Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Polar paper mache and instant snow

We have been thinking about the polar regions a lot over the past week and doing a project I had been saving for a snowy time of year. The idea came from this book, which has some other lovely ideas I will be using. The project in the book is for Antarctica but Harry wanted ours to be the Arctic and Antarctic so we could use polar bears and penguins at the same time!
We watched Snow Babies, which is a documentary I recorded that was on BBC over Christmas. We also read parts of a book from the library about penguins. We liked a page showing all the different kinds of penguin in a line to show their relative size and features.

We created a paper mache polar landscape by scrunching up newspaper and covering a piece of stiff card (I used an unfolded Amazon delivery wrapper) with mountainous icebergs and valleys. We then added smooth layers of newspaper to join it all together and covered it with a glue/water mixture.

Once dry, we gave it a few coats of white paint and added shiny blue and silver paper in the valleys to represent pools of water between the ice.

Harry made some polar animals from air drying clay to live in the model and painted them - penguins, whale and seal.

So the model was finished and we were very happy with it and then the fun really began. I had bought some instant snow powder from Baker Ross with my Christmas order and we hadn't used it yet so we got some out to make it snow on our model. This stuff is amazing! 50ml of water and 1 tiny scoop of powder creates a few handfuls of fluffy fake snow (looks a bit like dessicated coconut) in seconds. 

The boys played with this for 2 hours this afternoon! We hid polar animals in the snow and talked about camouflage and how they might evade hunters if they dig deep enough not to be smelled. We talked about polar bears having huge paws to spread their weight over the slippery snow. Peter had a great time transferring snow between pots.

The Octonauts got involved and we had several rescues from snowdrifts caused by blizzards. 

Trucks then came along to help clear up and loaded and bulldozed snow for a while. We talked about why it would be important to clear roads after snow (using the book Katy and The Big Snow as the basis) and what services are essential - police, hospital, airports etc.

What have we been doing?

Bit of a delay on the blog front... sorry about that! I have been back and forth to the doctor and hospital several times in the past week trying to get diagnosis and treatment. What initially was suspected to be German measles has turned out to be a bad reaction to a course of penicillin and I am still suffering the effects 2 weeks on. So we have spent quite a lot of time around the house but have been pretty busy and productive and have still been going to gymnastics, French, enjoy-a-ball and music classes.

Harry won the trophy at enjoy-a-ball again last Friday, for the best listening and trying. He has been polishing it and keeps saying he is very proud to have won.

We have been doing a polar project and making a hama bead mobile, which I will blog about separately.

Harry has done more work on number words in his workbook and I was pleased that he seemed to remember what we had done last week.

He is now reading all the level 3 Oxford Reading Tree books we have comfortably so I have ordered the next levels. We have been working through his English workbook as well, looking at plurals and ordering the alphabet. He has actually started to try and read independently outside our 'reading book time' which has never happened and I was hoping would happen soon! He wants to read titles of books we are reading together and is helping to read Peter's short, small books to him. I think half of it is from memory but the willingness is very refreshing!

I have been planning lots of interesting things for February, including Chinese New Year and valentine themed activities. Really looking forward to doing them!

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Happy Birthday Peter!

Peter is 2 today! Happy Birthday to our funny, observant, dancing bundle of little boy! He really is hardly a baby now, he can talk lots, join in playing with Harry and express what he wants (loudly!). He loves running over and giving a huge hug whilst shouting 'cuddle' which is pretty adorable.

How he has changed......


Age 1

Age 2

We hung balloons around the house for him as he loves them. We took the boys to soft play this morning as a treat as Stuart was off work and we haven't been out much due to the bad weather.

Then Stuart went off to work and my mum and sister arrived, hurray! They had planned to come yesterday and stay over but the snow was too bad so we had a short visit this afternoon. Peter has enjoyed opening his presents and both of them have been playing with helium balloons my mum brought. Harry has gone to sleep with his tied to his bed! It has been a fun day and Harry has been a really nice big brother.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Learning number words

We have been spotting lots of number words in books we have been reading recently so I prepared a few activities for Harry to reinforce his learning of them.

He wrote the numbers 10 - 1 (he was very adamant that he was counting down not up!) and then wrote the corresponding word. We talked about how you can also use a number as a position - 1st, 2nd, 3rd etc and he wrote some of them, although the writing was becoming a chore by this point so we moved on.

I wrote the numbers 1-10 on a piece of card and the corresponding words on stickers for him to match up.

