Summer Break and TinkerLab Updates

happy summer collage

Hi everyone!

It’s been an exciting and busy couple weeks for me. My book came out on June 10 with a flurry of activity. For one, we’re in the middle of an incredible blog book tour, which I’d encourage you to check out if you’d like to learn more about TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link). Are you already reading the book? Maybe you’d like to join Club TinkerLab where we’ll talk about the book and all-things-tinkering.

What else? My publisher, Roost Books, is hosting a fun Pinterest contest. If you’d like a chance at winning TWO copies of the book and a Michael’s gift certificate, hop on over because the deadline is today!

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate | TinkerLab.com

More news: Our Facebook fan page is hopping’ and we just hit a new milestone of 100K readers! It really has been a busy week!

 

100K Facebook Fans

 

Starting in July, I’ll be kicking off our real-life book tour at Books Inc. in San Francisco. If you’d like to attend a TinkerLab book talk + workshop, I just added a new event to the calendar! Details here.

TinkerLab Book Tour

And finally, my kids are on summer vacation! And my husband is too. And guess what, that means it’s time for me to take a little break as well. Writing and talking up a book is exhausting and I’m ready for some r + r. I’ll still pop in a tiny bit on Instagram and Facebook, and the blog will continue to be a great resource until I come back.

happy summer collage

See you in a few weeks!

Rachelle

OK Go’s The Writing’s on the Wall and Optical Illusions

OK Go's The Writing's on the Wall Music Video and Optical Illusion | TinkerLab.com

Have you seen the new OK Go video, The Writing’s On the Wall? Holy Smokes, people — if MC Escher were alive today, this is the sort of thing he would have come up with.

OK Go's super amazing music video, The Writing's on the Wall, and the art of Optical Illusions. The post includes some DIY optical illusion activities to try after watching the video  - TinkerLab

All of OK Go’s videos are impossibly imaginative, and they somehow seemed to have trumped their best work. See for yourself…

From what I’ve read, they created this in just one take! Seriously. Of course there were lots of takes that didn’t work out (50 takes preceded this one). This behind-the-scenes Mashable interview with OK Go talks a little bit about that and shares some cool insights on how it all came together:

Of course my heart flutters for geeky art + science madness like this, but I also really like the song. For more, this Rolling Stone article is worth checking out.

One of my favorite things about optical illusions like this is the seamless blend of art and science. Optical illusions wouldn’t exist without the physics of science and the creativity of art. When I watch this video, I also think of the the shadow work of Tim Noble and Sue Webster. This is Colossal reviewed the video and they cite influences such as the large-scale perspective-skewing installations of Bernard Pras, geometric projections of Felice Varini, and the photographic trick-of-the-eye masterpieces by Bela Borsodi. If you like this stuff, you’ll want to check out this links.

Talk about the Video with Kids

Whenever I see cool things like this, I often consider how I could introduce this to my kids. So, here’s a fun project for you: Watch this video with your child and then talk about what you saw. Or, try this with a friend or on your own. Optical illusions are for everyone, after all.

Some guiding questions:

  1. Which of the optical illusions surprised you? Why?
  2. Which illusion did you like the best? Why?
  3. Which illusion is still puzzling you? At this point, you can go back to the video and watch that part to try to figure it out.
  4. What other questions could you ask?

Following this discussion, make some of your own optical illusions. Some ideas follow:

Optical Illusion Activities

  • Check out these classic optical illusions via Optics for Kids, and figure out how they work.
  • Make a fish-in-a-tank optical illusion from Science Sparks
  • Try this fun bending finger trick. The short and fun video shows you how. From Julian’s Magician School, via YouTube
  • Draw your own hand in 3-D using just a pencil, paper, and markers. This video from Handimania is great!
  • Try to set up your own photographic trick-of-the-eye like Bela Borsodi’s (the video on this page is so worth watching — just to see what’s possible)
  • What else could you do? Let us know in a comment!

Should Food be used in Preschool Sensory Activities?

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Every since I dipped my toes into the world of Early Childhood Education, the hotly debated issue of whether or not food should be used in preschool sensory activities has come up multiple times. My background in the arts, where all supplies were fair game for art-making, didn’t prepare me for the variety of opinions that circle this topic.

TinkerLab reader, Pam, presented this question on Facebook after I shared a post for making colored rice:

Should food be used in toddler sensory activities?  |  TinkerLab.com

And Pam’s question reminded me of a question from our friend, Lori, just two weeks earlier:

Should food be used in toddler sensory activities?  |  TinkerLab.com

Since this question comes up a lot, I wanted to take a moment to unpack it here and share some of the pros and cons for using food in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Please keep in mind that the word “preschool” can relate to a preschool classroom setting or to the age of a preschool child who is at home. My own answer to this question (shared below) differs according to the context.

