“E” is for Experiment

My bloggy friend Deborah over at Teach Preschool just reached her 20,000th Facebook fan. Can you imagine? TWENTY-THOUSAND! She’s awesome in so many ways, and is especially extraordinary in that she runs a preschool and also finds/makes/squirrels away time to tweet/facebook/blog and generally keep the whole online preschool community together in one special place. Not to mention she’s one of the kindest bloggers out there.To celebrate this big social networking milestone, Deborah invited her early childhood education friends to contribute a letter, in the form of a blog post, to the “ABC’s of Teaching Preschool.” Given the nature of my blog, “E” for Experiment is what I have for you today. Oh, how I love a good creative experiment!

So can you imagine my surprise when I spotted this very truck TONIGHT on our evening stroll? The kids were in the wagon, happily playing with handfulls of leaves, and I did the biggest double-take. Circled back down the street and snapped this shot.

Serendipity, right?

Experimentation is at the heart of learning. When children are curious about something new they may ask about it, test it, try to figure it out, look at it from a different perspective, fail, or try something different. Last night I watched my almost one-year old work at putting a lid on a bottle for close to ten minutes. She flipped it over, moved her hand to get the right grip on the lid, missed the mouth of the botter, made contact, succeeded, put it down to clap (!), and then did it all over again.

About eight times.

Experimentation.

Here are three of our all-time favorite kitchen experiments–a little sample of what makes us happy at Casa TinkerLab. There are MANY more — just type “experiment” into the search bar and see what comes up! If you have a favorite experiment, I’d love to know what it is — by no means have we exhausted the possibilities.

Corncob Popcorn Experiment

Perfect for fall. Collect some dried corncobs and pop them in the microwave.

The Butter Experiment

Grown-ups may have to do most of the work, but the results are pretty spectacular.

Vinegar and Baking Soda

This project is so much fun that you’ll want to buy a gallon of vinegar in preparation for the requests for “more.”

If you’re not already a Teach Preschool Facebook fan, click right here and join the 20,000+ party.

Painting on Ice Cream

If you live in the U.S., there’s a good chance that you’re in the middle of a terrible heat wave. While I can’t make it cooler (sorry about that), I’d like to offer up this cool lesson in color mixing…and it all happens right on top of a chilly scoop of ice cream, sure to help you forget the heat for at least 5 minutes.

Tools

  • Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Food Coloring. Because I like to keep it natural, my new favorite food coloring is India Tree Liquid Natural Decorating Colors. They’re pricier than supermarket food coloring, but they last a long time, the colors are wonderful, and you’ll feel good about feeding your family with natural coloring.
  • Bowls
  • Ice Cream Scooper (optional)
  • Assorted sprinkles and syrup (optional)

Drop food coloring directly onto the ice cream.
Blend it around in whatever way you like.
After you marvel at the rainbow colors on your ice cream, pour on the jimmies, rainbow sprinkles. colored sugar or syrup. Yummy and cool.

Enjoy!

Shopping for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

This magnificent butterfly finds a little heap of dirt and sits still on it; but man will never on his heap of mud keep still.  — Joseph Conrad

Did you know that yesterday was International Mud Day? One of my fondest childhood memories is pretending to feed my friend Alexandra’s cat the ooey gooey mud pies we made in her garden, and my hope is to instill my own child with a similar joy for mucking around and being comfortable in nature…and mud, even!

I wrote about our new Mud Pie Kitchen two weeks ago, and since it’s still a popular place to hang out I thought we could move into phase two of our kitchen remodel and talk about mud pie kitchen accessories.

This, of course, involved an educational trip to the Goodwill for some new tools and appliances and N was eager to go.

Thrifting for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

My two little kids and I scooted quickly past the fragile knick knacks and dishes (phew!), and made our way to the metal and wood aisle. N picked out everything you see in the basket while I acted as her guide, making suggestions and occasionally vetoing her choices (she really wanted that pizza wheel up there, which was smartly taped off).

The biggest score was a pink and blue plastic toy called the Fluff Factory, which you can see buried in her basket. It was reminiscent of a meat grinder, and I couldn’t wait to find out what its original purpose was. It turns out that it’s used to fill teddy bears with fluff. How awesome is that? N had no idea of its purpose, but she saw potential in it and I love that even more!

