Sewing with Kids – Charm Class

I’ve worked on a few sewing projects with the kids, and they have enjoyed some more than others. With all of the hearts in the windows, I thought I’d use up some of the felt from our pig project.

I did this simple project with Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3. (Rugrat #1 was happily working on something else.)

Spread the Love

  1. Cut out a heart shape from two pieces of felt. It’s easiest to use one heart as the template for the other. Folding the felt in half to make the two sides even makes things easier as well.

  2. Thread embroidery floss into a needle, stitch 3/4 of the way around. Leave enough space to stuff it. We used different stitching on some of the hearts, but the easiest was the whip stitch. I helped a fair bit with this part.


  3. Stuff the heart. The kids loved this part, and I didn’t need to help at all.

  4. Finish stitching. Close the hole up.

  5. Add a little bit of embroidery floss to the top to hang it from. Then simply hang it from a tree or a window.

Potions Class with Madam Margareth

For our latest field trip the students of the college set out to find the magical ingredients needed for a potion. We used an adventure called Madam Margareth’s Magic Potion, and simply changed the setting from the Village of Glavost to the school.

Here’s the premise:

A young boy has fallen ill after eating a poisonous mushroom and the only cure lies in an ice cave at the top of a mountain! Can a group of heroes make it to the top of the mountain, face down a fearsome yeti, find the cure, and maybe learn a bit about chemistry on the way? This science based short also includes a fun experiment for everyone to enjoy.

Note: this contains spoilers!

Set the Scene

In play, the kids started out in the village of Belcassel where they had figured out that a griffon had been stealing the local farmers’ livestock. Further investigation indicated the former mayor’s daughter was using a book she found in the library to magically combine beasts into other monstrosities. Worse, she had taken the book and set out for parts unknown. Who knew what she could get up to with such a potent magical tome?

On their way back to the college, the kids and their teacher ran into Professor Kirby, another teacher from the school. She was being led by some confused and frightened children. Learning that another student had collapsed in the forest, the kids joined them. Using the directions from the scared kids and their own nature skills they found Cedric, the injured boy who had collapsed after eating a wild mushroom. 

Navigate the Woods

Professors Rattles and Kirby didn’t have all the ingredients to make an antidote for Cedric, but they knew frost stones could be gathered at a nearby mountain. The kids set out to get the frost stones and were waylaid by hungry wolves. After taking care of the beasts, they had a bit of trouble climbing the mountain, but managed with a bit of teamwork (both in and out of game).

Defeat the Yeti

At the mountaintop, they discovered a cave! The boys went into the cave and discovered the frost stones they needed. Gemstone the barbarian stayed outside and was alone when the resident yeti came home. Gemstone defeated the yeti in an arm wrestle and gave it some food in exchange for the frost stones.

the so called frost stones from the yeti cave

Save the Student

The kids then descended the mountain and set off to save foolish Cedric.

We knew everyone would want to be hands-on, so we made enough to assemble three magic potions. For ease of cleanup we also put everything on a cookie tray. Kelly has invested in various fun shape dice cube trays over the years, so she made the frost stones in the shape of stars. (The directions for how to recreate your own experiment can be found in the pages of the adventure.)

potion ingredient ready to go

They loved dropping the frost stones into the potion. After our conversations about diffusion, the rugrats predicated the potion would be blue. This is a fair guess since the liquid is clear and the stones are blue. The resulting purple seemed like magic. 

the magic potion

If you haven’t checked out any of Playground Adventures After School Adventures, we highly recommend them. They are short, easy to run for kids, and have an educational element called out in them.

 

Transmogrification or An Eggs-periment

Public schools are still closed, and parents are doing what they can to keep their kids engaged and learning. Some teachers are sending out activities, others are still putting lessons together.

Cover of Science in A Bag by Sandra Markle

We’ve been incorporating some of the ideas we are being sent, but with the age range in our house doing three sets of learning activities can be tough. We’re working through fun activities and trying to bring the learning in: fractions with breadmaking; the concept of diffusion with coloured ice cubes melting in water; hand-eye coordination (and a useful life skill) with sewing dice bags; and playing lots of RPGs because fun!

We’ve taken our potions classes up a notch by combining our lessons on diffusion with some of our other potions lessons.

Removing the Shell From an Egg

I have this book from when I was a kid. It is called Science in a Bag and it’s by Sandra Markle. It’s full of science experiments you can do in a bag. One of them, and my favorite of the bunch, is removing an egg shell.

