Sensory Bean Astronaut Box

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In honor of SpaceX’s would-be historic launch today, I set up this easy astronaut-themed sensory bin for Veronika!

All I used were two different colors of dried beans, which I poured into a shallow tray. I originally had the box half filled with dark red beans and half with white, but they very quickly were mixed together.

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Then I simply added a few astronaut toys, including aliens and a little space rover for Veronika to play around with. It was an instant hit!

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She loved the sound that the rover made as it drove over these bumpy “moon rocks”.

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Of course we could also collect samples of rock to take back to Earth.

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She moved the little figures around in the beans, enjoying the way this made the beans scatter. I also showed her how to bury the alien underneath them, and she could then go digging.

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A sensory box like this would work with just about any toy of course, whatever your toddler currently likes best! Or just add scoops instead of toys, for practice pouring. But the astronaut theme felt perfect in conjunction with today’s historic event, even when we later learned the launch was a no-go for bad weather.

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Towards the end of her play, she discovered that if she raked her astronauts quickly through the beans, they scattered over the edge.

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So then this happened.

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Which is just fine because dried beans are one of the easiest sensory items to clean up ever! You can do this activity over a towel for even faster clean-up, but I find it just as easy to sweep all the beans into a dustpan. They sweep up with zero mess, unlike other materials I could name.

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We are wishing the astronauts good luck on their voyage!

Outer Space Parachute

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Last summer and fall, Travis and I experimented with a few different ways to make a parachute. For home school “science” today we tried once more, but this time made it outer space-y with a coating of aluminum foil. Travis thought it looked just like the gear used to ease the landing of Mars rovers!

To start, wrap a paper cup in aluminum foil. Travis enjoyed decorating all over with star stickers (in keeping with the theme of course).

Space Parachute (2)Cut a square from a plastic shopping bag, and then use a hole punch to make a hole in each of the four corners (you may need to rip the bag a little bit, too, to help the hole punch through).

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Cut four equal lengths of yarn and tie one to each corner with a knot. Gather these four strands together and push down through a hole in the top of the cup. Make a fat knot so they won’t slip back out.

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Time to launch! My intrepid explorer bravely climbed the stairs.

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Then it was 3, 2, 1: Blast off!

Galactic Pancakes

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You’ll start your kids’ day on a stellar note with these pancakes from Raddish Kids. This was the final recipe from Travis’s Cosmic Cuisine kit, and he declared the taste out of this world!

First we needed to make a few vegan substitutes. For buttermilk, pour 1 tablespoon cider vinegar into a measuring cup. iIll with soy milk to equal 1 cup; let stand for 5 minutes.

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Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons ground flaxseed into 6 tablespoons water in a small bowl to make 2 vegan eggs; let stand for 5 minutes.

To prepare the pancakes, Travis measured and combined 1 and 1/4 cups flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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In a second bowl, combine the flax eggs, the vegan buttermilk and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until combined.

Preheat a skillet for about 2 to 3 minutes over medium-low heat. We placed in the provided moon and star silicone molds. (Note: you could also use cookie cutters). Coat the skillet and molds with cooking spray.

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Add about 2 tablespoons batter to each mold – an ice cream scoop worked perfectly for even measuring. Gently spread the batter to the edge of the molds with a spatula and cook for about 3 minutes, until the tops are covered with bubbles.

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Remove the molds with tongs. Flip the pancakes and cook for an additional minute.

Drizzle with syrup and serve!

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You’ll have enough batter for about 12 pancakes.

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Solar System Models

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When you’re the only mom who gets her kid up and dressed and backpack packed and lunch made and head to the bus stop and then learn that the Friday before Labor Day is apparently also a day off from school… Well then whoops, you suddenly have a day to fill!

Luckily I had this little project from Raddish Kids up my sleeve, a chance to make two models of the universe: one tiny and one huge!

First I asked Travis what planet we live on. He correctly knew Earth, and was able to name a few facts about it, like how its watery.

Raddish provided a chart to name the other planets, all of which my budding astrologer could fill in. He proudly gave me a fact about each, which I wrote down (in glittery galactic pens, of course). Filling in the column with further questions about each planet was a bit harder for him to grasp, but big kids can write in any pending querries here, as well.

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After watching a suggested video that helped him fill in a few new facts about each planet, it was time to model!

First up was the Tiny Solar System. I drew a half circle on the edge of a piece of white paper and labeled it as the sun. I drew 8 orbits, with an asteroid belt making a wide patch between the fourth and fifth lines.

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For scale models of the planets, we glued on the following:

2 sesame seeds (Mercury and Venus)

2 peppercorns (Earth and Mars)

2 cotton balls (Jupiter and Saturn)

2 coffee beans (Uranus and Neptune)

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Note: the scale obviously isn’t exact, but the idea here is that the relative sizes of the planets (the enormity of Jupiter, the tininess of Mercury) become apparent. This model also didn’t show the distance between orbits to scale.

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Travis marveled at the tiny sesame seeds. In fact they were so small we could barely see them until the glue dried!

