Cartography Kiwi Crate


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Kiwi Co terms this their Treasure Hunt crate, based around a treasure chest and search for pirate booty. The projects are an excellent jumping off point to teach kids all about the science of cartography, a.k.a. map making. Thanks to the treasure chest and gold pieces, this one is sure to appeal to kids of pretty much any age!

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First up was making the treasure, Embossed Coins. Travis pondered very seriously how best to design each of the 3 provided gold coins, popping out templates of Steve the Kiwi and numbers.

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He didn’t quite understand how these could become coins until we covered his design with a gold sticker. Press down and – voila! – the design underneath appears!

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This had definite wow factor, even more so once running over the design with a q-tip for better embossing.

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Next, he traded coin minting for carpentry, and put together the Treasure Chest. He was a bit distracted looking ahead (a key! a lock!) but I guided his attention back to building the chest first. This involved slotting together pieces for the base and lid, and lining up letters to make sure each piece was in the right slot. I appreciated how intuitive Kiwi Co made this step!

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A wooden dowel is then inserted to hold the lid to the base.

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To add a swashbuckling touch, use a pipe cleaner to thread the provided rope through the chest’s latch. Add the silver lock. Travis loved practicing with the key over and over!

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We securely locked away our gold coins and it was time to Make a Treasure Map. This activity was absolutely fantastic for getting Travis to think about how objects look from above. (I had him imagine he was a bird; in what shape would the bird perceive our couch, our coffee table, etc.).

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There was a marked difference between his first effort (mapping our living room)…

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…and his second attempt (mapping the hallway).

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The provided pen is one of those fun ones with 3 colors of ink. We added a red X on each map for the treasure and a blue star for the start. He loved then hiding the treasure chest and sending me on a hunt.

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Then we flipped roles; I made a map of the kitchen and he had to puzzle it through.

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The booklet had a great explanation for kids about how they’re using math in this activity, everything from transferring 3D objects (solids) into 2D pictures, to the ideas of estimation and measurements.

As a bonus, we made Silver Pirate Coins for extra booty. Cut circles from thin cardboard (like a cereal box), then add other pieces of cut cardboard or patterns in glue on top.

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Let dry, then cover with foil and use a q-tip again to make your design stand out. We decided this worked way better on the cut cardboard version rather than the glue version.

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As always, Explore magazine had loads more information and activities to try, including another map to draw according to a provided legend.

For some fun reading to compliment this crate, check out Mapping & Navigation by Cynthia Light Brown or Small World: Maps and Mapmaking by Karen Romano Young.


Stars and Stripes Sponge Painting

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We’re gearing up for the 4th of July, and today Veronika got to make her first patriotic craft! She was too young for crafts last year at Independence Day, but there are so many fun red-white-and-blue projects that she can do now as a toddler.

For this one, we needed sponges in the shape of stars and stripes. You can cut these yourself, but I knew my scissor skills aren’t quite that deft when it comes to cutting sponges. Luckily we have a set of shape sponges attached to handles; I used the rectangle for “stripes”, along with the star.

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I showed Veronika how to dip each sponge in a plate of paint (use red and blue of course) and then press onto white poster board.

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She very quickly got the hang of it and loved it!

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“Stripes” were far easier for her to accomplish than the star, which needed even pressure along all 5 points, so I helped with those.

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It turned out that big brother Travis wanted to try, too! So after officially making our stars and stripes artwork, we dipped and painted with other shapes for a while. I love seeing the work of an almost-2 and almost-6 year old side-by-side.

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This was a great craft to fill a rainy morning.

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Sticker Art

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What can’t you do with stickers? They are the ideal material for kids in so many ways, whether on reward charts, for crafts, to make gifts, or more. Sometimes (like, say, a rainy morning) all you need to do is pull out your current sticker collection and let your kids go to town!

Right now I have loads of puffy stickers since these are easy for Veronika to pull from the sheets with little toddler fingers.

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I gave her paper plates as her canvas and she simply set to work. Peel off sticker, stick onto paper plate, repeat. This turned out to be excellent not just for keeping her busy, but also for vocabulary practice, since she wanted to name each sticker as she placed it on. “Bus! Tractor!” and so on.

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It also was great for the concept of matching since sometimes there were two of a given item in her sticker sheet. “One carrot, two carrot! One banana, two banana!”