You fill a bag with vinegar and then add an egg. The acidic nature of the vinegar slowly dissolves the calcium carbonate on the egg.  The kids loved looking at the bubbles that formed on the outside of the shell. We watched it for a few days, and then I washed the egg off in the sink.

The membrane around the egg stays intact, and if you hold it up to the light you can see the yolk. The Rugrats loved touching the shell-less egg. (If you do this, be gentle! Several years ago Rugrat #1 actually popped one.)

An egg without its shell

Shrinking an Egg

So part two of this is new to us. We learned in an earlier experiment about diffusion. Removing an egg shell allowed us to understand membranes.

This part of the experiment allows us to understand diffusion and membranes together.

We took our clean egg (without its shell) and put it into a clean plastic bag. Then we filled the egg with clear corn syrup. The liquid in the egg can pass through the egg’s membrane, but the syrup can’t. In time it shrinks the egg!

Me: Isn’t that weird?

Rugrat#1: Not really. It’s science.

an egg without its shell, and missing some of the liquid inside

Disclaimer: If the shell-less egg weirds you out, this will not be easy for you.

The yolk becomes more visible and the membrane gets loose, like a half empty sack.

It’s like a bag! – Rugrat#3

Growing an Egg

Once we let the egg shrink down, we cleaned it off in water. The Rugrats got to poke at it and touch it.

Then we placed what remained of the egg back into a plastic bag of water and let it sit overnight. Since water can pass through the membrane the size of the egg started to grow.

Rugrat#3 pondered if the shell would grow back. Her brothers explained that wasn’t possible, and we discussed the dissolving of the shell again.

an egg without its shell, reinflated

The egg quickly plumped back up. The liquid inside was strange and we could see things floating in it. After a good feel of it, we disposed of the egg and washed our hands thoroughly.

 

Illusions with Kids

Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.

Knowing is Half the Battle

She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”

Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:

Muller-Lyer illusion

So the question is: which line appears longer?  The top one.

Seeing is Believing

Look closely. They are the same length.

Muller-Lyer illusion

Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.

Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.

Seeing isn’t always believing.

And knowing isn’t always half the battle.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.

I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.

For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!

I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).

We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.

Duck or Bunny?

Then we took a look at this one:

duck or bunny illusion

Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?

All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.

Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.

Two Faces or a Pedestal?

pedestal or people illusion

So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.

Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.

Triangle

This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.

triangle illusion

There is not actually a white triangle there.

Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.

Two Faced

The last illusion we looked at was this one.

two faced illusion

There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.

Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.

The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.

How’d You Do?

I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!

And as a bonus:

“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”

A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.

Stay inside.

Don’t let anyone into your home.

Don’t get too close to anyone.

The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!

Baking with Kids – It’s Bread-fast Time!

It’s a great time to get back to the basics. And lack of time doesn’t seem to be an excuse for anyone.

Back when I had but one Rugrat I’d make up loaves of fresh baked white bread. The recipe always gave me two loaves and by the time Ken got home, Rugrat#1 and I would have eaten the whole first loaf with nothing but butter. We never even made it to the table. We’d just stand or sit in the kitchen eating away.

With 3 Rugrats the home baking just doesn’t happen as much. It happens just about never. Until today.

Today’s not-homeschooling class included a lesson in baking potions. We took a table of ingredients, mixed them up, and waited to see what happened.

Grab Your Bags

I found a recipe for bread in a bag. I figured this would make the kneading process easier.

We measured out the ingredients at the table. We needed one cup of flour, so we picked out the one cup measuring scoop. Then we talked about how else we could make a cup.

Rugrat #1, who was struggling with fractions before the break, quickly caught on to what I was attempting. He demanded I stop teaching fractions. Rugrat #2 surprised me with his understanding and grasp of fractions. Rugrat #3 randomly selected spoons and cups as the answer.

Rugrat#1 hates stuff on his hands, but he had no problem adding potion ingredients to the bag and kneading the contents while they were sealed safely inside the bag.

