You, Me and Teddy

Parenting adventures and activities in and around Neuchâtel, Switzerland.


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(Fresh) Air

We made it out despite the sickness and actually discovered something really fun in the process.

Blatantly when a doctor says go get rechecked in two days’ time they know there is going to be something up. I can only assume it is because they are so hesitant to give out antibiotics nowadays that that is why they did not give them to E on Sunday. She only had a mild ear infection (2/5 according to the doc) but M (who fell ill a few days earlier) was up at the top of the scale. He is now looking really chirpy after the right medication while E has been looking paler and really down. Today I got confirmation that my poorly little girl was now a 5/5.

After some antibiotics and more ibuprofen I asked E what she would like to do? Her response was to go “see Daddy for lunch pleEease”. How could I refuse? We packed up the troop and headed off to Manor for lunch.

While we were having our lunch I noticed that today was the day for one of their children’s activity afternoons. Most Wednesday’s from 2pm until 4pm the Centre Manor Marin organises something for all parents who are stuck for an activity for their kids (in Neuchâtel there is no school on Wednesday Afternoons). Today the event was entitled “Viens créer ton mini jardin” (Come create your mini garden). I thought that sounds like fun so we drove around Marin a couple of times so that M had a little nap and would be bearable and then headed back in time for the session that was just starting.

The lovely ladies (animatrice) running the event explained how we were going to paint plant pots and then get to plant a selection of spring flowers in them. The children were shown how to hold their plant pot upside down on one hand while painting it with the other (well, that didn’t really work) and how to use one paintbrush per colour and that they would have to take turns for each colour. I was suprised at how well the later worked. Each child went mad with their one colour until they got bored and then waited patiently to swap with someone else. There was a range of ages from another 2 1/2 year old to a couple of 12 year old girls but they all interacted well together the older ones helping the younger ones.

painting

This is probably very Swiss and trusting but a lot the mothers left their children to play under the guidance of the animatrice going to get on with their shopping and checking in from time to time but myself and the mother of the other 2 year old stuck around to help (not that the kids wanted it).

While we were waiting for the paint to dry the animatrice set up games of charades or grandmother’s footsteps for the children to play. E was a bit to young for these still and asked me to get her a snack so we had our tea slightly early and she sat with her bread roll and piece of chocolate and watched the older children acting out being an elephant or a dog.

flowers

By the time she had finished her tea her pot was dry so we took it over to the queue for getting our flowers. E got to choose what coloured flowers she would like to fill her’s with and the result was very impressive. A very proud little girl left the shopping centre happily clutching onto her creation.

leaving

It was actually a place I could see myself meeting other mothers and making some new friends as towards the end it became a bit of a gathering. I can’t believe it was totally free either. We will definitely be back another afternoon and I can’t wait for M to be able to join in too.

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Eggsperiments

We have been learning about science this week by playing with eggs.

I was a bit of a science geek at school and even dabbled a bit a university before I settled on my French degree. It is fascinating to me knowing how the world works and I hope I can pass on this awareness to my children. We do experiments because seeing science in action makes the whole thing more understandable. I do explain everything as best I can (without fabrication) so that E knows what is actually taking place. Even if she doesn’t appreciate it fully now the memory will stick with her and the spark of interest is there for later life. It is also just good fun getting to make a mess!

What you will need for our eggsperiments:

  • 1 Jam jar
  • 1 egg
  • water
  • vinegar
  • Syrup/Molasses

We started by decorating our jam jars. This is us we talking about – we can’t do anything without decorating first. For this task we used glitter glue and marker pens. There was a general egg theme going on but sometimes E requested stars. Once we had finished with the decorating E filled our jars with vinegar. We had cider vinegar, which wasn’t very strong, meaning we had to change the vinegar for some fresh vinegar half way through. I would suggest using household vinegar instead as it is more acidic and making sure your jar is nice and roomy for your egg so it has plenty to react with. Then we added the eggs and watched them start to bubble as the reaction started.

eggsperiment prep

It is a very simple reaction between the acidic vinegar and the calcium carbonate which is found the shells of bird eggs.

Calcium carbonate (C03) + Acid (H+ ions) -> Water (H2O) + Carbon Dioxide (CO2)

The carbon dioxide is given off as a gas hence the bubbles that form around the egg. If your reaction has stopped due to a lack of acid there will be no more bubbles visible.

