Spectroscope

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This quick project was a neat follow up to Travis’s exploration with his Rainbow Optics Crate. And to make it, we even got to upcycle the box from Kiwi Co.!

Cut any extra flaps from the box, including those that fold in to the sides and front. Tape a blank CD to the inside of one short end, flush against the back wall. Make sure your box can close!

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Trace around the end of a paper towel tube twice, in overlapping circles, so you have an opening that’s about 1 and 1/2 times as wide as the tube. Insert the tube at an angle, looking towards the CD.

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Also cut a slit on the short edge directly opposite the CD, to let in light. Tape up any other edges where light might slip in.

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Now take a peak inside! We found this worked best when we shined a flashlight directly into our slit. One person can shine the light while the other person makes sure the tube is aimed properly at the CD; you’ll see the spectrum of the rainbow appear.

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You can also try this with other light sources, including sunlight, and see which one works best!

Rainbow Optics Kiwi Crate

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On the heels of playing with mirrors and illusions, Travis got to delve further into the science of light with Kiwi’s Rainbow Optics crate. Most of the projects involved mixing or pulling apart colors, to explain the way white light bends to form a rainbow.

The first project was Mixing Colored Light. Travis helped adhere a wooden hexagon onto the provided box lid, fold up cardboard into a triangle as a support piece, and insert a provided color guide into the base of the hexagon box.

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Three neat finger lights (one each in red, green, and blue) then slip into this insert. Travis loved turning these on!

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Decorate the provided frosted plastic jar with stickers; options include everything from moons and planets to sea creatures. Place an additional black sticker on the bottom of the jar. This has a hole in just one area… And Travis was about to see why!

Place the frosted jar on top of the hexagon box and spin it slowly. Because the bottom sticker only allows one or two lights through at a time, the colors change with each spin, from red, to magenta, to blue, to cyan, to green, to yellow.

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Travis loved spinning this, and pretending it was a forge in later make-believe games.

Next up was Projecting Colorful Shadows. Again there were lots of little steps, including adhering the Styrofoam base to a paper guide with sticky Velcro dots.

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Kids can write on the provided projector window screen, which is then Velcroed onto a projector box.

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Stretch a projector screen onto the other side of the box and secure with blue stickers.

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Now it was time to set up the projector box on the paper base, and add another set of those fun finger lights to the Styrofoam block. As you shine these, each light hits the drawing at a slightly different angle, casting shadows in multiple colors.

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We took the booklet’s suggestion to hold other objects between the lights and our projector screen. Our fingers had definite wow factor!

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Finally, the kit included Rainbow Glasses, the kind you might remember from childhood! This involved no assembly, just looking around at different light sources.

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The finger lights, in particular, were fun to look at. Travis wandered all over the house to find his favorite lights, and the booklet helpfully explained how the glasses work through diffraction plastic.

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Well now we needed to experiment further! We could test out making a rainbow on white paper with a few simple materials: Attach a mirror to a glass pan half filled with water, using modeling clay to attach. Shine a flashlight on the paper mirror where it is under the water. Hold up a piece of white paper, and watch your rainbow appear!

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It was tricky to get the angle just right, but I was able to hold things steady while Travis manned the camera!

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We also tried to overlap colors with a twist on the projector box project. Remove the projector paper, and instead add a sheet of aluminum foil. Poke a quarter-sized hole in the center with a pencil.

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Shine the finger lights through, and watch for overlapping shades (i.e. red and blue should make magenta). The results of this weren’t obvious to Travis, but it was a neat variation.

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Interestingly, you can also show how red + blue paint = purple paint, but red + blue light = magenta light.

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Why? Because the paint colors combine towards black, but the light colors combine to towards white. Neat!

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We finished with a read of two suggested books: All the Colors of the Rainbow by Allan Fowler and The Rainbow Goblins, by Ul De Rico.

All this rainbow talk had us hungry! So finish your fun with rainbow kabobs made of the following:

  • red strawberries
  • orange cantaloupe
  • yellow pineapple
  • green grapes
  • blue blueberries
  • purple grapes

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Travis reminded me we really needed indigo grapes. Yes indeed, but tasty nonetheless!

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Rainbow Taco Salad

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Travis and I have come to the end of his Cook the Rainbow kit from Raddish Kids, and the final recipe did not disappoint! This one looked complicated at the outset, but was simple enough to throw together after a busy afternoon out and about.

To start, thinly slice one head of romaine lettuce. Travis is getting good at holding onto a knife handle with me, while I guide the motions of applying pressure and slicing. Place the lettuce in a large bowl.

Now set out 6 bowls; these will hold all the toppings, which makes this recipe a great example of mise en place (and there is a cute write-up about mise en place on the back of the recipe card, since this concept was the recipe’s featured culinary skill).

Pour 1 cup salsa into the first bowl – red!

Place 1 cup shredded Daiya cheddar in the second bowl – orange!

