EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: PLAY OCTOPUS WITH TOILET TUBES

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Octopuses are wonderful creatures, and the slimy things have managed to work their way into every childhood. Maybe it’s because they start with O (and that’s handy for the alphabet), or because their distinctive body shape is so easy to recognise, or maybe it’s that they conveniently have 8 legs (and that’s nice when we’re looking at numbers!)… Whatever the reason, we’re in love with the concept of an octopus.

Yet their truly fascinating qualities are often overlooked, this little hands on project is a fun thing to make with little hands, but it is also a good chance to talk about a few of the things you know about the lovely Octopus.

You might talk about how Octopuses are considered the most intelligent of all invertebrates. That the ink they shoot out even contains a substance that dulls a predator’s sense of smell, making the fleeing octopus harder to track… and if they are really under threat they can loose an arm and grow it back latter! Here is a good site for a brief refresher on your Octopus knowledge.

Make a couple of these little Octopuses and get playing with your knew found knowledge!

You will need:

  • Cardboard tube
  • Scissors
  • Paints/drawing or decorating implements
  • Googly eyes and string (optional)

Let’s make an octopus.

Cut the base into 4 equal sections (you may like to refer to this as quarters to help with fractions)

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Ask what would happen if you made each of these into 2 parts, how many would you have all together? (In our house we talk about it as 4 “lots of” 2, or 2 “lots of” 4)

Once you have worked out your sum, check by cutting each in half… count 8 parts… how many legs does an octopus have? You just made an octopus!

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We then decorated our octopus and added googly eyes.

To create a more ‘swim like motion’ we hung our octopus from string, and like our tube kites we watched it fly with much joy.

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O – IS FOR FREE OCTOPUS COLOURING FROM TASSIE ILLUSTRATOR!

To introduce you to our creature of the week we have another free designer printable for you to download, this time it’s an octopus from Tasmanian children’s illustrator, Bec Adamczewski of Bon Mot. You can download the free printable PDF here:

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(Simply download, print and get to work!)

If you’d like to meet this awesome illustrator then she’ll be holding stalls at the following upcoming markets;

  • Hobart Twilight Market 4pm-8pm February 20
  • Barn Market 10am-3pm March 1
  • Niche Market Bazaar 9am-3pm March 28 (Launceston)

In the mean time shoot on over to Facebook and send her a Like to keep up to date with what she’s creating, and to say a big thank you for sharing this lovely work with us and our tots!

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Enjoy your colouring and remember to sing along as you colour. (The “Octopus’s Garden” is a song by The Beatles written by Ringo Starr from their 1969 album Abbey Road – and it’s perfect for young ones to enjoy!)

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: OCEAN SCIENCE IN A BOTTLE.

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This is a brilliant little experiment (inspired by happy hooligans) is great to teach the layers of the ocean and also a little science regarding that good old oil vs water experiment! (Plus it’s really easy to make with household items, we put this one together on a whim before bed last night – too easy!)

If your young ones watch Octonauts then they might already have a bit more of an understanding (than most adults) of how the Ocean is made up of ‘layers’ or ‘zones’. (We’ve talked before about Screen time, and my own children do enjoy a bit of Octonauts thus have lots to say about the layers of the ocean!)

For a bit more detail (and a refresher for yourself) take a quick read through this short article that explains the layers as well as a few other great facts about the ocean that you might want to pull out this week!

You will need:

  • Cooking oil
  • Water coloured with blue dye
  • Clear bottle
  • (Safety goggles entirely optional, but after our explosive volcanic science 5yo Anica felt it would be necessary to wear them!)

Half fill your bottle with water, mix in colour, then fill the remaining with oil. Secure lid and mix.

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The oil and water will separate into a gradient and then into layers. While it is mixed is a great time to talk about the gradient of layers that exist in the ocean and how the different levels of light affects the creatures living there.

As the oil separates you will probably also want to talk about why that oil doesn’t mix with the water – for a short explanation of what is going on you can read this great article. The details of polarities of molecules is not something my young ones are ready for, but this can be simplified and the idea of density is something that is far easier to explain.

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It is also a great to mention that because oil and water don’t mix, sea creatures can use oily feathers or fur to stop the water getting to their skin. If you feel ready you could cover one of your little scientists hands in oil, leaving the other without oil. When both hands are submerged in the food coloured water one had will come out wet (and coloured) while the other will come out with the water (and colour) running off. This involves a little clean up, but is something that will really drive home the concept of animals using oil as a form of protection from water.

