Sensory Play with Tapioca Pearls

boba in milk

Have you ever had Boba Tea or Pearl Tea? You know those chewy, soft balls that sink to the bottom of milky tea that you suck up through a fat milkshake straw? The drink originated in Taiwan as a novelty for children, and has since taken the world by storm with bubble tea houses popping up everywhere. I have yet to be converted to boba, but I when I spotted a bag of multi-colored dried boba in one of our Asian markets, I saw the opportunity for play and exploration.

To read more, I’m writing over on the Kiwi Crate Blog today about our sensory boba adventure.

What do you think about tapioca pearls as a food or art material?

This post is shared on It’s Playtime.

 

Microwave Marshmallow Experiment

microwave marshmallow experiment

Have you heard of the microwave marshmallow experiment? It’s really simple and a fun way to explore how the volume of gas expands a marshmallow as it heats up. My kids also enjoy this experiment because it mixes science (+ fun) with a sugary treat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Microwave Marshmallow Experiment Supplies

  • 4 (or more) Marshmallows
  • Paper Towel or Microwave-safe plate
  • Microwave
  • Paper to jot down observations (I’ll share my 3-year old’s observations in italics below)
For this microwave marshmallow experiment, we’ll microwave three marshmallows for different periods of time, and then  compare what happens to the marshmallows as they heat up, and then cool down again. This is an engaging way to involve children in scientific observation and discovery, it raises lots of questions, and doesn’t require a lot of prep or clean-up. Are you with me?

Step One

Microwave one marshmallow for 10 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare it to an uncooked marshmallow and describe how it looks. How does it feel?

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabObservation: It’s small, shorter than the other marshmallow, but fatter. It’s gooey.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Two

Microwave the second marshmallow for 30 seconds and remove it. How does it compare with an uncooked marshmallow? What happens to it as it cools?

Observation: It’s a little bit larger than the other one. It got dry as it cooled.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Touching the second marshmallow.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Cool, a little hole showed up in the middle after it cooled down a bit.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | Tinkerlab

Step Three

Microwave the third marshmallow for 50 seconds and remove from the microwave. Compare to and uncooked marshmallow right away and after it cools. How are they different? How does this marshmallow feel?

Observation: It’s huge and wrinkly and dry. It’s brown. That means it burned. That means it’s good to eat. Crunchy to eat.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabYou can see all three marshmallows here. We noticed that the 30 second and 50 second marshmallows got hard and crunchy as they cooled, and N decided to taste them for a flavor comparison.

The fun and simple microwave marshmallow experiment | TinkerlabThe 50 second marshmallow was brown, crunchy, and caramelized. Have you ever tried astronaut ice cream? It had a similar texture.

The science behind the activity is explained clearly over here at The Exploratorium. In essence, the volume of gas in the marshmallow increases when the temperature increases, and then decreases as it cools down. The Exploratorium suggests not microwaving marshmallows for longer than 2 minutes, less you want a dark, stinky, burnt mess on your hands.

This project was inspired by a book we found at the library: Kitchen Science Experiments: How Does Your Mold Garden Grow?

Have you ever microwaved anything and been surprised by the outcome?

 

Add a Little Learning to Playtime

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Today I’m celebrating the one year blogiversary of my friend Jillian over at A Mom with a Lesson Plan. One year! When you stop to think of about it, it’s amazing what can be accomplished in just one year. A preschooler travels into their first year in Kindergarten, a high school senior becomes a college student, and a mom can start a blog that inspires other parents (and have over 1300 Facebook fans to prove her impact…go Jill!). If you’re thinking about starting your own blog, maybe today is the day. It might not start out pretty, but just think about where you’ll be in one year!

A Mom with a Lesson Plan focuses on preschool sized activities for kids at home, so when Jill asked me to write about how we add learning to our playtime, I thought, “Awesome, because that’s what we do all the time!” Every time children play, they learn, and in turn, each activity is full of opportunities for more learning! So, today I’m sharing how we’ve been learning about measurement by watching our paperwhite bulbs sprout and grow…while wearing pajamas and making silly drawings in the kitchen, of course.

N planted the bulbs (found at Trader Joes) with my husband, and about a week later they sprouted. A couple days later they were noticeably taller, so I talked to N about measuring them, with the long-term idea of tracking their growth.

