This simple activity has become an after school staple for us ever since I saw it on @themakermum on Instagram. It’s a nice mental exercise that also includes a level of focus that is calming and almost meditative for my daughter after a crazy day at school. All you do is shape half an image made out of playdough, then have your child finish the other half. Sometimes before I pick up my daughter from school, I’ll set this up and lay a damp paper towel over the top so it doesn’t dry out before she gets to it.
The possibilities are really limitless and you can make whatever image your child is interested in, or stick with seasonal ones, like for Christmas or Halloween.
It really can’t get easier than this. It’s just hot glue on a toilet paper roll. Yeeeeep. Use your fingers to support the roll as you imprint it into playdough, or stick it around a rolling pin if it fits! We’ve made so many variations of this so far, including these mermaid scales and a honeycomb print!
Original idea from @playtime.messy.madness on Instagram!
Create beautiful and unique Earth Day spin art with your kids, while also learning about different environments on our planet. This project gives a twist to typical spin-art by adding glue at the end, which is then used to affix sand, dirt, and baking soda to give your Earths an intriguing texture and to spark conversation about the different environments on Earth!
Cut paper to the size of your spin-art box and affix to the spinner
Prepare green and blue paint to your liking. You can also experiment with adding a little water to thin the paints and see what different effects you get.
While spinning, drop, pour, or drip paint onto the paper.
When you’re happy with the paint portion, squeeze about a teaspoon of glue right in the center of the spinning paper, then turn off the machine.
Sprinkle sand where you want to create a desert, dirt where you want to create a continent with fertile land, and baking soda on where you want frozen tundra.
Shake off excess, let dry, and admire your work!
My four year old really enjoyed this whole process and made six spin-art Earths in one sitting. We discussed where on (actual) Earth exists deserts, temperate and tropical forests, and tundra, some of the animals that live in those environments, and what it’s like to live in each.
We also made our own spin-art box together, which added a lot to the experience for her. If you’re interested, check out our DIY spin-art box here!
Warning: Spinning cardboard or paper can cut you, be careful. When working with motors and batteries, follow all directions as outlined by the supplier to ensure your are using their product correctly and safely.
Cut off the flaps of the cardboard box, trace and cut a large circle from one of them, marking the center of the circle.
Set up your circuit with the motor, battery and switch according to the motor’s directions (i.e. Make sure you are using the right battery for the motor). If you don’t have a switch you can connect and disconnect the battery to turn it on and off.
Mount the motor in the center at the bottom of the box with the motor shaft facing up. Depending on your motor’s casing, it may need to be mounted from the sides as opposed to the bottom because sometimes the back end of the shaft is exposed and will create friction on the box when running. This may be challenging, but it is exactly why you are making your spin-art box with your child instead of buying it- problem solving and creativity. We’ve done this several times and each time we try to think of a new way to mount it, including recycled Styrofoam blocks, a toilet paper roll, or one of the other flaps from the box.
Poke a hole in the center of the cardboard circle you cut and set it on top of the motor shaft.
Place a piece of duct tape over the shaft, pinch so it sticks to the shaft, then flatten the rest onto the cardboard.
Test your set up, making adjustments if necessary.
Cut your paper so it fits into the box, if necessary, then gently tape it to the spin platform.
If you’re using poster paint or acrylics, water them down a little so they are more fluid.
Turn on your contraption and squeeze paint as it spins!
Creating your own toys with your children fosters creative thinking, independence, and pride in one’s work. It also helps reduce waste and clutter in your home. Once you are done playing, you can dismantle your spin-art box, and reuse the motor and battery in many ways. Then, if you want to do spin-art at another time, set it up again!
Here are some projects from our site where you can reuse the motor:
I’m always trying to find ways to repurpose supplies I purchase for activities. We have a big bag of magnetite powder we use to make magnetic slime, but I haven’t thought of another use for it…until now! By mixing it with glue and baking soda, you can pipe (like frosting) any design you can think of, and it will stick to a magnet. This is perfect for magnet-on-a-pole fishing games. Read on to learn more!
