Two Ingredient Tuesday: Balloon + Penny = Coin Spinner (or Atom Smasher)

Chemistry has played an important part in my life as Chemistry major and high school teacher.  While particle accelerators, discovering elements and Higgs Bosons mean zero to my 3 year old son (Editor’s note: um, we’re with your 3-year old!), he sure does love balloons and moving objects.

This demonstration of a penny spinner — which bears remarkable resemblance to a particle accelerator – aka, an “atom smasher” – is fun for high-schoolers, pre-schoolers and grown-ups, alike.  No actual knowledge of chemistry is required.  In fact, if memories of high school chemistry make you shudder (or too hazy to even recall), just call this a penny spinner — your kid will still think it’s the coolest invention in town!

All you need is a clear balloon and a coin.

Insert the coin into the balloon.

Then blow up the balloon and tie off for your child. Holding the balloon by the sides, shake it left and right.  When you get the right rhythm the penny will rise.  B has the impulse to shake with a lot of vigor and in every direction.  He does get the penny moving in a circle eventually. As he rocks the balloon more, the penny gets more energetic and climbs higher.


B played with his accelerator all day!  But unfortunately it was mighty deflated the next morning.  I highly recommend buying more than one clear balloon so the fun and experiments can continue.  Now I can dream that I inspired my son.  He will call me from Swtizerland to say,  “Mom, I found a new sub-atomic particle.  We’re naming it the ‘mommytron.’”  Then I’ll just have to hope he doesn’t find the “anti-mommytron.”

What sort of ideas or materials from places of work do your kids love?


Superhero Birthday Party Round-up

Superhero Lollipops

Superheroes are such a fun party theme with such fantastic DIY possibilities, we wanted to share some of our favorites!

For seriously simple (and cute) party favors, you can’t go wrong with these oh-so-clever Superhero Lollipops. Just print the templates onto cardstock, cut, and tape.

Superhero Lollipops
(from zakka life)


Another great favor option is printable coloring sheets, and we love these adorable illustrations of the Justice League superheros. These would be perfect for invitations or thank-you notes as well.

Justice League Printables
(from Paper & Pomegranates)


Of course all superheroes need cool masks! This no-sew tutorial shows how to create your own with nothing more than felt, ribbon, and a pair of scissors.

No Sew Mask
(from kinder pendent)


For a slightly more involved superhero accessory, check out this tutorial on this headband/crown. For a no-sew version, just use felt and leave the edges unsewn. You can even use stick-back felt for the star and skip the fusing step.

Superhero Headbands
(from Curlypops)


These sweet superhero cake pops use flattened candies for the graphic art badges, with lettering in edible markers.

Superhero Cake Pops
(from Sweet Cheeks Tasty Treats)


Not only is this superhero party incredibly stylish and beautiful, it was obviously a ton of fun! The kids leaped tall (cardboard) buildings and rescued Batman (frozen in a block of ice by Mr. Freeze) with their superhero squirters. The perfect outdoor game for a hot summer day!

(from Laura Stout Photography)

What happens when designers throw parties for their kids? You get this gorgeous Roy Lichtenstein-inspired Vintage Pop Art Superhero party. Amazing and drool-worthy!

Superhero Pop Art Party
(from Hostess with the Mostess)


We love all the little clever touches in this superhero party from Domestic Charm, from the star-stamped sandwiches to the cardboard cityscape for some very cute superhero photography.

Superhero Sandwiches
(from Domestic Charm)


And finally, we love this little hand-crafted super-girl party. It’s simple, sweet, girly, and super!

Superhero Girls
(from CAKE)


We’d love to see your favorite superhero themed party ideas – please share in the comments!


Two Ingredient Tuesday: Paper Doll Chain

paper dolls


Did you ever make paper dolls when you were a kid (or maybe you still make them!)? To bring this easy project to life, all you need is thin paper and scissors (well, a pencil too, but who’s really counting?).

paper dolls

In the same spirit as making paper snowflakes, the fun in this project lies in how unique each string of paper dolls can be.

draw paper doll

I started by cutting a sheet of 8.5 x 11 paper into two long strips (4.25″ x 11″ each). I folded one long strip in half two times, and then in thirds (for a total of four folds).

I drew half a doll on the folded edge of the paper. Be sure that the ends of the hands and feet touch this folded edge, or the chain will fall apart.

Cut it out. This is a great fine motor skill exercise for little hands. My three year old has been using scissors for ages and has become comfortable with grown-up scissors — use your best judgement when using sharp tools with children!

cut out paper doll

paper dolls

Now the fun part — pull the chain apart!

paper doll chain

Once you’ve made one, you’ll probably want to make a few. After you’ve cut them out, tape or glue a few strings together to make a garland, tape one strand to itself (above) to make a circle of friends, or draw on them with markers.

What else could you do with a paper doll chain?



Marbled Model Magic Flowers

Model Magic Bouquet

We created these marbled flowers as a fun gift to mail to Grandma and Gramps. They were so easy to make and the result is so pretty, I think this might become our go-to handmade birthday gift project. I picked Model Magic as the material because it’s so lightweight – they’ll be easy to mail, and could even be mounted in a shadowbox frame for display.

You’ll need:

Model Magic in several colors (we used our leftovers from our Kiwi Crate!)
Wax paper for drying (optional, but helpful for large flowers)

Getting Started

We started by rolling out the stems, just like you’d roll out a snake. My original thought was to make several flowers and then tie them together with a pretty ribbon. But as soon as I said “bouquet”, my son decided that the stems had to be joined together, so that’s what we did.

Then we moved on to mixing colors. The marbling technique is really easy and fun; just squash two colors together and press and fold. (My 3-year-old never got past this step, he was having so much fun squashing the colors together.)

Then we added the flower petals…

Finishing Touches

And finally, a piece of dirt for the flower to grow. To dry, I just set it on the bag the Model Magic came in.

We also created a giant sunflower – this was so big and delicate, we worked directly on the wax paper so we wouldn’t have to move it.

And finally, a joint project with my 3-year-old. After his exploration of the marbling technique, we were left with a big piece of streaky Model Magic, which became this bowl, perfect for little treasures (but not food, Model Magic is not food-safe).

This project was a lot of fun, and I think Grandma and Gramps will love their flower bouquet!

Sandpaper Garden

It’s Spring!  And it’s Garden Month here at Kiwi Crate, and we’ve been discovering and playing with tons of fun gardening activities – check out some of the fun projects, videos and books we found here.

This Sandpaper Garden was one of our favorites… Gardening with kids is such fun – it’s a great excuse to get outside and get dirty, wet & muddy.  But sometimes, getting wet & muddy is not part of the agenda.  For those times, this is the best no mess gardening project. 

Of course, it’s no mess because you’re planting an imaginary garden – but that’s part of the fun!  Plus, your kids get to use unexpected materials, which is always a treat.  All you need is:

Sandpaper Garden Materials

  • Sandpaper (we used 100-grit, which is a little coarser than the finest grit; you can buy by the sheet at your local hardware store)
  • Glue or Glue Dots
  • Seeds (bigger is better for this; you buy a packet for about $0.99 at the hardware store, too.  We used watermelon and bean seeds.)
  • Oil pastels, if you have them – these turn out so well on the sandpaper!  We used the CrayPas pastels left over from our Wind Crate.  You can also use crayons or markers.

This was my kids’ introduction to sandpaper, so we took a minute to appreciate the cool new texture here.  “What do you think it’s made of?  Can you guess what the paper is called?  What do you think it’s used for?”  They had good questions like “How do they get the sand to stick??”  Hmm… probably with some icky chemical – but moving on..  Then we read Jack & the Beanstalk and discussed all the real and imaginary things they might want to grow.

Planting the Garden

My two kids took two different approaches to “planting” their gardens.  Approach #1: plant your seeds first. 

Then draw your garden around the seeds…

Approach #2: Draw your garden first. (This was adopted after planting the first seed, and H decided that it was easier to draw the plants without working around the seeds / glue.)

Then add the seeds.

