Dry Ice Experiment

Dry ice is a favorite mysterious Halloween material, perfect for spooking up a witch’s cauldron, but did you know that you can experiment with it too?

Dry ice is so cool (couldn’t resist!), and makes for a fantastic (ventilated) kitchen or outdoor experiment. Have you ever worked with it? The big caution is that you don’t want to touch it less it burns your skin. Got that? So it has to be handled with tongs and/or insulated gloves.

Read up on  the cautions of using dry ice before proceeding, and always use your best judgment. I went through all the warnings with N, and the dry ice earned a great deal of her respect. She kept asking questions about how ice could burn us (it wouldn’t make sense to me either if I were her age), and was very curious about how it “smoked” on its way from our porch to the kitchen.

In case you’re wondering, I think it’s smart to introduce kids to “dangerous” things. They’re naturally curious about how the world operates, and given the proper instructions and parameters these introductions can give them a good foundation for critical and creative thinking. Have you heard of the The Dangerous Book for Boys or The Daring Book for Girls? I have a copy of the latter that I know N will love when she gets to be a bit older.

I found the dry ice at our supermarket, and asked the manager to help me pack it up. They come in big bags (perfect for cooling a fridge full of food, but far too much for this experiment), and I understand that they may break smaller pieces for sale…it sells by the pound at our market. To do this experiment, we used two pieces, each the size of a button mushroom.

I filled the bottom of this metal travel mug with about a cup of warm water, and dropped a piece of dry ice in with kitchen tongs. The ice makes a surprising sound when handled by the tongs!

The smoke is perfectly okay to touch.

And blow.

Then we got fancy. N squeezed some dish soap into the mug.

Surprise!

And it got even more exciting with the addition of red food coloring.

And green, blue, and yellow food colorings, too!

This project is great for encouraging curiosity, setting the groundwork for scientific investigation (observation and experimentation), and building creative confidence. A+ in my book!

The Science behind Dry Ice

Dry Ice is frozen carbon dioxide, which dissipates into carbon dioxide gas when it melts. It’s called Dry Ice because it turns directly into a gas from its solid state, without ever becoming a liquid, and therefore there’s no puddle of water in its melted state. This process is called sublimation. Also, Steve Spangler Science is my new best friend, and it’s where I gleaned tons of good information for this post. If you like science experiments, do check this out.

More Ideas from Tinkerlab

Get more Halloween ideas on my Halloween Pinterest Board.

If you enjoyed this post, follow us on Facebook for more child-centered experiments and explorations.

Halloween Countdown Paper Chain

Draw Shape Monsters: Each one is different!

No-carve Decorated Halloween Pumpkins 

Little Fabric Hanging Ghosts

Drippy Slimy Gak

Late last week we made a batch of slime called Gak — see this post for the recipe — and it’s been a huge success with my almost 3-year old. On day one, N experimented with various ways of interacting with it (rolling, stamping, cutting, pulling), and was excited to introduce her dad to Gak the next day (he loved it, too…it’s really fun stuff). Later that day she wanted to revisit it with her play kitchen tools. We talked about its drippy, viscous nature and thought it would be interesting to test it out in the play colander.

After it sat in it for a few moments, her grandmother lifted it up for us to observe. It began to drip through!

The drips came slowly, so we rigged this pot holder from some CD cases that we painted (post on this crazy activity is coming soon!) in order to watch them come down.

And then we sat back and enjoyed the show. N cut a few blobs off with her little-kid knife before the whole thing “timbered over.” Ha!

Gak is pliable and plasticy, and we also tried our luck at blowing bubbles into it. To do this we took a small piece of Gak, smoothed it out into a disc shape, and then pulled it around the end of a straw before blowing into it. Finessing it took a little practice, but it worked! N wasn’t able to wrap the Gak around the straw herself, but she did enjoy blowing bubble after bubble.

Next time we bring out the Gak, it would be fun to test it in a variety of porous objects. Can you think of any other tools or materials that could interact with Gak?

 

How to make Gak

Today I’m sharing how to make gak.

This Gak Recipe (aka slime recipe) has been on my to-do list ever since reading about Amy’s The Great Slime-Off on Child Central Station. Amy shares two different recipes: the first calls for liquid starch and the second calls for Borax. I looked all over town for liquid starch and it was nowhere to be found. Is it prohibited from the state of California?