 

kneading bread dough in a bag

 

Knead That Dough

After it sat for the ten minutes, we added the rest of the ingredients, kneaded it some more, and then tipped it out onto our table. Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 enjoyed this part. We had Rugrat #1 set the timer as he wanted no part of it.

kneading bread dough on a table

Then we put the bread into our pan and waited.

bread dough in the bread pan waiting for baking

Bake It Off

Once enough time had passed, we popped the loaf in the oven and waited for our potion to cook. The kids checked the oven a couple of times, ensuring not to open the door.

freshly baked bread

The recipe I used suggested 2 mini loaves, but said one loaf was fine. I don’t know if it’s my oven, which we are still getting used to after a harrowing Thanksgiving where it spat pieces of molten metal at us, the fact it should have been two mini loaves, or something else entirely, but it was not ready at the suggested time.

I think we baked our loaf for about 40 minutes total.

Eat, Eat, Eat

It’s bread-fast time! exclaimed Rugrat#2

Rugrat#3 insisted on having some left over whipping cream on her bread. Rugrat#1 went with peanut butter, a favourite of his, and Rugrat#2 figured just plain was the way to go.

Despite a few hiccups, this was a success!

whipping cream on freshly baked bread

 

Exploring the College

This whole not homeschooling thing is going okay. Of course it is day two, so time will tell.

We made dice bags this morning. And we used them this afternoon as our Rugrats started their first gaming session in our new campaign.

For those of you who are curious, we are using 5e Dungeons & Dragons to run this campaign.   

Tour the School

We used maps from The Fall of Mith: Mithos Manor as the basis for the school. These maps worked great for our purpose, but you could make your own, or use other ones you already have.

We printed them out and put them on the table so the Rugrats could visualize where they were.

The new students met their teachers (that’s us!) and one of the goblins in the kitchen. This goblin, the most civilized of all goblin residents at the school, asked the students to take care of a little problem upstairs.

Fight the Dire Rats

The trio of new adventures made their way into a series of storage rooms while their teachers waited in the hallway. 
Rugrat #3, a barbarian with a frying pan (we are using a club’s stats and just calling it a frying pan), waded in bravely.

“I’m good at this!” Yelled Rugrat #3 as she hit one with her frying pan. 

The boys followed in close to behind. Rugrat #1 used his shocking grasp cantrip while Rugrat #2 used his sneak attack and rapier. 

Learn, Learn, Learn

Math: recognizing numbers, adding dice together, identifying the values and shapes of the various dice, subtracting hit points 
Reading: locating, reading and recognizing words on the character sheet 
Storytelling and Visualization: picturing what was described, and playing along with the story
Teamwork Skills: finding the best strategies to defeat the swarm of oversized rodents

Incentivize

The Rugrats have learned chores and good behaviour in the real world will earn them inspiration points for the game. For those new to D&D, these can be used for a bonus on rolls.  We are hoping this encourages them to do things around the house with a good attitude. 

One Last Lesson

I’ve heard a lot about the pepper and soap experiment, and I figured this was the perfect thing to start our first potions class off with. It also served as the perfect transition out of the game, and back into the real world.

Potions: The Magical Substance Called Soap

I put the pepper in the bowl of water, then I put dish soap in a small container.

Everyone put their fingers into the pepper and water and watched as the “germs” clung to them.

Then we dipped our fingers in the “magical potion” and watched what happened when we put our fingers in the pepper water again.

I had them guess what the magical potion was, and then we talked about cleanliness, soap, germs, and of course, COVID-19.

Join Us Again Soon

The new students have only just started to explore the school, and more trouble awaits. 

Stay tuned: we’ve  got more adventures to come. 

Sewing with Kids – Dice Bags

Another day of not-homeschooling.

It turns out the Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs were trickier than I thought, so we took a break and dialed it back.

We have to walk before we run.

Transmogrification Class

Today we turned the bottom part of some pant legs into bags for dice.

I opted to do it this way so I didn’t have to pull out my sewing machine. We have a real love-hate relationship. And I swear it can sense my mood. As my patience wears thin the feeder doesn’t work properly, the spool catches and I end up with a big old mess. 

Cut the fabric to a bag size

I just sort of winged this. Mostly I looked where the rips were in an old pair of toddler jeans I had and cut the line below that. You should do whatever size works for you.

old pants cut down to sew a dice bag

Sew the bottom together

You could swap the order of this and sewing on the button. It doesn’t really matter. 

I ran my thread along a wax block I have to make the thread a bit stronger. Then I got the stitching started for Rugrat #1, who I set to work with a simple stitch.

