Magical Kitchen Science Activities for Young Kids or (Snow Day Plans!)

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Winter break may be over but snow days will come…  we hope!  Here’s a quick round up of some of the fun things we did during our Winter Break and some of the things we hope to do soon. We are looking forward for a chance to make use of these given some of that unexpected free time that often comes in January and February 🙂

  1.  Marshmallow Sculptures: We have a Winter Break tradition of building snow-people out of marshmallows and using them to further our imaginary adventures.  Our favorite technique is to use pretzel sticks to hold the body together by inserting them through the middle to hold three marshmallows in a row.  We then like to use a broken pretzel to create two arms, chocolate chips inserted pointy tip first for eyes and a mouth and a rolo or peanut butter cup as a hat (and affixed with vanilla frosting).  It’s a sticky, delicious and fun evening’s activity.  Over time, we’ve expanded our repertoire to include marshmallows walls and animals too!
  2. Goop:  Goop is a magical mixture (or non-Newtonian fluid) of corn starch and water that is neither solid nor liquid.  It is really fun for sensory play for kids of all ages.  To make it, you need only combine water and corn starch until you have a consistency that is neither dry and crumbly nor wet and drippy.  I like to start by adding the corn starch to a large container and slowly adding the water, having kids mix with their hands.  We also make it more fun  by adding food coloring.  For some color theory fun, you can make separate batches of colors and let them blend them for new colors.  We love blending pink and blue to make purple.
  3. Baking: Watching those inedible ingredients (have you tasted baking soda, yuck!) come together into something fabulous always seems like magic.  I will ONLY bake with my kids help so they are pretty skilled at helping the process along.  Little Girl helps to measure the dry ingredients and stir them.  Big Girl reads the recipe, cracks the eggs and measures out the wet ingredients.  Last week we made tons of orange blueberry scones (a favorite breakfast treat that freezes really well; for a recipe similar to the one we use see: http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2015/07/very-blueberry-scones/ .)  My part in the activity was to work the butter bits into the dough and supervise.   We are all enjoying the rewards!
  4. Clay Play: There are many recipes for making clay and dough.  And tons of store bought items too.  My favorite playdough recipe combines 1T cream of tartar, 2T vegetable oil, 1c salt, 2c water, 2c flour, spices, extracts and/or food coloring. Combine on the stove top, cook until it is smooth and dry.  Have an adult knead it until it’s not too hot and pass along to share with the kids.  Once you have some clay, there are endless possibilities.  My girls and I had some store bought air hardening clay that we used to make a coil pot (make snakes and wind around to create a base, then work up), a pinch pot (make a ball and use your fingers to pinch into shape, working from the inside and outside at the same time), and the trickiest of all: a heart shaped slab pot (make a heart shaped base by trimming a circle into a heart, roll out rectangular slabs and fit it to the base, scoring to adhere the connections.)
  5. Bubble printing:   Combine a little tempera paint, dish soap and water in a disposable cup.  Use a straw to blow into the cup to create mounds of colored bubbles.  Gently place paper on top of the bubbles to make a print.  Repeat with lots of colors to create pretty effects.
  6. Indoor Snow Play:  We made lots of use of this last year when we had a stretch of days that were really too cold for playing outside.  A brave grown-up merely needs to run outside, fill a giant tupperware (like the type you might use for under the bed storage; I bought two years ago and use them for crafts and sensory activities)  with snow and bring it in for indoor snow people and other fun.  Kids can use their snow mittens and stay in their pjs at the same time!
  7. Ice Painting: When I have some time to plan in advance I like to make colored ice cubes to make the snow play more exciting and long-lasting.   I mix liquid water colors into water and pour into ice cube trays and freeze overnight.  (We’ve sometimes added glitter, sequins or small toys too!).  I then add the ice cubes to the snow and add hours of fun to the activity as the kids paint the snow with ice, and build colorful creations.  This works really well for outside snow play too!

Now we just need some of those snow days!

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