Tag Archives: activities for kids

Make your own bouncy balls: Does it work?

I’ve seen them and pinned them on Pinterest:  Tutorials on how to make your own bouncy balls at home.  Sounds like fun, right?!  My kids and I thought that would be a nifty little project, so we made bouncy balls today for Try It Tuesday.

But this post is not a tutorial nor a recommendation for making bouncy balls at home.  Because we weren’t very successful with this experiment.

Make your own bouncy balls - amerrymom.comWe followed the first set of instructions I found and ended up with bouncy balls that were too hard and cracked.  It may have had something to do with the clear glitter glue that we used (thinking it would be fun to have glittery bouncy balls), since that glue was more stiff than regular white glue.  We tossed those in the trash and decided to try again.  We thought we could make this experiment work!

We followed the second set of instructions I found, using regular white school glue this time, and ended up with bouncy balls that were too gooey and sticky.  We sprinkled in more borax while rolling the mixture into a ball and it eventually solidified into a ball that could bounce a little.  Whew!  It was messy and frustrating.

Not wanting to admit failure, we decided to try one more time.  Those cute little homemade bouncy balls from Pinterest beckoned.  I really wanted to make them with my kids!

Our final attempt was the most successful.  Realizing that we needed to end up somewhere between the first and second formulas, we came up with our own measurements for the ingredients.

  • Put 2 tablespoons of warm water in a disposable plastic cup.
  • Mix in 1 tablespoon of borax and set aside.
  • In a separate plastic cup, combine 1 tablespoon of corn starch and 1.5 tablespoons of white school glue.
  • Add in food coloring to achieve the desired color.
  • Combine the glue/corn starch mixture into the borax water, then mix until the glue mixture is congealed.
  • Wearing disposable plastic/latex/vinyl gloves (because it can be messy), roll the glue mixture in your palms until formed into a ball that is the right consistency.  Sprinkle in more borax if it’s too sticky.

With this formulation, we did get small bouncy balls (about the same width as a quarter) that have some bounce.  They’re not super bouncy or pretty, though.  They’re simply fun for the kids because they created these bouncy balls themselves.

Good luck if you try this experiment!  We found that it takes patience and perseverance to make your own bouncy balls at home.

Making homemade butter – a great project with kids

While my kids are out of school for the summer, we’ve decided to keep learning new things with Try It Tuesdays.  Our first project today was homemade butter and buttermilk.

Homemade butter - a great project with kids - amerrymom.com

My daughter had actually tried this at school in her third grade class while they were learning about Colonial times.  She was so excited about it and couldn’t wait to bring home the butter she had made.

Unfortunately, she forgot about the butter in her backpack the day she brought it home.  By the time I found the small baby food jar of butter in there, I decided it wasn’t safe to try it – since she didn’t remember how long it had been there.  Bummer!  To ease her sadness over throwing away the butter she had made, I promised we would try to make it again at home.

Today we followed through and made our own homemade butter.

This was a fun, quick activity that got the kids involved in the kitchen.  It takes just one ingredient, a container with a lid, and a willingness to get a good arm workout to create the butter by shaking rather than churning.

How to make homemade butter – and buttermilk

  • Pour heavy whipping cream into a container with a secure lid.  You can use whatever amount you choose.  We used a pint of heavy cream, divided into three small mason jars.

Ingredients for homemade butter - amerrymom.com

  • Shake vigorously.  It will go from heavy cream consistency to whipped cream consistency and then separate into butter and buttermilk.

Making homemade butter with kids - amerrymom.com

My kids had fun with this part!

Homemade butter in progress - amerrymom.com

  • Stop shaking when the butter separates from the buttermilk.  The butter will have that familiar light yellow color.

Making homemade butter - amerrymom.com

  • Drain the buttermilk from the butter.  I read about a couple of ways to do this.  One said to strain the buttermilk through a cheesecloth to a separate container.  Another said to just use cold hands to squeeze out the buttermilk from the butter.  Since I didn’t have cheesecloth handy, I squeezed the butter by hand.  This worked pretty well.

Homemade butter and buttermilk - amerrymom.com

  • Store in separate containers in the refrigerator.

That’s it!  Making homemade butter is so simple!

It took about 15-25 minutes of shaking to get from the cream to the butter stage.  Our observation from this experiment was that smaller portions of heavy cream speed up the process.

We used a pint of heavy whipping cream, divided into three mason jars.  I poured the cream into the first two jars and gave them to my younger kids to start shaking.  When I poured the remainder of the pint into the last jar for my oldest son, I realized it was a larger portion.  The shaking process took longer for his container.

It would be easy to add in salt to taste or create other flavored butters, since the homemade butter is soft while separating it from the buttermilk.

Our homemade butter turned out great, and the kids had fun making it!  Now we’ll have to choose a great recipe to use up that buttermilk.

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Summer fun: free or inexpensive activities for kids

When school is out for summer, we always look forward to fun family activities.  Like all moms, I love summer activities for kids that we can do inexpensively or for free!Cheap or free summer activities for kids - amerrymom.com

The list below is a starting point for thinking creatively about activities for kids during those fabulous summer days.  Do you have any suggestions I should add?

1.  Take that final report card and collect free doughnuts for good grades.  Although I can’t find any official information about it on the Krispy Kreme website, their stores give kids a free original, glazed doughnut for each “A” grade earned on report cards.  Check with your Krispy Kreme location.

2.  Catch a movie.  Matinees are always cheaper, and some theaters even have $1 special movies in the summer.  The Summer Movie Express at Regal Cinemas offers $1 admission to a selected list of PG movies on Tuesday and Wednesdays for nine weeks over the summer.  Cinemark’s Summer Movie Clubhouse offers 10 weeks of films rated G and PG at participating theaters, with an option for $1 admission at the door or a ten-week series punch card that’s available while supplies last at the theater box office or online at Cinemark.com.

