How to make body paint with kids

It looks like we have an early start to summer with hot sunny days in the garden to appreciate our Spring flowers. Spending time outside has been a big part of our Discovering Spring unit as we explore life cycles (plants and insects), do gardening, make art with our flower press, and visit farms to see the baby animals that have been born.

It’s also a great time to explore making hand made body paint using a few simple ingredients. This is a messy play activity that is best done outdoors.

Materials (per colour)

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon flour (or rice flour)
  • 1 Tbsp water
  • A squirt of shaving foam
  • A few drops of food colouring
  • Spoon, bowl, paintbrush

Tip: We like using shaving foam in art; we also use it to make marbled paper. Used in this recipe, it creates a puffy consistency that can also be used for textured painting on paper. If you would like a smoother, more liquid consistency, use 1 Tbsp suntan lotion instead.

Directions

  1. In a small bowl (or cup), place the cornstarch, flour, water, and food colouring. Add a small squirt of shaving foam.
  2. Mix well until smoothly combined. Add a little rice bran oil or shaving foam if too thick.
  3. Use a paintbrush to draw designs. A hand mirror is useful for kids that would like to do their own. Try looking for inspiration outside to create flowers, leaves, and insects!

Discovering Spring – Flower Press and Life Cycles Box (ExperisenseNZ review)

I love the ExperisenseNZ Life Cycles box which I purchased for $27. I was inspired by our annual Spring unit on seasonal cycles, growing food and flowers in the garden, and observing garden mini-beasts. We were thrilled to watch the hard work we had done earlier in the year, creating new wildflower beds to support our favourite pollinators, burst into colourful bloom.

We wanted to preserve some of our flowers and were excited at the idea of buying a flower press to create seasonal art and gifts. A classic press seems to cost around $24 so I was thrilled to get the ExperisenseNZ kit which comes with a flower press and a number of additional activities.

What is the life cycle of a sunflower?

We love sunflowers with their stately and colourful beauty. It’s also fun being able to harvest their seeds; either to dry and sow again, or, to feed to the birds in Autumn.

The kit comes with a laminated life cycle wheel for discussing the sunflower’s life cycle stages. It also comes with a generous amount of sunflower seeds and some compostable pots to get you started.

Tip: Seedlings make great Christmas gifts!

What is a butterfly life cycle?

We made marbled paper and then followed the instructions in the kit to make a beautiful butterfly life cycle. Our wall poster shows the stages from egg, to caterpillar, to cocoon (or pupae), to butterfly.

Tip: Spring is a great time of year to consider growing Swan Plants to watch the Monarch Butterfly life cycle in action!

What is a ladybug life cycle?

What I like about the kit including both Butterfly and Lady Bug life cycles is that the two insects look quite different to each other in their stages. They also differ in what they eat! For instance, a Monarch butterfly caterpillar will eat a huge number of milkweed leaves; whereas, a Ladybug larve will voraciously eat aphids, tiny worms, and insect eggs.

We liked the rainbow foil print on this life cycle so much that we decided to laminate it and add it to our resource collection (rather than use it for a paper plate craft).

How to press flowers

We very much enjoyed using our flower press! We used our pressed flowers to make beautiful bookmarks.

Tip: Gather a variety of flowers on a sunny dry morning. Check flowers for dewdrops (moisture will impact the drying process). Avoid flowers that are very bulky i.e. cut the tips from lavender or choose rose petals rather than a whole rose. Remember that wild flowers, like oxalis, can be as beautiful dried as garden grown.

Interested in more homeschool box reviews?

ExperisenseNZ

#1 Exploring Maths through Art

#2 Exploring Space through Art

#3 Exploring the Human Body through Art

#4 Exploring Science through Experiments

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!)

Light and fluffy Scones

These are the kind of light, fluffy, round scones that one imagines having with berry jam, clotted cream, and china cups of tea. They are made with flour and baked in the oven and rather different from the large, quartered, barley flour or oatmeal griddle scones from which they are descended.

My childhood has many pleasant memories of making scones in sunlit kitchens and they are wonderfully versatile as they can be served with everything from sweet honey to umami Marmite and cheese.

