The ‘Big’ Drawing Invitation

You are presented with a blank white piece of paper and asked to draw something, if you are anything like me, your mind will probably go into immediate ‘brain freeze’ and you will be unable to think of anything at all to put on it! Children’s brains can sometimes experience the same thing and it is fun to create drawing prompts for them. All you need is some coloured paper. This is a great one to set up on Friday or Saturday night…the excitement created when the children get up to things in an odd place the next day is priceless!


Simply attach some paper to your table – I used sellotape. We had some brown parcel paper and a sheet of blue wrapping paper. I added the white paper for an extra contrast (and because we didn’t have enough blue). Just use whatever paper you have to hand. I then left them pens, animals, some pencil shavings which we had been saving (odd I know (!) and a nice addition but not necessary to the project at all) and a drawing prompt‘the animals need homes – please draw us one’.


I set this up in 15 minutes when the girls had gone to bed. They came down the next morning and were so excited. They immediately set to work on the beautiful display below (while I had a relaxing cup of tea and a quiet piece of toast!). They wanted me to draw a road but that was my only addition.


A close up of the tiger and crab house.


The display got added to over a number of days and they turned it into a game with all the animals interacting. I love that the panda house has climbing roses up the wall and a post box! Our bears get a lot of mail!


They drew a home for each animal.


I could have taken endless pictures of this but I will save you! We left it up for about a week so be prepared to find somewhere else to eat. The girls were pretty happy to take it down as I had another project in mind…

Enid Blyton Rating: 8 out of 10 (Easy drawing fun which allows their imaginations to run wild on a big scale.)


3D Art and experimenting with different mediums

Sometimes it is nice to have a special 3D project and Spring time eggs seemed like a fun idea. If you don’t have any wooden ones (which I ordered here) you can boil an egg up and do the same thing – if you blow the eggs first you have the added benefit of scrambled eggs for tea!


To give the girls more control over the project I put out a choice of art materials – poster paints with cotton buds and paint brushes, oil pastels (very economical and produce lovely colours), bleeding tissue paper and sharpie markers (ordinary felt tip pens would be great too). Check out our post here on how to use bleeding tissue paper.


We had a few friends round for an art party and here are the results.

…dotty paint below making excellent use of the cotton buds (PVA glue them later to protect them).


Sharpie markers below…we all love the metallic ones! This led to a great discussion on Fabergé eggs…check out these pictures here.


Below sharpie markers (which I should add are permanent) on the left and bleeding tissue paper on the right (it went home so I didn’t get to see the big reveal, when the tissue paper is taken off, but I am sure it was beautiful).


And paint brushes and cotton bud painting here. Sadly no one used the oil pastels…if only there had been an egg left for me to do!


Enid Blyton Rating: 8 out of 10 (Lots of art materials on offer and an interesting and challenging 3D shape ensured the girls had total control of this project. At school they can often be presented with a finished project to emulate so it is lovely to have the freedom to experiment at home).

Soap Clouds and Clean Mud

A really fascinating science experiment which we managed to convert into two messy play activities and a whole 2 hours of fun! With just two ingredients we made a soap cloud, soap snow and then ‘clean mud’. However you do need a particular brand of soap to make it work…


Simply take…

The ‘Soap Cloud’ experiment:

  • 2 x bars of Ivory Soap (you will want to do the microwave bit twice and you can make it all into ‘clean mud’ later or you can just use the enormous clouds for bath time if your children don’t have really sensitive skin)
  • 1 x bar of any other soap
  • 2 glasses of water
  • A microwave for the ‘soap cloud’ experiment (to make the ‘clean mud’ recipe below without a microwave just grate the soap)

To make ‘clean mud’:

  • 2 x rolls of toilet paper
  • Cup and a half of water
  • Shallow tub to hold it all

The ‘Soap Cloud’ Experiment

I popped the soap next to two glasses of water and asked the girls to make a hypothesis (it is great to use scientific words at home even when they are small…hopefully giving them confidence later on in science at school). Will the soap float or sink? Given that the soap weighs the same…will they act the same? We always lose the soap in the bottom of the bath so a very definite –  they will both sink!


