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Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide

Ready to dig into your Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit? On this page you'll find detailed step-by-step instructions, ideas to extend the learning, and some links to other resources. Feel free to reach out if you have any questions about your kit. Now go get messy!

Jump To:
Melting Snowman
Waterbeads & Tealights
Frozen Waterbeads
Splatter Paint Constellations
Additional Resources
More Messy Play Kits


Melting Snowman:

1. Empty snowman mix and dish soap into a large mixing bowl. Add 1/4 cup of water and mix thoroughly.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman

2. Split the dough into thirds to make 3 small snowman (or make one large snowman from the entire mix). Roll small balls of dough into body shapes and carefully stack them on a large baking tray (make sure it has an edge- the snowman will foam and fizz a lot!).

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman

3. Decorate your snowman using the foam and pipecleaners. Bend the pipecleaners into arms and cut the foam pieces into a nose, eyes, buttons, a hat.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman

4. Empty the citric acid into a small bowl and mix with 1/4 cup of water until dissolved.

 TIP: Some children become upset when something they worked hard to build gets destroyed. If your child may react like this, be sure to discuss beforehand what to expect! Gently remind them that sometimes you build things for the purpose of destroying them, and the way the snowman fizzes, foams and dissolves is quite fun!

5. Use the pipette to squirt the citric acid onto the snowman and watch as he instantly fizzes and foams! Notice how long he takes to melt fully!

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - melting snowman

Feel the snowman as he melts- what does it feel like? This is an endothermic chemical reaction, which means it absorbs heat as it occurs. This means it will feel cold when you touch it, but only as the reaction is occurring. Before and after the fizzing, the snowman will feel room temperature (of course, this depends on the temperature of the water you added too!)


What are they learning?

  • Scientific terminology/vocabulary: When you use terms like “endothermic chemical reaction” you’re introducing new vocabulary to your child. It might be more than they understand at the time but you may be surprised! They will at least understand that something is happening that they caused, which is always a powerful feeling for young children!
  • Creativity: When they get to make the choices about how to shape the snowman and how to decorate him, they are using their creative brain- this leads to better problem-solving skills in adulthood! Maybe their snowman looks like a stereotypical one, or maybe it has 4 body parts instead of just 3. Let your child make those decisions as much as possible.
  • Fine Motor control: Mixing the dough, squeezing the pipette, cutting the foam and decorating the snowman- these are all motions that help build fine motor control and self-help skills.
  • Patience and Impulse Control: Encourage them to use the pipette instead of dumping the citric acid.
  • Cause and Effect: This is a big one here! Citric acid and baking soda causes a big, fun chemical reaction that's really obvious. What a great way to learn that you can cause something new to happen by doing something so simple.


Waterbeads & Tealights:

1. Empty the bag of Waterbeads A (blue/black/clear) into a large bowl or the bathtub. Fill the bowl with water (or fill the tub with a few inches of water). 

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights

Before you start the activity, ask your child what they think will happen. You can hint that the waterbeads will get larger, but have them predict how large they think the waterbeads will become. Write this down or have them draw pictures for the before, prediction, and after pictures. They can trace the size so it’s more accurate or use a ruler to measure.

2. In 6-8 hours the waterbeads will have absorbed the water and expanded. If you check on them during the process, you can see them start to unfold and grow! 

 TIP: Take photos of the waterbeads throughout the growing process. Place something in the photo that helps show size (like your hand or a ruler). That’s a great way to see exactly how much they changed!

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights

3. Add more water to the bathtub, and turn on the tealights. (Note: you must open the tealights and remove the paper inside- it prevents them from turning on during shipping.)

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights

4. Enjoy! The waterbeads are really fun to play with in water- they feel slippery and move really fast! Try catching them in your hands. Try turning off some of the overhead lights to enjoy a relaxing bath time!

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights

 TIP: The clear waterbeads are really hard to see! For a tricky game, place them separately in a bowl of water. Ask someone what they think is in the water. Surprise them by reaching in and revealing that it’s full of waterbeads, not just water!
 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights
 
 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - waterbeads and tealights

 TIP: Use a colander to scoop up the waterbeads when you’re done. They are hard to catch by hand, especially the clear ones which are hard to see. They may clog the drain if they go down.

 

What are they learning?

  • The Scientific Process: When you ask children to make hypotheses (use that term too!) you’re encouraging them to think scientifically. You’re also showing them that science is fun, and that fun can also be scientific. They can enjoy playing with the waterbeads while thinking scientifically about them. Without overwhelming them with questions, wonder with them about what makes the waterbeads grow. Try squishing them to see what happens, and then discuss what they think the beads are made of.
  • Self-esteem and validation: When you write down their thoughts, ideas and words, you validate those thoughts and show your child that what they have to say is important. Imagine how powerful that is for a small child whose world is often dominated by adult choices and decisions.
  • Dramatic Play: Loosen up and enjoy the waterbeads and tealights! Pretend to be traveling through the universe and the waterbeads are stars and the tealights are suns from other galaxies. Pretend that you are a sea creature in the ocean. What other ideas for dramatic play can you and your child come up with? What do the light reflections on the walls remind you of?


