DIY Water Wall

collection of water wall materials

Does it feel like summer in your part of the world? It’s heating up here, and my kids have been enjoying this easy and inexpensive new backyard water feature. All you need is a nearby water source and a wall to attach it to.

I’ve been inspired by Let the Children Play once again! Last summer Jenny gave us the idea for our mud pie kitchen (and here’s her mud kitchen), and other outdoor hands-on activities that get my kids thinking and building in the fresh air. Her water wall post (full of water wall inspiration from around the web) has been sitting in my mind since she posted it in October (she’s in Australia where it’s bloody hot in October), and it’s altogether responsible for the hours of fun my kids and neighborhood friends had with our newest backyard water feature. Thank you, Jenny!

My older daughter helped me build this one afternoon last week while my toddler was napping. She loved the responsibility of holding the bottles steady while I drilled and took a lot of pride in our finished water wall. It’s not gorgeous, but it’s a lot of fun and an upcycler’s DIY dream.

water wall build

To replicate this upcycled playscape in your own garden or patio, I’ll break this down into some simple steps.

collection of water wall materials

Four Basic Materials

  1. Plastic bottles
  2. Screws (this nifty kit came from IKEA)
  3. Drill
  4. exacto knife

With the exacto knife, cut a hole in the side of the bottle. The hole will be large enough for you to fit your hand into it so that you can easily position and drill in the screws.

score bottle and add screws

Using the exacto knife, score an “X” on the side of a bottle and push a screw through the “X” from the inside. Repeat one more time so that you have two screws poking through the bottle.

Screw the bottles to a fence or wall. Tilt them slightly downward to help the water pour through. You might have to shift the bottles around or cut the holes a bit more to make the water wall work properly. Test as you go.

water wall testing

Test it out to make sure it works. Add a bucket at the bottom to catch the water, which can then be added to plants or returned to the top of the water wall.

Invite some friends over to play.

water wall play

Set up a water-filling station and add some pitchers, watering cans, and cups.

And be prepared for eye-opening, open-ended fun.

 

Painting Birdhouses

toddler painting birdhouse

The last time my in-laws visited, they left my girls with these cute little wooden birdhouses. I tucked them away to paint on their next visit, but my 3 year old couldn’t wait that long. In fact, about a month after I stored these, and an hour before leaving the house to meet friends in the park, my daughter suddenly remembered the birdhouses that were, as far as I could tell, out of mind.

“I want to paint birdhouses today!” she said. After explaining, for the 80th time that starting a sentence with “I want” isn’t okay with me, I further shared that there was no way we could get the materials out, set up, paint, clean up, and be out the door in time.

Well, in case you ever find yourself in a similar situation, it can almost be done. We were ten minutes late.toddler painting birdhouse

Materials

  • Wooden birdhouses. My MIL found these at Michael’s, and I think they’re very reasonably priced.
  • Acrylic Paint
  • Paintbrushes
  • Paper Plates
  • Bird seed
  • Funnel or paper + tape for a DIY funnel

toddler painting birdhouse

Paint

Squeeze paint onto throwaway paper plates. Paint as desired. The challenge of painting a 3-D thing is entirely different from painting a flat surface, and there’s something magical about it. If you have a child who doesn’t normally enjoy painting, I’d suggest you try painting something with width and depth and see what happens.

By the way, acrylic paint will almost never wash out of clothes, so be sure to cover up properly.

birdhouse materials

Fill with Seeds

Unless the paint is quite thick, acrylic paint dries really fast and you could move on to this step within an hour. When the paint dries, the bird house is ready to be filled. If you don’t have a funnel, you can easily make one by spinning a piece of copy paper into a cone shape and taping the side shut.

filling birdhouse with seed

Hang

The last step is to hang it. If you have squirrels be sure to hang it somewhere that squirrels won’t reach it. Our squirrels are sneaky and go almost anywhere birds go, so unfortunately our seed has been poached…once again. But I’m determined to attract some cute little songbirds around our house one of these days.

More Bird Feeder Inspiration

Juggling with Kids made these cool cookie cutter birdfeeders

If I were a bird, I’m not sure I’d venture close to this feeder

Biodegradable Orange Bird Feeder from the lovely Rhythm of the Home

Recycled bird feeder, made from a plastic bottle and a couple wooden spoons, over at Heck Fridays

Word Drawing Game

drawing game preschool

Do your kids like to draw? Do you ever play drawing games?

The other day my kids and I were cleaning out the garage. Well, really it was me while they loitered, moved things around, and made a lot of noise.

My 3-year old found an old, but never-before-opened game of a Cranium. She adores opening new packages and ran into the house for a pair of scissors.

Once the box was open and she was done exploring its contents, she asked if we could play. I love how open-minded and full of enthusiasm children can be.

