What to Do with Easter Eggs

Do you find that you now have an over-abundance of plastic Easter eggs and hard-boiled eggs in your house? Looking for ideas for what to do with them all?

Hard-Boiled Eggs;

  • Try a science experiment to explain density: Put a hard-boiled egg in water. It sinks. Stir plenty of salt into the water – the egg floats. Learn the science.
  • Try an engineering experiment – the great egg drop. How high of a height can you drop an egg from without cracking the shell? We did this experiment with plastic baggies filled with packing materials – learn more here. Search online for “egg drop challenge” and you’ll see all the other constructs folks have come up with.

Plastic Eggs:

  • Engineering experiment: Build a water-tight “submarine.”
  • Make egg shaker instruments for music time, word family eggs for literacy skills, color matching patterns for math skills: learn more here.
  • Use them as snack containers in your child’s lunch box.

Any Eggs:

Chemistry: Mixtures & Solutions

There’s an updated version of this post here: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2016/12/14/chemistry-for-kids-mixtures/

This week’s class was about a fundamental concept from chemistry: when you mix two things together, sometimes they combine, sometimes they stay separate. (At this age, we don’t get into the details of electrons, molecular bonds, and so on! We just want them to experience it now, and someday when they do get all the details, it will make much more sense to them than kids with limited hands-on experience.)

Question of the Week: Will all things combine when mixed together?

In this blog post, I’ll just tell you what we did. To learn about the science, you can check out the posters I made to hang in class which explains the science behind how each of these experiments work. (Here’s the pdf)


Concept exploration – Milk Fireworks: Take a flat shallow dish, pour in a thin layer of whole milk (not skim – you need the fat!). Drop on a few drops of different food colors, near to each other – they mostly float on the surface of the milk, since the water-based colors are less dense than the milk. Dip a q-tip into dishwashing detergent (Dawn and Joy work best), then dip it in the milk near the coloring and hold it there, but do not stir!! Wait a second for the response – the colors fly away from the q-tip. (This photo from Steve Spangler Science shows an effect you may see – you can also do an image search for “milk fireworks” to see lots more!) Once the reaction slows down, you can gently stir the milk and the colors will swirl around, creating a marbled effect.


This is a great experiment! Pretty cheap, easy to clean up, entertaining for all ages. The challenge we found was convincing our three year olds and four year olds to put the q-tip in and hold it there waiting for the reaction. They just want to stir. The colors still move and intermingle, but it’s not as dramatic or pretty.

Oil and Water:

Demo this in circle first (see below), then let them explore it on their own. Place out plastic containers (We used plastic Test Tubes), pitcher of water, jar of oil, water-based food coloring and oil-based food coloring*. They can try a variety of combinations. Here’s an article about this experiment:  http://www.metrofamilymagazine.com/May-2012/Simple-Science-Experiment-Oil-Water-and-Food-Coloring/

For the oil coloring, I used Americolor Oil Food Coloring but I want to try other brands, because this color mixed with both the oil and the water, so I didn’t get quite the color separation I wanted. I was hoping for blue water and yellow oil where you could then shake them together to temporarily make green that would then separate out again. Instead I had green water and yellow oil.

Another way to explore this, from The Curious Kid’s Science Book, is to fill a shallow tray with oil. Give your child containers of colored water and a pipette. They can drip in bits of water and watch them ball up. Try this in a clear container on a light table – if you think your kids are up to doing it without spilling – otherwise, put the clear container on white paper so the colors are obvious.

Fireworks in a Jar: Another experiment we didn’t try was to fill a jar most of the way with water, then in a separate container, whisk together oil and food coloring. Pour the oil on top of the water – the food coloring will gradually separate out, sink through the oil, and cascade into the water then mix with the water. Do a google search for “fireworks in a jar” to see lots of examples, including I Can Teach My Child.

Chromatography – What color is that black marker? Supplies: strips of paper towel, various watercolor black markers and small container of water. Choose a marker and draw a line 1 – 2 inches from the end of a paper strip. Dip the very end of the strip (below the line) into the water, and lay the rest of it out on the tray. It wicks up the water, bringing the color along with it. With SOME markers, unexpected colors separate out. Learn more: www.crayola.com/crafts/marker-chromatography-craft/ and http://b-inspiredmama.com/marker-chromatography-science-experiment/ www.exploratorium.edu/science_explorer/black_magic.html


Sharpie tie-dye: Supplies: coffee filters, permanent markers, rubbing alcohol (90%) and pipettes or eye droppers. Kids draw on the coffee filter, then drip on a little rubbing alcohol and watch the colors spread. You can tie-dye shirts this way if desired.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=tg8g2mk2fsY  This experiment didn’t attract a lot of interest… we have done other experiments recently with dripping liquid watercolors onto coffee filters, and this may have felt too similar.


Crystals Painting: You could also do Epsom salt painting this week if you didn’t do it with States of Matter.

Water Table: I soaked water beads the night before (polymers) and put some in the water table with fishing nets (our Tool of the Week) and scoops. I had two brands of water beads – I can’t remember what brand the blue ones are – I’ve used them over and over. The multi-color beads were bio-gels. At the end of the day, the blue ones were whole and ready to be dried and re-used. The multi-coloreds had been squished into lots of little bits of loose jelly we had to fish our of the water. So, test your beads ahead of time!


Building Toy: ZOOB  are a fun building toy which require learning a new small motor skill for many kids – knowing how to line it up just right and push hard to connect them. They only hook together in certain ways – can form matrices – kind of like molecule models.

Bubble wands. The kids used pipe cleaners and beads to make bubble wands for outside time.  http://www.prekinders.com/bubble-chemistry/


Snack: A great snack would be to make either a cake or pancakes to go with the cake recipe song or the pancakes book that we did in circle time.