If you make kefir at home keep in mind that you can use it in baking! Although the probiotics will die in the heat, they will leave behind an enriched milk with little lactose and will add a lightness to your baking.

Ingredients

  • 75g butter
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 6 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3 Tbsp wheat germ
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1 to 1/2 cups milk (or 3/4 cup milk kefir + 3/4 cup milk)

Directions

  1. Start oven pre-heating to 220’C / 428’F. Grease a baking tray or line with baking paper.
  2. Measure and cut butter into a mixing bowl.
  3. Sift in flour, baking powder, and salt. Add wheat germ and sugar.
  4. Rub the butter into the flour until it resembles golden breadcrumbs.
  5. Add 3/4 cup of milk (or kefir). Mix to combine.
  6. Slowly add up to 3/4 cup of additional milk; stop to knead as you add the extra liquid. You want to draw all the dry ingredients into the mix without it getting too wet and sticky.
  7. Pull off the dough into approximately 12 pieces. Roll into rough balls in your hand and then flatten slightly. Place on prepared baking tray.
  8. Bake at 220’C / 428’F for 10 minutes. The scones should rise a great deal. Check if they are cooking evenly (and adjust their placement in the oven if not). Reduce the heat to approximately 180’C / 350’F and bake for another 5-6 minutes until golden.

How to make beautiful marbled paper with kids

Making beautiful marbled paper is a fun and easy craft to do as a family!

One of the things I love about homeschooling is the way you can be multi-modal and explore areas like science or maths through art. Kids love to learn by being creative and hands on!

This is a fun and easy messy play activity that is cheap to do and makes beautiful decorative paper that you can use for upcycling crafts, making cards or christmas crackers, or to theme in with other activities. This green and yellow design was done to explore Spring and daffodils.

Materials

  • Plain paper (A4 printer paper works great)
  • Shaving foam (cheap is great!)
  • Food colouring / dye (2-3 colours)
  • Large plastic or tinfoil tray
  • Mixing stick (i.e. an iceblock stick or plastic knife)
  • Scraper (i.e. shower squeegee, plastic knife, iceblock stick, hands)

Directions

  1. Spray shaving foam (about an inch deep) to cover a tray at least A4 in size.
  2. Generously drip food colouring onto the foam.
    • Discuss first what colours you will use; it’s a good idea to start with 2-3 colours and build up from there (to avoid eager mixing creating a muddly brown!)
    • Ask younger children to predict what might happen when certain colours are mixed together; i.e. red and yellow (orange); blue and red (purple).
  3. Press the paper firmly onto the foam making sure that all parts of the paper make contact.
  4. Scrape as much foam off the paper as you can.
  5. Leave the paper to dry.

Voila! You have beautiful marbled paper!

Tips

This is an all year round activity, however, you will want to adjust your clean up methods to the season! In summer, consider doing this outside in the warm sun on the grass – hose down your kids afterwards and peg paper to dry on the washing line. In winter, consider doing this in the garage or kitchen on top of a tarpaulin – have paper towels (or a hot shower) ready for clean up and lie paper on a clothes drying rack.

Sensory kids may have different parts of this activity that they like to participate in or watch. It’s a great idea to have some washable toys on hand that can use to play in the shaving foam once you’ve finished with the paper – this may be your kids favourite part! If it’s summer, consider letting them use the left over shaving foam to create a slip’n’slide on the trampoline or a messy ‘snowball’ fight.

Life in Lockdown – Decorate our streets!

Making homemade chalk is easy a great way to connect as a family!

Life in New Zealand has changed rapidly. Our borders are closed, domestic travel restricted, our schools and shops closed, and we are asked to remain at home in order to restrict the spread of Covid-19. Cars are now to be used only for essential travel (the doctor, pharmacy, or supermarket) and people may only leave their house to walk nearby. Social distancing is everything.

Our big field trip for today was walking to the top of the driveway and drawing pictures that the kids in the houses nearby can see from their windows. Creating chalk, with a few simple ingredients from the supermarket, has been both art and science. It’s also a way to share a little love and kindness with the community around us.

Why not bring a little colour to yours?

Life in lockdown: Share some love and decorate our streets!

How to make home made chalk

Ingredients

  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Food colouring
  • Cardboard tubes
  • Waxed paper / baking paper
  • Scissors
  • Sellotape or rubber bands

Note: Alternative ingredients include plaster of paris + tempera paint, or a 1:2 ratio of very finely crushed eggshell + flour.

Directions

  1. Prepare your moulds. Toilet paper rolls are a good size; I find a bread knife does a good job of sawing longer cardboard inner tubes into parts.
  2. Cover the bottom of your cardboard tubes with waxed paper and tape / elastic band into place. You then want to roll more waxed paper and slot it inside (you may need to trim to size).
  3. Pour cornstarch into a bowl and then add food colouring of your choice. Slowly add water and mix well. You want to add just enough water to create a very thick [viscous] mixture.
  4. Pour or spoon the mix into your moulds.
  5. Pop into a hot water cupboard (or somewhere warm to dry). You want as much of the water to evaporate as possible to dry before use (about 24-48 hrs).
  6. You can then removed from the moulds and let the kids have fun!

Tip

If you add too much water then it will have difficulty drying (and remaining contained within the moulds). Never fear! Treat it as a chemistry and physics lesson all-in-one for the kids. You have just created a non-Newtonian fluid 🙂 You can take your ooblek outside for messy play fun with the kids. Pour it into your hands and watch how it becomes a solid if you clench your fist but magically liquefies if you release the pressure!

Summer Baking: Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Summer baking: Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Apple & Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup apple (peeled, grated)
  • 1 cup zucchini / courgette  (peeled, grated)
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil (soft) or 1/2 cup Nutellex
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup.
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup almond meal
  • 1/4 cup wheat germ

Allergies: soy free, dairy free, egg free*.

Note: Consider mixing this up by doing a 1/2 cup apple and 1/2 cup diced peaches.

Tip: Leaving the skin on the zucchini is fine but feel free to peel it if you don’t want any green specks in the muffins.

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 180’C / 360’F.
  2. In a food processor, blend the apple, zucchini, vanilla, eggs, maple syrup and coconut oil until smooth. (If you prefer a rougher texture then mixing in a bowl is fine).
  3. Mix in the flour, baking powder, brown sugar, almond meal, and wheat germ.
  4. Spoon mixture into muffin tins.
  5. Bake for 25-30 mins (or until a toothpick comes out cleanly).

Making Christmas Cards & Decorating Christmas Trees with Children

Christmas Tree Cards

Decorating Christmas Trees

Christmas Crafts for kids

I posted recently about making our own Christmas Crackers (bonbons). I also like making our own Christmas cards. It’s nice because it’s an activity in itself and you can theme it around your children’s skills / ages. Christmas stickers or stamps are good way place to start with toddlers; or save their paintings through the year and turn those into cards!

Christmas Tree cards

This year, I decided to print a Christmas tree template and trace around it on a sheet of green felt. I also picked up a shiny bag of beautiful decorations that included everything from stars, to shells, to butterflies, to Christmas greetings. I wanted to make Christmas tree cards that would let Miss 3 be creative and feel involved.

Christmas Tree cards

Christmas trees and decorations

Ingredients

  • Green felt
  • Stickers / glitter / craft shapes
  • Card stock / paper
  • Scissors
  • Craft Glue / P.V.A. / glue gun
  • Blu-tak
  • Baking paper
  • Double sided sticky foam squares (like for scrapbooking)

Directions

  1. Create a Christmas tree template on paper / cardboard. Trace around it on green felt and cut out all of the trees that you need. (An adult will need to do this for toddlers / preschoolers; older children may be able to do all of the steps themselves).
  2. Blu-tak the felt onto a large sheet of baking paper. This helps keep them in place while busy little hands decorate them and also raises them off the paper a little in case the glue soaks through.
  3. Glue the decorations onto the trees. Craft glue will need to set over night, whereas a glue gun has the advantage of setting almost immediately.
  4. Make plain cards by folding the card stock / paper. Once the glue is dry, use the double sided sticky foam squares to attach the trees to the cards. These have a nice effect as they raise the tree slightly and make the cards look a bit prettier but you can just as easily glue the trees on if you wish.
  5. Ta da! Now you have a beautiful collection of cards and each one is unique.

