gray paint and using the tinfoil provided stamp out craters on their own moon.

Tip: This moon craft looks awesome under UV light and the leftover dark grey paint (applied very lightly) makes wonderful hand prints – we picked up great ridge-line details forensics style!

Additional Resources

We paired this homeschool box with the Factivity Discover The Science and Secrets of Planet Earth – Book (exploring magnetism and gravity), Factivity Incredible Space Sticker Activity Book (lots of fun!), and a book about space.

WHAT AGE IS IT SUITABLE FOR?

I found it to be a really good kit for Year 1 and Year 2 (KS1) with minimal parental help required. Slightly older primary school kids (KS2) may still enjoy the kit and could always use the materials as a springboard for slightly more complex presentations, such as adding a foam base and some mathematical calculations for their solar system creation: like this.

Tip: Consider setting aside a set of messy play clothes for this space project. We used a lot of acrylic paints for ours and the paint clothes were beautifully coloured with hard work by the end of the week!

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

ExperiSense NZ Review: Exploring Maths through Art Homeschool Box

Shapes and sharing

What is in the ExperiSense NZ Numeracy Art Homeschool Box?

The wonderful thing about homeschooling is the flexibility that it provides for exploring learning through fun, hands-on projects that let you cater for child’s individual learning needs.  There are many different learning styles and not all are catered for by task-orientated repetitive worksheets. For those that are highly visual and hands-on, finding alternative ways to engage in learning concepts is very important.

I purchased the ExperiSenseNZ Numeracy Art box for NZD$25 because it allows key numeracy and mathematics learning concepts to be explored in a fun way by using art. It’s fully aligned with the NZ Curriculum and highly adaptable to age, interest, and special needs. I also purchased a geoboard for added fun!

The kit comes with a teaching guide for 12 different activities, most of the materials you’ll need for the activities (assuming you’ll have basics like scissors, glue, and felts at home), and a highly convenient plastic storage case!

What age is it suitable for?

I adapted the activities to suit around age 5 years (so Year 1 / KS1). The flexibility of the kit means it’s probably suitable for general primary school (KS1 / KS2) as you can adapt the activities to suit your needs. We did a little on ‘skip counting’ by 2’s but you could just as easily practice higher multiplication tables. There are worksheets for calculating area that we skipped at this stage in our learning. We completely changed the algebra and problem solving activity to tie in with our Amazon Rainforest unit and simply explored colour.

Tip: I loved some of the templates in the kit and simply photocopied them for current use and hope to revisit them in the future. Kits like these are useful because you can revisit them the following year and simply build-on with what you’ve explored in the time since.

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

Intersections of art and numeracy (an exploration of colour)

Exploring Venn diagrams through colour (pencil)

This is one of my favourite activities from our ExperiSense NZ homeschool box that explores maths through art.

It’s a way of engaging with Venn diagrams; traditionally, these are used to show the overlap of sets or categories of information but this wonderful visual explanation of them explores the ways that colours mix and overlap. It’s an organic process, reminiscent of the natural world, that removes language barriers and obstacles for those with additional learning needs (such as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and autism).

It’s also beautiful, fun, and sensory. It can be used to encourage flexibility and demonstrate how things can be the same-but-different by experimenting with different colour mediums.

Exploring Venn diagrams through colour (Watercolour)

Book Suggestions

A great book to pair with this is Ish by Peter H. Reynolds to demonstrate that perfection in art is not necessary (for those that worry about colouring outside the lines).

The Dot, also by Peter H. Reynolds, which shows how an entire modern art collection can grow from something as simple as a circle.

Also wonderful, are the interactive works of Herve Tullet: Press Here, Mix it Up, and Let’s Play.

Making Christmas Crackers (Bonbons)

How to make Christmas Crackers (Bonbons)

Have a Ka Pai Kiwi Christmas!

I posted last year about how easy it is to make your own Christmas Crackers (bonbons). I love that personalizing them means that you have full creative license to create different themes each year. Last year, we did a Christmas theme for the visual aesthetic and I hand decorated wooden beads (my daughter still has them!). This year I thought I would celebrate New Zealand’s summer with an ocean theme as well as changing the gifts inside to match Miss 3’s interests (she has autism and adores things in miniature).

Ingredients 

  • Cracker snaps
  • Cardboard tubes (inner tubes from paper towels are perfect,  just cut in half).
  • Your choice of cracker filling.
  • Blue crepe paper
  • Shells
  • Twine
  • Sellotape
  • Scissors
  • Super glue (or glue gun)

Note: Davids Emporium  sells cracker snaps for 30 cents each just ask at the sales counter.

