Dinosaur Fossil Discovery

Dimples has been doing some Dinosaur Activities at preschool so I thought I would extend on this at home.  He has always loved dinosaurs and we have done Dino fossils before but this time I tried to make them more realistic so he can link the fun he has had preschool to the fun he has with his dinosaurs at home.

It was a success, they turned out much better and looked real!

My little master Chef helped mix up a batch of Salt Dough, see the directions below. To make them look as realistic as possible we added some black food colouring, so that they looked like real rock fossils. It worked well, they turned into a dark grey rock colour. We made some extra fossils so he could give them to his preschool group and we did a little palaeontology digging with his favourite ones.

They were so easy to make and Dimples loved pressing his dino toys into the dough and inspecting how they looked, he looked closely at the details and did a few experiments with some foot prints before deciding which ones worked best.

 How to make Realistic Salt Dough Fossils
1 cup cooking salt,
2 cups of flour
1 cup hot water,
Food colour or tempura paint (we used black food colouring)

Mix together salt and flour, gradually add the hot water.
If you want to add tempura paint or food colouring to your fossils add it into the water first.
Mix into a dough consistency and then knead the dough for 5 minutes until smooth. 

Divide the dough into small rock shapes, make them roughly the same thickness and size so that they bake evenly.
Gather some toys that can be pressed in to form your fossils (plastic animals & dinosaurs feet and body parts work well). We had some skeleton Dinosaurs which worked perfectly and some plastic dinosaurs with realistic feet shapes.
The salt dough can be air dried but for a better quicker result bake it slowly on low heat until rock hard.  We baked them on 120 degrees for an hour and a half but this depends on the size of your fossils. You can double check if they are dried properly by inspecting the bottom, it should be hard and evenly cooked all over without the 'dough' look. 

Once they're cooled  off they can be painted and decorated or left as is.

Play Idea:
Bury them in a sand box to be “discovered” (if you have a large sand box you could put a small flag above where they are buried). 
Then provide your pre-schooler with a small spade, pick and some paint brushes.
Once they find it, they can un-cover it and brush the sand off.
You can ask them to be very careful not to break or damage the fossil and get them to brush around them as a real palaeontologist would.

The discovered fossils can then be added to small world play and put on display.

Note: If the salt dough fossils get wet they will turn back to dough and crumble away.

Happy Adventures

Alternatives to Dirt Digging Construction

We have been doing lots of mud play since we have made the New Mud kitchen.
Dimples has 2 new Dirt trucks, an excavator and a dump truck that he got for Christmas and he has been keen to take them out side into the dirt.
However, as they are brand new and will be coming back inside on the carpet. I am afraid they will get wrecked, stained or unable to get completely clean again, I am sure they will end up out in the dirt soon enough but for now we did this alternative to digging in the mud that was just as fun without the mess.

For what ever the reason, whether its new toys, new clothes or just the mess factor, I understand not everyone is comfortable letting their child run amok in the mud. Sometimes its not appropriate or realistic!
This was a fun tactile alternative that was very clean, hands on and still provided some independent free play in the outdoors.
Hands-on Outdoor Construction Play without the grubby clean up. win win!

I placed some Large flattened cardboard boxes down outside and filled a plastic tray with unpopped pop corn kernels and an old bag of lentils (that would never get used) and Dimples got to use his 2 new toys for digging without the mess and the dirt.
You could use any dry ingredient: Rice, Pasta, Lentils, corn, split peas or out of date cooking ingredients after you sort through your pantry.
Dimples enjoyed digging, scooping and loading the dump truck, dumping it out and driving over the yellow work site.
The corn and lentils made a sprinkling scattering sound as they were dumped on to the cardboard. It was also alot more productive then dirt, Dimples could easily scoop large tubs full and see them pile up as he dumped them out.