I’d love to invite you to share your thoughts on the topic, as it’s quite possible that something will be left out. My goal isn’t to convince you to take a stand in one camp or the other, but to provide you with the tools you might need to make a decision that’s right for your situation.

I pulled together some reader quotes from the aforementioned conversations and invited some blogging friends to chime in on the topic as well.

Let’s go…

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Using food for Play is Insensitive and/or Wasteful

With millions of children in the world living in poverty I think it is ignorant to use food for play. Sticks, crunchy leaves, seed pod, tree slices, bark, dirt, organic sawdust, shells, small stones, sand, ice….. The list of non food, non toxic FREE play alternatives are endless. Mother Nature has provided us with all we need for sensory play. - Lee-Anne

When you fill your sensory table with rice or millet you are being playful with an amount of food that could feed a family for weeks. It teaches children that materials are abundant, and not of any great value, things that aren’t true in most of the world. In my center we use edible materials for babies but we try hard to find ways to value and honor the food that we use.  – Kendra

It is not about confusing play with food you would eat, it is more like using food in play as though it were nothing, when in reality in many countries out there, it is very expensive, heck, 1 play bin could feed a family of four for 2 meals in our own country. We do not realize how much other people struggle and it is seen as wasteful. It was mentioned on my blog how many USA bloggers treat rice and beans and lentils and the like as nothing, but in many other areas those things are expensive. Not just underprivledged struggle either, many Americans that are there for the Armed Services find those things pricey in many areas as well…it is about being informed. - Michelle

Just know your audience. If you’re working with families facing food insecurity, seeing bins or beans or rice “wasted” can seem disrespectful. I use a lot of dried beans and dyed rice in my sensory bins, but I make sure it is ok as far as the population I’m serving first. – Sarah

Best practice means being respectful period, not just the make up of your class for one particular year.  – Mary

In New Zealand we don’t use food ie dried pasta etc for play as its not Tikanga. Cultural principles around the subject. There are many many other natural resources we use to provide tactile play.  -Sarah

Play with food at the table, in the context of eating, is ok, but playing with food for enjoyment sake itself is, in my view, a real first world ignorance. It could feed a family, perhaps even one in your centre, for a day and you disregard that issue with this type of play. Also, stuffing bean bags with dried beans, rice or other such food, is not a good idea either, for the same reasons. Many cultures keep food sacred, separate from all other activities, and with good reason. I highly suggest avoiding food-play in this way. The greatest food play is getting even the youngest of children to help you prepare food- my 2 yr old loves to bake, peel carrots and whisk eggs. Making games of the meal is all part of learning to enjoy food. Hope this helps. Non-toxic toy alternatives are wool, cotton, wood, and flax, not food.  - Tota

Oh my….Food needs to be respected- not played with! Let us try as an early childhood community to raise children on the concept of respecting food, where it comes from and how it is vital for nutrition. – Cathie

It is a child care regulation in my state that food cannot be used in sensory tables nor art projects for the cultural and wasteful reasons others have mentioned.  – Genuine

Pro: Using Food for Play is not Insensitive or Wasteful

It’s funny how being respectful of food with children comes up frequently, yet the biggest challenge facing most of the global population is clean drinking water. We frequently use it for “play” and for washing off surfaces. Children in some areas are deprived of a good part of a school day because they walk hours to get fresh water for their families. In schools here we have “water tables” and “splash pools” full of drinkable water before it gets used.  I have no problem with staples being used for food play with children. Food banks and global donations always contain a surplus of those items. Fruits and vegetables, dairy, and proteins are items to be avoided for food play with children. Anyone who is struggling financially has no problem putting macaroni or rice on the table. It is the other 3 food groups that are challenging. A lot of staple foods are thrown out because they have gone stale or not eaten. Using them for educational purposes is better than discarding them.  - Alan

I prefer to use the food scraps. We have a post on vegetable scrap stamping. If the food is going into the disposal, the trash or the compost, and it presents an opportunity to learn (either by dissecting it, planting it, or doing some art with it), then it is great to use. It also affords an opportunity to have the kids in the kitchen with me while I cook, where we can do an activity together even though I’m getting chores done. – Patricia, Critters and Crayons

As a history educator, I keep in mind that food items often were and are still used in play and art all over. Consider, too, that the bag of rice you buy in your developed world grocery store won’t otherwise be going to someone living in hunger l. Global hunger is less due to a food shortage than to war, lack of infrastructure, and a political failure of will. Rather than take stand on a particular type of material, I focus on being mindful of the effects of our choices and the ways in which we can further social justice.  – Candace, Naturally Educational 

 I used a bunch of old macaroni that was stale for a sensory bin for my toddlers. Seeing as it isn’t cooked, it’s hard to recognize as “food” and I would rather use it in some way than throw it away because it never got eaten. Plus, my 2 year old tends to put everything in his mouth and I would much rather him end up with a stale piece of macaroni than sand or beads. – Christina