How to make gak

But the second recipe that called for Borax was workable, and felt a bit like fate because my daughter’s nursery school teacher made up a big batch of it last week. This also fell on the heels of reading the Ooey Gooey Handbook (affiliate), which is FILLED with all sorts of luscious recipes like this one. If you’re into this sort of thing, this book is fabulous! You can follow Lisa Murphy of Ooey Gooey on Facebook for loads of good information.

This particular slime, also called Flubber, Gluep, Glurch, or Gak, is made from glue, water, and the tiniest bit of Borax (a mild powdered laundry soap).

Borax is type of soap and soap is not edible, so please use your best judgment and common sense if you choose to use this with young children.

We used half of this recipe from Steve Spangler Science, and the part that gave me the most confidence is where he says “the measurements don’t have to be exact.” Go ahead and breathe a sigh of relief with me! This site also has a wonderful description on the science behind the recipe.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

Gak Recipe

  • 8 oz. bottle Elmer’s school glue
  • 8 oz. water
  • 1 teaspoon Borax mixed into 1/2 cup of warm water
  • Food coloring or liquid watercolors, optional

How to Make Gak

  • Mix the glue and water together in a mixing bowl.
  • Add a few drops of color, if desired.
  • Slowly add a bit of the Borax solution into the water-glue solution. Mix
  • Keep adding small amounts of the borax solution to the water-glue solution until it comes together like slime.
  • Play with your slime!
  • Note: Slime is NOT for eating!

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

I wasn’t sure how messy this would get and set the whole project up in our big mixing tub. We began by squeezing an almost-full 4 ounce bottle of glue into a glass bowl. Then we mixed in 1 1/2 bottles of warm water to the glue. The recipe calls for 4 ounces of glue and 4 ounces of warm water…do you see how fast I went off-recipe!! But like Steve says, the measurements don’t have to be exact and it worked out just fine!

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

N added red food coloring and mixed it into a lovely shade of pink.

Then we mixed 1 teaspoon of Borax into 1/2 cup of water, and slowly added the solution to the glue mixture…

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

Until the slime started to come together. We did not use all of the Borax solution.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

At first it was really wet and gooey.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

And stringy and sloppy.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

And then it started to pull together.

How to make gak.

Until it was one easy-to-work-with mass of slime that could be pulled apart and manipulated…to some extent. Because really, this slime has a mind of its own.

N requested a muffin tray with the idea that it would make nice little cakes. Can you believe how viscous and pliable it is?! Completely different from play dough, and absolutely inspiring to little miss curious.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

We often roll out our play dough, so she gave that a try and complained that it didn’t work. Good experiment!

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

Next she tried cookie cutters. Also a bust.

Gak Recipe - How to Make Gak - TinkerLab.com

But the scissors…oh, the scissors were so much fun and completely rewarding with this medium.

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When you’re done using your gak/flubber/slime, you can store it in a sealable container or Ziploc bag for about 2 weeks (when it may start to smell!).

Such an easy, fun play recipe: How to make Gak.

More PlayDough Recipes

Rainbow Play Dough, Tinkerlab

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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Bubble Print Lunch Bag

We made prints from some bubble wrap I rescued from a recent package. It was one of those projects that came together quickly — I can’t remember why exactly, but I didn’t have my camera ready. The good news is that I collected lots of good material on this topic…scroll to the bottom for tutorials and inspiration.

But this is really about what we did AFTER making the prints. While we were waiting for N’s dad to come home from work we decided to decorate a lunch bag for him. We tend to get all crafty on his lunches every few weeks, and the usual markers-on-bag wasn’t that interesting to N. I pulled out one of our bubble wrap prints and asked her if she’d like to collage it to the bag. This child jumps at any opportunity to utilize a pair of scissors, and happily snipped away at the print. After cutting it into pieces, she used white glue to adhere them to the bag — both sides — and once the bag was filled I punched two holes and tied a ribbon through it.

My husband loved it, and proudly carted it off to work the next day. Next time it would also be fun to use cut-up magazines, unwanted pieces of art, envelope liners, or old books.

What other materials would you use?

