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Night Sky Playdough; Our Favorite Way to Study Space

Let me begin this post by saying we made this night sky playdough NINE MONTHS ago and it is still going strong!

I don’t know how, I don’t know why, but this playdough lasts forever. (We store it in a ziploc storage bag inside a cupboard inside a cool room).

We’ve used it to study constellations, galaxies, planets and for just plain fun. The glitter – which was my main concern – magically stays contained inside the playdough.

Again, I don’t know how. It’s just plain magic, folks.

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Here is the Recipe for Night Sky Playdough:

Mix together:

  • 2 cups white flour
  • 1 cup fine salt
  • 3 Tbsp cream of tartar (helps make it smooth and elastic)

Stir in:

  • 1.5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups of boiling water (carefully!)
  • 5-10 drops blue or purple food coloring

Knead it together until it’s nice and smooth. Then, pour a small amount of glitter in the center of the dough, and knead it in a little at a time.

Add star sequence or beads and press them in to make constellations.

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Or, use stars or marbles to make galaxy spirals.

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Use different colors of playdough to form planets and create a solar system.

There are so many ways you can play with this playdough!

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A Fun Science Experiment to Teach Kids About Pollution

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Today is Earth Day, and we ditched our regular lessons to spend the day learning about pollution and how it affects our earth.

We began with this oil spill activity that was really eye-opening, even for me! We started with a pristine-looking ocean scene which turned yucky very fast. The boys tried several times to wash the slimy oil off their sea creatures and it was harder than they thought it would be.

We got the idea from here, if you want to see the original post.

Oil Spill Science Experiment

First, we started with a large, clear plastic tub to hold our ocean animals and water (plus some blue marbles to add a sensory element).

I added two drops of blue food coloring so that the water would be more visible. The boys played in the ocean with their animals for a bit, and then we added the boat.

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To make the oil look like crude oil, we mixed some cocoa powder into the vegetable oil before pouring it into the boat’s compartment. It looked like oil, but smelled like brownies. 😉

Now it’s time for the oil spill. Once the boat gets bumped around enough, the oil will begin spilling into the pristine blue water. The boys thought it was fascinating to see the oil droplets swirl around in the water. And actually, so did I.

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Now, it’s time for cleanup.

First, they tried cleaning up the oil spill by scooping it out. They soon found, though, they were scooping way more water than oil, and the water was looking dirtier.

Next, they used items to try and suck up the oil – cotton balls and a sponge. Both materials were able to remove a bit of the oil, but not enough to make a real difference.

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I think they were beginning to understand how irreversible some types of pollution are.

Now it was time for animal rescue. Using tongs, they took turns removing the ocean creatures from the water and washing them with soapy water. It took many tries to wash all of the slimy oil off. Another good lesson.

We also dunked a real bird feather into the oily water so the boys could see the effects of an oil spill on real animals.

Pollution Walk

After our science experiment, we put on disposable gloves and headed to our neighborhood’s nature trail for a pollution cleanup walk. We found SO. MUCH. TRASH. Either I never noticed it before or today was just a messy day in our neighborhood, but I’m sad to say we filled half a trash bag full of litter on our short walk.

The boys were pros at spotting the trash – it was like a treasure hunt, but less glamorous.

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Honestly, I was pretty disgusted at the amount of litter we picked up. On our walk we talked about what happens to trash when it sits on the ground (and what biodegradable means) and why it’s important not to litter.

Earth Day Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Oil Spill!

The Lorax

The Curious Garden

Compost Stew

Miss Rumphius

Once There Was a Tree

Pond

 

 

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Easy, Budget-Friendly Spring Flower Craft

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We are just starting to see the daffodils pop up and man, am I happy about it. This winter seemed longer than usual, and we are all ready for longer days and more time out in the sunshine.

My boys love doing crafts, so in the spirit of spring I put together this simple and easy craft you can probably do with items you already have in your home.