I don’t agree that using food in a different way is “wasting”. It’s being used, meaningfully and with great purpose. Are kids wasting finger paint? No they are using it. They are learning with it. It is valuable. I appreciate the need to be sensitive to families both socio economically and culturally but I reject the idea that use is waste.  - Kawai

We enjoy using food for our crafts and sensory play. I do understand that it may be seen as a luxury to be so wasteful with food – but then surely having a huge variety of paper, handfuls of crayons and pens and many many more craft materials could be considered a luxury too? This may be a little black and white for some, but if I can afford to buy a pack of marker pens for $5, then I can also afford $1 for a bag of rice. – George, Craftulate

We use rice in our sensory table because we have yet to find something that feels as wonderful. We’ve been using the same container of rice (we rotate) for two years now. We are not being wasteful with it and have found the benefits to be wonderful. – Melanie

In regards to the food “waste” issue, I would argue that food is not being wasted, just used in an alternative way. Is the food being digested and giving the body nutrients? No. But is playing with food stimulating my child’s nervous system in ways that non-food sensory play can’t? Yes. And in the long run, we’ll be “wasting” much less food because my child will now eat the food we played with, rather than refusing it every time it’s presented on a plate.  – -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Preschool Kids May be Allergic to Sensory Activities

Also a consideration is food allergies or intolerances that may crop up in the classroom. It’s hard to have to make changes to the curriculum year to year to safely accommodate everyone so if you can come up with non food alternatives that may be best.  - Lissa

My daughter had a dairy allergy when she was a preschooler. It was brutal worrying about every potential craft or activity being something that could harm her. I’m grateful she outgrew it, but I remember those anxiety filled days well.   – Melinda

As a parent of children with food intolerances, I dread any food-based activities at school. Especially at preschool with my toddler, who is more likely to jam things into her mouth. In fact, when my oldest was a toddler, she viewed the sensory table as her own personal all-you-can-eat buffet. (This was before I knew how those ingredients affected her.) As a parent, I either have to hope the teacher can exclude my child from any activities involving foods she’s intolerant to if there’s a risk of ingestion, or else I as the parent have to provide enough of a safe alternative for the class to use instead. Which can quickly become an expensive burden! I do see the value of food-play, and it’s a safe way for littler ones to have sensory play without fear of choking. It’s also a great way to raise adventurous eaters, by having them interact with ingredients in multiple ways (taste, touch, smell, etc,) and by using familiar foods in different ways (a lot of kids get stuck in a rut where a food must be served the same way every time!) So as long as the teacher/school is willing to accommodate food allergies and intolerances, then I’m all for food play at school! But if a child is constantly put at risk or must be excluded from an activity, then that class may have to miss out on food activities. -Kendra, Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Pro: It’s fine if Children have no Allergies

As long as there are no food allergy issues, I’d say go for it. Kids will play with food no matter what.  - Teri

I have children that put everything in their mouths. Using food made more sense than anything else because it wasn’t going to be toxic if they ate it. It also wouldn’t leave trace on their hands and was easily replenished. We reuse the food as much as possible. I have a cupboard with jars of various food used in arts and crafts and play that gets brought out again and again. -Cerys, Rainy Day Mum

Pro: It’s Helpful to Children with Sensory Needs

As a mom of a child with Sensory Processing Disorder, yes, food should definitely be used in toddler and preschool sensory activities. Presenting a child with food to play with, instead of eat, is a way to introduce new textures and smells without pressure. The child is allowed to explore at their own pace, and in their own way. My son never was willing to taste pasta until after we explored cooked spaghetti in a sensory play activity. -Jordan, Motherhood and Other Adventures

My son had sensory integration issues and was only 14 lbs at 1 year. He was on a feeding tube and went to OT. At OT, do you know what they did? Play with food!. It actually teaches them to get used to different textures and not have an aversion to new foods. I was born during the Vietnam War and there was mass starvation when the war ended due to collectivization of the farms and bombings. I personally had to get over food hoarding and being a member of the clean plate club. Like everything, moderation is the key. Be respectful and don’t throw the rice around, keep it in the container and try to reuse it afterwards (make bean bags, make maracas, stress balls in balloons, heating pads, I Spy bags, rainsticks, etc.).  – Lucy

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Con: Natural Objects should be left in their Environment

