Tag Archives: Engineering


We’ve got documentaries coming out of our ears at the moment – the girls are actually asking for them to be put on!  This hasn’t happened before, ever.  As I’ve mentioned before, D loves the ‘Colour: The Spectrum of Science‘ programme and now M loves a new one I put on the other night on Netflix – ‘Secrets of Henry VIII’s Palace: Hampton Court’.  She seems fascinated by the goings on of Henry VIII.  We also watched ‘Secrets of the Tower of London‘ and two episodes of the ‘Britain’s Outlaws‘ series.  There have been so many questions, from M in particular, and no anger issues at all!  We tried ‘Shock and Awe: The Story of Electricity‘ too but that was a no-go: it didn’t pull any of us in unfortunately.

The girls have been busy making a boat from a cardboard box – they’ve really worked hard together.  They made oars to go with it, made a shelf for a little treasure chest and designed a flower motif on the base of the boat.  They then drew the same flower design with Sharpies on some plain white t-shirts.  Altogether a gorgeous little team project!

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No Curious Minds today: D didn’t want to go.  It was quite hard for me to accept as I could see it was a beautiful wintry day out there; but we have an arrangement whereby we all get a turn to have ‘the final say’ as to whether we go out or not.  So we stayed in and M finished off her Sequin Art, we watched Disney’s Christmas Carol (which was surprisingly true to the book); D did a bit of maths with Numberjacks and also made a card for her friend and both girls played on their boat.

We’ve had a busy happy few days really.  D is much more relaxed now that I’m with her in the evenings; and J has promised her that she doesn’t have to join in at Judo, she can just watch M if she wants to.  Giving her more control and comfort may well have done the job – I hope…

Ancient Mechanicals

So this is the ‘something really good in London’ we had tickets for today: Ancient Mechanicals at the Unicorn Theatre.  Bit weird that an exhibition is in a theatre, but never mind – it was brilliant!

I was full of doubt about going into London with D being ill yesterday and it being so hot today but I felt like I really needed to get out!  It’s so difficult to know what to do in this weather – it’s too hot to do anything really.

Anyway, so off we went into London and we spotted the Shard and Tower Bridge along our walk so that pleased the girls.  D recently told me that when we were in France she really missed all the London sights. 🙂

We had 1 3/4 hours in there and M spent the first hour making a mosaic with small tile pieces.  I did try to suggest we looked at other things too but she was determined so I persuaded her to make a smaller pattern instead.

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Then she whizzed around the rest of the exhibition and really loved it: she wrote all the family’s name hieroglyphics; tried out writing cuneiform in Plasticine; worked an Archimedes’ Screw; she made a roman arch; played with a catapult and tried to figure out some early locks.

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It wasn’t really D’s scene to be honest: she had a go with the mosaics at the beginning and then flopped on a bean bag for most of the time.  She livened up towards the end though and had a go with Archimedes’ Screw and drew patterns in the Plasticine.

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We left having done only 2/3rds of it but on our way back to the tube it was so lovely with the breeze coming off the Thames we decided to buy cakes and eat them outside.

I feel like I bang on a lot about how great the sausages are and how great our days are but in general they really are!  I particularly feel this way when I look back at the struggles M has been through.  Of course, it’s not all unicorns and rainbows every day but today had a particular glow about it.  The sausages made up a ‘link of love’ so we all linked arms and walked along like the Monkees. 🙂

M was in seventh heaven and told me how glad she is that she’s home-schooled. 😀

Slightly Different Saturday

Usually our Saturdays are a bit of a tag-team set-up where I get a few hours to myself while J takes the girls to Judo and then onto his parents or the park or swimming.  Today though, J woke up with an enormous hangover so Judo was out of the question. 🙂

He is also under a lot of pressure to get an event up and running in a month’s time so he’s been working over the weekends a lot more lately.  He has also decided to invite his brother and girlfriend over for lunch tomorrow so he needed a good few hours to create his signature biryani dish!

So with all that, I left him to it and took the girls up to London to the Institute of Imagination’s Mini Maker Faire.  We had a lovely time there, despite the pouring rain.  The girls put together a ‘Draw-Bot’ and a Zoetrope before deciding it was too cold and wet to continue.  It’s a shame it wasn’t indoors as there were many other things there to make and do!