Note that these pictures do not do the movement of the oil on water justice, the wave like swirls as it was mixed were mesmerising, and if I didn’t have to get the kids to bed I’m sure they would have enjoyed watching it for hours!

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EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: TASTY LETTER RECOGNITION GAME.

O is a vital letter in the English language, and yet it rarely starts common words (indeed the worlds that we often think of are far more closely related to their Greek origins than most of the words we use in common language – ie octagon, octopus, ox etc) There are a number of O words that we may use as parents and teachers (ie organized, oblivious or even obnoxious… yes, I have been found trying to explain the meaning of obnoxious to my 5yo at those trying times!) but still, very few words that most young children will naturally say when compared to other letters.

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This activity is intended to highlight the importance of the letter O in our language, even if it is not at the beginning of a great deal of words.

Simply choose any book with a large font. (We used a Maisy book with lift the flap fun.) Hand your child some Cheerios and get them to label each O with a Cheerio.

(Alternatively if you would rather avoid Cheerios in your life then you can photocopy a book and have them highlight the letter O – but in our house Cheerios are quite novel so they are a very exciting O shaped dry snack – the kids have no idea that they are meant to be consumed with milk for breakfast!)

For early readers you can talk about the different sounds that O makes when influenced by other letters, for younger children simply identifying the O among the other rounded letters will be enough excitement and challenge.

Of course you can then check that they have found all the Os by reading the page, and eating the Cheerios as you get to each word with an O. Have fun reading!

W – IS FOR FREE WHALE COLOURING FROM TASSIE ILLUSTRATOR!

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To finish off our week of W we have a free designer whale printable for your young tot (from the super talented Tasmanian children’s illustrator, Bec Adamczewski of Bon Mot.) You can download the free printable PDF here:

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(Simply download, print and get to work!)

If you’d like to meet this illustrator in the flesh (and maybe grab a few of her wears to spice up your tot’s space!) then get on down and meet her at your local market:

  • Hobart Twilight Market 4pm-8pm February 20
  • Barn Market 10am-3pm March 1
  • Niche Market Bazaar 9am-3pm March 28 (Launceston)

In the mean time (if your love her work and just can’t wait that long to see more!) then you can always find her work virtually:

Shoot on over to Facebook and send her a Like to keep up to date with what she’s creating, and to say a big thank you for sharing this lovely work with us and our tots!

Enjoy your colouring and look forward to seeing you for the letter O next.

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: WINDOW WONDERLAND.

Transform a window into a wonderful water wonderland that can house all your sea creatures.

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What you will need:

  • Cellophane (blue)
  • Tape
  • Scissors
  • Whiteboard markers (or we used chalk pens, the kind they use to write menus – there are a good selection to choose from at Artary)

Hand your children a ‘special window pen’ (and in our part of the world it’s important that we make that definition – drawings tend to ‘creep’ here!) Talk about all the things they might like to draw in their watery wonderland. Do they want to draw a seahorse like last week? How many legs do crabs really have? Where is that fish swimming to? (While drawing you may like to show them images of the creatures that they are drawing to assist them in ‘seeing’ rather than simply representing with the symbols they have learnt represent particular features – though if your fish still needs a belly button and a nose to be complete, then let them go for it!)

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After the artwork is complete simply tack your cellophane waves to the window (overlapping looks great as it gives various shades of blue). On a sunny day this will give blue light to your room, with little shadows of their drawings – it is quite sweet to see.

Once you have finished take a photo of your young tots from the other side of the window so they can see themselves ‘swimming’ in the water. (Seeing ourselves is an important part of developing self-reflection – plus they will think it’s a hoot!)

EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: PAINTING A PAPER PLATE WHALE.

We’re looking at Whales at the moment, and this is a sweet little project you can do one afternoon, (if you’re up for something a bit more challenging have a go at making your own giant box whale sculpture!)

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For this little exercise you will simply need a paper plate and a pair of scissors.

  • Fold your plate around 1 third of the way across the plate (this will be the whale’s somewhat flat head!)
  • Turn your plate 90degrees and fold down the middle of the plate (this will form the ridge of the back, feel free to add a blow hole later if you so wish!)
  • From about half way along the body, cut the curve of the back towards the tale (imagining how a whale back curves down then back up to it’s tail) Don’t cut all the way to the end!