Decorating Christmas Trees

Decorations on Christmas Trees

 

Make your own doll clothes

Make your own doll clothes

Kimono inspired ‘Frozen’ look

How to inspire your child’s imagination

Miss 3 (ASD) used to hate her dolls wearing clothes; I simply wasn’t allowed to dress them. I think it’s because she has a sensory processing disorder and I guess she assumed the dolls would find clothing as uncomfortable as she does. Then we read This is my dollhouse by Giselle Potter; it’s a great picture book that values imagination and creativity over money. It’s also a good reminder to parents that children don’t inherently need store bought items to be happy in their play (and for those with special needs, commercially made dolls clothes may cause anxiety of failure due to being too fiddly).

How to make your own dolls clothes (cheaply and easily)!

Consider buying some short pieces of colourful ribbon from a local crafts emporium (and let your child help pick), some scraps of fabric (handkerchiefs will also work), and some colourful tape – Kmart is great for this.

You can also make your own necklaces and headpieces for the dolls using simple elastic and beads, again from somewhere like Kmart or a crafts store, like Davids Emporium.

Making clothes this way means that you can change outfits cheaply and easily each day! Having a doll fashion show is also a calming activity for filling a rainy afternoon.

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Rewards for Potty Training

Reward Charts can help potty training.

Reward Charts can help potty training.

When starting potty training it’s a good idea to think about how you’ll keep your toddler motivated. Some toddlers will simply want to be ‘just like my big brother/sister’; others will respond to lots of praise; others need something tangible to work towards and that’s where reward charts can be useful.

Potty Training! It’s something that we all experience as parents as we help our children transition out of nappies. I’ve posted previously on:

Reward Charts

Sometimes toddlers need a little extra positive reinforcement to start (or stick with) potty training. Reward charts can be a great way of helping them to see progress, learn about delayed gratification, and learn about working towards achievable goals at a young age.

There are lots of great ideas online for printing out your own reward chart that you can stick on the fridge (like these free to print charts). The important thing is to choose a theme that will tie in with your toddlers interests. I liked this magnetic one from Kmart because I knew Little Miss would like moving the magnets around.

Tip: If you have multiple children, it’s a good idea to instigate reward charts for siblings as well to prevent tantrums, jealousy, and rivalry! If your 2 year old is toilet training, maybe your 5 year old can have a reward chart for homework or chores.

Rewards

These need to be relevant to your child’s interests, realistic for your budget, and appropriate in scale. A trip to the park, a book, a small toy, are more realistic then promising a trip to Disneyland! Also, keep in mind that a reward comes after the action has been successfully taken (and a bribe comes before).

Sit down with your child and be really clear:

  • what they will receive points for (i.e. stickers on their reward chart),
  • what rewards they are working for, and,
  • how many points they need to obtain those rewards.

Encourage your child to brainstorm with you what those rewards are going to be. Possible rewards include:

  • Items (toys / books)
  • Activities (trips to the park, library, the zoo)
  • Food (jellybeans, McDonalds, restaurant)

You may want to start off with reward stickers for:

  1. each wee / poo in the potty (or toilet), and then move towards
  2. stickers for staying dry at home that day,  then,
  3. staying dry at kindy, then,
  4. staying dry overnight.

The important thing is to scaffold your expectations and help your child towards success at a pace that’s realistic to them. Remember that every child is different.

Items

Toys or books can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. It’s a good idea to have a mix of rewards that they can work towards (with larger or more expensive items requiring more points).  If you take them to a store to choose rewards, it’s a good idea to guide their choices by offering them a few options and letting them select one.

It’s also a good idea to guide them towards choosing toys that you were thinking about getting them anyway and which you can afford. Consider items that will encourage open-ended imaginative play and remember that you don’t need to buy ‘branded’ items for your kid to have fun.