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Yesterday I spent a bit of time with D doing sciencey stuff while M played with Morris and Gloria.  I’ve started writing up a weekly plan and sticking it up on our lounge fireplace, the girls also come up with ideas of what they’d like to do and if they want to do something which I’m too busy for we can then scribble it down to remember for later.  I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to come up with this simple idea, I think technology got in the way!


Anyhoo, D had requested we make the density tower that we made before so that’s what we did!


Because I followed the instructions properly this time, it was a little less murky than our last one and we only had 5 layers rather than 9 but the girls still found it intriguing.  I have still delayed doing a full-on density discussion: partly because my science knowledge is so abysmal I would need to read up about it first; partly because M’s mind works in such a way that I KNOW the discussion would then lead onto the internal workings of a molecule and if I can’t explain all this in a way that she understands the whole thing will end up in a huff; but mainly because they are just having FUN exploring what happens without knowing the whys and wherefores.

D wanted to do another experiment after this so I quickly set up a Wizard’s Brew which I’d been admiring here.  There were lots of squeals of enjoyment for this one.


D wanted to do another experiment after this but I couldn’t think of one off the top of my head so the girls did some painting instead: they found some old-unfinished stuff from Yellow Moon and got on with that.


Then it was back to the Rubik’s Cube and the Picture Atlas of the World Sticker Book!  M has now completed the cube and can do all the sequences from memory!!!!


I was feeling pretty tired by this point!  I don’t know if it’s a problem with my energy levels or I’m being unrealistic thinking I should be able to keep up with the sausages.  Either way, I was feeling too exhausted to go to our Curious Minds group so we gave it a miss this week.  The girls are always up for a quiet time at home so we did a bit of film watching (101 Dalmations and Bambi), playing cards (Snap and Beggar my Neighbour) and building the marble run.


D also began a frieze which she wants to spread across the top of our large kitchen window – it’s going to be a painted sky!



And finally, here’s a picture of Gloria soaking up a few rays this morning.  She’s finally allowing us to stroke her!


Papier Mache, Rubik’s Cube and Google

We’ve been spending quite a bit of time making papier-mache goody bags (inspired by an episode of Creative Galaxy).  D is beginning to realise that these TV programmes aren’t very realistic in showing you how much time these art projects take to complete.  So instead of taking 1 minute it took us 3 days to make our goody bags!  And even then, D’s collapsed because we hadn’t put enough newspapers layers on.  However, she wasn’t to be defeated and was keen to start all over again.  This time we made it with 4 layers of newspaper, just to be sure.  After it had been painted and a ribbon handle was stapled on, she immediately filled it with goodies and gave it to M!  Aah.


The girls are really getting into films now.  They probably watch at least one film a day and their current favourites are Cat in the Hat and Paddington.  They’re both brilliant films, even for adults, and I’m usually asked a few questions during the film, which goes to show they’re not just flopped zombie like in from of the telly: instead they’re engaged and learning.  I’m quite thankful for the break it gives me too: they’re both really busy with different activities at the moment but they still require a lot of hand-holding and help through things – not complaining, just sayin. 🙂


In keeping with my promise to get outdoors more, the girls have been out on their bikes, scooters or roller skates every day lately, a great achievement for me!  M adores her bike so will willing go anywhere on it, and D is getting more and more confident on hers thanks to J’s persistence that she practices.

D has been keen to play long-ignored board games (Tell the Time, Junior Scrabble and Pop to the Shops) and also completing her favourite map jigsaws which she’s getting faster and faster at.  J has also begun teaching her how to play chess.


D even made up her own game by drawing the Sun and each planet in the solar system (Pluto is always included because she feels sorry for it).  We then had to choose a planet and orbit the sun like the planet would.  There was a discussion with M about whether the planets traveled at differing speeds or whether some planets take longer to complete an orbit because of their distance from the Sun!


M is becoming more and more engaged in learning as time passes by: she now asks me some incredible questions and I can tell by the surprise and pleasure I feel when she does it that I had become accustomed to her never asking me anything (or asking and then feigning disinterest when I begin to Google it).  On a visit to the Museum of London last week, she was full of questions about the Roman invasion (including some rather interesting ones like ‘weren’t the English angry?’).  This week she has also asked me ‘what’s the point of ants?’ and ‘why do people in different countries speak different languages?’.


