Geometric Refrigerator Magnets

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We now officially have tangrams all over the house, whether felt versions to make in the playroom or this handy set for the fridge!

Travis loved making the magnets. You can purchase sheets of magnetic paper at the craft store with a sticky backing on the other side. We printed out and colored tangram shapes, and simply stuck these onto the sticky side.

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Travis was fascinated with how it worked: where was the magnet? he wanted to know. How did the shapes stick?

Cut out your shapes (this was a lot of cutting for mama!) and transfer to the fridge.

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At first Travis just played with them and made up his own designs.

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For a challenge, print out a few tangram shapes and set your child loose. Bigger kids can work with just the outline; younger kids can rely on the answer code at the end of the pdf.

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Now when I hear those whines of, “Is dinner ready yet?” I set him loose to solve a tangram at the fridge. Built-in kitchen entertainment!

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Felt Tangrams

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Consider me a tangrams convert; these puzzles have turned out to be a fantastic way for Travis to entertain himself in those moments when I need him occupied. If you don’t want to purchase a set from the store, make a quick version from felt!

I cut out the various shapes that make up a tangram set using a different color for each shape. I free-handed the following: large triangles, small triangles, squares, trapezoids, and hexagons.

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Now simply print out pictures of tangrams and set your child to work. If the picture printed out big enough, Travis could work right on the paper.

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More of a challenge were small diagrams that he then had to design on a surface next to the paper.

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Look mom, a helicopter!

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This easy project is sure to keep hands and minds busy!


Missing Square Puzzle

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Here was a quick puzzle to do with Travis before school. Simply print out the template, color in the shapes, and cut out. Then I presented Travis with the two challenges.

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For the first, the goal is to fit the shapes into the large triangle (we made ours pink) in such a way that no shaded squares show through. This was easy, with a tiny bit of help once he had a triangle pushed against the far corner.

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We shuffled the pieces and now tried for challenge number two: to fit in the shapes so one pink square remains uncovered. This was trickier, but accomplished with some shifting around. “I did it!” Travis declared.

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Hmm, but how is it possible? It turns out the answer lies in the fact that the colored triangle isn’t actually a triangle; it curves slightly, making it a quadrilateral (too much for Travis to comprehend). What I explained to him instead is that the extra area left over in this slight curve is exactly equal to 1 shaded square.

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It certainly looked like a little before-school magic!

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All Kinds of Balls

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Travis and I are about to launch into his Game Day-themed kit from Raddish Kids, featuring a trio of recipes perfect for this time of year. Whether your family loves Sunday football, World Series baseball, or simply watching a local game of youth soccer in the park, there’s no better season for sports and eats!

It seemed fitting, then, to start off with this fun lesson plan on all kinds of balls, and namely: why some bounce and some don’t.

First, we needed to brainstorm a list of balls. I gave Travis a definition of the term: coming up with ideas in a safe space where all ideas are welcome and together we made a quick list. I guided him towards actual sports after his first few ideas were more descriptive (squishy balls, hard balls).

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We went through and talked about which was the biggest (basketball!) smallest (ping pong!) and most colorful (tennis!). Now it was time to watch how some of these were made.

Raddish included links for everything from a soccer ball to a baseball. We added in an old favorite video: check out the bowling ball factory┬ánine minutes in (come for the bowling ball, stay for the jaw-dropping domino demonstration). Travis adores “how-it’s-made” videos like this and was a rapt audience.

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Now it was time to experiment with balls! Relying on what we had around the house, we gathered them into a pile and added a long yardstick.

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Bounce each ball and measure which goes the highest. Our clear winner was a squash ball (36 inches!) while others were duds like the soccer ball and baseball (about 9 or 10 inches).

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This prompted us to talk about why some balls were bouncy, and others not meant to be. (You can guide kids to think about how soccer balls are kicked, baseballs hit, etc., rather than meant to bounce).

For older kids, get into the specifics of kinetic energy here. The lesson was a bit over Travis’s head, but he did like watching a ball bounce in slow motion. We also tried experimenting with which balls bounced best in a certain direction but since all our balls were round (we couldn’t find our football) they all easily went into a target.

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Finally, we bounced them on a wood floor versus carpet, to observe any differences.

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Now for the best part: we made our own ball! Pour 1/2 cup water and 1 tablespoon borax into a clear cup and stir until the borax dissolves.

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In a second cup, combine 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 2 tablespoons glue, and a few drops of food coloring. Travis chose a red ball.

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Add the glue mixture to the borax mixture. Your ball will start to firm up immediately. I worked the ball with my hands, dipping back into the borax as needed, until we had a nice round ball. Note: it is safe to touch Borax, but do remind your kids no matter their age that it is inedible.

Travis gave our ball a bounce – it worked!

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For some final fun, we painted with balls. Roll small balls like golf or ping pong ones in cups of paint.

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Place on a sheet of construction paper in a box. You can close the box and shake it, but Travis preferred to move the ball around with a chopstick.

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We finished with a few fun ball reads including: Round Like a Ball by Lisa Campbell Ernst and Goodnight Football by Michael Dahl.

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Make Your Own Jigsaw Puzzle

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Travis had so much fun with the puzzles in his latest Kiwi Crate that we decided to make a few of our own!

Download and print out any puzzle template from online. We found ones we liked showing a teddy bear and a butterfly (and if anyone can find the Steve the Kiwi template from, let us know!).

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Coloring in was half the fun. I warned Travis that if he made his butterfly all orange, it was going to be very hard to put back together.

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Soon he branched out to other colors, and added blue so that the butterfly was flying over the ocean. Glue your template to an old cereal box and let dry completely.

