Flying Paper, Two Ways

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Here are two fun ways to harness the power of paper and watch things take flight.

Both of these projects are far less involved than the rockets and planes Travis and I have made recently, but sometimes you just need something simple to fill a lazy morning.

First we made a school of  “flipping fishies”.

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Draw rectangles on white paper and color in. The more colors the better!

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Cut out the rectangles, and cut a notch on each end, facing in opposite directions.

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Slot these notches together and you have fish. Soon we had mommies, daddies, and baby fish.

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Toss them in the air and watch them whirl!

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Interestingly, we discovered that our baby fish swirled much better than the bigger ones we made.

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Next up, we did a repeat of a flying straw we’d made recently with a Kiwi Crate; as with our repeat of the Balloon Rocket, this time we used wide (“milkshake”) straws for better effect.

Cutting out rectangles was great practice for Travis to cut in straight lines!

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For each straw, make one long rectangle, and one short; tape these into circles, and tape onto the straws.

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Hold your straw so the small circle is at the front – and let it soar!

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Those paper circles really catch the wind, and will carry your straw across a room. It’s fun to compare these to a plain old straw, which nose-dives right down.

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Happy flying!

Paper Parachutes

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Travis and I recently made fabric parachutes that were a bit complicated and tangled easily while soaring down. Today we wanted something simpler, because the goal wasn’t so much about the parachute itself as it was to test how to make a parachute fall faster.

For our experiment, we quickly put together paper napkin parachutes.

Decorate your napkins with markers first.

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Travis quickly learned that you need to be gentle drawing on napkins, and was proud when he got the hang of it!

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Cut 4 equal lengths of string for each parachute, and tie around the napkin corners.

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Gather the four lengths of string together in the center, and tie around any small object. Our “contestants” were a feather and a rock. But if you want, multiple toys can get in on the action; this game would be great with Lego people!

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Travis made his hypothesis: that the rock parachute would fall faster than the feather one.  So we headed outside to test it out! A fenced-in overlook made the perfect launch site.

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Even in a still photo you can see the feather parachute lazily drifting down as the rock plummets to the ground.

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The difference here was extremely stark, of course. As mentioned, your kids might want to do multiple launches with items closer in weight. Enjoy the discoveries!

Sidewalk Constellations and Mini-Books

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It was a beautiful morning for sidewalk chalk art, and to add purpose to Travis’s art, I decided to throw in a little STEM learning, too!

We headed outside with our book of constellations, and I challenged him to lay out shells (rocks would work well, too) to represent each star in the pictures. We started with the Big Dipper.

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Could he now connect the lines, following along with the picture in our book? This was a bit of a challenge for Travis, who had to consult the picture between each line, but he ended up with a great dipper.

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The Southern Cross was next. He loved using big shells for two of the stars, and had an a-ha moment when he figured out which way he should draw his chalk lines.

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Then we got silly and made up new constellations. I let his imagination run wild, and soon we had a snake constellation:

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And a ninja constellation:

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Make sure you take pictures of all your artwork before you head inside! I then had these printed so we could put them into a booklet.

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Add one picture per page, along with a fact or two about that constellation.

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We left a page blank, for future imaginative additions!

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These mini-books will serve both as a memory capsule of your day and for storytime down the road.

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Balloon Rocket

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If you checked out our Fun with Flight Kiwi Crate adventure, then you saw Travis and I made an indoor balloon rocket. We wanted a chance for a repeat outside, and decided it merited its own blog!

This time we made a few significant changes. First, we stretched our string between two fence posts, allowing for a longer space for our “rockets” to fly.

The next innovation was a wide straw (look for “milkshake straws” at the grocery store). This flies much more smoothly come time to launch! Thread the straw onto one end of your string.

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Blow up a balloon – but do not knot – and tape it to the straw. Release the balloon and watch it fly.

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This was just so beautiful outside in morning sunlight, too!

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“3, 2, 1, Go!”


Fabric Parachutes

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It was on a Memorial Day a few years back that Travis first saw parachuters and he’s been obsessed ever since. Here’s a cute craft you can put together to take flight right at home!

Trace around a large dinner plate with felt-tipped markers on fabric; we had lightweight fabric swatches from the craft store that were perfect, and I let Travis choose his favorite pattern for the parachute.

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After he traced, cutting out the circle out was a mommy step, since fabric is still tough for my preschooler’s fingers.

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Note: Travis thought the fabric markers were so neat he wanted to color on the scraps after we cut out the circle!

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Mark 8 dots with pen evenly spaced around the parachute. Cut pieces of thread that are about 12 inches long and and sew these to each of the 8 dots.

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I let Travis have a turn with the needle and thread which made him feel so important!

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Stretch the threads to a wooden bobbin and secure with masking tape. Bright green tape added a fun pop of color.

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Now it’s time to launch!

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The higher you stand, the better the parachute soars (more time to catch the wind). First I had Travis try climbing on top of our step ladder. It worked great, but was extremely short-lived.

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So next we headed to the playground, and launched from the highest platform!

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Maraca Craft Challenge

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Last month, Travis’s Highlights magazine challenged him to make robots with only a few simple items. This month, the challenge was maracas!

I laid out: empty plastic water bottles, dried beans, tape, and craft sticks. “How would you make these into a maraca?” I asked him.

“Let’s add beans first,” he decided right away.

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He began dropping in the beans one-by-one. When I added a few faster to a second bottle, he admonished, “No, copy the way I do!” My teacher for the day!

Next, he needed to figure out how to use the craft sticks. He requested a piece of tape and soon had a handle.

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Then he decided a double-handle in the shape of an X was sturdier.