It was a great tactile experience outside, he enjoyed fiddling with the corn peices and getting right in there with both hands (this would also work well with the sensory challenged who wont get their hands dirty to begin with) and the best part was after his toys got shaken off, they were still good as new: No mess, no scratches, no broken pieces and no clean up. It was relatively Quick and Easy!
I just picked up the cardboard, poured all the corn & lentils back into a container and saved it to reuse next time.

Happy Adventures

Mud Rally Sensory Box

If you are reading this you must be interested in making a Mud Rally Sensory Box?
This was a fun outdoors activity that I set up for Dimples near his Mud Kitchen.
It has all the Sensory and Tactile benefits of playing outdoors with dirt and mud, as well as these 8 benefits of playing in Mud with one appealing difference; It is contained in a Sensory Box.

I realise not everyone has a mud kitchen (or wants one) and many parents aren't open to letting their child freely explore mud but they still want to provide the learning experiences and messy fun that mud provides for their child.
The solution? The Mud Rally Sensory Box.
Its all the fun and mess but contained in a box.
This means it can even be bought inside on a spill mat or done on your back patio as a quick and easy messy play activity that can be emptied and cleaned out afterwards.
Simply mix a little dirt and water into the tray, add cars and once the messy play is finished, return the mud to its original place, rinse out the tub and rinse of the cars. Easy Peasy!

Dimples gathered some of his diggers and carted them up the yard. I wasn't keen to do the entire messy play thing on this particular day and we had limited time, so I put a shovel load of dirt into a plastic tub and mixed in some water, I sat his cart next to it and let him play.
It wasn't long before he came down from his tree house and came over to start exploring.
Initally he was very delicate, mixing the mud and carefully pushing a car around slowly and then inspecting its wheels. It didnt take long for him to warm up into his usually imaginative self.

Diggers, dump trucks, monster trucks, bull-dozers, tractors, jeeps and 4wd cars were lined up into the mud. The tractors were great at pushing the mud and clearing a path, Dimples experimented a while with this, looking intently at the cleared path. He added a little more water and watched it wash mud back over the paths.
He made some rally tracks and imagined that it was a race circuit, thrashing the monster trucks through the mud (with sound effects of course). Pretending they were doing all sorts of "tricks", flipping, rolling and skidding.
He used his diggers and dump truck for some track construction, even going to the extent of burying a car under dumped out mud.


Looking for some more Messy Play ideas?

Happy Adventures

Mud Painting: Its 'Process' Art

Mud stations provide much more than just pretend cooking and mud pies.
Have you ever tried Mud painting?
It is pretty effective and I am sure you know that Mud painting isn't done for a beautiful product you can put on the fridge.
It is process Art: which means it is all about the exploration, learning and experimenting that the child experiences during the process of creating the art.

Here Dimples had lots of fun Stamping, Splatting and Stomping things in the mud.
He explored the different patterns made from the different shaped utensils and what happened when he used them differently; tilting them, rolling them, splatting them, stamping them, sliding them around to get different effects on the white paper.

The whisk and the masher were the favourites as they had the most effective print.
I had some plastic animals near by that he wasn't too interested in. He used a pig and a dinosaur to do foot prints. He made them stomp around for a while and rolled the pig in the mud but went straight back to the utensils.

Remember, Its the PROCESS that matters: Children's Process Art fosters sensory perception, it provides the opportunity to represent and symbolises real life experiences or just be freely imaginative, it offers children a chance to explore, experiment, learn by cause and effect, create and build, but most importantly it gives them the freedom to be an individual.
Creating an Art piece, in their eyes is a way for them to express themselves in the way they wish without having to conform. The process is fun and may be many different things to them. This freedom is what makes it special. So when it comes to children, forget about the beauty of their art and focus on what is being experienced.

What better way to explore the process and freedom of Art than with some Mud painting?

Happy Adventures :)

8 Benefits of Playing in the MUD

The Benefits of playing in the Mud truly outweighs the mess of it by far.
Have you seen our Marvellous Outdoor Mud Kitchen???

