Capillary Snack-tion Straw

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This straw has some serious action! After learning about how trees and plants drink their nutrients up from the soil in his latest Kiwi Crate, Travis discovered he too can sip in defiance of gravity: by slurping through a straw.

Cut a watermelon into thick slices. Use a flower-shaped cookie cutter to make a flower shape from the watermelon. Insert the “flower” onto a thick straw “stem”.

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Give a quick blow into the straw to expel the watermelon piece inside. This earned a “whoa!” from Travis.

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We filled a glass with lemonade – any drink will do, but lemonade is a favorite around here – and then tested it out.

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Travis provided the power for his flower’s “roots”. What a delicious way to soak up nutrients! When the drink is finished, you can eat your “flower” of course.

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Science of Trees Kiwi Crate

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Travis’s crate from Kiwi Co. this month was about the way trees and plants take nutrients from the roots upwards, in seeming defiance of gravity. Travis loved every element of this “capillary action” crate… and for good reason!

First, we needed to see capillary action in, well, action, with Capillary Action Art. Using the provided double-sided tape dots and clear slides, Travis attached on three string stems and 3 coffee filter paper flowers.

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He added the provided binder clips on either side of the slide’s bottom, and two additional clips to hold everything in place. Clever: now the blender clips meant the slide could stand upright over the provided paint tin.

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He dripped liquid watercolors into three of the compartments. There was red and yellow watercolor, and his booklet suggested combining them in the third compartment to make orange.

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Almost instantly, the color was bleeding up the stems.

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Travis was practically shaking with amazement as he watched this, especially because of how fast it happened.

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When it reached the tissue “flowers,” he was ecstatic.

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Kiwi must have known this would be a big hit; there are enough materials to do the project twice. Needless to say, we repeated it instantly.

As a nice finishing touch, you can use additional double-sided tape dots to place the slides into a cardboard frame, and save your artwork. Talk about STEAM!

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The second activity was to Build a Balancing Tree. This required slotting together two wooden pieces as the trunk, and inserting that into a wooden base.

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Wood leaves and roots allow your little engineer to tip the tree one way or another.

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At first, Travis seemed disappointed. But then we put the tree to the test in a Tilting Tree Game. Roll the dice to add leaves or roots to one of the four quadrants… but if you roll the (!) symbol, there’s a natural disaster! This can be a tornado (blowing on the tree), earthquake (shaking the box it sits on), or forest fire (removing the leaves from certain colored sections).

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Travis cackled every time we thought our tree was nearly complete but then disaster struck.

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Okay, so this isn’t perhaps the nicest way to teach kids about natural disasters, but it sure had him thinking about the stability that a tree’s roots provide, and was a ton of fun.

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We concluded with two additional activities from the booklet. First, you can demonstrate the most mundane capillary action of all with a paper towel. Pretend to spill a little water or juice on the table (Travis thought it was quite funny that mom made a mess on purpose) and then quickly place a paper towel over it. The fibers act just like the root system of a plant!

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Next, we repeated a classic flower-dyeing experiment, but with a slight twist. Use any white flowers for the game, such as carnations or roses. Trim the stems at an angle, then carefully slit the stems down the middle.

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Fill two cups with lukewarm water and add 20 drops food coloring (in different colors) to each cup.

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Arrange two flowers so that the halved stems dangle one into each cup. I found it useful to use a paper clip to hold them in place, so the flowers didn’t tip.

Within just an hour or two, we could already see a pretty tint… on each half of the flower!

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By morning, the colors were vibrant and split evenly down the middle, a fantastic visual of capillary action.

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We finished with two fun suggested reads: The Tree Lady by H. Joseph Hopkins and Tell Me Tree by Gail Gibbons. In sum, we loved this crate!

Flowers for the Fourth

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Travis checked out the crafts in his July issue of Highlights just in time for the Fourth of July, with these suggested fun flowers; they make the perfect centerpiece at any picnic table or backyard barbecue or pool party for the holiday! Make as many or as few as your little crafters have patience for.