More inspiration

Jean at The Artful Parent made bubble wrap prints with her Toddler Art Group

Bubble Wrap Print from MaryAnn Kohl’s First Art

Bubble Printing Shamrock Diptych from hands on: as we grow

Layered multi-colored Bubble Prints from Laugh Paint Create

Clear photo tutorial on bubble printing from First Palette

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This post is linked to Craft Schooling Sunday

 

Drawing Under the Table

I placed a large sheet of paper and a bucket of markers under my daughter’s art table, and left it there with the hope that she’d discover it and fall in love with the idea of drawing in this unlikely art-making location. In reality, I had to lure her to the spot, provoke her with all sorts of silly comments such as, “I wonder what’s under your table?” and then suggest that she could actually draw in this spot if she wanted to.

As you can see, she humored me, but for only a handful of seconds. While this was still a good exercise in creative thinking, it wasn’t the lasting activity that I’d imagined. Well, come to think of it, most of our projects don’t sort out in the way I imagine them!

This seemed like a good provocation, but my thought is that the timing wasn’t right, I could have done a better job setting the stage, or it wasn’t her cup of tea. What do you think?

Related Activity

Here’s a fun factoid and extension for children older than mine (N is almost 3). Michelangelo spent four years on his back painting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Four Years!! Show children pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and then invite them to draw angels or any image of their choice on paper mounted underneath a table.

And please let me know how it goes — I’d love to try this again one of these days!

Project ::Deconstruct Monitor

My mom was cleaning out her basement and came across my husband’s ancient computer monitor, and for some crazy reason she didn’t want it. So she asked my sister to deliver it to my house…which is over 300 miles away!! What a good sister. But guess what? We didn’t want it either!

So, this big ol’ dusty tan hunk of Apple history became the perfect toy to deconstruct…with grown-up help because it turns out that monitors have tricky pockets full of icky stuff that can be deadly if messed around with in the wrong way. Lucky for us, my more-tech-savvy-than-me husband was up for the challenge!

Capacitors are Dangerous

Capacitors are dangerous. This you need to know. Our monitor was in storage, inactive, for about ten years so there was very little chance of being shocked by a charged capacitor. However, you have to be smart and can read more about it the truth of cathode ray tubes (CRT’s) and shock danger here if you’re interested in carrying forward in your own similar take-apart project.

If you decide to try this at home, with kids or adults, there are some warnings you should heed.

See the end of this post for a list of suggested items for take-apart tinkering.

After reading up on the dangers of endeavor, we decided that we’d only take Project Deconstruct Monitor so far before it would find itself at the town recycling center.

I’m not an advocate for anyone getting hurt, so use your best judgement and do your research, folks.

Tips for taking apart machines

  • unplug your machine
  • stay away from CRT’s (I know, we didn’t follow that advice — be smart)
  • wear goggles (again — be smarter than we were!)

Before the monitor met its fate, we brought out some tinkering tools to explore with: scissors, screwdriver, and flashlight. And N loved it! She got her hands right into the wires and asked loads of good questions. It was really fun for all of us to see exactly what was inside a monitor.

N got her flashlight out to get a closer look at the circuit boards, wires, and metal housing pieces.

And she even got to give the screwdriver a spin or two.

After this, my husband carted the whole thing off to be recycled by professionals, and suggested that next time we take apart a simple keyboard or mechanical clock. Agreed!

Aside from being on edge about safety, this was a great project for matching my child’s interests (she’s taken note of other deconstructed computers lately), supporting curiosity, encouraging exploration of the unknown, and giving her a more intimate understanding of the inner-workings of our computers. Who knows, she may be a computer scientist one of these days!

Good objects to take apart

  • sewing machine
  • clocks
  • bicycle
  • toys
  • toaster
  • old fashioned telephone
  • typewriter
  • fax machine

Tinkering with KidsIf you or your child likes to take things apart, check out this book, Unscrewed: Salvage and Reuse Motors, Gears, Switches, and More from Your Old Electronics. Bonus: The table of contents contains an inspiring list of take-apart objects to get the ideas rolling.

 

How to Make a Marble Run with Kids

My kids have been playing with this DIY marble run all week and today I’m going to show you how to make a marble run with kids using simple, household supplies like paper rolls and tape.

With simple, household supplies like paper rolls and tape, I'll show you how to make a marble run with kids as we think like engineers.

