Make a Rainbow

Make a Rainbow (2)

All you need for this little science trick is a hose and a sunny day. We’ve had early hot weather that made us pull out the sprinkler, but it’s also been overcast. Luckily this afternoon the sun poked through!

I set up a sprinkler with flower attachments that spray a fine mist. The mist will make it more likely to spot a rainbow, so if you don’t have any sort of hose attachment, you’ll need to use your thumb to change the flow of water.

Make a Rainbow (1)

Now aim in the direction of your shadow. A rainbow will appear! This was magical for my toddler, and of course scientific for a my kindergartner. Travis understood that the water was bending the light from the sun and breaking it apart into the full spectrum of colors in a rainbow.

Make a Rainbow (3)

Then just have fun in the sprinkler of course!

sprinkler ($)


Water Wheel Kiwi Crate

Kiwi Water Wheel (12)

One of my favorite memories with Travis is a trip we took to an old saw mill when he was in preschool. I reminded him of the moment when his latest kit from Kiwi CoKiwi CoKiwi Coarrived, all about the Water Wheel! There was great STEM learning here about the power of water, all of which led to great play.

First up: the Water Wheel and Boat. To make the wheel involved slotting plastic paddles into the circular side pieces and holding it all in place with elastics. More and more with each crate, I sit back and let Travis handle the dexterity of all this.

Kiwi Water Wheel (1)

We then inserted the frame pieces into a foam base and again held it all together with elastics. A funnel goes on top, and can slide along on a foam donut.

Kiwi Water Wheel (2)

To make the “boat” simply involved inserting three corks into a foam frame, a good refresher on buoyancy and how cork is a material that floats.

Kiwi Water Wheel (3)

We inflated the provided water basin and placed the boat and water wheel inside.

Kiwi Water Wheel (5)

As Travis poured water into the funnel, the rope tugs the boat a little closer to the wheel each time. It required a little trial and error, but eventually our boat was taut against the wheel.

Kiwi Water Wheel (7)

We took our Water Wheel outside for a few additional experiments. First, we tested what would happen if the boat dangled over an edge, rather than floating in water. Even against the power of gravity, the boat rose upward!

walden (2)

Then Travis tested filling the funnel with sand instead of water; I think ideally this would have worked, but he poured the sand in so fast that the funnel clogged, and we didn’t have great results.

walden (3)

His Explore magazine also suggested testing the boat out in soapy water, though I’m unclear why. Was the soap supposed to hinder or help? In our results, it worked better, the fastest wind-up yet. Then we untied the boat and just had fun playing with the wheel as a water toy. Travis could test the power of the current that the wheel generates by floating other bath toys around it.

Kiwi Water Wheel (14)

The final project in this crate was Splash Art. Travis used the provided penguin background for his first try.  Add a generous squirt of the provided blue paint, then use the provided straw to blow.

Kiwi Water Wheel (10)

He was nervous at first that he would inhale the paint, so we practiced blowing air against our palms.

Kiwi Water Wheel (11)

Now he was brave enough, and I was so proud of him! There’s enough extra paper to make a few designs of your child’s own, and Travis loved adding lots of blue paint to these and blowing all over the surface.

Kiwi Water Wheel (13)

Have fun varying your method, including blowing hard or soft, or varying the angle of the straw. Just be careful: this one is messy!

Before wrapping up, we did a quick experiment to test the power of a vortex. First, fill an empty 2 litre bottle with water and pour it out normally over a bucket. Set a timer and see how long it takes! Ours emptied in 16 seconds.

Kiwi Water Wheel (17)

Refill it, but this time place your hand over the opening, turn the bottle upside down, and begin spinning in a circular motion; you’re creating a vortex. When you remove your hand, the water will whoosh out! I’d estimate it emptied in half the time.

Kiwi Water Wheel (18)

To make this more visible, first we added red food coloring, and then glitter. Travis was in charge of the camera, so unfortunately the pictures didn’t come out great!

Kiwi Water Wheel (19)

We ended the fun with two reads about water: Hi, Water by Antoinette Portis and National Geographic Kids’ Water.

Engineer with Water

Engineer Legos (6)

Children’s museums are closed for coronavirus, so today we recreated one of Travis’s favorite exhibits here at home! The museum version involves a large base where kids can dam water with Duplo pieces. We recreated that on a smaller scale with Legos!

Ideally you’ll need one of the large Lego baseplates for this project. Technically it would work on any small Lego base, too, but your results will be in miniature.

First we built a high wall of interlocking bricks so our baseplate could stand upright. Attach this to your Lego base with any Lego hinges.

Engineer Legos (3)

Next Travis began adding paths for the water. On the first round, I gave him no guidance and he designed a very complicated set of Legos that were vertical and horizontal and all over the place. He thought he was being tricky leaving tall openings.

Engineer Legos (2)

We set the whole apparatus in a shallow tray and poured in a cup of water. Of course it pretty much ran straight down over everything.

Engineer Legos (4)

After we poured, he realized that he needed to be much more deliberate in his placement. We removed any vertical Legos except those on the very edges, and soon had horizontal walls. He loved the idea that we were “tricking” the water.