Beverage at Snack Time: Koolaid or other powdered drink mix you stir into water – talk about how the powder dissolves in the water, and then mixes in.

Large motor: This day is a lot of high concentration, small motor, try not to make too much of a mess activities. The kids need to be able to blow off physical steam. So, we had tumbling mats in the big motor room and had a long outside time to play.

Challenge Activity # 1: Can you make a bouncy ball?

We followed the directions on chemistry.about.com. (They credit their source as Meg A. Mole’s Bouncing Ball.) The notes in brackets are from our observations.

    • Pour 2 tablespoons warm water and 1/2 teaspoon borax powder into the cup labeled ‘Borax Solution’. Stir the mixture to dissolve the borax. [The water needs to be very warm, and you need to stir a while to be sure it’s all dissolved.]
    • Pour 1 tablespoon of glue into cup labeled ‘Ball Mixture’. Add food coloring. [The website recommends blue or clear school glue – we weren’t able to find that, so we used Glitter Glue. The balls turned out a pale shade of the glue color, with subtle hints of glitter. We did test a couple with multi-purpose glue and food color.]
    • Add 1/2 teaspoon of the borax solution you just made and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch. Do not stir. [Tip: this works best if you use a wide dish where the glue spreads out a bit – sprinkle the borax solution around over all the glue, then sprinkle the corn starch all over that. If you just dump the solution in one place, you’ll end up with part of the mixture interacting great and turning into a ball and other parts where the reaction never really happens, and the ball just won’t form correctly. We learned to use a paper/cardboard snack tray to mix in as cleaning up a dish after making these takes a LOT of scrubbing – easier to throw away a snack tray.]
    • Allow ingredients to interact on their own for 15 seconds (the video on about.com says 15 minutes, but it’s really seconds), then stir them together to fully mix. Once the mixture becomes impossible to stir, take it out of the cup.
    • Knead the ball by rolling it around in your palms. It’s VERY sticky at first. [As you keep rolling it, you’ll feel it start to pull together into a ball. If it’s still really sticky, sprinkle a little more corn starch onto it and keep rolling.]
    • Once it’s solidified, bounce it.
    • When you’re done playing with it, put it in a Baggie – write name on the baggie!

IMG_20160326_132428564  IMG_20160326_132419711

So, when I tested this before class, it worked perfectly. Ridiculously easy, made a nice ball. Not commercial quality or anything, but enough to feel like a very successful experiment. But, then at the end of the first class, our record was 3 successes, 6 failures. And the photo above was one of our “successes.” It bounced, but it wasn’t beautiful. We got better as we figured out the tips above – the afternoon class had about an 80% success rate. Good enough to be worth doing as an activity, but not as good as hoped.

Kids’ Activities Blog recommends using just 1/2 tablespoon of cornstarch and mixing glue, cornstarch, and food color together before adding borax solution. We’ll test that next time.

Challenge Activity #2: Make your own silly putty.

Sources I used for ideas: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/crazyputty.html  http://www.wikihow.com/Make-Silly-Putty http://www.pbs.org/parents/crafts-for-kids/homemade-silly-putty/.

Supplies: Elmer’s Multi-Purpose Glue (apparently Elmer’s school glue does not work); food coloring, liquid starch (Sta-Flo – apparently Niagara doesn’t work); tablespoon, spoon, dish to mix in, plastic eggs.

  1. Put two tablespoons of  glue in a dish.
  2. Add food coloring. Mix.
  3. Add one tablespoon liquid starch. Stir.
  4. Let sit for five minutes.
  5. Knead for five to ten minutes.

Note: The recipes I saw often recommend one part glue and one part liquid starch. That led to a handful of liquidy goo that was not kneadable. I added a bunch more glue to my hand and kneaded that in. So, I recommend you start with two tablespoons. When you first start working with this, it’s goo. It takes several minutes of kneading to turn into silly putty. But, in the end, it was a pretty satisfying imitation of silly putty.

But… we decided not to use this in class. Having to wait five minutes mid-process, then having to knead for 10 – 15 was too much to ask our little kids. Plus, the recipe results in silly putty, and many parents can tell you awful stories of silly putty in their carpet or upholstery, and we decided not to send our families home with a product they’d later resent us for.

Make bubbles: You could make your own bubbles. There’s fun science in understanding that although water and soap make bubbles, to make long-lasting bubbles, you need some sort of sugar. Here’s one recipe: Measure 3 cups of water into one container. Add 1/2 cup dish soap, and stir GENTLY. Add 1/2 tablespoon glycerin OR 2 tablespoons light corn syrup. Stir gently. You can use it right away, but it works even better the next day.

Opening Circle:

How to communicate the answer to the key “Question of the Week”?  I asked “When you mix things together, do they always combine into one new thing or do they stay separate? Let me show you an experiment, and we’ll see.”

I started with a demo of oil and water. I poured water into a test tube, then showed them the regular food coloring Food Coloring, and explained it was color chemicals mixed with water. So, we know it will mix with water. I put a few drops in the water and mixed it.

Then I showed them the oil and explained that water and oil do not like to combine. I reminded them the regular food coloring was made of water, and added a few drops to the oil. It beaded up, and I put the lid on the oil, and showed how I could pour the oil back and forth in the tube, and the ball of food coloring would not mix in. Then I poured some water in with the oil, and shook it gently to mix it, then showed how it separated out again, with the oil floating on top of the water. I also added the Oil Food Color to the oil to show how it could mix in because it was color mixed with a chemical that “likes” to connect to oil.

Matter and molecules. I reminded them about what matter and molecules are. We covered this in states of matter class. I used red ZOOB and said “imagine these are iron molecules. They like to connect to other iron molecules. They can also mix with other molecules, like copper” (I add a green ZOOB), “and silver” (I add a gray ZOOB) “and gold” (a yellow ZOOB.) [Note: I have not validated the scientific accuracy of these chemical bonds… I’m teaching preschoolers, so I just need big picture to be right, and don’t guarantee all the details. Feel free to correct me in the comments with another suggestion for examples ot use…  🙂 ]

Then I held up two mega-blocks of one color and said this was another kind of chemical – hydrogen – and it hooks up really well with other hydrogen. And it can hook up with some other chemicals like oxygen – I pull out a duplo and show how even though it’s different from the mega blocks, they can connect.

But then I showed that the mega-blocks and Duplos will not connect to the ZOOB no matter how hard we try. This is similar to how water and oil won’t connect.

Book: I didn’t find any little kids’ books about chemistry (I did find books for adults and older kids about chemistry experiments to do, but nothing with a story.) So we read a book tied to last week’s Egg theme. You could also read a book about cooking such as Whopper Cake, which would tie in nicely with the song we did…

Song: We used the Cake Recipe song. (I explained how when we cook food from a recipe, we’re basically doing chemistry. And that you had to follow the recipe right, because flour, eggs, milk, and sugar can make cake, but it can also make bread, all depending on how you mix it together.)

Before teaching the song, I had them clap the rhythms of the chorus: 1-2-3 1-2-3 mix-mix-mix mix-mix-mix and 1 2 3 4 mix mix mix mix. Rhythm is an important building block for the brain, helping with later math learning and more.

Closing Circle

Book: We read Pancakes, Pancakes! by Eric Carle. Not only is this about the chemistry of cooking, but it also goes through how we get flour (harvesting, threshing, grinding – it showed a water wheel powered mill which allowed me to remind them about our Simple Machines unit on Wheels, and showed a water wheel like we use in the water table, but being used to create power before we understood electricity.

Songs: Handed out the egg shakers we made in egg science week, and sang the cake recipe song again, using shakers to mark the rhythm.

Cool ideas we didn’t try:

Like all my posts, this includes Amazon Affiliate links. If you click through and purchase something, I get a small payment. However, I do this primarily so you can see what product I am referring to, and can read reviews of it and look for alternatives easily.

Egg Science

An updated version of this post is at: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2017/04/18/egg-science-2/

As spring begins, our theme was: Eggs.
Question of the Week: What kind of creatures lay eggs?
Challenge: Can you drop a hard-boiled egg from a height without cracking the shell?

Discovery Activity: Observe animals that come from eggs – we had a display area with a leopard gecko and crickets. This is a NO TOUCH display.

Challenge Activity: Egg drop challenge. We put out tester eggs (plastic eggs with a bouncy ball inside), quart size Ziplocs and a variety of packing materials – Styrofoam peanuts, bubble wrap, cloth, air, water, and so on. The kids would pack the bag with soft materials, nest the egg inside them, then drop the egg, then check it – is it still intact? If not, they put it back together (that’s why we’re using tester eggs!) and try again. If it is still intact, they can re-seal it and drop it from a greater height. We also had a worksheet to encourage our older kids to make a prediction about what would happen, and track what they’ve tested. (www.iheartcraftythings.com/2012/08/humpty-dumpty-science.html)


During opening circle, we tested one or two containers with hard-boiled eggs. Test at one foot, then two foot, then three feet, and so on. Do the eggs survive without cracking? Then they tinker more, inventing new containers. During closing circle, we tested with hard-boiled eggs. We had planned to take the best container and test with raw egg, even trying dropping it off some stairs, but we ran out of time.

Big motor play: Egg Roll Race. http://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/plastic-easter-egg-races-exploring-ramps-gravity-motion-saturday-science/ Using cardboard “gutters”, roll a ball down the gutter, or roll an egg down, roll “wobbly eggs” down. Which rolls furthest? Which rolls smoothest?

We made wobbly eggs for this game: open a plastic Easter egg, glue one small rock inside, glue closed. Older kids and adults found these interesting, because they rolled in unexpected ways. For example, with one, no matter what position you set it down in, it would pop up on one end. Little kids didn’t find this intriguing at all – they don’t have any sense of how eggs “should” roll, so didn’t notice that they were behaving oddly. We also learned that when people see Easter eggs, the first thing they do is open them up to look inside – not just the kids but the adults would too, and then realize they’d broken the glue seal. At the end of class, kids had removed all the rocks from all the eggs

In the big motor area, we also put out spoons for a “carry the egg in a spoon” game.

Art Process: Gelatin eggs. Put in a tub or sensory bin: egg-shaped clear gelatin, pipettes, liquid water color. (http://www.two-daloo.com/sensory-art-play-colorful-gelatin-castles/ and http://myiearlychildhoodreflections.blogspot.com/2012/01/why-is-there-gelatin-in-sensory-table.html)  Kids insert the pipette to make a hole, pull it out a little, then squirt in color.


Art project: Make egg shaker instruments. Put out plastic eggs. Dried beans to fill with, Sharpies to decorate with, and tape to seal them closed.


Pattern matching: Put out 6 plastic eggs, broken into their halves. Put up poster of mix and match eggs – they need to match the patterns (blue on top, pink on bottom, etc.)


Literacy skills: We made word family plastic eggs – http://mamateaches.com/word-family-eggs/. We had meant to put out a tray of salt or flour for writing letters in so they could practice copying the words that they saw (www.playdoughtoplato.com/word-family-eggs/). We’ll definitely do that next time, as it will make it a more engaging activity.


