Tiny – Cool Colored Rice: An all-ages project!! (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 28, 2009 9:53 pm

coloringrice

Our Weekly Unplugged Project post for this week’s theme of tiny is coloring rice (a grain of rice is tiny, right?).

Not very original, but I was going to take this a step farther with a colored rice project.  However this simple first step was such a HUGE hit with my kids of all ages and genders, that it deserves its own post.

I like color.  There is not one white wall in my house.  Therefore I have always wanted to try coloring rice. Is that a logical progression to you?  It is to me.

Instructions for how to make colored rice are all over the internet, such as here and here. Google “coloring rice” or “colored rice” and you will see!

We needed a large bag of white rice. Don’t use brown rice or parboiled (which is sort of beige), since the colors will show up better if the rice is as white as possible.

I checked all the prices per ounce at our one local grocery store and found a 10 pound bag for about $8.00 (I am sure you could shop around and find a much better deal than that).

You’ll also need rubbing alcohol (maybe), food coloring, and plastic ziploc baggies.

I read somewhere that you can use vinegar instead of alcohol, or it can be done simply with food coloring alone, but the rice might not be as brightly colored.

We did a few batches without alcohol and they were fine, I honestly couldn’t tell the difference and the smell when damp was a lot better without it (the alcohol smell does disappear once the rice is fully dry).  I would skip the alcohol next time.

Some people say that paste food coloring produces a brighter result, but I thought ours turned out great with liquid coloring.

I passed out a baggie to each child and then scooped a few cups of rice into each baggie.

Next I added a bit of alcohol to each baggie (not much, a teaspoon maybe?).

Each child chose a color to make and dropped in the appropriate color, or mixture of colors.

NOTE: This is a really fun project for learning how colors mix (if you are a kindergarten teacher or homeschooling parent, be sure to remember this one, because it would make a great kindergarten color project)!

The really fun part is shaking and smooshing the baggie to spread the color.

Just be sure the baggie is closed properly. We had a bit of an accident as you can see here:

(I found these instructions that call for a plastic margarine container for the mixing instead of plastic bags. This method might be safer, as long as you make sure the lid is on tightly.)

We discovered that the more you smoosh and shake, the more uniformly distributed and solid the color is.  If you only do a bit of mixing, enough to just barely color everything, you get a very pretty variation of colors which I preferred:

Once you feel the rice is colored to your satisfaction, then spread it on a foil covered baking sheet and put it in a 200 degree oven until dry.

coloringrice2

Stir about half way through the process to uncover the wetter rice from underneath. It took about 15 minutes for us, but if you put in a lot of liquid color and alcohol, it might take a bit longer.  You can also let it air dry, but I am far too impatient for that.

The cooled, dry rice was irresistible to little hands. Even I had to touch it and sift it through my fingers. What a great, Montessori sensory material!

After the rice is dry and cool, use it right away or store it in a baggie or jar.

My kids and I all LOVED this project! We made lots and lots of colors. The children experimented with different color combinations and amounts of mixing.

One of my favorites was this one, where my 7 year-old son put many different colors in. I anticipated a big muddy brown mess, but he didn’t mix it up much and ended up with quite a variety of lovely earth tones in his batch, as you can see here:

Remarkable fact:  The kids are 8 (girl), 7 (boy) and 3 (girl)…plus a guest: age 8 (boy), and me (girl)… age more than 8 and less than 100, and we ALL loved this project. It is hard to find a project that appeals to all ages, but this one was it for us.

As my oldest daughter said, “Our kitchen is a colored rice factory!!”

By the way, anticipate a good lesson in vacuum cleaner use after this project.

Also note the hopeful dog parked strategically under the kitchen table, just waiting for falling goodies:

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Did you do a tiny Unplugged Project this week?  If so, then please put your link (to your post, not just your blog) in the Linky below.  If you didn’t do a tiny project this week but would like to learn how to join in future Unplugged Projects, then please do not link, but read more about how to join in here.

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The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Container

Enjoy and be creative!

Worm Bin Update – NO VACANCY

By , June 24, 2009 10:12 pm

(WARNING:  If you don’t like worms, then skip this post!)


