Saturday, June 29, 2013

Arctic Small World

Originally I was going to set this small world up using a 5 pound bag of crushed ice. Perhaps we will try that out later in the summer on an especially hot day when playing with ice will be appreciated more. But! I have to thank Fun at Home with Kids for the idea of using baking soda for snow. As soon as I finished reading her post, I was completely sold and in the future I will probably always use this recipe for sensory snow. Why? Because at least for this particular small world, it has created the perfect texture for arctic snow. Arctic snow is really packed together and dense, but when it cracks, it can break off into huge chunks. This will be great for exploring icebergs and arctic coasts later this summer.

So! Let me tell you how I created this arctic world. It was pretty simple. I took a huge box of baking soda (64 oz/4 lb) and dumped it into a 9x12 glass pan.

It was so hard not to leave it like this and just add blueish water in the open areas for the ocean coast because this already looked like a cool arctic scene!

Then I sprinkled about a cup of water over the baking soda. Mixing it together is pretty hard to do with a spoon, so I used my hands which really sped up the process. You don't want to put too much water in it because then it would dissolve the baking soda. Once it was thoroughly mixed together, I scooped out an area to add the fishing hole.

I used a recycled icing container that I saved from an Immaculate cinnamon rolls tube (we use them for so many activities!) and fitted it into the hole. Then I used my hands to mold the snow around the hole so that it looked like something had broken through the ice. I filled it almost to the top with water and added one drop of light blue food colouring and stirred it in. I popped it in the freezer overnight and in the morning I checked it... It looks really amazing!

Check out the fantastic ocean hole in these pictures! It looks like chunks of ice are floating around! And the snow looks amazing! Using baking soda for the snow was definitely the way to go. It's white and dense and feels "dry" like super cold arctic snow (if that makes any sense?).

The animals we added were a polar bear, a penguin, a seal, a walrus, an orca and a humpback whale. We are only adding a few arctic animals at a time, that way we can learn about each one as we create more arctic habitats. By the end of summer we will be able to set up a huge arctic small world that will have all the arctic animals in it!

The kids were really fascinated by the unusual texture of the frozen baking soda. They scooped it into their hands, rubbed it on their arms, told me how cold it was and even tasted it! 

This activity was meant to be open-ended. They were happy doing their own thing. Step-brother L decided to bury the fishing hole and built a pyramid over it. Bean dug a trench around the pyramid and Munchkin sprinkled a lot of the snow everywhere. :)

They spent about an hour playing in this bin and it was still so cold! It truly was amazing how real the "snow" looked.

Afterwards I broke the remaining (and still frozen!) pieces up and put them in a container to be stored in the freezer (this way I don't have to keep the glass pan in the freezer). We hope this batch of frozen baking soda will last us all summer so we can make many more arctic worlds!

And it's pretty amazing how dense it looks. This would be perfect for exploring icebergs and showing how water travels through snow.

We could even talk about how temperature effects the arctic and how ice sheets break up when the weather warms up.

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