Tin Foil River with Mini Ice Boats

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With summer officially here, it’s time to get out in the backyard for water play! We have so many ideas for this summer, but I started things off with a simple game for Veronika today, an idea originally spotted at Reading Confetti.

First I needed to make the boats; freeze water in the compartments of an ice cube tray, adding food coloring if desired. When the ice has just started to set, insert a toothpick into the center of each cube to be the boat’s mast.

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Once the cubes were set, I cut triangles from construction paper, and taped these to the masts for the sails.

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Veronika immediately loved these little boats, and might have been happy just to play with them, but now we needed a river!

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Take a long piece of aluminum foil and curl up both sides to form a channel down the middle. If you want to have a constant running river, you can start the garden hose and simply set place at one end of the foil.

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Veronika loves to pour from our watering can, though, so I decided to let her play the role of Mother Nature and add more water whenever the river ran dry. I set up the foil on a slightly sloped section of lawn, so as soon as the ice boats were in the water, they slipped “downstream”.

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Veronika loved watching the boats move faster and further every time she poured in more water!

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Of course this being summer, the ice bots didn’t last long. But even once the boats had melted away, she loved adding more water and playing with leftover masts and sails in the river. Your kids might want to set nature treasures afloat, too!

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Rainbow Pizza

This vibrant rainbow pizza, care of Veronika’s latest edition of High 5 magazine, is the perfect recipe to celebrate Pride Month. All of the ingredients below have no quantity, since the amount will depend on individual preference or the size of your pizza crust! Feel free to swap out the veggies below for your kids’ favorite in each color.

Ingredients:

  • 2 individual prepared pizza crusts
  • Pizza sauce
  • Shredded non-dairy mozzarella cheese
  • Red bell pepper, chopped
  • Orange tomatoes, halved
  • Frozen corn, thawed
  • Broccoli florets, steamed and chopped
  • Snap peas, steamed and chopped
  • Red onion, diced
  • Kalamata olives, sliced
  1. To prepare the pizzas, spread the desired amount of pizza sauce to evenly cover each crust. Sprinkle with the desired amount of mozzarella.
  2. Arrange the veggies in rows, starting with the red pepper on the top of the pizza, followed by the tomatoes, corn, broccoli, snap peas, onion, and olives.
  3. Bake at 425 degrees F for 8 minutes. Cut into wedges to serve.

Painting with Nature

I love thinking outside the box when it comes to painting tools, and one of the most beautiful alternatives to a real brush are “brushes” found in nature. This is the perfect activity to culminate a day in the park or a nature walk! Veronika saved up several finds, including a bristly pine cone, yellow flowers, and different leaves.

At home, I set out all the nature treasures on a tray, along with a big sheet of craft paper and paper plates with different colors of paint. If you want to go extra wild with this project, use cardboard as your canvas and do the painting outside, too!

Veronika was hesitant to hold the pine cone, so I showed her that if we rolled it in purple paint, it made neat dots across the paper.

She couldn’t wait to test a flower! She dipped it carefully into orange paint…

…and then pressed down. “It made a flower!” she said.

Some of our leaves could be used almost like regular brushes, making long streaks of paint across the paper.

Others, like maple keys, made what looked like a silly mustache print! Have fun experimenting with colors, the way you hold your nature treasures on the paper, and more. And if your kids want a slightly different take on this activity, paint on your nature finds, not with them!

Upside-Down Water

Yes you can turn a cup of water upside down without spilling it! This nifty “magic” trick is sure to wow family and friends, and can be done with no fancy materials or supplies.

To start, fill a small plastic cup about half way with water. Place an index card on top.

Flip the cup over with your hand firmly holding the index card in place (it’s okay if a little water spills out), and make sure the index card is saturated.

Slowly remove your hand and… the index card sticks, without the water pouring out. There’s definite wow factor here, but it’s all thanks to the simple fact that water molecules like to stick together. Air can’t get in the cup as a result, equalizing the pressure, so the heavy water doesn’t pour down.

Travis also got a kick out of the way the index card pops off if you squeeze the cup even slightly, breaking the bonds of those sticky water molecules.

Want more cool water tricks this summer? Check out our old fun poking holes in plastic bottles, or playing with sticky string!

Flying Sheet of Paper

The next time you plan to make paper airplanes with the kids, throw in this little STEM exercise, first!

The idea is to hold a piece of paper (loosely from the top two corners) at about level with your chin, curling the paper slightly toward you at the top. Then blow down as hard as you can. Before we actually did the exercise, I challenged Travis to write down his hypothesis (fancy word!): Would his breath blow the paper down toward his chest, or up toward his nose?

His guess, surprising me because it is counter to logic, was… Up!

