Our summer science project: Triops!

For a long while now, Pip has been asking for a pet. First of all, it was a dog. We patiently explained that we don’t have the space for a dog and, once school has started and I hopefully start working again, we won’t have the time that you need to commit to having a dog. She rather cleverly thought of fish next, giving us the very logical argument that they don’t take up much space and don’t need as much looking after as a dog. We took her point and quite like the idea ourselves. However, we’re not entirely convinced that she can handle the responsibility of a pet. While I would obviously have to help out with cleaning the tank, the day to day feeding would be up to her. 

So, I came up with a solution in the form of triops. These are type of small crustaceans that can be purchased as eggs, hatched out and then grown to full size before they reach the end of their short existence within about eight weeks.triops kit

They require very limited looking after, just feeing every couple of days and partial water changes about once or twice per week, depending on how murky the water gets. If after eight weeks you find yourself missing them, you can try to hatch out a second generation from the eggs laid by the first ones. This might just happen on its own, or you can go through a process of drying out the sand and detritus on the bottom of the tank and then adding water again to get any eggs there to hatch. 

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Our triops kit arrived on Monday. You get a tank, a packet of eggs, a packet of sand (to be added when they are two weeks old), a sachet of food, a pipette and a plastic spoon in the kit. The only extra we’ve needed to buy was spring water, since tap water or any chlorinated or purified water will kill them very soon after birth, if hatching occurs at all. 

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The bits of black stuff you can see is the detritus that comes with the eggs, designed to provide nutrition for the first couple of days.

We filled the tank and added the eggs on Monday evening, shining a lamp at the tank to try and get things moving. Now we are waiting, not very patiently, for Pip’s new pets to become visible. I’ll post again when we’ve got more news! 

Plans for Summer Fun

While everyone else has just begun their summer holidays, I’ve had Pip at home full time since she finished nursery in May due to our house move. It hasn’t been easy to keep her occupied, especially as when we’re out and about, all of the children of her age are at nursery or school. I am really hoping that now that summer holidays have begun, our local park will be full of potential playmates for Pip. 

Given that we’re quickly coming to the end of our time at home together, I really want to make the most of these 7 weeks (Pip’s school are staggering their starting dates so she’s not actually going to school until 5th September). So I’ve planned out some activities for us to do. Obviously the days out only really apply to Cardiff but the rest are for anyone looking for some summer fun! 

Days out: 

National Museum in Cardiff – Between 29th July – 1st August, there are family friendly tours of the ‘Nature in a New Light’ exhibition

Cardiff Castle – On 16th & 17th August is the Grand Medieval Melee. We went to this last year and Pip just loved watching the knights jousting and sword fighting plus they had some great craft activities going on. There’s also something called ‘Castle Quest’ going on from 28th July but there’s not much information on the Castle’s website about this. 

Roath Park – I’ve been meaning to have a visit here for ages but it’s just never happened. We’l definitely be going over this summer. With the lake and botanical gardens, I can’t think of a better place for Pip to keep developing her new photography skills! Plus there’s supposed to be a brilliant play park there. 

Cardiff Bay – We’ve been to the Bay hundreds of times. In fact, we used to live near there. But we haven’t walked across the barrage to Penarth since the day we came to visit Cardiff – before we even moved here three years ago! Definitely time to do it again, especially now that Pip’s old enough to appreciate it.

Techniquest – I do have some Tesco Clubcard vouchers to be used up, which can be redeemed at Techniquest so we might have trip there again. 

Barry – Summer holidays just wouldn’t be complete without a day at the seaside! 

Local parks – We’re lucky to be within very easy walking distance of a couple of parks, one with lots of trees and a long and winding path which is perfect for scooting and the other with a nice play park that is often full of other children for Pip to play with. 

Indoor activities: 

Science project – Pip has been asking for a pet of her own for some time now. I came up with a low cost, low responsibility option in the form of triops, tiny creatures that can hatched from eggs and live in a small tank of water. They actually only live for around 8 weeks, making them a perfect summer holiday activity. I’ll be doing a series of posts on our progress with this so keep an eye out! 

Movie Day – I want to limit this to happening maybe two or three times during the entire summer as it is a bit of a lazy one but I think it would be nice to relax with a bowl of popcorn and enjoy a couple of films together. This could really be more of an afternoon or morning activity, rather than a whole day. 

Crafts – I plan on doing a craft activity at least once a week. I’d really like to have a go at using salt dough and maybe making some collages. 

Board Games – We, as a family, love board games. Our vast collection can keep us busy for many hours over the coming weeks. They’ll be especially handy to fill an hour here and there in between other activities. 

Reading, writing and maths activities – I definitely want to keep up with Pip’s basic skills so that she’s ready to start school at the end of the summer. She loves to learn and I love teaching her so this shouldn’t be tricky at all.

