Friday, August 5, 2016

Science Week

My kids love science week. I think it's a staple for every summer. Of course there is "sciency" stuff worked into the other theme weeks (and Human Body Week was definitely chock-full of it), but a week dedicated to the "magic" of physical science is their favorite!

We started by learning about water density. We made an egg float in salt water... then we tested other items in fresh and salt water and discussed why things that don't float in fresh water do float in salt water.

Continuing with our density lesson, we made sugar water rainbows.

We mixed different concentrations of sugar into different colored water and then carefully stacked our colors with a pipette into a test tube.

The results were amazing!!!

We then moved into a little candy science and math, first making patterns with a rainbow of Skittles. We then sorted the Skittles and placed them in water to watch the color dissolve into the water. I also added corn syrup with the intent of turning it into edible paint, but we never actually got around to using our Skittles paint.

Then we observed M&M's in water, noticing which color dissolved the fastest, and then the really cool part...

The M floated up to the top! I had no idea it would do that!

Lastly, we set up a few experiments that would have to sit around for a while. First we chose a few food items to place in vials and watch as they rotted away during the week (sorry, no pictures), and then we put gummy bears in different solutions to see what would happen to them overnight.

From left; water, sugar water, tequila (yeah!), salt water, and the control bear. The sugar water bear was originally white/clear, but since we placed it in purple sugar water, it turned purple, which was a cool extra. Also, the salt water bear was originally orange! 

Our second day was Robot Day. We made wind-up robots from a kit I found.

Then we used Hexbug nanos to create a drawing machine.

They made cool swirly designs on the paper.

Those hex bugs were really cool, and we had a lot of fun with them, sending them through a LEGO maze, chasing them around the kitchen, getting them unstuck from under the refrigerator... OK, that last part wasn't so fun, but it happens!

Then we (ok, really I) built a homopolar motor with magnets, copper wire, and a battery. The little person spins! It was really cool, and the kids liked playing with it (ok, so did I). 

Our next day, we just did a random assortment of activities... Structural Engineering/snack time.

Toothpicks and marshmallows!

Static electricity butterflies.

Gravity tests.

And I downloaded a really cool app called Rube Works, where you problem-solve to make complicated Rube Goldberg machines with the materials provided. We played the game all together, and they couldn't get enough!

We ended the week with a "field trip," as usual. 

This time, bowling... because... PHYSICS!

Anthony won... impressive for a 3-year-old. 

This science week was later in the summer, so I didn't do as much as I could've... we're still having fun, but we're running out of zeal for activities... our days now are spent mostly playing legos, reading, lounging, and swimming in the pool... but I wouldn't have it any other way! Summer is almost over! I do have a few other low-key themes planned, but we may or may not get to them, and that's ok!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Story Week

This week, we learned about different types and ways of telling stories. We started at the library, as usual, but it was especially appropriate for this week.

Letters are needed to make words to tell stories, and the little ones played and made up words with our magnet letters. And I read them a really cute book about using our imagination, since it's impossible to tell a story without imagination!

On the first day, we learned about fairy tales and fables. We found some of the common elements found in fairy tales (magic, royalty, talking animals, things that come in 3's), and we discovered that some stories are told to teach lessons, like Aesop's fables. We also discussed the importance of conflict in a story. With no conflict or problem to solve, we wouldn't have a very interesting story!

Since royalty is found in most fairy tales, the kids painted some crowns and decorated them with jewels.

Then we made our own stories with the help of Rory's Story Cubes, taking turns and adding on to each other's stories. We had some pretty wacky stories! We also wrote our own stories with the help of some story-starting/imagination-inspiring printouts.

We also talked about telling stories with no words, only pictures, which helped the little ones understand that there are books they can "read" without knowing how to read yet! Describing pictures is another way to tell a story, and we demonstrated that with a very sweet book, The Girl and the Bicycle. We loved it, and I highly recommend it!

Lastly, we made bookmarks, because they are another important tool for reading long books! Gotta mark your place!

On Day 2, we learned about mythology. I read them the story of the Odyssey (illustrated children's version), and we looked at books about mythical creatures and Greek and Norse gods.
I also found an app that told the story of Theseus and the Minotaur in a really cute way.

For our crafts, we made origami cyclops eyes and Medusa headbands.

Ellie added her snake headband to her royal crown from the day before... Queen Medusa!

Then we created our own mythical creatures and wrote about them.

I had to do the writing for the little ones, but they drew their own pictures and dictated their descriptions.

Our last activity was coloring Greek god coloring pages, because we love coloring around here and no theme is complete without it!

On Wednesday, I took them on our weekly "field trip" to Miller Outdoor Theater to watch a free play: "My BFF the Dragon." It was a cute, silly play, and we enjoyed it. And we discussed that acting is another way of telling a story!

After the play, we ate a picnic lunch at Hermann Park and rode the train... and cooled off with some yummy popsicles, and none of it had to do with our theme, but we had a great time.

When we got home, we played "The Hat Game." Basically, it's a game I made up where they brought downstairs every hat they owned, picked one to wear, and then pulled a piece of paper describing different actions to act out in the way they think the person who wears that hat would do it, so we walked dogs like a firefighter, brushed teeth like the Statue of Liberty, went fishing like a king, baked a cake like Olaf, took a nap like a cowboy, and other silly things.

Thursday was superhero day. We tie-dyed capes.