It was a very thrilling day today – our 2 lb. bag of Red Wigglers finally arrived!!

The Fedex driver had probably never had a more excited welcome than he got this afternoon.  As my 8 year-old daughter put it:  “Now we have millions and millions of pets!!!”  Hmmm….not exactly what we need with 9 cats, a dog, 2 birds, 2 fish and a bunch of happily reproducing sea monkeys.

Here is the box of our very well traveled worms.  Did Fedex know what they had in here?

The worms arrived nicely packed in a brown paper bag.

We opened the bag…

… and this is what we saw:

After holding a few worm friends:

And discovering an egg:

We gently tipped them into our “Worm Hotel” and tossed some of the damp newspaper on top of them.

Next came food.  We were certain that they were hungry after their very long trip, the sort of trip that most worms never have to make.

The menu consisted of a medley of carrot peels, followed by leftover bok choi greens and brown rice, with some tea leaves for dessert:

We hope that our new pets will be very happy and produce a great deal of lovely, rich poop castings to transform our nasty clay soil into gorgeous, moist, nutrient-filled humus.

NOTE:   To see how we made our worm bin, please visit our “Slippery” Unplugged Project post.

UPDATE:  Harvesting the worm bin (it took only 8 weeks to make a gallon of lovely compost).

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TV and Infant Speech Delay

By , June 23, 2009 9:44 pm

I have been a very minimalist blogger lately, popping in once a week to post the Linky for the Unplugged Project. I guess I have been taking a bit of a refreshing blog break. Time and inspiration permitting, I might be up for writing a bit more often than I have been.

So, here is my first TV-related post in a while for anyone interested in television and its effects on children.

Many thanks to my friend Wishy who is always way more up with current news than I am, and who kindly emails me links to any article she thinks might be of interest on my blog! I guess she is my Director of Current Affairs.

Here is Wishy’s latest find: Even Background TV May Delay Children’s Speech.  This article is nearly a month old, but that’s how long it took me to get around to writing my post.  Oh well.

According this MSNBC article, a new study* has found that for each hour of television exposure (even as background noise), infants heard 770 fewer words spoken to them by adults (a 7% decrease).  There was also a decrease in the number and length of children’s vocalizations, as well as child-adult conversation.

The possible explanation for this?  Here is the researchers’ conclusion:

“Some of these reductions are likely due to children being left alone in front of the television screen,” the researchers write in the June issue of the journal Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, “but others likely reflect situations in which adults, though present, are distracted by the screen and not interacting with their infant in a discernible manner.”

I would imagine that most mothers have been naturally chatting away with their pre-verbal babies since language first began.  But experts now realize that two-way linguistic interaction with adults is absolutely crucial for infant language development.

By the way, one startling fact from this article is that 30% of households have the TV on all the time.  Wow!

A final thought:  I wonder if too much talk radio would also have the same negative effect on language development.  I know when I am trying to listen to the news on NPR, I am not paying a whole lot of attention to what my children are saying either.

This is a good reminder for us all I think.

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* The study, entitled Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns, appeared in the June 2009 issue of The Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine.  Here is a link to the abstract.  The full article is also available online with membership, or for a one-time access fee.

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(Photo credit: clarita from morguefile.com)

Mechanical – Weekly Unplugged Project

By , June 23, 2009 3:10 pm

Photo credit: mconnors from morguefile.com

The theme for this week’s Unplugged Project is mechanical.

I have been away and just got back yesterday so this week’s Linky is late and we haven’t done our project yet.  I think we’ll get to it later in the week though (I’ll be sure to put my link in below so it is all together with the other mechanical projects).  I had a fun time, but I must say it is nice to be home again!

If you did a mechanical Unplugged Project this week, then please link to your project post (not just your blog) in the Linky below.  And the usual explanation applies too:  if you didn’t do a mechanical Unplugged Project, but would like to find out how to join in in the future, please do not link but read more about how the Unplugged Project works here.  The more the merrier!

The theme for next week’s Unplugged Project will be:

Tiny

Have fun!