Frozen Waterbeads:

1. Carefully pour half of the Waterbeads B (rainbow colored) into each balloon.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

2. Carefully stretch the balloon neck around the faucet on your sink. Once it’s secure, turn on the water slowly.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

3. When the balloon is about 4-5 inches in diameter, turn off the water, pinch the balloon’s neck and carefully remove from the faucet. Let out the air, then tie the balloon closed. Repeat with the second balloon.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

4. Let the waterbeads hydrate and grow for a few hours, and then place both balloons in the freezer. If you’re worried they may stick to something or pop, place them in a ziplock bag (not included).

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

5. When they’re frozen solid, remove them from the freezer. Pop the balloons, and peel off and immediately discard the broken pieces.Remember that balloons are a safety hazard: children under 8 can choke or suffocate on uninflated or broken balloons. Adult supervision required. Keep uninflated balloons from children. Discard broken balloons at once.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

6. Place the balloons in warm water in the bathtub. Watch what happens as the water begins to melt. For extra fun, and great gross motor practice, take the frozen balloon outside and smash it on the ground. Pick up the pieces but don’t worry too much- these waterbeads are biodegradable!

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - frozen waterbeads

Are these frozen waterbeads the same as the waterbeads from the previous activity? Bring the others back out to compare. Why are they so different? What happened to these to make them the way they are now? (see below for the science behind it!)

 

What are they learning?

  • Science: Water expands as it freezes, so the water inside the waterbeads expanded and exploded them from the inside! If you take a regular hydrated waterbead and squeeze it, it pops and creates small pieces similar to the frozen waterbeads.
  • Gross motor control: Take the frozen balloon outside and smash it on the ground. It takes muscles to lift it high and throw it down with enough force to crack it open.
  • Critical Thinking: To extend on the learning in this activity, check on the balloons every 30 minutes or 1 hour, before and during their time in the freezer. Keep a chart of your observations. What is happening with the waterbeads inside? With the water? Is there a point in time when you notice it starting to freeze? When it looks like the waterbeads aren’t growing anymore? Consider freezing the balloons one at a time so you observe new things the second time and you know what to look for!

 


Splatter Paint Constellations:

1. Empty the Messy Play Kit box, and place it on the table with the paper dropcloth underneath. You can open the box fully or leave it together. Make sure the black inside is facing up.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

2. Add one tablespoon of water to the container of powdered color. Stir with a spoon or replace the top and shake carefully (some paint may leak when shaken).

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

3. Dip the toothbrush in the paint and run your thumb across the bristles to spray the paint onto the box. You can also shake the brush over the box to make larger drops.

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

4. Continue to spray the box with paint until you’re satisfied. You can try intentionally to make shapes you’re familiar with, or you can splatter paint randomly and see what you discover later!

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

5. When it’s dry, use the chalk to connect the “stars” into constellations. 

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

Can you find the Big Dipper? Orion? The Southern Cross? Can you make up other fun shapes and names for new constellations on your box?

 Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations  Winter Wonderland Messy Play Kit Guide - splatter paint constellations

 TIP: Try flipping the box upside down and making it into a tent. Place the tealights under it and turn them on. Does it look like the night sky?

 

What are they learning?

  • Connecting art with reality: Take your child outside after dark and look at the stars in your night sky. Borrow a book from the library or print some pictures from the internet so you can try to identify specific constellations. If there’s a meteor shower coming up, that’s a great way to keep their interest! Connect those experiences back to this activity, or vice versa, to help them solidify their knowledge and learn to connect projects and activities to real-life experiences. Discuss how their constellations are their interpretation of the stars and their world, as other artwork is the artist's own interpretation of their world.
  • Astronomy (science): When you travel, look at the sky from the places you visit. Do you see more stars from your vacation place or from home? In the city or the mountains? Can you always find the same constellations?
  • Fine Motor Control: They’re building fine motor control as they stir the paint and use the toothbrush. It takes a good amount of control to spray the brush towards the box!
  • They can be creative and build their sense of humor as they connect the dots and invent bizarre names for their new constellations!


More Winter Play!

There are so many ways to continue playing with and learning about winter. Here are some of my favorites.

  • Learn more about what constellations are in simple, easy-to-explain-to-young-children ways at Ducksters Astronomy for Kids.
  • Check out the Astronomy Picture of the Day from NASA. This is a great way to capture the interest of budding astronomers- the photos are incredible, and the descriptions are written by professional astronomers and contain lots of links to learn more!
  • Make your own "snow" from soap! Check out Steve Spangler Science for the instructions and the explanation of why this happens!
  • For a continuation of the last experiment, use the ivory soap snow to make what Happy Hooligans calls "Ghost Mud." This looks perfect for building snowmen that won't fizz and melt!

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