Would like to just throw out there that it seems many who have big concerns about food play are suggesting the alternative is to simply gather items from nature instead, and that idea is grand but should be approached with consideration to the natural world versus ”free for the taking”. If everyone heads outdoors to gather up sticks, twigs, pinecones, seeds, flowers, bark, etc. then you’ve now taken food and shelter from animals who depend on us leaving these things be. Absolutely, there are responsible ways to acquire some natural items within reason; e.g, from your own property, but typically most educational sites and resources do not promote this, they simply put in their lesson plans ”gather up some pinecones and make this glittery craft” or ”swoop up flowers from a nearby field to dissect or learn fractions”, etc. Squirrels and Bees would suggest perhaps growing your own flowers and pick one pinecone vs. a plethora, especially if it so happens to be a weak year of natural food. I know where we live is scarce this year due to rain last year and the bears and wildlife are hungry searching for what they can. As well, some natural found items are federally protected resources that can land you in big trouble for taking. So it really seems that providing any materials to children to play has a plus and a negative aspect to it. Perhaps looking at it altogether differently is an alternative. For example, children digging and growing a small garden themselves gives sensory experience whilst building an appreciation for food, as well as not taking food from wildlife to play with. Picking and Washing the veggies also are hands on sensory experiences. Eating and preserving most whilst using a few in crafts and games much like ancient cultures did. For example, making apple heads or bobbing for apples, creating corn dollies or even corn husk dolls. Or maybe gather natural items at a time of year they are not so crucial to wildlife and then returning them when needed (fall/winter). Another alternate idea from food; either human or animal, is building up a recycling/repurposing inventory. Milk jug tops, empty cartons, squeeze bottles, jars, cans, etc. These can be turned in to fantastic toys and play items.  - Missy Louise

Pro: Food is Natural and Healthy

I used to have a problem with it, but now I think it´s better than buying other toys/playdough etc. We reuse the dried food/homemade playdough over and over. From an environmental view I actually think it´s better than a lot of plastic, battery operated and general toys as they are often made with nasty chemicals, break and may end up in landfill. So I would much prefer to be letting them play with dried foods that will decompose! Kids naturally play with food at the table when they eat and I actually think it´s important to do this so that they can experience the food you are expecting them to put in their mouths. In saying all of this rice, flour and beans are about all we use (easy to store and re-use). At Christmas/easter time the odd potato for stamping. - Felicity

I have to say I lie in the pro-food camp. For me the benefits of using food in preschool activities outweigh the cons. I personally like using food because it is a less expensive alternative to many costly art supplies, because it encourages children to see unique ways to use everyday items, and because it makes for safe, non-toxic play materials. - Ana, Babble Dabble Do

I understand the concern but do you want your children to play or accidentally ingest toxins??? I would much rather use rice or flour than something that would harm their growth, remember this is used as a learning tool and something to keep in mind using toxins what message is that sending? I am all for organic but we must understand there is a down side to this usage also.  – Robin

My girls are 3 and they know not to play with food at meal time. They constantly do food play at school and home…..I would rather them eat a Cheerios than a plastic bead. If they are taught to understand (which they can do at preschool age) it shouldn’t be an issue. - Jessica

You could have food on plates that could be played with then eaten. You could use beans for play then plant them. I’d much prefer kids playing with biodegradable products than something that’s going to end up in the bin like the loom bands everyone has gone mad for. I think in the scheme, of things a bag of rice is fine for play, perhaps playing with food might bring children closer to understanding and appreciating it. I’ve made veggie critters with kids and it’s a wonderful activity.  – Kristy

 If we are not “pro-food” in sensory play, then what are we? Unless you’re only then reaching for natural materials, the alternative is synthetic, manufactured items that cause their own environmental footprint and sense of “disposable” waste. If properly cared for, food sensory items can be reused again and again — the same bag of quick oats, the same batch of homemade playdough.
Food provides unparalleled, multi-sensory engagement and is something that most people reading will have ready access to.
Also, if the concern is having children “play with their food,” I would suggest that allowing this might encourage children to be more adventurous with their food choices. Even painting with spices might encourage a plain-eater to try something a bit spiced up! – Jennifer, Study at Home Mama

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Take the Middle Ground

Gather materials from nature for your sensory bins. Rocks, pebbles, sticks, fresh cut herbs, dried plants, mud, etc! It’s free, teaches about our local environment, and can be returned outdoors or composted. Personally, I use limited amounts of food materials. Winter wheat berries that we then give to a farmer is great in the fall. Talk about wheats life cycle, read “little red hen”, sprout wheat, talk about wheat to flour, bake some bread. All in balance friends. No sense judging one another’s practices!   - April

Really, it’s about the balance and respect for other cultures. I do use food, even as a sensory but in the context of teaching my preschoolers about cooking and nutrition. Giving them the independence to learn how to make something and then do it at home is the best lesson I can teach them. They still get to “play” / “create” with food but in a more appropriate context that they will remember and use.  - Cathryn

I personally aim to think carefully about any materials we use in play. I want my children to have access to a wide range of materials for sensory experiences and creative prompts, and prefer open-ended, natural materials. We try not to use anything which is disposable after only one brief use, we use as many recycled materials as possible, and we try to recycle or compost what we’ve used after we have played. Using this criteria sometimes food is a better choice for us – for example some uncooked pasta which we might use as maths manipulatives, put in a sensory tub, and then paint and use for art, or threading necklaces. We use it many times before composting it to benefit our garden classroom.  – Cathy, NurtureStore

