Coming Soon: Egg Carton Creative Challenge

dsc_0576

If you’re not already stockpiling your egg cartons for rainy day upcycling, start saving those cartons for the next creative challenge. 

A little background

Every two months I host a Creative Challenge, with the introduction of a readily available material and the invitation for children to create something from it.

The objective of these challenges is to help children learn to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.

To join, document your maker journey with one of more photo, and then come back on April 9 to share what you did. If you have a blog, set your post to go live on April 9. Otherwise, you can add images of your work to a comment on my blog on April 9. Either way, it’s fun to share and be inspired.

So far, the following kid-friendly bloggers let me know that they’re in excited to share their contributions.

Will you join us too?

 

To read more about the challenges, click here.

 

 

Art Project: Overhead Projector

overhead projector art project

overhead projector art project

My husband works at a university and the collector in me was overjoyed to discover that there’s a little-known department on campus that sells surplus property from departments that no longer need old projectors, desks, and reams of paper.

I wandered into the dusty space about a year ago and walked out with something everyone needs: an overhead projector for just $5. Right, you have one, don’t you? And then it moved to my garage where it continued to collect dust for another year.

Well, I finally pulled it out and it turned out to be a perfect rainy day art project.

overhead projector object discussion

My daughter had never seen one of these before, so we started off with an open-ended game in object-based looking that I learned in graduate school. The idea behind the game is to unpack the qualities of a mysterious object based solely on what you can see. No other information is shared, and the process of discovery can build a great deal of enthusiasm around an experience.

I didn’t tell N what we were looking at. Rather, I put the projector in a place where she could easily see it from multiple points of view and then our conversation sounded something like this:

“What do you see?”

A box with a long, tall pole and a plug. It’s dusty. You missed a spot.

“Got it. Okay, how do you suppose it might work?”

I don’t know. Maybe you plug it in. And I see these knobs, so they probably turn. If I turn this one, this piece moves up the pole. There are some buttons, so you can turn it on and off.

“If we plug it in, what do you think it might do?”

I think it makes noise. A loud noise, like a blender. Brrrrrrrrr.

“Hmmm. Maybe it does make a noise. We’ll find out in a moment. If you open this flap, what do you see?”

A light. Let’s plug it in!

playing with the overhead projectorI plugged it in, flipped open the light, and spread out a collection of tangram pieces to play with. N had fun adjusting the height of the light and then made various arrangements of shapes, both abstract and realistic.

tessellation tilesI have a huge collection of transparent tangram tiles that I picked up at Resource Area for Teaching (RAFT), but if you click on this link it’ll take you to Amazon where you can order these shipped straight to your home.

overhead projector with kidsI pulled the curtains in the room shut, and the overhead projector’s bulb did a great job illuminating the wall. The walls in this room are painted dark grey, so I taped two sheets of 18″ x 24″ paper from Discount School Supply to the wall, and it made for a perfect screen.

We talked about how the projector reverses images, so you won’t see a mirror image of what exists on the glass plate.

This art project was wonderful in so many ways. The dim lights in the room were calming and helped focus my child’s big afternoon energy like a cup of tea can focus mine. It was fun to play with something new, and we both enjoyed exploring the mechanics of this archaic tool from Stanford’s past. As an artform, working with the tangram shapes was like painting with light and color, while making compositional choices. 

In case you’re interested in finding your own overhead projector, I did a quick Craigslist search and see them posted in the $25-$80 price range, but I bet a little searching could find you something for less money. And if you happen to be in my real-life friend circle, you’re more than welcome to borrow mine for a while, which is better than having it collect dust in my garage.

I’m thinking our next overhead projector project might be making our own transparencies. Any other ideas?

Do you have an overhead projector, light table, or some other type of projector (either of your own or at your disposal)? What could you try this with?

Eggs Dyed with Vegetables

naturally decorated eggs the chocolate muffin tree

I thought I’d wrap Egg Week up with a favorite egg project from last year: Decorating Eggs with Natural Dyes.

In case you’re just popping in, my friend Melissa over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree and I are posting unique egg-related activities or experiments each day this week, and here’s what we’ve covered so far:

There are so many fun commercial egg-dying products to choose from, and I love a box that promises technicolor tie-dye with coated glitter. My 3-year-old and I just tore through one of these and she had a great time with it. And did I mention that we’ve been eating eggs with all our meals this week? Small price to pay for some Egg Week fun.