Drain 1 cup canned corn and place in the third bowl – yellow!

Peel and pit 1 avocado. Travis loved twisting the avocado halves apart and scooping out the flesh. Finely chop and place in the fourth bowl – green!

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Place 1/4 cup shredded purple cabbage in the fifth bowl – blue/purple!

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Now that we had our rainbow, we added an additional yellow: Place 3 cups tortilla chips in a zip-top bag. Seal and crush with your hands. Easily a favorite step.

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Finally, crumble 1 package meatless crumbles (such as Lightlife) into a large skillet coated with cooking spray over medium heat. Add 2 teaspoons cumin, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook for about 8 minutes, until browned.

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Set this salad up as a buffet where everyone can choose how much of the rainbow to add as their toppings.

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Alternateivley, you can plate it in a big bowl, and have people scoop in to the rainbow.

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The recipe card also featured a few fun math problems about quantities and costs of ingredients. Some of these were over Travis’s head (fractions and multiplication) but he was able to do this one: If each child in the family ate 1 cup lettuce and each adult ate 2 cups, how many cups of lettuce do we need?

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Using our fingers, he helped me count out: 1 +1 + 2+ 2 = 6. Great practice!

Rainbow Science

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With all the talk about rainbows this month, whether cooking or crafting, it was time to get scientific. What exactly makes a rainbow appear? Today Travis and I answered the question in two ways, one more scientific, and one more artsy!

First, following the lesson plan provided by Raddish Kids, we did a visualization exercise. This was a first for Travis, but with a few prompts he got the idea. I told him to close his eyes and imagine and rainbow. He said he could see his rainbow through the trees in the morning, and it was star-shaped! Guide your child through this: what does the air feel like? Where is the rainbow? What time of day is it?

Next we did the quick run-down on the science. Raddish Kids provided two great video links to add some visual fun to hte science.

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We watched a few suggested video clips, to understand the science behind refraction. Raddish provides a very detailed write-up that older children can study, too.

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Next up was a challenge: Could Travis make a visual of a rainbow that not only showed all the colors, but also showed how the rainbow is formed? It turns out this is called process art, and I laid down lots of material for Travis to choose from but provided little direction beyond that.

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He decided he wanted a ribbon rainbow, so used lots of glue to adhere the lengths.

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I was so proud when he realized he was gluing in the wrong order, and fixed things with his red placed first!

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Next he needed to add the science part. He chose to use marker for sun and rain drops, and cotton balls for clouds. Now he had all the ingredients necessary for a rainbow to form!

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I made a second version alongside him to show him how open-ended this project is: cotton ball clouds, tin foil raindrops, and pom poms for my sun and rainbow.

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Finally, we formed a rainbow with science! Place a prism in a glass of water. Shine a flashlight or other light source on it.

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Hold up a piece of white paper behind the glass, and you should see a rainbow reflected on the paper. It’s a bit tough to see in the photograph, but it was there!

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Pot o’ Gold Scrambles

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It was another rainy day here which meant another day where our heads were on a swivel for a rainbow.

It had us talking about the mythical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, which made it the perfect day for this recipe from Raddish Kids!  The original was an egg-based scramble but the company suggested this fantastic vegan version.

Crumble 1 (1 pound) package firm tofu into a large bowl. Travis was impish and wanted to gobble the tofu plain – yup, I have a good vegan on my hands!

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Pat dry with paper towels.

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Sprinkle the tofu with 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, and stir to combine.

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Cut the stem from a head of broccoli, and divide the florets into small pieces. Travis liked tearing up the “tiny trees.” Chop 4 to 5 slices vegan ham (such as Lightlife).

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Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the broccoli and ham; cook for 3 minutes.

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Add the tofu mixture and cook for a final 3 minutes. Thanks to the magic of turmeric, it really did look like our scramble was turning gold as it cooked! Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded Daiya cheddar.

To finish our pots of gold, I divide the mixture evenly among 4 ramekins. Draw a rainbow on paper and you can delight your child when they come to the table!

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As we dined, we talked about the origin of this myth, and also read the recipe’s feature on oven safety. This included a great suggestion to let kids practice opening and closing an oven when cold.

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Travis was thrilled he got to do such a grown-up kitchen task!

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So all-in-all, a great day in the kitchen!

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Ribbon Dancer

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April showers bring May flowers, or so they say! Which means we’re having a rainy month and we’re on the lookout for rainbows these days. This easy craft is a cute way to bring a little color and rainbows inside, even when the days are cloudy and gray.

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First, we measured out a length of red ribbon that was as tall as Travis – he thought it was neat to see a piece so long!

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Once we had our red, we could measure out the other colors of the rainbow against it. This is a good chance to review ROYGBIV order for preschoolers. Travis used scissors to cut each to the right length.

Now fold one ribbon in half, and loop through the ring of a canning jar. Pull the ends of the ribbon through the loop.

