creative kid activities

DIY | Dinosaur Egg Fossils - A Great Sensory Activity for Kids

11:50 AM

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This past weekend, Eamon and I conducted a little experiment in the kitchen. It's really difficult to get him interested in crafts at times; he'd much rather build train tracks and run cars around the house, but the need for his involvement in sensory based activities is becoming more important lately.

The past summer, thanks to dozens of visits to the Academy of Natural Sciences, created a new love for Eamon - dinosaurs! And thanks to a great video from What's Up Moms (probably my favorite mom vlog right now on YouTube, I discovered a fantastic recipe for dinosaur eggs.

Using household ingredients and a stash of tiny dinosaurs, we made our very own activity for the budding paleontologist.

Ingredients: 

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To make the dinosaur eggs all you need is salt, flour, ground coffee, and play sand. We actually tried, originally, to use a container of instant coffee that no one would drink in the house (but we still kept around for camping) for the first batch of eggs but switched to regular ground coffee for the second. It only changed the consistency slightly believe it or not, but the smell of the coffee was a little overwhelming.


Directions:

Using one cup of each ingredient, mix in a large bowl until the ingredients are evenly mixed throughout. Add in 1/2 cup of water and stir until blended evenly.

When your mixture is the right moldable consistency, form into and egg shape, making sure to fit your "fossil" into the center. Once you have your eggs formed, place them on a baking sheet and bake for about an hour at 200 degrees. Eamon was so afraid that his dinosaurs were going to melt in the over, but the low temperature of the oven simply removes the excess moisture from the mixture - much like a dehydrator.

Once your eggs are done baking, let them cool off before letting your little one at them. This was the most difficult part of the experience and Eamon ended up mashing right into a few of them while they were still warm. He just couldn't wait.


Let the fun begin (or end)!

This was the best part! Using his little Home Depot tool kit, Eamon dug right into his eggs. Adding a little bit of extra water them made it softer and easier to unearth (get it?!)

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It didn't take long for him to hammer, chisel, and saw away and find his dinos safe and sound deep in the center of the eggs. <3

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Mixing and forming the eggs was very therapeutic and is a great sensory play in itself. Eamon loves dirt and sand and this really reminded him of playing at the beach digging through and compacting wet sand into shapes. Even when his eggs were already broken up he still wanted to spend nearly half an hour more just playing with the broken pieces, trying to crumble through, mold, and bury toys underneath letting his imagination run wild.

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MOM TIP: I have to say that I'm glad I put down some Press and Seal on the table before he "dug into" this activity because any time you put little boys in front of anything hammering, digging, or breaking apart, you're bound to get some where it wasn't supposed to be, but this time I was able to 1 - 2 - 3 clean up just by removing the wrap from the table and balling it up into the trash when he was done. 

 If you're more of a visual learner check out the link to the What's Up Moms vlog below, which is where I got this awesome idea!

academy of natural sciences

Our Visit to the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia (aka "The Dinosaur Museum)

9:12 AM

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A few months back we decided it would be a great idea to purchase a family membership to the Academy of Natural Sciences here in Philadelphia. We had gone with friends of our prior to that and Eamon absolutely fell in love with it. Over the previous few years we had stuck with the smaller museums such as The Delaware Museum of Natural History because they are super (younger) kid friendly and do not put that much of a sensory overload onto him. All of the yelling of kids, echoes, feet stomping, and attractions can make life difficult for kids with sensory issues, but DelMNH was (and still is) always a place he loved to go (and the price for admission is great...and I always found coupons using my Recyclebank Account!). But thanks to a discount coupon we found, we were able to afford the membership - which has already paid for itself AND MORE!

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The Academy of Natural Sciences is the oldest natural science research institution and museum in the Americas. At its inception, Philadelphia was THE hub for education and culture in our new nation, so, as explorers were venturing deeper into the western part of North America (and the rest of the world), the artifacts and species being collected were brought back to be studied and cataloged. The collections expanded so rapidly through gifts, purchases, and exchanges - as well as expeditions - that the Academy outgrew its building three times in 60 years. In 1876, its present home was built at 19th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, then the outskirts of town and now the heart of Philadelphia's cultural district. With the opening of the new building, the Academy became a modern museum with areas for exhibitions and public lectures. *

When visiting the museum it is difficult to imagine but it is still largely used for scientific research in fields such as biochemistry, ecological modeling, botany, entomology, and, of course, paleontology. In fact, there is a room where you can watch them chip and brush away at dinosaur bones! In addition, the building holds the Ewell Sal Stewart Library, which holds nearly 200,000 volumes of works on natural science research dating back to the early 15th Century and is a logistical hub for environmental policy and urban sustainability.