Easy Daffodil Craft

You’ll need:

  • Paper muffin tin liners (preferably white but any light color will work)
  • Paint (not watercolor) and paint brushes
  • Gluesticks
  • Green pipe cleaners, optional

Each flower will require two muffin liners. Have them spread out one nice and flat, and keep the shape of the second one intact.

With the yellow paint, have them cover one side of both muffin liners, making sure they don’t smush the cup-shaped one. This can be made easier by having them cup the liner in one hand while they paint it with the other. They’ll get paint on their hands, but it’s not the worst thing in the world. 😉  I always keep a pack of baby wipes nearby for emergencies.

(Because if you’re not cleaning your house and kids with baby wipes, are you even a mom?)

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Okay, now let them dry for a bit.

Next, they take a smaller paint brush and paint dots on the inner liner, which will represent the pollen. We used orange and white for this part. Allow a few minutes for it to dry.

Finally, have them glue the cupped liner to the middle of the flat one.

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You can also glue or staple on a green pipe cleaner to use as a stem, but my kids just wanted to keep making more flowers, so we didn’t get to that part.

How pretty would these be sitting in a little vase?

Happy Spring!

spring craft for kids daffodil

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Spring Pond + Frog Life Cycle Study

Last week we learned about the spring pond with our Exploring Nature with Children curriculum. The boys learned about the ecosystem of the pond and the lifecycle of a frog through play-based learning, lots of good books and outdoor exploration.

Here’s what we did:

Spring Pond Loose Parts Play

For this activity, I set out some kinetic sand along with mini pond animals, marbles, small stones and some leaves I pulled off a silk plant (because they need lilypads, of course!).

The boys played with this setup for days.

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Life Cycle of a Frog

The boys colored this free printable while I read aloud from one of our favorite nature study books: Nature Anatomy. There are a couple of pages dedicated to frogs and toads.

If your kids are a bit older, you could also have them make a Venn diagram that illustrates the differences between frogs and toads. And if you have access to frog eggs or tadpoles, nothing beats seeing the life cycle play out in real life!

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Pond Nature Walk

Nature study is somewhat limited unless you actually go outside and experience nature, right? Most of our ponds are still partly frozen, but we followed the recommendation of a friend and went to a sweet little neighborhood pond. There were geese, ducks and we looked for frog eggs but unfortunately didn’t find any (although we did find other cool pond creatures in the water).

The kids brought their nature journals and colored pencils, some buckets, nets, a good magnifying glass and we made a picnic lunch out of it.

And only one kid fell in the pond so I call that a success. 🙂

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Pond Study Picture Books

**You can probably find most of these at your local library, but we try to add our favorites to the shelf, because ALWAYS more books!**

Over and Under the Pond by Kate Messner (This book is really neat)

Pond by Jim LaMarche (A wonderful and beautiful story that left us all smiling)

Turtle Pond by James Gladstone

Frog and Toad Storybook Treasury by Arnold Lobel  (My five year old loves these stories)

Seasons of the Freshwater Pond Biome by Shirley Duke

National Geographic Kids Tadpole to Frog

 

 

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

 

 

 

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DIY Tide Pool – Ocean Science Activity for Kids

This week we studied ocean zones while following the Classical Conversations Cycle 1 Week 19 curriculum – and to add an extra element of fun, we also studied the Intertidal Zone.

Did you know that the Intertidal Zone is one of the harshest environments on earth? It’s true. Animals who live there have to withstand extreme variations in temperature and water levels, not to mention crashing waves and predators.

Amazingly, so many little creatures still make tide pools their home, like sea stars, puffer fish, crabs, anemones, barnacles, mussels and even baby octopuses!

See, I bet you learned something. Class dismissed.

Jk.

One of the ways we studied tide pools was this fun little backyard activity. I know it’s winter and 30 degrees outside, but my boys were not opposed to playing in the water. It’s a mystery, but it’s true.