If you have a little bit of time and an interest in introducing the magic of natural dyes to your child, this project is well worth your effort.

Click over here to find out what vegetable gave us this brilliant blue color!

naturally decorated eggs the chocolate muffin tree

And then check out The Chocolate Muffin Tree to see how she and her daughter made naturally dyed marbled eggs. They’re  beautiful, and the process will become one of your favorites, I’m sure.

egg week

So, although this marks the end of a very fun week of all-things-eggs, it’s not quite over yet…

I asked my creative and playful blog friends to share their own egg-related ideas and projects with me, and I’ve been overwhelmed with the response. I was planning to share them with you today, but there are so many ideas that I need a little time to pull it all together.

So, be sure to check back next week for one more day of eggs.

Until then, Happy Spring!

Egg Geodes Experiment

clean membranes from eggs

Today we’re experimenting with egg geodes. This experiment is set up to engage children in the steps of the scientific method, which could easily make this a fun and successful science fair project. Not only is the process of making these beautiful geodes engaging for kids, but the end-result has a huge wow-factor. Give yourself at least two-three days to achieve the greatest results.

Egg Geodes Inspiration

I was inspired by these egg geodes that I spotted on Martha Stewart and then followed this recipe by Melissa Howard who blogs at Those Northern Skies. If you enjoy this post, do click over and see what these two sites have to offer. The pictures alone are worth looking at.

egg geodes

Set up the Egg Geodes Experiment

Supplies

  • Eggs
  • Rock Salt
  • Sea Salt
  • Borax*
  • Other substance that could be tested for crystallization such as sugar, epsom salts, cream of tartar, baking soda, or alum*
  • Mini-muffin pan
  • Food Coloring
* Borax and alum are not food products, and using these ingredients with small children should be closely monitored, as ingestion can be fatal. Please use common sense and close supervision with such substances. My children were watched at all times and did not come in direct contact with borax in the process of this experiment.

clean membranes from eggsI tapped a knife around the top of the eggs to remove a bit of shell, and then emptied the eggs and cleaned them with water. Using a finger, it’s important to gently rub around the inside of the egg to remove the membrane because the membrane can discolor crystals as the form.

If you happen to have a mini-cupcake pan, it’s like they were made for this job.

add salt to water for geodesWe heated a pot of water (not quite boiling) and then poured 1/2 cup into a mug. We added 1/4 cup of kosher salt into the first mug and mixed it until it dissolved.

The kosher salt was stubborn and wouldn’t dissolve, so Nutmeg handed the mug to me for some rigorous mixing. Sill no luck.

We moved on to the next mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup sea salt. The sea salt dissolved quickly and then we added a bit more. The idea is to saturate the solution without putting in too much of the dry ingredient.

And then the final mug: 1/2 cup hot water + 1/4 cup borax. Dissolved.

geode chartWe added a coup;le drops of food coloring to each mug and then made a chart so we wouldn’t lose track.

Then we poured the liquid into our eggs. Each solution made just enough to pour into two eggs. Perfect!

And then you wait. 5  days for the liquid to mostly evaporate.

We couldn’t that long, but after 1 day salt crystals evaporated through the egg shell, and after 2 days our eggs looked like this…

egg geodes

egg geodes

Kosher Salt 

Through the process of diffusion, the salt actually passed through the permeable shell. Gorgeous, isn’t it?

egg geodes

Sea Salt

egg geodes borax

Borax

With opposite results of the salt-solutions, borax created the most sparkly, crystal-looking egg with crystals inside the egg and nothing on the outside.

And of course, things like this are irresistible to little hands. My toddler wanted to pick all the crystals off the shells, and I had to pull them away because not only will she break them into a gazillion pieces, but substances like borax are safe for looking, not for touching.

So, if this strikes your fancy, have fun testing some of the different soluble solids mentioned in the list above.

egg week

This is Day #4 of Egg Week, which I’m co-hosting with my talented arts education friend Melissa who runs the popular children’s art blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree. Take a minute to hop over to The Chocolate Muffin Tree and see the egg surprise she has in store for us today.