We read comic books.

We made our own superhero characters and comic books, since that is another way of telling a story!

And my little superheroes played dress up and ran around saving the day.

Once the tie-dyed capes were done, Anthony wore his, every day!

On our last day, we learned about one more way to tell a story: movies! We made our own version of "Jack and the Beanstalk" with Legos and a stop-motion movie making app. We created the scenery and selected our props and the cast, and then we worked to put the movie together. 

Here is the video... enjoy!

Story week was really fun. The kids participated more than I expected, especially the little ones, since they can't read or write, but I think it really appealed to them because it tapped into their imaginations!

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Katie's Puffin Rock Party

We celebrated Katie's 5th birthday this weekend with a Puffin Rock-themed pool party. Not many of our friends know the show or its characters, but it's a favorite at our house, so when Katie asked for a Puffin party, I got to work planning it and quickly discovered that there is ZERO merchandise available, which meant I had to get creative. Thankfully, the theme lends itself perfectly for a pool party!

All week, it had been raining at the same time every day, which happened to be the exact same time window as the party... So I had an unusual amount of anxiety. I got the cake done the day before and had plenty of time to decorate and prepare food (plus my awesome mom was here and helped), so I had little to worry about other than the one thing I couldn't control: the weather! Fortunately, the rain never came (despite the clouds, wind, and thunder!), the birthday girl was so happy, and everyone had a great time! So here are the details...

First: the cake! It was such a fun one to make. I love making fondant figurines and incorporating all the little details. Most people don't even notice them, but when they do... it's awesome! Plus, the best part is that my kids usually DO notice, and of course, this is all for them.

I made the figurines the week before the party; from left to right: Silky the seal, Mossy the shrew (with his pile of blueberries), Oona the puffling, Baba the puffling, May the rabbit, and Bernie the crab, in case you are unfamiliar with these cute little animals.

After the animals were made, I baked the cakes, filled them with Italian meringue buttercream, carved the cake into a mountain, and then crumb-coated it all before putting it in the fridge to get the icing to harden. At this point, I still didn't have a clear idea of how the cake would all come together; I was just hoping it would all work out once I got the fondant on.

And it did! I don't have any worthwhile work-in-progress photos because I found my groove, was "in the zone" and worked way too late into the night without any thought about documenting the process.  

So I'll just show you as many angles and close-ups as I can. One head-on photo isn't enough to capture every detail. Here's Mossy with his berries.

The waterfall side of the island.

Side view of the whole cake.

Oona and Baba with their signature rainbow at the top.

The whole island in all its glory! 

And just for comparison purposes, here is what Puffin Rock really looks like on the show. I left off a few details, but Katie easily recognized and LOVED it.

Now for the party. This was the food and cake table. I decorated it with "kelp"made from plastic table covers and "bubbles" made with clear balloons. My mom and the little ones spread out shells between the platters. The party was between meal times, so we just had snacks to fuel the little fishies as they swam and played.
The food followed the theme too: May's veggies (with hummus), Baba's iggly wigglies (veggie sticks), Oona's shiny shells (Doritos)... 

I made croissant PB&Js with candy eyes to make them sort of look like crabs (Bernie sandwiches!)... 

And I made homemade goldfish crackers, which are always a hit (Baba's Fishy-fishies). My mom prepared a bowl full of grapes and berries (Mossy's berries!). I also found some rainbow lollipops on Oriental Trading and put them in a jar filled with marshmallow "clouds" for decoration/a yummy treat.

I printed quick little signs for all the foods... here's a close up of the "worms".

One more cake shot. Ok, time to move on from the food!

Since it was a mostly outdoor party, I didn't go too crazy with the decorations. I made streamer rainbows and printed some cute banners of Oona and Baba. I also printed some coloring pages and placed them on the table in case of rain or if any kids needed to take a break inside.

Since it didn't rain, I didn't expect anyone to color, but at the very end, my coloring-crazy kids (and a few friends) did do some coloring, so I'm glad I had the pages for them.

Katie wanted a piñata this year, and I wasn't sure if she would want to hit it... she always gets piñata-shy at parties, but I went for it anyway. We found a parrot piñata at Party City, bought some puffin-colored tissue paper, and I transformed the parrot into Oona.

She finally overcame her fear and began the attack on the candy-filled puffin. Happily. I filled it with fish gummies, DumDums, and chewy Jolly Ranchers.

And she wore the head as a mask after collecting her candy! 

Then it was cake time. My sweet little girl isn't used to being the center of attention. We had to nudge her closer to her cake. But she was so excited. I love the way she is looking at her cake.

Make a wish!

Happy birthday girl with her daddy. After cake, she swam a bit longer, and then decided she was ready to dry off and open her presents, so she changed into the dress I made her. I printed the Puffin Rock logo onto iron-on transfer fabric and attached it to a simple pink dress from

She was so ready to open presents that she sat down and waited for her guests to come in from the pool. 

Present-opening is always chaotic, but she enjoyed it! 
Her friends were really into it too.
Once it was time for everyone to leave, Katie handed out favors of pull-back toy crabs, seashell candy necklaces, and home-printed stickers to all her friends. 

I love this little Puffin, and she had a wonderful 5th birthday party. I cannot believe she is now five! 

Happy Birthday to my sweet, strong, clever, willful, precious little-big girl. I want to hug you and squeeze you and keep you forever.