I probably think way too much about this topic. I do agree that for some young children using food is a safe alternative – if they tend to put things in their mouths (my son says I’m the most over-protective mother). Several years ago when teaching art at a preschool in a poor neighborhood it struck me as very sad that many o the children only ate when they got their free breakfasts and lunches at school. I imagined how one of those children would feel seeing pudding used to paint or an apple used to print. I stopped using food in my projects. I’ve since started again, but not in the same ways. I’ll use items I would normally toss (like strawberry tops) or I do a swap- I’ll have my son choose an items to donate to the food pantry box at our grocery store if we are going to use food in an activity. I know that the five blueberries I’m going to use or a printing project won’t cause a world hunger crisis, but it makes me feel better and teaches a good lesson on helping others to do so. I explain it a little better in this post on berry art. – Rikki, Mini Monets and Mommies

Should food be used in preschool sensory activities? | TinkerLab.com

Where does TinkerLab stand?

As I mentioned earlier, my background in the arts prepared me to think abstractly and broadly about what can be used as an art material. When I set up my first art studio, Chris Ofili’s paintings with elephant dung and Damien Hirst’s real shark floating in formaldehyde took the art world by storm, demonstrating just how far artists can push past the use of traditional art supplies. I happily made things with non-art materials like Valentine conversation hearts, resin (which comes from trees), and flowers collected from my garden. Wasn’t this better, and maybe more interesting, I thought, than spending tons of money on store-bought supplies?

Now here’s an interesting fact about store-bought art supplies: Food and natural materials are often in the ingredients. This is something to think about if you have a child with food allergies. For example: Play-doh (flour, salt), Crayola Colored Pencils (soy), Air-dry Clay (corn starch), and Crayola Washable Markers (corn syrup). If we’re to avoid food products in art then we need to consider these less obvious culprits. These ingredients aren’t included in package labels and are essentially hidden from consumers. Since food products are found in store-bought art supplies, I see very little difference in adding food to my own supplies.

Introducing my kids to natural materials is also far more interesting to me that exposing them to toxic materials. As such, we will occasionally use food for play or projects, and I’m more inclined to do so if it’s scraps, expired, or if the play/art supply will last for a long time. We do our best to recycle and return things to the earth. Some of the things we have used and made: flour and oil in cloud dough, rice flour in gluten-free cloud dough, rice in colored rice, flour in the best play dough recipe, wheat berries in our wheat berry sensory table, and sweetened condensed milk in milk paint.

Food for Play in schools: I don’t run a school, but in that context there’s a good chance that I would avoid using food for play due to allergies and a desire to respect the religious and personal perspectives of a diverse audience. When it comes to the school environment, I often look to my colleague, Deborah, at Teach Preschool. See the first article, below.

More thoughts on Food in Play

A Discussion on Food Use in the Early Education Classroom, Teach Preschool

Parents and Teachers Working Together: Should Food Be Used as Learning Materials, Early Childhood News (the discussion in the this article is so rich and will give you a lot of food for thought — no pun intended!)

Play with your food? Or not? My thoughts on Food in Play, Picklebums

Being Thankful for Food, Planet Smarty Pants

Using Food in Preschool, Interaction Imagination

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Layered Rainbow Colored Rice Jars

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

Yesterday I shared a recipe for colored rice, and today I’m sharing a fun and simple creative invitation to make a layered rainbow colored rice jar.

Like all things on TinkerLab, this is just a jumping off point and should act more as inspiration than doctrine. Offer your child the materials and then see what he or she comes up with. You may be surprised by the results!

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

Supplies: Rainbow Colored Rice Jar

  • Colored Rice – Recipe here
  • Funnel – I made a paper funnel by twirling a half-circle of paper into a funnel shape and then taping the edge shut.
  • Spoon
  • Glass or plastic jar

Preschool Art: Colored Rice Layer Jar Supplies

Rainbow Colored Rice Jar Set-up

I set up all of the materials on the table just as you see in the photo above. My kids were VERY eager to jump in and get started, and began filling the jars before I had a chance to grab an empty-jar version of the invitation. This set-up is super inviting, and MANY jars were filled that day.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

My kids, ages 3 and 5, figured out without any verbal cues that this was an invitation to fill their jars. They came up with their own color combinations and enjoyed the process so much that they foraged the kitchen for mason jars and anything else that could hold their colored rice.

A Classic Craft: Colored Rice Layer Jar

More Ways to Explore Colored Rice

  • Make it a Gift! Make these as gifts for family members
  • Vary the material: Try this with Colored Salt or Colored Sand, instead of rice.
  • Make a Sensory Tub: Pour all of your rainbow-colored rice into a big sensory tub and invite your child to play with it. Add funnels, bowls, and scoopers for extra entertainment. Add small character toys and pretend they live in the land of rainbows. The wheat berries in this sensory tub could easily be replaced with rice or colored sand.
  • Use the rice like glitter. Offer your child a sheet of paper, white craft glue, and a bowl of rice to sprinkle into the glue.