Imaginative Play: We had baskets shaped like nests, hardboiled eggs (chicken and quail) and bird toys. We set the book An Egg Is Quiet with them, and hung a poster comparing how big the eggs are for various species.


Science Learning: We made a collection of photos (all taken from the ZooBorns website) and printed them so on the back of each picture, there was either an egg, or an egg with a circle/slash through it. Then made a sign asking “Do these animals hatch from eggs?” There were two baskets: Yes and No. I’ve attached the file here so you can get a better look at it – but I don’t have copyright on these images, so encourage you to make your own set of cards rather than printing this one.


Science Exploration: We made naked eggs in advance (see links at bottom of the post) and had one out in a bowl for kids to *carefully* explore. Next to that, we had a jar with an egg in vinegar so they could see the process that led to the naked egg. Next time, we’ll try shining a flashlight on the egg so they can see the yolk inside it better.


Sorting activity: Pair up halves of toy eggs so that their facial expressions match. (It’s not a terribly exciting activity for this age group, but if you happen to have a set of these eggs, it’s easy to set them out for kids to explore.

Water table: You could put red water beads in the tub to simulate fish eggs floating in water.

Opening Circle:

Gathering the Students. We used the unhatched egg idea from: Storytime Planners. Say: Make a noise like a rooster. (Crow) Make a noise like a hen. (Cluck) Make a noise like a chick. (Peep) Make a noise like an unhatched egg. (Silence) Good!     And now you’re ready to listen to the next story!

Song: I’m a little chick – tune of I’m a Little Teapot.
Inspired by 3 songs on http://jeninthelibrary.com/tag/eggs/

I’m a little chickie, (crouch down inside your egg) Ready to hatch,
Pecking at my shell, (Pecking motion) Peck, peck, scratch! (scratching motion)
When I crack it open, Out I’ll leap. (Pop Up)
I’ll spread my wings* (hands in armpits and flap) And cheep, cheep, cheep.

Book: Choose one about all the different animals that lay eggs. Some to choose from, in order from my favorite to less preferred. (The first three are “guessing games” which is always fun in circle time. They cover several creatures with two page-spreads each: there’s a “teaser” page that shows a nice illustration and gives some clues, then it asks listeners to guess what is growing inside the egg. The next page reveals the answer.

    • Guess What Is Growing Inside This Egg  – “Their mother crawled from sea to land to bury these soft eggs in the sand. Can you guess what is growing inside these eggs? Sea turtles!” The reveal pages also have a paragraph of detailed info about that creature which 5 – 7 year olds might enjoy reading after circle.
    • Eggs, 1, 2, 3: Who Will The Babies Be? A lift-the-flap and counting book. “Four eggs, of sky blue, in a nest of grass and mud on a branch in a backyard. Who will the babies be? 4 robin chicks, with beaks open wide.”
    • What Will Hatch? “Jelly, jiggly. What will hatch? Wiggly, squiggly tadpole.”
    • An Egg Is Quiet. Gorgeous naturalistic illustrations! “An egg is quiet. It sits there, under its mother’s feathers… on top of its fathers feet… buried beneath the sand. Warm. Cozy. An egg is colorful…” Great to put out on a table to enjoy, but not as engaging an option for circle time as the others.
    • Chickens Aren’t the Only Ones.  “Chickens aren’t the only ones. Most snakes lay eggs, and lizards too, and crocodiles and turtles do and dinosaurs who are extinct, but they were reptiles too.”

Lift the Flap or Felt Board: I printed out a poster with ten pictures on it, and covered each picture with a post it note, then shared this rhyme, which is adapted from one that Jen in the Library says came from Preschool Favorites by Diane Briggs. I changed a few verses, because I wanted to include more non-bird oviparous animals.

There are ten little eggs / And what do we see / They’re about to crack open / “My goodness me,” said Mother Hen.
The first egg cracks open. And what do we see? It’s a fuzzy, little duckling, looking at me.
The second egg cracks open. And what do we see? It’s a pretty little robin, looking at me.
The third egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a long-necked ostrich Looking at me.
The fourth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a hungry caterpillar Looking at me.
The fifth egg cracks open And what do we see An orange and white clownfish Looking at me.
The sixth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a snappy alligator Looking at me.
The seventh egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a wiggly tadpole Looking at me.
The eighth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a duck-billed platypus Looking at me.
The ninth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a little green dinosaur Looking at me.
The tenth egg cracks open And what do we see It’s a little yellow chicken Looking at me.
“My baby!” said the mother hen, as happy as can be.
“Mommy!” said the chick. “Did you meet all my sisters and brothers?” “What!” shrieked Mother Hen, “My goodness me.”

Outdoor Time: Hike through the woods to observe spring time changes – buds, blossoms, flowers, new leaves…

End with egg toss game. First, the teachers demo’ed it. Take a raw egg, carefully pass from one to the other. Take a step back, gently toss and catch. Take another step back, toss and catch, and so on. Once the teachers’ egg has broken, then have all the kids pair up and give them each an egg. We played on the grass, and our eggs were VERY sturdy. Some teams probably dropped their egg 10 times before it broke. We picked up all the shells to compost, but left egg goo there – animals will eat it. If it was summer and there were lots of barefoot kids running in the park, clean up as much goo as you can.