If you look at the packaging I think it recommends this game for age 18 and older, so it wasn’t exactly age-appropriate, but we played a version that she enjoyed and I think it could work in some capacity for kids of all ages.

drawing games preschool

I searched through the deck of cards for something that she had some chance of drawing (and understanding). Which meant “no” on Devil’s Food Cake, Card Shark, and Wicked Witch of the East, and “yes” on Mermaids, Bubble Bath, and Potty (short for Potty Training).

My daughter can’t read yet, so this is how we played…

I pulled out a card and read it to her while she looked on (and maybe picked up on how letters form words). Then she drew it, to the best of her ability.

This part was the most fun for me, and in some cases frustrating for her. In the picture above, she was challenged to draw a mermaid and asked me if she could look at a picture of one. I pulled up a drawing of Disney’s Little Mermaid, she gave it her best effort, exclaimed that it looked nothing like a mermaid, and this exercise ended with, “it’s your turn.”

Then I drew one (a potty) while she guessed what I was drawing. Despite years of drawing classes, my drawing barely looked like a potty and it took her forever to make a correct guess. I think it helped her to see me struggle, showing that we can’t always create the things that our brains envision. At least I hope that’s what happened.

Back to her…she got to draw bubble bath…

drawing game preschool

Again, I was so curious to see how she would tackle this challenge. She chose a blue crayon….

drawing game preschool

Drew some water along the left side of the paper and bubbles on the right side. Ah, a bubble bath! We played a total of about 5 drawings before she was done.

If I were to do this again, I’d make my own cards with words of things that are in her drawing vocabulary: flowers, people, rockets, and rainbows. And I’d include a few things just outside of her drawing ability: house, bike, tree, bunny.

But venus flytraps and Hawaiian shirts may have to wait another 15 years.

More drawing games

Art Dice: A fun tool for creating randomly-created art. Also good for teaching shapes, colors, lines, etc.

Slide Drawing: A roll of paper and some crayons turn a slide into more than a downhill ride

Drawing Shadows: Play with sidewalk chalk on a sunny morning or afternoon

Organic Shape Monsters: You just need some string, a drawing tool, and a big imagination.

Hole inspiration: Draw around holes cut into a sheet of paper (The Artful Parent)

Challenge Drawings: Cut out shapes of paper and see what you can turn them into (The Artful Parent)

Pick and Draw Art Game: A deck of drawing cards reviewed by The Chocolate Muffin Tree

A simple way to learn how to Draw Circles from Lessons Learnt Journal

Stuck in a waiting room? Save this fun waiting room drawing idea (Mama Smiles)

Do you have a favorite drawing game or post about a drawing game?


Making Paper with Kids

how to make paper with kids


Easy step for making paper with kidsHave you ever made your own paper?
  It requires some patience and preparation, but it’s not tricky and the process is worth exploring with children or anyone who’s curious about how to make paper.

After my toddler, Baby Rainbow, created a sensory bin full of paper and water, I saw an opportunity to upcycle that mushy paper pulp into some new-to-us paper. We had most of the materials handy, but had to make a trip to the hardware store to buy a small screen.

The hardware store happens to be across the street from an ice cream parlor, so my kids were okay with that.

Two ice cream cones later, we returned home, put my youngest down for a nap, and got busy with some paper-making…

Let’s start with the materials (full printable recipe at the end of this post):

 

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Screen (we bought a $10 sliding window screen)
  • Large Tub
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it’s staple and tape-free
  • Blender
  • Small seeds (optional)

how to make paper with kidsWhile Little R napped, big sister N and I talked about how paper is made while we shredded the paper up into little pieces (roughly 2″ square). She was non-plussed by the texture and asked me to finish the job.

how to make paper with kids

To get into the spirit and expand our knowledge of paper making, we watched a Mr. Roger’s episode about paper making. If you like this video you’ll also love learning about how crayons are made. Alternatively, here’s the video-free step-by-step (all from PBS Kids).

how to make paper with kids

After watching the film, N messed around with the supplies, inventing her own way to use them. We also picked up the gloves for gardening, and I suppose they were part of the paper-making costume.

I enjoyed watching her imaginative game, but back to paper making…

how to make paper

We added paper to the blender, covered it with water, and ran the blender on a low speed. Since we’re about to squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can’t really have too much water, so if the blender doesn’t move easily, add more water.

how to make paper

Run the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Ours is kind of chunky, mostly because Baby R was sleeping and I didn’t want to push my luck!