We chose a (non-branded) My Little Pony and a wooden pizza – each slice and topping has to be earned so it has a good mix of short and long term gratification.

Activities

Again, these can be easily tailored to your child’s interests. You may want to have activities close to home, or that are free, cost fewer reward points and then have costly activities be something they have to save more points to earn. Not all activities have to be away from home either!

  • At home: build a tent out of sheets & chairs; make a collage; parent play with cars / dolls / animals / trains for 20 mins without distractions; have a tea party with toys; invite a friend over for the afternoon.
  • Free: go to a park; feed ducks; favourite playground; go to a beach; bike ride; art gallery; museum.
  • Paid: go to an indoor attraction (like a playground or trampoline park); go to zoo; go to observatory to see stars; movie.

Food

Food can be a controversial choice because it risks weighting food choices to show that some foods are inherently more desirable than others. In saying that, plenty of parents have chosen to use a jellybean or other small treat as a reward.

For more creative options, why not choose food related activities instead. Reward points could be saved towards things like:

  • doing baking together,
  • helping to make dinner (or choosing from a list of dinner options),
  • buying and planting vegetable seedlings, or micro-greens for the windowsill,
  • going to a cafe for a fluffy or scone,
  • going to a restaurant for lunch / dinner.

What methods can I use for potty training my toddler?

Potty Training

What methods can we use for potty training?

Potty Training! It’s something that we all experience as parents as we help our children transition out of nappies. I’ve posted previously on:

 

Slow

The slow method is great if you’re wanting to stretch toilet training over a number of months.

Maybe it’s winter and you want to wait for warmer weather before fully embracing nuddy time; maybe you have an eldest only child who is showing signs of being ready but isn’t ready to embrace going nappy free; maybe you have a spirited child who responds badly to pressure, or a your family frequently faces change, or your child has health concerns or other stress factors.

I note this is the method I’m using with stubborn and spirited Miss 2!

  1. Regularly embrace talking about bodily functions. Talk about needing to wee or poo. Read stories about potty training.
  2. Storybots have a great video for toddlers about how the human body works, including how food gets turned into energy (and waste products!).
  3. Buy a potty and place it somewhere in the house where it’s easy for your toddler to access.
    • I was resistant at first to having it in the lounge but toddlers really do only think about what’s right in front of them. It’s good to put it next to their picture books, or in front of the tv, or by a window they can look out of. It’s also useful to have a plastic mat under it if you have carpets!
  4. Encourage your child to sit on the potty regularly. It helps if you read them a story to keep them occupied.
    • Try giving them regular naked time. This helps them get accustomed to their body and it also means they don’t have to grapple with clothes when they get to the potty. Watching themselves accidentally wee or poo can also help them form a connection in their mind between how they felt beforehand and what then happened (it’s not like they can see when it’s all conveniently happening in the nappy!).
    • Make a happy fuss about buying them underwear. Keep in mind that although different brands will use the same sizing on their labels, the real size and the way they actually fit will vary hugely. It can also help to buy underwear with decorative bows or buttons at the front so that they can easily see which way to put them on!
  5. See what works for you and your child.
    • If they’re having lots of accidents and you’re getting frustrated cleaning up messes, you may want to have them out of nappies just for a set time each day (i.e.  nappies in the morning and undies in the afternoon).
    • Maybe your child took an interest in potty training for a week or two and then adamantly decided they wanted their nappies back. That’s fine! Keep gently encouraging them to use the potty and offer them the choice each day of whether they want to wear nappies or undies.
    • Have a think about whether you want to use nappies, nappy pants, training pants, undies; or a mix. Some toilet training experts advise against nappy pants and say that they delay things but they are really useful as a parent and if you’re taking the slow approach anyway….
  6. Take time off and try again later.
    • Some toddlers won’t be ready on the first try.  You may need to wait 4-6 weeks and then try again. LOTS of parents find that their eldest will take the longest to potty train and that younger siblings will be much quicker (a big part of that is because they really, really want to be like their big brother or sister!).

