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Archive for July, 2013

Our two boys are completely obsessed with dinosaurs and recently created their own La Brea tar pit in the flower bed, so this July I thought I’d channel their paleontology interests into slightly cleaner activities (they were so covered in mud after the impromptu tar pit episode that no skin could be seen on their arms and legs and every one of their toy dinosaurs had ‘fallen in’ and been covered in wet mud).  Two of these activities were big hits, kept them occupied for a long time and didn’t require too much prep or clean up on my part.

1. Ice paleontology

You do need to plan this a day or so in advance, but it’s pretty simple to do. Just fill a plastic bucket with water, add some plastic dinosaurs and freeze. The next day, dump the dino filled ice cube on the lawn, give them some tools to chip away at the ice and invite them to be paleontologists. The boys had great fun excavating the dinosaurs and then experimenting with the left over chunks of ice.  One note of warning–the freezing process can make the dinosaurs a bit brittle. Ours survived the process without real damage, but I wouldn’t use any favourite dinosaur models just in case.

Dinos On Ice

Dinos On Ice

2. Make a fossil, Break a fossil

This was a two-day activity. On day one we made our plastic dinosaurs into fossils. The boys had great fun making the fossil mixture in their play kitchen in the garden. We mixed 1 cup of water, 1 cup of soil, 1/2 cup of sand and 1/3 cup of flour together in a bowl. We then added the dinosaurs and covered them in this dirt goop before fishing each one out and laying them on a (plastic film covered) tray to dry in the sun.

The mud mix

The mud mix

 

Twenty four hours later the fossils were dry and the boys were able to play paleontologists and excavate each dinosaur.  Again, the dinosaurs can get a little banged up as the kids chip the dirt away so I wouldn’t use any beloved models (we kept our “special Allosaurus” on one side to watch).

Cooked and ready to excavate

Cooked and ready to excavate

 

Enjoy.

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I’ve written before about how much fun our kids have on Negative Tide Day at Half Moon Bay’s Fitzgerald Marine Reserve — see here — but this year we decided to do a Negative Tide Day from the ‘other end’, from Seal Cove, and it was even better.  You can still reach the whole FMR by walking along the beach at low tide but there are several advantages of starting at Seal Cove. First, parking is much easier–you’ll find plentiful space on the streets around the cove off Cypress Avenue even on the busiest morning. Second, the tide pools at Seal Cove are a little less crowded with fewer teenagers running about manhandling the sea animals. And third, the beach at Seal Cove is far nicer. The main Fitzgerald Marine Reserve beach is small and, at this time of year, partially closed for the resident seal colony (which, incidentally, is the biggest its been in years and worth checking out).  At Seal Cove you’ll find empty golden sands, a relatively small wave swell and lots of interesting rocks and sea shells. It’s perfect for toddlers, although you should note that it’s most definitely a beach to visit at low tide, there are steep steps down to the sand, and there are no restrooms or other amenities.

The view from the top

The view from the top

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Watching the many seals of Seal Cove

Our kids enjoyed the tide pools more than ever this year partly, I think, because they knew what to expect but partly because we’d found some perfect  laminated toddler guides to Half Moon Bay’s sea life (see here if you’re interested). The boys really got a kick out identifying the various creatures they found. It was a great way for them to engage with the tide pool creatures without touching them.

Identify and catagorize

Identify and catagorize

Leaf Barnacles

Leaf Barnacles

 

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I love summer – always have: long days with nothing scheduled, nowhere to go and plenty of time to relax outside. My kids seem to feel the same. While I had been a little apprehensive that they would find all this ‘down time’ a little dull after the busy school year, they’ve really embraced the slower summer pace and are enjoying pottering around the garden inventing their own worlds and games.

That said, a day in the garden with a baby, a two-year old and a four-year old is a long time and they do sometimes look to me for entertainment.  Partly out of necessity (the Bug is currently learning to sit up and requires constant attention) and partly inspired by my educational philosophy (that preschoolers need invitations to creativity rather than organized games) I’ve been trying to find play prompts that capture their imagination, lead to long play periods, and don’t need to much adult intervention. I thought I’d share our more successful outdoors play ideas in case there are other families in need……

The Busy Town Garden Game

My older two (both boys) are interested in logistics, maps and transport. They also love the Busy Town books and have in past weeks used this books as a spring-board to ask about town organization.  To combine and extend these interests, and to keep them happily engaged outside, we invented the ‘Busy Town Garden Game’.

The Suburbs

The Suburbs

 

One afternoon I cleared the patio, took out a box of chalk and drew three boxes on the ground each a few feet apart. I labeled one the ‘school’, one the ‘shop’ and one the farm. I told the boys this was the start of their own ‘busy town’ and invited them to complete it.  They took to the idea immediately, connecting these ‘buildings’ with roads. And then the game took off and they thought about what other buildings and institutions a town needed and added them to the patio.  Over several afternoons, the map has grown ever larger with increasingly specialized businesses and vast suburbs. The boys added cars and traffic signs to the town and are asking to start building structures out of boxes tomorrow to add to their project.  I love how this has stirred their imagination. I also love how busy it has kept them.

'The Busy Town 101'

‘The Busy Town 101’

 

 

 

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