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DIY Tide Pool

  • First, get some sort of large container to act as your tide pool. We used the top of an old plastic bird bath, which was perfect. You could also use a trash can lid or storage container.
  • Put a few scoops of sand or crushed rock in the bottom.
  • Add some seashells or small rocks. Check your local dollar store or craft store for shells, sand dollars and starfish. We got a very inexpensive bag of shells (since we live nowhere near the beach) and it was so worth it!
  • Add some mini sea creatures – but only ones that live in the intertidal zone! We used sea stars, sea turtles, crabs and a little octopus.
  • Have your kids fill up the tide pool with buckets of water. They can take turns making it high tide and low tide. My boys especially loved making waves by rocking the container back and forth.

This activity kept my boys occupied for hours!

Further Resources

 

Wild Kratts Stars of the Tides episode

Tide Pool Secrets

Look Inside a Tide Pool

 

 

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Snow Science Activities for Kids

I have a little scientist. He’s only 5 years old and 4 feet tall, but don’t even try to tell him he’s not a real live scientist. Since I took physics for fun in college (I was an advertising major), I can only guess where he gets it from.

Ever since January arrived, we’ve basically been wearing snow pants. I guess the last few winters in Colorado have spoiled us because we’re all like… WHY isn’t the snow melting?!?! (Me, not the boys so much.)

Which brings us to snow science. 

Here are some simple science lessons and activities that the boys were wildly excited about, and ended in building snow forts. Win-win.

Snow Science Experiments

What’s In Snow?

I got the idea for this from our town’s newspaper and it’s pretty cool. (And super easy.) If your kids eat snow ALL THE TIME like mine, be prepared to be grossed out. Sorry.

snow science for kids

  • Grab three clear cups or jars, fill one halfway with water, one halfway with snow and one with ice cubes.
  • Put them on your counter side by side and note the time. See how long it takes for the ice and snow to melt.
  • Questions to Spark Discussion:
    • What does the ice look like while it’s melting? How about the snow?
    • Which one melted faster? Why?
    • How do the melted ice/snow levels compare to each other? Which one is higher and why do you think that is?
  • Now, take the jar of melted snow and look closely. You should see lots of little particles. We couldn’t identify them but read that they are most likely bits of dirt, grass, and even ash and animal waste. See, I told you – gross. (Upside – one of my children has not tried to eat snow since this experiment.)
  • If your kiddos are interested, they can get out their science journals and take notes and draw pictures.

snow science for kids

Examining Snow Crystals

Did you know that what we typically think of as a “snowflake” – 5 sides, looks like a star – is actually a snow crystal? A snowflake is a cluster of snow crystals all joined together.

See, I bet you just learned something.

(Note: This one has to be done while it’s actually snowing.)

  • First, get a piece of black construction paper and put it outside for a bit to get cold. While you’re at it, grab a magnifying glass and put it outside with your paper.
  • Now spend the next 40 minutes getting your children bundled up in their 37 layers. I’ll wait.
  • Go outside and hold the black paper up toward the sky to catch some snow. You should get a mix of snowflakes (the larger clumps) and individual snow crystals which have broken off from their groups.
  • Have your kids examine the snow crystals (not the clumps) with the magnifying glass. What shapes do you see? Are there some with broken sides? Do all of them have 5 sides or do some have more? Are they all different? And so on.
  • When you’re done, go play in the snow since you’re all bundled up anyway!

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My kids took the magnifying glasses and observed other interesting things around the yard – icycles, blocks of ice, tracks in the snow, etc. I *may* have watched from inside the comfort of my warm home.

snow science for kids

Make Snow

Shout out to all my FL and AZ people! I’ve lived in both places and I might be a teeny bit jealous of you right now. 😉

If you live in an area where you don’t get actual snow – make some! I like this fake snow recipe because it’s easy and doesn’t stick to your hands.

  • Pour a 2 lb. box of baking soda into a large plastic container. Add one can of shaving cream, a little at a time, mixing it into the baking soda as you go.
  • Keep mixing with your hands until it is the consistency of snow. It’ll feel soft and cool to the touch.
  • Alternatively, you could make crushed ice by blending ice cubes a little at a time in a blender. This will look a lot like snow but will melt quickly if your kids want to play with it.

Snow Science Resources

I’m not big on buying/filling our house with all the things, but there were a couple of resources we used that really made the lessons come to life.

