From the time Micayla could walk, we strolled down the sidewalk in quest for “treasures!” I’d list off some things we could search for: a red leaf, pinecone, worm, lizard or squirrel. We’d walk till we found the coveted item. Once we did, we’d pull apart the leaf to see what was inside, try to catch the lizard or inspect the worm.
Of course, she often got bored and then we’d turn back toward home singing, marching and skipping or anything else that would distract her from her boredom.
Now, my kids ask to find a treasure or do an experiment almost daily. Especially Luke (almost 5). Messy, sticky, creative, crazy, surprising fun is right up our alley!
We like to mix things, use food coloring, stir with my kitchen “tools” (anytime Luke has access to a [butter] knife or mallet is heaven for the BOY!) and use ours hands to feel the smooth, bumpy or grainy texture. We’ve made goo, chalk paint, volcanoes, monster blood, play-dough, concocted explosions, lava lamps and baked Resurrection rolls. We’ve painted ourselves with colored shaving cream, cool whip, water colors, markers (sometimes a “permanent” marker is accessed and the artwork remains the better part of a week) and drawn up artistic baths with colored bubbles.
I’ve discovered some BASIC ingredients to keep on hand (that most of us probably keep on hand anyway) that allow us to experiment whenever the mood strikes.
- Baking soda
- Food coloring (I bought liquid watercolors on amazon at the beginning of summer. The bottles are WAY bigger than food coloring and they are not SUPPOSED to stain. They do seem stain our skin, but after 2-3 hand washes, it’s gone.)
- Vegetable oil
- Empty water bottles
- Egg carton, muffin pan or a dip tray from the dollar store (something where the kids have different compartments)
- Dry rice
- Watercolor paints and brushes
- Mentos and diet soda
Grab any of these, go OUTSIDE and let the kids mix. On warm days, it works great to have them play with the hose after so they get cleaned up. Otherwise, plan to bathe them when finished.
- As you know, oil and water don’t mix, so you can just put those two ingredients in a clear plastic container or water bottle and let the kids stir. It’s MAGIC! Add food coloring when they get bored and have them mix the color with the water.
- Follow this link to make “lava lamps.” I keep these in my pantry and randomly take them out and break the Alka-Seltzer in pieces for the kids to drop in the “lamps.” Buys me time while cooking dinner and this one is not messy (unless they spill the water bottle)
- Vinegar mixed with baking soda causes a chemical reaction that creates fizzing (don’t ask me more than that…you can look up why!). Kids have fun with this every time! (Add red food coloring and call it monster blood!!)
- Flour mixed with water is sticky and goopy. If your kids like messy, let them be the head scientist here and be in charge of mixing the two in whatever measurements they want. Add food coloring when they tire of the white mixture. Add baking soda to make it less sticky.
- Fill an egg carton, muffin pan, etc. with water. Add different food coloring to different sections. Give kids plastic medicine droppers (I purchased a huge bag of little plastic suction tubes from Amazon and all age kids enjoy using those) and let them mix colors, create new colors, etc.
- Drop a Mentos (or two or three!) in Diet soda and step back FAST! This will erupt! It will also lead to giggle eruptions from everyone if it explodes on mommy!
- Mix water, baking soda, some flour and liquid water colors to make chalk paint. Give kids brushes and let them decorate the sidewalk (beware: it will leave residue and pending the amount of coloring you add, may stain your cement till a good rain. I haven’t had any problems with this, but fair warning).
- I keep a huge Tupperware of dry rice. My boys play in it on the porch. Sometimes I hide little plastic toys and they dig for them. They make a mess and I sweep it when they are done. We do this periodically – I get tired or feeling rice on my feet (it’s hard to sweep it ALL) and I put the rice away for a few weeks or months, then we pull it back out again.
- Finally, fill a plastic container with water and coins. Freeze. Let your child “chop” the ice with a solid toy hammer or kitchen tool and get the coins out of the ice. My almost five year old boy LOVES this!
Of course, Pinterest has AMAZING ideas that are much more thorough than my list. But, sometimes, it’s hard to know what to search for and it can seem intimidating (at least to me). Start here, explore, get messy and have CHEAP FUN!