Preschool Art | Make Colored Rice

spreading out rice

After seeing so much lovely colored rice all over my Pinterest feed for ages, it was high time that we created our own colorful rice. And you, too, can make your own colored rice for an afternoon of sensory play or for filling clear jars with layers of rainbow rice like you see here.

Preschool Art: How to make Colored Rice

Why Colored Rice is Worth Making

  • It’s a natural play material
  • Kids love the sensory experience of sifting it through their hands
  • It’s economical
  • The supplies probably already live in your pantry
  • Kids can help make it
  • It can last a looooong time

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

Supplies for Colored Rice

  • White or Brown Rice
  • Vinegar
  • Food Coloring
  • Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors

TinkerLab tips

Can we use brown rice?

We used brown rice for this activity, and the colors are still vibrant.

What’s the rice : vinegar ratio? 

For each color that we made, we used 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar. That’s the ratio that you’ll want to work with (or experiment — we encourage that too!).

But rice is Food!! 

If you’re concerned about wasting food, check your pantry for old rice. That’s what we did, and low-and-behold, we had a bag that expired last year. Eeep. I wish we hadn’t missed the expiration date, but at least we could put that rice to good use!

Will my kids actually enjoy this?

Yes, I bet they will! I try to get my own kids involved in all the steps of our projects, and they enjoyed everything from this ro-sham-bo face-off to decide who would make which color of rice to finally playing with their colorful creation.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

If you’d like to make this recipe, simply click ‘Print” and you can save this in your recipe file.

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Preschool Art | Make Colored Rice
 
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Make your own colored rice for sensory play or art-making. This recipe makes one cup of colorful rice. Add more rice for more colors.
Supplies
  • 1 cup White or Brown Rice
  • 1 teaspoon Vinegar
  • ⅛ + teaspoon Food Coloring
  • Zip-up plastic bags or bowls and spoon for mixing the colors
Steps
  1. Fill a zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
  2. Scoop or pour about ⅛ teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
  3. Zip the bag shut
  4. Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
  5. Add more food coloring to reach the desired color.
  6. Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. Spread it out to expedite drying time. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.
  7. The rice take between 2 hours and a full day to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.

How to Make Colored Rice

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

  • Fill each zip-up bag with 1 cup of rice and 1 teaspoon of vinegar.
  • Scoop or pour about 1/8 teaspoon food coloring into the bag.
  • Zip the bag shut

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

  • Squeeze the bag and mix the rice all around until the food coloring is well distributed
  • Pour the colored rice onto a cookie sheet. To absorb the moisture and help the rice dry more quickly, line the tray with a paper towel or towel.

Preschool Art: Colored Rice

We ran out of cookie sheets, so we divided one in half by pulling a paper towel wall up between two colors. Our rice dried in about 5 hours. The rice will dry take up to 24 hours to dry, depending on your climate and humidity.

More Colored Rice

Check back tomorrow and we’ll share a Creative Table set-up using colored rice!

This recipe was inspired by Rainbow Rice via Happy Hooligans

Make a Fall-themed rice sensory bin, via Kids Activities Blog

Side-by-side comparison of dying rice with food coloring and liquid watercolors, via Fun at Home with Kids

 

 

 

TinkerLab Book Contest | Pin to Win

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate | TinkerLab.com

It’s been two days since my book came out, and I’ve been having the funnest time! Here are just a few of the cool things going on with the book:

  • It’s now available on Kindle
  • Yesterday it ranked #794 on Amazon (out of millions of books!)
  • All of the Amazon reviews so far are 5-star!

Thank you to each and every one of you who has invested in this book. I’d like to think that it’s a valuable resource for families and teachers of young children, and your reviews are showing me that all of those writing hours are paying off!

But wait, there’s more…

These are the things that are happening on our Blog Book Tour:

Coming up next on the Blog Tour are Red Ted Art (6/13), Not Just Cute (6/16), and Kids Activities Blog (6/17).

And then, my fabulous publisher, Roost Books, came up with this idea for a fun Pinterest contest:

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate  | TinkerLab.com

 

Pin to Win: How to Play

  1. Follow TinkerLab and Roost Books on Pinterest
  2. Fill out the entry form (below) so that we’ll be sure to catch your pins
  3. Pin either contest image from this post along with 3 or more of your favorite images from TinkerLab.com
  4. Fill your board with lots of Tinkering Inspiration. Be sure to tag your photos with #tinkerlab and #roostbooks
  5. Name the board TinkerLab so that we can easily find your pins
  6. Ends Sunday, June 22 at 9 PM EST.  No purchase necessary to win.

