Life has been so hectic lately that it seems absolutely months ago that we excitedly prepared a twitter party to celebrate the première of Blaze and the Monster Machines on Nick Jr. We invited a few of Pierre's friends over to watch the first episode and join in with some science and technology experiments, in-keeping with the educational core values of the show. Unfortunately they were a bit camera-shy - it blew my mind to hear 5-year-olds saying "don't put me on facebook" ! - so you'll have to make do with the pictures where only the Madhouse kids are visible, I'm afraid.
Blaze and the Monster Machines is a lovely programme that follows the amazing monster truck Blaze and his eight year old driver AJ. Together, Blaze and AJ have adventures that explore the physics of how things move, tackle problems through scientific inquiry and mathematics and discover the parts needed to make everyday technologies work. It is aimed at children aged 2 - 5 years but Juliette, now aged 10, loved it too, even if she pretended she wasn't watching ! I actually learnt a few things too, so I'd happily sit and watch every episode as well.
You can't have a party without party food, so we put together some car-shaped rolls filled with ham and added cucumber wheels and goat's cheese steering wheels. Everyone loved them and the Madhouse kids have asked if we can have them again !
The party started with some maze activity sheets while waiting for the première episode to start on TV. I couldn't help but chuckle when Sophie appeared and joined in, even if I knew she was mainly interested in the next activity !
Making (and eating) little cars using mini Milky Ways with Jelly Baby drivers and Smartie wheels and steering wheels was great fun (and you can see what inspired our car rolls !).
After watching the show and eating the food, it was time for some hands on play. First, we made a little car using the contents of the recycling bin !
Using a dowel rod inside a straw so that it turns round easily is a great idea and one that we will definitely reuse when we next do some junk-modelling.
The scientific bit was working out how to propel it, using a balloon, which worked surprisingly well (as you'll see in the video compilation of our experiments at the end). We were surprised - and the kids were initially disappointed - when our souped-up dual balloon-propelled effort totally failed to move, but I explained that the whole point of science is learning what doesn't work as well as what works.
To calm things down, we did some counting and matching activities with some funky buttons. We even managed to do some simple addition and subtraction too, which the kids thought was great fun, rather than purely educational.
The big attraction was the upcoing waterplay though - although Pierre was happy to play with the bucket even when it was empty !
I'd put together a selection of household items - an apple, a metal spoon, some plastic toys, a feather, some buttons, a pebble ... - and asked the kids to decide what they thought would float and what would sink. They loved filling in the chart with their ideas then checking to see if they were right or wrong.
They guessed quite a few correctly but the apple totally surprised them ! The party pack was well thought out and provided just the right amount of scientific explanation to answer all their questions. They decided that heavy things sink and light things float but couldn't come up with an explanation when I pointed out that ships are very heavy and they still float. Did you know that the scientific explanation is that an object will float if it displaces water that is equal or heavier to its own weight? I didn't !
There were a few mini science kits from Great Gizmos to try out. We had a Diving Submarine (that works with baking powder).
A Magnetic Racer that astounded them when I made it work with the magnet under the table - I felt like a magician for a moment, until they worked out how I'd done it !
And - our favourite - a Hover Jet, that made us all giggle as it whizzed around the table !
It was a great party and the kids went home full of tales of things they'd learned, which impressed the parents ! Once everyone had left and I'd had a quick tidy-up, the Madhouse Kids wanted to have another go at all the experiments so I had a go at filming them. The Diving Submarine wouldn't work properly but, when I watched the video back, I realised that the top part of the compartment came straight off and rose to the top of the bucket, which explains why it didn't work !
If you fancy catching up with the adventures of Blaze and the Monster Machines, it's on Nick Jr at 4pm on weekdays and you can also see it at 10am tomorrow morning.
Disclosure : We received a party pack to take part in the twitter party.