We have a chalkboard painted on a door of our kitchen where I wrote “Bulb 1″ and “Bulb 2.” N is learning how to write and asked if she could draw the “2.” Of course! (++ adding more learning to our playtime). She asked me about the “1″ that I drew, and said it didn’t look like a “1,” making this another learning opportunity to share that there are different ways to draw numbers. After sorting that out, she added some fab drawings of bulbs to the chalkboard.

Then we got to measuring. I brought out a ruler, which she has lots of practice using as a drawing tool, but not so much for measuring. We counted out the inches, one through 15 (it’s a long ruler!), and I showed her where to look for the inch markers. She’s been really curious about how analog clocks work, and I suppose this touches on a similar concept of recognizing numbers as symbols that represent something else.

We added the numbers to our chart. As you can see, it’s highly technical, so email me if you need specifics :) N is only 3 1/2, so her grasp of charts is limited, but she enjoyed the process of measuring and documenting, and of course drawing!

Children learn through play. It’s inevitable. What does learning look like in your home or school?

More ideas for adding learning to playtime can be found by these bloggers who are are celebrating with Jillian today. You can click directly to their posts through the linky below.

 

Experiment: Make Fake Snow

making purple

How to Make Fake Snow

We’ve been making fake snow, which is equally fun for kids like mine who celebrate winter under a sea of palm trees or those who are house-bound by piles of real winter snow.

How to make fake snow: a cool experiment with kids  |  Tinkerlab.com

Note: This post contains Amazon links for your convenience.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

Supplies

How we did it

We started by pouring a small amount of sodium polyacrylate, or fake snow  into a large tub. This material used to make fake snow is non-toxic (although you wouldn’t want to eat it), and you’ll recognize it as the same stuff used to absorb liquid in disposable diapers. I picked up a small bag of “snow” at RAFT, but I’m curious about pulling apart a diaper to mine this fun-to-play-with polymer. If you try this, let me know!

I almost always fall into the camp of “you can always add more,” so we started with just a little bit. When I bought the fake snow, the woman working there joked about a desire to fool her parents by pouring the powder all over their lawn in the middle summer, only to be greeted by a sea of snow once their sprinklers went off. This vision sat firmly in my mind, so I poured gingerly, not knowing just how much the powder would expand.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comIt turns out that it does in fact expand, but nothing to worry yourself about!

one year old drawingMy one-year old was too little for this activity, and I was happy to situate little sister with an activity of her own. She was happy.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comA request came in for a spoon and a bowl to fill. The project is expanding! I asked N to describe the texture for me, and she said it was cool and wet. I agree.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comWorking side-by-side, I now live for moments like this.

Mix colors into your fake snow

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comWhen playing with white snow seemed to run its course, I introduced Liquid Watercolors and a plastic pipette. I limited N to two colors (mostly to keep the crazy factor down) and she requested blue and magenta.

toddler sharpens pencilsMeanwhile, little R learned a thing or two about sharpening pencils.

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

This turned into a cool color mixing experiment. It was fascinating to see how many of the “snow” pellets absorbed one color or the other, and cast an illusion of purple when viewed at once.

Make Fake Snow with a Friend

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.comThe next day our neighbor, J, came over for another snow-making session. J likes a good experiment as much as my daughter does, and the two of them scooped, squeezed, stirred, mixxed and poured until they had to be pulled away for dinner!

What do you think? Will you try to make fake snow?

How to make fake snow: an experiment with kids | Tinkerlab.com

Resources

Learn more about how disposable baby diapers work from Imagination Station

Watch Steve Spangler demonstrate Intant Snow on the Ellen Show. I can’t help but smile at Ellen’s reaction to Steve. She’s hilarious.

Note: Use your best judgement and due diligence when using these materials with young children.

This post is shared with It’s Playtime

Straw Air Rockets

Straw Air Rockets

This is a project we had fun testing with Kiwi Crate, a new hands-on kit of monthly projects that launches  soon. Follow their fun blog for more.

We’ve been having the best time shooting air rockets out of milkshake/boba tea straws (found in our supermarket) The baby enjoyed seeing the rockets fly overhead while chasing them around the room, while my three year old challenged herself to shoot these far and wide.

Materials

  • Milkshake straws
  • Copy, Printer, or other light weight paper
  • Transparent Tape

You’ll want to roll the paper into a tube that will cover most of the straw. Cut a piece of paper large enough to roll around a straw, leaving a 1″-2″ tab that can be taped closed over the other side of paper. Cut another small piece of paper and attach it to the end of the paper tube. Seal it shut. See photos for more direction.