No they don’t…one sinks and the bar of Ivory soap floats…despite the fact they both weigh the same.  IMG_4168

Hmm interesting what else will this soap do? Lets microwave it! I grabbed a chair for the children so they could see what was going on in the microwave. We put the bar of soap on a plate. Popped the microwave on high for 2 minutes and watched as the soap magically began to expand into a ‘cloud’! Ours did not take the full 2 minutes and I stopped it when it looked like it had stopped expanding. Take it out, let it cool for 30 seconds, and touch it. It feels fairly rigid but looks like a fluffy cloud (see the picture at the top of this post…you can pick the whole thing up and it stays intact!).



Ordinary soap does not do this. We did try it with the other bar and it has no reaction at all – it just warmed up – it probably would have melted if we had carried on. Steve Spangler science has an excellent explanation but essentially the soap is less dense than water. This is because Ivory is the only soap to have air pumped into it when it’s made (an accidental process discovered in 1890!).

Mr Spangler goes on to explain the reaction is similar to popcorn popping…along with the air bubbles water is present…so as the water is heated and vaporises the trapped air is heated and expands – causing the popcorn to pop and the soap to expand.

What to do with this magnificent ‘cloud’?

Touch it and break it up into snow of course! We used knives to chop it too.


Add animals and you have a lovely snowy play world…complete with blizzards!


To extent this activity further make ‘Clean Mud’!

  • Take all the paper off your toilet roll, preferably by throwing it around the place with much hilarity – always fun to make a mummy too (just unravel one roll first, you can always add in the second roll later if the mixture is to wet). Gather it all into a plastic tub and rip it up into fairly small pieces to get smoother ‘mud’.
  • Take 2 bars of ivory soap, puffed up and broken into the snowy mixture, and sprinkle into your tissue paper tub (if you don’t have a microwave just grate the soap bars instead).
  • Add a cup and a half of water to the mix and smoosh it up a bit with your hands and it will start to form moldable ‘dough’. The girls alternated between squeals of delight and cries of ‘this is horrible’ doing this! (At this point we moved it into trays on the table…a big shallow tub on the floor would work well though and we have a fantastic box from IKEA which we now put all sorts of messy things in. It also doubles as a light box).
  • Just add animals (again!) and more tissue paper if it is a little wet or if it is too dry add a little more water.
  • You will end up with a squishy, soft dough…slightly odd but very touchable.


When all the tissue paper is in you can also make it into a snowball!


Instead of animals you could add biscuit cutters and tea sets for pretend cooking fun. To make a coloured dough just add coloured water when you are adding your water initially. We quite fancy adding glitter too… Lots of fun and it leaves the kitchen with a soapy fresh smell!

Enid Blyton Rating: 9 out of 10 (Good clean fun! …Im sorry I just couldn’t help myself!)

Blow up a balloon with gas!

It can be hard when you are little to blow up a balloon! But what if you can get a chemical reaction to do it for you?


Simply take…

  • A bottle or two with fairly thin necks, glass or plastic
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Bicarbonate of Soda (lots as you will want to repeat this)
  • Balloons
  • Funnel
  • (doing this in your PJ’s is optional!)


Fill your bottle with 2-3cm of vinegar and set aside. Give the balloon a bit of a stretch (just as you would if you were blowing it up yourself). Put the balloon over the funnel and get as much bicarb as you can into the balloon (roughly 3-4 heaped teaspoon into the bottom but not into the neck as you need this to stretch over the bottle. You don’t want your bicarb to fall in while you are trying to get the balloon over so don’t make it really full).


Take the balloon off the funnel and stretch it over your glass bottle – being careful not to tip the contents into the bottle until you have got the balloon totally over the neck. (We had a few tear slightly at this point put if you can pull the tear down over the bottle a bit and hold your hand over the hole it will still work!) Gently tip the contents of the balloon into the bottle and be amazed!


It is a fairly fast and fun reaction!


We started small with several different colours (they wanted to know if different colours inflated differently). We then decided to experiment with a larger bottle and more vinegar. I love the look of wonder at this point!


It just kept growing and its a reaction which stays so plenty of time for silly photos.


So what causes the reaction? Essentially mixing the two substances together produces a chemical reaction and makes a gas…carbon dioxide. That gas rises and inflates the balloon. My biggest girl noted that this is how they get the bubbles into fizzy drinks. I love the connections they make through investigation.

Then we found the best balloon. Different shapes are the way forward.