Optional songs to sing:

I Love Eggs (Tune: Frere Jacques) – (from: Storytime Source Page) I love eggs, I love eggs. Yum, yum, yum ; Yum, yum, yum. Scrambled, boiled or fried, any way I’ve tried. Yum, yum, yum ; Yum, yum, yum

If You Like Your Eggs Scrambled (Tune: Happy & You Know It) (Storytime Source Page) If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands Yes, they’re yummy and they’re yellow So you’ll be a happy fellow If you like your eggs scrambled, clap your hands

If you like your eggs fried, jump up high… If you want bacon with your eggs, wiggle your legs… If you want toast instead, nod your head (Mmm-hmm)…

Closing Circle

Book: One of many great books about someone finding an egg with a mysterious occupant and the process of waiting for it to hatch or other silly stories about eggs – there’s a lot of them! Some options:

    • The Odd Egg. All the other birds have laid an egg except duck. (The observant reader will notice it’s a male duck by its coloring.) Duck finds an egg and waits for it to hatch. Interesting page layout, fun read-aloud.
    • An Extraordinary Egg. Too long for circle if you have kids under age 5, but it’s a fun story of a frog who finds an egg that turns out to be an alligator.
    • The Chick That Wouldn’t Hatch. There are 6 eggs in a nest. 5 chicks hatch. The other egg goes for a long roll through the barnyard, past the pond, over the ditch, then finally hatches.
    • The Cow That Laid an Egg. Marjorie the cow doesn’t feel special because she can’t ride bicycles and do handstands like all the other cows. The chickens hide a cow-spotted egg near her and say she’s laid an egg. Everyone is astonished. Eventually the egg hatches into a chick…. that says MOO!!
    • Egg Drop. This book delights me. Truly. I chuckled while reading it. But I didn’t read it at class. “The egg was young. It didn’t know much. We tried to tell it, but of course if didn’t listen. If only it had waited.” It wants to fly before hatching, and in the end jumps from a great height which doesn’t end well. In the end, it’s a smiling sunny-side up egg next to some bacon waiting to be eaten. Again, I liked it. Many kids (including mine) would like it…. but some might find it disturbing.

Egg drop. We had all the kids make bags of packing materials, nestle a hard boiled egg inside. First, they dropped from one foot off the ground. If it didn’t crack, then they dropped from two feet up, and so on. One kid made a packet that kept an egg safe up to 6 feet.

Group Activity: Optional: Chicken Dance – Play the music and have the children do the classic dance: Make your hands like talking four times, flap arms like wings four times, wiggle bottom four times, clap Four times, do it again faster!!

More recommended books for the classroom bookshelf

  • A Nest Full of Eggs. For kids age 5 – 7 (or younger if they have a long attention span), this is a nice engaging story of robins building a nest, laying eggs, hatching and flying away that also gives info about other birds, their feathers, and habitats.
  • Where Do Chicks Come From? Even though this is supposedly the same reading level as the previous book, I find the scientific concepts are much more advanced, and more details than most of my kids would want. But if you have a scientifically minded kid who wants to know it all, check it out.
  • From Egg to Chicken. A non-fiction review of the chicken’s maturation. A fine reference for a 6-7 year old who wants to learn more of the details.
  • Eggs. You might want this for Stevenson’s illustrations – beautiful naturalistic drawings. The words are over the head of this age group. (I teach kids 3 – 7.)
  • Hank Finds an Egg by Dudley. Sweet wordless story book about a teddy bear that finds an egg in the woods and tries several different ways to return it to its nest. The younger children in our class loved this story.
  • How to Make a Bouncing Egg (Hands-On Science Fun). A book that walks you through the process of making a naked egg (see below.) You don’t really learn anything you won’t learn by doing it. But, if you want a book about it, it’s available.

Additional Activities We Didn’t / Couldn’t Do in Class

A video… just for the goofiness of it: Check out this trifle.



An updated version of this post is available here.

The final week in our Engineering unit at Family Inventor’s Lab was Contraptions and Rube Goldbergs: Engineering Interactions between Simple Machines. It was all about taking tools and concepts from our simple machines unit and our engineering unit and combining them in fun and playful ways. This was a day about Tinkering where kids were encouraged to build something, test it, adjust it, test it again, say “hey I wonder what would happen if we added X”, add X and test it again. I was leading a parent education session in another room for part of class, and kept hearing gleeful giggles when they discovered new and entertaining combinations. (Unfortunately, I didn’t get many pictures of the cool stuff they put together…)

Engineering: My co-teacher and I attended a workshop a few weeks ago called “The E in STEM – Exploring Engineering in Early Childhood” done by the folks from Kodo toys (www.KodoKids.com). They said Engineering is all about problem-solving – you find a problem, you work toward a solution. They then said that play is when kids make up problems to solve and they call that fun. And the focus is on the process – once you’ve solved one problem, you set up a new, more complicated one to solve. That’s what this day was all about.


The Launch Table: On one table, we set up a target to aim for, and then put out ramps, levers and fulcrums, pompoms, corks, dowels and blocks. Kids were just shown the target and given a couple suggestions for what to try, and then left to play. I listened in on a couple of parents giving great guidance and asking great questions to extend their child’s learning. “What do you think will happen if…” “Hmm… that’s not heavy enough… can you find something heavier?” “OK, you got great height with that launch, but how can we work on accuracy – aiming it toward that target?” “If you roll this dowel down the ramp, would it hit the target?”


Rube Goldbergs During circle time, we talked about “Rube Goldberg” devices – this is the kind of thing where instead of just turning on a light switch, you set up a ramp and a pulley, where you roll a ball down the ramp, it falls into a basket which pulls the pulley, which turns on the light. Why not just turn on the light switch? Because it’s more fun this way. My co-teacher build this sample Rube to demonstrate during circle, then kids could play with it afterward, and there was another peg board and supplies next to it to encourage kids to build their own. The design was based on this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0Ye7iAIPhmg

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Ball Launcher: We brought back our scarf cannon, but used it for launching balls (soft plastic balls like you would find in a ball pit, and Styrofoam balls.) Kids played “golf” with it, where the goal was to aim the tube so that when the ball shot out, it would roll through the tunnel blocks. They also did a variety of other experiments… a fun one would be to tie a hoop in the air and try to shoot the balls through it.


