Coffee Filters and Food Coloring

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So, you went to the store for coffee filters, but you aren’t the one who makes the morning pot and ended up with the wrong size. You have a hundred useless coffee filters just taking up room in your pantry now. What do you do? Art and science of course! The only other supply you need to find is food coloring and you are set to make tie dye sun catchers and experiment with “walking” water.

These tie dye coffee filters were always one of my favorite crafts as a kid. Thanks mom! As usual, I like to do this project in a pan to manage the mess, but some newspaper or paper bags would work just as well. You can substitute paper towels if you don’t have coffee filters.

Fold your coffee filter circles in half, then fold it in half two more times.IMG_0363
Drip food coloring drops directly onto one (or both) sides of the coffee filter. You can’t go wrong.IMG_0365
Viola! They catch the light nicely if you hang them in a window. The filters are about the same size as most dixie style paper plates, and if you cut out the inside circle of a paper plate, you can attach your favorite coffee filter designs with a little tape. Then punch some holes in the paper plate ring and let your kids thread string or yarn through with sticks or leaves (or whatever) tied to the bottom. A hodge-podge preschool version of a dream catcher!

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Next up, we learn a little bit about capillary action. This actually works faster with paper towels, but I like to make my kids wait a little bit for results. It is also fun to try the experiment with paper towels and coffee filter strips at the same time. Ask your kids which material they think will work better, and then talk about why. You can never start systematically testing hypotheses too early I say. Another experiment that you can do to demonstrate capillary action at the same time is to put a few sticks of celery into different colored cups of water and see what happens overnight.

So, first, you will want to cut out a few strips of paper towel or coffee filter. Then fill one cup  with red colored water, and another with blue. Put a third empty cup in between the other two.IMG_0368
Now, put the end of a strip of paper into the red cup of water and fold the other end into the empty cup. Do the same for the blue water. Watch the colored water slowly creep up the paper and fill the empty jar. This takes a few minutes with paper towels and a few hours with coffee filters. The water will keep moving until the water level in all three cups is equal!IMG_0374

Make a Little Mess Everyday

Rainy days can drive me crazy. I believe in getting some outside playtime for my kids every day, rain or shine. There are days though where the rain feels more like a river and your brand new rain boots split open, and you are out of pants anyways. There is only so much tv your kids can watch, and tv makes your kids bounce of the walls even more. If my kids miss their outside time, things can go downhill quickly and the house soon resembles a film set for Hoarders, The Movie.

How to keep the kids occupied and the house clean? Let them make a mess! That is, let them make a mess you want them to make. We have a bunch of deep disposable aluminum roasting pans to catch (most of) the mess when we do messy art and science experiments. I plan a project that seems messy, but is actually pretty quick to clean up.

Don’t be afraid to make the same kind of mess again, and again. My kids will never tire of variations of baking soda and vinegar or anything that involves shaving cream. They get so into it that I can actually get some cleaning done! And as a bonus, when you wipe it up, the floor underneath is clean. There may be a mess, a “big” one even, but it is contained in one corner of the house. Let them feel like it is something they are getting away with.

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A baking sheet filled with baking soda, vinegar with food coloring drops, eye droppers. The rest of my house is clean. Science + Art = Fun

Apple Tasting

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We went to the Portland Nursery’s 27th annual apple tasting event last weekend. The event will continue this weekend, and it is a really great event for preschoolers. There are delicious candy apples, fresh pressed cider demonstrations, pumpkin painting, face painting, games, and about 60 different varieties of apple and pear to taste! You can buy many of the tasting varieties for only $0.99 per pound. We bought about 8 pounds of Newtown Pippin apples and made apfel kuchen and baked apples. We might even be going again this weekend. Hope to run into you there!

Slime, Glow Dough, and Spider Webs

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Today we made glow in the dark play dough, a gooey vinegar slime swamp, and easy glue resist spider webs. These are all great activities for Halloween!

Glow Dough

You will need:
2 cups of flour
2 cups of warm water
1 cup of salt
2 TB vegetable oil
1 TB cream of tartar
food coloring
Glow in the dark gel or paint

Mix all of the ingredients except the glow in the dark gel together in a small saucepan, and slowly heat over medium-low heat until it sticks to itself and forms a ball. Once it is cooled down, roll it out and squirt a generous amount of glow gel or paint onto the dough. Mix it up well, and leave the dough near a bright light to charge up. Have some fun before bedtime!

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Bubbly Slime

You will need:
2 cups of vinegar
1 1/4 tsp xanthan gum
food coloring
baking soda

Whisk the xanthan gum into the vinegar just a little bit at a time. Xanthan gum clumps together, so sprinkle it in slowly to avoid lumps. Put in a few drops of food coloring, and leave the mixture in the fridge for at least 2 hours. Put a thing layer of baking soda on the bottom of a pan (we used a glass pie plate so we could see the bubbles), and pour the slime on top. Watch as it slowly fizzes and bubbles! It should bubble for an hour or more with light play, but a little less if you really mix it up. For some reason it reminded my kids of painting their nails, so they played pedicure. Bring out the toys and go on an expedition through the swamp, or just feel it and observe. Lots of fun, but my house smells like vinegar!

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Glue Resist Spider Webs

You will need:
Paper
Glue
Water colors

This is so easy. Last night I used glue to make spider web patterns in paper. The kids also made glue designs. We let them dry, and then painted over the dried glue with water colors.