What plans have you made for the summer? 

 

 

Learning about the world: Spanish Night

Pip takes great interest in Geography. She has a world map in her room that we often sit and look at and talk about. She can point to lots of different countries and asks me about them. What animals live there, what food the people there eat and what language they speak. 

As a fun way to explore other cultures as a family, the Husband and I decided to try having evenings themed on a particular country. Saturday night was our first try at this and we decided to make it a Spanish night because we already know and like lots of Spanish foods, we’ve been to Spain and we both speak a little bit of Spanish so we thought it would be a good starting point. 

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We made Spanish flags from ice lolly sticks, paper and glue. I made a jug of sangria for me and Husband and a small jug of mock sangria – which we’ve named Fungria – for Pip, which is just summer fruits squash with orange and lemon slices and ice. For dinner, we had Spanish omelette (tortilla), meatballs (albondigas) in tomato sauce, potatoes cut into small cubes, roasted and served with a tomato sauce (patatas bravas) and ham croquettes (croquetas). While we ate, we listened to some Spanish music in the form of the Gypsy Kings. We managed to teach Pip to at least say ‘Hola’, although she was a bit busy dancing away to the music and enjoying her food to have a language lesson! I might try and teach her a bit more Spanish during the week.  

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It was a really fun family night and I feel like she really learnt from it. We’re planning to put on a German night in August – I’m so excited, I’m already looking up recipes for this! If any German readers have any music or food suggestions, I’d love to hear them! 

My Geek Box July – Animation Box review

Being a household of massive geeks, when we discovered that there are a range of monthly subscription boxes filled with geeky bits and pieces, the question was not if we’d sign up but which one we’d sign up for.

We picked My Geek Box due to it being UK based, which makes everything much simpler. The box is sent by tracked Royal Mail service, which means that we get a good idea of when it’s going to arrive. Our questions to customer service have been answered very promptly, helped by being in the same time zone. Plus there’s no international post to pay for or customs to worry about – we’ve had items we’ve ordered from US stuck in customs before and then been charged to get them released.

Prices vary depending on how many months you subscribe for. One month alone is £16.99, which I think is pretty reasonable for what you get. The price decreases if you sign up for 3 or 6 months instead.

Since signing up, we’ve been eagerly counting the days to the arrival of our first box. Each month’s box has a different theme – July’s was animation. The box arrived on a weekday so I had to wait until Husband arrived at home in the evening before opening it. Inside we found:

A box of Simpsons plasters. We suspected that a Simpson item might be included. With a rather energetic small child in the house, it’s pretty handy to have some novelty plasters around to cheer her up when she has an inevitable scrape.

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A Simpsons Kwik E Mart reusable shopping bag. Very useful given the bag charge here in Wales (coming to England soon, I believe). Also good as it folds into a little zipped pouch, making it convenient for carrying about in my handbag.

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A figure of Jake from Adventure Time. I must admit we aren’t very familiar with this show but we have seen it and it’s a funny programme so Jake now has a place on our shelf.

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A teenage mutant ninja turtles wristband. Since neither myself or Husband would really wear this, we’ve given it to Pip who has worn it nearly every day since, even though she has no idea about the show or it’s characters!

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A t-shirt. Every My Geek Box contains a t-shirt so we decided that the fair way of doing things would be to take turns in having the t-shirt. This month we got one in Husbands size but we’ve now changed our profile settings so that the next one is my size. The t-shirt is an exclusive design to My Geek Box and, since we both already have quite a few geeky t-shirts, this was a really appealing feature to us.

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A vinyl sticker of Kenny from South Park. This has rather conveniently covered a hole in the side of our shelving unit, caused by my becoming a little frustrated during construction and hitting it just a tad too hard with a hammer. I’m sure anyone with experience of IKEA flat packs can understand this.

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All of the items in the box were good quality and exactly the kind of thing we expected and hoped for. We really enjoyed getting our My Geek Box and now we’re eagerly waiting for next month’s box with the theme of Quest. Personally, I’m hoping it’s going to contain something either World of Warcraft or Dragon Age based.

If you’re interested in signing up for your own My Geek Box subscription, you can do so here.

My Geek Box logo

A Walk in the Woods

The other day, I handed my very nice compact digital camera over to Pip. To be really honest, I thought she’d push the button, maybe take a photo or two and it would keep her busy for a few minutes while we finished trying to neatly fit all of our games into the available shelving space (not a simple task!). But fifteen minutes later, she was still wandering about, taking photos of everything in sight! But not just snapping away, she was actually trying out different angles and distances, chatting away to herself about the shot she wanted to get. I should hardly be surprised – both me and Husband like photography and he’s actually rather brilliant at it.

I started having a think about where would be a good place for her to take some photos. I had already been planning a trip to Forest Farm Country Park and it seemed like a good option – lots of tree and plants and possibly even some animals – so on Tuesday morning, we set off early for a little adventure in the woods.

