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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Pond Ecology Kiwi Crate

Here’s our unboxing review of Travis’s latest from Kiwi Co, all about the ecosystem of pond life. This was a neat divergence from past crates, in that it focused on a place rather than one scientific principal. There was lots to learn about frogs, fish, and more!

The first project was the most creative of the lot: making Chalk-Art Frogs. The process relied on surface tension (floating chalk) to color in the provided paper frog shapes. Travis helped put together the provided chalk grater and loved carefully grating a mix of chalk colors into it.

Tip over the provided tray of water and gently tap out the chalk. We did a test run on a provided square of paper first.

Lift up gently for the big reveal!

Next Travis carefully added the frogs, which didn’t pick up the chalk as clearly as the white paper, but were still neat. Let dry completely, then move on to…

…project two, a Leaping Lily Pad. The scientific principal in action this time was energy, as in a spring (or a frog’s legs). Travis decorated the provided cardboard lily pad with a few of his completed frogs, then it was just a matter of wrapping it with the provided rubber band to create tension.

Release, and…. Pop!

We found that this only worked if we used both provided elastics, not just one.

Now it was time to peer under the pond water and make an Aquarium in a Bottle, with the scientific concept of density at play. Travis mixed the provided salt into warm water, and filled three small plastic cups. For a fun way to color them, Kiwi instructs kids to scribble marker over thin paper squares. Place the paper in the cups, one each for red, yellow, and blue, and the water immediately changes color.

Next, he used the provided syringe to fill plastic fish with this colored salty water. The booklet contained helpful tips for testing the buoyancy of each fish. If there was too much water and not enough air, it sank; squirt out a little. If it floated on the top, there was too much air and not enough water; add a little more from the syringe!

When all our fish were just right, Travis added them to the provided clear bottle for a little “aquarium” he can keep on display.

Kiwi often provides ways to upcycle the crate itself, and this month was no exception, with a suggestion to make another “leaping” project: Lively Leaper frogs.

Cut the front flap from the crate (or a similar box) that measures 7 inches long x 2 inches tall. Make notches at 1.5 inches and 3.5 inches. Fold in half at the 3.5 inch mark, then fold again at the 1.5 inch mark, down in the opposite direction.

Just like the lily pad, hold your finger on it, then release and the frog “jumps”. We added a little green frog with marker for extra effect.

Overall, Travis liked that this crate explored lots of scientific concepts instead of just one topic in depth.

Spinning Science Kiwi Crate

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Here’s our unboxing of Travis’s latest arrival from Kiwi Crate, with projects devoted to angular momentum (otherwise known as spinning!). We give this one high marks for science and art, both.

First we needed to assemble a few Stacking Tops from the provided plastic pins and wooden discs.

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These were neat since Travis could mix and match the sizes of discs (labeled 1 through 4 from smallest to largest) and see how this affected the way they would spin. Little sister Veronika wanted to try her hand at building a top, too!

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The different pegs spin differently, for added experimentation. Blue ones spin in place, whereas the green ones could skitter across a table, making for lots of squeals of delight.

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Once the tops are made, you can move on to Spinning Top Games. Travis helped assemble a launcher, which is a wooden arm fastened to a weighted cup.

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The tops slot up into the arm, and when you pull the felt release, should ideally spin well when they hit the ground. Unfortunately, we found the mechanism to be a bit faulty and had better luck just spinning by hand!

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Travis then made a frame for the games from wooden pieces that slot together like a jigsaw puzzle. The first game was called Point Walk: Spin the top and score a point for every time it “walks” across the colored dots on the game board. Travis’s high score was 8!

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The second game was Pom-Pom Knockdown, for which we placed the provided small pom-poms in piles. Launch the top, then see if you can make the pom-poms fly off the frame. Travis thought it was so funny every time a pom-pom went skittering.

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We set aside the games and turned to a very STEM-based Top Experiment. If Travis attached the blue peg to a provided disc and then added various wooden weights, he could record differences in how long the top could spin.

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Kids can use a stopwatch and pencil to record results, making this feel like a real “lab” experiment. Quite honestly, everyone was wowed when the version with the most balanced weights spun a full 31 seconds, whereas our other attempts averaged about 8 seconds.

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For some art in all this, the final project was to use a plastic top as a Doodle Top. The provided mini markers fit right into this plastic spinner, and we placed a piece of provided circular paper under the wooden game frame. Give it a spin and make some swirly art!