 

Setting up the Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

When we got home there was the requisite costume change into the tutu bathing suit (for her, not me) before unveiling the new pots and pans. And while these new goods were for our MUD pie kitchen, it was all water play without a speck of mud in sight. N loved her new coffee pot (just $3!), kid-sized REAL frying pan, and of course, the Fluff Factory. To accomodate our expanding collection of dishes and such, we added some more counter space, which helped tremendously.

She spent the rest of the afternoon pouring water and dropping flower petals into the little factory and turning the crank to push the water through. Problem solving at its finest. Oh, and maybe next time we’ll actually play with mud!

Mud Pie Kitchen Accessory Ideas

  • Crates
  • Old Tables
  • End tables (they can act as stoves and fridges)
  • Wooden spoons
  • Small pots and Pans
  • Shiny Dishes
  • Jell-o molds
  • Measuring spoons and cups
  • Buckets
  • Large Tub (to act as a sink)
  • Nearby hose

Mud Pie Kitchen Accessory Tips

  • Shop for materials at a second hand store. You never know what you will find, which can help you (and children) see the potential in surprising objects.
  • Involve children in the design of the kitchen. Purchasing her own kitchen supplies raised N’s eagerness to use them. She talked about playing with her new pots all the way home and couldn’t get into her bathing suit fast enough.
  • Include interactive Tools that can work like appliances

See our Mud Pie Kitchen Series

How to Set Up a Mud Pie Kitchen

Mud Pie Kitchen Ideas

 

How to Set Up a Mud Pie Kitchen

This may not look like much, but we’ve been testing our mud pie kitchen and getting a fresh perspective on what works. It used to reside in another part of our yard, and I thought that moving it might make it more accesible. And it did!! I fashioned the stove/sink from two wooden crates I found at a craft store last summer. Next, mud pie tools were gathered from our sand box: buckets, bowls, and a jello mold picked up at a second hand store for a dollar. We got the measuring cups at our last trip to IKEA, and carried pots and pans outside from the indoor play kitchen.

I filled the big green tub with water and we called it the “sink,” and N got busy making soup. She owned the kitchen right from the start and there was no end to what she wanted to create.

The sink got muddy pretty quickly, so she requested another pail full of clean water. Some kids love the mud, mine tolerates it.

The kitchen was set up next to some flowery bushes, which made for a convenient food pantry.

She carefully pressed flowers into the mud like sprinkles on a cake. The contrast was gorgeous. We started this pretty late in the day, and she would have played out there all night if she could have. She actually told me that she wanted to skip dinner because she wasn’t hungry. So I guess the whole test kitchen thing went well!

When she was all done, we poured the dirt back into the ground and the kitchen is ready for our next cooking adventure.

What I learned about making a Mud Pie Kitchen

  • The Mud Pie Kitchen is an incredible way to encourage imaginative play, which can lead to creative thinking, curiosity, and experimentation
  • The kitchen does not have to be elaborate to work
  • It should be child-height
  • It’s nice to have multiple levels or surfaces to work on
  • Set it up directly in or next to dirt/mud/sand
  • Have a water source nearby
  • Fill a large container with water
  • Useful tools: spoons, bowls, spades, colander, pitcher
  • Use real kitchen tools to reinforce that play is work (to children, it is!)
  • Include something fancy like a jello mold
  • If there aren’t natural materials nearby (like flower petals), forage for them ahead of time

See our Mud Pie Kitchen Series

Mud Pie Kitchen Ideas

Shopping for Mud Pie Kitchen Accessories

Science Projects for Kids | Rock Candy

This fun science project for kids is easy to set up with sugar, skewers, and a few kitchen tools.

How to make Rock Candy

We’ve been making rock candy, and in the true spirit of experimentation we made three batches (and hope that we finally got it right!). There are so many ways to get this confection started, and I’ll share a few thoughts and links for those of you who might want to give it a try. The thing about rock candy that appealed to me is that the ingredients are simple, and I already had them all on hand (Yipee!).