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Finally, the caps were reattached, and we could shake up a storm! I loved watching him puzzle through this challenge. What does your child’s maraca look like? Please share in the comments!

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Rubber Band Launchers, Two Ways

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Ok, we’ve launched marshmallows from cups and rockets from straws, so now it was time for Travis to play around with how he could launch things with rubber bands!

First up, thanks to a renewed fascination with bugs, was a Spider Launcher. This project was a little tricky; we had to redo it twice before we got the elastics right!

First, cover a sturdy cardboard tube (such as an empty roll of packing tape) with construction paper.

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We chose orange because, well, spiders and Halloween and all that, but any color would work. Glue or tape the paper on.

Glue 4 lollipop sticks around the tube so that they form a square.

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Leave these to dry for at least 2 hours, so your structure is sturdy. Full disclosure: we did have one pop off, and I duct-taped it back on.

To make your “web,” slip an elastic over all 4 posts. Loop it around each post, then push down to the bottom of the sticks.

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Slip a second elastic over the post. Completely lift the first one up and over the second elastic (so only your second elastic is now looped on the lollipop sticks, if that makes sense).

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Repeat with a third elastic, slipping it around the post, and then lifting the second elastic completely up and over it.

Repeat with a fourth elastic, slipping the third elastic completely up and over it. Confused yet? I hope the visual helps!

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Now place a toy spider in the middle. Pull back on the tautest, center of your web. Snap the elastic back, and spider flies!

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This was tricky for my four year old, but he could do it with help for bigger launches, and by himself for shorter launches.

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Even better, his bug toys now had a web to call home, so overall it was a success!

Since this turned out to be so complicated, I also asked him if he wanted to make a much simpler rubber band launcher, using just with a couple of elastics and a cup. Here, then, is the Rubber Band-Powered Cup Launcher.

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Put two rubber bands on a sturdy paper cup so they form a cross.

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(Note: It may help to stretch your rubber bands out a few times to loosen them, or your paper cups will crumple).

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Place a third rubber band around the cup to hold the other two in place.

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Press this cup down over a second paper cup. The elastics will go taut, and when you release… Boing!

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This one is simple enough to do with a crowd of kids, and would be a fun one outdoors, perhaps for any upcoming Memorial Day barbecues!

Bubbling Bath Fizzies

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If you’re still wondering what to make for grandmas, moms, aunts, or any other special mother-figure this mother’s day, Travis and I have got you covered with this treat for the toes from Highlights magazine. The gift is equal parts craft and science, which makes it a fantastic way to engage kids in the spirit of gift-giving.

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In a large craft bin, Travis mixed up the following ingredients:

1 cup baking soda

1/2 cup citric acid

1/2 cup Epsom salts

3/4 cup corn starch

Make sure to tell your child that the mixture isn’t edible, even though most of the ingredients are, especially if you’re used to cooking together!

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In a small bowl, we whisked together 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon water. Add the liquids to the mixture slowly, stirring until combined. Kids will want to wear goggles (or sunglasses, in a pinch!) to protect their eyes, since it will bubble as you stir.

We also added blue food coloring for a pretty tint and a few drops of vanilla extract for a nice smell. The downside was that this made our mixture a little too liquidy (you want it to be slightly dry and crumbly). It seemed all right at first, but as our bath bombs dried, they puffed out. Note Travis in his too-cool-for-school sunglasses, ha!

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Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out each portion, and pack down tightly. Gently release onto a paper towel and let dry for a full 24 hours.

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Package the bath bombs in any pretty tissue paper or parchment paper.

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We also added a little gift tag with instructions for treating those tootsies!

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And of course we saved one to test out at home! Travis loved watching it fizz, before putting his feet in to soak. Don’t forget to give a quick explanation of why it all fizzes up – the baking soda and citric acid reacting together once in water, of course, which releases CO2 gas (ergo, bubbles).

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Straw Rockets

Straw Rocket (8)Travis and I have been launching all kinds of things lately, from marshmallows to disks. Today, we made little rockets that could have races!

Cut squares of construction paper that are 3 inches x 3 inches. Make as many of these as you’ll want rockets.

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Wrap each piece of paper around a straw, making sure it is loose enough to fly off the straw when needed. We secured these with tape.

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Although there’s no need to, it was fun to add decorations. Travis soon was swirling pipe cleaners into all kinds of creations!

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I helped with one that was recognizably a “rocket,” as well as a few silly ones. Definitely have fun with these; we even had a little alien with googly eyes.

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We used hot glue to affix our pipe cleaner creations to our paper pieces. Now our rockets were ready to launch!

Lift the straw to your lips and blow, and see how far it flies.

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You can even turn it into a race, and see whose rocket flies furthest.

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Cardboard Tube Marble Run

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This DIY marble run is a fantastic way to get your kids engineering and learning about laws of motion – all while they just think they’re playing!

I saved up cardboard tubes (from toilet paper and paper towel rolls) for a few weeks, until we had a good-sized collection.

First we needed to decorate our tubes. Travis loved covering them with washi tape, and insisted on being in charge of snipping off the pieces of tape we would use.

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Next, we cut the tubes open, which he also loved doing!

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If your child wants to, decorate the inside of the tubes with marker or crayon. But at this point, Travis was so excited to design our marble run that he said let’s skip the markers!

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We headed over to a blank portion of wall, and I taped up the first tube with masking tape. Slowly, we decided where each tube needed to go.

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This part will involve a bit of trial-and-error, and a few test runs! Check to see where marbles bounce out or fall off tubes, and adjust accordingly.

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I recommend placing a small container with sides at the bottom to catch the marbles.

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We were so proud once we had a run that perfectly deposited the marbles inside our container.

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