I did the work for Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3, and then I went over Rugrat#1’s work. He had done a great job, but I knew if by chance it broke, or a hole was too big, he’d be upset. 

Rugrat#1 stitching the bottom of his dice bag

Sew on a button

I let the kids sort through a few jars and bags of buttons I have. I picked up a big bag of mixed buttons from the dollar store a few years back. They were cheap and varied. I meant to use them for scrapbook, but with three kids I just never had time. I also picked up a bag of pink buttons last week for pig noses. And we have this collection of jars of buttons I inherited from my nana. 

They had a great time going through and picking the right button for them.

I started each of them off, and I secured the button on the bag. Then I set them to work going over what I did to make it more secure, and to get them familiar with how to stitch on a button.

Rugrat#1 stitching a button on his dice bag

Rugrat #1 hated it. He hates buttons. I don’t think he actually owns a single thing with a button on it. 

“What would you do if a button fell off your shirt?”

“I’d never own a shirt with a button,” he said.

“What would you do if you had kids one day and the button fell off their shirt?”

“I’d throw it away,” he said. 

I know people who do just that, but I figure, sewing a button back onto a shirt is far less work than having to hunt down a new shirt at the store. And it’s a great skill to have. So I made him do it anyway.

Rugrat#3 trying to thread a needle while sewing

Rugrat#3 surprised me the most with this part of the project. She has some trouble with her needle coming unthreaded. I offered to help, but she insisted she try threading it herself. She patiently tried over and over. And she did it! 

When Rugrat#2 pulled the needle too hard while working on his project, she even managed to thread his needle!

Add something to secure it with

Rugrat #3 loves rainbows. And sparkly things. So I found a few pieces of embroidery thread and braided them together with her. We secured the braided string around the button. Now when she wants to close it, she just wraps it around the bag, and then the button.

Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 both opted for how I originally thought I’d do it, stitching a single piece of embroidery thread around the top of the bag, making a drawstring. The two ends can then be pulled and wrapped around the button. 

Children's dice bags

Finished!

And now the kids have run off to roll their dice and see what the sums add up to.  I’m calling this a win!

 

Finished children's dice bag project

 

We Won’t Homeschool

COVID. ‘Nuff said – right?

Our rec centre closed.

Our libraries closed.

The trampoline place I promised my kids over and over I’d take them for spring break closed.

Everything Closed

Including the schools.

“Are you going to homeschool us?” Rugrat #2 asked.

My sweetest of darlings… if I had to set a curriculum and try to keep you all focused on classes we’d all lose our minds.

Nope. Not happening.

Homeschooling Begins

Serious props to all the parents out there eager to get set with homeschooling, or who do it on a regular basis.

In my house, for me, it isn’t happening.

At least not exactly. Rugrat #1 loves to escape from reality. If he gets overwhelmed he hides away in video games, and honestly – who doesn’t like to do that sometimes?

Ken and I have both been known to hide away in role-playing games.

And that’s how it came to me: COVID.

No, no. Not that one.

I’m seeing so many posts about keeping our kids calm, about making this memorable in a good way for them, about making the most of this time.

Yes, we are talking to them about reality. Yes, we are sharing some of the news with them.

That doesn’t mean we can’t put a positive swing on things to make it all easier, right?

The College of Very Interesting Disciplines Opens

The kids are going to fantasy school.

“I want to find treasure. And fight things. With a frying pan!” exclaimed Rugrat #3

We made up characters today, and then they helped create the list of subjects.

Field Trips

Over and over Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 suggested field trips.

Social distancing makes that difficult… or does it? Hello modules! How happy am I to see you!

Home Economics Transmogrification Classes

I’ve got a few sewing projects I’ve been meaning to work on with the kids, so now is the time to do that. One is the much promised Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs, but we also need somewhere to keep those dice!

Science Potions Classes

We have this fun Science in a Bag book with some great experiments we are going to call potions. 

Mathematics

We’ll cover this with Lego math, and also with using dice in the field trips. When the kids made up their characters today, they had to add up the values of the different dice to come up with their stats. 

 

I’m going to post updates of the classes, of the stuff we cover, and of how it all goes.

None of us are alone in this, even if we are physically alone. We are fortunate enough to have so many resources at our finger tips, and loads of service providers are stepping up to the plate.

Hang in There

This is going to take time.

Find what works for you.

And feel free to send your kids to your own college. We’ll be here sharing ideas!