12 Engineering Activities for Kids

Jul 24, 2015

Your little engineers will really enjoy these 12 creative engineering activities.

On a recent trip to Sydney, Australia, I spent a lot of time admiring (and photographing) the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge which is the widest and one of the longest steel arch bridges in the world. Quite the engineering feat! Between that and the world famous Sydney Opera House, I came back buzzing from my little getaway with lots of thoughts about engineering and just how important it is for our children to have opportunities to experience it and to learn more about it.

What is engineering? 

Engineering is the application of science, technology and maths to develop solutions to problems. Put simply, engineers are creators! They take the above disciplines and combine these with creativity and ingenuity to make something new. Engineers see a problem and solve it. They create and re-create products, infrastructure and solutions that make our everyday life easier.

Architectural engineers play a huge role in the construction of buildings like the Sydney Opera House (pictured above) and civil engineers work on things like roads and bridges like the Sydney Harbour Bridge (see pictures below). There are also many other types of engineers that are heavily involved in so many different projects and areas of production. From technology and the engineering of the mobile phones we use, to robots, computer games, chemical engineering, medicine, renewable energy, aircraft and much more. There are so many different avenues that engineers can put their skills and passions towards in this modern day and age.

Why is it important for children to learn engineering?

Allowing children to experience different forms of engineering helps them to understand more about the processes that go into making up so much of the world around us. Engineering encourages creativity, problem solving and cooperation. It allows children to think outside the box and to come up with solutions to problems through experimentation and trial and error, whilst putting into practice so many of the skills they are acquiring as they grow.

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Simple Paper Plate Dragon Craft

Jun 21, 2015

Create a magical dragon from one paper plate.

Inspired by the brand new series, Dragons: Race to the Edge, by the creators of "How to Train Your Dragon," due to be released on Netflix soon, the kids and I created our very own dragon puppets!

Using a single paper plate as the base, decorate your dragon with paper collage, paint, fabric scraps or whatever takes your fancy.
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Place Value Maths Game. Cows and Bulls

Jun 12, 2015

This simple little place value number game is a favourite of Maddie's (aged 6) at school and at home. Use it to practice recognising numbers, writing numbers and place value, along with problem solving. You can play with two or more people and it is great as a whole class game on the whiteboard (with teacher vs students) or just in pairs (parent and child/two children).

You can use this activity for practicing two digit numbers (with tens and ones), three digit numbers (hundreds, tens and ones), four digit numbers (thousands, hundreds, tens and ones) and so on.

For the first example we use a three digit number as that is the level we're currently working on.

How to play:

  • One player secretly chooses a number and writes it on a piece of paper, showing no-one. They then draw lines indicating the amount of digits in their secret number for the other player/s to try and guess.

  • Children then try to guess the number. Each guess is written down on the lines and either a C, B or X is written underneath each digit. "C" (cows) means that that digit is correct but it is in the wrong place. "B" (bulls/bullseye) means the digit is correct and it's in the right place. "X" means the digit is incorrect and not used within the number at all.

  • Children continue to make guesses, using the knowledge they learn of the digits and their position (and therefore value) in the number until they get a Bullseye! (All the digits are in the correct position and the secret number has been revealed!)


Here is an example game played with 3 digits. For our example, I have chosen the secret number, "217"

The 3 lines above represent the 3 digits in the number, 217.

Her first guess was 105 (which I asked her to say as a whole number, One hundred and five). Write the guess down on the lines.

Underneath each digit, write a B, C or X according to the rules above. She got a CXX as the secret number does contain a "1" but not in that place, and there is not a "0" or "5" in the secret number.

They then guess again. (Knowing this time that there has to be a 1 in either the tens or ones column). The next guess was, "Three hundred and nineteen" 

Hooray. The 1 gets a B as it's in the right place. There are no 3's or 9's in the secret number though.

When writing the next line for the next guess, move the known number down.

Next guess.

2 Bulls! So close to a bullseye!

Remember to look at the past numbers you've already guessed and which numbers you're yet to try. The next guess was a lucky one. 217, bullseye!

Here is another example with a 2 digit number. The secret number in this game was "41"

Bullseye! 41!

Don't forget to swap over turns so that each player has a go at writing the numbers as well as getting to lead the game. There is lots of learning on both sides!