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My favourite of Pip’s pictures. She was really pleased with this one too.

It’s only a short train journey from us but unfortunately the trains were misbehaving a bit so what I thought would take about twenty minutes actually took about forty five but we got there in the end! Luckily, Pip was happy to start taking pictures at the station, keeping her nicely distracted during the long wait.

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Pictures by Pip

It was really good weather for it – not too sunny but no sign of rain either. We saw a good deal of wildlife, although neither of us managed to get any good shots of it. A tiny baby frog hopped right across the path in front of us but, due to just having climbed up a set of wooden stairs, both the camera and my phone, which has a very good camera of its own, were safely tucked away in my pockets. I probably could’ve gotten one of them out in time if I hadn’t needed to quickly prevent Pip making a grab at the poor creature! I also saw a few dragonflies, including a really large blue one but they move rather quickly and, again, were gone before I managed to get a decent picture. We could hear birds constantly. While we didn’t get any photos of them, it was nice to listen to. I encouraged Pip to try and distinguish between different calls and where they were coming from.

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Pictures by Me

We did both get some lovely shots of the woodland. Please note, I’ve put in the captions who took which photographs.

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Pictures by me

Overall, a really lovely morning walk. I can’t wait to take her to other places to take pictures. I’m thinking of a trip to the Bay and a walk across the barrage to Penarth. Where do you like to go to take photographs?

 

Roll for it Review

I am a big advocate of learning through play and, more specifically, through playing tabletop games. I really think there’s such a broad range of skills that can be learnt through this medium, from maths and reading skills, to social skills like sharing, taking turns and working as part of a team. 

One game that I play with Pip on most weekdays is Roll For It, a very simple and quick game that’s good for number skills and also for introducing the idea of probability and decision making.

Box Each player is given a set of six dice of one colour. In the middle of the table are placed three cards. On each card is a picture of some dice and a number.

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On each turn, you roll the dice and try to match the dice you’ve rolled to the dice in the picture. If you manage to match all of the dice on one card, you win that card and score the number of points shown on it. First player to reach 40 points is the winner. If you don’t match all of the dice on a card in one turn, you can leave the dice you do have that match on that card until the next turn and try again, as long as another player doesn’t get it first!

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At first, Pip quickly caught on to the basic premise of matching dice but didn’t really get that some cards were easier to win than others – for example, it’s much easier to get 4 dice and win 10 points, than get 6 dice and win 15. So while she was spending multiple turns trying to get six fives, lets say, on her dice, I was scoring more points by going for the easier cards. 

After a few games, she gradually picked up on this and now generally makes pretty clever decisions about what card she’ll go for. It’s also helping her to look at adding larger numbers than she’s used to. Generally when we’ve got our whiteboard out and we’re looking at addition sums, I keep the numbers to below ten. But this game needs you to add numbers up to forty. She struggles with this but I think it’s giving a nice, casual and fun introduction to it. It also gives her an aim for her maths skills as we tell her ‘If you keep practicing with your sums, soon you’ll be able to keep your own score’. This seems to really help focus her attention.

This is a great family game, since it’s one we can all play and enjoy together, rather than it being either a bit too simple and boring for adults or a bit too advanced for children. Despite having a recommended minimum age limit of 8, Pip has picked up this game really easily and, aside from us having to keep score for her, she can play it independently. 

Thanks for reading! 

Ice cream with added geek

On Saturday, we all took the bus into town. It was a lovely sunny day. Husband had seen online that a new ice cream parlour, Science Cream, was due to open and we wanted to try it out – this is no ordinary ice cream parlour! If you’ve been reading this blog for long, then you’ll know that we regularly visit the Castle Arcade, as well as the other shopping arcades in Cardiff. We love the unique independent shops and cafes in there. This new business fits in perfectly there.

 

The ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen! As you can imagine, four year old Pip was fascinated and I was pretty interested to see the process. A thick plastic screen protects customers, while the staff are dressed as if in a lab with long white coats and safety goggles. They pour liquid unfrozen mixture into electric mixers, followed by the liquid nitrogen. It’s then mixed until the mixture has frozen, while white mist billows from the mixers. It’s then dished up and any sauces added.

I had vanilla ice cream with raspberry sauce. It was very creamy. As it melts in the mouth, it has the texture of clotted cream. I really enjoyed it. The raspberry sauce tasted freshly made and very tasty too.

 

Husband and Pip had chocolate. They report it was also very good.

After finishing our ice cream, we couldn’t resist a visit to our local games shop, Rules of Play. We added Star Trek Expeditions, My First Carcassonne and Mythic Battles to our games collection – reviews will be coming up in the future, of course!

We had a great family Saturday, I hope you did too. Thanks for reading!