Place the paper tube on top of the straw, move into a wide open space, and blow. What you don’t see here is my one-year old laughing hysterically each time a paper tube shot over her head.This was the third day we played with these over a three week period, and it still caught my kids’ attention. If you decide to try this and it doesn’t work, the worst thing that could happen is that you’ll be stuck with some milkshake straws that may need to be put to work in a more traditional way! Mmmmm.

Have you ever tried to make a paper rocket? What do you think?

More rockets

This project is shared with It’s Playtime, Running with Glitter

“E” is for Experiment

experimental

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.

How to Build an Easy DIY Light Table

easy DIY light table

Have you ever wanted a light table, and wondered if there was an easy way to build a DIY light table yourself? Well, this easy DIY light table could be your answer! Once I figured out which materials to use, the whole thing took about 10 minutes to assemble.

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

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.comAfter seeing the beautiful glow that illuminated from the easy light table at Teach Preschool and the pop-out pictures created in salt over at Child Central Station, I’ve been on the hunt for some DIY materials to make my own easy light table.

I had a few rules:  No paint, no saw, and no nails. It also had to be simple to assemble and economical. So when I spotted a large, gently used acrylic box frame — like this – at SCRAP (San Francisco’s reuse center for artists and teachers), I knew I had my answer. If you don’t have any acrylic box frames lying around (who does?!), I’ve found that this can easily be replaced with a basic plastic storage container like this. 

Supplies

  • Acrylic box frame or storage container– Try looking in a thrift store, or maybe you already have one at home
  • Large Plastic Storage Container like this one or this one. 
  • String of Lights — Make sure that they’re bright enough yet not too hot to be placed in the container. Christmas lights do a great job!
  • Clear Packing Tape
  • Wax paper
  • Two 26 oz. containers of salt
  • Toys and gadgets to create textures

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.com

How to build your DIY light table

1. Run your string of lights into the bottom container

My husband has a thing for lights so I raided his stash and we came up with these interesting bookcase light strips from IKEA that worked really well. Granted, these lights aren’t cheap, but we already had them so it didn’t really cost me anything. If these didn’t work I would have used Christmas lights. Just be sure that  you use something bright enough for light to pass through the salt, but not too hot for the box. Fluorescent lights are perfect for this. 

Option #2: You could try setting this up with the bottom container’s lid on and off. We’ve set this up both ways with different containers. See what works best with your container.

Option #3: You might also try flipping your bottom container upside down, and then placing the second container on top of it, right side up. Does that make sense?

2. Place the box fame on top of a large under-the-bed plastic container

When not in use as a light table, we use our containers all the time  for messy sensory projects like the Dry Ice Experiment and Vinegar and Baking Soda.

 

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.com

2. To diffuse the light, cover the bottom of the box frame or top container with wax paper.

3. Then, to keep the frame from wiggling, tape the wax paper in place with clear packing tape.

4. Pour salt into the top container.

Make it as shallow or as deep as you like. I found that 1/4″ is a good place to start.

My friend Aude gave me about five pounds of salt that I’ve been saving for the perfect project, so I pulled it out and poured a healthy amount into the frame. (In case you were wondering, don’t waste your time with flour — I did, and it doesn’t work.) And that’s it.

If you only have one container, if it has a deep groove on the bottom, you could try using JUST the storage container flipped upside down on top of the lights. Then pour sand into the groove of the box bottom. It’s not as deep as our example, but it might work in a pinch.

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.com

Play with your DIY Light Table!

We built this while the kids were asleep, so I got to play with it first. Yipee. Initially there was too much salt in the frame, making it difficult for the light pass through, and I tinkered with the salt until I liked the results.

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.comPressing different materials into the salt was oddly cathartic, like raking in a zen garden or working with clay, and I couldn’t wait to see how my daughter would investigate the materials the next day.

Easy DIY LIght Table | TinkerLab.com

Kid-tested DIY Light Table

As an invitation to play, I initially made some loopy marks in the salt with my finger and then turned the glowing salt table on. No tools. She was curious, but not intrigued enough to play.

So I placed a few clay tools with various textures next to the table for her to experiment with, but that didn’t come on like gangbusters either. I hoped that N would get into this cool, open-ended textural play, but her lack of interest made me all the happier that I only spent about $2 on the project. I must have known.

