Friday, August 18, 2017
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Image via Wikipedia Local 4H chapters hosted a children’s activities room at the Prince William County Fair this summer. One of my favorites was the homemade Chia Pet. You may remember these from the late 1970, when they were first introduced. The head of a clay figure in the shape of an animal or familiar figure, like the cartoon character Homer Simpson, was smeared with a grass-seed-filled paste. As recently as 2007, around half a million were sold annually. You kept the clay moist and in a few days, grass would grow all over its head, as though it had green hair. The 4H version was simpler,... (Read More ...)

Image via Wikipedia There is a new book out, 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do). The author quit his job to open Tinkering Schools after founding a camp for children to build things ranging from a roller coaster to a glider. Here are a few of his suggestions: Break glass Drive a nail Glue your fingers together with superglue Spend an hour blindfolded Play with a pocket knife Throw a javelin Take an appliance apart Lick a battery Throw rocks Play with fire Build a dam. This summer, following this suggestion, I built a dam with my grandson in a nearby creek. Quickly, he learned... (Read More ...)

Ballpoint Pens How do you make a toy car with four old CDs, a mouse trap, two ball-point pens and six balloons? Yesterday, we built a mousetrap car as a family project with our five-year-old grandson. Though I usually look for projects I can do myself and then do with a child, this one required three of us. It has three appeals: 1) it uses materials that are easily available 2) its design is so visible, it begs to be improved on once you’ve made it 3) it goes like lightning! Assemble: Materials: 4 old CDs 6 balloons (works best with 2 round balloons and four long balloons, like we used for... (Read More ...)

Monopoly One of my grandchildren’s favorite board games is The Ladybug Game. Designed by a six-year-old, it is simple, combines luck and chance and just a little skill, and can be enjoyed by both adults and children. My awesome daughter-in-law, when I had asked her to show me how to make still one more Origami figure, eventually decided it would be more fun to make up her own designs. A new concept for me, more used to figuring out someone else’s instructions, I decided this was a lesson for grandchildren, not just grandmothers. Why not let your grandchildren apply their creativity as you... (Read More ...)

Corrugated cardboard To build a cardboard boat powered by a rubber band, you will need: Scissors Pen or Pencil Corrugated cardboard, as from the side or top of a box. Rubber band Water to float the boat in, a sink, bowl of water,or bathtub 1. Cut out a square from the cardboard, about 4 by 4 inches. 2. Cut off the top two corners of the square, to make a shape that looks like the top of a house, with a flat roof between the two peaks. Use a pencil to draw lines across the corners to keep them even when you cut. 3. Cut out a double-wide door from the house. The house shape is going to be... (Read More ...)

Propeller Sometimes called the magic propeller, a whimmy doodle, or whammy diddle, you may have seen them at county fairs. There are two wooden sticks. One has a propeller on the end and notches in the handle. When you rub a stick over the notches, it makes the propeller spin. Slater Harrison, the middle school science teacher we have introduced you to in other posts, who specializes in making science fun for children, has developed a simple way to make one at home, without the wood carving. Through this process, he said, he finally understood how hula hoops work and bolts work themselves loose. It... (Read More ...)

Plastic Drinking Straws Here is another activity from Slater Harrison, he of the Walk Along Glider, described in an earlier post. This one is for five or six-year-olds – making a reed instrument from a straw. Harrison describes the action of the vibrating ends of a cut straw to illustrate how we talk and how reed instruments work. Although the children in these videos cut their own straws, I recommend supervision. Supplies: Flexible straws Scissors Paper hole punch Click here to start the video for Part 1 (7 minutes), Build a Reed Instrument Out of a Drinking Straw. Flatten one end of... (Read More ...)

Hang Glider Launching from Mount Tamalpais Also called an Origami hang glider, this is a weekend project, perfect for grandchildren visiting for the Memorial Day weekend. If you and your grandchildren already know how to make simple paper toys, like paper airplanes and flick footballs, they may be ready to graduate to making a paper glider fly, without touching it, as they walk around behind it. It is called the Walk Along Glider and was invented by Tyler MacCready, son of the developer of the first human-powered flight, the Gossamer Condor, Paul MacCready. Tom used to be a test pilot on his... (Read More ...)

Poster of Aida in Teatro di Parma, 1872 Last summer, I wrote about introducing my then four-year-old grandson to the piano. We downloaded some free piano sheet music one day. (Frugal Friday. Cucumber. Soup. August 20, 2010) In the past month, he has picked up his interest in the piano and worked through his father’s first three piano books. Last week when he was visiting, my husband took him downstairs to get out his old cornet. I found this out when grandson proudly offered to play for me! I tried the cornet once. I made it squawk, but it was hard and it didn’t look like I’d ever make... (Read More ...)

Quidditch Game I saw the Quidditch nets first, thinking, “That looks like a Quidditch net from a Harry Potter book.” I stopped to ask some of the players sitting on the bleachers waiting for their turn what they were playing. They were next to a baseball field and sharing the baseball field’s bleachers, but had their own playing field next to it in Boston Common. “Quidditch.” They were amused at my puzzled face and went on to tell me that five teams in their school alone, Emerson College, in Boston, play. I learned later that in 2009, Emerson played in the 3rd annual Championship game... (Read More ...)