Now for the Large Solar System! We headed out to the playground with a bag full of balls in various sizes. Travis was very curious as I collected these from around the house, but was soon to see why.

I inflated a silly starfish to be the sun and put this right in the center of a baseball diamond. (Note: A beach ball would work, too, but I liked that the starfish was a sun/star shape).

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Next we walked out a full 78 steps from the sun holding a wiffle ball as “Neptune.” This took us right to the edge of the baseball field.

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Repeat with the following:

50 steps: wiffle ball (or tennis ball): Uranus

25 steps: soccer ball: Saturn

13 steps: basketball: Jupiter

4 steps: ping pong ball (or golf ball): Mars

3 steps: ping pong ball: Earth

2 steps: marble: Venus

1 step: marble: Mercury

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This exercise is eye-opening even for a grown-up, revealing how truly close our rocky neighbor planets are, and how truly vast the distances are between the outer planets.

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I shared these fun facts with Travis to highlight the great distance across the baseball field. Each step we’d taken was equal to 36 million miles. A rover took 6 months to reach Mars, that “one step” away, but 12 years to reach Neptune! He seemed impressed, but then wanted to play soccer… There goes Saturn!

On the way home, we made up some corny space jokes.

How did Mars know what Venus was thinking? It red its mind.

Why was Jupiter so stinky? Because it passed gas.

Ha, what space joke will your kid create? Please share in the comments!

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Moon Crater Experiment

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Travis loves learning about the moon, and specifically how its craters were made. Okay, so this “experiment” isn’t exactly accurate, but your kids will have a blast launching “asteroids” at the moon surface to make holes!

To make our moon, Travis first poured 4 cups flour into a cake pan.

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Add 1/2 cup baby oil and mix until the mixture holds together; we found that hands worked better than a spoon for this purpose. Now we had moon dust!

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Next we headed outside to the “asteroid belt!” My proud astronaut discovered a trove of pebbles and very carefully selected some to bring inside.

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Place your moon cake pan on a layer of newspaper to avoid any mess. Wouldn’t you know, there was an ad featuring a view of Earth from the moon!

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Travis began launching our “asteroids” one at a time.

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He discovered that pressing the pebbles in a bit made a better crater than simply dropping them, and experimented with the difference between dropping them from up close versus up high.

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That’s one small drop for a boy, one giant leap for imagination.

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Space Goggles

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We recently decided that books about space demanded special space glasses to go with them – the better to blast into the universe! These space goggles from High Five magazine fit the bill perfectly.

First, upcycle an egg carton from neighbors or relatives (we don’t buy or eat eggs). You only need to cut out 2 segments of the carton for the goggles, but we painted a full six segments just for a larger surface.

Travis pretended his yellow paint was really banana puree, which made for some silly fun during the painting process.

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We added a few drizzles of puffy paint for good measure.

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Once the paint dries, separate the egg carton into segments. Add pom poms with glue.

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Here is what Travis preferred to do with his glue and pom poms – my threenager!

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One more round of drying, then I poked a hole in each side of the goggles and threaded through a pipe cleaner. These are the pieces to go behind your child’s ears.

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Time for blast off! Add a jet pack and you’re ready to fly. Or, to read anyway!

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DIY Glow in the Dark Comet

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We added a little light into an otherwise dreary rainy morning with this glow stick project. It’s perfect for any kids interested in outer space, or who are learning what comets are – or just any kid who loves glow sticks of course.

To make our comet, I trimmed the sides, top, and bottom from a trash bag, leaving us with a large sheet of plastic.

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Travis traced around the rim of a bowl with a marker to make the center of our comet – I love how steady his hand has become at tracing!

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To make the tail of the comet, we cut the plastic into strips, cutting from the edges up to the center circle.

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Place a small ball in the center (such as a wiffle ball or tennis ball), and wrap up with the plastic bag; tie with a ribbon to secure. We added extra ribbons in red and orange for fiery comet flair!

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As the finishing touch, we tied on two glow sticks (go ahead and use more than two if you like, but that’s all we had in the house).

We dimmed the lights and Travis dashed around to make the comet fly. If you’re having a sunny day, you’re definitely going to want to save this project for nighttime.

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After a while, Travis decided the comet could also be a flare for mountain recues, so we acted out a few “cliff” rescue scenarios on the couch as well.

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What else could your glowing comet become? We’d love to hear your ideas in the comments!


Frozen Ice and Sand Comets

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If your child loves outer space, this game is sure to be a smashing success.

Travis and I talked about how comets are made of ice and dust, and decided to make our own. I froze ice cubes and then crushed the ice in the blender for a more easily workable texture – the crushed ice was a big hit!

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Then we sprinkled on sand, making a sandy dusty comet-y mix. Travis loved watching the two combine.

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Once we had a good mix, I packed some into a plastic cup, and we added a little bit of extra water.

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Place your comets in the freezer until solid.

Now comes the real fun part – take the comet outside and toss it on the ground so you can demonstrate what happens when one collides with a planet!

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