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Pumpkin Time

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Our annual visit to the pumpkin patch is finally here! Don’t forget that the next day of class we will be meeting at the patch at 9am sharp! Bring your best rain boots as it looks to be a muddy adventure this year. And while you are there, don’t forget to stock up on little pumpkins and pie pumpkins because I have a feeling you will want to try out these fun pumpkin themed projects.

First up, Drip Pumpkins.

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You will need:

Tempera paint
Water
Eye dropper or pipettes
Pumpkins
glitter (optional)
Newspaper or a deep pan to catch the mess.

Start out by picking 4-6 colors of paint to use. Squeeze some tempera paint (a few tablespoons) into a little cup or dish and add drops of water. You want the paint to have a drippy consistency, but if it has too much water it will roll right off the pumpkin. A little trial and error works best since different colors and brands of paint are a little different in consistency. Show your kids how to squeeze the pipette to collect liquid and then squeeze it again at the top of the pumpkin, letting it roll down the sides.

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When you are finished painting the pumpkins, you can shake some glitter on top of the paint to make it extra shiny. If you have leftover drippy paint, you can use it to make salad spinner art or to make cool drippy designs on construction paper. Fold the paper, and see what it looks like then!

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Next up, Pumpkin Seed Oobleck Slime.

Oobleck is a messy mixture that is equal parts corn starch and water with a few optional drops of food coloring. We decided to amp it up a notch by using orange colored water and mixing in pumpkin seeds and guts to make it extra gooey. We also mixed a bowl of corn flour with orange water because my daughter wanted to know if it would work the same. It doesn’t, but it is pretty gooey and fun to play with too. You may need to add more cornstarch after you add the seeds to keep the solid AND liquid properties.

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Our last project is to make a Pumkano!

The pumpkano is just a seasonal variation on the usual baking soda and vinegar volcano we all made as kids. I went to the store for these projects and forgot to get white vinegar thinking I had a gallon of it in the laundry room, but turned out it was empty. So I improvised with outdated red wine vinegar. Orange food coloring would make this especially seasonal. If your pumpkin is small enough, you can put the baking soda and vinegar right into the scooped out inside. Our pumpkin was a little big, so we put a plastic cup inside. To see a video of our last eruption in action, click here.

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And as a bonus, my favorite recipe for Pumpkin Soup.

This recipe is from “How to Cook Everything Vegetarian” by Mark Bittman. I like to make this with a little curry or chili powder, but the kids like it better plain.

Ingredients:
3 TB butter
3 lbs pumpkin (or other hard winter squash) seeded and cut into 1 inch cubes
1 medium onion roughly chopped
1 TB fresh sage or rosemary
Salt and Pepper
5 cups vegetable stock
1 cup cream, half and half, or milk

Melt the butter in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add the pumpkin cubes and chopped onion. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the herb and sprinkle with salt and pepper and continue cooking until fragrant. Add the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat so that the soup bubbles gently. Partially cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin starts to fall apart, about 30 minutes. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pan, or cool slightly and pour it into a blender to puree in batches. Heat the pureed soup until almost boiling and stir in the cream. Heath through, but do not boil. Taste and add seasoning if you like.

And there you have it! A bunch of ways to use all of the pumpkins you will be gathering at the pumpkin patch with us!

Guest Blog: Spiders

Spiders! From Rebecca Brooks.
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A few weeks ago when I caught my first cold of the season, yet the kiddo was perfectly energetic, I feebly rummaged around in our rainy day art supplies and found a small package of water beads. If you haven’t played with these before, they are essentially floral beads used to support flower arrangements within a vase, but they also have a lot of sensory and crafting potential as well. On that particular non-rainy day, I simply soaked the floral beads in a plastic tub, and threw in a few measuring cups for my daughter to dump and pour the beads with. The only downside to the water beads is what to do with them once their original appeal wears off. That is when I realized they could be used similarly to marbles in a painting project, which led to spider webs and google eye spiders!

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The first step is to find some sort of tray to contain the marbles/floral beads when painting your webs. Conveniently enough, I found a shallow box with two handles from a recent purchase at a paint shop. This could easily be made from any size box you have around. A tray would work just as well too. We placed the marbles in a cup of white paint and rolled them till they were each coated in a thin layer of paint (too much paint and the marbles won’t roll). Next, we cut black paper to fit in our box/tray. Then comes the fun part. Drop the marbles onto the paper in the tray. We found we created more interesting webs if we had the marbles start from different edges of the paper, rather than having them all in one spot. Next, tilt your tray back and forth to paint the web. Sometimes we would put the marbles back into the paint cup to add more paint to our web. Once you like what you have painted, repeat the process until you have as many webs as you’d like to make spiders for. An additional idea would be to glitter your web before the paint dries.

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While your webs are drying, find your materials for spiders. This can simply be more construction paper, or pom poms and pipe cleaners and google eyes. My daughter loves gluing, and through some trial and error, we find that the following technique works best. First, use a kid-friendly glue, and by this I mean a fast tack glue. We love Aleene’s Tacky Glue. Next, cut down a paint brush. The little ones that come with watercolor sets are perfect for gluing. Cut down the bristles until you have about 1/8 of an inch. We have had similar success with q-tips as well. Fill a small container with glue, and have your kiddo add google eyes to his or her heart’s content. Since the glue dries clear, it doesn’t really matter if you end up with some glue on the front of the eyes. A damp rag set near your child’s workspace can help with sticky fingers.

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I trimmed and glued the pipe cleaner legs where she wanted her spiders, knowing that would likely be too frustrating, but the rest of the creation of the spiders was all hers. Unfortunately these don’t mail well, but they are wonderful for around town Halloween deliveries. Happy creating!