Games are fun and when children are having fun, they are more open to learning. As you can see by the pics above, Maddie and I always have a good time playing this game. She was actually sick this day and having a day off school and it was the first time she was happy and excited in the day. She especially loves it when I'm struggling to get the number. She did attempt to get us to play with a 1 digit number (you could only use X and B for that) but discovered it wasn't quite so fun or interesting.

Here are some more ideas for working on two or three (or more) digit numbers:

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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5 Creative Inside Activities for Kids

May 28, 2015

Here are some great creative indoor activities, perfect to keep the kids happily playing and learning for hours.
This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and The Reject Shop. See the bottom of the post for a Giveaway!

With Winter fast approaching, the days are becoming colder and wetter and more of our play is moving inside. It can, at times, feel difficult to entertain children inside for hours (or days) on end, without resorting to television and technology. However, with just a few basic, inexpensive materials, it's amazing the fun that can be had.

I hit up my local 'The Reject Shop' to see what I could come up with.

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Healthy Choc Rice Bubble Treats. Cooking with Kids.

May 24, 2015

We love a sweet treat (who doesn’t?) but increasingly I’m noticing that treats are becoming more of a regular thing than an occasional, “treat.” In fact, I could pretty much refuse to personally give my children a single treat and they’d still end up with plenty. Between grandparents, special events, birthday parties, class parties/birthdays, etc. they are getting these sorts of treats quite regularly. Most of these commercial sweets however are full of things, like refined sugars and unnecessary chemicals and colours that don’t add any nutritional benefit to my kids at all.

So, as a way to ease my concerns a little, I decided we'd attempt to make more of our own sweet treats using healthier alternatives. Still sweet, still a yummy treat, but one that can be slipped into the lunchbox guilt free. You can click on the links in the Ingredient list below to read more about why these ingredients are not only better than the alternatives, but provide health benefits as well.
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Design and Construction for kids with Pasta and Playdough

May 9, 2015

Here is a simple little activity, quick to set up, that can have children busily creating for ages.

When I set out this invitation-to-play with playdough and pasta, it was with the intention to use it to further our interest in building and design. We talked about architecture and the different ways buildings are made these days. If you like, you can have a look at our engineering activity and use the pictures of different buildings as inspiration.

This activity can encourage creative thinking, problem-solving, fine-motor skills, literacy skills, hand-eye-coordination, mathematical concepts, design, concepts of gravity and more.
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20 Fabulous Paper Plate Animal Crafts

Apr 26, 2015

Paper plates are a fabulous base for crafts, especially if you're making them with a group of children, as they are quite cheap, sturdier than paper, already in a circular shape and are sold in multi-packs. Many of us would already have some tucked away in the back of a cupboard somewhere, making these crafts ones that you'd probably already have all the materials for.

Crafts make a great accompaniment to areas of interest and study for children. Generally I wouldn't be doing a craft just for the sake of doing a craft, but more as a way to take learning further and to continue to consolidate ideas and understandings on a particular topic/subject. As an example, when teaching the Early Years the letter "S," we would do a number of different fun activities focussing around this letter and the sound that it makes to engage children and help them to learn and retain the information. One of the activities would be making a paper plate ssss-snake that we'd hang by ssss-strings and watch them ssss-spin!

The process of making the crafts engages fine-motor skills and creativity as well as encouraging children to follow instructions. With crafts, there is often an order to what needs to be done, ie. cutting before painting, that children learn, as well as specific skills like cutting, pasting, etc.
Depending on the craft and your focus, you can use the time creating to talk about things like what you're making, what letter it begins with, what classification it falls under, what sound it makes, how to spell/write/read the word and so on.

As animals are something that children are always going to be interested in and will always be learning about, here I've compiled my favourite paper-plate animal ideas from around the web.

Paper Plate Bear by First Palette

Paper Plate Butterflies by Krokotak (love the spoon body!)

Paper Plate Cat by Danielle's Place

Paper Plate Cow by Housing a Forest

Paper Plate Dinosaur by The Craft Train for Learn with Play at Home (with free printable templates)

Paper Plate Elephant by Activity Bucket (with free printable template)

Paper Plate Hippopotamus by I Heart Crafty Things

Paper Plate Lion by Preschool Corner (perfect for practicing scissor skills!)