And if you’re just catching up with us, here’s a look at what we’ve covered this week so far:

 

Make Your Own Egg Tempera Paint

make egg tempera paint with kids

It’s Day #2 of Egg Week.  In case you’re just popping in, my talented friend Melissa over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree and I are posting unique egg-related activities or experiments each day this week.

painting with egg temperaI’ve been interested in whipping up a batch of homemade egg tempera paint for a while, and being that it’s egg week and all, this seemed to be the right time to finally crack open some eggs and give it a try.

Do you know the history of egg tempera paint? It’s quite interesting, actually.

Egg tempera was wildly popular amongst Early Renaissance artists (Botticelli, Giotto, Fra Angelico) and then fell out of use with the Late Renaissance artists (Leonard da Vinci, Michelangelo) when oil paint was introduced. To make egg tempera, powdered pigments culled from things such as stones, sticks, bones, and the earth were mixed with water and then tempered with a binding agent such as an egg. And when they were tempered with eggs, they were called egg tempered paints and eventually earned the nickname Egg Tempera. Interesting, right? So this is where those big, bright bottles of kid-friendly tempera paint get their name from.

I used this recipe from Kid’n'Kaboodle, and if you click over there you’ll find an enormous list of recipes that will keep your little artists busy for a long time. Go ahead, click over and bookmark it. I’ll wait.

This project doesn’t take very long to set up, kids will enjoy making their own paint from eggs (unless they’re allergic or hate eggs, of course), and once the paint dries it has a gorgeous, shimmery patina that makes it painting-worthy.

make egg tempera paint with kids

Materials

  • Eggs
  • Small mixing bowls
  • Bowl to crack egg whites into
  • Paint Brushes
  • Liquid Watercolors or Food Coloring
  • Card stock or other heavy-weight paper

make egg tempera paint with kids

I separated the yolks from the whites, and dropped one yolk into each of these small bowls.

make egg tempera paint with kids

3.5 year old Nutmeg chose three colors to add: Purple, Sparkly Red, and Sparkly Blue. We used Glittery Blick Liquid Watercolors from Dick Blick Art Supplies, which I highly recommend if you’re planning an online art supply order anytime soon. The bottles are inexpensive, last forever, and there’s a huge range of colors.

As soon little Rainbow began mixing the purple into the egg yolk, Nutmeg commented on how purple and orange mix together to make brown. Not her desire, exactly, but she didn’t seem to mind and it was a great little unintended lesson in color mixing.

kids paint with homemade egg tempera paintAnd then we got painting. Quite a lot of painting, actually. For this step, I used paper from a big ream of white card stock purchased from the office supply store.

drawing with sharpieI joined in too and it occurred to me that this transparent paint would make a beautiful luminous sheen over some bold Sharpie marks. I offered my kids Sharpies, and they thought it was a great idea too.

Do your kids love Sharpies as much as mine do? My kids go bananas over Sharpies and I sometimes wonder if it’s because they really are all that wonderful or if it’s because I keep them on a super-high shelf, buried behind old taxes and holiday Silverware.

child paints with homemade egg tempera paintThis was a great move, and the effect was as pretty as I had imagined.

toddler paints with homemade egg tempera paintMy toddler isn’t so deft with the Sharpie and I had to keep a sharp eye on her. She also insisted on the famous paint-draw technique, which kept me busy. How I even snapped this photo I’m not sure.

kids paint with homemade egg tempera paintBefore we wrapped it up, they wanted to collaborate with my on my drawing. Rainbow asked me to draw her a sheep, and then the two of them went to town painting in and around the scene.

Be sure to hop over to The Chocolate Muffin Tree to see what they’re doing with eggs today (and all week, for that matter).

Have you made egg tempera paint? Do you make collaborative art with your kids? Have you made your own art supplies? Any favorite recipes to share?

Walking on Raw Eggs. Really!

walking on raw eggs

Have you ever tried walking on raw eggs? I certainly had not, but this fun experiment inspired by this project at Steve Spangler Science gave us reason to give it a go.  I knew this was something my kids and I would enjoy. So I pinned it, and along with the pin I asked my readers if they would try this themselves.

What? Are you Crazy?

I was floored by the number responses which ranged from “Do you know how much eggs cost?” to “That looks like a lot of fun!” What do you think? Would you try this? My husband went grocery shopping the other day, took a look at my list, and said, “What? Do you really need 6 dozen eggs?” I explained that yes, I really did need that many, but being an omelette/pancake/crepe-loving family, we’d be sure to eat every single one that wasn’t a science project casualty.

