This month my project has been creating a lovely absorbing portable activity that fits on a baking tray and can be easily stored away. I started out with a standard nonstick tray but after a few goes, wanted to extend to a larger sized activity to provide more scope, so I splashed out on a new bigger tray, which is a rather nice deep cream coloured one.
Then, to begin the magnetic activity, I cut some sheets of pretty floral and green patterned paper to fit the tray, to make a basic garden scene. I made various additional ‘flower beds’ and ‘veg patches’. I left these loose so they could be combined in different ways to make variations in the garden.
I also made a simple beach scene with some shiny paper for the sea, yellow card for the sand and made some sea creatures and boats out of Fimo. I was lucky enough to find some tiny wooden flowerpots in a craft shop, so I painted some of these in different bright colours to become seaside buckets and sandcastles (I’m still looking for tiny spades!)
The little boats (and next I’m making a lighthouse and rocks!) will make this activity really interesting for little boys.
To make the garden (or park) scene more interesting I decided to make some ponds and lakes backed with magnet paper which could be positioned in different places on the tray. I used various types of shiny paper and mirror paper. The mirror paper has the added attraction of reflecting every object that is placed on it. Because it scratches rather easily, I experimented with laminating it. The layer of laminated plastic did reduce the attraction of the magnets however, as it increased the gap between tin tray and magnets. But the creatures still stuck!
I got out my tiny magnetic ducks (meant for office magnet pinboards) which were perfect for the pond. I also made some little felt flowers and plants and stuck them onto small magnets to decorate the pond side. I used Gorilla Glue to stick on the magnets, as I really didn’t want them coming off and being put in any little orifices! (See note at the end *).
Then came the really fun part – getting out the Fimo and modeling some little fish and other creatures! I inserted small craft magnets in their base before baking them in the oven. Most magnets can withstand temperatures up tp 120 C before losing their ‘stick’ and Fimo is baked at 110. So that was ok!
I found a great site called First4magnets which sells magnetic sheet and some sets of tiny animal magnets. They can advise about every type of magnet there is!
The children also enjoyed arranging my sets of tiny magnetic pinboard ‘skittle’ shapes in the garden scene, imagining them to be people, and the other pieces of my magnet box came in handy for building walls, fences and houses. The children responded wholeheartedly to the magnetic garden and pond and loved arranging every single creature and plant on it at once! With a magnetic stick and ball forest as well, it began to get rather crowded.
So I made a couple of larger ponds, as they seemed to be the focus of all the arranging activity. Along the way, little birds and nests, pebbles, shells and flowers appeared….
And a couple more gardens. Magnetic drywipe boards are great for garden bases.
I found that girls preferred the garden scene and loved planting flowers and creatures everywhere, whereas the boys liked the seaside scene with all the boats better. I later added lighthouses, rocks and sea creatures too. I’m so glad there is something to please everybody!
*Important Note: The tiny stronger magnets and epecially neodymium magnets (that kids adore playing with) can be very dangerous if more than one is swallowed or inserted up a nose, as they attract together and compress tissue, causing pain and swelling. If this happens inside the body they have to be removed by surgery! For this reason they are not recommended for children. To counteract this risk, I supervise very closely with my magnet boxes and only use them with small groups or individual children whom I know are past the stage of putting everything in their mouth, even so I keep a VERY close eye on them!