Kid-friendly science with Grandpa

We made a quick trip to Wisconsin last month for my dad’s 60th birthday and one of the highlights was a visit to his lab. Jax was thrilled to help with some experiments and is still talking about them. My dad also gave us some ideas of experiments we can do ourselves with common household staples, so the fun continues!

Animal GalleryLooking at a very large crab on display in the halls of the biology building.

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Experiment #1: Dry Ice. What happens to it in water? Is the smokey stuff hot or cold?IMG_5695

Adding warm water made even more vapor.

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Pipetting.

IMG_5638Watching the stirring machine.

Jax left the lab with his very own flask and a couple of plastic test tubes. Here are some experiments we’ve been able to do right here in our kitchen:

Fizzy Whizzy!: Add vinegar to baking soda and watch what happens.
Which one floats?: Pour olive oil into a flask and then add water. Which liquid is on top? Put the top on, flip it over, and see if it stays that way. This was a huge hit, and got Jax thinking about other liquids to try. He is thinking like a scientist!

This board on Pinterest has many more exciting and elaborate experiments to try, too.

 

Halloween Festivities & Kid Crafts

We’re getting excited for trick-or-treating tonight! But the festivities have been going on for a couple of weeks. Highlights:

Halloween fun at friend Vivian’s second birthday.

Pumpkin-carving party last Saturday

A ghost craft Jax and I did last night:

I asked if he wanted to glue black “eyes” on, and he enthusiastically asked for several, attaching them to the bottom.

Jax made this cute spiderweb at preschool.

The two of us made this bat last night. Tracing around his hands is something Jax loves to do, and he practiced cutting to make the border.

Cock-a-doodle-TWO!

We had a wonderful time celebrating Jax’s second birthday at Muscoot Farm. Over a dozen other kids along with their parents joined in the fun. Since my talented sister, Monica, was in town, as well as my mom, the baker extraordinaire, we went a little crazy with the crafts and decor. Some people go to the gym or watch movies. Us? we stay up until midnight gluing felt to make a farm scene and devising ways of creating frosting of varying shades of brown “dirt.” Poor Jax.

Here are the craftastic highlights!

The invitation (created in minutes on kodakgallery.com using a July 4th template):

First, we had a craft table set up where the kids glued fuzzy balls of various colors to sheep silhouettes cut out of cereal boxes. We also had paper glasses to embellish with feathers.

Then it was time for the pre-lunch hayride!

We kept lunch simple by ordering party heros from the local Italian deli. Twelve feet of sandwich, three feet each of four kinds. Even 40 people couldn’t get through half of the sandwich slices. Now we know.

{Sources: animal plates, recycled plastic plates, wooden silverware, recycled napkins}

The cake:

Yes, there is a huge problem of scale here. Where you see the little tractor was supposed to be a wooden “2” in place of a candle. I forgot the number and we had to improvise. Cake Wrecks here we come!

We tried to have many activity options for all the kids. In addition to the craft table, I made a farm scene out of felt, with removable animals the kids could rearrange.

Of course, we also had a mini farmer’s market. It turned out to be a hit with the kids to grab a market bag and “shop”:

I made the canvas market bags out of a drop-cloth I bought at the hardware store and some ribbon from the craft store. I made 16 in all, but with one drop cloth probably could have made another 16. They are really, really easy to make using these instructions. The most time-consuming part was attaching the handles, and I think that was because I went overboard reinforcing them. I would estimate they took about 8-10 minutes each.

Inside each favor bag was a little wooden tractor from Etsy seller TnTWoods, which is based in Wisconsin and wonderful to work with (we created a custom order of 16 toy tractors.)

Highlights from the festivities:

…and a very happy birthday boy!

Poisson d’avril!

I love that in France the fish is the symbol of April Fool’s day. Back in high school my French teacher went all out (as she did every day, for that matter), sneakily taping a paper fish to someone’s back and seeing if they caught it before class was over. During our time living in France, I noticed that a lot of the Easter/spring candies were in the shape of fish in addition to eggs and bells. I wonder if the symbols all became associated with Easter, or if the fish takes on new meaning for the Christian holiday (fish on Friday during Lent perhaps?). In any case, I have fully embraced the fish as our springtime emblem.

With fusible interfacing and an iron, it took me about 5 minutes to enbellish this shirt last night. I was going to zigzag stitch around the borders of each fish, but I’ve got job applications to write and a chapter to finish, so this will do for now!

Pause for quick photo…and…he’s off!

