Roller Coaster Science Kiwi Crate

A day off from school was the perfect opportunity for STEM fun in a roller coaster crate from Kiwi Co., focusing on the scientific concept of centrifugal force.

The first project, obviously, needed to be the Roller Coaster itself and this one was heavy on woodworking and engineering.

Travis lined up all the pieces to make sure we had the right number of each part (some with notches, some with slots, etc.). These attach with wooden connectors, followed by spacers, followed by a second layer of the wooden track, and then it’s all held together with clear rubber bands. To be honest, the pieces were tough to notch together and Travis grew frustrated after doing the first couple connection. Luckily mama was on hand to help out – and little sister, too!

Once the track was complete, we placed a water bottle inside the empty Kiwi box, and turned it upright. A wooden track mount notches into the ga; on the side of the box, held in place with a wooden rod and more rubber bands.

The roller coaster sits on a foam and felt base. Time to release the provided silver marbles and watch them loop the loop! Kiwi also provided a paper cup to aim for, and it was fun to move it closer or further until the kids could make the marbles land just right. Travis enjoyed launching the marbles, but the track is very wobbly and needs to be just right for the marbles to stay on it.

For some artwork after all that engineering, he made the Roller Coaster Signs. The kit included color-changing markers; write your roller coaster name of choice on a cardboard sign, then flip the marker around the white tip. Green becomes yellow, purple becomes blue etc., which got a big wow from the kids.

This being Kiwi Co., they even included a “name-o-matic” game of chance for kids to use. Roll a dice and match the pips to an adjective or noun. We ended up with a coaster named the Iron Fury! The signs then stand up with cardboard posts and a foam base, which was also wobbly and another slight criticism of this particular crate.

Finally, Travis made a Spin-o-Tron. Attach foam bumpers to a wooden stick and place two small white balls inside.

If you spin the stick between your hands, the white balls sit in the notches on either side of the bumper thanks to – you guessed it – centrifugal effect again.

Spooky Halloween Science Kiwi Crate

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The kids have been loving Halloween-themed crates from Kiwi Co this spooky season, and we had time for just one more before the big night. The final crate we unboxed featured multiple projects, all relying on static electricity. The crate was the perfect combination of the explicable (science!) and the supernatural (witches, and ghosts, and eyeballs, oh my!).

The first experiment was Rolling Eyes. Travis helped wrap foam balls with foil, then attach cooper sticker dots at the top. The eyes are then placed inside a spooky box graveyard covered in clear plastic.

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Travis loved rubbing the provided fabric square across the plastic for a slow count of 15 seconds. Let the eyeballs drop and… They roll! One half of the eyeballs is repelled by the static charge and the other is attracted, meaning they skitter about on the surface.

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This was frightful and delightful to watch!

Next up, Travis made Dancing Ghosts. He decorated the provided thin paper shapes, which then attach into wooden gravestones and trees with foam dots.

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We pressed the provided air-dry clay down into a wooden base, and then all the spooky wooden parts can stand upright. Travis even arranged a skeleton out front!

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This time, we rubbed the fabric square on the provided wand. Once again, your child will generate static electricity, and when it’s held near the tissue paper ghosts and bats, they “rise up” from the grave.

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The final experiment didn’t work well for us, but the idea is to slide two provided lightbulb wires through the eye sockets of a tiny wooden pumpkin. Blow up a balloon and rub on your head for static electricity, then hold the balloon near the tips of the lightbulb wires, and the eyes should flicker! We must not have generated much electricity, because we only got a faint spark or two.

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To test out a few other ways that the static electricity on the balloon could work, we held it near running water (spoiler alert: the water bends away) and used it to separate salt and pepper! If you sprinkle salt and pepper on a plate, then hold the static-y balloon over them, only the pepper will rise up because the salt is too heavy!

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What other static electricity experiments have you tried? Please share in the comments!

Puking Pumpkin Science

Kids won’t be able resist a Halloween-themed STEM project that’s all about, yes, throw up! Needless to say, this holiday crate from Kiwi Co was a big hit.

You’ll need to start with a carved jack o’ lantern, which is not provided in the crate itself but certainly not a problem in the fall! We picked a medium pumpkin at a local farmstand and the kids loved first gutting their victim (er, scooping out the pumpkin seeds). Little did poor Jack know he was about to get sick!

Travis helped prepare the pumpkin according to the crate’s instructions: three scoops of provided baking soda, 1 scoop of foaming gel, and the color of choice (he picked blue).

In the provided beaker, the kids shook together 1 scoop of citric acid and another spoonful of color.

Add water and then slowly pour the contents of the beaker over the baking soda mixture in the pumpkin and… poor Jack!

He clearly was not feeling well.

Needless to say, the kids were entranced. They loved scooping up the bubbly foam and pouring it back into our poor patient.

And then of course they needed a repeat. This time Travis decided to mix yellow and blue for green puke. Poor Jack was up to his eyeballs!

Grown-ups might have to get over the “ick” factor on this one, but kids are guaranteed to love it.

Water Wows

Here are two fun ways to sneak in some STEM learning about states of matter and water, one project involving water in the frozen state and one liquid!

First up was Catching Ice Cubes, a classic trick based on the fact that salt melts ice. I placed a few ice cubes on a tray and challenged Travis: Could he pick one up with a string? He gamely tried looping string around the slippery ice, but to no avail.

Next, we placed the pieces of string across the ice cubes, and then sprinkled each with a small mound of salt.

Count – slowly! – to thirty, then gently lift the string. The ice lifts up!

Now it was time to play Pinching Water with water in its liquid state. Ahead of time, I used a hammer and nail to make two small holes near the bottom of an empty and clean soup can. The holes should be about 1/2 an inch apart.

Tape over the holes with masking tape and fill the can with water. I removed the tape and Travis put his fingers near the two sprays of water. They pinch together into one!

This is a neat way to show the “magnetic” or sticky property of water molecules. which then split back apart if you move your finger further away. Travis also thought it was fun to plug up one hole and watch how the flow changed.

For even more fun ways to play with “sticky” water, check out some of our old favorites.

Light-Up Haunted House Kiwi Crate

We haven’t unboxed a Kiwi Crate in a long time, but couldn’t resist this Halloween-themed crate for some spooky STEM learning: a Light-Up Haunted House. I would recommend this particular project for ages 5 and up.

To start, Travis loved being in charge of the electronics, which meant inserting the battery into the provided battery pack, attaching wires into the LED strip, and then switching the on-off button to test it out. Sure enough, the LED lights glowed an eerie green!

The house comes together easily thanks to provided cardboard sides, a foam base, and vellum sheets that attach over the window openings with clear stickers.

The roof was a bit trickier, requiring some grown-up assistance to fold the gabled rooftop and then attach to wooden roof pieces with pieces of sticky foam.

While I put the finishing touches on the roof, Travis and little sister Veronika both loved using the provided markers to color in the spooky paper shapes: bats, pumpkins, cats, gravestones, ghosts, and more!

Truly the house is meant as decoration, but the kids loved it more to “play” haunted house, moving the ghost and cat figures in and out of the creaky front door.

Kiwi provided a few other elements to raise the spooky factor, including a cotton ball to pull apart for cobwebs and rickety wooden fence pieces to place out front.

Whether to play with or just for haunted decor, we give this kit a big thumbs up.

Sweet, Sour, Salty, Bitter

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Here’s a fun way to teach your child about all those little bumps on the tongue aka, your taste buds. With a little taste test experiment, your child gets to make a “map” of their very own tongue!

To start, I set out a plate featuring four of the five tastes (we left off umami, although soy sauce would work in a pinch). Our plate featured: lemon for sour, a grapefruit rind for bitter, a salted pretzel for salty, and a spoonful of sugar for sweet.

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Working with one food item at a time, Travis touched the food to the front, sides, or middle of his tongue. We weren’t entirely scientific about this, since probably he should have rinsed with water in between each touch, but he very studiously made a map of where he tasted each item the most.

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The activity was great for spelling practice, too!

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At the end, we looked up a map of the tongue online, to see whether what he had experienced matched up with existing maps. Adults might have fun joining in this activity for some tasty fun together.

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Tree Texture

I love working natural science into everyday outings. To wit, a walk in the park today was the perfect chance to review all the different parts of a tree, with a little art thrown in, too!

The tree in question was our family tree, for Travis’s tree journal, and we stopped by to see how it was looking in midsummer.

Then Travis went on a search to identify all the tree’s parts. For each one, he held a piece of paper to the tree and rubbed with the side of a crayon. How neat to see the different prints that emerged for each, including bark:

Roots:

And leaves:

You can have your child point out features they can’t reach, too, including branches, flowers, or fruit if any.

Don’t forget to give that tree a hug before you go!

Science at the Kiddie Pool

It was a scorching hot day, so I filled the kiddie pool with a shallow layer of water and assumed Veronika would want to jump right in. When she was a little hesitant, I wondered what would happen if a few objects “jumped” in first.

I brought out a bag of objects and she began tossing them in one at a time. As each landed, we shouted out whether it sank or floated.

“It floats!” she said of a Duplo block.

“It sinks!” she called for a comb, toy car, and nickles. (And of course we made wishes while tossing in the coins).

A few favorite toys were next, all of which could swim i.e. floated. Now she was ready to climb in.

Pretty soon she was loving the way the water cooled off her little feet, and as a bonus, now there were tons of toys to play with in the water!

Between my big kid practicing his math with chalk games and my toddler practicing science at the kiddie pool, it was a day of fun and learning.

Homemade Fizzy Sidewalk Paint

This fizzy sidewalk paint is a fantastic upgrade over standard chalk on the sidewalk! Thanks to good old baking soda and vinegar, your kids can have some STEM fun watching the bubbly reaction.

To make the paint, I stirred together one (16-ounce) box baking soda, 1/2 cup cornstarch, and 1 cup warm water. Stir until well combined, then divide among plastic cups and add food coloring to each. The colors didn’t come out as rich as I hoped, but we had enough pigment to show up on the pavement, which was all that mattered.

We headed outside on a very hot afternoon, and started making designs. I showed Veronika a few examples of letters and shapes, while she painted something decidedly more abstract. Older kids can make as complicated a picture as they like!

But now for the real fun: once the paint is down, use a squirt bottle filled with white vinegar and spritz over your artwork. Note: An empty mustard bottle with the cap on works perfectly; simply squeeze and dispense a little vinegar at a time.

Every time the vinegar hits the paint, foamy bubbles ensue! This was such fun for Veronika to observe.

As a bonus, this paint washes off like a dream. Simply use a watering can to rinse everything off, and the clean up becomes part of the play.

G is for Gravity

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What’s the simplest way to teach a toddler about gravity? Hold a ball up high, drop it, and notice that it always falls down. You can make this experiment easy as pie for a toddler or slightly more complicated for preschoolers, and either way kids will learn and enjoy.

To start, I gathered a variety of the balls we have around the house, aiming for a collection with various sizes and weights. We had rubber bouncy balls, wiffle balls, a squishy basketball, and a slightly harder squash ball.

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Then Veronika had permission to stand on the table! Have your child stand on a similar lofted surface (with supervision of course!), whether indoors on furniture or at a playground on a higher playing structure level.

First I told her just to drop one ball. And of course it fell! We then played around dropping two balls of different densities at the same time. If done right, they should hit the ground at the same time, thanks to laws of acceleration, (but you can skip that fancy scientific explanation with your toddler!).

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Preschoolers might want to get more “scientific”, jotting down results, trying two balls of equal size but different weights, two balls of the same weight but different sizes etc. Did Veronika understand all this? Of course not, but she was up on the furniture tossing balls, then jumping down to retrieve them before running back to start again.

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So yes… She had a ball!

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