Baking Soda Ocean Art

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Travis and I made a batch of a neat baking soda dough today! Originally we hoped to craft a few ocean creatures and corals. It turns out Travis also just had a blast playing with the dough in his own way while I did more of the actual sculpting, but that means it was a win-win all around.

To make the dough, combine 1 cup baking soda, 1/2 cup cornstarch, and 3/4 cup water in a bowl. Travis loves whenever we make “potions” like this.

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Microwave for 1 minute, then stir. Microwave for a second minute and then stir; you’ll notice it is starting to thicken around the edges.

Continue to microwave at 20 second intervals thereafter, until the mixture is thick and creamy like mashed potatoes. Travis was the button presser for this part, as you can see! We needed about 3 or 4 intervals.

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Cover the bowl with a damp paper towel, and let cool.

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(Note: if your child is antsy during this waiting period, put leftover baking soda to good use with a classic volcano).

I tested the dough to make sure it had cooled completely, and found it to be quite sticky. I sprinkled in additional baking soda, and needed quite a lot; I wasn’t measuring, but probably close to 1/4 cup. If your dough is also sticky, add a little baking soda at a time and knead in after each addition. If you find you have the opposite problem (a dough that is too stiff), add a little extra water.

Travis loved the way it felt!

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At first he wanted to know how to make sea creatures, especially the starfish: Form 5 teardrop shapes, and attach them together.

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Some extra dots of dough give the starfish bumpy texture.

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Coral was also fun; form a round ball, then add marks with a pencil for texture.

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From there, Travis had his own game going, happily getting his hands into the dough over and over again.

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I rounded out our ocean collection with a few more sea creatures. For a sand dollar, roll a ball and then flatten. Draw a flower shape in the center with the tip of a pencil, and add a few holes around the edges.

Tube sponges were the neatest to make: Roll a few log shapes, then attach together, and punch a hole in the center of each with a pencil.

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Finally, we rolled up a few cute sea snails.

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Travis really wanted to play with these right away, which you can do if you bake at 175 degrees F for about 45 minutes. But when he learned that this would mean the dough turning brown, he – maturely! – decided he could wait the day or so you’ll need for the dough to dry completely.

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Definitely worth the wait.

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Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

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Today Travis and I made potions!

The impetus for this little experiment came from Raddish Kid’s lesson plan attached to our Hot Cocoa Cupcakes.¬†Kids can delve further into the world of leaveners and what makes baked goods rise. I knew some of the science was too advanced for Travis, but I culled out bits of the lesson that were appropriate to a preschooler.

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First, I set out a dish of baking soda and baking powder, and invited Travis to explore them. We ran through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Could we hear the powders? We giggled at that, then moved on to the others.

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He noticed that the baking soda was smoother and finer than the baking powder, although they felt similar. He declined the offer to taste, but in this case, it’s perfectly safe to do so!

A quick science lesson followed: baking soda is basically ground up rock, and it’s a base, which means it needs an acid to react.

Baking powder contains a base and two acids, and it will react in a recipe two times. Travis liked this idea, and that it means fluffier pancakes or cupcakes.

To start out experiment, I put out two test tubes of water. We added baking soda to one and baking powder to the other. Aha, only the baking powder reacted, so water was not an acid!

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Now we tested each in four other liquids: vinegar, liquid soap, rubbing alcohol, and juice. The baking soda only reacted in the vinegar and juice – we found our two acids!

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Baking powder, on the other hand, reacted in everything. That said, none of baking powder’s reactions were quite as spectacular as the classic baking soda/vinegar pairing.

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Travis’s favorite? Baking soda in the vinegar of course; we had to do that a few times. The juice was quite fun too, bubbling up wildly to the top of the test tube.

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In sum,this is a neat way for your kids to understand why baked goods are rising in the oven; you can really see that bubbling and rising action at work.

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Another oldie but goodie? Show your kids that you can blow up a balloon with yeast! This is something Travis and I did when exploring the letter Y, back when he was only 2 years old, but it never grows old!

Early Explorers Rocks

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Our latest package from Early Explorers was on the seemingly simple subject of rocks, but there was so much fun to be had! Of course we received the usual: a sticker for Travis’s suitcase, stickers to pinpoint on his map that depicted amazing rocks around the world, flash cards, and an activity booklet. The booklet was heavy on math and tracing activities this month, which made this mama very happy!

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Rocks Craft:

The booklet suggested making pet rocks, something Travis had only recently done in art class, but he was eager to replicate the activity at home. A trip to the beach gave us flat smooth stones that were perfect for turning into “pets.”

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Travis carefully chose his colors, while I painted a smile on a second rock.

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The one with the button hat is entirely his creation! He even named it. If you want to get extra creative, turn your pet rock into a frog.

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Rocks Science:

An oldie-but-goodie – make a volcano with baking soda and vinegar. We used terracotta-colored clay for the most realistic appearance, and even added a touch of red food coloring to our vinegar. Make a hole in your volcano, and fill with a little baking soda.