Marble Run Supplies

To keep this simple (I like simple), this is all you will need:

  • Cardboard rolls
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Marble/s or small rolling objects
  • Scissors
  • Bowl or basket

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Decorate your Marble Run rolls (optional)

For this DIY marble run, we started by wrapping the paper towel and toilet paper rolls with colored masking tape. This step is purely decorative, but it added some pizazz to the design and kept my daughter busy for a good part of a morning. Totally worth it, in my estimation.

We had fun layering and wrapping tape, selecting colors, and cutting the rolls. Once the rolls were appropriately covered, I took a pair of scissors and cut the tubes in half, right down the center. N thought this looked like fun so she jumped in on the cutting action too.

With simple, household supplies like paper rolls and tape, I'll show you how to make a marble run with kids as we think like engineers.

Find some clear wall space

Set your marble run up on an empty wall, large window, or sliding glass door.

We found some wall space, taped the highest tube to a spot that N could easily reach, and kept on taping rolls until we had something we were happy with.

Make a Marble Run

If you want to make a marble run work, it’s  best to test it as you go. Marbles move fast and like to fly right out of the tubes if they’re not positioned to catch speedy marbles. We tested the sections of our DIY marble run a few times to work out the angles and distances. This is a fabulous math and physical science lesson!

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Watch the magic happen

Once we got it to a place that seemed to work, N dropped in her marble and stood back to watch the magic happen.

Easy DIY Marble Run that helps children problem-solve and think like engineers | TinkerLab.com

Add a basket to catch your marbles

We needed something to catch the balls (and jellybeans!), and a strawberry basket was just right for the job.

Build a marble run from recyclables to encourage problem-solving and creative thinking | TinerkLab.com

Experiment

  • Try rolling other objects down the chute. How do they compare to the marbles?
  • Make chutes out of other objects such as cut-up  + folded cardboard boxes or folded paper. What material/s make for the best chutes?
  • Build a marble run inside a large cardboard box.

Cardboard Box Challenge

TinkerLab is one today!

To help me celebrate a year of exploration, tinkering, creativity, and experimentation, I’ve invited some of my favorite arts and education bloggers to join me in today’s Cardboard Box Challenge as a gift to each of YOU. My blogging journey was originally inspired by the fabulous Jean of The Artful Parent and Jen of Paint Cut Paste. And I’m absolutely thrilled that they’re each part of today’s collaboration.

Like many of you, I love reading posts that inspire me to try something new, and each of my collaborators has inspired me in one way or another. They’re smart, creative, funny, generous, and they each do an amazing job at honoring the children that they work and/or live with. I asked them (and their children!) to create anything they like using at least one cardboard box. The project would be executed by children, but grown-ups were welcome to facilitate and/or collaborate if the mood struck. Links to my twenty-four collaborators can be found at the end of this post, and I’d encourage you to do a little blog hopping today (or save this for when you have some time) and bookmark those posts that inspire YOU.

Cardboard Box Marble Run

Here’s what we did with our humble box…

To spark our creativity I cut a side off of the box, just to make it look a little different. It looked a like a house to me and I could easily imagine a rough version of an architectural model. But I asked N what she imagined and she said, “Let’s make a marble run!!” Just like that. The exclamation points really are necessary.

 

I bent a rectangular piece and asked her what we could do with it. She saw it as a ramp, and it became the base of our marble run. She cut tape and played the role of director while I secured the pieces together and acted as her general contractor.

Materials

  • Deconstructed box left over from our Cardboard Box Splat Painting project
  • Full box of cardboard recyclables
  • Scissors
  • Blue painter’s tape
  • Exacto Knife (for me — it made my job so much easier!)

She tested out an idea about running tape across the the top of her ramp, but abandoned it when we noticed it created too much tension on the ramp’s walls.

She decided when it was done and we selected a bowl for the ramp to fit into…

Test run…

It worked!!

Good thing we have so many marbles! She gave me specific instructions that the skinny tunnel that feeds into the big ramp should “be closed up and dark so you can’t see the marbles,” and seemed to be fascinated by the mystery of that part of the structure.

Cardboard Box Challenge Participants

What would you (and your kids) make with a cardboard box? If you have a cardboard box project that you’d like to share, please add your link to the blog hop or comment section below. And feel free grab the button or copy the text into your HTML.