Egg Walking in the Spring

As you’re getting ready for Passover or Easter, when you might actually have reason to buy 6 dozen eggs, keep this project in the back of your mind as a fun egg-stension into the sciences. This experiment fosters curiosity (what will happen if we walk on raw eggs?) and problem-solving skills (what’s the best way to walk on them so they don’t crack?), and would be appropriate for anyone older than three (although our 1.5-year old played with us and is still talking about it). standing on raw eggs

Walking on Raw Eggs – How we did it

To get us started, I took one package of eggs from the fridge and invited my 3-year old to stand on them. She wasn’t so sure about this. Understandable. She’s a pretty smart kid. The directions I read suggested walking on the shells barefoot. Presumably if you crack an egg and get egg guts all over your foot, it’s easier to clean. But 3-year old N insisted on keeping her socks on, and I respect that. egg walking demoOnce we mastered egg-standing, it was time for egg-walking. Oh-my-goodness, hold your breath. I showed N how to walk on the eggs with a flat foot, which helps distribute the pressure and keeps the eggs from cracking. If you place extra pressure or force on your heels or toes, an egg is bound to crack. We had the added benefit of using egg cartons with extra-high chipboard separators, which I think absorbed some of the pressure. I hadn’t even thought about getting specific kinds of egg cartons, and I wonder if the carton could make a difference. N did crack a couple eggs, and complained when her sock was full of goo, but overall it was a cool experiment. walking on raw eggsOf course, my one year old wanted to join the fun too. To make this work for her, I held her hands and a lot of her weight so she could take a stroll over the eggs. After Nutmeg cracked an egg with her heel, Rainbow kept saying “crack. egg. foot. trash.” And it made me wonder how an experience like this might affect her interpretation of the world. So, would you try this experiment with your kids?

More Egg Activities

It’s EGG WEEK on Tinkerlab and The Chocolate Muffin Tree. Melissa and I have come together to bring you a full week of egg activities and experiments that are easy enough to do today or good for bookmarking for a rainy spring day. Be sure to check out The Chocolate Muffin Tree for their EGG WEEK post. If you have a favorite egg experiment, activity, or post, please feel free to share it in a comment.

St. Paddy’s Day Photo Booth

clip sheet photo booth

st paddys day photo boothI’ve  always loved St. Paddy’s day, and then I lucked out and married a cute Irishman. We spent part of our honeymoon in Ireland, and the green island holds a special place in my heart.

A few weeks ago I asked the Tinkerlab Facebook community for some ideas on what I could do with a huge pile of old sheets. I got tons of great ideas, and we started by making a Simple Clip Fort. I’m working my way through the list, and today we’re making a photo booth backdrop for St. Patty’s Day.

Before going to bed I hung a white sheet over one of our curtain rods and secured it with two big clips.

cut out shamrocks for photo boothI cut a handful of shamrocks from green paper and placed them on a table with double-stick tape. Altogether, the prep took me about 10 minutes. When my kids woke up, they were excited about the invitation, got dressed in greenish clothes, and we got right to work.

tape shamrocks for photo boothI helped 3-year old N stick some tape to the back of the shamrocks. Double-stick tape is tricky stuff for little hands! Then she and my 1-year old stuck them to the sheet. Well, my 1-year old mostly tore the shamrocks in half and we had to find a more constructive activity to distract her for a few minutes.

I moved a green rug over to the curtain area and that’s when the dance party started. I snapped a couple archive-worthy photos for the family photo album, and then it was mostly just playing in fron to the clover curtain.

st pattys photo boothOn St.Patty’s Day itself, we serve up green milk in mugs, delivered with a bit of magic. We add a couple drops of green food coloring in the bottom of a dark mug, the kids say “Sean Beggorrah,” and then we pour white milk into the mug for a leprechaun-delivered surprise. This tradition comes down through my husband’s family and I haven’t met anyone else who does this. Is this part of your St. Patrick’s Day traditions?

We’ve been talking about building a leprechaun trap, but I’ve never built one before. Have you? Do you have any tips? And I’m always thinking about fun ways to add magic to this holiday and would love to hear how you celebrate St. Paddy’s Day with your kids.

More St. Patrick’s Day fun from the Archives

Rainbow Play Dough

Spring Sink Mat Print

Fairy Doors 

Creative Ways to Spend a Sick Day

reading peg leg peke

tea for twoHow do you get through sick days?