DIY Marble Run: We had our ball wall there for kids to play with.


Marble Run: We also had this marble run, which is great, and could also be used as part of a larger Rube Goldberg series of actions, as seen in the video on this Tinkerlab page: http://tinkerlab.com/engineering-kids-rube-goldberg-machine/.


Domino Runs: We had dominos so children could set up chains of dominos to knock over. It’s fun to also include some “triggers” for Domino chains – things you can use to push over that first Domino in the chain. Examples we had were our Conveyor Belt from inclined planes week, our Wrecking Ball and pull-back car from Towers week, and a tube that you could aim at the dominoes then roll a marble through. It’s also fun to include some “goals”, such as a target to hit – we used a Duplo tower to hang a musical triangle in so the Domino chain could ring the bell at the end. This is a Rube built by one of the dads:


Water table: We put water wheels in the water table.

Pulleys: There’s all sorts of stuff you can do with pulleys and Rubes, but we just didn’t have enough time to use all our ideas. But, if you have a more extended time, be sure to include pulleys! (Read about our Simple Machines unit on pulleys.)

Spinners: We used old CD’s, decorated them, glued a button in the center with Tacky Glue, then ran a string through two holes. Kids could then put their fingers through the string, wind it up, and let it go to spin. (Similar to this idea on Housing a Forest or this one on Play, Eat, Grow)


Mouse Trap: I ordered the game Mouse Trap which offers a fun pre-made Rube Goldberg, but sadly it didn’t come in time.


At opening circle, we talked about Rube Goldberg and showed one of his books of illustrations (Rube Goldberg: Inventions!), and we explained the idea of putting together a ridiculously complicated series of mechanical actions to accomplish a simple mechanical task. My co-teacher demonstrated the Rube Goldberg she had built (see above.) Sometimes the demo works, and sometimes it doesn’t, and everyone laughs together, then we re-build it and try again. It’s a good way to talk about the fact that sometimes things don’t work right the first time – it doesn’t mean we’ve failed and it will never work. It just means it doesn’t work YET and we might need to work a little harder on it. (My parent education session this day was on “Willingness to Fail is the Key to Success” and on the Growth Based mindset, intentionally matched up with the kids’ theme of the day.)

We read the book Lights Out, which tells the tale of a piggy who needs to figure out how to turn off his lights from his bed after he falls asleep. It’s a wordless book that shows a VERY complex series of contraptions – fun to read if you add sound effects – “thwack” goes the broom on the seesaw; boingeduh-boingeduh-boing goes the ball down the stairs.

At closing circle, we read Mechanimals about a farmer who builds mechanical animals, including a pig that flies. Some books we’ve read for previous themes that could tie in to contraptions are: Awesome Dawson and Wendel’s Workshop from Robot week, Violet the Pilot  and Rosie Revere, Engineer from Wind week and The Most Magnificent Thing. You could also include Dumpster Diver – described in my list of books about Inventors. (These are all affiliate links for learning more – books can be purchased from Amazon, or you can get them from the library.) If you know of a great book about a kid building contraptions or Rube Goldbergs, tell me about it in the comments!

Song – we didn’t find a song we loved for this week – best idea was Button Factory, which turns the child into a “kinetic sculpture” of movement. (Find videos on YouTube if you don’t know the tune.)

Apps and Videos

On YouTube, just do a search for Rube Goldberg, and you’ll find PLENTY of videos to entertain you.

A fun way to prepare a child for this class or to review the ideas could be to explore a “contraptions” app. This is completely optional!!!! Parents who don’t like their child to do screen time, can feel free to skip this idea. My favorite is Inventioneers. Pettson’s Inventions, by the same company, is also quite good. Bad Piggies, from the Angry Birds Universe, also is a contraptions app, and there are others. If your child ONLY does the app and builds virtual contraptions, I think that there’s limited learning potential here. But, if they work with real, physical objects hands-on, then explore in an app, then return to the physical objects, I think it can be a nice tie-in.

Inventioneers: This app is available on Android and IOS. It is free in the Kindle app store. It’s all about Rube Goldberg type processes – you drop an apple on the character’s head, he turns on his blower, which turns a fan, which moves a gear, which knocks the basketball off the platform onto the seesaw and into the basket.

A 6 or 7 year old might be able to play it alone if an adult played the first few levels with them to give them the basic concept. A 4 or 5 year old can enjoy watching an adult play it. You usually don’t get the answer right on the first try – you set up part of the process, press play to test it, adjust it, test it again, set up the next part of the process, test that, adjust it, and so on. Talk it all through with the child. Tell them what you’re trying and why. Ask them why something didn’t work and what you can do differently. It’s definitely a learning process which requires lots of tinkering.

More Ideas

If you want to play more with this idea, it’s easy! Just put out loose parts, like blocks, bells, pulleys, dominoes, marbles and more. Give your child a challenge to complete. Encourage building a step at a time. For example, if the goal is to ring a bell, maybe they first build a domino chain to ring it. Then they add a wrecking ball to trigger the dominos. Then they add something to bump the wrecking ball to get it started and so on.

I’ve pinned several ideas here: www.pinterest.com/bcparented/preschool-rube-goldbergs/

The best discussions on the topic are: Rube Goldberg machine on Tinkerlab, and Gadgets and Contraptions at Science World. Enjoy!

Addendum: Next year, we will add in this Duplo kit for a fun extra “contraption”.


If I Built a House

An updated version of this post can be found at https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/2016/10/17/if-i-built-a-house-2/


We continued our Engineering theme with a class about building houses.

Question of the Day: What are the steps in building a house?
Challenges: Design a house like you would like to live in. Build a house with friends.

Incorporating Books into the Lesson: We had three different books that are about the process of building a house. Building a House by Barton is a nice book for ages 3 to 5 about each of the steps in building a house. Building Our House by Bean is great for ages 4 to 6. It tells the story of a family building their own house. Told from the perspective of a young child. How a House Is Built by Gibbons. I find some of the details in this book are more than a child would care about, but the illustrations are good.

We photocopied and printed copies of many of the pages, and posted those pictures near the activity related to that step in the book. Here is a pdf of the pages from Barton. (Note: I have an alternative lesson plan for building a house that is all tightly focused around the Barton book, with activities to match virtually every page. Check it out here.) We later used these books in circle time, where they wove together the story of the separate activities into a whole process.


Build a House! This is one of my all-time favorite collaborative activities for kids age 3 – 7. I first saw it at a construction themed birthday party. (Read more here: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2014/12/18/kids-construction/.) You use foam insulation panels (we use the 1 inch by 2 foot by 4 foot panels from Home Depot – for this class, I had nine full panels, plus a few cut into halves and thirds. Most were re-used from the last time we did this project) plus golf tees and toy hammers to assemble a building. You can use the panels horizontally like they did at the party – the advantage to that is kids can work more independently or you can use them vertically to make a 4 foot tall building – the advantage is kids can stand up inside it, but they’ll need adults to help them put together the first few tall walls, and they’ll likely want to climb on chairs to do some of the work. Kids LOVE to hammer and feel like they’re building “something real.” It can keep them entertained for hours.

We also gave them small pieces of Styrofoam to nail on as windows and other accessories. You could give them a Sharpie to draw on the panels, but I want to be able to re-use them, so I don’t. This is a great activity for any preschool class or for a birthday party, and it’s pretty cheap – about $30 in Styrofoam, $4 in golf tees, and you can ask all the guests to bring their own toy hammer or mallet (just have a few extras just in case.) And when you’re done, you have insulation panels for a crawlspace or attic – with just a few holes in them :-).

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Art Project – Paint A House, Add Windows and Doors. We took cereal boxes and Eggo boxes and turned them inside out so they were plain cardboard. Kids used foam rollers and tempera paint to paint them (the rollers put on a pretty thin coat, so it dries quickly, plus it’s a fun new motor skill for man kids). Then they added paper roofs if they wanted, and glued on windows and doors. (We had found photos of windows and doors online, put them into a document and printed it out. We pre-cut some for the younger kids, but older kids practiced their scissor skills cutting these out.) [We got the idea for this from Learn with Play at Home.]

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Art Project – Paper Bag Houses. We got the idea from Kids Activities Blog, but we used white bags and markers and dot paints (bingo markers) instead of paint, so we didn’t have to wait for them to dry.


Build a Neighborhood. If we had more time, we would have set up a neighborhood – taped out roads on the carpet, and let kids line their paper bag houses and cardboard houses along the street, add cars and dolls and so on. Since our time is limited, and the painted houses wouldn’t be dry in time to play with them, we just set up a little table top play with a couple of paper bag houses.


Art project – Blueprints (Crayon Resist Art). We set out white crayons so they could draw floor plans or house designs or whatever they wanted, and then paint over them with thinned blue tempera paint and a roller brush. (Idea from No Time for Flashcards.)

Imaginative Play: Construction worker Dress Up.  We had construction helmets, safety vests, goggles, and a Home Depot tool apron, plus construction cones to set up around our “work site.”

Building Toy: We put out Lincoln Logs with a drawing of a log cabin.

Brick-Laying: We had Duplos and Mega Blocks and a drawing of a fireplace and chimney from the Barton book. Kids could build whatever they wanted – a few tried the fireplace.



Sorting Activity – Arranging the Furniture. We had a collection of old doll house furniture (mine from childhood, that my parents just rummaged out of their basement!). We labelled 5 pieces of paper to represent the rooms of the house (would be better to have a blueprint of a floor plan) and kids sorted the furniture into the appropriate room.


Sensory Table – the big dig: We had sand, buckets and shovels. You could also put out soil or brown cloud dough (flour, cocoa powder, vegetable oil) and bulldozers and dump trucks. We posted illustrations of bulldozers excavating house sites.

Water Table – pipes: We posted pictures from our books of plumbers putting in pipes above the water table. We used elements from our DIY water wall and Waterway Pipes.


Wiring – although we didn’t do this activity, you could also do something tied to the book pages about electricians wiring the house, such as Little Bits, Snap Circuits, or just a battery and an LED light on wires. See our Electricity lesson plan for ideas.

Creation Station: We have an area in the corner with miscellaneous supplies for spontaneous creations. Some of our students decided to build rooms with tables and chairs.


Snack: A great option would be simplified gingerbread houses: graham crackers, frosting “cement” and either candies or dried fruits for decorations.

Opening Circle

Gathering song – we start with a really easy song to get their attention focused. We used Rhythm Sticks and mimed each verse. We chose these verses because they taught the actions we would do in our other song.

This is the way we saw the wood, saw the wood, saw the wood,
This is the way we saw the wood, so early in the morning.
This is the way we hammer the nails… Lay the bricks… Paint the walls….

But, you could also do these verses to match the actions in the Barton book, in order. This would be great if your circle time is in the same room as activities, and on each verse, you can point around the room to the related activity.