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Note: Magnetite powder (an iron oxide) is very messy and should not be touched with bare hands as it stains. Wash hands thoroughly after doing this. Older children may help with steps 3-6, but should always be supervised as any large amount of iron is dangerous to ingest. The dried shapes are safe to handle with bare hands, but the shapes and magnets should not be handled by children who put things in their mouth.
In the ziplock bag, measure in a 1:1:1 ratio the magnetite powder, school glue, and baking soda. Since the first two ingredients are so messy, it is totally fine to just eye-ball the amounts. This is a very forgiving goop.
Squeeze out the air and seal the ziplock bag.
Mix the contents thoroughly by squeezing and mushing.
Snip off a small lower corner of the bag and pipe designs onto wax paper like you would if you were decorating a cake. (Though these will not be incredibly fragile, you don’t want any shapes to have lines with less than ~1/4 inch thickness or they will break with typical child’s play.)
Let dry for 24 hours.
Paint the shapes with paint or nail polish.
Magnetite is a natural mineral made of iron and oxygen. It is attracted to a magnet and in some cases can be magnetized to become a permanent magnet. Magnetism was discovered millennia ago by observing metal sticking to naturally magnetized magnetite, called lodestone. Though I haven’t been successful in magnetizing the shapes made by this project, it is possible to magnetize magnetite by placing it in a strong magnetic field (eg. very strong magnet or electromagnet).
The shapes you will make are called magnetically soft, in that they become temporary magnets when exposed to a magnetic field (i.e. other iron-containing things will become attracted to it when it, itself, is in a magnetic field), but if the magnet is removed, the shape becomes unmagnetized.
How to Play
Alphabet Fishing (learning letters): We tied a magnet to a wooden pole and went “fishing” for magnetic fish shapes and letters covered by dried rice in a plastic bin. You can use this activity to learn upper or lower case letters, or spelling a name.
Fishing for Compliments (learning to read): We made magnetic hearts and I wrote adjectives that complimented my daughter on the back of them (eg strong, smart, kind, etc). She fished for them in a tub of dried rice and black beans and sounded the words out as she found them.
As always, let us know if you’ve tried this on Instagram and Twitter @cara_florance. Tag us and include the hashtag #IBravedTheElements for a chance to be featured!
This activity takes raised salt painting to a whole new level! In this twist, we use some secret ingredients that will make the special paint change color once it hits the salt!
The above picture was made entirely by my almost four year old. And even though this was the fourth picture she had made, the process was still as magical to her as the first time.
The secret to the color change is in the special paint. Instead of a true watercolor, we are using red cabbage juice! Red cabbage juice contains molecules called anthocyanins that change color when exposed to different pH levels. For more of the science involved, check out this post. The painting surface, which is usually just glue and salt in the classic activity, is actually different mixes of glue, salt, and safe household acids or bases in our version. You can create the picture beforehand for your child (like I did above in the mermaid video), or they can plan and create their own science art all by themselves (like the snowman further up).
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Containers to hold the salt mixes, with labels and spoons
Making Red Cabbage Juice
There are several ways to get juice from a red cabbage. All of these methods make quite a bit of juice. We freeze leftover juice in an ice cube tray, then save the cubes to melt for future projects.
Just juice some in a juicer (if you have one).
Add about a quarter of the cabbage to a blender and blend with about a cup of water (adding more or less depending on how much cabbage you have). Then strain the liquid.
Bring ~2 cups of water with chopped red cabbage to a boil, turn off heat and let sit till it’s cool. Strain the liquid.
Making the Salt Mixes
You can safely access three colors of the red cabbage juice with household solid chemicals: blue-green, purple, and pink. Prepare the mixes in a bowls or cups. Don’t forget to label them. Make as much as you need, or save some for later. The amount you make will depend on how much glue you need to cover, but the mermaids above took about 2 tbs of each.