With Spring just around the corner, I thought that maybe maybe maybe we would be the lucky ones who made it through winter without getting sick. Wishful thinking! My oldest came down with a fever the other day and we’ve been holed up at home, gathering our energy and drinking lots of fluids.

reading peg leg pekeI have an arsenal of indoor activity ideas, but to be stuck inside all day long…that’s another story. There was a break in the day when we felt a little better and threw on our wellies for some puddle stomping. Fresh air always helps, doesn’t it?

The other day I fell in love with this article on Little Stories called How to Pretend. The idea that really stuck with me was about acting out books to bring them to life.

I pulled a big box of stuffed animals off a top shelf — little friends that we haven’t seen in ages. That alone was thrilling to my kids. And then we picked out a few favorite books with animal characters that we could bring to life with our toys and puppets.

I envisioned that I would lead a puppet show of sorts while reading the books, sort of like a librarian or preschool teacher telling a story through a felt board. But my 3 year old wanted to enact the roles while I read. I live for these moments that surprise.

reading with props stuffed animalsBrown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? was especially good for putting all of our toys to work. We don’t have a cat stuffed animal, but my kids were happy to substitute bunny. They really loved this and I’m sure we’ll do it again on our healthy days too.

So it looks like we’re home for one more day, just to be safe. I have a fun Saint Patty’s Day photo booth invitation set up, but not too many more ideas.

What do you like to do with your kids on sick days? How do you keep them happily engaged indoors all day long?

Note: Tinkerlab shares affiliate links for products we use and companies we adore. If you purchase through those links we’ll receive a small percentage of the sale, which help keep our inspiration engines running!

Are Black Markers Really Black? A Chromatography Lesson.

add water to marker on paper towel experiment

are black markers really black chromatographyWhat color is black? Is it one color or many colors combined to “look black”?

Black is the absence of all reflective colors, and when the three primary colors (red, yellow, and blue) are combined in just the right way, they give off the appearance of black.

We set off to find out more about the predominant colors in our black Crayola marker, and to do this we had to separate the colors. The chemical technique used to separate dyes, pigments, or colored chemicals is known as chromatography. 

This activity can take anywhere from 5 minutes to 25 minutes, depending on how much experimenting your child wants to do, and it’s appropriate for kids ages 2 and up. It’s so simple to do, and would be a natural addition to a morning or afternoon of drawing with markers.

Materials

  • White paper towels or white coffee filters
  • A Plate
  • Black marker/s
  • Water
  • Water Dropper

add water to black ink

We started by drawing a big quarter-sized dot on the paper towel, and then squeezed water on top of it. The colors that are released into the paper towel give you some clues as to what goes in to your black. In our case, there was a lot of green.

add water to marker on paper towel experimentAfter the black marker test, 3-year old N wanted to test the rest of her markers. She made a lot of predictions, and they all came out as expected (yellow appeared to be yellow and green was made from green dyes).

add water to marker on paper towel experiment

The red and pink, however, stumped her as they both released a pink color.

add water to marker on paper towel experiment ChromatographyAnd then there was a lot of fun in opening the paper towels up to reveal the levels of color that soaked through all the layers.

More Chromatography

For older kids, this slightly more advanced version of our kitchen experiment from Science Project Lab has some pretty cool results.

Kids will be amazed at the rainbow of colors released by leaves in this chromatography experiment shared over on TLC Family.

I like this coffee filter chromatography project from Kids Make Things.

Have you tried this experiment with your kids? Do you have a favorite paper towel/coffee filter project? What is the most challenging part of doing experiments with your kids?

Sensory Activity: Shredded Paper

brown-bag

If you’re afraid of a mess, I have to warn you up front that this is a messy one.

But it’s not a dirty kind of mess and if you stick with me here, you might become a shredded paper convert like me.

paying bills with kidsIt all started innocently, and rather boring, enough. It was a bill-paying day, and I set the kids up with their own stack of mailing labels stickers, pens, and old checkbooks while I dealt with the heavy stuff.

They were happy enough, but things heated up when we moved on to paper shredding

shredding paper in paper shredder with kids

I had basket full of old bills that were ready for the shredder, and two happy-to-please assistants who took the shredding job very seriously.