Engineer Legos (7)

To visualize our results, we added small red Lego pieces that could run through this “maze”. You could also use glitter or any other tiny object for this part. Now he could really see the flow of water. Check it out!

Then he wanted to try blocking the water entirely. It sort of worked, although his walls  needed to be higher to truly block any flow.

Engineer Legos (8)

There are so many ways to play with variations on this, and your child will be engineering all the while!

Engineer Legos (6)


Submarine (6)

This project is slightly tricky, but if done correctly the propeller will really spin and push your bottle “submarine” forward around a bath or basin of water. Full disclosure: ours didn’t quite work, but the principle was there! Meanwhile Travis learned a bit about how submarines really float or sink.

To make the submarine, start with a small empty water bottle. Poke a hole in the bottom with a push pin. Straighten a paper clip and insert in the hole, but then you’ll need to re-bend the tip of the paper clip from the inside. This was tricky, and I managed to push it down with a pencil.

Submarine (2)

Now draw a propeller shape with 4 blades on the top of a yogurt container (or similar container). Cut out, then poke a hole in the center with the push pin. Poke a hole in the center of the bottle’s cap, too.

Submarine (3)

Insert a second paper clip into the cap so that the loop will be inside the bottle once the cap is screwed on. Loop an elastic around this hook and the paper clip on the bottom of the bottle. Poke the cap’s paper clip through the propeller as well, and then bend the end of it to hold everything in place.

Submarine (4)

To weight the bottle properly on top, glue two pennies to the ends of a craft stick. Secure this to the bottle with a rubber band.

Submarine (5)

We were ready to give it a try! Wind up the rubber band by spinning the propeller around; ideally it will unspin once you let go in a basin of water. Unfortunately, ours didn’t behave quite as we hoped!

Submarine (7)

What we were able to experiment with, however, was the real way that submarines dive and emerge. Tanks fill with water to make the submarine heavier and it sinks; when those tanks are pumped out, the submarine rises again. Travis experimented with filling our bottle and then dumping the water out, to see these differences.

Submarine (8)

And then of course it just becomes a fun water toy! In sum, a great little STEM experiment.

Floating Fish

Floating Fish (4)

This little balloon project is a fun way to teach kids about buoyancy, and more specifically about how fish can swim in the water without either floating to the top or sinking to the bottom. As a bonus, it starts out as science and ends as a bath toy!

To set up, first insert a marble into each of three uninflated balloons. You’ll have to open the neck of the balloon wide to do this, which can be a bit tricky.

Floating Fish (1)

Using a funnel, fill one balloon with 1/3 cup vegetable oil. Fill the second ballon with 1/3 cup water. Blow up the final balloon with air until it’s roughly the same size as the balloons with liquid.

Floating Fish (2)

You can add fishy faces or fins with permanent marker, if desired! Next, fill a craft bin with water, and set your fish loose. Travis’s hypothesis was that the oil-filled “fish” would be the one to neither sink nor float, and he was so proud to be correct!

Floating Fish (3)

As you can probably guess, the water + marble sinks to the bottom. The oil + marble manages to be midway in the water, just like a fish swimming. The air + marble floats on top…not where a fish wants to be!

Floating Fish (5)

Once the science was done, we brought the fish upstairs at bath time, where they made for extra fun!

Deep-Sea Discovery Kiwi Crate

Kiwi Deep Sea (4)

Travis’s subscription to Kiwi Crate is more welcome then ever these days, providing doses of science and art to our home school lessons. Travis couldn’t wait to dive into his deep-sea discovery crate.

First up was to make the Chomping Anglerfish. Travis has learned about these deep-sea fish before, with their fascinating attached lantern, and this project was big on engineering. He helped work through the steps of assembling a wooden wheel then attaching this to the frame of a wooden fish with bolts and screws.

Kiwi Deep Sea (1)

He felt absolute glee when he realized the jaw could move (thanks to the cogs lining up with those in the wooden wheel), and even more so when he realized this meant the jaw could now eat…

Kiwi Deep Sea (2)

…the prey. Activity number two, to Make the Prey was very simple, just adhering stickers to wooden disks with a peg in between. The wooden jaw hooks onto these pegs so that as the fish scoots along the floor, the jaw lifts up and “swallows” the prey. Just as a cautionary note, the whole apparatus is a bit temperamental and won’t work if the wheel isn’t properly rolling along the floor or if the jaw gets slightly stuck.

Kiwi Deep Sea (3)

But needless to say, it soon turned into a game of chomping up other toys around the house, like Legos!

The third project was a Submarine Seek-and-Find. Using the provided stencil, Travis colored in fish shapes onto the provided plastic sheet. A paper “flashlight” then uncovers these creatures lurking behind the dark submarine window.

Kiwi Deep Sea (5)

We had fun “hiding” fish for each other among drawings of bubbles, or making up our own creatures. Travis was so proud surprising me with a giant sea monster. The booklet explains the science of how the finder works, when the white light of the “flashlight” makes your drawings appear even under the dark window.