The importance of messy out door play is drifting away in many households, especially now in a technology savvy world where children seem submerged in television, Ipads, mobiles, computers and game consoles rather than sprinklers, dirt, sand, bikes, trees and dandelions.

So why is playing in the mud important?  Many parents see their young child heading for a mud puddle and see potential mess, dirt stained clothes and hazardous germs so they stop.  When I see a mud patch I see potential sensory fun and giggles, splashing and opportunities to explore and enjoy the outdoors, avenues for imagination and creativity.

Did you know that studies have found a good bacteria in soil that has been linked to improved quality of life and happiness?  There is an abundance of information on how playing in the mud boosts a child immune system so it is not only healthy for you but makes you happy.


Open ended play

This gives opportunity for creativity and imagination. Mud kitchens and Mud stations are child led activities and allow self soothing that becomes a some what therapeutic relaxing event where the child can connect to the outdoors with the freedom to let their mind wander wherever it wishes to.
Open ended play leaves doors open so a child can develop the independence and confidence to play within their own limits, the way they feel comfortable.

Stimulation of many senses while engaged in play

Sensory stimulation is a necessary part of brain development.  Children can listen to nature sounds of the outdoors, mud/water/slopping sounds, birds and so on.  Tactile stimulation through touch and the different feelings of dirt, pebbles, sticks, water, mud, and the different textures. Seeing how materials mix, mash, pour, transform, squish and so on through different methods of play.

Eye - hand coordination

Mud kitchens provide good practise  of eye hand coordination and help further develop the neural pathways responsible for these movements. So while scooping, mixing, pouring, carrying pots full or mud, transferring materials and serving up mud children are increasing their eye hand coordination and through moving around the different weighted materials, balancing them and having steady control of them, they are strengthening all those important muscles that are still growing.

Cause and effect

Something that is often overlooked in outdoor free play is how a child learns through experimentation and observation.  For example, The mud blocks the sink, the large pebbles don't fit through the funnel, dirt and water makes mud, mud settles at the bottom of the pot, bark chips float to the surface and so forth.

Pretending Real life Play

Mud stations allow children to develop real skills using real life instruments, working in a real kitchen, working with real resources (even though its done in a pretend way they're not plastic right!?) this leads to learning real consequences and learning through exploration.  Whether they are role playing being a chef, making a mud pie or just enjoying splatting mud like an erupting volcano they are utilising natural materials.

Imagination and Creativity

Open ended mud play leads to creativity. After all Mud is an art medium. We've all heard of mud pies but have you ever tried mud painting? Through the freedom of open ended play and utilising rich coloured mud a child's imagination develops as they role play, story tell, chat away in their own fantasy world, create things and make things, pretend real life scenarios and so on.

Gross motor skills

As with all forms of out door play, mud play enhances gross motor skills. As the child handles materials and work around the mud station, carry full shovels of mud or balance full pots of water, lift and pour containers, stir and scoop with utensils, squat, stand, sit and physically move around doing their thing they are being active and using important gross motor actions.

Self care knowledge

This is broad but also very important.
Self care knowledge can be expanding on as the child plays with mud in many ways. To begin with if it is an outside area like ours, you can first inspect the area for creepy crawlies or spiders, ask them to tell a parent or grown up if they see any and remove sticks from the play area.
If it is a mud kitchen they are playing with it gives a good opportunity to practise cooking skills and self care skills in the kitchen by pretending with them. For example cooking with the handles facing away, holding the handle of the pot as they stir it, pretending to always turn of the stove or oven, hot surfaces, packing away the dishes etc.
This can also extend to after play tidy up by making sure they tidy and pack away, washing the things ready for next time, washing their hands after and putting dirty clothes in the wash when they're done etc.

Why not give it a go?
If you score low on the mess-o-meter and are still hesitant about letting your kids roam in mud. Keep the above in mind, put them in old worn clothes that aren't important, gumboots and have a change of clothes.

To get you started here are some objects you can use with Mud.

Kitchen play: Pots, pans, spoons, ladles, containers, muffin trays, bowls.