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Unfortunately we never got this top to spin for long (I’m not sure if that was due to a faulty top or the fault of our spinning abilities), resulting only one time in what could be called a doodle, and mostly getting scratchy scribbles.

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However, Travis liked the suggestion to see if he could turn the doodle into something recognizable. I loved watching him trace the lines and then tell me this was a Person, a Sun Pig, and a Dancing Flower.

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Kiwi almost always provides a suggestion to upcycle the crate that all these fantastic materials come in, and this month was no different. Travis traced circles onto the lid of the cardboard box, and I cut them out. Kids can get as artistic as they want decorating the resulting circles, although Travis was more interested in the next step.

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Poke a hole in the center, then wedge in a coin (quarters work best). Give this Box Top Coin Top a twirl!

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Explore magazine had lots of great info on the science behind spinning, as well as a quick Toppling Coin Top experiment: Simply place on a coin on a surface and let go; of course it plops down immediately. But if Travis gave it a spin first… angular momentum keeps it up!

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We couldn’t end the fun without edible tops, of course, namely Apple-Top Tops. Use a tablespoon to carve little semi-circles from an apple, then insert lollipop sticks into the skin side of each piece. The kids loved these little fruit “lollipops”, as well as testing out their spin-ability!

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Overall, an excellent crate from Kiwi Co that we highly recommend. Cheers!

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Puppet Engineering Kiwi Crate

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Puppets are the perfect STEAM-style blend of engineering (simple machines, gravity) and art (decoration), which means it was the perfect subject matter for Travis’s latest crate from Kiwi Co.

The crate featured two types of puppets, and first up was to Make a Marionette. Travis helped assemble the control bar by attaching two wooden sticks with a rubber band.

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The puppet’s body is a piece of cloth, and we threaded wood beads onto each corner through pipe cleaners. The pipe cleaners are then left at the top corners to become the strings for the arms. This was a wise choice on the part of Kiwi Crate, as there was no risk of strings tangling and frustrating your child! A final wooden bead and pipe cleaner go on for the head, and the pipe cleaners then loop onto the control bar.

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There are foam headpieces and stickers in the kit to make three different animals: a lion, a rabbit, and a bear. Travis chose the lion first. Roar!

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It was nice that these pieces are interchangeable so your little puppeteer can vary the plot of the story. Next up was Talking Puppets, which were completely different to put together. Travis first decorated two paper templates, the bird template with feather stickers and the crocodile template with scale stickers.

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We assembled the handles, which are made of three wooden frame pieces per puppet attached to a strip of paper with a brad. The middle piece slides up and down, allowing the puppet’s “mouth” to open and close. Travis added on his decorated bird and alligator bodies with the provided Velcro strips and then the puppets were ready to go!

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After all that, the puppets needed a stage, so it was time to make a quick Puppet Theater. Kiwi is great about suggesting ways to upcycle the crate itself, and that’s exactly what was going on here. Cut a rectangle from the lid of the crate (or a similarly-sized shoebox) with scissors. Poke the pointy end of a pencil into each side of the box and then tape the eraser end up into the top corners, so the box is now propped open.

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If your kids are feeling artsy, have them decorate the crate with markers or other craft supplies. I suggested we make a Puppet Theater marquee sign, but Travis skipped ahead into having the puppets put on a show.

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It was time for imagination to take over after all that scientific engineering!

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To finish the fun, Travis checked out this kit’s Explore booklet, including mazes, more about the science of how puppets move, and cultural facts about puppets from around the world.

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We also read Balloons over Broadway (all about the invention of the puppets in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade), and 10-Minute Puppets by Noel MacNeal.

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Ice Skating Rink

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This special holiday crate from Kiwi Co. is a fantastic way to fit in a STEM activity this holiday season, whether you’re currently home-schooling, or school has gone remote once more, or you just have extra hours to fill indoors now that cold afternoons are here!

To start, Travis screwed the provided table leg pegs into bolts so that the wooden base of the skating rink stands sturdily just above the ground.

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That quickly, it was time for wires and batteries… The good stuff! Travis loved helping insert batteries into the provided case and attaching to the bottom of the table base with sticky foam. The provided motor sticks on next, and he then helped connect the wires: red to red and black to black.

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Turn the table over and add the center gear on the peg above the motor. Additional gears then slot in between this central one and the outer frame.

