Category: Children’s Activities

Ethan discovers playdough

first experience with playdough

Do you remember the first time you played with playdough? I’m sure most people don’t — but it’s such a classic experience of childhood, isn’t it?

Yesterday was Ethan’s very first encounter with playdough. He’s only 13 months old, so he obviously didn’t create anything with it, but it was fun to watch him explore the squishy blue lump. I set up my iPhone on a little tripod in front of him and took a video while he played. There’s nothing dramatic or amazing in the video, but I love that I was able to capture such a simple moment of childhood exploration.

You can watch the video here. My favorite part is when he tears off a little piece of playdough and then looks back and forth between the two pieces. My least favorite part is his high-pitched squeal! Oh man, I hear that way too much these days! But it’s such a real part of life right now that I decided to leave it in the video.

Are you surprised that Ethan didn’t try to eat the playdough? I was too — but after I stopped recording, I sat down next to him and rolled a piece of playdough into a snake. He picked it up and promptly put it in his mouth. And when I rolled a piece into a ball, he considered that an invitation to throw the playdough.

We played with the playdough again this morning, but the magic of the very first time had already worn off, so I’m so glad I took the video yesterday!

pentominoes melty bead puzzle

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

Every time I see my kids’ big container of 11,000 Perler beads sitting on the shelf, I keep thinking that there must be something useful I could make with them. But it also has to look cool and not like I’m looking for an excuse to use these beads (ha!) — so that rules out coasters, bowls, and Christmas ornaments. When I saw these Tetris magnets the other day, I had an “aha!” moment.

So I combined my love of puzzles with my love of crafting and made a functional pentominoes puzzle out of these colorful little melty beads.

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

Pentominoes look a lot like Tetris shapes, but each piece is made from five squares, rather than four. The pieces of the puzzle are the twelve shapes that can be made by joining five squares together. If you’re making your own, these are the twelve puzzle pieces you will need to make.

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

The finished size of the puzzle is 2.5×4″, and requires 240 melty beads. I made each square out of four beads, but if you or your child finds that the small pieces are too difficult to work with, you could make larger pieces with nine beads per square. This would use 540 beads and would take much longer to make. You would also need a larger bead tray in order to create the long straight piece. (The standard square tray is 14 pegs long.)

According to this site, the 6×10-square pentominoes puzzle has 2,339 solutions, but coming up with just one of those solutions might be more challenging than you’d expect!

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

To keep my puzzle to the 6×10 shape, I made a little foam core box for it. I used 3/16″ foam core, which just so happens to be the same depth as the puzzle pieces.

foam core puzzle box

I attached the sides of the tray with craft glue, and then attached the lid to the tray with a couple layers of clear packing tape.

foam core puzzle box

When I was a kid, we had a version of this game called Hexed, and my mom was wise enough to draw off the solution before we took it out of the box the first time. If we couldn’t solve the puzzle, we could always just pull out the solution so we could fit the puzzle back in the box.

I printed off a picture of the completed puzzle and slipped it into a paper sleeve that I glued to the lid of the box. Of course, this is just one of many possible solutions, but it guarantees that my kids will be able to put the puzzle away properly!

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

Here’s one solution to the puzzle, but there are 2,338 more!

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

If you make your own pentominoes game, I’d love to see it! Either leave a comment with a link, or send me an email.

perler bead puzzle - pentominoes

And if you want to play but don’t want to create your own game, you can either buy a set (just google “pentominoes”) or play online. Have fun!

masking tape maze

masking tape maze

With snow in the forecast for Sunday night, my kids were hoping for a snow day on Monday… and I was already making a mental list of a few special activities they could enjoy on their day off. But the snow didn’t start falling until we were eating breakfast on Monday, and so they headed off to a full day of school as usual.

One of my ideas was this masking tape maze that I made for them that evening after dinner. Since our carpet is light in color, I actually used blue painters tape to create a maze on the floor of our living room. I started with the rectangular outline and then just kept making lines inside until I had a complete maze. It wasn’t a very complicated maze, and it didn’t have any dead ends or decision points, so it only took me a few minutes to lay it out.

masking tape maze

Younger children might enjoy kicking a ball through the maze or using it for trucks and cars, but my two older kids are in elementary school, so I told them that their goal was to move a ping-pong ball through the maze by blowing it with a straw. Of course, the ball rolled out of bounds many, many times, but they weren’t aiming for perfection, so they just put the ball back in and kept going.

I thought Hayden might want to use a stopwatch each time he did the maze to see if he could improve his time, but after he maneuvered the ball through the maze once, he didn’t want to do the same thing again. So he adjusted some of the tape to make different pathways of varying widths and angles, as well as some dead ends, and later added other little toys as obstacles.

And then before bedtime, we pulled up all the tape and threw it away. If we want to do it again, we can make a brand new maze another day!

What ideas do you have for using a masking tape maze? Perhaps younger children could hop through the maze on one foot, or older children could drive a remote control car through the maze. I’d love to hear your ideas.