What: a (well-sealed) bottle that shakes up and separates out
How: You need a leftover plastic soft drink or sports drink type bottle, around the 600ml size-ish makes for good handling, with a lid that can be glued shut. (This isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary… oh, who am I kidding. Glue or tape that f@!#!@ker down good and tight once you’re done.) Fill about a quarter of the bottle with oil, add a capful of food colouring, a guinea pig’s fart’s worth of loose glitter (I don’t know how much that is exactly, but I’m told quite sincerely it’s correct), and then top up with water leaving a small airspace at the top.
This was a baby toy I made for Kid 1 after seeing something similar at an open playgroup-in-the-park in Darwin. The idea is that they can shake it up, roll it around, try and crawl towards it or grab it, fiddle with the textures on the bottle (if your bottle has textures), all depending on age. And, of course, they can watch what happens as the oil and water mix and then separate out again. I found that the glitter tends to stay in the oil, and the colouring stays in the water. I suspect it might be possible to get oil-based colourings that would colour the oil as well so you’d have two quite different colours. I just used craft glitter, but if you were concerned about it being swallowed then edible glitter’s available at cake stores and should work fine for this too. I’ve never bothered trying to explain the oil and water thing to the kids, to me this is just a foundational activity, the sort of thing the kids add to their memory banks of “how the world works” that later on they can pull out and say “Oh, is *that* what that was about”. Such as when a grandparent says knowingly “Like oil and water, dearie” and the kids are all “Like what now?”.
Extras: Really, there’s not a lot more to this, it’s pretty much what it says on the box (but maybe with less syllables than I like to use). There is one modification I’ve seen that could be useful though – using the bottle as a timer. Go to your room, and you can come back out when the bottle’s cleared again. Gives them something to watch, and a known amount of time to spend calming down or getting themselves together or just getting over it (whatever “it” is). My bottle only takes a minute or so to clear, but I think there are recipes online using glitter glue that separate out a little more slowly so you can tweak the timing.
What: Little changeable faces made from cardboard rolls, for storytelling and talking about feelings.
How: I took a couple of toilet roll centres and cut a face-shaped hole in each. I cut the other end a little, folded and spread the cut bits out onto a circle of cardboard cut from a used postpak and glued it down. When the glue was dry, I painted them with bright colours and patterns. Then I took the cardboard centre from a roll of alfoil or plastic cling wrap, which was narrow enough to go neatly inside the toilet roll centre, and cut it to length to fit inside the toilet roll. I drew faces around it with different expressions – cross, angry, happy, silly, sad, surprised – three faces to a roll. Then when it was all dry I assembled them.
Kid 2 loved them. The way I used them at that stage was to have little conversations between the people, where I modelled saying things that made people feel happy, sad, cross, whatever, or that were said with that kind of emotion, and turned the faces to match. This sometimes took a bit of quick thinking! I had lots of requests to “tell a story with the faces” to the point where I ended up hiding them away for a while. I’d often be asked to repeat the exact same story, and I couldn’t remember what I’d said the first time! That child is big on conversation and oral language, so the Little Faces were popular for a good year or so. I haven’t really had them out since , they got packed up for moving cross-country and have mostly stayed buried. So I don’t know how well they would have gone with the less conversational child, or at later ages. I may have to find them, put them out on a shelf and see if the kids will model their own conversations or if they can recognise the emotions drawn.
Extras: Kid 2 really wanted to make their own set of these, but it didn’t happen. It’d be a good craft project on the holidays now that the kids are a little older and I’m more patient with their attempts at gluing. As to using the set, getting the kids to tell their own stories – or to retell things that happened – would be interesting to try. I also see a good role for these in talking about how saying different things can change the face (feelings) of other people, now that Kid 6 is beginning to negotiate schoolyard politics rather than just blundering into them by accident and Kid 4 is having to deal with the politics despite being mostly oblivious.
About: It’s okay to be different – to look different, to do different things, to come from different places, and Todd Parr illustrates this with bold, bright pictures and plenty of silly. Physical differences, having and expressing your emotions, doing totally random things just because. They’re all OK. I like the way useful social and emotional pointers are slipped in amongst the hilarity.
Social and emotional pointers
Hilarity in text and pictures
Promotes acknowledgement and acceptance of diversity
Small number of words on each page, big and easy to read.
Written by Annaka Harris, illustrated by John Rowe.
About: This book was written to provide an example of admitting “I don’t know”. It’s big on emotional intelligence, honesty, the idea that some questions are bigger than we are, and that some ideas are so big that nobody knows the answer to them. There’s a great sense of wonder and mystery, beautifully underscored by the luminescent and spacious semi-realistic artwork. A great gateway-to-science book.
Wonder and mystery
Luminescent beautiful artwork that could easily stand alone from the book
Supportive parental/adult relationship with a present parent
Gateway to science and natural philosophy
Admitting “I don’t know”
Includes change – the idea that things in life (including ourselves!) change and don’t stay the same