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The hardest part of the whole project, oddly, was the background decorations that came next. The provided snowy backdrop and trees are supposed to fit into slits in the felt, but it’s very hard to get them to stay put. This is a minor quibble, since the decor is cute but not necessary for the rink to work.

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So we moved on to the real excitement! The “skaters” are tiny felt figures (gingerbread men, penguins, and snowmen) who each slot into a metal nut. These are placed on the plastic that covers the gears, which each have magnets. So once kids switch the motor on, the gears begin to spin and the magnets on the gears are attracted to the metal of the the nuts, making those little felt figures skate around.

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Truth be told, the contraption is very temperamental and the felt figures easily snap out of their metal nut. Likewise, the magnets come off of the gears very easily, so we had to do lots of fixing and problem solving in between rounds of having the motor on. But here’s an adorable clip of the rink in motion!

I loved the way Travis quickly learned to troubleshoot these glitches. He had his head bent over the skating rink along with little sister Veronika, both of them delighting as they watched the figures snap onto the magnets to skate, then laughing at how quickly everything tumbled apart, then fixing it and starting all over.

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In sum, a great STEM project. Plus, the booklet had in-depth explanations about why ice is slippery and about precisely how the gears and magnets work to make the contraption move.

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Snowman and Santa Wobblers

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These cute holiday items from Kiwi Co. come together quickly, but make adorable stuffies that wobble back and forth thanks to a weight inside. You can opt for just a snowman, just a Santa, or both!

Either way, start the craft by adhering a metal weight into the bottom of a plastic base with a sticky foam dot. Take care in this step that the weight doesn’t fall on any toes; it’s heavy! Insert the base and weight into the provided sock.

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Stuff the socks with the provided cotton fluff. Travis loved how soft this material was!

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We secured the top of each sock with a thin elastic band, then pushed a second, thicker elastic about 1/3 of the way down each. This divides the wobbly toys into a head and body.

Now decorate! There were stickers for the snowman’s face, as well as stick-on buttons and arms, and a strip of red fabric to tie on for a scarf.

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Meanwhile, Santa gets a beard that slips over the head and a little red shirt that slides on from the bottom. Stickers for facial features, belt, and hands complete the look.

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Travis loved that these toys were meant to be played with, unlike some of our Christmas decor that is just display.

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The wobblers even curled up to watch a Christmas movie with him, and Santa pretty much comes everywhere with us now. That’s what I’d call Christmas magic!

Mars Rover Kiwi Crate

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Travis has long had a fascination with Mars and the NASA rovers, so he was thrilled to discover this month’s crate from Kiwi Co. A chance to make his own rover! He wanted to know if it could really go to Mars, and although the answer was sadly no, there was lots of fun to be had.

We jumped right in to making the Mars Rover: Travis enjoyed helping with the axles, one featuring square holes and one round so kids can tell them apart.

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The base of the rover is made from a wood frame, but Travis grew frustrated with the following step to thread through string that attaches the spring.

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The tension of this spring is what makes the rover move forward, similar to a pull-back car toy. With a little grown-up assistance, the rover was complete.

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He loved the second part of the project: Make the Flag. Using the wooden flagpole as a scratching tool, kids can scratch off the black surface of the flag to reveal rainbow paper underneath.

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The sky’s the limit for what design to put on the flag, but Travis just loved revealing the color underneath and spent such careful time on this.

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Once my artist declared his flag done, we threaded it onto the wooden flagpole. Insert the flagpole into the stand on the rover, and then i’s time to wind up and give it a test.

Alas, I can’t say any of us were wowed by the results. Yes, the rover moves forward, but neither very fast nor very far. Perhaps our strings or spring weren’t taut enough?

Still, we forged ahead to make the Crater Course. Layers of cardboard are piled up and put on a felt “Mars” surface. Send your rover over them and see if it can make it across the bumpy ground.

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There were lots of suggested ways to vary the course: Space the craters further apart, arrange them in different ways, or pile them on top of each other.

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After that, there was still more experimentation to try! We turned to the crate’s suggestion of rubbing cooking oil over the strings, to see if this resulted in a faster rover. Well, no, but the kids thought it was funny!

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Then we set up a little course for the rover, with a piece of cardboard angled off two books. Could the rover make it up?