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But mostly she just loved creating “art” with all the bright, colorful stickers. Big brother Travis joined in, too, deliberately creating themes on each of his paper plates.

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When the kids were done, I taped the plates to the wall for an easy “art gallery”.

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Veronika had also used heart stickers all over an empty water bottle.

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This turned into an impromptu flower vase, and actually looked quite beautiful!

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As a final component of the morning’s play, we made DIY stickers on blank office labels. Veronika scribbled on them with marker and then was delighted to realize they could peel and stick just like other stickers.

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We added a few of these to the paper plates, too.

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What is your toddler’s favorite sticker craft? Please share in the comments!

Toddler Collage

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It’s near the end of the month, which means time to empty out odds and ends from the craft bin as we stock up for next month. I knew exactly who would be a willing partner in my clean-out… my toddler!

I wanted Veronika to have a large “canvas” to work with for this project, so taped a piece of contact paper, sticky side out, to the largest piece of cardboard I could find in the house. You could also do this on a smaller scale, but whether big or small, the cardboard is nice because it means your toddler can leave the project and come back to it later. The same can’t be said if you tape the contact paper to the floor.

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I set out a tray with all the craft bin odds and ends, including: wrapping paper pieces, tissue paper squares, cotton balls, strands of ribbon, plus some clover from outside (flowers would be pretty, too!). I also added uncooked dinosaur-shaped pasta pieces.

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Veronika immediately needed to investigate all of the components of the tray of course!

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It turned out that the dinosaur pasta was the big hit. She loved sticking it to the contact paper, either by tossing on big handfuls, or by pressing one piece in carefully at a time.

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The ribbon was also fun, because the ends curled up until she pressed the length of it with her finger to secure it down.

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She was less interested in the cotton balls and tissue paper than I thought she would be!

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When she initially tired of the activity, I tucked the cardboard and the tray aside, waiting for her next creative impulse.

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By the end of the day, we had a masterpiece.

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Bunnies on a Log

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Here’s an adorable twist on classic “ants on a log”. We love watching the bunny who hops outside our window each morning to eat the clover, so today we added hopping bunnies to our celery snacks instead! It’s a great recipe for kids to put together themselves.

To start, spread either non-dairy cream cheese or sunflower butter onto cut celery sticks. Travis was thrilled that he was allowed to use the knife all by himself!

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Now add your hopping little bunnies.

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Travis’s verdict was that he liked the cream cheese version better than the sunflower spread. Which will be your kids’ favorite?

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Note: If your family eats dairy, you could put a further spin on this snack by taking it from land to sea: add goldfish crackers in place of the bunnies and you’ll have fish in a river!

Smokey Bear

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Heading in to summer, it was fun and informative to lead Travis through a lesson on Smokey Bear and outdoor fire safety today. This little lesson plan was the kick-off to Travis’s “Edible Elements” kit from Raddish Kids; we’ll soon be making recipes that rely on elemental power (think fire and ice!) during preparation.

But first up: the fire safety lesson. I provided Travis with pictures on index cards as we talked about safe ways to use fire, both indoors and out (the oven, a campfire). Older kids can come up with a list without this parental prompt.

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We then watched a video from Smokey Bear, and I read facts about Smokey’s origins. Turns out he was based on a real rescued cub!

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Travis enjoyed activities including a dot-to-dot…

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…and forest puppets to color.

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Then it was time for a puppet show! Oh no, Travis’s sneaky fox stole the water to douse the campfire. He then decided the skunk could spray it out! I loved that these puppets fired up (ha) the imagination and the learning.

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Big kids have so many options for extension here, whether creating their own PSA about fire safety on poster board or video; learning about the fire alert system; writing a letter to Smokey; or even learning about a historical fire like the Chicago Fire of 1871.

But for my kindergartner, we kept things light and not scary… and he earned a certificate to boot!

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Coffee Can Drum

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We have several real drums that Veronika loves to bang on, but toddlers are even happier when things are sized just right for them. You can easily make a tot-sized drum that’s perfect for toddler hands with a few upcycled items.

To make the drum, clean out a coffee can and remove any outer labels. From there, Veronika was in charge of decoration! I gave her paper and markers and she was so proud drawing.

