Giant Cotton Reel Racer: STEM Activity

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A Little Science and Engineering for Toddlers!

These simple machines use stored elastic potential (strain) energy. There are two reasons I think it is important to make machines for children to play with.

1) They can see all the parts, what they do, start to understand why they are suitable and figure out why they are not working when they break down.

2) Being presented with objects used for new purposes taps into their own creativity and inventiveness. Every object has the potential to be used for something else!

I’ve been making Cotton Reel Racers with match sticks and rubber bands for over ten years in my science lessons. Problem is they can be a bit too temperamental and delicate for toddler hands. Therefore I decided to ‘Go Large’ and create giant ones…three in all, for this weeks workshops.

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The local scrap store provides lots strange and wonderful objects that would otherwise go to landfill. these giant reels were just the job! Similar reels from cabling might be just as good.

I threaded a thick elastic band through the centre of the reel. A stick is inserted into the elastic at each end of the reel. One short one that lies flat and may need to be taped down to stop it moving, and a long stick, inserted on top of a washer of some kind. I used a toy car wheel for our washer.

To make it go you need to wind the long stick around. Here is a video of it in action!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Decorating Twig Trees

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It’s a wonderful feeling to look around and see so many toddlers genuinely engaged in an activity. Toddlers really don’t care about your feelings. If its not interesting, they simply wont engage in it! However, if they are playing they are learning!

This fine motor skills activity popped into my head when collecting leaves with my husband and children in the park at the weekend. I raided the garage and toy box for anything that could be threaded on to the twigs to make little decorated trees. I stood the twigs in pots of playdough. To my delight it was a hit! This demands a delicate touch and dexterity. The concentration in their faces can be seen in some of the pictures below and makes me smile every time I look at them!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Bean Construction Box

Here is a lovely rainy day activity guaranteed to keep your toddlers engaged! A bean and chick pea construction play box.
The special feature of this box are the tipping hoppers made from pop bottle top halves. They are strung across the box with the string or elastic entering the bottles low down giving them instability when full, causing them to tip over and empty. The inspiration for this came from a water park on holiday! Here is a video clip of them working. Cut kitchen towel tubes made great shoots, taped to the side of the box.

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We added a paper plate helter skelter!

Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

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Rice Play Tumble Wall

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In this weeks workshops we’ve used an old bit of hard board from the garage for this activity. We drilled a few quick random holes and attached a variety of containers using paper fasteners! We taped the paper fasteners down at the back to add more strength.

We chose open ended containers, closed ended ones and ones with holes in. This varied the exit method of the rice. Closed containers can be swivelled to empty them and all of the container’s angles can easily be changed by the children.

Don’t underestimate this activity! Toddlers find it really engaging! They immediately set about scooping and pouring. The sound the rice makes as it exits the containers is like a rainmaker.

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Best done on a mat so spilt rice can easily tipped back in! The first time we did it I didn’t use a mat and had to hoover the lawn!

Happy Scooping!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Fairy Mud

Messy play but clean! We are making fairy mud pies at Tiny Adventure this week using a ‘clean mud’ recipe. Grated bars of soap, sparkles, lots of cheap toilet roll, water and a lot of squishing produces a lovely clean soapy mud. See Alphabet Mud for more details.

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The children also likened it to ice cream! It keeps pretty well too. It may need a bit of water adding to bring it back to life. I expect it would dry in shape too, but I haven’t tried It. Let me know if you have!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham

Rice Sensory Play Box

Tiny Adventurers recalled their favourite characters and rhymes from In the Night Garden with our Igglepiggle Rice Sensory Play Box.

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We coloured the rice green with a little food colouring and added large brightly coloured buttons hidden in the rice. They quickly set about scooping, raking and digging about in it to see what was there.

Next thing you know, it’s raining rice! Isn’t that a pip!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Home Made Gak Play Slime

This week Tiny Adventurers enjoyed playing with Gak play slime. This is a home made slime that keeps because it is a polymer, and is great fun because it behaves is very interesting ways!

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This slime can be cut, stretched and takes the shape of moulds. It doesn’t hold it’s shape and slowly oozes. It is a plastic, is not edible and it is dry to touch!

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The ingredients for Gak are PVA Glue and Borax powder. There are plenty or instructions for making Gak to be found on the web, here is a good set for GAK in five minutes! Borax is hard to get hold if in the UK and needs to be handled with care. I purchased mine on line. Have fun!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Magnet Play Toddler STEM Activity

Experiencing magnetic attraction! I took along our magnet board and a box of magnetic house hold objects to this week’s workshops. We used small strong magnets (knotted in baby socks to reduce risk of chocking), magnetic fishing rods and our giant magnets too.

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I used self adhesive magnetic strips and stuck on other magnets using a super glue to make a magnet wall. Our every day objects included spoons, jam jar lids, slinky springs (stick them in a stocking and knot the end if you think they’ll get then tangled), cookie cutters etc. They can then set about sticking the objects to the magnets directly or on the back where they can’t see the magnets.

For small magnetic items that could cause a choking hazard e.g. bottle tops, pipe cleaners, pennies and paper clips, I placed them in sealed containers. Some in water and glitter, some in baby oil and some just in air. Happily they set about using the ‘magnetic socks’ to drag the items around in the container.

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Experiencing repulsion! I also took the time to make some repulsion cars. Magnets with same poles facing outward, glued on to the front of two cars. This is perfect for experiencing repulsion! Here is a video of them.

Happy experimenting everyone! Please share your experiments too!

Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Sand Dough!

What happens when you add a couple of cups of sand to salt dough?

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You get a lovely gritty beach dough! Great for moulding and making shell impressions!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.

Tip Tap Dry Sand Play

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Our Tip Tap Water Wall works very well with dry sand!! The closed end containers with small holes in means the sand trickles out slowly!

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Creative messy play toddler classes for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Cheltenham.