This is the way we dig a hole… hammer and saw… pour cement… lay the bricks… make a floor… put up walls, build a roof… build a fireplace… put in pipes… wire for lights… put in doors… paint the walls… build a house. [on final verse, instead of ending with “so early in the morning” end with “the family moves inside.”]

Observations: Ask: What have you done so far? What do all those activities have in common? [answer: They are all steps we take while building a house.]

Overview of the Day’s Activities: Read the Barton book, pausing on each page to point to / talk about the related activity, and/or comment on the children’s activities so far: “I saw X working on the pipes” or “Y, you had a lot of fun arranging the furniture, didn’t you?”

Book: If I Built a House, by Von Dusen. This is a FABULOUS book. It is a boy telling the story of the house he has designed. It’s got a great rhyming, rhythmic flow to it, fun retro illustrations, and wildly engaging concepts about the kinds of rooms the boy would build if he could. I especially like pages at the beginning and end where we see that he’s drawn a house plan and built models from Legos, tinker toys, paper towel rolls and cardboard.

Imagination Activity: Give them paper to draw on. Encourage them to write or draw ideas for a house they would build. If they don’t want to write / draw, they can ask an adult to help. While they draw, put on music, do own sketches on board. After 5 minutes or so, ask some to share.

Closing Circle

Song – Hand out rhythm sticks, and reprise the song from opening circle.

Song: When I build My House by Parachute Express. www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBfJbbHJej0 (starred lines are done as call and response – you sing, they echo.) Mime the steps with rhythm sticks. I made posters of the lyrics that I printed on 11×17 paper.

When I build my house*, I’ll need some wood*.
And I’ll saw the wood*, when I build my house*.
And we’ll saw the wood, saw the wood, saw the wood when I build my house.
When I build my house, there’s so much to do…
It’s nice when you come along and help me too.

Sing again, but swap in… I’ll need some nails… hammer the nails. After singing third line with nails, repeat the third line with sawing the wood. Continue with Bricks, lay the bricks. Paint, paint the walls.

The song finishes with:
And when I’m through, I’ll go inside. And I’ll look with pride at the work I’ve done.
[Wow, look at what I did…]
I painted the walls, painted the walls, painted the walls when I built my house.
Laid the bricks… Hammered the nails… Sawed the wood…
When I built my house, there was so much to do…
[Thanks. You’re welcome.]
It’s nice when you come along and help me too.

Note: you could also do this song in opening circle, leaving off that last verse about “when I’m through”, and then do the song again in closing circle with all the verses.

Discussion: What was their favorite part of building a house – what activity was most interesting?

Book: Building Our House by Bean. This tells the story of a family building themselves a house. As you read through it, point out the signs of the seasons. They begin gathering supplies in one autumn, then stake out the location of the house in winter, begin to dig in spring, raise the walls in summer, roof in fall, finish the indoors in the winter and move into the house in the spring. The cat has kittens and the mom has a baby along the way!

Other Books for the Bookshelf

  • Let’s Build by Fliess and Sakamoto. Story of a boy and his dad building a fort together. They grab a pencil, draw the plans, head for the hardware store, come home and get to work. It’s a sweet story with nice illustrations and rhyming text, and shows dad and child building together, with the child using a real hammer, helping hold the hammer, etc. Kids will like this book. Amazon reviews indicate adults can be troubled if they think about it too hard… the fact that Dad knocks out perfect architectural drawings, Dad and kid build a big playhouse with no additional help, and the fact that the entire project appears to go from idea to completion in one day seem dubious to adults.
  • Andrew Henry’s Meadow by Burns. Too long for circle – could be read-aloud at home to a 4 or 5 year old, or read by an older child. Andrew likes to invent things… but his family doesn’t appreciate his creations, so he runs away and builds his own house in the meadow, and then all the other quirky kids come to join him and he builds the perfect house for each. A treehouse for the birdwatcher, a house over the creek for the boy who loves to fish, a dugout for the lover of pet rodents, and so on.
  • Construction by Sutton and Lovelock. This is about building a library, not a house, but is again a great review of the process (excavation, foundation, framing, finishing) with an irresistible rollicking rhythm – great for age 3 – 4. “Rise the roof. Raise the roof. Drive the screws in now. Power tools will do the job. Ring! Zing! Pow!”
  • A House Is a House for Me is a nice rhyming read with good illustrations: “A hill is a house for an ant, an ant. A hive is a house for a bee. A hole is a house for a mole or a mouse. And a house is a house for me.” It goes on, eventually saying “And once you get started in thinking this way, It seems that whatever you see is either a house or it lives in a house.” Nice read-aloud from 1978.
  • The Little House – winner of the 1942 Caldecott medal, it tells the story of a little house outside of town that is eventually surrounded by the skyscrapers of the growing city.
  • Tap Tap Bang Bang. Nice for 3 – 4 year olds, telling of tools and the sounds they make
  • Houses and Homes – a simple non-fiction book about houses around the world.
  • The ABC Book of American Homes. Shows a wide variety of houses, from apartments to beach houses, from log cabins to Kilbourne houses from Sear and Roebuck, Quonset hut to RV. Nice illustrations and fun to flip through, but I don’t think the text would engage the average child.
  • From Mud Huts to Skyscrapers – a history of architecture, with lovely illustrations of most of the most famous buildings in the world. Aimed at 10 – 12 year olds, and more a reference book than a read-straight-through, but interesting for little ones to flip through to see how varied buildings can be.

This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which will take you to detailed descriptions and reviews of books and products. Many of the books may be available from your local library.

Supplementary Activities

Time Lapse Videos. Go to YouTube. Search for “build a house time lapse” videos and you’ll find plenty! You’ll have to explain to your child how a time lapse video is made, but after that, they can be fascinating to watch.