Thank you to everyone who joined this contest! Your boards are fantastic.

A winner has been selected! Congratulations to Allyson Becker —  you will be contacted shortly by Roost Books with details on how to collect your prize.

Join the Pin to Win Contest on Tinkerlab.com for a chance to win books and a Michael's Gift Certificate | TinkerLab.com

**Note: This post contains affiliate links for your convenience.

Book Launch Celebration

Book launch giveaways | TinkerLab.com

I can’t believe that June 10 has finally arrived! Maybe you’ve heard that writing a book is a whole lot of sweat and tears (yep – true) and now I can add that marketing a book is not for the faint of heart. Holy cow! I loved writing TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors, but it wasn’t without work and sacrifice. My in-laws, who put me and the kids up for five weeks so that I could write while they entertained my children, may attest to that!

Although I wouldn’t go quite this far, perhaps George Orwell says it best (this is George Orwell, after all):

Screen Shot 2014-06-09 at 10.32.01 PM

The good news is that this part of the struggle adventure is now behind me (until the next book – wink). Because I think it’s a pretty good story, and maybe you’ve wondered what kind of demon overtakes someone to write a book, I’ll give you a peek into my writing journey…

Before having children I was a director of education at a progressive contemporary art museum. To say that I loved my job is a huge understatement. I lived for that job and had so much love and respect for my co-workers and incredible volunteers.

But unexpectedly, when my daughter was born, I had so much trouble getting myself back to work. I kept putting off my return date because I didn’t want to walk away from either my job or my child. Conundrum! After a few months of my shenanigans, they graciously found a way for me to stay on part time to write curriculum and train docents, and it was the perfect marriage of family and work for me.

When my daughter was almost two, I picked up a copy of  The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. This kind of book — a parenting book that talked about how to set up a creative family lifestyle — was new to me, and I loved it!

In an AH-HA! moment I came to the conclusion that I wanted to write a book that would inspire families to nurture creativity in childhood through experiments and open-ended questions. Amanda Blake Soule had a blog, and this seemed like a good place for me to begin.

I had just finished training my last group of docents and it felt like a natural breaking point in my job. I could always come back to the work, I thought, and would test this new blogging thing out. Well, low and behold, that was almost four years ago to the day! The poetry in all of this is that Roost Books, publisher of The Creative Family, is now my publisher too. I get chills every time I think about this. The world works in funny ways.

To celebrate creativity, an experimenting mindset, and goals achieved, I’m co-hosting a fun giveaway today with some of my favorite bloggers…

Book launch giveaways | TinkerLab.com

This is a Facebook giveaway, so you’ll have to pop over there to enter.

Contest Details

Click over to Facebook to enter!

BOOK LAUNCH CELEBRATION. OVER $150 IN PRIZES!

To celebrate the book launch of the Tinkerlab book and the newest book from quirkymomma.com, we’re co-hosting a round robin of wonderful giveaways. 9 Facebook pages have come together to offer books and other goodies to some lucky winners.

TINKERLAB GIVEAWAY: We’re giving away two separate prizes: one copy of TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (http://amzn.to/1kULIMC) and one copy of 101 Kids Activities that are the Bestest, Funnest Ever (http://amzn.to/1kULIMC) *affiliate links

Share your TinkerLab book on Instagram

If you have (or plan to get) a copy of my book, I’d like to invite you to share a photo of the book, your child doing an activity from the book, or something that the book inspired.

Upload your photo to Instagram and tag it with #tinkerlabbook and tag me at @tinkerlab, and I’ll do my best to add your image to this roundup of photos.

More details here.

 

 

TinkerLab Blog Tour 2014

TinkerLab Blog Tour 2014 | Sneak Peeks and Giveaways!

I’m so excited to announce the TinkerLab Book Blog Tour! If you’ve never followed one of these before, here’s how it works: each day for a little over a month, you can find cool insights into TinkerLab: A Hands-on Guide for Little Inventors (affiliate link) on a different blog, with candid reviews, giveaways, projects from the book, and more!

Such an Amazing Line-up! TinkerLab Blog Tour 2014

While I’ve known about the blog line-up for while, I just typed it up for the blog tour graphic (above) and I’m giddy all over again about the talent in this list. First of all, I want to thank all of these busy bloggers for volunteering to share my book. They’re parents and educators who have kids to care for, other life responsibilities (just like the rest of us!), and of course their own blogs to write. I’m hip to the fact that it’s remarkable to see all these stellar bloggers in one spot, and I’m so grateful!

Related to that, many of these bloggers focus on kids activities, mindful parenting, crafting with kids, and education. If any of these blogs are new-to-you, you might want to start a Pinterest board or some other way to collect them all in one place. They’re that good!

