DIY Magnetic Shapes

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!

Materials

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Method

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Squeeze out the air and seal the ziplock bag.
  3. Mix the contents thoroughly by squeezing and mushing.
  4. 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.)
  5. Let dry for 24 hours.
  6. Paint the shapes with paint or nail polish.

Discussion

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!

xoxo

Cara

Magic Color Changing Raised Salt Painting: A STEM Activity

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).

Materials

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Method

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.

  1. Acidic Mix (Pink): 1 part citric acid to 6 parts table salt
  2. Alkaline Mix (Blue green): 1 part baking soda to 3 parts table salt
  3. Neutral Mix (Purple): All table salt

Making Your Art

  1. Draw your design on the paper with a pencil.
  2. Decide which parts will be blue, pink, or purple.
  3. Using the glue, trace the drawing on just the lines that will be pink.
  4. Sprinkle the Acidic Mix onto the glue (with fingers or a spoon), then shake off the excess.
  5. Using the glue, trace the parts of the drawing that will be blue-green.
  6. Sprinkle the Alkaline Mix over the new glue, then shake off the excess.
  7. Using the glue, trace the parts of the drawing that will be purple.
  8. Sprinkle the Neutral Mix over the newest glue then shake off the excess.
  9. 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.)
  10. 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!

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Paper Towel Rainbows: Chromatography for Beginners

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Get ready for all the rainbow heart eyes in this easy and gorgeous introduction to chromatography. 🌈😍 Recommended age 3.5+

This activity focuses on the concept of solubility and how an appropriate solvent can carry molecules along a stationary phase. Read on for some basic science and how to make some jaw dropping art!

Materials

Method

  1. Cut squares from a paper towel (four from a large sheet or two from a select-a-size sheet).
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!

Discussion

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.

Definitions

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.

Mobile Phase: In this experiment, the mobile phase is the isopropanol. It carries the ink molecules along the paper towel through capillary action.

Stationary Phase: 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.


Share the art you create with this project on Instagram and join our community! Tag us and use the hashtag #IBravedTheElements for a chance to be featured!

xoxo

 

Cara

The Best Black Slime Recipe Ever

For the most perfect black slime recipe ever, look no further! Say goodbye to grit and residue with this amazing deep dark goop!

Materials

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Procedure

  1. In one bowl, dissolve 1/2 tsp of borax into 1/2 cup of hot water.
  2. In the other bowl, mix 1/4 cup of glue with 1/4 cup water.
  3. A tsp at a time, mix 4-6 tsp of activated charcoal into the glue/water mixture. It won’t mix in at first, but just keep stirring, it will eventually mix in! Just a minute or so of stirring. Stop adding when it’s black enough for you. Mix until thoroughly combined.
  4. Add 12 tsp borax solution to the glue mixture a teaspoon at a time while stirring. This slow addition of the borax ensures a super smooth slime without the need for lots of kneading. You will know when to stop adding when all of the black glue mixture is in the ball of slime and there is none left in a puddle at the bottom of the bowl.
  5. Pick up the glob and fold and squish a few times. You’re done! After you’re finished playing with it, store it in an air tight container. If it feels gooey after a few days, add a little more borax solution till you get the consistency you like. We think this gradual goo-ing might be due to the activated charcoal absorbing some of the borax (see below for what borax does!).

Discussion

The glue contains a long molecule called polyvinyl alcohol (PVA). It is a polymer, which is a molecule that contains repeats of a subunit molecule (for example, “A” is a subunit and “AAAAAAAAAAAAAAA” is a polymer of A). Borax (sodium tetraborate) is a small molecule that can stick to parts of the PVA through hydrogen bonds. One side of the borate molecule can stick to one strand of PVA, while the other side of the borate can also stick to a different strand of PVA, creating a bridge between the two PVA strands. This is called crosslinking.

Having many crosslinking sites usually makes a polymer more rigid, but the interesting thing about borate/PVA crosslinking is that the bond is transient, meaning it can easily break and reform somewhere else. This causes the slime to act kind of like a liquid and kind of like a solid. If given time, the PVA can ‘flow’ as gravity pulls and breaks the borate/PVA crosslinks. It acts like a slime instead of a true liquid because as the PVA molecules pass by more borate, they can momentarily bond to borate and another strand of PVA, slowing down the flow. If you pull the slime fast, you break all those bonds quickly, allowing the slime to act like a solid momentarily.