Medium

Ideally, this method will allow you to toilet train in the space of 1 – 2 weeks. You do need to plan for it in your schedule but there’s a bit more flexbility in it. Make sure that your child is showing all the signs of readiness and they have good bladder control (1-2 hours).

It’s a good idea to do this during warm weather when your child doesn’t need to wear a lot of clothes. You can even put the potty outside and encourage them to use it while running around the garden naked.

It’s helpful to start this once your child shows clear signs that they are getting ready to do a poo. Some kids might have a ‘poo face’ that they start to make, some kids might have a corner they go and hide in (like in a closet or behind a chair), some might assume a squatting position.

Make sure that you stay at home for the first 3 – 7 days so that your child can relax into the change without the stress of accidents and distractions.

Have a think before you start about whether you want to use rewards as a potty training incentive.

  1. Make sure that you are starting at a settled time when there are no big changes to the family routine (like a new baby, moving house, starting kindy).
  2. Immerse your child in toilet training preparation. Go shopping for a potty and undies. Read potty books. Watch videos about using the potty. Talk about the steps for using the toilet.
    • You can even take photos of them practising each step and print these off. Encourage them to talk about each of the steps they need to take.
  3. Have your child in underwear all the time (except when sleeping). Encourage your child to sit on the potty at regular intervals each day and build these into your routine (i.e. when they wake up, 20 minutes after meals or bottles, before the bath, before bed etc.). Make sure that you stick with these every day so that your child comes to expect the reminder.
  4. Praise them when they’re successful and don’t make a big fuss when there are accidents. There will be accidents at first but these should decrease quickly if they’re ready.

Fast

In theory, this will help your child toilet train in a day or two. It is very reward orientated and won’t suit every child (or parent!)

Make sure that your child is showing all the signs of readiness and they have good bladder control (1-2 hours). Also, make sure that they are confident removing clothing and can easily pull pants up and down.

Decide in advance what rewards you will use.

You will need to be at home for a few days and may want to wait for warm weather so your child doesn’t need to wear lots of clothes.

  1. Make sure that you are starting at a settled time when there are no big changes to the family routine (like a new baby, moving house, starting kindy).
  2. Immerse your child in toilet training preparation. Go shopping for a potty and undies. Read potty books. Watch videos about using the potty. Talk about the steps for using the toilet.
    • You can even take photos of them practising each step and print these off. Encourage them to talk about each of the steps they need to take.
  3. The Day Before: Tell your child that tomorrow will be a special day and that you will be having a toilet training party. Practice the steps of toilet training with a special doll that can pass water. Explain that the aim is to stay clean and dry, and to do all wees/poos in the potty. The night before show them the special treats they will get the next day.
  4. The Big Day: Give them lots of fluids when they wake up and at breakfast. Take off the wet nappy and put on new undies/knickers. Introduce a reward chart and tell them they will get stickers on the chart for keeping their undies/knickers clean and dry by using the potty.
  5. Roleplay with the doll straight after breakfast. Go through the steps of toilet training. Have your child feel inside the doll’s underwear to check if they are clean and dry. Praise the doll and clap. Ask your child if they are clean and dry; check and if dry, praise them and put a sticker on reward chart. Give the doll a drink and then have the doll wee in the potty. Praise the doll and give the doll a treat.
  6. While sitting next to the potty, ask your child if they need to wee or poo. Have your child sit on the potty. You may need to read a story or sing a song to encourage them to stay on. Praise them for practising sitting on the potty. If they do a wee or poo, flush the waste down the toilet, wash hands, and then give them an instant reward.
  7. Set a timer and sit them on the toilet every 30 minutes. Praise them if they have stayed clean and dry, put a sticker on the reward chart. Praise them for sitting on the potty. If they do a wee or poo. give them an instant reward.
  8. Give your child lots of fluids, foods that will make them thirsty, and foods with lots of fibre. Keep practising with the doll. If they accidentally wee or poo in their underwear, don’t make a fuss just quietly clean them up and remind them to do wees/poos in the potty.  Let them associate receiving attention with using the potty.