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Alas, still no, even when we added other items (a paper towel, a fluffy towel) to give it more traction. Well, at least it could zoom down!

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As a final experiment, it was time to make our own Mars sand. We filched some from the playground, then poured it into the Kiwi box.

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Add a little bit of water, along with a steel-wool scrubber. Ideally we’ll see the sand take on a reddish hue in a few days as it turns rusty from the iron, just like the sand on the Red Planet!

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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

 

Water Wheel Kiwi Crate

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One of my favorite memories with Travis is a trip we took to an old saw mill when he was in preschool. I reminded him of the moment when his latest kit from Kiwi CoKiwi CoKiwi Coarrived, all about the Water Wheel! There was great STEM learning here about the power of water, all of which led to great play.

First up: the Water Wheel and Boat. To make the wheel involved slotting plastic paddles into the circular side pieces and holding it all in place with elastics. More and more with each crate, I sit back and let Travis handle the dexterity of all this.

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We then inserted the frame pieces into a foam base and again held it all together with elastics. A funnel goes on top, and can slide along on a foam donut.

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To make the “boat” simply involved inserting three corks into a foam frame, a good refresher on buoyancy and how cork is a material that floats.

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We inflated the provided water basin and placed the boat and water wheel inside.

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As Travis poured water into the funnel, the rope tugs the boat a little closer to the wheel each time. It required a little trial and error, but eventually our boat was taut against the wheel.

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We took our Water Wheel outside for a few additional experiments. First, we tested what would happen if the boat dangled over an edge, rather than floating in water. Even against the power of gravity, the boat rose upward!

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Then Travis tested filling the funnel with sand instead of water; I think ideally this would have worked, but he poured the sand in so fast that the funnel clogged, and we didn’t have great results.

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His Explore magazine also suggested testing the boat out in soapy water, though I’m unclear why. Was the soap supposed to hinder or help? In our results, it worked better, the fastest wind-up yet. Then we untied the boat and just had fun playing with the wheel as a water toy. Travis could test the power of the current that the wheel generates by floating other bath toys around it.

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The final project in this crate was Splash Art. Travis used the provided penguin background for his first try.  Add a generous squirt of the provided blue paint, then use the provided straw to blow.

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He was nervous at first that he would inhale the paint, so we practiced blowing air against our palms.

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Now he was brave enough, and I was so proud of him! There’s enough extra paper to make a few designs of your child’s own, and Travis loved adding lots of blue paint to these and blowing all over the surface.

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Have fun varying your method, including blowing hard or soft, or varying the angle of the straw. Just be careful: this one is messy!

Before wrapping up, we did a quick experiment to test the power of a vortex. First, fill an empty 2 litre bottle with water and pour it out normally over a bucket. Set a timer and see how long it takes! Ours emptied in 16 seconds.

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Refill it, but this time place your hand over the opening, turn the bottle upside down, and begin spinning in a circular motion; you’re creating a vortex. When you remove your hand, the water will whoosh out! I’d estimate it emptied in half the time.

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To make this more visible, first we added red food coloring, and then glitter. Travis was in charge of the camera, so unfortunately the pictures didn’t come out great!

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We ended the fun with two reads about water: Hi, Water by Antoinette Portis and National Geographic Kids’ Water.

Flapjack Octopus

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This suggestion from Kiwi Crate was both a way to upcycle Travis’s latest package from the company and an extension on the theme of the deep sea. Winding yarn around a piece of cardboard is also a method you can use for making pom poms, but we found this project to be even easier.

Cut the top off of a Kiwi crate box (or any shoe box), and cut off any flaps, leaving a rectangle. Begin winding yarn around the middle of the rectangle, wrapping about 100 times. This was great practice for counting to 100, something Travis has been working on for home school!

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When we reached 100, we slipped a piece of yarn through the loops at the bottom of the rectangle, and double-knotted securely. Now slip the whole bunch of yarn off the cardboard. Find the middle of the yarn bundle, and tie another piece of yarn there in a double-knot to form the octopus’s waist.

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Snip the loops at the bottom of the octopus. Divide into eight portions (these will be the eight legs) and secure each bundle with a piece of yarn.

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For ears, slip a pipe cleaner through the yarn at the top of the head, and twist down into cute little ear shapes, trimming any extra pipe cleaner.

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As a final touch, glue on wiggle eyes. Once the glue dries, your flapjack octopus is ready to be discovered in the deep sea!