Shredders are potentially dangerous, and I would absolutely not let my kids shred on their own, but with careful supervision the act of shredding can build confidence, teaches accuracy and careful attention to details, and it’s just plain fun to make a loud ruckus.

When it’s not in use, I unplug the machine and lock it in a closet. When it’s in use, I run through the rules of good shredder usage with my three and a half year old: Up to 3 sheets at a time. Hold the paper at the top when you feed it in (no fingers near the shredding area). And it’s not for my 18 month old.

While my three year old shreds, her sister hands her stacks of paper. They love it.

Okay, so take a look at that little basket of paper up there and remember how small it appears. And remember that appearances can be deceiving.

My friend and her son came over a couple hours later to play and make some ice cream. While we were talking, my 18 month old dug her hands deep into the neatly packed shredded paper bag, and in moments the room erupted into this happy play scene…

play in shredded paper with kids

And that’s only half of the paper.

They could not have been happier. In fact, just before this moment, the kids were all winding down and ready to go their separate ways. But as soon as that bag emptied out, they found a whole other hour of play inside their little souls.

It was so fun, in fact, that my older daughter chose to keep playing rather than go to her beloved gymnastics class.

play in shredded paper with kidsMy friend is a master at imaginative play with kids, and had them bury themselves in shredded paper, pretend they were dormant volcano monsters, and then erupt without any notice. You can probably imagine the shrieking and laughter that followed.

And we all agreed that this is the perfect toy: free, open-ended, and entertaining for a long spell.

So it was messy, yes, but it was easy enough to sweep up. And rather than cart it off to the recycling bin like I had planned, it all found its way back into the closet and ready for another day of fun.

More Shredded Paper Ideas

Alpha Mom makes a bird’s nest with brown paper bags.

10+ Ideas on what you can do with Shredded Paper (like make animal bedding, papier mache, and mulch) from Bohemian Revolution.

Adorable and seasonal Shredded Paper Seed Starters from Made. These are on my to-do list.

Can you think of a time that your kid/s turned a banal situation into a burst of play? Have you played with shredded paper? Would you try this yourself?

 

Cooking with Toddlers Made Simple

chopping salad with toddler

Cooking with toddlers made simpleAfter sharing some thoughts yesterday on how to invent a recipes with kids (by opening your kitchen up as a lab for experimentation), I thought it might help if I backed up a bit and shared a few tricks that have helped me set the stage for kitchen experimentation.

Here are my top four tips on bringing toddlers into the kitchen, making cooking with little ones fun, and keeping it simple…

 chopping salad with toddler

TIP #1

Spend time in the kitchen. I’m a big advocate for bringing children into the kitchen at an early age.

Babies won’t do much in the kitchen, obviously, but the kitchen is full of sensory experiences that can grab hold of the attention. As soon as my kids could stand, they’ve been active observers; watching me chop, stir, mix, and pour.

TIP #2

Give them tools. And as soon as they show an interest, I give my kids small bowls to mix pretend batters and salads while I make the real thing right next to them.

My youngest is 18 months old, and she loves mixing just about anything. She’s not as efficient as I am, and she’s certainly not as neat, but I know that if I include her at this young age she’ll feel comfortable in the kitchen as she grows older.

TIP #3

Find some kid-friendly knives. Did you see that my toddler is wielding a knife?

kid knives curious chef

One of my most creative friends, Rebecca Jordan-Glum (she’s just building her Facebook page — visit her here: https://www.facebook.com/JordanARTandDESIGN ) turned me on to these incredible kid-friendly knives from Curious Chef. We bought this pack of 3 knives for under $10, and use them all the time. If they’re out of stock, you can also find the knives through other Curious Chef cooking packages.

My 3.5 year old knows where to find them and can help herself, and my 18 month old will ask for “knife.” My youngest doesn’t use the knife as its intended, but she wants to join the party and I’m not going to stop her.

The knives are appropriate for children ages 5 and up, so supervision is recommended for little ones.

toddler mixing salad

TIP #4

Involve them in simple cooking projects. When I’m having a long day and I’m not in the mood for a massive clean up, I’ll try to find neater cooking projects for my kids to help with. Chopping salad is one of these projects. Scooping flour is not. Spreading butter on toast is one of these projects. Making pancakes is not.

Cooking with Kids: Resources

I’m loving Foodie Parent. It’s hilarious and there’s a section of the site called “Cooking with Kids.”

