Our Ten Favorite Activities

For our last session of Family Inventor’s Lab for this year, we brought back several of our favorite activities from the year.

I have starred the ones that you can easily re-create at home or in a preschool or elementary classroom. The others are more complicated, but I’ve given links to how to do them as well.

1. A Jar of Bubbling Goo* – originally seen in Chemical Reactions week. A simple experiment with mesmerizing results! Take a jar, pour in some vinegar and color it, then pour in some oil, then add a baking soda ice cube, and sit back and watch the seething, roiling bubbles! See more here.

2. Kites* – originally seen in Flight week. We made kites with paper and straws (you can also use bamboo skewers), and flew them outside. Here the directions for the Kite, from the Interactive History Company, which is run by my co-teacher Cym.

3. Catapults*. Originally seen in Levers week. We offered the materials to make several types of popsicle stick catapults. We encouraged kids to design one that launches farthest and with the most accuracy. You can find directions here: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2015/10/16/catapults/  Teacher Cym also brought along a medieval pavilion for them to launch pompoms at (and play inside of.)

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4. Marble maze – originally seen in gravity and contraptions weeks. We have our own marble maze / ball run that we built. (Directions here.) This week in class, we used a store-bought maze. Both inspire playful tinkering: set something up, test it, adjust it, test it again, aiming for the coolest possible sequence of events. The fine-tuning needed for this teaches attention to detail.

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5, Salad Spinner Art* – originally seen in Planets week. So easy – if you have a salad spinner you’re willing to use paint in. Take a paper plate – cut it to the right size to fit in your salad spinner. Have your child add paint to it. (We use mustard and ketchup squeeze bottles full of paint for this job.) Put it in the spinner and spin!

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6. Balloon Inflate and Let Go*, seen in States of Matter week. Cheap and easy kid entertainment! Get a couple Balloon Pumps and a bag of balloons at the drug store. Even kids as young as three can do this if you help them mount the balloon on the pump. They pump up the balloon, let it go, and it flies wildly around the room, eliciting lots of giggles!

We also made a new project this week: Balloon Poppers / Marshmallow Shooters*. On Coffee Cups and Crayons, she describes doing this with a cake pop container, but it works just fine using a toilet paper tube or a plastic cup with the bottom cut off. Just tie a balloon (no need to inflate it), then cut off the rounded end and stretch that opening over your tube. Load it with a marshmallow, pompom or whatever, then pull back on the balloon knot and release to launch it. Optional: if you find your balloon is pulling off of the tube when you pull on it, just tape it in place.

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7. Ice Melting* originally seen in Rainbows Week. We froze ice in a bundt pan, and placed it in the water tub with salt and small spoons, and diluted liquid watercolor with pipettes and a syringe. Easy, colorful, intriguing to kids, and good fine motor practice – especially learning to use the syringe.

8. Magnetic Sensory Bin* from Magnets week. We buried a bunch of metal washers, clothespins with metal springs, and magnetic balls in black beans and rice, and gave kids magnetic wands to sift them out with.

9. Plastic cup towers.* We brought back the red cups and the wrecking ball from Towers week. Stacking towers and knocking them down is always irresistible.

10. The Wind Tube – originally seen in Flight week: A fan powered wind tube where kids can put objects into the airstream (balloons, scarves, plastic lids, and so on) and see what flies. This is an activity that appeals to any age – from toddler to adult. It encourages playful exploration… “hey, what else can we try? What do you think this will do?” One dad in my class said that when he saw just this one activity, “I was sold on the whole idea of this class.” Learn how to make your own tube: https://gooddayswithkids.com/2015/02/08/build-wind-tube/ or buy your own (lovely but pricey) one at http://kodokids.com/wind-tunnel

Bonus 11th activity: We weren’t able to include the activity at this session. But another absolute favorite activity was light and shadows play with an old-school overhead projector. Be sure to check out the post here.

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Circle Time: We sang some of our favorite songs from the year (including When I Build My House), did the States of Matter dance party – pretending to be solid, liquid and gas, and blew some bubbles. We had lots of the books from our list of Recommended Books about Inventors and Makers on the shelf. We read aloud: Going Places and the Most Magnificent Thing.

Next Year: We’re taking the summer off, but if you’re in the Seattle area, and would like to join us next year, you can sign up now at www.bellevuecollege.edu/parented/family-inventors-lab/

In the meantime, have a happy summer of inventing, free play, and outdoor time!

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