The Story of Snow, by Mark Cassino is fascinating and beautiful. I usually prefer to get books from the library but, in my opinion, this one is good enough to add to our collection. I think it would be fun to paint the different types of snowflakes and label them as an art activity.

If you’re looking to go really deep, this is a fun website that delves more into snow crystals, with lots of information on how they form.

And finally, our favorite read-aloud picture books to go with our activities:

Katy and the Big Snow, by Virginia Lee Burton. We really love this one, but all of her books are amazing.

Winter Story, by Jill Barklem. We read this almost every day in the winter. Just do yourself a favor and get the whole Brambly Hedge series right now.

The Big Snow, by Berta and Elmer Hader. This one tells a story to teach about which animals hibernate during the winter and which ones stick around.

What snow activities or experiments have you enjoyed this winter?

snow science for kids

 

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**

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Fizzy Valentine’s Day Sensory Art

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Last week we made baking soda and vinegar volcanoes to go along with our volcano study with Classical Conversations. And since there was much begging and pleading to do more “fizzy experiments,” I cobbled together this sensory art project (the idea is from The Pinterested Parent) as a sort of last-minute Saturday morning activity and the boys loved it!

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And anytime I can turn a hands-on art activity into holiday-themed decor – I’m in.

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First, we traced hearts onto watercolor paper using a cookie cutter and cut them out. Of course, you can freehand this, but I’m horrible at drawing hearts. It’s a curse, but I’ve accepted it.

I would definitely recommend using watercolor paper, since the end result is VERY wet. I can’t see regular old paper (or even cardstock) holding up well. We use this paper from Amazon and it holds up fabulously (and is the best deal out there, in my opinion).

Place all your hearts on a cookie sheet. You can cover it with aluminum foil or parchment paper like I did to make cleanup easier. Or you can live on the wild side and put ’em right on the cookie sheet.

Next, get out a muffin tin and add a couple of drops of food coloring into each section and fill them halfway with vinegar, mixing well. Sort of like coloring eggs.

Then, get out your eyedropper. Or, in my case, rummage through your medicine cabinet and find an eyedropper-like syringe. What can I say? I’m resourceful like that.

Now’s where the fun begins. Give your little people a cup or small dish with a few scoop fulls of baking soda and a spoon. They are going to carefully pour a spoon full or two of baking soda onto each heart and spread it around with the back of the spoon until the hearts are fully covered. It doesn’t matter if there are small clumps or if it’s not even – it’ll just make it more fun later. I let the boys take turns choosing their hearts and spreading the soda on.

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Okay! We’re finally to the action-packed part. Using the eyedropper, squeeze out a few drops of the colored vinegar onto each heart and watch as it fills with fizzy color.

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You can talk about the acid-base chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar, or just ooh and aah over it while your kids make loud volcanic eruption noises – your choice! 😉

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Right after you’re finished, carefully remove the hearts from the cookie sheet and place them on a piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil to dry. You can tilt them to allow some of the baking soda to drip off, but this will change how the colors look.

The actual color after they dry is lighter and more muted than it looks during the reaction. We found that rubbing off some of the dried baking soda helped the colors show a little more vibrantly.

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I’m sure there are many ways you can showcase these colorful hearts, but we turned them into a mobile. (Since I turn everything into a mobile. I can’t help it.)

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Go get a stick from the backyard (or, better yet, send your kiddos out to fetch one), thread a needle with some string and have the kids help you string them up.

Just don’t leave the stick in reach of your dog, who’s favorite thing just happens to be sticks. Oopsie.

Add some smaller white hearts for visual interest, hang it all up and viola! It’s your new Valentine’s Day decoration.

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I wonder how many more of these hearts I can hang around the house? It’s a nice departure from the transformers and legos decorating the floors.

Did you try this with your family? Let me know how it turned out!

 

**I’m an affiliate of Amazon, which means every purchase from product links helps keep this website going. I only write about things I’m truly passionate about, and products I actually recommend and use for our family.**