Oct 25

Window Hands

by Hannah Holt »


What you’ll need:

  • black construction paper
  • a white crayon
  • scissors

Step 1: Trace your hand.

Step 2: Draw bones. The exact configuration is not important. Just have fun with it.

Step 3: Cut along the traced lines of the hand.

Step 4: Tape to a window.

Note: Construction paper will fade in the sun, so this is a good project to do the week of Halloween.

Jan 21

Yin Yang Cake

by Hannah Holt »


Two years ago, twin girls joined our family.

Now my wee girls are busy toddlers.

On the outside, my girls are mirror copies of each other. They look so much alike that they still don’t “know” their own names (People are always mixing them up, so they get a lot of name confusion.)

However, they don’t need to know their names to know who they are. They’ve always had distinct personalities. One of my twins likes to walk around the house with me, chatting away in her half-speak. My other girl prefers to sit and look at the pictures in books. Give her a chunky puzzle and she’ll be entertained for most the morning. Of course both my girls love being read to, played with, and taken on walks. But watch them for more than thirty seconds, and it’s not difficult to figure out who is who.

If having twins has taught me anything, it’s this– genes may shape a person, but they don’t make one.

So for their second birthday, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to make them separate cakes or one cake. I mean, two cakes is a lot of cake! In the end, I decided to make two separate but connected cakes. I call it the yin yang cake:

1. I took this recipe for marble cake, but instead of marbling it, I poured the chocolate and vanilla batter into separate nine-inch cake pans. I also adjusted the baking time from 50 minutes to 25 minutes.

2. After the cakes cooled on a wire rack, I cut each cake into the yin-yang shape. I did this by tracing the bottom of the cake pan onto paper, folding the paper in half, and making sure my yin and yang signs were well balanced.

3. I made one batch of vanilla butter cream frosting, divided it into two bowls, and mixed 1/2 cup of unsweetened cocoa into one bowl of frosting. I ended up with one bowl of vanilla frosting and one bowl of chocolate frosting. I stacked and frosted each side of the cake separately.

4. Then I brought the two cakes together (using spatulas) to have one yin yang cake.

It’s a cake with something for everyone. You could have a slice of vanilla cake or a slice of chocolate cake… or a little of both!



May 09

Mother’s Day Finger Art

by Hannah Holt »


First, a quick reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter the Mother’s Day Photo Caption Contest.

Second, here are two finger painting projects with Mom’s special day in mind.

What you’ll need (for both):

  • Paint (we used acrylic)
  • Paper

Project #1: Spell “Mom” with your fingers.

Kirsten over at Creating Curious Kids reminded me last week that “Mom” upside down is “Wow.” You could also do “Wow, Mom!” with this project.

Project #2: Heart Hands

Cover the fronts of both hands with paint. Then touch index fingers together as well as thumbs and press to paper to form this heart.

I added a heart with the word Mom to our project, but what else could you do?

Note: I tried this project with a four-year-old and a fifteen-month-old. While I managed with the toddler, I recommend this project for preschool age children and older. Here’s project #1 by the toddler:

May 31

Summer Science Projects: Biology

by Hannah Holt »


Here are a handful of low maintenance experiments to puzzle your young puzzlers. (Target age range: 5-8 years old.)

#1) Magic Beans

  • 1-5 dried pinto beans
  • a wet paper towel
  • a Ziploc sandwich bag

Place the beans in the sandwich bag with the wet paper towel and seal the bag. The beans will sprout in 3-4 days. The picture shows growth after one week.

Discussion Topic: Plant life cycles

Two sentence explanation: Most plants start as seeds. A bean is a seed and will grow into a plant when you add water.

Follow up questions: Why do plants make seeds? What does a seed need to grow? If you planted a leaf would it grow? Why or why not?


#2) Vegetable Zombies, (the undead)

  • a leftover green onion bulb (or celery base)
  • a glass dish with a little water in the bottom

Place the onion bulb (or celery base) in the dish with water. Place it in a sunny spot. The onion will show new growth after only one day. The celery will show new growth within 2-3 days. The pictures show one week’s worth of growth.

