Puking Pumpkin Science

Kids won’t be able resist a Halloween-themed STEM project that’s all about, yes, throw up! Needless to say, this holiday crate from Kiwi Co was a big hit.

You’ll need to start with a carved jack o’ lantern, which is not provided in the crate itself but certainly not a problem in the fall! We picked a medium pumpkin at a local farmstand and the kids loved first gutting their victim (er, scooping out the pumpkin seeds). Little did poor Jack know he was about to get sick!

Travis helped prepare the pumpkin according to the crate’s instructions: three scoops of provided baking soda, 1 scoop of foaming gel, and the color of choice (he picked blue).

In the provided beaker, the kids shook together 1 scoop of citric acid and another spoonful of color.

Add water and then slowly pour the contents of the beaker over the baking soda mixture in the pumpkin and… poor Jack!

He clearly was not feeling well.

Needless to say, the kids were entranced. They loved scooping up the bubbly foam and pouring it back into our poor patient.

And then of course they needed a repeat. This time Travis decided to mix yellow and blue for green puke. Poor Jack was up to his eyeballs!

Grown-ups might have to get over the “ick” factor on this one, but kids are guaranteed to love it.

Halloween Luminaries Kiwi Crate

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Years ago, Travis unboxed a crate from Kiwi Co. to make Halloween luminaries. The company has since updated the project, and this time big brother and little sister both got to help out! I recommend this crate for ages 3 and up. Apologies for the dark photos in the project, but we made it after dark, naturally, for extra spooky points.

To start, pour the provided glue into a little dish and use the sponge brush to dab glue all around one of the four provided plastic jars. This was a fantastic way for little hands to use glue without getting (too!) messy.

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Next the kids had to decide which creature they would create on each of the four clear jars. Purple tissue paper squares went on one for a bat, black for a spider, white for a ghost, and green for a monster. (We didn’t opt for the final option: orange for a pumpkin).

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The kit then includes sticker accessories depending which creature your kids have chosen, or they can mix-and-match for a crazy creature of their own creation! Travis loved winding pipe cleaner around rim of the bat jar, then adding bat wing stickers.

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Meanwhile, Veronika proudly gave our ghost a cute sticker face. The spider was the most complicated, for which we threaded the provided eight legs onto a black pipe cleaner and wrapped around the jar.

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Whichever creature you choose, insert one of the provided tea lights into the jar and set these spooky critters aglow on a doorstep or window. These are sure to delight without too much fright!

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Squiggle Cookies

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Let’s face it: any food that has a silly face is infinitely more fun for kids to eat. This “cookie” recipe from High Five comes together so easily, and turned out to be a fantastic sibling project that both my kids adored!

To start, I prepared a batch of vanilla frosting, then divided it among three zip-top plastic bags. The kids’ job was to add drops of food coloring, then seal and mush with their hands until all the color was incorporated. I loved watching big brother Travis coach Veronika through this step.

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Next, separate graham cracker sheets into individual rectangles. Travis decided we should leave some of the sheets intact so we could have a family: Big mommy and daddy rectangles, and smaller baby ones!

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Snip a small hole in the bottom corner of each frosting bag, then pipe the frosting onto the cookies. This step was tricky for Veronika, but Travis loved being in charge while she got to take an early taste test.

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Raisin eyes were the finishing touch.

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Travis proudly added the decorations to the Daddy Rectangle.

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It’s hard to say which part the kids enjoyed more: making these cookies or eating them!

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Bat Puppets

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This craft, care of Veronika’s latest High Five magazine, hits just the note between cute and spooky for preschoolers celebrating Halloween.

To start, paint empty toilet paper tubes (or paper towel tubes cut in half) any color your child desires. You can stick with a classic Halloween orange-and-black theme, but Veronika chose a sparkly mix of purple and yellow glitter paint!

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High Five recommended using black craft foam for the wings, but colored construction paper was a fine substitute. Cut a semi-circle for each wing, then make three tiny semi-circle snips along the bottom to make a ragged bat wing edge.

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Finally, cut small triangles for fangs and glue on to the tubes, along with the wings and wiggle eyes.

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I loved that our resulting bats had quirky preschooler style, whether eyes that were slightly askew or an extra eye on a bat wing. This meant Veronika truly had ownership of the craft… and made our bats a little extra spooky, too!

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Squash Spirits

Use butternut squash to make this adorable family of ghosts for your front porch this Halloween season! The novel shape is a fun twist on a standard round pumpkin.

Since butternut squash come in a pale peach color, though, first we needed to make them a ghostly white. Veronika loved helping paint the “baby” squash while I painted two larger ones. Just use caution, as you will need to use acrylic paint for this project rather than washable tempera paint.

We let the paint dry before adding a second coat of white, then let dry completely again.

To set up the squash squad, one received a top hat to wear and another got glasses. (Note: Our accessories were care of Mr. Potato Head, but doll accessories would work, too!). Finally, Baby Squash got eyes with permanent black marker, and the family was ready to haunt our steps.

BOO!

Water Wows

Here are two fun ways to sneak in some STEM learning about states of matter and water, one project involving water in the frozen state and one liquid!