It just made us all laugh…


We also got a bit technical towards the end as we looked at what effect bottle size had on the reaction. We measured the two sets of ingredients (same quantities of vinegar and bicarbonate of soda), took the same size balloon and make a hypothesis. I asked them what they thought would happen to the balloons? Both girls thought the bigger bottle would create a bigger balloon. It did! We concluded that more gas was allowed to be created in the bigger space, rising into the balloon. (I am not quite sure if this is right but either way it is a good lesson in keeping the variables the same to test a hypothesis – if there are any scientists out there I would love to hear why we got this reaction! I did say to the girls it could be because we can’t control one of the variables and one of the balloons might just have been that little bit bigger??? All good fun with lots of questions and discussion of the various concepts).

Enid Byton Rating: 7 out of 10 (A great way to show a chemical reaction and produce a proper wow!)

Humming birds and bleeding tissue paper

I’m not keen on the name of ‘bleeding tissue paper’ but it does produce some beautiful effects on paper and wood! We found some lovely wooden craft shapes here and bleeding tissue paper here and got to work!


Here are the results…it is so easy to do and the girls loved the way the colours blended together.


How to colour shapes with bleeding tissue paper… 

The first job is to rip up your tissue paper and put it into a dry bowl. The moment it gets wet the colour starts to come out and mix together and the challenge of this project is keeping the dry bowl dry!


Pop your shape onto paper if you don’t mind staining your table or use an oilcloth/tray if you do. Now there are two ways to do this and they both work equally well so don’t stress and go with the flow. Get a bowl of water and a couple of paintbrushes…(the bird theme water bowl was perhaps lost on the little girls but I couldn’t help myself!)


Method 1. Lay your dry tissue paper onto the shape in whatever pattern you like and then brush over the whole lot with water (my littlest did this).

Method 2. Lay one piece on at a time and brush each one with water and build it up (my biggest did this).

Here are a few pictures of the girls mid project…


In the pictures below I put all the tissue paper on before I painted it. This is probably good for smaller children as if little wet hands dip in and out of the dry tissue bowl inevitably you will end up with a lot of wet bleeding tissue paper (…although is that really so bad…I would let them get on and create their own masterpiece in whichever style they fancy).


I then simply brushed it over with water…it does need quite a lot of water to get a deep colour effect.


Simply leave it for an hour or two to dry and the tissue paper will peel off really easily. It is so much fun uncovering the results which are just beautiful. Just do the same process on the other side. A word of warning though…unless you can keep your shape really still you will end up recoloring your first side a little as the tissue paper bleeds a lot.


Just one more picture…


We are making our humming birds into bunting with the trusty glue gun and string but it would make a lovely mobile too.

We also played around with the tissue paper on thicker paper too (see below) with lovely results. We cut them into easter egg shapes but they would also provide some fantastic background for marker drawings. We will be doing lots more of this as it is really addictive!


Enid Blyton Rating: 10 out of 10 (Very cool free form art with unexpected results…there is certainly a little bit of magic when you take off the paper and reveal the creations)


Rain clouds in a glass

Mummy, how does it rain?


Here is a fun, quick experiment to show the girls how rain is formed. We also looked at this you tube video to help us understand the ‘water cycle’ (my Geography ‘A’ level really came into its own here!). The video is a bit too detailed for my littlest but she really enjoyed the experiment!

What you need?

  • Food colours or Liquid water colours (thinned down poster paint would also work)
  • Shaving Foam
  • Pipettes (or if you don’t have one a teaspoon will be fine)
  • A clear jar or glass


How to make it rain?

Simply fill a glass with water and put shaving cream on the top to represent the cloud. Start to add your colours slowly. They will pool in and just at the bottom of the cloud.


As more water is added to the cloud the cloud get heavier…


and heavier.


Eventually the cloud will get so heavy it will start to rain. It looks very pretty especially if you add lots of colours. I think we were aiming for a thunderstorm here!


Although I think you can see the effect better with one colour.


A friend did this recently and she said that using ice cold water produced more pronounced droplets. An interesting future experiment! If you have any shaving foam left why not try shaving cream marbling.

Enid Blyton Rating: 8 out of 10 ( A quick, hands on experiment for even the smallest scientist)

An invitation to experiment


An invitations to play is essentially leaving a set of materials out for your children to explore. I really love how children can learn so much through play – particularly child led play. As Chair of our local Pre-School I learned a lot more about this and why it is important – from helping to build confidence to developing problem solving skills. Read on for some ideas on putting together a science experiment with more of a child led approach in mind.