In addition to the blog tour, we have a few other book launch tricks up our sleeve! Stay tuned for info about a Pinterest Party (with a big ol’ prize to make it extra fun) and Facebook giveaways. Be sure to click the Pinterest and Facebook links so you don’t miss out! We also have a real-life Book Tour in the works. Click over to the Events page for up-to-date info on how you can join us!

TinkerLab Blog Tour 2014 – Clickable List

June 10      The Artful Parent

June 11     Toddler Approved

June 12     Creative with Kids

June 13     Red Ted Art

June 16     Not Just Cute

June 17     Kids Activities Blog

June 18     Rookie Moms

June 19     Peanut Blossom

June 20     Modern Parents, Messy Kids

June 23     The Imagination Tree

June 24     Babble Dabble Do

June 25     Pink and Green Mama

June 26     Make and Takes

June 30     Playful Learning

July 3     Imagine Childhood

July  4     A Mom with a Lesson Plan

July 7     Nurture Store

July 9     Simple Kids

July 10     Kids Stuff World

July 11     Let’s Lasso the Moon

July 14     Ain’t No Mom Jeans

July 15     Fun at Home with Kids

TBD     Childhood 101

And finally, if you’d like to order your own copy of the book, pop on over to Amazon and secure your copy today. If you order before June 10, you can lock in the pre-order rate and your book will ship out on June 10! Thanks, friends!

Cool Science Experiments | Make Curds and Whey

Science Demonstration: How to Make Curds and Whey | TinkerLab

Are you looking for cool science experiments? Here’s a neat science demonstration for all the concoction-lovers out there: How to Separate Curds from Whey.

With just two ingredients, it’s incredibly simple and a great introduction to how some cheeses are made. Furthermore, you could make this a literary adventure by bringing this popular nursery rhyme to life: Little Miss Muffet, who sat on her tuffet while eating her curds and whey.

Science Demonstration: How to Make Curds and Whey  | TinkerLab

For the past few weeks the girls and I (now ages 3.5 and almost 6) have been making weekly trips to the library. We look forward the familiar walk past the duck pond and will occasionally dilly dally over popsicles on a hot afternoon.

Our most common ritual is to scan all of last week’s books in (the library is remarkably high tech!) and then begin our quest for 10 new books each. My three-year old inevitably grabs all of the leader books from the seasonal shelf while my older daughter bee-lines for the Rainbow Magic books. After this enthusiastic start, we’ll rally toward the picture book section for some serendipitous finds. Every week is a reading adventure.

Last week I made a little detour toward the kids’ science section and picked up Super Science Concoctions. Does this sound like me, or what? One of the chapters of my new book is even called Concoctions! So, yeah, I had to have it.

The book is full of so many cool science experiments, and I wanted to start with this simple science demonstration. While it’s a demonstration, meaning that it show how a phenomena happens, it could easily be turned into an experiment.

I’ll share some science experiment suggestions with you at the end of this post.

Supplies: Curds and Whey Science Demonstration

  1. Milk- 1/2 cup
  2. Vinegar – 1 tablespoon
  3. Small pot
  4. Strainer
  5. Bowl/s

Science Demonstration: How to Make Curds and Whey  | TinkerLab

How to Make Curds and Whey

  1. Pour milk and vinegar into a small pot and cook on a medium heat until the curds (thick, cottage cheese looking substance) floats to the top of the pot and separates from the whey (thin liquid). Watch the pot closely as this shouldn’t take long.
  2. Strain the curds and whey through a strainer over a bowl
  3. Congratulations! You’ve now made curds and whey!

Science Demonstration: How to Make Curds and Whey  | TinkerLab

The Science bit

Milk is a colloid, meaning that the different particles in it, namely curds (casein) and whey (liquid), blend together smoothly and won’t separate on their own. However, when you combine the casein (protein) of the milk with the acid of vinegar, it curdles the milk and the casein turns into chunky curds because it can’t mix with vinegar.

More Things to do with Curds and Whey

  • Save the whey for cooking if you’d like. I wasn’t brave enough to, but here are some things to make with sour whey.
  • Gather the curds in your hand, squeeze them together, and rinse them.
  • Form a little ball. The book suggested squeezing the curds into a sculptural shape, but ours just wouldn’t comply. A ball was about all we could do.
  • Marvel at the wonder of separating curds and whey.
  • Taste your curds. How are they? Add some salt and see what you think now.
  • Once dry, paint your curd ball
  • Check out this easy recipe for making your own cheese from milk and vinegar!

Science Demonstration: How to Make Curds and Whey  | TinkerLab

Cool Curds and Whey Science Experiments

  1. Change the quantities of vinegar or milk
  2. Use different kinds of vinegar
  3. Replace vinegar with another acid such as lemon juice
  4. Use a different kind of milk. Compare the results from whole milk, skim milk, and heavy cream. And what about soy milk?
  5. Cook the concoction in the oven
  6. What else could you try? Make a graph to compare your results.