3.  Join a summer reading program.  Many local libraries offer kids’ summer reading programs with rewards.  National booksellers – including Books-A-Million, Barnes & Noble, Family Christian Stores, and Scholastic – have their own programs with rewards.  Pottery Barn Kids also has a Summer Reading Challenge, along with a weekly story time in stores.

4.  Take advantage of the library.  While you’re there to get some books and participate in a summer reading program, check out the other children’s programs that may be available, such as reading groups and craft workshops.

5.  Go bowling.  The Kids Bowl Free website lists participating locations across the U.S. and Canada, offering kids up to two free games a day, all summer long.

6.  Build something at a kids’ DIY workshop.  Home Depot offers free workshops for children the first Saturday of the month, while Lowe’s Build & Grow program has free clinics every other Saturday.  Check the websites for the schedule, featured project, and registration.

7.  Build something at home.  Inexpensive models and craft kids are available, or just use what you already have:  pull out the Legos for a new creation, make a fort from blankets, etc.

8.  Build something at a LEGO Store.  On the first Tuesday evening of each month, LEGO Stores host a Monthly Mini Model Build, allowing children ages 6 to 14 to learn how to build a special, free mini model that isn’t available for purchase. The LEGO Stores website has more information about the schedule and each month’s model.

9.  Learn about the great outdoors.  At its retail stores, Bass Pro Shops offers Family Summer Camp with free workshops, crafts, and activities for kids and families.  In 2014, the events are held every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from June 7 to July 13.  Check the Bass Pro Shops website or news release for the scheduled activities.  The company also has a Bass Pro Shop kids’ web site with online games, craft project ideas, printable coloring pages and puzzles, and a collection of online animal fact cards.

10.  Go on a nature walk.  Whether it’s through the backyard, at the park, or through the woods, take time to observe the natural world and discuss it with the kids.  Consider giving them a small notebook to record their observations, an old or disposable camera for pictures, a checklist of things to look for, or a container to collect specimens such as leaves, flowers, or small bugs.  Link here to an eHow article with more ideas and safety tips.

11.  Try geocaching.  Ready to step it up from a nature walk to a treasure hunt?  Go on a geocaching adventure.  Visit Geocaching 101 from geocaching.com to learn more.  If you have a smartphone with GPS, you can get started with free apps that are available to guide the hunt.

12.  Have a picnic.  Whether it’s in conjunction with another activity, like a nature walk or geocaching, or just a simple event in itself, summer picnics are a fun way to spend some time outdoors.

13.  Fly a kite.  Get an inexpensive kite and head out to an open space.  Amazon has a simple rainbow diamond kite with good reviews for less than $12.

14.  Plan a water game day.  Pull out the hose and a sprinkler, fill up some water balloons or water guns, and make up your own games to get wet and have fun.

15.  Pull out some board games.  Pick your favorite board games for some friendly competition.  Invite some friends over for a game day – and ask them to bring some of theirs to discover new favorites.

16.  Put together a jigsaw puzzle.  Find a puzzle geared toward your kids’ age, but don’t be afraid to challenge them!

17.  Conduct your own science experiments.  Pinterest is filled with kid-friendly experiments that can be conducted right in your kitchen or backyard.   Check out my Pinterest board of kids’ experiments!

18.  Star gaze.  Research stars and constellations, and find a clear summer night to search the sky for those heavenly bodies.  A trip to a planetarium would make a grand finale.

19.  Find free or reduced-price museum admission.  Many museums have special admission days that allow visitors for free or reduced entrance fees.

20.  Get crafting.  At Michaels Stores, the Passport to Imagination program offers kids the opportunity to complete crafts related to 7 different museums – one each week – through 2-hour in-store events that are just $2.  Related projects are also suggested on the website for crafting at home.

21.  Learn about a different culture.  Research another country to learn about their culture, and plan crafts and food to gain a better understanding of life in that country.

22.  Cook up fun.  Spend time cooking or baking special dishes together, or let kids try some cooking lessons.  Williams-Sonoma offers free junior chef classes for kids in its stores on select Saturdays.  Visit Williams-Sonoma.com for dates, times, and registration information for your local store.

23.  Grow your own food.  Plant some fruit, veggies, or herbs and work together to cultivate them.  It just takes a pot or two to learn about caring for plants and reaping the harvest.  Take it an extra step and visit a self-pick farm and let the kids help harvest their own food on a larger scale.

24.  Learn origami.  Pick some simple patterns to make lovely paper crafts.  Origami-instructions.com has instructions for a variety of origami folding designs, including simple options for kids.  Pick a paper airplane design and have a contest to see which one flies best!

25.  Go roller skating.  Kidsskatefree.com lists participating skating centers that provide free skating passes for children.  The program is not yet nationwide, but is a nice resource for those living near a participating location.

26.  Do good in your community.  Summer is a great time to find volunteer opportunities.  Check out VolunteerMatch.org for local volunteer needs, using the filter to search for those that are appropriate for kids or teens.  Or, just clean out those closets and donate unneeded items to a local charity.

27.  Keep learning with online resources.  Learning can be fun!  Check out some free online learning tools to keep kids sharp over the summer.  The U.S. government’s web portal for kids at kids.gov is one resource, offering a variety of activities for kids from kindergarten to eighth grade.  It includes online access to games, videos, books, and other educational resources in categories including art, music, science, math, money, social studies, and more.  It’s a nice collection to keep kids learning over the summer.

Do you have other great ideas for inexpensive summer activities for kids?  Let me know your suggestions to add to the list.

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