Aug 02

DIY: Glow-in-the-Dark* Paint

by Hannah Holt »


This paint glows under black light.* With only two ingredients, it’s completely non-toxic (you could eat it), and it will brighten any black light party.

What you’ll need:

  • 1/2 cup tonic water
  • 1/2 cup cornstarch

1) Pour the tonic water into a small bowl and let it rest until it loses its fizzy.

2) Stir the two ingredients together.

3) Using paint brushes, decorate colored construction paper, skin, or other non-phosphorescent surfaces. (Most white papers won’t work because they also glow under black light. I used black construction paper.)

While working on my Spicy Alphabet book, I learned that tonic water glows under black light. I have a black light at home (who doesn’t?), so I tested it out.

It turns out tonic water ice cubes also glow under black light:

As does boiling tonic water:

Here’s the paint applied to my face:

When working on this post, I first tried adding tonic water to a variety of paints. None of them worked. The pigments in the dyes seemed to block tonic water’s glow. Finally my husband and I walked around our kitchen waving the black light over all the foods in our pantry. Cornstarch had the best luminescence, hence this recipe. We tried a few different ratios. The one-to-one ratio had a good consistency.

Most of my projects involve a lot of trial and error. Here’s a video I shared on my Facebook Page a while ago (from my Summer Science series):

What can I say? I like to play!

Happy painting!

Jun 14

Summer Science Projects: Physics

by Hannah Holt »


Launch imagination into orbit with these fun physics activities!

#1) Balloon Rockets

  • Oblong balloons
  • Construction paper
  • Tape
  • Straws
  • Fishing line (we used a nylon chord, but fishing line would have worked better)

Use construction paper to build the rockets (make sure a balloon will fit inside). Cut the straw into a three inch tube and tape this to the back of the rocket. Thread the straw onto the fishing line. Fill the balloon with air and pinch (but don’t tie) the end. Place the balloon inside the rocket. Release and watch it fly.

Discussion Topic: Potential vs. Kinetic Energy

Two sentence explanation: When you blow up a balloon you pressurize it (like stretching a rubber band). When you let go of the balloon’s end, you change stored (or potential) energy into moving (or kinetic) energy.

Follow up questions: Could you design a balloon rocket that will go down the string AND come back? What other ways can you store energy (gravitational, elastic, chemical)?

#2) “POP” Bottle Projectile

  • a one liter plastic bottle
  • 1/4 cup baking soda
  • 3/4 cups vinegar
  • a cork (or a potato cut to fit the top of your bottle)
  • a funnel (to help pour the vinegar into the bottle)

Fill the plastic bottle with baking soda. Pour the vinegar into the bottle and quickly cork the bottle. In 2-3 seconds watch the cork fly. (Make sure it isn’t pointed at anyone.)

Discussion Topic: Gravity

Two sentence explanation: Gravity attracts (or pulls) everything on the surface of the earth downwards. The pull of earth’s gravity will eventually overcome the push the cork received from the bottle and pull it back to earth. (You could also test gravity by throwing a ball into the air, but where’s the fun in that?)

Follow up questions: Can you change how far the cork travels by switching the amounts of vinegar and baking soda? What if you changed the angle of the bottle from launch? What if you changed the substance of the cork to something like a wet paper wad?

Tips: It’s important that the cork have a tight fit. If you have a slow leak, the cork won’t pop. Also, you can use a different sized bottle than the one liter; however, you’ll have to play around with the vinegar and  baking soda ratios.

#3) Win a Quarter Trick

  • Four baseballs
  • A quarter
  • Masking tape
  • A measuring stick
  • A length of PVC pipe (for a cue stick)

This is an old pool hall trick, except we are doing it with baseballs and PVC pipe. If you can knock a quarter (or silver dollar) out of a circle you get to keep it, but the trick is it’s almost impossible.