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Pretty soon we had our rainbow strings for dancing!

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Put on some good music and just jive.

Rainbow Dancer (6)Or perhaps do a raindance.

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If you’re lucky and it’s beautiful outside, this little rainbow looks even prettier out in the sunshine!

Rainbow Sugar Cookies

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Kids are all too often over-scheduled these days, and I’m as guilty of it as the next parent. That’s why I love the afternoons that I deliberately keep wide open for my son and me. It’s the perfect excuse just to play or, one of our favorites, to bake! This cooking project is messy, that’s for sure, but so worth the smiles.

To start, we made a basic sugar cookie batter. In a bowl, cream together 2 sticks (1/2 pound) Earth Balance butter and 1 cup sugar using a wooden spoon or fork. Travis loved this step! Usually we use our stand mixer, and it was so fun to get in there with muscle power.

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Add 2 Ener-G eggs and 2 teaspoons vanilla extract, stirring until combined.

Carefully stir in 2 and 1/2 cups flour just until blended. Travis pretended he was a stand mixer on “slow” setting for this step. Loved it!

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Now for the messy part. Divide your dough into about 4 or 5 portions on a floured surface. Working with one portion at a time, knead in colors of the rainbow. We didn’t make a full rainbow, but soon had red, yellow, green, and blue portions, using the all-natural food coloring from Watkins.

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You’ll notice Travis took a moment to steal some leftover batter!

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Wrap each portion of dough individually in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least 1 hour (longer is fine).

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When it’s time to bake, coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Pinch off a section of each color and roll into a long worm, then make rainbows on the baking sheet.

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Bake at 375 degrees F for 7 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and repeat with the remaining dough until gone. (Note: we made two batches today, and the dough easily freezes for future rainbow-making).

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Rainbow Kebabs

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As fun as it is to draw the rainbow or craft with the rainbow, it’s even more fun to eat it! Make these simple kebabs for a healthy and educational snack.

Start off with some fine-motor skills practice by letting your child use a kid-friendly knife on some of the larger fruit pieces, like pineapple and melon. Smaller items (blueberries, grapes), don’t need to be cut.

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Now assemble all of your fruits on a plate, making sure you have something in every color of the rainbow. Suggestions are as follows:

Red: strawberries, raspberries

Orange: oranges

Yellow: pineapple

Green: kiwi, honeydew

Blue: blueberries

Purple: grapes

Encourage your child to thread the fruits onto their skewer in rainbow order. Travis was so busy stealing nibbles of fruit that he let me assemble most of them, though! He was most excited by the pineapple, which I don’t buy very often: “I want a yellow one!”

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If you want to add whimsy to your skewers, consider a marshmallow “cloud” or two!

Overall, this snack ranks high for being both healthy and fun.

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Rainbow Shape Mobile

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Travis has been a big helper decorating our new home, and this project was a fantastic way to continue recent projects where we talked about exact rainbow order. It’s also a great review of shapes before he steps into pre-k in a few weeks!

Sorry grown-ups, but this one’s a little labor-intensive on your part at the front end. Using construction paper in all the colors of the rainbow, I cut out a square, rectangle, triangle, and circle from each.

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While I was busy cutting, Travis got in some practice with safety scissors:

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Your child might also like to try tracing or drawing shapes of his or her own as you work.

Once the shapes were ready, we needed to sort! Travis has been very into sorting lately, so loved helping separate the pieces into four piles by shape.

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For each group, we snipped a long ribbon and then glued the pieces on in rainbow order, singing the order of the colors as we went: “Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Purple, Makes a Rainbow.” (My apologies to indigo and violet).

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When we had finished with the rectangles, Travis excitedly asked, “Are we going to do another one??” He chose triangles next, and so on until all our shapes were glued.

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This project was gorgeous even while drying on the counter!

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While the shapes dried, we made the finishing touch – white cloud shapes with puffy cotton balls glued on. We added these below the purple shapes on our ribbons.

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To assemble your mobile, glue two jumbo craft sticks together at the middle. Note: You can have your child color on the craft sticks with marker if they’d like to, but since this part of the mobile will hang up on the ceiling, it’s not necessary.

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Glue one strand of shapes onto each of the four craft stick ends, then use a length of yarn or ribbon to suspend your mobile.

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You’ll have a rainbow to cheer you every day in your home, whether you’ve just moved in or have been there for years!

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Rainbow Coloring

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We’ve always loved rainbows around here, but now Travis is really starting to latch on to the idea that there is a rainbow order, instead of a random array of beautiful colors. This easy crayon trick will help your child remember which order the colors are in!

Ready for how easy the set up is? Adults: Use masking tape to make 2 batches of crayons – one red/orange/yellow and the second green/blue/purple.

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That’s all there is to it! Now use the red batch on top and the green batch on the bottom to make a beautiful arced rainbow.

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Travis loved the novelty of the crayons, which are also simply great for drawing pretty pictures and squiggles.

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