Dumping: Toy cars, mud, Dump trucks and diggers, small shovels.

Pretend cooking: Cooking utensils, a bowl, dirt, gum nuts, daisies, clovers, dandelions, seeds, water can.

Animal tracks: Mud, a flat surface, plastic animals with feet able to do foot prints with.

Mud pie's: Cake dish or pan, sand, sift, spoon, mixing bowl, dirt, mud, water, a pretend oven.

Mud painting: Mud, water, brushed and sponges, a large paper or wall.

If you havent already check out this previous post "Mud is good for you right?" & of course Our Outdoor Mud kitchen.

Happy Adventures :)

The Mud Kitchen - A Recipe for marvellous Outdoor play

Hello lovely blog visitors. Welcome!

I am sharing the newest edition to Dimples out door play area today. The awesome and totally messy mud kitchen. The best recipe for engaging children in messy, active, outdoor learning is with mud.

The complete Mud station
Here is the DIY mud kitchen that we built for Dimples in a few hours using recycled materials. It is much better than any store bought plastic kids kitchen and it is a outdoor hardy and durable one that is able to get messy and muddy time after time.

Marvellous Mud
The mud kitchen is built from off cuts of wood that I painted with chalk board paint, they're butted in to a old sink that came from a wrecked caravan, you could grab one from the wreckers or the buy back at the tip. That's it really! They're screwed together onto the side of Dimples tree house: click here to check out the tree house.  Then we added a plastic tub as another sink and an old plastic shelf unit as a storage/pretend stove.  We added some nails at the top, out of the way in order to hang the utensils and pots from and then it was ready for action.
Helping to build the mud kitchen.
We hadn't even finished building it before dimples decided he would start mixing his mud together.
Dimples enjoyed his mud kitchen for the rest of the afternoon.
He has some old pots hanging up, some measuring cups, sifts, ladles, spoons and scoops, a tray full of small bowls, plates and tongs, some old muffin trays and of course a water can.

Happily Making & creating   - Role Playing a Host & Serving it up for me   - Pretending to eat imaginary desert
Nearby I have up cycled an old sand pit as a mud pit.
How awesome, an endless supply of mud on hand for hours and hours of messy outdoor play.
If you are wondering about the germs, bugs or spiders that may house themselves in the mud I have been told that a majority aren't necessarily attracted to mud. If you do a little research, you will see that mud actually houses good bacteria and the benefits outweigh the mess of it by far. Here is a previous post on why Mud is good for you.

Making Master Peices
If you're still worried, wash your dirt first and run a pick or spade through it to break it all up, dose it in vinegar to rid it of germs, mix in some sand and add clean top soil from the garden centre.
Also apparently creepy crawlies hate cinnamon, so mix through some of this. Be careful not to use any chemicals because they will be released into your child's skin when handling and watering the dirt. To maintain a clean mud station just remember to check it regularly, tose it around and stir it up regularly, add vinegar or cinnamon once in a while and remove natures debri.

Mud Muffins Freshly made
Playing in the Mud as a child is often a fond memory held by every one whether you were allowed to freely or just did after a big down fall of rain.
Playing in the Mud makes kids happy.
I really am starting to see this now since Dimples has his mud kitchen. He can peacefully and independently play in his mud kitchen chatting away to himself for hours. I reckon if I left him, he would entertain himself there all day.

The process of Mud making can be messy, but the entire mud kitchen can be easily hosed down.
 Happy, content, peaceful, outside in the fresh air, actively exploring nature and playing independently with a natural sensory resource is one of the best forms of play in my eyes. It is so open ended and evokes a sense of freedom.
Playing outside in the dirt or the mud encompasses all the senses while the child is learning and is a fulfilling hands on activity that not only has been said to be good for you but is connecting the child's spirit, soul, imagination and physical self to the outdoors. Absolute bliss.

For more outdoor play ideas you may like

Happy Outdoor Adventures.


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