PS.  The latest update on last week’s slippery worm bin: The children have been very impatiently awaiting the arrival of the resident worms.  We finally received a tracking number and discovered that our worms are currently in Memphis, Tennessee!  What world travelers they are!  Hopefully they are enjoying a bit of shopping and listening to some great Blues before continuing on to Arizona.  We are hoping they’ll arrive here at their “forever home” tomorrow or the next day.  Their worm hotel will need a bit of moistening and freshening, but it is ready and waiting.

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Slippery – Worm Bin (Weekly Unplugged Project)

By , June 17, 2009 10:09 pm

wormbin

We have just added a new weapon to our arsenal against the heavy clay soil of Northern Arizona: our very own worm bin! In case you wonder what I am talking about, worm poop (more politically correctly known as “worm castings”) makes wonderful compost for the garden.

I didn’t pick the theme slippery with the worm bin in mind, but it occurred to me later that since worms are a bit slippery, this project fit the theme!

One option is to buy a commercially constructed worm bin such as this one, but I opted to go homemade (I guess this could have fit last week’s homemade theme too).  Worm bins can be made out of wood or plastic containers.  They can be one simple box or multilevel.   I followed these online instructions for a two story, Cheap and Easy Worm Bin.

You’ll need two 8 to 10 gallon plastic storage boxes with lids (dark plastic, not transparent), a drill with a 1/4″ and a 1/16″ drill bit, some newspaper and a piece of cardboard.

First drill about 20 large (1/4″) holes in the bottoms of both boxes.  Space them approximately evenly to allow for even airflow and easy worm travel.

Next drill small (1/16″) holes all around the top edge of the boxes, about 1 to 1.5″ apart.  I did two rows for maximum ventilation.

Also drill small holes (about 30) in ONE lid.  The other lid will be the base to collect any draining liquid, so don’t put holes in that one.

Fill a bucket or other plastic container with water.  Tear the newspaper into long strips, approximately 1″ wide and toss them into the water to soak.  This will be your worm bedding and you’ll want about 3 to 4″ of it in the bottom of the box.  For us, it took one whole newspaper.



Take the newspaper strips out one handful at a time and squeeze them out well.  They need to be nicely damp, not sopping (don’t forget that worms breathe through their skin so don’t drown them!).

Toss them in one of the boxes and fluff them up.

Once you have your 3 to 4″ of fluffed up bedding, you’ll need to mix in a bit of dirt.  Since we still have a giant sand pile in the back yard, we put in a bit of sand too.  Worms have gizzards and need to eat some of this rough material (dirt/sand) in order to digest their food (by grinding it in their gizzards – no teeth!).

Finally, soak a piece of cardboard just big enough to cover your bedding and place it on top of the bedding.  The worms will be put underneath this cardboard and it will also become a tasty treat for them.

Now it’s time to set up your worm hotel.  Place the solid lid upside down on the ground as a tray to catch any draining liquid from the decomposition process (known as “worm tea,” your garden will love this!).  Place some bricks or blocks on the upside down lid as a base for the boxes (this allows for drainage).  Next goes the empty box on top of the blocks, with the full box nested inside it.  The lid with the air holes goes on top.  Keep in a cool dark place.

When the worms move in, place their food in a corner and bury it under the newspaper to avoid odors and fruit flies.  Bury new food in a different part of the bin each time you feed them.  They will follow it around the bin.

Voilà!  The finished worm bin!  Now all we need are the residents.  I ordered a 2 lb bag of Red Wigglers online and they should be arriving soon.  At least their new home will be ready for them.

NOTE: Worms like:  vegetables, fruit, tea bags, coffee filters and grounds, eggshells, bread, cereal, grains.  Do NOT feed:  meat, dairy, oil, fat, feces.

For more complete feeding information, as well as how to harvest your worm castings, please be sure to read the Cheap and Easy Worm Bin article!

LINKS:

Cheap and Easy Worm Bin

Worm Anatomy

Worm Composting (Vermicomposting) How-To

Vermicomposting

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FOLLOW-UP: Be sure to check out the arrival of the resident worms in this post: Worm Bin Update – NO VACANCY

ALSO: Read about our first harvest (only 8 weeks later)

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