We had good fun poking our rather slimy eggs as they fizzed away and turned over and over in the vinegar fuelled by the bubbles. E kept dipping her crackers into the vinegar saying how yummy it was. It took about 2 days for our shells to dissolve completely (changing the vinegar after a day) leaving us with some rather funny looking eggs.

eggs and mess

After breaking a couple we had one left which we thought we’d learn about osmosis with. Osmosis is the process by which water passes across a membrane. The membrane that was left around the shell was perfect for this. When the egg was placed in water water diffused through the membrane into the egg which had a higher concentration of salts and sugars (or lower concentration of water). The egg started to expand until it looked like it might burst after only a few hours.

Osmosis into and out of our egg

Osmosis into and out of our egg

Then we tried the egg in some molasses syrup mixed with a splash of water. The syrup was far more concentrated than the inside of the egg and so the water started to diffuse out of the egg and into the syrup. After 24 hours we had a rather black shrivelled looking egg that we proceeded to prod and poke until it too eggsploded.

molasses egg collage

What I found really interesting in the molasses egg was that the black of the molasses had also diffused across the membrane into the albumen but not the yolk. Rather the yolk had gone hard and seemingly crystallised. I guess the sugars must have been able to cross over in the opposite direction to the water by active uptake (as to get to that concentration it must have gone against the concentration gradient).

All very simple but good fun. You can choose just to make a mess and explain as little or as much as you want to your children depending on their ages so its good for big brothers or sisters too.


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Stuck for ideas?

We all lose inspiration sometimes. Its raining outside and the motivation to do something is there but can you figure out what you want to do? Nope! Or what about those days where you have absolutely no motivation and it would be so easy to pop the kids in front of the TV and watch a film but you know you should do something with them? I have a solution.

A very clever friend of mine introduced me to the concept of an activities jar and I have adapted it for my kids. We now have two jars: one for rainy days and one for sunny days. When you are feeling inspired after a particularly good day out, maybe even a chat with other mums or perhaps just a good old browse of pinterest write down your ideas on slips of paper and sort them into your jars. I have colour coordinated our activities (because I am like that) into red for E, white for both kids or green for M.

They can be as simple or adventurous as you choose. I have a total mix but here are some of my first scribblings:

jars with some ideas

Its almost like a forfeits jar. Go on I dare you!

jars


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What A Beautiful Mess!

Today I’m quite proud of our activity. We went with messy play to cater to my kid’s needs after yesterday’s less than successful attempt at a “clean” activity.

Last night I popped to the supermarket and bought stacks of cheap pasta – we got about 4kg of dry pasta for about 2 Swiss francs.  I had plenty of liquid food colouring at home which I have been trying to use up (from before I found gel colourings here in Switzerland) so I thought let’s make our messy play as colourful as possible!

When the kids went to bed I had a play with the food colouring. I ended up using about 25ml of colouring per pan of water and cooked about a kilo of dry pasta in each. I used red, blue, green and yellow and was quite impressed at how strong the colours came out. I know yellow seems a bit superfluous but actually it definitely added something. Once it was drained I did add some oil to the pasta just so it didn’t all stick together.

This morning we went out for a walk and a hot chocolate with a friend and her baby. My two year old insisted on taking out her pushbike (that she calls her “motorbike”). I was seriously impressed as it was only her second outing on it and she was whizzing all over the place!

While the kids were napping after lunch I set all the pasta out in the bath and decided some nice sticky, slimy banana slices would definitely add something (if not make the play a bit more nutritious). So here is the pre-kid result:

The Pasta Bath

One tip: let the pasta warm to room temperature first or warm it by running some hot water through it first so you don’t freeze your little ones.

Now E (my two year old) dived straight in and I think tried to eat her body weight in pasta and bananas. Once the novelty had worn off she started to build a pasta castle and then bury herself.

Buried in pasta

Then the ten month old got in. He was not very convinced at first to be truthful. I cleared him a spot and just gave him a little pasta to play with and all was fine. He was initially more concerned with eating all the banana off the sides of the bath but then he joined his sister in the pasta “splashing” attempts.

Kids in the pasta bath

It took forever to shower the kids but on the plus side their skin did seem extremely silky from all the oil – mine too by the time I had scrubbed them clean.  M then went down for a nap (I think he was a little over stimulated with all the messy fun) and I cleaned the bathroom.

Pasta mix

M napped till dinner time so E and I baked an apple, banana and carrot cake. Excellent end to a happy and busy day!

CAKE