Easy Elevator

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Travis extended some recent science fun about the notions of push and pull with this cute elevator craft. Use a leftover Kiwi Crate (or any similar shoebox) as the shaft of the elevator. Cut two strips from the lid of the box, one wider and one narrower. Bend them so there are flaps at either end and then glue together so the narrower strip nests above the wider strip; this will be your elevator car.

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Now punch holes in the top of the car with a pen, near each edge. Cut a piece of string that is twice as long as the shoebox and loop it through the holes; secure with a knot at the top.

Use a pen to punch two holes in the shoebox, near the top as it is standing upright. Insert a dowel.

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Tape the string on the elevator car to the dowel. Your elevator is ready to rise! Now when you twist one way, the elevator goes up. Simply twist the other way for descent!

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Of course Travis immediately needed to add little figures for some play. He wanted to make pom pom people, so we hot-glued wiggle eyes onto tiny pom poms.

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And of course his Lego people needed to go for a ride!

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That meant this was not only a great STEM craft, but also a great prop for imaginative play.

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Tension Kiwi Crate


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This month’s crate for Travis from Kiwi Co was all about push and pull. Between puppets to push and turtles to pull, there was lots of hands-on fun in this one.

First up were the Push Puppets. Travis helped rig together a base that relies on tension, meaning lots of wooden pieces held together by rubber bands, nuts, and bolts.

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To assemble the puppets, thread one end of the provided elastic through a hole in the wood base, and then layer on three wooden beads. These look like little people: a body, a head, and a hat!

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Two sticky wiggle eyes complete each person. Pushing on the wooden lever now releases the tension on the elastic, and the puppets fall flat.

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Needless to say, Travis thought this was a riot! We could add the provided backdrops for little puppet shows that took place at the beach or in the moonlight.

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He colored his own background of a big hairy spider on the blank sheet of paper. Oh no, the puppets fell down in fear!

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Next up were Woven Turtles. This was the crafty Art part of STEAM for this crate, with a turtle shell to weave from yarn on a wood frame. This project came right on the heels of several other weaving activities we’ve done this summer, so Travis is becoming more dexterous at the motion.

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It was a lot of yarn, though, so he still needed me to take over! The fully woven shell is then adhered to a foam cut-out of a turtle, with a nut and bolt to fasten things in place.


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Travis added wiggle eyes and a little straw in the turtle’s nose. We made two because now it was time for… a Turtle Race! Use the provided blue tape to attach a piece of straw to the edge of your Kiwi crate (or any similar box).

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Tie the provided string to a table leg, making sure it’s at the same height as your prepared turtle.

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Thread the string through the straw on the turtle’s nose, and then through the one on the box. Add a wooden bead at the other end of the string, securing with a double knot.

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When you give the string quick tugs, your turtle moves from the table leg to the box. Here he goes:

What’s more fun than watching one little turtle scoot along? Making it a race of course!

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Mommy’s turtle won by a nose!

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In addition, Explore magazine had fun facts about ways people use ropes and tension in everyday life, whether the cables of an elevator, the strings of a guitar, or a game of tug-of-war. So of course we needed to play the latter!

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Finish with a read of the following:

  • Give It a Push, Give It a Pull, by Jennifer Boothroyd
  • Cece Loves Science: Push and Pull, by Kimberly Derting

Kiwi Tension books


Strawberry Cantaloupe Sorbet

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We’ve been having fun with fruit combos for dessert this summer. Here’s another unexpected blend of melon and berry with delicious results.


  • 1/2 cantaloupe
  • 1 and 1/2 cups strawberries
  • 1/2 cup apple juice
  1. Peel and cube the cantaloupe, reserving the remaining half for another use.
  2. Add the cantaloupe to a blender, along with the strawberries and apple juice; process until smooth.
  3. Transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze for 1 hour. Fluff with a fork. Repeat until ready to serve.

Note: If you leave this in the freezer overnight and it becomes solid, just let thaw briefly before fluffing with a fork and scooping out. It will resemble more of a granita than a sorbet, but is still delicious!

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Hummus Yogurt Dipping Sauce

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Store-bought hummus can be too strong for my kids’ taste buds. Adding creamy non-dairy yogurt helps make it just right!


  • 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, undrained
  • 2 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon plain non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  1. Combine all ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

We love this served with pita chips!

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Domino Towers

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Veronika has been having fun building towers up lately, sometimes with unconventional materials, so today we focused on the opposite: knocking down! I got this idea after some recent family fun playing with dominoes. The small dominoes are tricky for toddler fingers to build very high, but she loves the sound they make as they fall!

I showed Veronika how she could stack the dominoes into little towers. To throw in a little learning, I used only one color per stucture, asking her if we should make a purple tower, for example. She thought they looked like little houses and loved peering through! “Window!” she said.

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And then of course the temptation was too much and it was time to knock it down. We repeated this with all the different colored dominoes in our set.

She can also build her own domino “towers” if they are lying flat on their sides, and we talked about their rectangular shape as she built them this way.

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So yes, dominoes can be a great toy even for young toddlers.

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But enlist older siblings if you want to make more sophisticated designs. You can even count the pips as you build for a little math!

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Mess-Free Carpet Doodles

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If you have a toddler who loves to draw on walls and carpets, then you’ll love this mess-free way to make art together!

I headed upstairs with Veronika to the thickest carpet in the house, taking along a bag of cookie cutters and a few kitchen tools. It was time to see which ones left the best marks!

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We went through the bag of cookie cutters and pressed each one into the carpet. Some left only faint marks, but some made a prominent impression in the carpet. The hands-down winner was a set of Christmas ornaments, which were able to leave deep impressions in fun shapes.

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Other cookies cutters tended to work well, but the kitchen tools were hit or miss. The potato masher left a neat zig-zag, whereas other ones I thought might work (like a pastry blender) didn’t work at all.

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An oval measuring cup worked well, at least!

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Veronika’s favorite was a circular cookie cutter; it was easy for her to press this into the carpet and twist, leaving a deep circle print behind. She was so proud every time she saw the shape.

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This was a cute way to pass the time on a gray day.

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Tape Town

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Here’s a classic activity I did with Travis as a toddler, and today it was Veronika’s turn!

All you need to create your town is colored painter’s tape and whatever toy cars you have in the house. I laid down two strips of tape and told Veronika it was a road. She very excitedly came to see. “Black car is driving!” she said.

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The next thing we added was a parking lot. I designated little spaces with more strips of tape and she drove the cars in and out of the lot. 

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From there it was fun to expand the town. Soon we had a parking garage…

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…and a special spot for all her firetrucks.

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There was quite a lot of traffic in town today!

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At a certain point, she wanted to try making “roads” herself, so she became my helper with the tape.

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We decided that the town needed people, too, so we added Duplo houses and figures. I loved the way that this extended her imaginative play and kept her busy for quite some time.

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What would go in your toddler’s Tape Town? Please share in the comments!

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