This dark black slime is perfect for Halloween. Throw some googly eyes, plastic spiders, or confetti in there for hours of fun!

Make your own painting Art-Robot: Inspired by “Ada Lace Sees Red”

One of the best ways to bring a new activity into your kid’s life is to be inspired by a special book. After reading Ada Lace Sees Red, (SPOILER ALERT) which features a robot that can paint (and an intelligent heroine), my daughter couldn’t get enough, so I thought I’d expand her love of the book by helping her make her own art-bot.

This project uses a vibrating motor to wiggle a cup attached to paint brushes. Other variations of vibrobots include bots that vibrate a scrub brush (bristlebots) and bots with markers for coloring!

Anna really likes taping things.

Materials

Note: Instead of using a motor with a nut, you can alternately just buy a vibrating motor. I prefer making it from a normal motor because we can also use the motor for other things that don’t involve vibration, whereas vibrating motors can only be used for vibrating things.

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Procedure

  1. Securely tape the bolt nut to one side of the motor shaft. As the motor spins, the nut will cause it to be unbalanced, making the whole thing vibrate.
  2. Hook up your circuit (including a switch if you would like). Be sure to follow the directions on the motor you purchase, as incorrect wiring can cause things to get hot or spark.
  3. Add the battery and test your motor, making sure the nut is securely affixed so it doesn’t fly off.
  4. Flip the cup upside-down and tape 3-4 paintbrushes around it so it can stand up on the brush ends (see picture above with markers as an example).
  5. Tape the battery terminal and motor to the cup, ensuring the nut has room to move around.
  6. Test out your bot to make sure everything is affixed securely.
  7. Dip the brushes into paint, put it on paper, then turn it on!

This can also be done with markers, which are less messy than paint, or crayons, which are even less messy than markers. After you’re done making art, try attaching your eccentric motor to something else, like a scrub brush or dry mop!

Book Inspiration- Ada Lace: Sees Red

From the publisher:

From Emily Calandrelli—host of Xploration Outer Space, correspondent on Bill Nye Saves the World, and graduate of MIT—comes the second novel in a brand-new chapter book series about an eight-year-old girl with a knack for science, math, and solving mysteries with technology.

Ada Lace is building a new robot! She’s determined to beat Milton in the upcoming robotics competition. But she’s distracted—Ada finds her dad’s art class impossible, while Nina is the star of the class, basking in the glory of being Mr. Lace’s star pupil.

When Mr. Lace suggests that Nina put on an art show, Ada becomes jealous and loses her temper. Now Ada isn’t speaking to her dad, she’s falling behind in art class, and she still doesn’t know how to fix her robot. As the competition looms closer, Ada starts to wonder if there might be a way to use both science and art to solve her problems.

Will Ada make up with her father in time to test her hypothesis? Or will her hurt feelings leave her seeing red and without a medal at the end of the day?


Ada Lace Adventures is a series about a girl who uses science to help solve problems and mysteries. It is intended for readers ages 8+, but I read them a chapter at a time to my young daughter. The books are not in-your-face nerdy at all, as Ada is just an ordinary girl who likes science. I like that these books counter the stereotypical dorky science character that we frequently see. They are well written, fun to read, and a great addition to your chapter book library.

The Science Behind Milk Plastic

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Have you heard of milk plastic before? Not only is it a project you can do with kids, but it’s also how they made many plastics before the advent of synthetic plastics! Many of those old buttons in a jar you have from your grandma are probably milk plastic (actually called casein plastic, Galalith, or Erinoid). They have a beautiful marbled or tortoise shell look, and are often pastel colored or two toned. The milk plastic you will make with this project won’t be exactly the same as the old casein plastics, the main difference being a pretty toxic step where you would need to wash and harden the plastic with a formaldehyde solution. That’s not something kid-friendly, soooo crumbly squishy curds it is!

This is a very easy project. All you need is milk, vinegar, and some basic household items.

Continue reading “The Science Behind Milk Plastic”