Acidic Mix (Pink): 1 part citric acid to 6 parts table salt
Alkaline Mix (Blue green): 1 part baking soda to 3 parts table salt
Neutral Mix (Purple): All table salt
Making Your Art
Draw your design on the paper with a pencil.
Decide which parts will be blue, pink, or purple.
Using the glue, trace the drawing on just the lines that will be pink.
Sprinkle the Acidic Mix onto the glue (with fingers or a spoon), then shake off the excess.
Using the glue, trace the parts of the drawing that will be blue-green.
Sprinkle the Alkaline Mix over the new glue, then shake off the excess.
Using the glue, trace the parts of the drawing that will be purple.
Sprinkle the Neutral Mix over the newest glue then shake off the excess.
Let dry for about 30 min (This is optional. It will still work when the glue is wet, but you just have to be careful to not smoosh it with the paintbrush otherwise acid or base crystals that get stuck to the brush may change the color of your paint stock when you double dip.)
Load a brush with red cabbage juice and touch it to the salt/glue lines. Keep dabbing until your whole painting changes color before your eyes!
If you try this, be sure to share your creations with us! Find us on Instagram and Twitter @cara_florance. Use the hashtag #IBravedTheElements and we might feature you!
Cut squares from a paper towel (four from a large sheet or two from a select-a-size sheet).
Find the center of sheet and using different color Sharpies, heavily color in dots around the center point. Make sure the dots have a lot of ink in them, but don’t puncture the paper towel.
Using the eye dropper, drop isopropanol onto the center of the paper towel and watch as the ink radiates out from the center. Keep slowly adding isopropanol to grow your chromatograph.
Use your science art to make new crafts or hang it up to display!
Extra Experiments and Questions
Try doing this with water instead of isopropanol. Does it work? What’s happening?
Try doing this with washable markers (like Crayola). Which works better- water or isopropanol?
Do you think this would work with crayons?
How does this relate to stain removal? Why can’t you wash Sharpie out of your clothes with water?
Try putting less ink on the dots and see if you can separate some of the colors within the ink. The success of this will vary on the markers/colors you use, but its worth a shot!
Chromatography is used frequently in labs to separate compounds in a mixture. There are many types of chromatography but they are all based on a similar concept: a mobile phase carries your molecules of interest through a stationary phase, and based on the different interactions with the mobile and stationary phase, the different compounds can be separated. This experiment illustrates how a solvent (the isopropanol) can carry soluble molecules (the ink) through a stationary phase (the paper towel). After kids grasp this concept, you can move on to more delicate examples of chromatography like separating the components of fall leaves or a bouquet of flowers. See below for some key definitions to go over.
Chromatography: A way to separate parts of a mixture by moving the mixture and a solvent (mobile phase) along a surface (stationary phase). Because the different parts of the mixture will “prefer” to be on the stationary phase or mobile phase differently, they travel at differing rates, causing the parts to separate.
Solubility: A demonstration really helps to explain this to kids. They first must know that everything is made up of smaller parts, like molecules, ions, or atoms. Mix sugar or salt into warm water and show them that it seemingly disappears into the water. Explain that the smaller parts are being broken off from the larger crystal and surrounded by water molecules, which keeps them suspended in the liquid. They are still there, we just can’t see them. Then try doing this with chalk or something else that is not soluble in water. They will be able to see the bulk either floating or sinking to the bottom. Explain that these things are insoluble. The sugar or salt have properties that make them want to associate with water, kind of like magnets sticking to each other, while the chalk molecules do not.
In this experiment, the ink from Sharpies is soluble in isopropanol but not in water. The isopropanol is called a solvent, and the ink molecules are called the solute.
MobilePhase: In this experiment, the mobile phase is the isopropanol. It carries the ink molecules along the paper towel through capillary action.
StationaryPhase: In this experiment, the stationary phase is the paper towel. If solute molecules interact strongly with the stationary phase, they will stick to it earlier than molecules with less attraction to it.
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