Rock Candy: Ingredient List

adapted from Rock Candy Recipes via The Exploratorium and Science Bob

  • 2+ cups sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • sauce pot
  • wooden spoon
  • clean, narrow jar/s or glass/es
  • wooden skewers
  • clothes pins
  • candy thermometer or digital thermometer that reaches 240 degrees F
  • wax paper
  • food coloring (optional)
  • vanilla extract or other flavoring (optional)

At least 3 hours ahead of time:

Snip the ends off your skewers so they’re not sharp. Dip the ends of the skewers into a simple syrup mixture (sugar + water, 2 sugar: 1 water, cooked until the sugar dissolves) and then roll the skewers in sugar. Set aside on wax paper until dry. This might not take long at all, but we gave it three hours. If you don’t have skewers, you could use the string method (see photo below). The skewer or string act as a “seed” that attracts the cooling sugar to adhere to it.

(String method: Dip your cotton string in the sugar solution, roll it in sugar, and allow it to completely dry. This could take 24+ hours.)

Steps: Rock Candy with Kids

I don’t normally allow my daughter to cook boiling hot things at the stove (do you?), but she begged me to get involved and she did a great job! What are your thoughts on this? Any tips for kitchen safety that also allow for kids to fully participate?

  • Boil 1 cup water in a small saucepan
  • Slowly add 2 cups of sugar and mix with a wooden spoon until sugar dissolves
  • Cook sugar solution until it’s 240 degrees F (also known as the soft ball stage in candy making). Some rocky candy recipes say to simply boil the solution until the sugar dissolves. I tried this and it didn’t work for me, but let me know if it works for you!
  • Remove from the heat

  • Add food coloring. Be generous.
  • Add flavor (we made one batch with pure vanilla extract and another with real lemon extract). We added about 1 tbsp. lemon, and 1/2 tsp vanilla.

  • Dangle sugar-covered skewer into sugar solution so that it’s about 2/3 of the way down the jar.
  • Attach a clothespin to the top to keep it in place. We put 2-3 skewers in the jars. I wonder if this will be too crowded to work?

And now we wait. Somewhere between 3 and 7 days!! Already feeling impatient, but I’m sure it’ll be worth it! Sugar will form on the surface, and I’ve read that you can scoop it out and enjoy it while waiting for the rock candy to form.

Well, the truth is that we couldn’t really wait 🙂 Before washing the pot, we coated a few spoons with the hot candy. And as soon as they cooled, we were treated to homemade vanilla and lemon lollipops!

More Science Projects for Kids

If you enjoyed this project, you’ll love this article: Science Fair Project Ideas.

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Join our community and you’ll learn:

  • How to simplify your life and make more room for creativity
  • How to make hands-on making a part of your everyday life
  • Easy, actionable ways to raise creative kids

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Resources

Candy Stages, from The Exploratorium

Rock Candy Crystal Kit, from Steve Spangler. In case you don’t want to mess around with the messiness of this project.

 

Flour Sifter

We have a make-shift sensory tub that often makes its way into the middle of our kitchen where we conduct experiments, make “cakes and pies,” and mess around with the feel of stuff. Some of the things we’ve filled it with are dry beans, oobleck, jello, vinegar and baking soda, and rice.

I’m always on the lookout for neat-o objects that might challenge and delight my child, and when I saw this flour sifter in the market I had a feeling she’d love it. And she does. Loves it. I’ve used it maybe once (I guess I’m not picky about eating lumpy cake), so if we were to mark ownership based on usage, it’s definitely hers!

I set her up with a couple plastic containers full of flour, a measuring cup, measuring spoons, a soup spoon, and a crank-style sifter. Once she got to work, she poured a few cups of flour into the sifter and started cranking away, making some great crusty ol’ noises.

She dumped out the flour dregs that didn’t spin through.

And then she had a pile of flour ready to mold into a tiny mountain. This process repeated a handful of times, just long enough for me to do some dishes and start dinner.

What other kitchen tools do you play with?

This post was shared with Art for Little Hands

Egg Dyeing Experiments

News break :) If you like TinkerLab, please click on over here and give us your vote.

We won’t win anything, but the attention sure is nice!

