Halloween Slime Play

Halloween Slime–what could be more fun for two messy little boys? And three ingredient slime? Even better! How easy could this be?
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Hah. Apparently Mom failed Slime 101. Twice. The first recipe was as easy as pie: squirt out glue. Add food coloring and a bit of water. Add borax. Voila! Slime.  Or was it “add borax to water. Stir glue and food coloring, then add borax solution”? Well…I couldn’t remember, and it turns out that if you add borax directly to the glue/water mixture, it immediately turns into a lumpy, sticky wad of goo that lacks stretchiness. Take two: add borax solution to glue turned out a bit better.
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Fast forward a few weeks and this recipe for Halloween glitter slime looked super fun. Alas, Walmart had exactly two bottles of glue–although the blue glitter wasn’t exactly screaming “Halloween”, blue turned out to be the perfect color. The boys squeezed, mixed, and kneaded, but weren’t able to incorporate nearly the 1 cup of water/borax solution per  glue bottle. The slime turned out a bit more solid than I would have liked (next time I might mix more plain water in before adding the borax solution), but they still thought it was pretty cool.
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The blue slime was a perfect addition to their Octonauts sensory table setup, becoming a coral reef, a slime monster, and more, keeping them busy outside for an hour and prompting them to come out for another hour the following day. Not the perfect slime, but a perfect afternoon enjoying the gorgeous fall weather.
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De-Spooking Math: Book work turned fun

Now that John is about to turn 5, we are beginning to work a bit more “formally” with math and phonics…but he doesn’t even know it yet!DSC_0518

The math book we are using this year will give him a solid foundation, but at the first few lessons seem deadly dull. Cutting out sock and shoe cut outs to graph? Pretending circles are chairs and children? We can do better than that!
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ince the boys are having a blast using the Halloween table scatter for free play, I combined the bats, ghosts, and skulls with the concepts from the textbook. We made a “game” (thank goodness my boys have no idea of what makes a game “fun” in the traditional sense!) of graphing the spooky items. I gave each boy and myself a set of pumpkins, ghosts, or spiders and we raced to place them on the graph first. We used the graph to decide who had the most and the fewest and counted them to confirm our answer.
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Anthony called me back all day to play this game with him and even made his own “graph”.
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Instead of children and chairs, we had ghosts and bats looking for houses to haunt.
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The boys had to decide if there were more houses than bats or bats than houses and what the difference was between the two numbers. They had a blast haunting the houses with bats, ghosts, pumpkins, skeletons, and skulls! A great math lesson without cracking a book or touching a worksheet.

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Spooky Science: Potions Class

After our floating marshmallow experiment, our mad scientists got to use their new spooky test tubes for a special Halloween potions class.
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The boys mixed up their marshmallow concoctions (milk, water, oil, and apple juice) and then we added our magic liquid (vinegar prettied up with food coloring).

This produced some interesting results, particularly in the cup of oil (left) and milk (right). We were able to observe the difference in density between vinegar and oil and the vinegar curdle the milk.
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After we added our magic powder (baking soda, naturally), the results were explosive. John insisted on making the reactions big enough to push the marshmallows out of cups, which involved lots and lots of “magic” ingredient.

The curdled-milk mixture fizzed like the oil-vinegar mixture, but the bubbles were much larger and slower-moving. So creepy!
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The little potions masters poured, mixed, and swirled like little star students at Hogwarts!
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Floating Marshmallow Science

Our mad scientist duo loved this squishy, sweet science class–it was ooey, gooey, messy, slimy, and best of all–edible!
DSC_0482 <–Senior scientist doing a taste test. 
Our experiment combined the classic sink/float with the added variable of density. John chose our four liquids–water, oil, apple juice, and milk–and we added a large marshmallow to each glass. The boys stirred them around and left them in the liquids for later observation. They enjoyed poking them and feeling the difference between the wet gooey marshmallows and the dry ones. John also noted that the water marshmallow had begun to dissolve.
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After observing that the marshmallows floated in all of our liquids, I explained that marshmallows are squishy and fluffy because they are filled with air.

I asked the boys what we could do to make them sink and John came up with “Squish them under something heavy” and “Stab them”. Poking them with the popsicle sticks didn’t work, so I suggested squashing the air out them. After some unsuccessful mashing with their fingers, the boys brought out the big guns.
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Anthony Hulk Smashed! those marshmallows with his elbow, then rolled them out (singing “roll it roll it, wheels so fat, roll it down to make it flat!” from his favorite Easy Street). Note: this experiment suggests using cornstarch. DO IT. I forgot this step and no matter how hard we smashed, mashed, and rolled, the sticky little buggers just wouldn’t sink. After we rolled them with some cornstarch, bingo! Immediate sinking marshmallow.
DSC_0487 <–Ripping them up also helps.