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Pour in the vinegar…

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…and watch it explode! Don’t be surprised if kids want to repeat this one again and again.

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Rocks Keepsake:

The geode Travis received was very pretty, and immediately became part of his “treasure” box, although I’ll admit I was a little disappointed this overlapped with the Natural Wonders pyrite we received in a previous package.

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Rocks Field Trip:

A summer vacation was the perfect chance to search for rocks on the beach. (Or if you’re not near the beach, head to your nearest park and see what kinds of rocks you unearth).

We checked out the cairns other people had stacked, including this wowza of a caterpillar…

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…and tried our hand at our own “inukshuk”!

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Rocks Further Activities:

The booklet suggested building a sandcastle in a sandbox (with the scientific reminder that sand is really just broken down rocks and shells)… but we decided to go one better and attend a local sandcastle contest! Travis loved checking out some of the winners, including an octopus and mermaid.

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We made our own creation with towers, a moat, and beach finds as decoration.

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Back at home, a recipe for rock layer parfaits was great fun to put together. Even little kids will get an idea about the layers that make up the earth when they make this recipe, whether or not they’ve seen the Grand Canyon.

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In clear plastic cups, we layered the following:

Graham cracker crumbs (sand)

Banana slices (clay)

Raisins (large rocks)

Jam (lava)

Granola (fossils)

Agave nectar (mud)

Blueberry yogurt (water)

Travis wasn’t wild about eating the parfait, but he enjoyed putting it together!

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Finally, we headed to the library for books, choosing topics that the booklet had grazed upon like geysers and minerals. These were a bit advanced for Travis, but the pictures were fun!

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We also selected our favorite rocks from the booklet. Travis said his favorite was any of the sparkly geodes.

Science… Meets Art

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This project (from our latest High Five issue) exemplifies the STEAM acronym: a little bit of scientific discovery paired with a nifty art creation at the end. You can do both components of the project, or just the science part, or just the art part… but I recommend the whole thing because we enjoyed it from start to finish!

First up, use some science (the S part of STEAM) to make at-home paints. Fill 6 large muffin cups with 1/4 cup baking soda each.

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Next, add about 15 drops of food coloring to each muffin cup. We only had powdered food coloring at home (from Color Kitchen), so sprinkled about a 1/2 packet of powder per compartment.

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Now you’re going to quickly pour vinegar into each muffin cup, and watch the colorful explosion!

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Of course this is similar to many baking soda and vinegar projects we’ve done in the past, talking about how the gas created when the two substances touch makes all that foam and bubbles. But this time, we were left with a new product… paint!

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Now it was time to use the paint for the A part of STEAM. We painted white coffee filters, and Travis had a blast, mixing colors and stirring each paint very carefully – a petit artiste!

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Set the filters aside to dry; these are going to be your flower blossoms.

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As a small gripe, you’re going to have undissolved baking soda left in each paint mixture, which leaves the coffee filters a bit grainy after they dry. I found it helpful to rub off the excess baking soda over the trash can before Travis and I moved on to the final steps of the project.

Meanwhile, make the flower stems by painting jumbo craft sticks green. The only green paint we had in the house was a dot marker, but this worked in a pinch. Let dry.

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To finish the flowers, wrap each painted filter around a medium-sized Styrofoam ball. Poke one of the green “stems” up through the filter and into the Styrofoam.

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Glue the tips of the filter together so the ball inside is no longer visible and voila – flowers!

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We set them in a vase, where we got to enjoy the fruits of our labor: beautiful flowers in the middle of a snowy winter.

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Thanks High Five!

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Halloween Candy Experiments

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Well, the initial blood sugar rush of Halloween has subsided and sugar comas have set in, and we have lots of leftover candy. In our vegan household, I divide the candy into three piles: vegan candies to eat and enjoy; non-vegan candies to donate to our military overseas through Operation Gratitude; and non-vegan candies with which to do a little experimenting.

For the first experiment, make a “magical pumpkin” by stripping the color off any hard-shelled candy. Reeses Pieces are ideal, since you’ll have orange and brown galore, but we only had Skittles to work with. First, arrange the candies in the outline of a pumpkin on a plate. We nearly didn’t have enough orange for the outline, but by adding in a little brown and a green stem, we made it work.

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It was Travis’s idea to add red as the pumpkin’s “guts”!

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Once you’re outlined your pumpkin, fill the plate with a little hot water; the colors will bleed and fill in your pumpkin almost like watercolors. Sweet and neat!

Halloween Candy (5)Travis wanted to stir the candies, which messed up the pumpkin shape, but allowed us to see the white candy left behind.

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Next we tried to make gummy worms dance, following instructions we’d found online. Cut your gummy worms into small pieces, then fill a cup with 3 tablespoons baking soda and 1/2 cup water. Add the worms and let stand for 15 minutes.