Discussion Topic: Bulbs

Two sentence explanation: Some plants have bulbs. These plants store the energy needed for life in bulbs and will regrow days, weeks, or sometimes months after being pulled from the ground.

Follow up questions: Can you name other plants with bulbs? What do bulbs look like? What is the difference between a bulb and a seed?


#3) Color Changing Rose

  • a white or yellow rose (fresh cut!)
  • red food coloring
  • water and a vase

Place 5-10 drops of food coloring into a small vase with water. Add the fresh cut rose to the water. The rose will change color within 24 hours. This experiment also works with carnations and daisies. The flowers must be fresh cut or little to no dye will make it to the petals.

Discussion Topic: Plant Circulation

Two sentence explanation: Water enters through the stem of the rose and goes out (evaporates) through the leaves. Anything in the water (like the dye) will be carried into the leaves.

Follow up questions: Would this work with a red rose? Why or why not? What other plants could you dye?


#4) Insect Preservation

  • an insect
  • a mason jar with lid
  • two clear plastic Gerber baby-food lids
  • craft glue

Catch your insect of choice in the mason jar. Place this insect in the freezer for a few days. (This method doesn’t produce the most beautiful specimens, but it’s reliable and doesn’t involve noxious chemicals.) Put a dab of craft glue on the baby food lid, and place the insect in the glue (a toothpick can help with this). Place more glue around the outside edge of the lid and place another lid on top to form a closed container. You can glue more than one insect per container. It may take up to a week for the glue to dry clear, but once it does you’ll have an insect you can study closely for months to come.

Discussion Topic: Insect body shapes (anatomy)

Two sentence explanation: Scientists call insects by different names because they have different body shapes, sizes, and colors. But all insects have six legs, a hard shelled body, three major body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and antennae.

Follow up questions: What is the scientific name of the insect you collected? Can you draw a picture of the insect? If you have more than one insect, how are they the same? How are they different?

Stay tuned… Next week I’m posting chemistry and physics experiments for this age range.

Jan 05

Pirate Party, Aaarg!

by Hannah Holt »


My oldest recently celebrated his golden birthday. He was really excited about the “golden” part. Perhaps I let him get a little too carried away with birthday madness, or maybe I got carried away myself.

But whatever the case, I helped him plan a pirate themed birthday, and it was a lot of fun. Maybe every other year I’ll let him do something like this.

First I let him design his own invitations:

I helped him pick out fonts and colors, but not bad for a seven-year-old, eh?

Then we went to the party supply store, where I accidentally left my budget in the car.

But our games were cheap. We had a pirate obstacle course that included walking the plank [couch], climbing up the crows nest [stairs], going under a pirate cave [the table], and hopping across rocks.

We also had a treasure hunt leading to gold [of the chocolate variety].

We topped off the evening with a pirate ship cake:

Here’s how I made it:

1) A few days before the party, I preprepared two 9×13 inch cakes, wrapped the cooled cakes in plastic wrap, and placed them in the freezer. Freezing cakes doesn’t affect the texture, and it makes them easier to carve. I used this recipe for chocolate cake.

2) The day of the party I placed one of the unwrapped but frozen cakes on a bread board lined with aluminum foil. Then I frosted the top of that cake with butter cream frosting, and topped it with the remaining cake.

3) I used a cardboard cut out as a guide for cutting the boat shape.

4) I used some of the extra pieces of cake to build up the front and back of the ship, like this:

5) Next I tapered the sides of the cake to more resemble a boat.

6) I frosted the outside of the cake in no-cook fudge frosting, added dried butter cream details*, and topped it with a pirate action figure. Fondant would have made a more elegant finish, but I can’t stand the taste of fondant.

7) Finally I rammed three small dowels through the cake and prayed that they would stay up. They did. So I made a few black sails out of construction paper and called it good. {I removed the sails and masts before lighting the candles.}

*This is how you can make dried butter cream details. In hind site, royal icing details would have been easier to work with, but my butter cream details held up.
1) Draw the designs you want {I made porthole windows}, on wax paper. Then make a batch of butter cream frosting.
2) Pipe the frosting onto the designs and let it set for at least a day but preferably two.

3) Using a knife, carefully transfer the dried butter cream details onto the freshly frosted cake.