What you will need…

  • Bicarbonate of Soda
  • White Vinegar
  • Food colouring or liquid water colours
  • Washing up liquid
  • Various containers to hold your potions (for one of the experiments you will need a container with a lid that is able to pop off. This is tricky to find I know – luckily we had a test tube from Grace’s science party. But something like a Berocca container would be ideal. If you haven’t got this to hand don’t let it stop you – the rest is still fun! There is a link to buying test tubes at the bottom too.)
  • Measuring spoons and jugs (great for talking about math concepts through play)
  • Goggles and a magnifying glass (because they are fun – the goggles are adult ones from the DIY shop for £1.40)
  • A pen and paper if you would like to record the experiments (I did but the girls just wanted to get into the experiments today!)

Firstly, a true child led session would have lots of activities out and the children would self choose. But this is the real world – at home – and they wanted to do an experiment so I foraged some stuff from the cupboards and we went from there!

I showed them the ingredients and together we decided we wanted to look at mixing the bicarbonate with the vinegar. It fizzed! We already knew that, having done it lots before, but it is so much fun.


The key to a child led approach is letting the children decide what to do next and you need to ask open ended questions (all my questions are in italics). For example…What would you like to do? How much shall we mix? What do you think will happen? They will want to know why a reaction happens so be prepared with the answers or have google to hand! We then decided to add colour.


I asked them if adding colour changed the effect. No, but it looked pretty! Asking them to describe the effects in detail, listening and discussing it with them is fun and important. You can almost feel them making connections in their brains! Their confidence is also blossoming as Mummy is really listening and discussing their thoughts (rather than just trying to have a quiet, sneaky cup of tea!)


We then added different colours. Did this change the effect – no – and they were not as pretty as the first colours! We talked about why it was fizzing too – essentially the vinegar is an acid. It reacts with the bicarbonate of soda (a base) and forms carbonic acid. Carbonic acid is not stable and it decomposes almost immediately into water and carbon dioxide gas – this is what causes the bubbles. The same bubbles are in fizzy drinks and carbonic acid is what gives it that slightly acidic (fizzy) taste. That explanation led to a lot of questions on decomposing, acids and gases! (apologies to all you scientists out there for that basic explanation!) Mm…what would happen if we added soap?


Hurray bubbles! But not pretty enough…colour is needed!


What happens if we add lots of vinegar? Cool – lots of fizz – a quick and fast reaction! What happens if we add bicarb on top? Not so exciting. Why? An even distribution of all the ingredients is needed or the gas is quickly lost into the air (the fizz fizzles out) rather than the gas having to make its way out through the bubble mixture – blowing the bubbles up first (useful knowledge for later on as it turn out). Cue discussion of how cakes rise….


What happens if we change the shape of the container? Will it have a more exciting effect? Oh yes!


They decided on the order of the ingredients – colour, bicarb, bubbles liquid and then in with the vinegar.


Later on we ran one set of tubes with the ingredients in different orders and looked at the effects (but I forgot to take a picture as we were so involved at that point!). Child led is important but this is where a carefully placed open ended question can be invaluable as the girls had not thought about this step. What do you think will happen if we put the ingredients in a different order? Shall we test them all together? We think bicarb on the bottom, fairy liquid, then colour is the best!

Another carefully placed question to finish off – We know that the chemical reaction is producing carbon dioxide gas – what will happen if we trap the gas in a really small space? How can we do this? (cue carefully placed container with lid!)


What is going to happen…is this safe mummy? (my youngest thought not as she hid behind a wall!)


It explodes! We repeated this at least 10 times and it was just as exciting each time (well, for Grace – although she didn’t want to hold it – Kitty had wandered off for the last few!). There was a lot of vinegar on our ceiling when we had finished! You can just see the yellow lid pop off! We were able to take this picture as we managed to slow the reaction down slightly by adding bubble mixture on top of the bicarb (our previous learning came in handy!). Without the bubble mixture on top it is barely possible to get the lid onto such a small container.


Enid Blyton Rating: 10 out of 10 (Messy but fun and so exciting to let the girls develop their own experiments)

P.S. The test tubes and droppers are from here and are fairly inexpensive – they are worth investing in to really bring science to life! I also found some really nice huge glass test tubes and flask from there which were used in Sherlock! They are now a funny vase and a funky wine decanter!