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  • Instead of cutting the tail off, make your brain do some Olympics and cut a half tail facing back towards the whales back.  (When you unfold the tail away from the body you will have an open tail that moves up and down (like a whale) rather than side to side (like a fish).
  • Bend your tale out and paint/decorate as you wish

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EASY ACTIVITIES TO BUILD YOUNG BRAINS: MULTI-SCHOOL GIANT WHALE PROJECT.

This is a not quite as big as a real blue whale, but it certainly is a monster project (unless you are working with a large group, or have an enthusiastic marine biologist on your hands, you may like to scale this one back a little – the Blue Plate Whale is a smaller one to do at home!) IMG_4661 First, fashion a ‘box whale’ from a few cardboard boxes and lots of packing tape. The exact shape of your whale will be determined by your boxes, but we found it far easier than initially imagined to make the basic whale shape. (We also used some packing to help support the inside of the shape, though this was more about what happened to be in our boxes rather than something you need to seek out.) We then had a little more ‘softening’ to do before our box looked truly like a whale. We scrunched newspaper and taped this down with sheets of paper (like wrapping a big newspaper present!). We did this in any places our whale needed a few more ‘curves.’ IMG_4649 Once the shape is achieved mix 1part water ; 1 part PVA glue in a tray. Tear paper into more manageable pieces and dip in the glue before placing over your whale. Aim to overlap your paper for strength and cover as much of the whale as possible. (Our young sculptors were not so focused on the idea of overlapping for strength, but their enthusiasm for covering the top of the whale meant that it happened anyway!) Your whaled dry time will be different depending on the thickness of your layers. Ours took about 4-6 hours to dry on a sunny day. IMG_4926 Once dry we painted our whale (blue of course!) and the squelchy squashy finger paint was a hit, as always. IMG_4930 This particular whale will then visit my 5yos Prep class soon, for a little more decoration and as they are investigating sea creatures at the moment, it will then come back to us for an under the sea birthday party, and then find it’s home at the daycare centre – not bad for a bit of news paper, a few old boxes and lots of little enthusiastic hands!

BAKING GEOGRAPHY (THE IMPORTANCE OF CAKE IN A CLASSROOM)

We’ve talked before about our mission to cook around the world, but in this case we are baking the actual world it’s self!

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To link in with our concepts surrounding volcanoes (inspired by our destination of the week; the volcanic islands Wallis and Futuna) we’ve been investigating the layers that make our world.

The inner core is the hottest (imagine the seed of a tick skinned fruit) the outer core is still darn hot, but a little cooler than the very centre (think of the flesh of your fruit) then there is the far thinner crust of solid, hard rock (imagine the skin of the fruit) and on top of that are all our oceans and islands. That’s our world in a fruity sense, but we decided it would have a more memorable impact on our learning to EAT CAKE!

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I’ve reflected a little in the past about the importance of a ‘Purple Cow’ approach applied to learning activities (that is, a thing so remarkable that you actually remake on it, and then by re-telling that exciting story you wire those nurons again and again). It’s a marketing concept (by marketing guru Seth Godin) combined with the brain science (best explained in easy reading books like The Whole Brain Child By Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson). While you might not want to fill your kids up on sugar every time you learn a new concept, tossing in a ‘purple cow’ now and then (something they’ll be excited enough to talk about) will enhance their learning as well as bring a wide grin to their faces.

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First get measuring and mix up a cake batter, any think cake batter will do, but we used this slightly modified recipe from the Country Women’s Association Cook Book (that I’m proud to report 3yo Elka corrected me to: ‘Country Women’s and Men’s cookbook’ – I’m glad to see equality going both ways in my young lass!)

RECIPE:

  • 2 Large tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups self-raising flour
  • 3/4 cup milk

Mix all. Bake at 180 until a skewer comes out clean.

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We doubled this recipe (making 2 sides of the globe) though I have left it in it’s single form. The task of doubling the recipe was given to the 5yo, who (on top of the usual measuring and mixing) enjoyed the challenge of a little extra numeracy. The fraction was a little too advanced for her, but she was able to deduce that 2 halves were one cup, and 2 quarters were half when it was broken down for her. Fractions is not really something that she needs to concern herself with in terms of formal learning, but introducing the concept in relation to cooking (where there are so many fractions!) is a great place to begin to build her understanding.