For the inside, I did little plastic bags containing: Christmas joke, stickers, and a miniature Christmas cookie / Christmas pudding etc. These will inevitably get gifted to Miss 3 for her dollhouse 🙂  They are adorable and were a wonderful find in the button / crafts section, again at  Davids Emporium.

Directions

  1. Take a cracker snap and place it inside in your tube (it should stick out each end with a comfortable amount to pull on). Lightly sellotape it at each end to hold in place.
  2. Assemble your cracker filling and slide it into the tube. I put mine in a tiny sealed plastic bag.
  3. Roll the tube in crepe paper and tie at each end with twine;  make sure that you have enough paper at each end to cover the cracker snap that is sticking out & to comfortably pull it.  Super glue (or glue gun) on the sea shells.

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Winter Crafts: Painting Leaves

A wonderful winter activity can be going for a walk through the woods or local park and talking about how the trees change with the seasons (and how some don’t!).

Collect some leaves and pine cones on your walk and take them home to dry.

Tip: Putting then on newspaper or a towel in the hot water cupboard works well.

Once the leaves are dry they make a wonderful canvas for painting. Again, they dry well in the hot water cupboard and can be hung up for a few days as decorations.

Tip: You could try spraying them with varnish to help them last longer.

How to display your child’s artwork without damaging the walls!

How to display kids art work

How to display kids art work

There are lots of great ideas on how to display your child’s art work. There’s only so many pieces that you can attach to the fridge with magnets, so why not hang some in their rooms where they can admire what they’ve made!

How to display children's art work

How to display children’s art work

Some ideas include using curtain rails but those (although sturdy) require drilling holes into the wall which isn’t a great idea if you’re renting.

How to display kids art without damaging the walls

How to display kids art without damaging the walls

The solution is to use hooks with a removable, damage free, adhesive backing. Tie some pretty coloured wool between the hooks and peg up your child’s beautiful creations!

Decorative clips for hanging art work

Decorative clips for hanging art work

Also check out these totally adorable decorative clips on AliExpress for US$3 and free international shipping!

Make your own rainbow crayons!

Making rainbow crayons.jpg

Making rainbow crayons

Have you ever seen those PinInterest posts where they talk about how easy it is to make your own crayons? They tell the truth! These are a great idea for a special & personalized gift, or as favours in homemade christmas crackers (bonbons), or just because it’s a rainy day!

Ingredients

  • Silicon mould tray
    • Be careful to choose one that can go in the oven.
  • Crayons
    • This can be a great way to use up spare crayons or crayon ends.
  • Optional: glitter & sparkles!

Directions

  1. Break your crayons into small pieces (i.e. adult thumb nail); you may need to use a knife.
  2. Pop them into the silicon mould. Have a think about what kind of colours you want (i.e. rainbow? ocean theme with various shades of blue & green?)
  3. Add sparkles & glitter shapes if you want.
  4. Bake in the oven at 200’C. Keep a close eye on them as you only need it in there until the crayon has melted into a thick liquid (i.e. you’re not trying to get it to bubble & boil).
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  6. Pop out of the moulds and have fun!

Rainbow heart crayons.jpg

Rainbow heart crayons

Hint: Wondering what to use the silicon mould tray for afterwards? It’ll probably need to get relegated to your arts & crafts box (rather than cooking in the kitchen). The good news is that it’s great for paint!

Silicon moulds as artists easel.jpg

Silicon moulds as artists easel

Watercolours are great for indoor painting

Watercolours are a great form of indoor painting. They’re much less mess than poster paint and easy to wipe up if you’re using a plastic mat or lino. They also handily come with a whole palette of colours!

These are great for encouraging creative messy play, colours (and colour mixing), fine motor control, and learning a process. Encourage them to go: paint, paper, water, paint etc. I find an old glass baby food jar ideal for washing brushes. It’s best to put only a tiny amount of water and change it frequently (that way there’s less to clean up if it gets knocked over!).

Watercolours will often come with a small brush. You can also experiment with other brushes, fingers, even a wet wipe will provide cool textures and colour mixing! If you’re toddler loves painting themselves and is going to do so anyway, why not support them in their experiment and try putting our a hand mirror so that they can see what they’re doing.

Supervision, support, encouragement, and modelling is important for toddlers. It can take a while to learn that the brush needs washing or that it’s not a good idea to smear black paint over all the other paint colours on the palette. On the bright side, they’re easy to wipe with a tissue or wet wipe to get back to a ‘purer’ colour.

Wet wipe watercolour painting