She woke up anyway.

how to make paper with kids

When Little R woke up, she wanted to play with the pulp right away. She squeezed it, scooped it, and carried bowls full of pulp into the living room.

how to make paper

Once she was done playing with the pulp, we spread it thinly and uniformly across the screen and then layered a cloth diaper on top to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub.

how to make paper

I placed one hand firmly on top of the cloth diaper while I flipped the screen over onto a work surface. 

how to make paper

I removed the screen and put the cloth with paper pulp in a spot where it could dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.

how to make paper

Later the next day, this is what it looked like. Not your typical paper, but beautiful nonetheless. We haven’t done much with it yet, but I’m thinking some Sharpies or watercolor paint might be a good fit. And with the seeds embedded in the pulp, we could cut these up and give them away to friends, with the invitation to plant them in their gardens.

How to Make Paper with Kids
 
Author:
Recipe type: Sensory, DIY
 
Making paper teaches children how one of our most ubiquitous materials -- PAPER -- is made, and it's also a fun sensory project for kids of all ages.
Supplies
  • Screen (we bought a $10 sliding window screen)
  • Large Tub
  • Washcloth/rag/burp cloth/large piece of felt
  • Water
  • Torn paper from newspaper, tissue paper, magazines, etc. Be sure that it's staple and tape-free
  • Blender
  • Small seeds (optional)
Steps
  1. Shred the paper up into little pieces (roughly 2" square)
  2. Add paper to the blender, cover it with water, and run the blender on a low speed. Since you'll squeeze all the water out of the paper pulp, you can't really have too much water, so if the blender doesn't move easily, add more water.
  3. Run the blender a little bit faster until you get the paper mixture into a nice, smooth pulp. Add more water if your pulp is still chunky.
  4. Spread the pulp in a thin and uniform layer across the screen
  5. Cover this with a rag or cloth diape to absorb the extra water, while also pushing the water through the screen into the tub.
  6. Place one hand firmly on top of the cloth and then flip the screen over onto a work surface.
  7. Removed the screen and put the cloth plus paper pulp in a spot where it could dry, undisturbed, for about a day. The thicker the paper, the longer it will take to dry.

 

Any other ideas for us?

More Handmade Paper Inspiration

Allison of No Time for Flashcards used and Immersion Blender to make Recycled Paper Hearts.

Jen of PaintCutPaste made Handmade Blooming Paper.

Rebekah of The Golden Gleam made Recycled Paper Ornaments for Christmas, but you could easily make these with ornaments of just about any shape.

Kristi of Creative Connections for Kids made Wildflower Paper Ornaments (using the same screen as us!).

Melitza of Play Activities made Earth Day Seeded Paper.

How to Watercolor Bunnies with Kids

how to watercolor with kids

Watercolor is a medium that can be as demanding and temperamental as those who choose to paint with it. But it is a colorful and exciting medium all the same – well suited to describing the many moods of the subject, as well as those of the artist wielding the brush.

–Jean Burman

how to watercolor

Do your kids like to paint? Have you had success with watercolors? Traditional dry paint palettes of color are what most of us purchase for first watercolor experiments, but my go-to supply, and one of my favorite kid art supplies period, is liquid watercolor.

Watercolors are one of my favorite mediums to paint with, and somehow I forgot about that. I became an acrylic painter in high school, and then an oil painter after college. But the immediacy of watercolors — the flowing of colors from one into another and their quick-drying quality — makes it so appealing to the parent of young children who are equally quick and impatient.

I don’t have days to wait for paint to dry and I don’t have to worry myself over toxic paint stinking up my house. But watercolors are perfect and my kids adore them too.

how to watercolor with kidsTo set this up, I removed the usual plastic sheet that protects our art table and replaced it with red rosin paper. Red Rosin Paper is heavy sheathing paper usually used as a first step to cover new roofs, and you can find it in hardware stores. It comes on a huge roll, it’s economical, and it was perfect for absorbing the watercolor paint that didn’t make it onto the art paper.

Materials

  • Table cover
  • Watercolor Paper. This paper from Seth Cole is what we used. It’s 140 lb. (it’s thick and heavy = good), professional grade, acid-free, archival, and economical.
  • Liquid Watercolors. We like Sax Concentrated Liquid Watercolors from Amazon.
  • Assorted small paintbrushes (sable or synthetic fibers)
  • Container for watercolors — I like to use an ice cube tray. A styrofoam egg carton also works well.
  • Water cups or cans
  • Cloth or Paper towels

We filled our ice cube tray with every color we own (except black). I avoided black because if it’s not used with discretion it quickly muddles up all the colors. We talked about warm and cool colors, and divided our colors into these two camps: on one side there was red, orange, yellow, and sparkly red. The other side held lime green, turquoise, blue, sparkly blue, and violet.

Set up your towels next to the paint and brushes and use them to absorb extra water or paint of the brush.

how to watercolor with kids

I like to paint across from or next to my daughter because I find that her own ideas expand when she sees me work through my ideas. I never paint on her painting, but I may test some ideas out on my own paper that can help her come up with her own solutions.