Last week, M decided she wanted to make the bunnies a toy out of loo rolls.  She had the idea of making them a castle but she had an added challenge that she couldn’t use any glue or tape to fix it together in case the bunnies ingested it.  She came up with an ingenious way of connecting the rolls using a slot on one and a flap on the other.  Her brain never ceases to amaze me!


M has also dug out a long-forgotten Rubik’s Cube and has been spending hours and hours working through the instructions.  She’s now got to the point (after working on it solidly for a day) where she’s gaining an understanding of its movements and can figure out problems more easily.  She’s set herself the challenge of being able to complete it without any instructions at all!


And here she is in her new Brownie uniform!  She is thoroughly enjoying it, though small problems are arising to do with her being unable to take in long streams of information from her leader.  I was unsure whether to make the Brown Owl aware that we’re seeking an Aspergers diagnosis but in the end I decided I would so that she might understand M’s behaviour more.  She seems like a very understanding woman and had already noticed a few of M’s difficulties.  After each session I can sense a faint shadow of M’s old school self – the anger at me, the needing to wind down, and the faintly glassy-eyed look which tells me she’s over-stimulated.  But on the whole, it is a positive experience for M and she really looks forward to it every week.


And finally, a picture of a sausage sandwich for you to enjoy.


A Fort, Tropical Chocolate and a Rabbit Cage

We’ve had an activity filled week or so, well at least M has – D has mostly been on the sofa watching Go Diego Go and suffering from a horrendous cold!


M has been very busy with various activities: last week, we spent quite a bit of time building an enormous fort in the lounge (I found a large kitchen unit box on a neighbour’s skip!).  First of all, I cut a door in one side and the girls played ‘queens and guards’ for hours – M made D a paper crown, paper slippers, a scroll and then gave her an orb and sceptre.  D was very at home, sitting in her castle and ordering her ‘guard’ around.  They were having such a lovely game, I let them stay up late to continue it!  We also cut holes in the side to slot in Pringle tube cannons, so the girls can fire at anyone who dares to sit on the sofa.


The next day M and I decided to fully cut the door out and turn it into a working drawbridge.  Luckily, M had kept old school DT project which had a little drawbridge which we could look at for construction ideas.  M was in full engineering mode and was quick to correct my mistakes and come up with design ideas – she has a fascinating brain and is able to come at things from angles I hadn’t thought of.

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M has also been busy working on the next stage of her Sylvanian Families craft.  She’s completed the 27 food cans and now she’s making food packets. This involves drawing and cutting out many rectangles in card which then have to be piled up and glued together before wrapping in paper, painting and finally adding the label.  There are about 30 to make so I’m pitching in too.  M is becoming very adept at using a set square and measuring in millimetres!


With D being so poorly, it has meant I’ve had a lot of time to concentrate on M, which she has loved.  I can’t remember why we started this, but one evening I was showing M how to safely light a match and she became fascinated with the burnt remains of the match (which I thought was charcoal but it turns out the wood has to be burnt in the absence of air to make this).  There followed hours of mixing the ash with various substances from our science box!

She has also been loving her ballet class, and now has the ‘uniform’, which she adores.


This week, we got the opportunity to visit the WWF HQ in Woking to do a tropical chocolate workshop!  The children learnt about how chocolate grows in the rainforest, Fairtrade, recycled packaging and even got to make their own chocolate and box to take it home in.  The girls loved it, although D struggled to concentrate for the length of the session (if she were at school she’d be in Year 1 – I don’t know how any 5 year old concentrates for a full day at school – perhaps they don’t!).  Thank you very much to our friend for organising it!

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When we got home there was ENORMOUS box in front of the door – our rabbit cage had arrived! I had hoped on having a sit down with a cuppa but M was so excited about building the cage we got to work straight away.  It was very difficult and the instructions were appalling but we got there in the end – 2.5 hours later!  Again, M’s engineering brain kicked into gear – I really couldn’t have built it without her.  We were so involved in it, I completely forgot about ballet so we missed M’s class – whoops!


We’ve also squeezed in climbing, judo and