Creative Experiment #4: Rubber Bands

Make something with Rubber bands. (Or binders, laggy bands, elastics, elastic band, lackey bands, and laggy bands…what do YOU call them?).

Rubber bands are generally used to hold objects together, but what else have you or your children used them for? Have you wrapped them around Easter eggs, cinched them together to make a paintbrush, added them to a catapult, used them to make tie dye, or glued them to wood to make a rubber stamp?

What can you do with rubber bands, or what HAVE you done with rubber bands? The project should be executed by children, but adults are welcome to facilitate or collaborate if the mood strikes!

To join in on the Experiment

  • Use rubber bands, along with any other materials of your choice.
  • Attach a link to your blog post, a YouTube video, or photo of the experiment along with a description of what you and/or your child/ren did in the comment section below.
  • There is no deadline for this project.

If you’re looking for inspiration, here are some thoughts to get you started:

Instructions for adding an image file

  • Click on the “Choose File” button (below the “Submit” button)
  • Choose a JPEG file from your computer
  • Type in a description of your experiment into the comment text box
  • Click the “Submit Comment” button

For more Creative Experiments, click here.

Traveling Magnets

While we make a lot of art in our home, I cherish any project that develops creative and critical thinking skills. I’m attracted to fun activities with an experiential twist, and I’ve noticed lately that we’ve been dabbling in the worlds of science, literature, and dramatic play, as much as we have in that of art. For this simple experiment, we explored how magnets can travel through water and glass, speculated on how we could get the magnets out of the jar, exercised fine motor skills, had to problem-solve in order to figure out how to get the paper clips out of the water, and experienced moments deep concentration (my favorite!). And if you look closely, you’ll notice that N had to put her treasured lollipop down in order to play. A sure sign of child approval!

First, N picked up some paper clips…

And dropped them into a jar full of water. Then she used a strong magnet to pull each of the paper clips up the side of the jar.

Got it!

I’m learning that my daughter likes to try new things, figure them out, and then move on to the next thing. So she was highly engaged with this for the first three of four paper clips, and that was it. While I would have loved to see some sustained attention, it’s always nice when these short-lived activities are also incredibly easy to set up. In this case, set up was a snap (jar + water + paper clips + magnet) and clean up was next-to-nothing.

And we learned that magnets can travel through water and glass!

Two thumbs up from the child and the mom!

Special thanks to Amy at The Wonder Years for the inspiration!

What magnet games do you like to play?

Art Dice

Art Dice from Tinkerlab

I’ve been saving these wooden cubes for the just the right project, and it recently occurred to me that they could be repurposed into Art Dice: a fun tool for creating some randomly generated art. Every flip of a dice becomes an opportunity to explore art vocabulary, drawing skills, color recognition, and shape identification, to name a few. If you have any spare blocks lying around, you might want to consider repurposing them into a new life as tool for art making!

For children older than mine and/or adults, these could be used to chase away writer’s or artist’s block: Simply roll the dice and draw or write about what pops up. Combine a few dice together and rise to the challenge of combining disparate ideas into a cohesive whole.

While this project comes a bit premature for my daughter, I made three dice based on the Elements of Art for us to play with: Shapes, Colors, and Lines. You could easily replace these themes with characters, places, textures, moods, architectural elements, etc.

We started with the line dice and I shared that after rolling the dice I would draw the line that randomly appeared on top . My daughter watching me do this for a few rounds of polka dots, spirals, and circles, but she didn’t make a move to jump in. Instead, she scribbled on my drawings, picked up her trusty scissors, cut the drawings into a handful of pieces, and collaged them into a picture. But this was wonderful — the dice sparked a game that led us in a new, fun direction!

She finally picked up the dice and kept rolling it until the circle showed up on top, which was what she REALLY wanted to draw all along, I suppose. And she proceeded to draw a page full of circles. Awesome!

Ideas for Game Rules:

  1. Each player has a piece of paper. Players take turns rolling the dice, and each player draws what they see after the dice roll. Decide how many times you’ll roll the dice before sharing your pictures with each other. Marvel at the similarities and differences between artworks.
  2. Players share one piece of paper. The player who rolls the dice draws their interpretation of the shape/line/color on the paper. They pass the dice to the other player who does the same. This continues for a set number of turns.
  3. Try either of the above games with more than one dice.
  4. Any other ideas? Please share!

If you like this idea, then you might also enjoy Keri Smith’s Dice walking game, as explored on The Artful Parent

Buy Art Dice

You can buy TinkerLab’s popular hand-painted art dice here.

Dream Catcher

“If you have bad dreams you have to spit them out of your mouth and into the dream catcher.”

After a recent visit with some friends in their new house, my daughter could not stop talking about a dream catcher that they had. And she wanted one for herself. Of course. She also wanted a lofted bunk bed, but this isn’t a home decor blog, thank goodness!