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Now it was time to cut up the pieces! Word of caution: This task is quite time-consuming for a 16-piece puzzle. For that reason, and because I worried the 16 pieces would be quite a challenge for Travis, I cut his butterfly into fewer, larger pieces.

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Now puzzle! As mentioned, the butterfly came together quickly.

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Between uneven pieces and tricky outlines, the teddy bear nearly stumped us!

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What would your child make a puzzle of? Please share in the comments!

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Unpoppable Bubbles

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There’s some serious “wow” factor to this little bubble experiment, the perfect way to turn a ho-hum morning into something special!

To make the bubble solution, pour 1/4 cup water into a container. Add a little blue food coloring just so it’s easier to see.

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Stir in 1 tablespoon dish soap and 2 tablespoons corn syrup.

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A straw will be your bubble blower, but the secret now is that you also need a pencil.Travis dipped the pencil tip in the solution, as I dipped in the straw and blew a bubble.

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He poked the saturated pencil tip into the bubble… and the bubble doesn’t break!

If you want a quick run-down of what’s happening here, basically the “skin” of the bubble merges with the soapy surface of the pencil tip, so that no air gets in and makes the bubble pop. If you try it with a dry pencil, you’ll get a pop right away! We had fun seeing how far in we could poke the pencil.

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And then had lots of extra bubble solution to blow out on the back patio!

Dragonfly Fishing

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When I spotted this craft in Travis’s latest issue of Highlights, I knew it was going to be more of a mommy project. Since Highlights appeals to kids up to age 12, some of the activities inside are a bit complicated for my kindergartner. But I knew he’d love the water-powered dragonfly, which relies on hydraulics to scoop up little homemade “flies”.

To start, tint a bowl of water with blue food coloring. Use a medical oral syringe to inject water into 3 feet of air-line tubing, and then fill the syringe.

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Remove the air from a second oral syringe, and insert these into the ends of the piping. I found it useful to duct tape around the connections for added security.

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Use hot glue to attach two jumbo craft sticks so they overlap slightly. Glue the water-filled syringe onto one end of the craft sticks.

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Next, glue the bottom half of a paper cup to the other end of the craft sticks. Although not necessary, we painted our cups green. Glue a second bottom half of a paper cup to the end of the syringe’s plunger; your two cup tops should touch.

Use washi tape or thin duct tape to secure the tubing to the end of the craft sticks, below the filled syringe. Tape a 1-foot dowel to the empty syringe and tubing, as shown.

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For the finishing touch, we made a dragonfly out of cardstock, adding eyes and wings outlined in marker. Glue this onto the craft sticks above the cups.

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For our “flies,” we decorated yellow pom poms with cardstock wings (cut a heart shape from white cardstock) and wiggle eyes.

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Now it was time to test the hydraulics! Release the water from the first syringe. Ideally, it will power the second syringe, which powers the cup “mouth” to open.

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See if you can scoop up your flies!

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Expanding Star

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We’re on a roll with toothpick tricks around here! This one has a nice patriotic feel to it, so might be fun to save for a holiday. But it was equally neat on a chilly September morning!

You can use plain toothpicks, but for that stars-and-stripes feel, I colored a few toothpicks with red and blue marker.

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Snap five toothpicks in half, but don’t break them all the way through; you now have five V shapes.

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Arrange the Vs on a paper plate so they are touching. For a little added red and blue fun, we dripped a few drops of food coloring around the plate.

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Use a pipette to drip water directly in the center of the toothpicks – excellent for fine motor skills.

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Travis was amazed as his star began expanding outward.

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“It’s still growing!” he marveled. The star stopped after that, but then there was lots of fun to be had dripping water over our food coloring to make big blobs, and mixing it all together.

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Magic Marker Color Experiment

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This quick illustration of water’s movement might have seemed ho-hum to Travis after a few of the more complicated activities we’ve done recently, but he loved it!

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To set up, I cut a paper towel into strips, each about one inch wide and four inches long. I let Travis tear them apart along my slits, which he enjoyed.

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We made a line with magic marker near the bottom of each strip.

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Dangle these strips into a clear plastic cup filled with water so that the paper towel is touching the water, but not the part you’ve colored in.

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The water will begin seeping up your paper towel (here’s that capillary action in action again!), and Travis loved watching it.

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He wanted to experiment further in so many ways. First, we continued dipping the paper towel further into the cup. This made the marker color continue to bleed upwards, until the ink was so faint you couldn’t tell anymore.

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Then we colored a wider piece of paper towel with multiple markers, and draped this all around a plastic cup. Which color would creep up the fastest? He was thrilled watching the purple and green in the middle, which outperformed the others.

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Plus it was fun to play with leftover soggy paper towels and cups. So this quick experiment was well worth it!

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Surface Tension Experiment

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This is one of those experiments that Travis and I couldn’t get quite right, whoops! But we tried and had fun in the process, which is sometimes all that counts.

The science behind the activity is that water molecules hold with strong bonds, so much so that they’ll fill the holes of a mesh bag even when tipped upside-down.

First, Travis checked out our mesh bag. It sure didn’t look like it would hold water!

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We put it over a mason jar and secured with an elastic. Fill the jar about 3/4 full with water.

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Place an index card on top and flip over. No water leaking yet.

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Now the idea is to remove the index card – slooowly. According to the internet, sometimes it can just fall off, which works even better. Either way, the water should hold!

However, I think because every time we slid the index card out it wiggled the mesh bag, our experiment didn’t work.

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We tried altering several variables. Securing the elastic tighter around the mesh didn’t make things work any better, nor did using a second, smaller-mouthed glass jar.

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But you’ll notice from the giggles hat Travis wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. In fact, I think he liked the experiment better with the mess!

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Did you get your water to hold? Please share in the comments!