Well, it turns out he was right ,and the answer is thanks to some neat science. When the molecules above the paper move faster from your breath, the air pressure is becomes lower. That means the higher pressure air under the paper pushes it upward. So the paper billows up instead of down!

The same principal can be applied to the wing of an airplane, hence all this science before we got around to making our paper planes. Of course the next thing we did was to fold up lots of paper planes to soar all around the house!

Weather Sensory Bottles

The first official day of summer was a hot one in our area, with abundant sunshine. I used the sunny day as a jumping off point to discuss all kinds of different weather with Veronika, and then to make it hands-on with these fun weather bottles.

I only put together three bottles: Sunny, Rainy, and Cloudy. But if you want, you can expand and include all 7 from this link (or heck, even more!). We plan to try a sparkly Snowy one with silver glitter or confetti, next time.

For our Sunny bottle, I placed a yellow pom pom into a clean empty water bottle, then filled with water and added only one drop of blue food coloring for the sky. The pom pom will float at the top as the perfect round sun.

For the Cloudy bottle, insert cotton balls or folded cotton pads, and then fill with water. Don’t add any blue, since the cotton gives the water a perfect grayish cast.

For the Rainy bottle, I filled with water and added about five drops of blue food coloring, then filled with blue sequins as the rain drops. This one was fun because the rain “pours” down every time you shake the bottle!

For each version you make, I recommend using hot glue to attach the cap securely. Veronika marveled out our mini weather systems. The rain was by far her favorite, but she enjoyed checking out the others and talking about what she saw.

She was easily able to point out “cloudy” when asked, or which one had a bright yellow sun.

If you like, you can make labels for each jar, but rather than tape the labels on we had fun pairing them with our weather fridge magnets!

Sprinkled Candy Bar Wrappers

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The fun shredded paper “confetti” on these DIY candy bar wrappers makes them perfect to give as a gift! To wit, we made this craft today to gift on Father’s Day.

To start, you’ll need lots of tiny pieces of paper. This would be a great chance for preschoolers to work on their cutting skills, but for Veronika, it was about playing with the pieces after I cut them!

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I then wrapped two chocolate bars in additional sheets of construction paper. We chose orange and blue, for the colors of daddy’s favorite sports team of course.

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Next, a grown-up will need to make a design or word on the top of each wrapper. Ours featured a heart on one and the letters D-A-D on the other.

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Then Veronika sprinkled our paper “confetti” down on the glue. Tap lightly over a trash can to remove any excess paper pieces and let dry complete.

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The DAD version was a little harder to read than we’d hoped, but the heart was clear as could be, and needless to say daddy loved them!

Find Out What Absorbs Water

I love games that combine nature play and fresh air with a little sneaky STEM thrown in, and this idea from Hands on as We Grow fits the bill!

To start, I sent Veronika hunting around the yard to find treasures. With some mommy help, we then sorted these into the compartments of a large muffin tin, including flowers, grass, leaves, wood chips, and dirt. We also left one compartment empty.

I then handed over Veronika’s watering can and encouraged her to water her items!

It immediately becomes clear that the effect of the water is not the same on all the nature items. Some, like the grass and flowers, are soon just sitting in puddles of water.

But for others (spoiler alert: wood chips and dirt), the water wasn’t there for her to see any more. It was time to introduce new vocabulary: the dirt had absorbed the water! The flowers and grass had not.

Of course the STEM lesson is advanced for my two year old, but half the fun here was just in pouring the water from the can, stirring items around, and enjoying a warm morning on the patio!

Carrot Pineapple Salad

Carrot Pineapple Salad

This salad is a fun spin on regular carrot-raisin salad. Thanks to the addition of blueberries, it turns a bright bluish-purple!

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 2 cups canned crushed pineapple
  • 1 cup freeze-dried blueberries
  • 1/4 cup vanilla non-dairy yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  1. Stir all the ingredients together in a large bowl. Cover and chill until ready to serve.

Note: If you have young toddlers, you can steam the carrots first so they are tender instead of crunchy.

Mixing Colors on the Window

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Take advantage of a sunny day for this no-mess color mixing lesson, a great idea spotted over on Hands on as We Grow!

We had a new set of paints that came in silly scents – think red strawberry, yellow pineapple, and blue blueberry – so Veronika couldn’t wait to test them out.

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I poured each of the three primary colors into a small zip-top plastic bag and sealed tightly, then showed Veronika the magic that could happen when we held them against a sunny window. Red alone was just red…

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…but if we held the yellow and red together, we saw orange!

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The effect is best when the paint layers aren’t too thick, so you can see both paints and the sunlight pouring through, creating the color mixing effect. Veronika especially loved when we made her favorite color, purple!

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Chances are your toddler will delight in using these as squishy bags for a while, too, which means we fit in our learning and our sensory play!

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