The great part about this dream catcher moment is that her actual question was, “Can we MAKE a dream catcher?” Um, yes we can. (scramble, scramble…now how exactly does one make one of these?) When I asked her if she knew what dream catchers are for, she replied, “If you have bad dreams you have to spit them out of your mouth and into the dream catcher.” Well, not exactly, but gosh I’m going to miss these early years! If you want to know the real story behind dream catchers, read this.

What we used

  • thin wire
  • flexible piece of branch
  • embroidery thread
  • pom-pom

Twist branch into circular shape and secure it together. Our branch was a little bit short, so we ended up making more of a raindrop shape.

Secure thread with a big knot to the top of the twig and then start wrapping it. I imagined more of a natural color scheme, but my daughter wanted to use red wire and red yarn. Fair enough…it’s her dream catcher after all.

For a good tutorial on how and where to make these knots, read these instructions.

Many dream catchers are embellished with a feather, but N had her heart set on a pom-pom. A shiny pom-pom, actually.

We hung it above her bed with the hope that the pesky dreams might get tangled up in the yarn, while the good dreams could easily pass through the holes. Based on our experiences thus far there might be better ways to handle bad dreams, but it sure is nice to have a little bit of security dangling above us in those fragile moments.

Other ideas

left to right

1) Step-by-step tutorial on making a dream catcher from Hands on Crafts for Kids

2) Dream catchers made from Yogurt Lids from That Artist Woman

3) Make a simple dream catcher from a paper plate from 4 Crazy Kings

4) Whimsical Dream Catcher featured in Cookie Magazine from Nest Pretty Things on Etsy

How do you help your child/ren work through bad dreams?

Funnel Painting

This was inspired by an idea we found in Mary Ann Kohl’s Preschool Art. I know I’ve said this many times before, but Mary Ann’s books are brimming with creative and engaging projects, and each of mine are dog-eared in a million places. We used materials that we already had around the house — low threshold projects are my cup of tea! — and the set-up is really easy. The other thing I loved about this activity is the SCALE of it — I knew my child would be captivated by swinging a paint-filled funnel across a huge sheet of paper! Now that we’ve done this, the only drawback I could see was doing this indoors, as my daughter wanted to swing paint in every possible direction, turning me into a mini-general who curbed her enthusiasm more than I like to.

To make this happen, we used:

  • A curtain rod
  • String
  • Funnel
  • Large sheets of paper
  • Paint
  • Tape
  • Chairs to suspend the swinging funnel

My daughter helped me tape a big sheet of paper to the floor. We noticed that it wasn’t long enough, so we added some more. I could tell that the paint would come pouring out of the funnel, so I taped off the bottom of it to make the hole a bit smaller. I wrapped some string around the funnel, and taped it in place. Then I looped the string over the pole.

Ready, set…

GO!

After a few easy-breezy swings, N wanted to give the poor little funnel some heavy-duty pushes, which would have been fine if we were outdoors. After mopping up the fourth or fifth puddle of paint off my floors, we called it quits, but we’ll definitely be taking this activity outside in the near future. I can also envision sand in the funnel over a sandbox, or rice over a (really big!) sensory table.

Do you have any other ideas for funnel swings?

The Butter Experiment

Last week we made butter!

I have friends who made this fine food back in their grade school/scouting/summer camp days, but I haven’t had this pleasure until now. As such, this was much an experiment for me as it was for my child. And it was SO worth it. This project appealed to me because it hardly cost a thing, it was super easy to make, and I was rivited by the process of making my very own butter. And it appealed to my two-and-a-half year old because she could participate in the kitchen by doing many of her favorite things: pouring, mixing, and of course…eating!

Ingredients

  • Glass jar with tight-fitting lid. I used a clean spaghetti sauce jar
  • Heavy whipping cream
  • That’s it! Really, it’s that easy.


Directions

  • Pour cream into a jar. Fill it about 1/4 of the way to allow room for shaking.
  • Shake continuously until the cream divides into butter and “buttermilk”
  • Scoop out and pat butter into a bowl or molds.
  • Save the sweet butter milk for other recipes. Delish.

For this experiment, we made two batches: one in the glass jar and the other with a hand mixer. I hypothesized that the hand mixer concoction would whip up much quicker, so you can imagine my surprise when it never got past the thick cream phase. Given the nature of butter-making, maybe the blender would have worked better. If you’ve had success making butter with a mixer, please share your tips!

N helped with the hand mixer, gave the jar a few shakes for good measure, and then handed her duties off to me and her G-Ma.

There’s my adorable Mother-in-Law being a sport: baby-carrying in one hand and butter-shaking in the other. She’s clearly a pro. And a bonus…as you can see, my baby was enthralled by the process. It’s never too early to help a child develop critical thinking skills!

