Friday, 17 February 2012

Ice baubles

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We made these during the cold snap because they looked pretty in the snow, but they can be made at any time and are a lovely way of teaching children about water freezing and ice melting. A variation on a theme of our ice decorations last year, the idea was to make something spherical. They took days to melt, but it was pretty cold outside...

You will need:
  • Balloons
  • String
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glitter (if desired)


  • Thread lengths of string into the balloons so that it reaches the bottom (one way to do this is to blow a little bit of air into the balloon and drop the string in).
  • Put some glitter into the bottom of the balloons.

  • Stretch the neck of a balloon over a tap and very slowly fill it up. Keep them small or they will be too heavy to hang.
  • Tie up the top of the balloon and place in the freezer.
  • Leave over night. You will need to take them out occasionally to disperse the glitter around the bauble (we didn't do enough of that and the glitter sank to the bottom). This provides a good opportunity for your child to see the freezing process happen.

  • When the baubles are completely frozen, get them out of the freezer and get your child to have a feel of them. It might be worth keeping one balloon out at the beginning so you can compare the frozen and non-frozen.
  •  Cut the balloon off the bauble up to the knot at the top. Trim the balloon knot down as much as possible.
  • Twist a pipe cleaner around the string.
  • Hang the baubles up on a tree or outside a window and watch the melting process over the next few hours.
Or you could:
  • Make different shapes with long, wiggly balloons.
  • With older children you could make this into a real science experiment by putting a bowl underneath the baubles to measure the amount of water that drips down over the melting process (measure every hour).

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Biscuits for any occasion

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These shortbread biscuits are great for any occasion (in this case, our nod to valentine's day). You just need the appropriate cutter...

You will need:
  • 100g softened butter
  • 50g sugar
  • 150g flour
  • Icing sugar
  • Colouring
  • Hundreds and thousands

  • Grease a baking tray.
  • Cream the butter with a wooden spoon or a hand mixer (you may want to start with a hand mixer and let your child finish off with a spoon).
  • Sift the flour and add the sugar.


  • Add the flour and sugar to the butter and knead together.
  • Roll out the dough thinly and cut out using your cutter of choice.
  • Turn out onto the baking tray and prick well.
  • Bake in the oven until firm and golden.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack. 

Photobucket To make the icing: Sift some icing sugar into a bowl and add drips of water until you have a fairly runny mixture. Add colouring and drizzle over the cooled biscuits.
Decorate at will...

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Posh wax-resistant painting and a valentine garland

Photobucket Photobucket It's worth investing in some posh watercolour paints and paper for special occasions. The effect is just so much better than the usual and will always produce things you will treasure. Wax resistant (or magic) painting works brilliantly with this paper and you can try it with the youngest of artists (although smaller children tend not to press very hard with their crayons, so may need some help). We did two sessions: made the first pictures into cards and the second into a valentine garland...

You will need:
  • Watercolour paper
  • Watercolours (either a tin or separate tubes)
  • A wide paintbrush
  • Wax crayons
  • Thread or ribbon (for garland)

  • Take a piece of watercolour paper and encourage your child to do a design (or scribble) with a crayon. You may need to help them with making big, bold lines which will show up better when they paint.

  • If using a tube of watercolour, you will only need a tiny amount to get the colour wash. Add water to the paint with the thick brush to get a paint with an ink consistency.Mix up about three colours - any more and they get muddy.
  • Get your child to explore washing the paint over the wax design.
  • Encourage them to add further colours (but know when to stop!).
  • Leave to dry.

  • The final pieces make lovely pictures to stick on walls but you could also cut up the pictures to make cards.
  • To make the garland: Cut out heart shapes from the pictures and make a hole at the top of each heart by placing it on a piece of blu-tac or play-dough and piercing it with a skewer.
  • Thread the hearts together and hang up.