Wordless Wednesday: Hands-on Science


Twin Photo Album

Here’s a photo album I just finished for twin baby girls.  It is two books combined into one, honoring their differences as well as their relationship as twins.  Each side opens up to a piece of vellum embossed with the baby’s name and then space for up to 40 photos of each child.  This book was a fun challenge.  I have more books in my ArtFire shop, but please contact me if I can help you with something more customized.










Little kids paint

The Sage was almost 4 when he painted this bear.  Our materials were: cheap canvas, student grade acrylic paints (in the tube, not the craft paints in the bottle), cheap brushes and rubber cement.  I put out a few similar colors (yellow, light green, off white) and let him paint, making sure the edges get painted also (which makes it look more finished without having to frame it).  Then we let it dry a day or two.  I made a stencil from a drawing of a bear he had done, placed it where we wanted it on the canvas then painted rubber cement over and around.   This masks the outline of the bear so he would only paint where the bear should be.  Remove the stencil before the rubber cement dries.  After the rubber cement was dry I gave him a few paints (brown, black and off white) and a small brush.  It’s ok to get paint on the rubber cement.  If any paint gets in an area where you don’t want it, quickly wipe it off with a damp cloth.  Waiting for the paint to dry completely before removing the rubber cement was hard.  Very hard.  But you’re more patient than I, so you won’t make a mess.  Rub your finger over the rubber cement to remove.

The King was a little older, probably 5 or 6, when he did his first acrylic painting based on a drawing he did when he was younger.  We painted the Spotted Salamander together and talked about painting styles (mostly Van Gogh).  I painted most of the edges and helped him keep the painting even but random.  We didn’t mask any areas with rubber cement.

So, next time your art and craft store has a sale on acrylics and canvas, stock up!

Cardboard Chair Project

My grandparents’ first table was a cardboard box.  My mom and I built innumerable dollhouses out of Pepsi boxes.  We made a kitchen set out of box for the King when we lived in India.  Sixty years later, cardboard boxes are still one of the best toys money (can’t) buy.

cardboard motorcycle

The Sage riding his cardboard motorcycle

I’m trying to give the King a larger project or puzzle to do each week, something that is interesting and thought provoking.  Last week he was told to build a chair or stool out of cardboard and glue that would hold his weight.  The Prof thought it would be too hard for a 10 year old.  Not only did the King enjoy thinking about design options, measuring everything and assembling the stool himself, but the Prof and the Sage (who turns 4 this week) made a chair, too.  Warehouse stores like Costco, BJs and Sams seem to be the best places to get large pieces of unbent cardboard, though we used some that was already cut and folded as well.  Glue (we used Elmers) and an exacto knife or box cutter are the only other supplies you need.  (Of course the Prof had to one up the rest of us by not even using glue.)

This would be a great Earth Day project.  And when you tire of the chair, simply recycle it!

3 chairs

3 cardboard chairs

Here are some other great cardboard chairs:

Cardboard highchair that can be folded flat for storage.

Of course you could always buy this chair from Frank Gehry for $984.   Oh wait, he uses screws.  That’s cheating!

Instructables has step by step instructions, but it is the collection of images that you really must see.

How to practice with chopsticks

hawk-counting-game-017This is a very easy way to introduce cultural differences, work on motor skills and have fun.  Get 2 bowls, cotton balls, pair of chopsticks, and a child who wants to play.  Use the chopsticks to move the cotton balls from one bowl to the other or pretend to eat dumplings.  We have several different types of chopsticks.  The King did this as a toddler with regular chopsticks, but The Sage finds the cheater chopsticks (top in photo) we got at Doc Chey’s much easier (you can also order them from China Sprout or read Tilt’s explanation of how to rig up your own in the comments).

Here is a wonderful video about how to use chopsticks and Chinese dinning etiquette.

Make your own Chinese Lanterns

lanterns-036The Lantern Festival (February 4, 2009) is the 15th and last day of Chinese New Year but lanterns are used as decorations long before then.   We love Stefan Czernecki’s Paper Lanterns– a story of an old master paper lantern craftsman and the young boy who sweeps the floors and desperately wants to become an apprentice.  And while we greatly respect anyone who can form bamboo and rice paper into fantastic lanterns, we chose the simple road.

There are several ways to make your own paper lanterns.  The first only requires a sheet of card stock or construction paper, scissors and glue or stapler.  Here is a step by step tutorial.  Any child who can cut a generally straight line with scissors can do this one.  We made one when The King was 3.  Next time we make these, I’ll add a piece of yellow tissue paper on the inside to help it look lit up.

The second method is more involved.  You’ll need balloons, white glue or mod podge, a sponge brush, tissue paper or crepe paper and a string or wire to hang it from.  Cardstock, ribbons, paints and glitter glue are optional.  Look at this step by step tutorial first.  I’m leary of fire close to flamable objects, so we will light ours with a string of patio lights, but a friend is going to try a babyfood jar with a tea light in it.  The battery tea lights are not bright enough for this.  A small, but bright flashlight tied at the top might work, too.

Red layer finished, yellow started

Red layer finished, yellow started

You need to use 5-6 layers of tissue paper or crepe paper, torn into strips.  I used mod podge watered down to about half strength, but white glue could work as well.  Use a sponge brush and lightly cover the paper with glue- it is fine if you miss spots.  Try to use as little glue as necessary to make it stick together.  You want at least 2 layers to be red, including the top layer.  I found that alternating the colors made it much easier to keep track of what area still needed to be covered.  Yellow, white, orange, pink would all work well for under layers.  Leave about a half inch to 1 inch around the top of the balloon that isn’t covered in paper.

The King's secret message lantern

The King's secret message lantern

The King's secret message lantern lit up.

The King's secret message lantern lit up.

You can add a secret message by gluing red opaque paper (like cardstock) designs, words or Chinese characters (links below) before you add the last layer of tissue paper.  The message won’t be clearly visable until you add a light inside.  The King did this and decided that it was super cool.  We also did one with black paper so the design shows up when not lit.  You can also paint the lantern after it is fully dry.

After you finish the last layer of tissue paper, brush an even, not to thick layer of mod podge over the entire lantern.  If you start tearing the paper while doing this, let it dry a bit then add the last layer of glue.

Depending on how much glue you used, you’ll have to let it sit an hour or more to dry enough to pull the balloon out.  I put a string on my dinning room light and clothespin the balloon to it.  When the balloon is no longer sticky (it is ok if it is a little cold still), cut the top of the balloon with scissors.  Do not be alarmed if your lantern begins to look like an overgrown raisin as the air is released.  Pull the balloon out and trim the top of the lantern so you can fit your hand inside (about the size of a soup can).  Hold the lantern in one hand and put your other hand inside to help reform it as needed.  Let it sit and finish drying.

When it is dry and firm, you can continue to decorate.  If you paint a design on it, I suggest using a somewhat thick paint like acrylic and not runny watercolor.  Simple Chinese lanterns usually have a small cylinder at the top and bottom (these would both be openings but not in ours) rimmed with gold fringe.  To make the small cylinder, cut a piece of cardstock an inch or so wide and long enough to fit the circumfrence of the opening.  Fold the long side over about 1/4 to 1/2 inch.  Then snip this side with scissors about every 1/4 inch.  Doing this will enable the paper to bend more smoothly.  Make two pieces like this for each lantern.  The top piece should be bent so that the snipped tabs stick outward then overlap the ends slightly and glue the ends to make a circle (a clothespin will hold it).  The piece for the bottom should be bent and glued so that the tabs stick inward.  Glue the tabs to the bottom center of the lantern (you may need to keep a hand inside the lantern a few minutes to help it stick).   Put glue on the tabs, then work the top cylinder into the top of the lantern.  Press the tabs against the top inside of the lantern, with the top of the cylinder sticking out.

cylinder for the bottom, cut, folded and glued

Cylinder for the bottom, cut, folded and glued

Once this dries, you can add ribbon, fringe or paint to the top and bottom.  To make a handle, I simply sewed a piece of twine through both sides and tied it.  You could also glue a cardstock handle in the top.

YouTube video: making paper lanterns with folded and stapled paper.
YouTube video: making traditional lanterns with bamboo and paper, step 1.

Chinese characters: coloring pages
Chinese characters: good luck characters
Other Chinese New Year coloring pages
Other Chinese New Year crafts
A good overview of some Chinese New Year activities

Wonderful lanterns made by two young friends.

Wonderful lanterns made by two young friends.