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There are several levels of the museum dedicated to the education and discovery of the natural world with everything from giant dinosaur bones, a butterfly house, a theater, and dioramas of animals from around the world. Eamon's favorite is the North American Hall, where we absolutely MUST visit the moose (Dubbed the "FrankenMoose" thanks to the story shared by our friends as well as one of the curators. The original moose had its head swapped out for one with larger antlers as a form of friendly competition with other museums.) The "Outside In" playroom is also a must do, especially if your kids are younger. There is a little sand pit that is great for sensory play as well as several animals to see and sometimes touch including turtles, snakes, a rabbit, and bugs. There is even a large bee hive!


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Every few months there is a special exhibit on the firs floor of the museum. During the summer there was a great one called "Backyard Adventures" where you could play mini golf, see how fast your pitch was, ride a bee bike...oh, and learn some great things about the plants and creatures that live right outside your door. Now, that has been swapped for a great exhibit called "Tiny Titans" showcasing real dinosaur eggs and embryos as well as even more fossils and another great dress up/play area for kids.
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My favorite exhibit, however, is the Butterflies From Around the World exhibit. The exhibit changes every day as a result of the lifespan of each species. When you enter the exhibit, you are surrounded by tropical foliage with the butterflies landing on the plants and fruits to feed right there in front of you. There is also a place where you can watch them emerge from their cocoons if the time is right. If you are lucky, one might even land on you.

We made a video of our last visit to the museum. Check it out below! And make sure to give the museum a visit the next time you are in Philadelphia!











 * ansp.org

All Around Philadelphia

Family Fun Visit to Smith Playground

12:30 PM

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This past summer, after wanting to go for a while, we decided to take a trip to Smith Playground, a giant, nearly six acre playground located in the Fairmount Park vicinity of Philadelphia.

The park and accompanying mansion sized playhouse has been part of the city for over a hundred years, however, was shut down back in 2003 for some much needed restorations. Until then, the maintenance of the playground remained as part of a trust created by Richard and Sarah Smith, two wealthy Philadelphians who built the playground so that children could have a safe place to play outside of urban areas of the city. Now, the park collects donations from members and visitors to maintain and staff the park and its amenities - including a giant, 39' wooden slide, the multi level playhouse, and several, modern play facilities for children of all ages.

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Eamon playing with the wooden train sets at Smith Playground

When you enter the park, it is asked that each family make a donation of $5, however, for $30 you can obtain an annual membership. Since we have already gone a few times, the membership pays for itself. There are also several member only events, including Halloween events, concerts, and meet and greets with characters from PBS Kids shows like Daniel Tiger. Visiting the playground can easily take up an entire afternoon, so if your little one likes to explore, climb and play, make sure you bring food and drinks with you...although occasionally there ARE some amazing food trucks on spot to try some gourmet food.

The multi-level playhouse is aimed for children five and under, although you do see some kids a little above that enjoying time with their younger siblings and gathering around the wooden train tables (which there are three of now with all the amenities). There are also soft blocks, doll houses, kitchen sets, and explorations drawers - although these can rotate since sometimes thing break or wear out form the thousands of visitors every week.

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Besides the wood train area (of course), Eamon loves to explore the "woods" - a play area dedicated to getting dirty while balancing on logs, climbing branches, and digging in holes. In other words, it's a little boy's dream! There's even a mud oven, mud sink, and utensils to bake mud cakes (worms optional.)


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You cannot visit the playground without at least one roll down the giant wooden slide. Marked as one of those "must visit oddities" of the city, the forty foot wooden slide is over a hundred years old (although recently refurbished) and lets kids and adults ride in packs atop burlap sacks until thy tire out. The sheer width of the slide, allowing around five kids to ride at a time, keeps the line at a minimum on most days.

In addition, there are several 'regular" playground areas that are sectioned off so parents don't have to chase after their kids through the entire park. There is also a dedicated play area with slides, swings, and more specifically for kids five and under away from the rambunctiousness of the older children so there is less of a chance of an accidental collision.

If you're interested in seeing more, check out the video Eamon and I made on our last visit!