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I love that she’ll tell me what she’s drawing (“triangles”, “ten little buses”), even if the resemblance between her words and her scribbles isn’t apparent.

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I then adhered her artwork to the can using contact paper.

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Use hot glue to attach the lid of the can. If you have a spare lid from a second can, you could add it to the bottom for a two-sided drum.

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We actually preferred leaving the bottom metal, because this meant she could alternate the volume of her drumming; soft on the plastic lid, loud and pingy on the metal. There was even a third alternative, at mid-volume, if she drummed on the middle of the can!

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For an at-home mallet, I used hot glue to insert the lead end of a pencil into a wooden craft spool. Again, just the right size for toddler hands.

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And it turned out that leftover spools were excellent for stacking!

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Veronika was clearly so proud of her little drum.

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We put on music and got jamming.

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Not a coffee drinker? Simply use an empty oatmeal container instead. Don’t have spools and pencils? Just use an empty toilet paper tube!

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Nature Soup Sensory Activity

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Here’s a beautiful activity that will engage the senses and fire up the imagination, making it accessible for multiple ages. I told the kids they were going to open a nature restaurant on the back patio and serve up nature soup. Let the excitement begin!

First we needed to gather “ingredients” from all around the yard. I armed the kids with zip-top bags to put in any treasures they found. Veronika loved little flowers and bits of grass, while big brother Travis preferred large finds like pine cones and bark.

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We’re ready!

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Back on the patio, I had filled a storage bin with a shallow layer of water and added plastic plates, bowls, and spoons. We dumped in all the nature treasures and it was time to cook!

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For Veronika, this was mostly a beautiful sensory experience.

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She loved feeling the cold water and the texture of all the nature items, as well as smelling the sweet pine scents of the pine cones and needles.

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It was great practice for her pouring and scooping skills. She even was scooping up bits of bark with a spoon and transferring to a cup so steadily.

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For Travis, it was much more about imaginative play. He loved making me new “drinks” to try and even provided me with a stick “straw” in each cup.

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He was so proud of his culinary creations!

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Meanwhile Veronika was busily splashing in the water, simultaneously keeping cool and learning.

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I would highly recommend this activity on any warm day.

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Melty Masterpiece

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Veronika has already used ice as a paint brush, so now it was time to use ice as her canvas! This is a fantastic art activity for outdoors on a hot day.

Overnight, freeze a cube of ice in a large plastic food container. In the morning, I simply popped out the cube and set it on a tray for Veronika, along with 3 colors of paint.

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She immediately wanted to paint “all by self,” dipping her brush into one of the colors and watching it run over the ice.

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The neat trick here is that the sun will work to melt the ice at the same time your toddler works to paint it, resulting in beautiful drippy colors.

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She painted until it was completely coated in paint and gleaming.

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It was fun to watch the paint run down the sides together!

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We were curious how long it would take to melt completely, and left her melty masterpiece outside in the sunshine. After only about an hour, we had a peach-colored puddle instead.

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An ephemeral but fantastic art project for toddlers.

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Ice-Dyed Pillowcases

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I was trying to channel old-school camp with this craft today, although it was sort of a fail for Travis. But at least it got us outside in the morning sunshine in these weeks before real camps safely reopen!

The idea was to dye pillow cases with powdered paint and melting ice, putting the heat of the sun to work for us.

I placed a disposable aluminum tray on the patio (with a garbage bag underneath to catch any paint drips), and then placed a rack in the tray.

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Wet your pillowcase thoroughly, then ring out and place on the rack.

Cover the pillowcase with ice. We put on latex gloves (which the kids always think are hilarious to wear), and sprinkled the ice liberally with the powdered paint.

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As the ice melts, the color starts to run into the fabric. Travis thought this was neat to watch for about, oh, one minute.

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Then we got a bit impatient and folded the pillowcase over the ice so that the color transferred to other parts of the fabric, instead of waiting to dye it section by section.

I saw pictures of this craft where it looked more like deliberate designs had been made (i.e. geometric shapes), but I have no idea how this is possible. Perhaps by folding the pillowcase into a square or triangle, and letting color seep through all the layers? If you try, let us know how it turns out in the comments!

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Note: Because I didn’t want the paint to stay on the pillowcase, we used washable powdered paint. Be sure to use a fabric paint or permanent powder, if you want your design to last beyond the “camp” day.

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