Because Jax loves fish and all things water, I thought I’d perfect my recycled crayons method using an ice cube mold we picked up at IKEA. Now, the tray said “for water only” but I thought it would still work well for crayon melting since the oven is only set to “warm” for this project. I had tried this with a heart mold for Valentine’s day but neglected to grease the mold first, so I thought that would solve my problems this time.

The greased mold with broken crayon bits

After 10 minutes, they started to melt, but I soon noticed the bowing of the tray was going to pose a problem…

Some spillage, but using the potholders to weigh down the sides, I straightened out the mold and let the crayons cool and harden this way.

And then the removal: disaster as I carefully popped the fish out. Only two fish survived with tails (out of twelve).

The mold didn’t fare any better with the greasing, either. Oh well. We can always remelt and try again with a different mold. In the mean time, we still have some fun multi-colored ovals to color with!

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Recent Projects

The biggest accomplishment of the past weeks has been finishing the draft of my third chapter (only one more to go!), but I also found some time for a couple of craft breaks.

Remember that vintage sweater I framed last year? Since Jax has actually been wearing the thing, I thought it was time for a nursery decor overhaul. I have this lovely quilted doll blanket my Aunt Marge Ann made for me when I was little, and I’ve finally found the perfect use for it:

The new and improved reading corner: framed doll blanket hanging over the dog-bed-turned cozy corner. The alligator pillow is a TJ Maxx find (and Jax fell in love with the animal in Florida ‚?? “adiddle” he calls them), and the green velvet one is something I made and thought would add interesting texture. The big white pillow is a fuzzy quilted floor pillow.

I then took an idea from Purl Soho that I’ve been harboring for over two years and added some colorful interest to another blank wall:

Once I blogged about the DIY ribbon tag toys I was making, my friend Cecilia requested a couple – one for herself and one for a friend:

{That little donkey print gets around!}

Here are some in-progress pictures:

I also finished a knit bonnet ‚?? my first time trying this pattern and this yarn (big fan of both) ‚?? and sent it off to baby Tegan out in California.

Here’s a tip for gifting your yarn work: make a tag the same size as the yarn label and tie them together to the gift. That way, all the info about material content and washing instructions is all there.

Finally, for a totally random travel idea from the daughter of two scientists, you can make toddler snack packs with little test tubes. {Don’t worry, these were never used in any experiments!} My mom gave me a ton of these to organize craft supplies, but they worked wonders during our trip: not only are you only dealing with one serving of snacks at a time, but the twist-off cap can become an intriguing toy for the toddler.

O’s cereal, Cheddar crackers, and Dried Cranberries, ready for take-off

Similarly, if you need special laundry detergent on the go (if you are using cloth diapers or if your tot has sensitive skin), the tubes work well for that, too:

Just don’t try to get these guys through security…Who knows what they’ll think.

And voilà, my list of recent crafty randomness.

Sunday Afternoon Apple Picking

Autumn is in full swing here, but some beautiful summer-like weather on Sunday meant we could partake in fall’s activities under a warm sun. We decided it’d be a day to take advantage of one of the benefits of living in Westchester County: its proximity to some family farm fun.¬† This one-year-old thought it was a fabulous idea!

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We started the day with a pumpkin craft: I cut a piece of finger painting paper into the shape of a pumpkin, taped it to Jax’s highchair, and then put two little blobs of paint onto it. Remembering what my mom learned in a young children’s art workshop, I stuck only to primary colors to have Jax discover the result of mixing all by himself. So with a red blob and a yellow blog and lots of messy play, he made orange! I then used a leaf-shaped paper puncher to punch out colorful paper leaves in yellow, red, and orange, and added those to the mix. The result:

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After some delicious bagels at our neighbors’ (we have the nicest people living all around us!), we headed out to Stuart’s farm to see the real thing and pick our own apples.

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Try as Seth did to show him how to do pick apples, Jax mostly just studied the technique rather than try it himself.

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He knew all about tasting them, though.

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When our bag was full, we headed over to the pumpkin field and let Jax crawl all around.

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Then we finally found the perfect pumpkin to take home:

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So Jax waved good-bye as he crawled away:

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On our way out I took some shots of the random vestiges of farming’s past (Stuart’s Farm has been around since 1828):

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as well as its present day:

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That building to the right is the bakery, where we tasted a freshly-made doughnut. It was a totally new species of pastry to me.

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On our way out I snapped some photos of the autumn colors in their many forms.

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