Cooking with My Kid is a beautiful site, full of practical ideas. Macki describes herself as a “Foodie by day, microwaver by night, I set out to teach my kid (and myself) the art of cooking.” I’m kicking myself because she was at Blissdom, and we didn’t meet!

Do you like to cook with your kids? What are you favorite cooking-with-kids tips? What is the most challenging part of cooking with children? Do you have a favorite “neat” cooking project?

 

Note: I share affiliate links for products I adore or think you’ll find useful. If you purchase through those links I will receive a small percentage of the sale; thanks for your help keeping this blog running!



How to…Invent a Recipe with Kids

invent a recipe with kids

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

My house smells like pancakes.

Which really means that it smells like cooking oil and caramelized sugar. Sort of a happy, greasy smell that has lingered for days.

Every afternoon, for the past three days, my 3 year old turns into a kitchen alchemist as she gathers ingredients and invents her own recipes.

She is in heaven. And it gets even better once we cook the cakes up and proudly serve them up to hungry family members.

Do you ever give your kids free reign over your kitchen?

Experiments like this set children up with a real-life science experiment that fosters creativity, inventiveness, and problem-solving skills. It’s not for the faint of heart and you have to be okay with a bit of a mess, but I think the trouble is well worth it for the amount of creative confidence it builds in children.

So, after three straight days of wild pancake combinations, I present five lessons learned on how to invent recipes with kids…

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

Lesson #1…Get Familiar with the Kitchen.

If your child doesn’t know where things are, give him a little tour. And start with a simple cooking project that introduces him to some key ingredients and tools for a favorite recipe (such as a mixing bowl, mixing spoon, measuring spoon/cup, flour, and oil).

We spend a lot of time cooking together and my oldest (N) knows her way around the kitchen. She can find the biggest mixing bowl in the house, all the baking ingredients are at kid-level (this will no doubt pose a problem once her little sister figures this out), and we have amazing little foldable step stools like these that give her access to the fridge (unless she wants the butter…but we do have a taller stool for that).

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

Lesson #2…Come up with a General Plan.

In our case, N has been making pancakes, pancakes, and more pancakes. We tend to make a lot of pancakes in our house anyway (they’re not just for the weekends), so she’s super-familiar with the key ingredients and general direction of what might taste good together. For example, she didn’t pour ketchup into the batter (although if she did, I probably would have let it happen).

Do you have a favorite family recipe that you could riff off of? 

To start, she collected a few ingredients (white flour, wheat flour, flax seeds, and blueberries), and added them to the bowl. I tried to step back and allow her to make decisions about quantities, but every now and then I’d throw out a suggestion to help guide the journey.

As you can imagine, her pancake recipe has WAY more than the usual tablespoon of sugar (see the next picture), but it turns out that sugary pancakes are absolutely delicious.

invent a recipe with kids

Lesson #3…Green Light all Ingredients.

Of course you want to be safe about this, as things like raw meat and raw eggs need special handling, but try to keep an open mind as your child selects her ingredients. One of N’s batters had chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, mango juice, dried cranberries and walnuts in it. It was amazing.

The most recent batch contained raspberries, strawberry cream cheese, diced apples, and goat cheese. It was a bit chunky, and I’m not so sure about the goat cheese, but we drafted a recipe in case they end up being the best one yet.

Which bring me to the next lesson…

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

Lesson #4…Write the Recipe Down.

This is validating and makes the whole game so much more fun. As N added ingredients, I tried my best to write them down. Some things were carefully measured and others weren’t, but it didn’t really matter. I’m thrilled to have documentation of her first recipes and I’m sure she’ll treasure them as she gets older.

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

Lesson #5…Embrace a Good Experiment.

As we cooked, I repeated multiple times that this is a grand experiment and that we’d be surprised one way or the other. We chatted about how it’s possible that not one person has ever made this exact recipe, and that chefs go through a similar process when they invent something new. Like scientists, they hypothesize (what ingredients might taste good together?), they experiment (let’s make this batter with yogurt and the next with sour cream), and they test (how does it taste? which batch do we like better? why?).

How to Invent a Recipe with Kids | TinkerLab

After one of our cooking sessions, my husband took the kids off on a run in the stroller. These two hot cakes were eaten before they left the driveway, which I suppose speaks to how delicious they came out.

How do you involve your kids in the kitchen? Have you tried letting them loose with ingredients? How did it go?