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We then separated the mixture into 2 bowls and each child was responsible for mixing the colour for a different layer in the centre of the world. One for the inner core (red) and the other mixed the outer core (yellow/orange). This sense of ownership (and also colour reference) came in particularly handy when we re-visited the concept of layers later.

We then poured our otter core (yellow mixture) into the ‘ball tin’ (yes, I bought a ball tin on impulse years ago and it gets very little use – 2 rounded bowls would be just as effective!)

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We piped our inner core into the centre of each tin, and then popped it in the oven.

Due to the nature of cooking both colours at the same time the exact shape of your core will be a little unpredictable, but the thick mixture should hold it’s place fairly well. (Plus the neater alternative of cooking 2 separate cakes and ‘nesting’ the cakes during the icing process is far too complex for me to attempt with children!)

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We then iced the world in blue butter icing, and made some (roughly shaped) continents to place on our world. To create the continents we printed this map, taped it down with clear plastic on top. The kids then filled the continent shapes with fondant (we happened to have some coloured fondant left over from a cake, but most supermarkets also stock batches of ready made pre-colourd fondant in an easy pack).

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Elka (3yo) particularly enjoyed making these play dough like shapes out of fondant – though she did ‘accidentally’ eat Australia (see the photo of her face just as she was caught popping Australia in her mouth!)

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The kids learnt the continents more than I thought they would from this exercise, more than I thought they would. They also took a lot away from the concept of a world made out of layers. When entering a cave they asked if we would get far enough down to see the lava, and each time we talked about the layers after they would tell me ‘that’s the one I mixed’ and so on.

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THINGS TO SEE AND DO: VISIT A WORKING WATER WHEEL AND MAKE ONE TO TAKE HOME.

We’d like to note that W is also for Whisky, and while taking children to a distillery is not usually seen as a positive parental moment – that’s exactly what we did and it was fantastic!

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Nant Distillery has one of the oldest functioning water wheels in Australia and is well worth the journey just for the sake of the kids – even if you don’t like Whisky yourself! (Nant is in Oatlands, about 1 hour road trip from Hobart). The entire mill (originally used to mill flour) has been fully restored as a working barley mill. The water wheel is made up of original parts and is easily seen from the outside (where the stream moves the wheel) and shop area (where you can see the cogs turning as result of the water moving the wheel). All this is free and visible even without a tour of the building. We were lucky enough to be spotted making our water wheels and the kids were given a full tour of the premises by the friendly staff before we sat down for hot chocolates… truly a wonderful day for the whole family!

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Now, while I whole heartedly recommend making a family day trip to Nant to check out the function of a real water wheel, here’s an activity that you can do in the bath if you don’t happen to make it to Oatlands today.

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First grab your supplies:

  • Moulding clay
  • Disposable spoons
  • A smooth stick

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Now to construction:

  • Form a ball of moulding clay around the middle of your stick (ensuring that it is fairly evenly weighted around the stick)
  • Insert the tops of the spoons (handles removed) into the moulding clay at even spaces (ensuring all are facing the same way when turned, as in the pictures – after a little trial and error this little engineer found that the 3 ‘paddles’ as shown here work better for us than the theory of many paddles.)

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Your water wheel is made! We first tested ours in some still water to see what would happen (nothing) then in some slow moving water (still nothing). We asked the kids what they think needed to happen to help move the wheel around. Faster water!

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When held in the faster water we were delighted to see it spin rapidly, turning the ‘shaft’ in our hands. (We loved the small waterfall flowing though the grounds for this, but a tap or watering can could provide the same result for your water wheel if you are doing this at home.)

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We talked about how that energy could be used. To make power was the favourite answer (after our talks about wind creating power).

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At this point we moved over to the real water wheel to see how the energy could be transferred to cogs to mill barley. (See the photo above for Anica’s reaction when it began to move by the power of the water in the stream!)

We were then also guided through the rest of the distillery to see how the barley is ground, and eventually made into whisky. The mechanisms are beautiful to admire, and our guide perfectly matched the informal nature required for a tour group as young as ours!

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A wonderful day out that was finished with a hot chocolate and gallivanting around the greens.

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Our trip home was the perfect time to chat about what we had seen, think about how much power water holds, what water is in different forms (ice, liquid, steam etc). We also touched a little on the gravity that makes water always run to the lowest point (gravity of planets being a recurring theme but a new and rather abstract concept for the kids when talked about previously in our space activities.) The car is always a nice place for questions, and after our activities the kids had plenty!