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I’m excited to share my first inter-blog collaborative project. Are you ready?

Today I’m posting two Easter Egg projects in conjunction with Melissa of The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

After reading about last week’s Rolled Easter Egg Painting, Melissa suggested that we could have gotten extra mileage out of the project if we’d made it a two for one kind of thing. In case you missed it, N and I made paintings by rolling painted plastic Easter eggs all over pieces of paper. When the paintings were done I washed the eggs off, and Melissa’s idea is that we could have kept the eggs painted as decorative treasures. Of course! I loved this idea, so Melissa and I hatched a plan for today’s post: We would simultaneously experimented with Rolled Easter Egg Painting and we’d also share an idea for Naturally Dyed Easter Eggs. You can read my posts right here on TinkerLab, and Melissa’s are over here on her blog, The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

Dyed Egg Experiment #1: We made Rolled Wooden Eggs with wooden eggs, acrylic paint, and glitter. Click here for details.

Dyed Egg Experiment #2: We made Vegetable-dyed Easter Eggs from beets, cabbage, and onions, and used stickers, parsley, and rubber bands to add texture. Click here for more.

While Melissa and I worked with similar materials, our perspectives and those of our children are different, and we hope you’ll enjoy seeing how these experiments transpired in each of our homes.

If you’d like to join the collaboration and share your version of either egg-coloring process (or something entirely different!), you’re welcome to share a photo or link in the comments.

Making Chocolate Lollipops

Welcome Spring and Hellooooo Rain. This past weekend it poured. All weekend long. So we stayed in and made the best of it by inventing all sorts of rainy day activities like playing with our new chocolate lollipop molds.

Recipe

  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of butterscotch chips. (N isn’t super fond of chocolate, and we hoped that the butterscotch would make the flavor more palatable for her.)
  • Assorted decorations (sprinkles, colored sugar, nuts, dried fruit, etc.)
  • Lollipop mold and sticks. These are very inexpensive, but in their absence, you could make free-form lollipops like these from She Is Dallas by simply dropping a dollop of chocolate right down on waxed paper and then adding a popsicle stick or straw while the chocolate is warm.

Before we began, we made guesses about what might happen to the chips if we heated them up. This was a fine little science lesson in how chocolate turns from a solid into a liquid at a high temperature. After semi-melting the chips in the microwave, we stirred the mixture until it blended smoothly and then dropped/poured it into the molds with a teaspoon. Since I’m working with a preschooler, I didn’t want to bother with tempering the chocolate. Sticks were added and it was ready for decorating!

I handed the whole thing over to N so she could work her two-year old magic on the lollipops.

N adores sprinkles of all sorts, and while I half-expected to witness a grand dumping of the candies, I was surprised by her restraint. Especially on the cooped up rainy day that it was.

The tray found its way into the fridge for what seemed like FOREVER, and then we popped them out.

Yummy!

Well, yummy until you’ve had too much of a good thing. Lucky for me, my child isn’t a huge fan of chocolate and just about gagged after the first big bite. Just so you know the true story here, I tried the lollipops myself, and they really were good.

And this is further reminder that with small children the process far outweighs the product!

The day that we made these, I asked my Facebook Friends what they were creating, and I am inspired by all of the creativity.  See for yourself!

  • A homemade pizza for my family!
  • Cookies!
  • happiness
  • I drew a big road, loads of turns and rotaries Also filled with homes, gas station, supermarket, the works. Taped it to the coffee table, it provided hours of entertainment on this rainy day.
  • playscapes, the beginnings of our spring nature table, and lemon risotto
  • it was a beautiful day, so we hit the zoo, and went walking in a neat part of town for hours! we made box lunches, and made smiles! seeing an old friend and her new baby seem to create good moods!
  • A new appreciation for art for Lili- went to the cantor center and she loved it!
  • My lil one made Holi cards with leaf and petal printing and decoupage. Holi, is a festival of colours, peace and brotherhood – here in India. 🙂
  • At playschool today it was pouring rain so we made some suncatcher rainbow collages and had story time whilst listening to the rain!

What did you create today?

This post was shared with Kids Get Crafty