Fun and easy summer learning activities

Toys Frozen in Ice

Materials: Small toys, water, plastic trays for freezing, plastic tubs for water play (Optional: food coloring)

Description: Freeze small toys in blocks of ice. Give children the blocks of ice to play with in the bath or in plastic tubs for water play. Note that the blocks of ice float. As the ice melts, toys with either sink or float. (Optional: Color the blocks of ice with food coloring, so they contrast with the water.) Note: This is a great activity for the bath, kiddie pool, or for outdoor play, as those locations make it easier for clean-up. Food coloring may stain skin (temporarily) or clothing (possibly permanently).

Scientific Principles: Density, States of Matter, Surface Tension. The ice will help toys float, but will gradually melt so that toys not frozen in the ice may sink. Good questions to generate curiosity: Is the ice cold? What's frozen in the ice? Will the ice float on the water? I wonder why some toys float and other sink? Do you think the ice helps the toys float?

Painting with Ice

Materials: Water, Food coloring, Popsicle molds

Description: Fill popsicle molds with water and 4-5 drops of food coloring. Freeze overnight. Use the frozen ice popsicles to "paint" on paper towels. (Warning: Food coloring may stain skin, clothing or the surface under the paper towels.) If children are tempted to lick the popsicles or confuse them for edible food, crack the colored ice off the popsicle molds. Move the ice slowly around on the paper towels to make a picture. Do not over-wet the paper towels, or they will tear.

Scientific Principles: Patience, Observation, Cause & Effect, States of Matter. So much of science is about developing patience to watch what is happening and wait for results. As the ice melts, the colors will create a wonderful tie-dye effect on the paper towels.

Texture Play

Materials: Cornmeal, baking trays (Rock salt, flour, dried beans, rice, whipped cream, or other common kitchen ingredients can be substituted for cornmeal.)

Description: Sprinkle 1 cup cornmeal over a baking tray. Allow children to explore the texture with their fingers. Ask them to make patterns, designs, letters or numbers.

Scientific Principles: Five Senses, Observation, Cause & Effect. Scientists use all their senses when gathering information. Encouraging children to sense different textures with their fingers allows them to incorporate their sense of touch in the process of observation. This helps them develop fine motor skills, which come in handy for holding crayons or manipulating small objects. Texture play can be a very soothing activity for young children.

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About Michelle Potter
Michelle Potter, Owner, Kidspot Imagination Center: Kidspot's owner, Michelle Potter, has a BA in English & Psychology from Swarthmore College and a MA in Developmental Education from UC, Berkeley. She has over 15 years of experience as a classroom teacher, homeschool enrichment teacher, family child care provider, and has been an early childhood consultant for the California Parenting Institute. She has served on the boards of the Santa Rosa Mother's Club, Sebastopol Parents Club, and the Sonoma County 4C's. Ms. Potter is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (Kazakhstan, 1993-1995), where she taught English as a Second Language for 2 years. In her spare time, she teaches ESL at the Sonoma State American Language Institute.

About Kidspot Imagination Center
Hand-on play and learning for young children. Drop-in play, summer camps, and field trips available Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm. Private birthday party rentals available on Saturday and Sunday. (707) 823-5432. 6826 Sebastopol Ave (Hwy 12), Sebastopol, CA 95472.

Some local and mom-made products featured in Kidspot:

Rock 'n Roll Babies
"Mom" and "Dad" tattoo shirts as well as other original, funky urban designs for babies and young children. Company based in San Francisco.

Green Toys
Plastic toys made from recycled milk jugs. Company based in San Francisco.

Sarah's Silks
Silk scarves, toys, dress-up and playthings. Silk from China, family-owned company based in Forestville.

Monkey Pork Bun
Gena Perdue and daughter Beritt sew skirts and stuffed animals together, as well as design Make-A-Fairy kits and fairy stationary. Santa Rosa, CA or

Mimsy Designs
Handmade dresses, aprons, baby blankets, pjs, and more. Santa Rosa, CA.

Urban Prairie Girl
Bloomers girls, skirts and other designs for women. Each piece is unique. Sebastopol, CA.

Furlong Flowers
Greeting cards with photographs of flowers from a small, organic flower farm in Sebastopol, CA.

Outta My Eyes
Hand-crafted hair clips. Santa Rosa, CA.

Patisserie Angelica
Custom-made decadent desserts. We carry their French-style pastries in the pastry case on our coffee cart during the winter months.

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