We explored two kinds of watercolor painting: wet on dry and wet on wet. Wet on dry is the process of painting on dry paper. And wet on wet is the process of painting on wet paper. She painted a little wet on dry, and then I demonstrated wet on wet for her. She’s done this before, but seeing it again got her excited and she wanted to see the colors expand on her paper. You can see the wet on wet blue dots on the left side of her paper.

how to watercolor with kids

I also experimented with tapping the side of my wet, paint-loaded brush to create dots of paint all over my page, and she did the same. She loved this, actually, and thought it was hilarious when the paint splattered her face. Good lesson in paint control!

If you’re new to watercolor painting, it helps to talk with your child about gently dragging a loaded (full) brush against the edge of the paint container before painting. This helps keep paint puddles to a minimum and also teaches your child how to control the amount of paint that goes onto the paper. I wouldn’t worry about this too much with really young children, but be three or four, your child should be able to grasp this concept.

how to watercolor with kidsAll along, her plan was to make a bunny garland to hang in our window, so we let the paintings dry and I made  bunny template that she was happy with.

how to watercolor with kidsWe placed it over the paper to see how it might look. Love it!

how to watercolor with kidsAnd then I traced them on the back of the paper. The hardest part of this process was cutting the bunnies out. Not hard, exactly, but just to warn you, this step took a fair amount of time.

how to watercolor with kidsAnd there’s our first batch of bunnies, waiting to be strung up in the window.

I’m not sure exactly how we’ll hang them. Any ideas for us? I was thinking about gluing baker’s twine to the backs, but I’d like them to be somewhat archival so that we can use them year after year.

*************************

If you enjoy watercolor painting, you’ll want to bookmark Spiral Watercolor Streamer, Straw-blown Watercolor Painting,and Candle Wax Watercolor Resist and you will want to check out The Artful Parent’s great list of 11 Fun Watercolor Projects for Kids.

 

 

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?

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?

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?

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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?

5 Easy Steps to Invent a Recipe with Kids

invent a recipe with kids

Do you like to cooking with kids or do you yearn to cook with your child? Today we’re sharing five easy steps to invent a recipe with kids, which will get you into a creative cooking mindset. Think Master Chef + little kids = a fun afternoon.

But you might wonder, “why would I want to invent a recipe when I can easily follow a recipe?” The answer is that inventing recipes instills children with confidence to invent their own solutions to a problem, encourages independent thinking and problem solving skills, and teaches children how to find their way around a kitchen.

5 easy steps 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…

Cooking with Kids: Invent a Recipe

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?

Magical Plastic Bag Experiment

leak proof plastic bag experiment

Magical Plastic Bag Experiment | TinkerLab

Here’s a fun experiment that won’t take a lot of time, and it’s more than likely that you have all the “ingredients” around the house. I did this with my three and a half year old, and it would be relevant for preschoolers and elementary-age children.

The idea that we’re testing here is what will happen if we poke a sharp pencil through a plastic bag of water. Will the water leak through the holes? Will the water spill out? Or will the bag reseal around the pencils, keeping the water inside?

When my 3-year old daughter (N) and I tried this out, we worked with the question, “what will happen if we poke pencils into a bag full of water?” That seemed more age-appropriate and tangible for her.

Magical Plastic Bag Experiment | TinkerLab

 Materials

  • Zip-up Bag
  • Water
  • Sharpened Pencils

We filled a zip-up bag about half-way with water and sealed it up. I held the bag high over a sink and N poked the pencils straight through the bag, from one side to the other. This is where my fancy photography skills come into play, holding the bag with one hand and snapping a photo with the other. Are you impressed?

Make sure that the pencil doesn’t keep traveling through the bag or you’ll have water leaks.

Magical Plastic Bag Experiment | TinkerLab

Keep adding pencils until you’ve had enough. Before removing the pencils, take a moment to talk about what you see. When the pencil goes into the bag, the bag seems to magically seal itself around the pencil.

Magical Plastic Bag Experiment | TinkerLab

When you’re done, remove the pencils over a sink.

The Science Behind the Experiment

Plastic bags are made out of polymers, chains of molecules that are flexible and give the bag its stretchiness. When the sharp pencil pokes through the bag, the stretchy plastic hugs around the pencil, creating a watertight seal around the pencil…and the bag doesn’t leak.

More Polymer Fun

Now I’m really excited for us to try poking skewers through balloons without popping them (QuestaCon Science Squad) and make our own kazoos from toilet paper rolls and plastic bags (Kazoologist). Steve Spangler Science is also an amazing place to go for projects like this, and you’ll find endless polymer-related ideas over there.

You could also make your own polymer by mixing up a batch of fun and flubbery Gak (a mixture of water, white glue, and borax). We’ve done this multiple times, and my kids can’t get enough of it.

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