Here’s the set up: create a two foot diameter circle using the masking tape, and place one baseball in the center of the circle. Balance a quarter on top of that baseball. Place the other baseballs outside the circle. Hit an outer baseball with the PVC pipe such that it knocks the ball in the middle. If the ball leaves the circle without hitting the other ball, try again. The goal is to knock the quarter out of the circle by “shooting pool.”

Discussion Topic: Newton’s First Law– Something won’t move unless something else pushes it.

Two sentence explanation: The quarter (most likely) won’t leave the circle because nothing hits it directly. When one ball collides with the other, the ground is knocked out from underneath the quarter, but there is no forward push. (Think of ripping a tablecloth out from under a bowl.)

Follow up questions: What would you have to do to knock the quarter out of the circle? Can you design any other games with balls and the two foot circle? What if you tried this set up with bouncy balls or soccer balls?

If you liked this post, you might also like Summer Science Projects: Biology, or Summer Science Projects: Chemistry.

Recap: For the past three weeks, our household has been on a science quest. We’ve learned many things. Like, oblong carnival balloons are a riot to have around the house.

However, more importantly, I’ve seen a big difference in the inquisitiveness of my boys (ages four and six). After the first couple of experiments, they started designing their own. Even within the tailored projects here, I was impressed by the range of creativity they expressed. I plan to run at least one science related experiment a week with them; however, I probably won’t post these here. If you’d like to keep up with our summer science projects, follow my Kid Craft Ideas page on Pinterest.

Jun 06

Summer Science Projects: Chemistry

by Hannah Holt »


You don’t need a lab to do chemistry. Here are a few simple chemistry experiments designed for curious five to eight year olds.

#1) Pepper Popping

  • bowl with water
  • pepper
  • dish soap
  • tooth pick

Sprinkle the pepper on the water. Dip a tooth pick into dish soap and place the tooth pick with soap in the water. Watch the pepper run away.

Discussion Topic: Surface tension of water

Two sentence explanation: Water molecules like to stick together and will form a thin skin on top of the water (like a filled balloon). Dish soap pops water’s surface tension, sending a ripple effect through the water and pushing back the pepper. (Note: This is NOT a reaction between the pepper and the dish soap.)

Follow up questions: What else could you balance on top of water? Could you “pop” anything else with dish soap?

#2) Growing Balloons

  • An 8 inch balloon filled with water (not filled to busting)
  • A clothe measuring tape (or a string that won’t stretch)
  • A permanent marker
  • A freezer

Using the permanent marker, draw a line around the middle of the balloon (This is to make sure you measure in the same place before and after). Measure around this line, and record the length. Place the balloon in the freezer overnight. Measure around the balloon again and record the difference.

Discussion Topic: Water’s molecular structure

Two sentence explanation: Water molecules fit together more tightly in liquid form than they do as a solid. When you freeze the balloon, water expands inside the balloon and the balloon grows.

Follow up questions: What would happen if you filled a glass jar completely full of water and froze it? Do you think water takes up more or less space as a a vapor (steam)? Why or why not?


#3) Rip Van Winkle Pennies

  • Five shiny pennies
  • a glass jar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbl hydrogen peroxide (found in the first aid section of grocery stores)

Combine the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in the glass jar. Place the pennies in the vinegar solution, and let them “rest” for 2 hours. (Note: The jar should be placed well out of a child’s reach! The liquid should NOT be swallowed.) The pennies will age 100 years in less than one day.

Discussion Topic: Oxidation

Two sentence explanation: Oxygen likes to steal electrons from other elements, and the process of oxygen stealing electrons makes metals rust, turn black, or otherwise wear out. The combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide makes it easier for oxygen to steal the copper penny’s electrons (so it happens faster).

Follow up questions: Can you oxidize anything besides a penny in this solution? What would happen if you added baking powder to the solution?

If you liked this post, you might also like Summer Science Projects: Biology. Stay tuned… Next week is physics.

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.

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: