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activities

  • Solar Eclipse Inspired Games For Children

    Today we understand that a solar eclipse is a natural phenomenon, an occasional reminder of our place in the Universe. We understand that whether we continue about our day, stop and observe it quietly, or run around shrieking like a headless chicken, after a few minutes the Moon will pass on by, the Sun will shine fiercely onto our planet once more, and normality will be restored.

    But for ancient civilisations solar eclipses were impossible to explain, and were often met with a sense of terror.

    Use these games to explain how solar eclipses have been understood over thousands of years.

    Ancient China - Bang The Drums

    In ancient China it was believed demons were attempting to steal the Sun. The people would flock together during an eclipse and bang pots and pans as loudly as they can to scare away the demons.

    To recreate this in a game you will need a big yellow ball or balloon to be the Sun, and whatever noisy implements you can find (saucepans and wooden spoons should do the trick).

    Your children can be the demons to start with. Their job is to try to steal the Sun from wherever you’ve chosen to display it. If you catch them, you must bang as loud as you can, and they will abandon their efforts. This is a great game because provided you keep an eagle-eye out for little demons, you can get on with some chores while the little ones are plotting their plan of attack.

    You could just play for fun, set up a points system or even offer yummy rewards for successful total eclipses.

    If your children fancy a turn banging the pots, just switch roles.

    Vietnam - The Giant Frog

    In Vietnamese culture it was believed that the Sun disappeared as a result of a giant frog taking a bite out of it. Of course the Sun was too powerful for the frog and after burning his mouth the frog let the Sun go free.

    Turn the classic ‘What’s the time Mr Wolf’ into the Giant Frog game.

    Your children are giant frogs and you are guarding the Sun (use a pile of yellow clothes or a Sun made from segments of yellow card). The children call out ‘what’s the time’ and when you answer them they must jump forward like frogs, instead of taking strides. Every time a child successfully reaches you they can take a piece of the Sun and run back to base. But if the Sun gets angry, you must chase the Giant frogs away.

    For older children you can make the game more challenging by putting the Sun on top of the climbing frame or at the top of the slide.

    Vikings - The Chariot And The Wolves

    The Vikings believed the Sun was pulled around on the back of a chariot, perpetually chased by wolves. Every now and then a wolf would catch up and take a bite out of the Sun, causing the darkness, before the chariot sped away, taking the Sun to safety.

    You can recreate this story with a simple game of chase, each taking turns to be the wolf or the Sun.

  • Games, Crafts And Activities For Mother’s Day

    Straight up, hand this blog post over to the Dads.

    These are fun things to do on Mother’s Day, so Mums, you shouldn’t be doing all the prep for this.

    There’ a combination of crafts and games included here, so whatever the weather you’ll find something to keep them busy with.

    Make A Card

    Nothing says appreciation like a handmade cards. Older children can colour or paint whatever they like, but younger children may need a little direction. Cut out some flower shapes for them to colour and stick on, or use finger painting to make hearts and flowers shapes.

    Cooking For Mum

    The easiest thing to cook for mum is pancakes. Little ones can help crack eggs, measure ingredients and mix the batter. Older children can pour the batter into the frying pan. Dad’s in charge of flipping the pancakes.

    Cup cakes are also a good thing for children to make. As with the pancakes, mixing the batter is a child-friendly activity, and once the cakes are cooked and cooled, icing and decorating is super-fun, if a little messy.

    Kiss Chase

    The ultimate game of love and affection - kiss chase. But instead of Mum chasing the children, this time it’s their turn to run after Mum, capture her, and cover her with kisses.

    Heart Treasure Hunt

    Cut up little heart shapes and have your children hide them all over the garden - under rocks, on the climbing frame, under the trampoline, wherever they can safely reach. Make sure Mum doesn’t see what you’re doing. Now get Mum into the garden and time how long it takes her to find them. The children can help her hunt them down by giving clues of hot and cold. Repeat until Mum is exhausted, or swap over and hide the hearts for somebody else to find.

    Nature’s Gifts

    Go for a walk along the beach or the park, somewhere you will find plenty of pretty things lying around. Ask your children to hunt for a thing of beauty for Mum. When they hand it over, whether it’s a stone, a leaf, a conker, ask them to explain why they chose it. Mum will treasure that story every time she looks at the object.

    Guessing Game

    How well do we know Mum? This is like the old Mr & Mrs quiz. Ask questions like ‘what is Mum’s favourite colour?’ and ‘what is Mum’s favourite snack?’. If you have older children they can write down their guess before Mum reveals the answer. For younger children, have Mum write the answer secretly, then the children can guess outloud.

    Mum Says

    Like Simon Says, but it’s Mum giving the instructions. Imagine her joy when everyone just does as she asks for a whole 10 minutes without complaining.

    For more outdoor play inspiration, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • Solar Eclipse Special: How To Watch AND Explain It...

    ...because you know all you'll hear is 'why? Whhhhhyyyyyy? But whhhhy Mummy whyyyyyyy?'

    On Friday 20th March, much of the country will be plunged into darkness as we experience the first solar eclipse in 16 years.

    Most areas will experience an 85-90% eclipse, but some lucky folk, right on the tip of the British Isles will see a full eclipse.

    Here are our top tips on watching the eclipse safely and explaining the science behind it.

    Watching Safely

    There are specially designed eclipse glasses available to buy online. Be sure you are buying from a reputable seller, and check there are no scratches or lens damage to the glasses before you use them. Make sure children fully understand that they should never look directly at the Sun, even when the majority of it is obscured by the moon.

    Even with the glasses on it is only advisable to look at the Sun for a few minutes before taking a break to rest your eyes.

    A safer way, especially for younger children, is to use a pinhole projector. This funnels the light through a small hole, then projects the image onto a piece of paper. Unlike the glasses which can only be used by one child at a time, you can have multiple children looking at the projector image at the same time. And they will have their backs to the Sun, making it much easier for you to supervise them and keep them safe.

    The Science Bit

    A solar eclipse is a wonderful opportunity for children and adults alike to come to fully experience their place in the Universe.

    A complete solar eclipse is possible because although the Moon 400 times smaller than the Sun, the Sun is 400 times further away from Earth than the Moon. So when the two are in perfect alignment, it appears as if the Moon and Sun are the same size.

    A scale model would take you a while to produce, but you can explain the principles using a few toys.

    Hold a tennis ball and a ping pong ball, one in each hand, and ask your children which is biggest. Now take have one child stand at one end of the garden holding the tennis ball out, and another children at the other end, looking as if from Earth. You stand in the middle holding the ping pong ball, slowly stepping closer and closer to the observer until the ping pong ball has completely blocked their view of the tennis ball.

    Another fun way to demonstrate the effect distance has on our perspective of size is to turn your children into giants. Now they know already that their thumbs are not as big as the cat, dog or Mum’s head. But send them to the top of the climbing frame and ask them to imagine squishing animal or human passers by with just their thumbs and see what happens. They should start giggling when they realize their hands look giant when compared to people on the ground a few metres away.

    For more science, fun, games and outdoor ideas, check out the rest of the Wicken Toys blog.

  • No Balls Please

    There’s no escaping it. When a ball bounces off a wooden fence it is loud.

    If you have restricted space in your garden (and a lot of us do) you may fear the dreaded crash caused by an errant football, or speeding tennis ball.

    But stopping these games altogether does you children no favours. Balls games give children the chance to develop hand-eye coordination skills, social skills as they interact while playing, and of course get much needed fresh air and exercise.

    So what can you do to prevent the bang crash wallop.

    We’ve got some suggestions here for ‘ball games’ without the wayward balls.

    1. Badminton Often overlooked in favour of tennis, but badminton requires just as much skill and concentration. Because the shuttlecock travels slowly it is unlikely to go far enough astray to hit the fence. And if it does, you’ll hear barely a tap as it is much lighter than a ball.

    2. Swingball Swingball is just like tennis, only the ball is tethered, so no chance of it escaping into the neighbour’s garden or bashing into the fence.

    3. Boules Played properly there is no chance of loud noises. These heavy balls plop soundlessly onto the lawn and stay there. You may hear a gentle ‘clink’ as two balls touch each other. This is a calm relaxing game requiring concentration so is ideal for taking energy levels down a notch if things get a little frenetic.

    4. Skittles If you don’t have a skittles set you can make your own with some sand filled [plastic bottles and a tennis ball. Help younger children aim by having them roll the ball down the slide towards skittles assembled at the bottom. Older children can add extra challenge by placing the skittles at the top of the slide and rolling the ball up it.

    5. Outdoor Table Tennis For the ultimate outdoor accessory, get a waterproof table tennis set. Designed to be kept outside (although best covered over the colder months), these tables are always set up and ready to go whenever the mood takes you. The lightweight ping pong balls will bounce all over the garden, but barely make a sound, so you there won’t be any loud bangs….unless you crash into the fence chasing after them of course.

    With a bit of imagination you can adapt traditional games and invent your own to provide plenty of outdoor fun with none of the noise.

    You may also be able to make small adaptations to your garden to help stop balls hitting the fence. A gulley around the edge of the lawn will catch ground skimming balls, as will borders filled with dense shrubs.

    If football is an essential activity it is possible to buy inflatable fully enclosed five-a-side pitches with high side netting.