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Frugal Homeschool: Math Manipulatives

First thing this morning, Anthony picked a bowl of math manipulatives to bring downstairs for morning play (over all the other toys in his room and the school room). Homeschool mom self-five! To make the moment even sweeter, I realized that each of these items cost $1 (excepting the dominoes, although both sets were gifts), making this quite the frugal DIY math manipulative kit.
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  • Target Dollar Spot: Set of numeral/dot matching cards, apple colander.
  • Dollar Tree: Chip & dip bowl, clear glass gems, giant horseshoe magnets.
  • Consignment Sales: plastic number magnets.

Use the giant horseshoe magnets to “fish” in the bowl for numbers. John picked two numbers and told me what number they “made” (ie, a 5 and a 0 “made” 50) and how much they “made” when added (ie, 5+0=5). Anthony focused on number recognition and matched the magnets to the cards, then used the gem counters to represent the correct amount.

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The magnets are irresistible fun and can easily transition to additional math, science, and engineering activities. This morning, John chose a box of Magnetix, which he used to make people and tons of fanciful guns, houses, and creatures. Anthony went with Magformers to build towers and houses. Note to self: Why did I not put these on cookie sheets before? This makes it much easier to keep track of small magnetic parts and helps the boys steady the Magformers on their sides.

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Creepy Halloween Math

Last year’s crazed clearance spree serious scouting trip for learning materials at Michael’s, Hobby Lobby, and the Dollar Tree is paying off this month with hours of creative math fun. Almost daily, we sort
DSC_0351 <–The ghosts have to live in their ghost house, the skulls in the skeleton house, obviously. 
pattern, 
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and count. For hours. Almost every day. All month.ff fff
John’s patterns have increased in complexity from AB to ABCD and AAAB and Anthony was so proud of himself when he made his first pattern. We reinforce one-to-one correspondence with the ten-frame and an ice cube tray, compare groups of mixed objects, and sort into like groups to practice more/less/equal. Our play corresponded with a few days of the math text I just adopted–and John has no idea he is “doing math”.

The same materials are also providing hours of creative play. Yummy bat-skull-pumpkin stews and creepy dramatic play (as well as some anatomy review with the skeletons).
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And even some crafts. Both boys spent 30 minutes carefully peeling teeny eyes and noses out of foam skull stickers (yay for some great–and sneaky–fine motor practice) to make designs on the foam shapes that will be part of a Halloween banner for the mantel.
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They are loving the re-boot of the Halloween printable pack from Gift of Curiosity, particularly the do-a-dot printables and the same/different worksheets. Anthony is so proud of doing the pumpkin color-matching worksheet all by himself like a big boy.
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October is only half over, so we have lots more creepy fun coming up!

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Buttons + Craft Sticks = A STEM Morning

With baby down for a rare morning nap, I left the boys an invitation to math play on the breakfast table: a bag of colorful buttons, numbered baby food jars, a dollar store pill organizer, a craft-stick ten-frame, and a color-coded craft organizer. The pill organizer and the ten-frame caught John’s eye immediately.
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He wasn’t interested in filling the jars with the indicated number of buttons. Instead, he set up an estimation game for me that involved guessing the jar with the most buttons, running after him carrying the jar, then returning to the table to dump it into the bowl and put the contents in the pill organizer.
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Anthony got into the ten-frame and the color sorting on his own, and counted out buttons into the jars with a little encouragement. He loves counting and counted to 30 by himself as he filled his jars.
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Free play with the buttons lasted 1.5 hours and the boys have gone back to the table again and again to pour and sort. John worked out how to use a craft stick to get the buttons to flow neatly from a wide-mouthed bowl into a narrow jar.
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The most exciting part was watching John build structures with the jars and craft sticks, determining how to balance narrow jars on planks of craft sticks over wider jars. DSC_0325
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t first John got frustrated that the bigger craft sticks were just a bit too short to reach across the wide bowl. He came up with two solutions–using sticks to support the bridge on each side, and angling sticks to support each other.
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Finally, Anthony and Dominic both enjoyed building with blocks. Pinterest is abuzz with STEM activities for preschool and kindergarten ad here we had a great morning of math and engineering/physics–and no one even knew they were “doing school”!
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