First up was Catching Ice Cubes, a classic trick based on the fact that salt melts ice. I placed a few ice cubes on a tray and challenged Travis: Could he pick one up with a string? He gamely tried looping string around the slippery ice, but to no avail.

Next, we placed the pieces of string across the ice cubes, and then sprinkled each with a small mound of salt.

Count – slowly! – to thirty, then gently lift the string. The ice lifts up!

Now it was time to play Pinching Water with water in its liquid state. Ahead of time, I used a hammer and nail to make two small holes near the bottom of an empty and clean soup can. The holes should be about 1/2 an inch apart.

Tape over the holes with masking tape and fill the can with water. I removed the tape and Travis put his fingers near the two sprays of water. They pinch together into one!

This is a neat way to show the “magnetic” or sticky property of water molecules. which then split back apart if you move your finger further away. Travis also thought it was fun to plug up one hole and watch how the flow changed.

For even more fun ways to play with “sticky” water, check out some of our old favorites.

Light-Up Haunted House Kiwi Crate

We haven’t unboxed a Kiwi Crate in a long time, but couldn’t resist this Halloween-themed crate for some spooky STEM learning: a Light-Up Haunted House. I would recommend this particular project for ages 5 and up.

To start, Travis loved being in charge of the electronics, which meant inserting the battery into the provided battery pack, attaching wires into the LED strip, and then switching the on-off button to test it out. Sure enough, the LED lights glowed an eerie green!

The house comes together easily thanks to provided cardboard sides, a foam base, and vellum sheets that attach over the window openings with clear stickers.

The roof was a bit trickier, requiring some grown-up assistance to fold the gabled rooftop and then attach to wooden roof pieces with pieces of sticky foam.

While I put the finishing touches on the roof, Travis and little sister Veronika both loved using the provided markers to color in the spooky paper shapes: bats, pumpkins, cats, gravestones, ghosts, and more!

Truly the house is meant as decoration, but the kids loved it more to “play” haunted house, moving the ghost and cat figures in and out of the creaky front door.

Kiwi provided a few other elements to raise the spooky factor, including a cotton ball to pull apart for cobwebs and rickety wooden fence pieces to place out front.

Whether to play with or just for haunted decor, we give this kit a big thumbs up.

Outdoor Word Play

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You know that parks and playgrounds are great for fresh air and exercise, but it’s less obvious that they’re are also perfect locations to work on word games with your elementary school child! Travis tackled three word challenges outdoors today, each having to do with a different concept or part of speech. (And yes, little sister Veronika tagged along for all the fun wearing her Halloween costume a bit early!).

Rhyming:

For a “rhyme-off”, have your child point to any object or action on the playground and then find a rhyme for it. Take turns saying a word that rhymes until someone can’t think of one. “Swing!” he said. “Ring!” I countered. “Ting!” Whoops, that’s not a word.

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Travis loved the challenge and got silly with real versus invented words thereafter.

Opposites:

Our next game was to search for opposites. One person would spot an action, emotion, or other concept and the other person had to find name its opposite. Little sister Veronika loved helping with this one, so for example if one person had to stop, the other had to go!

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Or if one child was up, the other was down.

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Vocabulary:

Finally, we took the play home to our backyard where we set up an obstacle course using plastic stepping stones. (Note: you can use natural elements, too, like clumps of grass or piles of leaves). The challenge was that Travis had to think of a new verb each time he went through the course, whether to tip-toe, to run, to stomp…

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or to jump!

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What word games does your family enjoy playing on the playground? Please share in the comments!

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Look What I Did!

Travis is learning about “Long Ago” in social studies this year, which has introduced him to the idea of a  timeline. One great way to make a timeline more tangible for young kids is to have them make their own… featuring events from their own life!

The activity started out with a trip down memory lane, to think of big moments in his life so far. This was a great excuse to sit and go through old photos together! Travis loved seeing himself as a baby.

Once we had the photos printed, I challenged Travis to put them in chronological order. We arranged everything on a sheet of poster board, first, before making a big line down the center. Trim the photos to fit, as needed.

As he glued down each photo, Travis also labeled it, including such lifetime highlights as:

Being born

First day of school

Becoming a big brother

and more!

Little sister wanted to scribble out her own “timeline” too!

The actual events don’t matter so much as the fact that your child will learn to see time chronologically along a line with this project. Not to mention he or she is sure to be proud of all the accomplishments so far!

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter

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Here’s a fun way to teach your child about all those little bumps on the tongue aka, your taste buds. With a little taste test experiment, your child gets to make a “map” of their very own tongue!

To start, I set out a plate featuring four of the five tastes (we left off umami, although soy sauce would work in a pinch). Our plate featured: lemon for sour, a grapefruit rind for bitter, a salted pretzel for salty, and a spoonful of sugar for sweet.

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Working with one food item at a time, Travis touched the food to the front, sides, or middle of his tongue. We weren’t entirely scientific about this, since probably he should have rinsed with water in between each touch, but he very studiously made a map of where he tasted each item the most.

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The activity was great for spelling practice, too!

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At the end, we looked up a map of the tongue online, to see whether what he had experienced matched up with existing maps. Adults might have fun joining in this activity for some tasty fun together.

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