  • Valentine's Day Themed Fun For Kids

    Coming up with fun outdoor activities to keep small people entertained is a lot easier when you work with a theme.

    Thankfully there seems to be some sort of celebration or festival in just about every month of the year and February is no exception.

    Which brings us to Valentine’s Day. It’s probably not advisable to turf the kids outside and tell them to invent their own Valentine's themed games (unless you don’t mind them playing kiss chase all day). We’re here to rescue you, with a selection of V-Day games for all the family.

    1. Heart Hunting Cut some heart shapes out from coloured card and hide them all over the garden. Make the shapes smaller for older children. If you want to add a competitive edge you could leave a different colour out for each child, then have a timed race to see who can find all their hearts the quickest, or who can collect the most hearts within a set amount of time.

    2. You’ve Got Love Mail Set each child up with some pens and coloured paper and ask them to write a love letter, or draw a picture to each member of the family. You could even create a family postbox to put them in. Then when you are together, nominate a postman to empty the box and deliver the letters.

    3. Valentine’s Balloon Games Did you know you can buy heart shaped balloons? Well you can. So for an easy afternoon’s entertainment, buy a pack, blow them up and leave the children to use their imagination.

    4. Cupid’s Arrow Make a jumbo heart, with smaller outlines inside to use as a target. Tape it to the ladder on your slide or climbing frame so it’s held up by something sturdy. Then use foam bullet guns to shoot at it. Alternatively you could cut a heart shaped hole out of an old sheet, secure that in an upright position and try to throw balls through the gap.

    5. Valentine’s Sensory Play You could make a Valentine’s themed sensory play station. Use an old splash pool or a water play table and fill with anything pink, white and red. Water beads, jelly, shaving foam, food colouring, flour, anything that feels icky, is non-toxic and doesn’t stain. Put each ingredient in a separate cup and let the children experiment with different combinations.

    Often to get the party started (even if it’s just you and your kids in attendance) a small amount of structure and a gentle suggestion is all that is needed. You’ll probably find that your children quickly deviate from the activities you had planned. When this happens you should congratulate yourself for inspiring them, and take a moment to admire their fertile imaginations.

  • Halloween Inspired Science Activities

    Halloween is a great opportunity to teach children that spooky, scary occurrences can usually be easily explained by science.

    Help them see the science behind the supernatural with these clever Halloween-inspired science activities.

    1.Dissolving Experiment For this experiment you will need three cups, some cooking oil, milk, water and three identical gummy sweets from your collection of trick or treat wins.

    Pour a different liquid into each cup, just up to about three inches high.

    Science experimentation is all about explaining yoru method, making predictions and recording results, so first have your children write up the plan and then ask them what they think will happen. Will the sweets float or sink? Will they stay the same or will they change? Then put one sweet in each cup, and over the course of the day, keep going back to check on their progress. At the end of the experiment, pull the sweets out and write up what happened.

    2. Flying Fire Ghosts This experiment is best conducted on your patio. Snip the top off a tea bag adn dump the contents out. Then draw a ghostly face onto the bag and stand it upright on a inflammable surface. Light the top of the tea bag and as the bag burns it should lift off the ground, giving the impression of a flying ghost. As the air inside the tea bag gets hot it expands and rises. Cold air rushes in from underneath, lifting the bag up into the air.

    3. Exploding Ghost Rockets For this experiment you will need a handful of old-fashioned camera film canisters (which you can still buy on eBay), some Alka Seltzer tablets, cornflour and a little water. Firstly, turn each canister upside down and use a permanent marker to draw on a ghostly face. In each pot mix a teaspoon of cornflour with some water to make a gloopy paste. Crumble in some Alka Seltzer tablet, quickly replace the lid, place the ghost down and stand back. Yoru ghost will explode, shooting right up into the air, leaving a trail of white gloop behind them. The white paste will be easy to wash off so you can make your ghosts jump off the climbing frame, picnic table, swing, whatever you like.

    4. Expanding Ghost Balloon Hang on to some of those Alka Seltzer tablets. You'll need a small bottle, half filled with water. Draw a ghostly face on a balloon, plop the Alka Seltzer into the bottle and very quickly stretch the neck of the balloon over the neck of the bottle. As the mixture bubbles away the rising gas will cause the balloon to expand.

    5. Skeleton Jigsaw Time for some biology. Draw / print out a skeleton and cut into jigsaw pieces. Combine this lesson with a little physical activity by hiding the pieces all over the garden or all around the house. Make sure you count up the pieces before you hide them so you know when you've found them all. Just by collecting the pieces and putting them together your children will learn a lot about the human skeleton.

    For more play ideas, check out the Wicken blog.

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