Kiwi Deep Sea (7)

For some final fun, Travis dressed up as an anglerfish for a game of “hide-and-glow seek”! To make the costume, twist a black pipe cleaner onto a glow stick, and attach to any dark-colored baseball cape with masking tape. Have your child dress in dark clothing and don the cap, and they are ready to be a lurking deep-sea fish!

Hide and Glow Seek (3)

We cracked additional small glow sticks to be the “prey” and took turns hiding these around the house. Travis got quite creative with his hiding places! The goal is to find all the sticks in the dark before the “anglerfish” tags the other player.

Hide and Glow Seek alt

Obviously this game will work best after full dark, as you can see from Travis in the picture above, although we did also play a round before the sun went down.

Hide and Glow Seek (5)

If you want to extend the learning, check out two fun books: How Deep is the Sea from Usborne Books or Super Submarines, by Tony Mitton.

Power-Up Pancakes

Power Up Pancake (4)

For a kid who recently learned all about circuits and electricity, getting to use an appliance for his own snack today was a big thrill. Add to the electric fun of this recipe by decorating it with a “light bulb”!

First, we needed to reheat a pancake. I showed Travis how to slot it into the toaster, and then carefully press down the button. Of course in doing so he completed a circuit!

Power Up Pancake (1)

To top the pancake, slice the sides from a pear. I asked Travis which one looked most like a light bulb to him, and we used orange marmalade to “glue” his selection on to the pancake. (Alternatively, use apricot jam or any other “light” colored jelly).

Power Up Pancake (2)

Slivered almonds made the perfect decoration for shining light along the sides and bottom of the bulb.

Power Up Pancake (3)

Circuit Workout

Circuit Exercise (3)

Travis needed to get his wiggles out today, so I knew he needed a game that would get him moving. This was a fun suggestion from Kiwi Co., where instead of building a battery circuit, your kid gets to be the the electricity zipping around the “wires”.

To set up a life-sized electrical circuit, choose a round object to be a light bulb and a rectangular object to be the battery. Make a rectangle on the floor from painter’s tape to connect them, being sure to leave a little gap along the top.

Circuit Exercise (1)

For the switch, we used a book. When the book is open, the circuit is complete. But if it’s closed… Oh no, the electricity can’t zip through!

Circuit Exercise (2)

Travis laughed at this little role-play. He started out at the “battery” and ran to the “switch” book.

Circuit Exercise (4)

Finding it open meant hopping across, running a circle around the light bulb, and then dashing back to the battery.

Circuit Exercise (5)

If the book was closed, he had to freeze. Keep playing until you’ve worn out your kid-sized battery of course!

Muscle Machine

Muscle Machine (5)

For a little STEM to our home school day, I showed Travis a demonstration of how muscles work in opposing pairs. This craft was also a great way to upcycle his latest Kiwi Crate box. Here’s Travis flexing his muscles to get started!

Muscle Machine (1)

To start, we printed out a printable with shapes of the shoulder, upper arm, and forearm. Place the paper shapes on cardboard and use push pins to mark anywhere that circles are shown. Remove the push pins and cut out the cardboard. Widen each push pin hole with a brad.

Muscle Machine (2)

Use double-sided tape to attach the bicep and tricep muscle shapes to the upper arm. Insert two brads about half way in the two outside holes (these will act more like bobbins; alternatively, you can use real bobbins if you have them). Push a third brad through the middle hole, inserting it fully, and attach to the shoulder piece.

Muscle Machine (3)

Insert two brads into the outer two holes of the forearm. Cut two pieces of string 18 inches long and knot around these two lowest brads. Add a center brad on the forearm to attach it securely to the middle arm. You now have something roughly like this:

Muscle Machine (4)

Loop the top string clockwise over the brads that align with the bicep.

Loop the lower string clockwise around the brads that align with the tricep. Pulling the strings can now allow the arm to flex upwards or downwards, depending which you pull.

Muscle Machine (6)

For added stability, you can zip-tie the whole apparatus to an empty plastic bottle, but we skipped this step and pulled it more like a marionette’s strings. Have fun having your child see which other muscles move in pairs, like bending a wrist up or down, or bending back and forth at the waist.

LED Magnets

LED Magnets (6)

Okay, this is likely the last time Travis and I will play with LED lights and batteries for a while, but we’ve had lots of fun with them this month. Of all our light-up projects, this was the simplest. But by now Travis is an expert!

To start, we needed to make magnets using a silicone mold and hot glue. We have a mold in fun rocket and planet shapes that was perfect.

LED Magnets (1)

Because it required squirting a lot of hot glue into a relatively wide receptacle, this was the first time I let Travis use the gun solo. He was so proud! You’ll likely go through three or four glue sticks to fill a couple of molds.

LED Magnets (2)

Let the glue cool slightly, but before it’s completely set, push an LED light in. Make sure the wires are still sticking out.

LED Magnets (3)

Glue the positive (longer) leg of the LED to a circular magnet. Attach a 3V battery to the magnet with small pieces of tape so that it touches this positive leg, and then tape the other (negative) leg of the LED to the negative side of the battery.

LED Magnets (4)

Perhaps you can use these magnets to hang up any home school work!

LED Magnets (6)

Here’s our planet in action: