Density Ornaments – Science Plus Holiday Art!

By , December 12, 2016 7:33 pm

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We decorated our Christmas tree this evening.  During the process, someone found a long lost box of empty glass ball Christmas ornaments that they sell at craft stores. They are the kind that you can fill with whatever fun things you want.

One of the kids had the idea of filling them with colored water.  This evolved into water plus other stuff. Finally, the project transformed into a density column idea where liquids of different densities are added and then separate out into colorful layers.

Colored water was pretty (especially with a little soap):

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Then one of the kids thought of the layers of differing densities in a density column and wanted to try that!  They put all the ingredients we had on hand in different little bowls (honey, light corn syrup, water, canola oil, and green dish soap).  NOTE: Steve Spangler has a great density column project that lists ingredients you can use.

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We did not have a funnel, so we used a large kid’s medicine dropper and a cool syringe-type device that my oldest daughter was given when she had her wisdom teeth out (a baby medicine syringe would work too). They both worked really well.

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Honey, corn syrup, and oil with a few drops of food coloring in the oil produced some cool, elevated, lava lamp-style blobs:

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The ornaments are too heavy to hang on a Christmas tree, however they make a pretty and very unusual centerpiece!

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Top Secret Turkey Placemat

By , November 22, 2016 5:59 pm

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We all know about “Secret Santa,” but how about “Top Secret Turkey?”

With Thanksgiving in the United States a mere three days away (what happened to the year, can someone tell me please??), we wanted to come up with a fun idea to celebrate being thankful. The children were talking about their fond memories of weaving construction paper placemats each year at their Montessori school to use at the school Thanksgiving feast, so we came up with a variation of the simple woven placemat that also incorporates thankfulness.

This is pretty easy and works for all ages.  Totally doable with younger children (if they can’t cut well yet, you can precut the strips) or with teenagers if they’ll agree to it.  Mine did because they wanted to make the placemat of their memories and honestly, we had a lot of silly fun along the way.

The basics you will need are construction paper, scissors, and something to write with.  We used colored Sharpies.

1) Choose your paper colors. We used red, yellow, orange, and brown to represent fall.  Orient the sheets of paper vertically and use a ruler to mark off one inch increments.

dsc_00922) Using the guide dots, cut the papers into one inch strips.  They don’t have to be perfect.  I actually think it looks better if they aren’t.

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3) Arrange the strips in rows in a pattern if you like patterns (I am a pattern kind of person) or random if that suits you better!  Experiment with the number of strips you will need of each color to achieve the size that you want.  We used four strips each of our four colors (so we had some left over).

4) Tape the very top of the papers to the table using a long strip of tape to hold them in place (LESSON LEARNED: We used Scotch Tape and it was quite difficult to remove from the table afterwards, masking tape would be much easier).

5) Now you can begin weaving.  Very little ones will need help with this.  Follow the same pattern you used with the vertical strips or make a new one.

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6) Now get a glue stick or some white glue and glue underneath each top flap at the edge all the way around the mat.

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Unstick the tape from the table and flip the mat over.  Fold over the taped flap to easily stick down that edge.   Then repeat same gluing process as first side along the remaining edges of the mat.

7) Cut off the extra bits that are hanging off.

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Now for the Top Secret part!  

Put all the placemats in a pile. Before your meal, have everyone at the Thanksgiving table draw a name out of a hat to determine who’s Top Secret Turkey they will be.  Next have each person take a random placemat and write on the back of the placemat something they are thankful for about the person who’s name they drew.  On the front of the placemat, they should write that person’s name.  If you are concerned with handwriting being a giveaway, prepare stickers with all the names ahead of time (either computer printed or all written by the same person).  Set the table with the placemats. An added bonus is that the names will serve as place markers so everyone knows where to sit.

At some point before, during or after the meal, have everyone turn over their mat and read the nice comment. Each person can then try to guess who is his or her Top Secret Turkey!  It’s a fun game that leaves everyone feeling happy and appreciated!

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Here are two other thankful-related projects that you might enjoy:

(NOTE: I apologize for the lack of photos in these posts.  They suffered from my great photo disaster but I am working on finding and replacing them, or recreating them!)

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Super Fun with the Supermoon

By , November 15, 2016 9:09 pm

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Image: By Gregory H. Revera (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Have you and your family been moongazing the last few nights to see the “Supermoon?”  Last night the moon was at its closest point to Earth since 1948 and it appeared 15% bigger and 30% brighter than usual.