I wrote the words one to ten on individual sheets of paper and we played a couple of games. I spread the sheets on the floor and called out a number. Harry had to jump onto whichever sheet had that number written on. This was known as 'number jumping'.

We then played stepping stones with the number sheets. I laid them in a trail from living room to kitchen and Harry had to read each one before moving onto the next stepping stone. When he got to the kitchen there was a chocolate treat waiting.

I also wrote the words one to ten on post-it notes earlier this week. We stuck these around the room and Harry had to collect the right one when I called it out. The race aspect of this was very popular and we have played it several times this week - I have timed him so he can try to beat his times. He has also stuck them up for me to collect, which is a difficult feat with Peter chasing me too!

Harry has really enjoyed the physical aspect of these games and has wanted to keep playing and asked to do it on subsequent days, so I think it is definitely something I will use again with more themes.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Monkey bread

As we have been confined to the house for most of this week, I have been using some ideas saved for emergencies. I have a German measles strain, rash-inducing virus which has caused missed activities and unplanned days at home so I definitely needed one of these ideas!

Today we made monkey bread. I found the recipe in the 2011 Great British Bake Off cookbook. Both boys got really involved, as they usually do when spoons and scoops are available for use. It was quite time-intensive but sometimes that is for the best!

We made an enriched dough using 500g of bread flour, 1.5 tsp salt and 7g yeast. Harry made a well with his 'drill hand' and we added 200ml milk, a beaten egg and 50g melted butter. We kneaded for ten minutes and left it to rise for an hour. 

Peter was not particularly helpful after his parts had been done so, thankfully, we got the next stage done while he was napping!

After this time, we split the dough into around 50 small balls. We then rolled them in melted butter followed by a mixture of 75g light muscavado sugar and 1tbsp cinnamon with a few chopped pecans. 

The balls went into a loaf tin and were left to rise for a further hour before being baked for 35 minutes. The result is a golden, bumpy loaf with the balls joined by veins of the sugar mixture. Very tasty. This picture has Peter sampling a plate in the background!

A snowman friend and a morning surprise

We have had enough snow this week to make a snowman. Harry called him 'Snowy' and the boys have been going out and to the windows to say hello to him. He started off with three layers but collapsed under the weight so ended up shorter and fatter but is still standing! Harry kindly lent him a sun hat and Peter lent a scarf.

We have had a real downpour of snow today! Peter had fun looking at his footprints and brushing the new snow away from Snowy. We were on our own this afternoon as Stuart came home from work early to take Harry to enjoy-a-ball. I am currently confined to the house with some sort of German measles strain, rash-inducing virus so we have spent much more time at home this week than I had planned! I am really hoping it is gone by the end of the weekend.

Stuart is currently out in the snow... in the dark...building a small friend for Snowy, who will be spotted by Harry and Peter in the morning! Harry likes reading 'Harry and The Snow King', where snowpeople appear in the yard overnight, so hopefully he will be pleased. They have a great daddy, they are lucky boys.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Salty ice science

We have seen a few grit vehicles on the roads this week and Harry was interested to know why they spread salty grit so this, coupled with the fact that the weather means we are staying at home as much as possible, seemed like the perfect time to do a science experiment I have been saving. I have bookmarked a few ideas from a great site - The Artful Parent and this was one of them.

I prepared last night by filling tubs of various shapes with water and putting them in the freezer so they would be ready this morning. We covered the table with old towels (this proved essential once the coloured water started moving!) and tipped out the ice into a large roasting tin with high sides.

The boys each had a pot of rock salt (which I re-filled several times!) which they sprinkled and spread over the ice pieces. We added food colours and eventually saw how the salt ate holes into the ice. 

This was Harry listening to try and hear cracks forming in the ice (he didn't hear any)

We could see the colours under the top layer of ice.

We could see and feel ravines down the sides of the ice blocks where the salt water had run off the top of the block.

We saw that the ice had started with smooth sides and became very rough and even sharp in places. I took a couple of the pieces out to make more space for spooning salty water back over the blocks and put them in the sink. We saw that these pieces became smooth again as they had been exposed to warm water without salt.

This was a very popular activity - Harry and Peter were both absorbed in this for over an hour. We eventually got a hole in the smallest piece of ice all the way through and Harry started chipping the blocks to try and make more holes so we stopped at this point as ice chips and coloured salt started flying around. We talked about how scientists investigate and that they might change variables in experiments so we thought what we could do differently. 

If we did the same thing again (which I think we will), we would make some thinner ice pieces so they would get holes more quickly.

I have also promised a warm day ice experiment in the garden so we can use water of different temperatures and various tools to see what we can do to the ice.