And maybe the light table is most successful in the dark of night, which is long after bed time in the middle of summer? So I poured the salt back into the bag, disassembled the whole thing in about five minutes, and we’ll try again one day soon.

Light Table Success

Sometimes projects with kids take a bit of patience. A child’s mood, interests, or developmental readiness can affect how he or she interacts with an invitation to play. I have since brought this back with variations and it’s been more successful! Here are a couple things that we’ve tried:

What do you think? Are you ready to make a light table too?

This post is shared with It’s Playtime, Teach Preschool

Water Balloon Target Practice

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So, you may have noticed that things have slowed down over here in TinkerLand? I’ve been busy playing outdoors with the kids, traveling with family, and stepping away from the computer for a bit. My husband is in the throws of writing a book (yay!), but it’s also put a small cramp on my downtime for the summer. I’m still here, just not as active. I’ll plan to post about three times a week throughout the summer, and I hope you’ll stick with me until I can find a little more time.

Yesterday was surprisingly rainy and cold, but we’ve been blessed with some wonderful warm weather. My kids love being outside, and playing with water makes it even better! My eldest has a thing for water balloons, and I’ve stock-piled tons of them for spontaneous summer fun. She took on the challenge of filling them herself, and was so proud when she was finally able to fill one up. This was a good exercise in hand-eye coordination and a physics lesson in projectile motion.

She threw the balloons at all sorts of things, comparing how easily they broke (or didn’t). The grass was a big surprise to me, as the balloons broke as soon as they touched the blades. To make it more of a game, I drew a big target on the sidewalk with chalk and the sidewalk was quickly littered with brightly colored balloon fireworks. Lots of smiles from the neighbors who walked by (and didn’t get sprayed by our silliness).

I loved the way the sidewalk looked afterwards — full of water puddles and bright, broken balloons. So much fun!

What are your favorite summer water activities?

This post was shared with It’s Playtime

Land Art with Children

Dandelion Floating in Water

We were invited by Rashmie of Mommy Labs to join Forest Fiesta, an online celebration of World Environment Day (June 5) with her and about twenty other arts and education bloggers. This year’s host country was India, and Rashmie came up with the inspired idea to act as our Indian blogging host. Thanks, Rashmie! When you reach the end of this post, you can click around and see the forest creations made by my friends and their children from around the globe.

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day, sponsored by the United Nations Environment Program, is Forests. According to the UN, it’s the “most widely celebrated global day for positive environmental action.”

And with that, I’d like to share our positive environmental action with you…

Before heading out, we spent some time looking at pictures of inspirational land art, with a vague plan to make something monumental from nature.

It was a gorgeous, sunny day at a nearby farm that has a beautiful forest of trees and a creek that runs through it. I packed a little investigator bag for N, and she was delighted to find a magnifying glass in it. Aside from the photo, it didn’t get much real use, but it was a fun way to begin our adventure into the forest…

We took a hike through the trees and marveled at the patterns made by the sun and leaves.

Once we got into the forest, we noted the abundance of moss. Both of my kids loved feeling it’s texture. I adore the look of moss and lichen, so we brought a little bit home for this year’s fairy garden.

N spotted these colorful leaves caught by a log in the stream, and she asked me to take this picture.

We played with the creek’s current, and sent leaves and flowers down different parts of it, noting the various speeds at which the objects moved.

And then we stumbled upon the bridges! Forget nature for a minute — these bridges make LOUD sounds when you run across them! N took her shoes off, made herself right at home, and must have run across these bridges for almost an hour!

Meanwhile, Baby Rainbow enjoyed the experience of digging into the dirt and leaves. And this is when the abundance of leaves gave me this idea…

…to build a leaf path! Do you see it there? N was careful to walk around it as she exited the bridge.

She stopped periodically to help me gather yellow leaves and lay them down, but mostly she wanted to RUN! I think she’s a kinesthetic learnerWhat kind of learner do you think your child is?

When hikers approached to cross the bridge we’d sit down together and engage them in conversation or eavesdrop on their conversations, and this was where the fun came in.

