Summer Reading Club is finally complete but you still have a week to finish up your reading! Our activities this week have to do with the space theme we’ve followed all summer. They’re both very hands on – the first is building a map with saltdough, and the second is playing with moonsand! Celebrate your reading achievements as you have fun with these activities and be sure to submit your reading logs to your local library!
Activity 1: 3D Saltdough Maps
This activity is a little involved, but very cool! It is fun and interesting for all ages. In the process, you’ll learn about things like geography, art, and topography. It is one that requires drying time however, so you may want to start it on Friday and finish it on Saturday or Sunday.
- 2 cups of flour
- 1 cup of salt
- 1 cup of water
- 1 teaspoon or corn starch or cream of tartar
- a mixing bowl
- a mixing spoon
- cardboard or card stock
- white glue (optional)
- paint and brushes
- pen or pencil
- traceable template of a country or continent
Here’s what to do
First, prep the materials. Now is a good time to print out the country or continent that you want to map. We chose to map China because it has so many interesting mountains and changes in elevation. After it is printed you’ll need to it cut out and trace it onto your cardboard base. It’s perfectly fine if you’re not exact cutting it out. Round edges will be easier to make the dough, so try to avoid fine details at this stage. I suggest using push pins or paper weights to hold down your outline while you trace. Like so:
Next, make the dough! In a big bowl, mix the flour, salt, water, and cornstarch. You can start mixing with a spoon, but you will need to use your hands to work it all together. Kneading the dough is actually super fun. (Children will probably be more than happy to do this part.)
It’s super crumbly at first, but firms into a slightly grainy dough once you knead it.
The next step is to press the dough onto the map you traced in a very thin layer to make a base for your map. I suggest using a topographic map of your area for reference at this point. Once the base is down slowly build up the elevation, according to your reference, by adding more dough. You may make your land forms however you like! Are they sharp peaks? Rolling mountains? You can even make harsh crevasses in your land forms with a spoon or butter knife to represent water ways.
Pro-tip: Add your dough in small, manageable balls to spread out. It’s just like spreading pizza dough on a pan!
Here’s how I built China:
It will take a couple of hours to dry, depending on how thick your map is. As your dough dries it really shrinks together. The most difficult part will be sealing your dough together so it looks seamless. If you’re worried about cracking, dip your finger in water and smooth a small bit of water over any places where you connected the dough.
Pro-tip: place your dough in front of a heater or in a hot place to dry more quickly. Salt dough may be baked in the oven at 250 F, but NOT on a sheet of cardboard. Consider baking to dry any other salt dough creations you make in the future, but leave this one out of the oven. We put ours in front of a heater, as you can see.
When the dough is dry is it time to paint! If you are making a topographic map, as we did, the different colours will represent changes in elevation, not a change in biomes. The lower the elevation, the cooler the colour you will use, starting with green (because blue is water!). This way, green is the lowest land, yellow is hills, orange is mountains, and red the highest peaks.
This is my paint process of China. Painting took a while, but it doesn’t have to! It all depends on how you want to paint your map. You can be much less exact than I was! I again used a topographic map of China for reference when painting. I suggest starting by painting your highest point and working your way down. I did the more intricate mountains and the water last. But, of course, you can do your map however you’d like!
If your elevation is really really high, maybe even use white, like I did to represent the Himalayas. Make sure you include a key or legend to explain to viewers what each colour means.
And then, the finished product! Title and all.
After this activity your children will really know the lay of the land!
Activity 2: Fun with Moonsand!
Moonsand is good for kids of all ages. It’s a great sensory experience for younger kids and older kids still love smushing it together and creating. (Trust us. This theory has been tested.)
Moon sand is a simple mixture of sand, cornstarch, and water. It stays moist while you play and doesn’t harden like clay. It packs nicely together for great castles, mountains, and molds. But heads up! It is very messy, so make sure you’re playing with things that are washable. It can be bought in stores, or you can make your own using this simple recipe:
- 3 ½ cups of sand (play sand or sandbox sand is fine)
- 1 ¾ cup of cornstarch
- ¾ water
- If you’re making your own and want to make it space themed, consider using different coloured play sand like black or blue.
You can definitely play with these ratios so they suit you.
To make the moonsand even more space themed, consider adding tinfoil “meteors” and stars or glitter to your box of sand. Putting your children’s toys in the sand is just fine too! Action figures make great space men.
Our sand is white like the moon. Then we raided our toy bins and threw them in the sand. It was the space dinosaurs holding off an invasion of the lego girls. The lego girls had just finished Fort Diana when the space dinosaurs arrived. The space dinosaurs sought to repel the lego invaders. They fought a vicious battle!
The lego girls broke out a catapult, but the dinosaurs had the help of the Elders. They were led by a great Queen Pachycephalosaurus who sat upon her throne of flourishing vines, worshipped by many.
They collapsed the catapult and the fort. Both sides suffered losses, but the space dinosaurs were victorious in reclaiming their homeland.
Finally, the huge, Elder space dinosaurs could rest.
The space dinosaurs were joyous once again, reigning from their elaborate castle over forests, mesas, savannah, and blessedly, moon lakes.