After about four minutes of shaking, the cream whipped up into a lovely spreadable consistency. Not quite butter, but still worth a taste. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that N is keeping herself busy cutting up coffee filters and snacking on raisins, while her grown-up friends labor away with butter shaking.

Mmmmmm.

About 10 minutes of shaking later I said out loud, “I don’t get it, is it supposed to look like REAL butter? Are we doing this right?” And within seconds the shaking became much easier and the butter was READY! We added a little bit of salt to taste, and then steamed up some corn to put it to the test. And it was amazing.

How it works

When you shake heavy cream, the drops of fat that are usually suspended in the liquid smack against each other and stick to each other.

When was the last time you made butter, and have you tried any variations on this experiment?

Happily shared with Tot Tuesday, We Play, Play Academy, and ABC and 123, Kids Get Crafty

The Best Playdough Recipe

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

Today I’m sharing what is easily the BEST playdough recipe ever. Once you have the recipe, you’ll want to find out about the 3 essential play dough tools (that you probably already have). If you’ve been here for the recipe before, scroll down for a July 2016 update —  you will LOVE it, I promise.

My plan was to make a simple batch of play dough to replace the sparkly dried out purple stuff that happily met our cookie-making, glitter infusing, practice cutting, snowman-making needs over the past two months. I asked my daughter what color she would like this time around, and she answered with…

ALL of them.

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

Ahem. Right.

The way I have always made playdough requires that I add the color to the whole batch while it’s cooking, making it difficult to make multiple colors. But by some lucky, happy accident we managed to add the ingredients in the wrong order, which is no doubt the result of making dough with a two year old while chatting with my mother-in-law and goo-gooing at my baby! But, as that same luck would have it, I think we landed on the BEST batch of play dough yet. The texture is buttery and I was able to deliver on the multiple colors request. And this ingredient, my friends, is the secret to having strong, smooth playdough that won’t crumble.

So, without further ado…

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

This post contains affiliate links

The Best Playdough Recipe

Supplies

Instructions

  1. Mix everything but the food coloring together in a large pot until somewhat smooth. It will be lumpy. Not to worry, the dough will get smoother as it cooks.
  2. Cook the dough over a low heat. Mix frequently. The water will slowly cook out of the mixture and you’ll notice it starts to take on a sticky dough appearance. Keep mixing until the edges of the dough along the side and bottom of the pan appear dry. Pinch a piece of dough. If it’s not gooey, the dough is ready.
  3. Place the dough on a counter top or large cutting board that can withstand a little food coloring.
  4. Knead the warm dough until it’s smooth and then divide it into the number of colors that you’d like to make. I divided mine into four balls, flattened each of them, added a little bit of food coloring or liquid watercolors, and then kneaded it in. I added more food coloring to get the desired shades of yellow, pink, teal, and lavender.
  5. Play with the dough right away or store it in a large Ziplock bag or sealed container. Unused, it’ll keep for months. For play dough tool ideas, you can read this post.

The best playdough recipe | How to Make play dough | Tinkerlab.com

There you have it, rainbow play dough (aka the best playdough ever).

Updated, July 2016:

I’ve been making this dough for a few years now without too many changes. After investing in this amazing BPA-free electric kettle, I was wondering if I could make this playdough off the stove top. So I did some experimenting, and low and behold — this recipe can be even easier and still the amazing dough that we all love. Here you go…

No Stove Play dough recipe

  1. Mix all the dry ingredients.
  2. Boil water
  3. Add water and oil to a bowl and mix
  4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together.

More Playdough Recipes

How to Make Cloud Dough, the easiest dough recipe that calls for oil and flour.

How to Make Goop with just cornstarch and water.

Make amazing scented pumpkin spice playdough.

How to make Gluten-free Cloud Dough

Glowing Playdough

DIY Masa Playdough, made with masa harina

How to make Salt Dough with just salt, flour, and water.

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the best homemade play doh recipe

 

Scary Spaghetti

If you haven’t already seen the newest addition to our site and you like a good challenge, check out the Experiments section. There are currently three posted experiments, which are assignment-like challenges that you can do with your kids. If you tinker with one of these, you have the option of adding a link back to your blog or uploading a photo to share with this growing community. In one of the experiments, which invites you to do something with PASTA, TinkerLab reader Pinkie from the Czech Republic added scary spaghetti.

And we tried it last week.I loved it because it was easy, I could use materials I had on hand, my daughter was completely in charge (with a little help from me since she ran out of steam and I had to man the stove), and it was interesting to see how the little spaghetti sculptures transformed into a twisty pasta snack.

We started with a few hot dogs (veggie, turkey, beef…take your pick) and a bit of spaghetti. N cut the hot dogs into bite-sized pieces, broke the spaghetti in half, and then started poking away.

Once the bowl was full, we cooked them. A little bit of olive oil and parmesan cheese later, and these were ready to eat. Not exactly gourmet, but they get two thumbs up from the two and a half year old.

Happy March to you!