Transfer the worms to a second cup filled with vinegar. You’ll see bubbles appear, and then hopefully the worms will float up and wriggle.

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Unfortunately, ours did not rise up (perhaps because we used Surf Sweets brand?) – but that didn’t seem to matter. Travis loved the fizzing, and declared this his favorite of all our experiments.

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You can also test for any candy for acid with a similar method. Add candy to a cup of water and sprinkle with baking soda; if you notice bubbles, the candy has acid. Mike & Ike’s left our water still, but sour patch kids did the trick!

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Finally, you can test your candies to see if they contain oil. Dissolve any candy (we used Starbursts) in hot water, and let stand for a few minutes.

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If there’s oil, you’ll soon see a shiny or waxy layer on top. Yup, Starbursts definitely had oil!

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Try this with Laffy Taffy, too, or any other chewy candy.

That was the end of our experimentation, and we finished with some more noshing, of course. Travis’s favorite vegan candies to eat by the way? The following make the top of his list:

Twizzlers

Swedish Fish

Surf Sweets gummy worms

Dum Dums

Unreal dark chocolate peanut gems

Glee gum blow pops

Hope your Halloween was equally sweet and full of treats!

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Spooky Expanding Ghost

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Your little one will get a kick out of watching the spooky-not-scary ghost puff up in this experiment, a trick made possible with good old vinegar and baking soda. It might not be quite as impressive as flaming ghosts, but is sure to earn a giggle.

First we gathered our materials, and I drew two ghost eyes and a big ghost mouth on an uninflated white balloon.

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Have your child carefully help add 1/2 cup white vinegar to an empty plastic bottle; set aside.

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Next, fill the balloon with 1 tablespoon baking soda. A funnel is your best bet to get the baking soda into the narrow neck of the balloon, but we managed to do so with one adult holding the balloon wide and the other spooning in the baking soda with a baby spoon.

Fit the balloon over the opening of the plastic bottle – don’t let the baking soda fall inside just yet.

When you’re ready, stand the ghost up straight; the baking soda will sprinkle into the vinegar, and the resulting air makes him puff up.

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Boo!

Travis loved this so much we went through 3 ghost balloons before the fun was done.

Erupting Apples

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We pretty much never tire of making baking soda explode with vinegar around here. To add an autumnal spin to the project, this time we erupted “apples” instead of volcanoes!

To make your apple mixture, combine 1 cup baking soda, 1 tablespoon dish detergent and 1 tablespoon water. We had everything ready to go in a bin for outside, since we knew this was going to be a messy one…

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Time to get your hands dirty! Get in there and mush your baking soda mixture around, until you can form it into balls as the apples. We squirted in a little red food coloring, but oddly this made our apples purple, not red! Ah well, a little leaf as the finishing touch made them super cute.

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I gave Travis an old ketchup bottle filled with white vinegar, and he went to town squirting onto the apples, delighted by the foamy erupting result.

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He couldn’t stop there of course; half the fun is stirring around the foamy mixture afterwards. Look, a leftover apple!

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Travis also decided he wanted to cover one of our gourds with the foam – why not, since this added to the fall feel of the project.

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As always, this activity is the perfect way to blow off energy when your kids just want to get messy!

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Vinegar, Baking Soda… and Balloon Eye Droppers

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I used to have pipettes (a.k.a. eye droppers) at home, but can’t find them anywhere these days! Cue this genius idea I spotted on Kiwi Co‘s KiwiCorner app. The perfect way to use up a few balloons we had in our craft box.

This game is pretty much a simplified version of my volcano for toddlers – a big bin of baking soda with vinegar to squirt on top. But the fizzy fun comes from the novelty of squirting out the vinegar through homemade eye droppers.

To prepare your eye droppers, fill uninflated balloons with white vinegar. Add a few drops of food coloring to each, so your explosions will be colorful as well.

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I knotted off the balloons, after which they look like mini water balloons. Carefully poke a small hole in each (a pin or wooden pick both work fine).

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Travis dumped a container of baking soda into a tray, and then we let the fizzling begin!

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After the first few bubbles, he preferred to stir our mixture while I squirted additional vinegar from the “eye droppers.”

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Overall, cute and messy fun, and a nice way to improvise when you can’t find real pipettes.

Instant Sensory Snow

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Shaving cream snow was a big hit a few weeks back, and today we created a mixture that looked and felt even more like the real thing Рin the middle of a summer heat wave!

Little ones will enjoy helping measure out 1 and 1/2 cups baking soda and pouring it into a bin.

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Aim to add about 1/4 cup shampoo (clear or white will work best), but honestly, I just let Travis have fun squeezing the shampoo in until we had a nice mix!

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The mixture looks and feels surprisingly like the real thing – cool and fluffy!

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It made for great scooping…

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And adding into cups…

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And even forming into snowballs! A novel way to play on a hot June day.

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