For each flower, cut out a small circle, a medium flower or star shape, and a large star shape from cardstock in red, white and blue. We traced cookie cutters, but feel free to free-hand these!

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The trick for assembly is to alternate the colors of the flag.

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I challenged Travis to layer our flowers so each contained all three colors, no repeats. He liked this step best!

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Poke a hole through the cardstock. This step was a touch tricky; a pin worked best to pierce the thick paper but it made a very tiny hole. We carefully threaded a green pipe cleaner through and added a clear pony bead at the end. Wrap the pipe cleaner around the bead to seal.

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Arrange your “flowers” in a mason jar for a patriotic presentation!

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Pollinators for Every Flower

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The final lesson plan for the Garden Party kit from Raddish Kids was a huge hit, since Travis loves bugs and everything about them. He was a whiz already at much of this topic, but enjoyed the hands-on and artistic aspects of it!

When he came to the table for our lesson, he was surprised to find a flower waiting.

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We explored the flower in detail, including: rolling the leaves between his fingers to see how that changed the texture; smelling it; feeling the fluffy petals; and looking closely with his eyes.

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As he explored the flower, I read to him from a provided chart about plant anatomy. Much of it was a bit over a preschooler’s head, so focus on the bits your child will grasp. He liked the rather astounding fact that while people and animals are either a man (male) or woman (female), a plant is both!

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Some pollen ended up on the table… the perfect segue-way!

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I asked him to name pollinators he knew and he quickly rattled off butterflies and bees. After some prompting, he also guessed birds. I told him he was correct, especially hummingbirds, and then named a few surprises: bats, beetles, and the wind!

The next challenge was to pick a pollinator and make a flower with art supplies that was specific to that pollinator. First up was a bee! Thanks to the provided pollinator profile cards from Raddish, we learned that bees like flowers that smell sweet and in bright colors like yellow and purple.

Travis chose construction paper for this flower, and added glittery “pollen” in the center. To make it smell sweet, we dabbed a vanilla extract-scented pom pom around the petals. Travis loved this!

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Next he wanted to make one for a hummingbird. Our card said the birds don’t land on the petals but instead dip in their beaks, so I helped him fashion a tube-shaped flower from tissue paper (we used red, since the birds like the bright colors). It was fun to add vanilla to the “pollen” pom poms in this one, too, even though the profile card said the birds had good vision but a poor sense of smell.

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Travis next wanted beetles, delighting in the notes on the card that they like “unpleasant” smelling flowers or ones with no scent. We used white pom poms, since beetles prefer pale or dull colors, and added lots of yellow pollen in the center, which the beetle eats.

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He was so proud! I loved watching him think carefully about each pollinator, as well as use different materials each time.

Finally, he wanted a flower for butterflies! This one needed petals for the butterfly to rest on, bright reds and oranges, and no vanilla extract since the butterfly has good eyesight but a poor sense of smell.

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Overall, a fantastic lesson, with a little bit of art, a little bit of science, and important information about the role pollinators play in food crops thrown in there.

Spring Flower Arrangements

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We’re only one week away from the end of spring and the spring flowers are fading, making room for summer counterparts. It’s the perfect time to put together a floral arrangement for someone special – perhaps a graduate in your life, or a dad you’re celebrating this weekend!

Travis wanted to put together this bouquet for dad; we skipped the store-bought stuff, and opted instead for a wildflower hunt! (Okay, maybe a hunt around our apartment complex).

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Travis loved gathering an assortment of greenery and different colored blossoms, as we took care to take only one flower from each bush.

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Once home, we laid out the flowers and a pretty vase. Fill the vase 2/3 of the way with water – a good little fraction lesson!

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To help our flowers stay healthy and strong, we added 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1 tablespoon cider vinegar.