A mother with two boys walked by, did a double take when she saw the path, and then stopped to take a photo of it. Her boys ran over and we overheard a loud, “cooooool.” (Score — I think we managed to execute a “positive environmental action”)! We chatted with a couple of women who asked us who made it. We did! And if we’d heard of the artist Andy Goldsworthy? We had, and he was actually our inspiration! They also mentioned that they were impressed with the scale of it, and never would have thought to stop and make something like this themselves. (Small children make us slow down and do crazy things, no?!).

N loved the interactions and attention that we brought to the environment and ourselves through this action, and it prompted her to make her own piece of land art…a circle!

If you’ve made land art or have a favorite link to share, I’d love to hear about it (and you can add a picture to your comment)! I was actually surprised that i didn’t find a lot of land art by kids online. Maybe this will be my next Creative Challenge?!

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This post is shared with It’s Playtime

 

Rock Candy Experiment

DSC_0384

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.)

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!

So, do you think you might join us?

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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.

 

Sugar Cube Sculpture

sugar cube sculpture

We made sugar cube sculptures. What a fun and surprising lesson in building, painting, and dissolving!

Materials

  • Box of sugar cubes
  • Glue bottle
  • Sturdy base to glue onto
  • Paint in squeezy bottles

Boxes of sugar cubers were harder to find than I thought, but I ultimately found them at our big supermarket (and bought 2!). We used scrap wood for the base, basic Elmer’s school glue, and Nancy Bottles for the paint.

I suggested that we could build a sculpture with the sugar cubes, and presented N with the materials. That’s all she needed to hear before she began to glue the cubes onto the panel.

And stack them up tall.

You can see that this isn’t the strongest structure in the world!! I filled some Nancy Bottles with watered down BioColor paint, which my daughter then squeezed all over the sculpture. Because the water acted as a dissolving agent, if I were to do this again I’d use straight-up paint without the additional water.

It’s looking a little patriotic, no?

And it end up in this beautiful heap of swirly, melting color. Not exactly what I imagined when we started, but it did lead to some wonderful conversations about dissolving. We only used about 1/10 of the sugar cubes to make the sculpture, so why not set up a dissolving experiment with the rest of the cubes?!

The next day N turned the remaining cubes into sugar water in under five minutes. It was quick, but what a great lesson and experience!

What are you or your kids building with?

This post is linked to It’s Playtime, Childhood 101

Maker Faire + DIY Design

led magnet throwies

We went to the Maker Faire this weekend, a DIY design/technology/creativity festival that attracts everyone from crafty sewing upcyclers to techie hackers to wide-eyed families looking for a creative outing. It was such an inspiring event, full of tons of TinkerLab-style making, that I thought I’d dedicate the week to Maker Faire talent. I gathered tons of good projects for you, and I hope you’ll enjoy the eye-candy that I have in store for you!

Shortly after walking through the main gate, we were greeted by a giant generator-powered electric giraffe. Its maker, Lindz, scaled a small kit robot up to this grand scale that reaches 17′ when its neck extends…and it was a show-stopper for sure. If you’ve ever been to Burning Man, you may recognize her, and you can read more about her here.

Here’s a peek into what makes her work. I have no clue, but I did loved seeing all of the colorful wires and appreciate the hours of welding involved in making this animal go.

Right around the corner from the electric giraffe was a pop-up tinkering studio that was designed to show how simple and inexpensive it can be to set up your own tinkering space. I love how they set up all their pliers on a folded piece of cardboard.

Inside this studio was a 5-minute LED Throwie project sponsored by Make Magazine. This would be a really fun project for kids older than five, but my 3-year old got into the spirit of it…especially the throwing part! LED Throwies were invented by the Graffiti Research Lab as an inexpensive and non-destructive way to add color to any ferromagnetic surface (street signs, for example).

The materials are simple and can be found at Radio Shack or similar stores.

You’ll need

  • a 10 mm diffused LED
  • a rare earth magnet
  • a lithium battery
  • tape (masking or packing will work)

LED lights have a long and a short side. Attach the long side to the (+) positive side of the battery. Squeeze hard to make sure the light works. If it’s a go, take a 7″ long piece of tape and tape the LED around the battery one time. Then continue wrapping the tape around the magnet until you run out of tape. Here’s a really clear tutorial,with costs (about $1 per Throwie), from Instructables.

Your throwie is now ready to be tossed at something magnetic, maybe your fridge? The Throwie should last about two weeks. And when the battery expires, don’t forget to dispose of it properly.

What else could you do with LED lights or throwies?