We went outside to check it out.  This time we didn’t lie on the golf course wondering about the timing of the sprinklers, but we did stand in the driveway to get a good look at the moon as it rose over the mountain.  I felt I could see detailed lunar features without binoculars or a telescope (and I can’t even see what is right in front of me without glasses anymore!) but I think the incredible brightness was what struck us the most.

If your kids are moon-crazy now, here are a few moon-related resources and educational ideas that might be just the ticket to feed their interest:

 

Educational Experiments and Activities

  • Oreo Moon Phase Match Game (with free printable template) from Simply Learning: A fun matching activity to learn about the phases of the moon, plus kids can eat their work when they are done. What could be better?
  • How the Moon’s Craters Form: An easy activity involving flour and a weighted plastic Easter egg teaches how the moon’s craters are formed.  For older kids, the activity also involves experimenting with the different factors that determine the size of lunar craters, and recording the data.  There is even a free printable data collection worksheet.

 

Books

(By the way, Kitten’s First Full Moon is one of my very favorite picture books EVER!)

Mending the Blog

By , November 13, 2016 4:28 pm

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After coming so close to pressing the “DELETE” button on Unplug Your Kids several times, thus killing it and taking it offline forever, I never could bring myself to do it.  People still come here for ideas, and quite frankly lots of people still seem to need help taking a potholder off a loom (58,864 so far)!

These people often comment about how they wish they could see the photos. I wish they could too.

For the past three years I have been ignoring the blog and trying to recover from the sudden loss of all my thousands of photos.  Many, many years of hard work were lost. Family memories too. I really did do all of those artsy craftsy projects with my own three children and they say they have fond memories of each and every one.  It was a big part of their lives growing up, and mine. I will always back-up pictures from now on.  Lesson learned (the hard way).

But lately a thought has been milling about in my mind: What about recreating those art projects? Doing them again? It would be a huge task, but when I mentioned this idea to my kids (now 16, 14, and 10) they were like, “Yeah, bring it on!  We want to do it! That stuff was fun!” So today we redid my number one most popular project: Color-Marbleized Paper (160,691 views, wow!) and I just posted our photos.  It was a lot of fun!  My two oldest remembered doing it before, and my youngest enjoyed doing it for the first time.

Over the past week I also managed to dig up some photos from an old computer in order to completely fix the How to Take a Potholder Off a Loom post, and the Easy Homemade Musical Instruments post.  I have found a few other pictures here and there that I have put back in their posts, but will need to redo those projects in order to fully replace all the photos.

But now that my top three most popular posts are fixed, where should I go now?  Does anyone out there have a favorite post they’d like to see pictures for?  If so, please leave a comment and maybe we’ll recreate your favorite next.

 

Classic Fall Trees

By , October 10, 2013 1:45 pm

This is not high tech.  It is not original and unique.  It requires only paint, paper, water, a sponge, and a brush.  But sometimes classic and easy is what makes a long-lasting impression.  My beloved early elementary art teacher did this fall project with us and I STILL remember it.  Of all the art projects from the 9 years that I had art classes in school, this one stands out and I was probably only 5 or 6 when I did it. Here it is:

Sponge painting fall trees!

Sounds kind of “ho hum” to those of us striving for complicated and original art forms, but I can guarantee that the results are usually amazing, even with really little ones.  Watch your children’s faces as they work.  There is something magical that happens when they realize they can paint beautifully with something other than a brush!

Supplies

  • Orange, red, yellow, and brown paint (I recommend a washable tempera)
  • White paper (ordinary copy paper is fine)
  • A wide brush and a small sponge (sea sponge is best, but any sponge is OK)
  • A bowl of water for rinsing the sponge between colors

Let each child draw a tree trunk on the paper with the wide brush and brown paint, beginning at the bottom and extending half-way up.  Then let them have at it with the sponge and the colors.

Be sure to teach them to lightly dip the sponge in the paint (really a tiny amount works much better) and to dab the sponge gently on and off the page.  Some will want to smear it like a paint brush.  Some will still smear it on the page like a paint brush despite the instructions, the results will still be satisfying and fine, but not as realistic.

Also, be sure to explain that before changing colors they should dip the sponge in the water to wash it off.  Demonstrate squeezing the sponge over and over to get the old paint out.  Also demonstrate how to squeeze it really hard over the bowl afterwards until it doesn’t drip anymore.  This is quite important, because some young children will be more fascinated with the whole sponge and water process and will wind up with a very wet artwork.

If you try this with a large group of young children, be prepared for a lengthy clean up in the art room, and the bathroom where they will wash their inevitably, very much paint-covered hands.

Also be prepared for huge interest (even from reluctant artists) and lots of smiles and pride in their accomplishment!

 

 

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