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Travis was then in charge of arranging our blooms. Any that were too long, he seriously and carefully snipped shorter.

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Teach your child to hold the stem of each flower on the outside of the vase to assess if it is too long or too short.

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Tada! A beautiful spring bouquet.

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For more flower fun, check out our recent ikebana craft. And for garden recipes to go with these garden blooms, check out our strawberry shortcakes!

Japanese Flower Art

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Travis has been very into all things Japanese these days, starting with ninjas and moving on through sushi, taiko drumming, and more. So we were psyched to see a project in his latest Highlights magazine that detailed how to make Japanese flower art (ikebana), a practice that goes back 500 years!

First, cut two cups from an upcycled egg carton. Poke a hole through the cups, and stack them together. Flip them so they are bottom side up and place in a flower pot or small bowl.

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Begin adding flowers, one at a time. Keep space between each flower in the arrangement, tilting them if needed.

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It was absolutely beautiful to watch Travis work, so deliberate and careful.

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I had purchased a few different types of flowers and greenery at the supermarket, and Travis loved selecting which should go next, especially the berries that were laid out.

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We could start to see why ikebana is a form of meditation!

Once the arrangement was to his satisfaction, we filled our flower pot with small stones (you can purchase these at a craft store), which heightened the beauty.

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Fill your container with water, and enjoy your flowers!

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Invisible Ink

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A few weeks back, Travis and I had fun exploring different ways to hide messages, including revealing lemon juice with a hot iron and exposing white crayon with paint. Today we found an even cooler method; did you know you can reveal a secret message with a flower?

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First, we wrote messages in two kinds of “ink.” The first was plain lemon juice, and the second was baking soda mixed with a bit of water.

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Travis made scribbles, but to help illustrate the results better for him, I wrote his name on one piece of paper and a secret map on the other.

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Be sure to use slightly thick paper, such as construction paper or watercolor paper, or it might tear during the reveal. Let dry.

Once dry, we rubbed over the paper with a red rose. Travis loved the forensic feel to the project!

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This worked significantly better with the baking soda than with the lemon juice, and we also found that the results are much clearer on on large letters or drawings than small ones.

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Perhaps the most interesting takeaway was that the baking soda was revealed in blue, and the lemon juice comes out red.

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In sum, a fun little project for any budding detectives, with results that are both pretty and scientific.

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Glow in the Dark Flower

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Get ready: There is some serious wow factor to this project. You will need a few special supplies for it, including a black light, which you can purchase from sellers like Amazon, as well as a highlighter pen you don’t mind sacrificing (hint: you’re going to cut it open). But armed with those items, kids will adore this project!

First, I showed Travis the black light, and how it works. Keep exposure to a minimum, because as a reminder, black lights use UV rays.

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Next, we filled a clear vase with water, and set aside a few white flowers from a bouquet we’d purchased.

I showed Travis how the highlighter pen would look in the black light. He couldn’t believe the way the yellow streaks glowed!

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We returned to regular light, where I very carefully cut open the highlighter crosswise using a sharp knife; any box cutter should work; just go slowly and carefully.

Inside will be a strip of fibers that contain the highlighter ink. This was so neat to see!

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We added the fibers to our vase of water, where the highlighter color seeped down.

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Travis very seriously added our flowers. Now we had to wait, but were rewarded with glowing flowers a few hours later!

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DIY Chalkboard Planters

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Chalkboard paint is practically like magic – paint a coat over just about anything, and soon you have a chalkboard surface.

We had plans to plant flowers and herbs in pots on our back patio, so it was the perfect excuse to break out the chalkboard paint!

You could either make a big stripe to be the label…

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…or do as Travis did and paint the whole pot.

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We decided this large surface would be great for drawing in pictures of the plants with chalk, in addition to simply writing their names.

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Let dry overnight, then use chalk to write in the name of whatever will be in your pots. Happy planting!

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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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