Paper Plate Mouse by We Made That

Paper Plate Owl by Happy Hooligans

Paper Plate Panda by Danya Banya (great for practicing some simple sewing skills too)

Paper Plate Peacock by I Heart Crafty Things

Paper Plate Penguin by Learn with Play at Home

Paper Plate Rabbit by Laughing Kids Learn

Paper Plate Sheep by Housing a Forest (these would have been great as a "Where's the Green Sheep" Party activity!)

Paper Plate Snake by Crafty Morning (see their fun way of printing on these snakes. This craft is also great for patterning)

Paper Plate Tiger by No Time for Flash Cards

Paper Plate Toucan by Pink Stripey Socks (so cute! And still only uses the one plate)

Paper Plate Turtle by Artsy Momma

Paper Plate Whale by In the Playroom

Handy Tips:

- Simplify these paper plate animal crafts for younger children by helping with any tasks that they're still to develop the fine-motor skills and coordination for, like the cutting. Really young children can help with decorating and sticking on parts and those children developing skills can use the experience to practice cutting and positioning.

Extend the learning before or after making your paper plate animals by encouraging things like:
  • Dramatic play with the animals. eg. Put on a puppet show
  • Writing or story-telling about your animal. eg. Tell a story about the day your animal got lost
  • Making animal sounds
  • Reading fictional stories that include your animal
  • Reading and researching non-fiction stories and information about your animal. eg. Find out more about their habitat, location, food etc.
  • Listing 3 facts about your animal
  • Writing or reading the letters/name of your animal

- Allow creativity by not insisting that their animal craft look exactly like the pictures. What colour could their animal be? How is it the same or different from the real life animal? How could you make the craft a little different to add your own spin on it?

More ideas using paper plates:

Happy playing,
Debs :)

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Dinosaurs in Sticky Mud! Sensory Play for Kids

Apr 17, 2015

Have a whole pile of squishy, sensory fun, making and playing with dinosaurs in sticky mud! With a super simple recipe, you can whip up this sensory experience in just a couple of minutes.

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Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums

Apr 2, 2015

This post is brought to you by Nuffnang and DAIRYLEA

Recently I was invited by DAIRYLEA to take part in their Hackademy, where a group of Mums got together to chat "MUMMY HACKS." Little helpful tips and tricks that make the overall job of being a Mum, just that bit easier. It was a fun day with lots of great ideas that you will be able to see on the MUMMY HACKS website

As I find myself spending a fair bit of time in the kitchen, it's an area that I am always happy to reduce time in and make things a bit easier for myself. Over the years I have found some ideas have been more useful than others and some I find myself using all the time.

5 Kitchen Hacks

Mummy Hack #1 Make your own Smoothie-poles

We love smoothies at our house as they are a great way to use up fruit and include a good serve of dairy. We usually make our smoothies from a combination of full cream milk, greek yoghurt and a variety of fruits, spices or honey for different flavours. You could make dairy free ones with a combo of fruit, juice, ice and veggies. Play around with combinations to vary the taste and use the ingredients you have on hand.

When making up a smoothie, I always make a bit extra as it means that I can freeze it and the kids can have a frozen treat on another day. 

Banana-berry smoothie and icy-poles

Whizz together 2 cups of milk, 1 ripe banana, half a cup of berries (frozen or fresh), half a cup of greek yoghurt with an optional squeeze of honey or sprinkle of cinnamon to taste. Vary the amounts to suit the amount of children you have and the amount of icy-poles you want to make.

One afternoon my kids will have the fresh smoothie we've made and the next afternoon they can have a smoothie-pop instead.

Banana and raspberry is a particular favourite with my kids.

I find that my children are more likely to try new foods and generally eat healthier when we cook and prepare foods together. It's a great time to discuss foods and learn more about healthy eating.

Pop over to the MUMMY HACKS website to see the rest of my top Kitchen Hacks for Busy Mums.

You might also like to try cooking some of these recipes with the kids:

Our snack boxes are also great time and sanity saver.

What are your favourite time saving kitchen hacks?

Happy playing,
Debs :)

DAIRYLEA, the DAIRYLEA device and MUMMY HACK are trademarks of MONDELEZ INTERNATIONAL GROUP used under licence.

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