Learning About Gardens

We talked about all the things your garden might need to grow (dirt, rain, sunlight), so you’ll see some of that represented here.  For some reason, my kids were a little obsessed with ants, ant trails and sugar that day, so we’ve got those in our garden too!

What are YOUR favorite garden projects?  Please share!

10 Kid-Friendly Earth Day Crafts and Projects

A direct hands-on approach is a wonderful way to help your little ones become environmental activists, which is why we’ve compiled this list of the Top 10 Kid-Friendly Earth Day Crafts and Activities.

In addition to turning “reduce,” “reuse,” and “recycle” into household buzzwords, these homegrown projects will help inspire creativity and supply a lot of fun for your kiddos on April 22 and beyond!

10. Milk Jug Yo Yo

Who knew a plain old milk jug could be repurposed into an innovative ball catcher? Your children can make this crafty milk jug yo yo using materials readily found around the house. Not only will they have a great time playing with this eco-friendly creation, but they’ll also get a little lesson in upcycling. (via A Mom with a Lesson Plan)

9. Recycled Ornament

We love this unique way to reuse those old container lids that are usually tossed in the trash bin. Turn them into homemade ornaments! Just drill holes in the middle of each lid, then let the kiddos stack them together and secure with string. Hang on a holiday tree or from the ceiling for a one-of-a-kind earth-friendly decoration. (via My Plum Pudding)

8. Styrofoam Embroidery Tray

Did you know that it takes virtually forever for Styrofoam to biodegrade? Instead of letting those foam meat packages sit in a landfill for the next millennia, transform them into these cute embroidered trays. And they’re so simple to make: all you need are some yarn and a (plastic) yarn needle. The result? A piece of art that lasts virtually forever. (via Creative Jewish Mom)

7. DIY Seed Tape 

Seed tape makes planting tiny seeds (e.g., radishes) that need to be planted inches apart a lot easier. However, we think this child-friendly project makes a lovely gift as well. Plus, using everyday household ingredients and recycling newspaper strips make this effortless craft one of our top picks! (via Giverslog)

6. Recycled Crayons

Most kids are familiar with reusing and recycling, but what about reducing? Making crayons from their existing crayon supply is a simple, but effective way to reduce consumption of new resources. As a bonus, they’ll get to create awesome colors that they’ve never seen before! (via Inner Child Fun)

5. Biodegradable Seed Starting Planter Pots

We’re cheating here a little by giving you more than one ideas, but these five eco-friendly seed starters are all pretty brilliant in their own way. This planting lesson also teaches the kiddos what kinds of materials are biodegradable. From reusing newspapers and toilet paper rolls to eggshells and orange peels, you’ll likely never need to purchase mini pots again! (via Unconsumption)

4. DIY Upcycled Plastic Bottle Cap Mosaic

From the moment we spotted this bottle cap mosaic, we knew we had to go rummage through our recycle bins and recreate this work of art. Let the kids help arrange the caps any way they like, and they’ll learn just how easy it is to repurpose everyday “trash” items into something extraordinary. (via Blu Kat Kraft)

3. DIY Terrarium

One of the most wonderful ways to give back to the Earth is by growing and nurturing new plant life – we think this DIY Terrarium does exactly that. To make these extremely low-maintenance ecosystems, you’ll need an old mason jar, some backyard moss, dirt, and maybe, a trinket or two. And did we tell you the best part? You only need to water these plant sanctuaries once or twice a year. (via Hello Bee)

2. Egg Carton Fairy Lights

These fabulous egg carton fairy lights made our eyes twinkle the moment we saw them. Originally a submission for Tinkerlab’s Egg Carton craft challenge, these lights are upcycled from old egg cartons and Christmas lights. And you’ll be amazed at how simple they are to make too! (via Red Ted Art)

1. DIY Plantable Paper

We’ve heard of homemade paper, but this eco-loving project takes it one step further with DIY Plantable Paper! We think this recycled seed paper is one of the coolest crafts we’ve seen – it’s not too often you can create something from your own two hands, then watch it grow! (via Alpha Mom)

A big tree hug and thank you to all our bloggers and crafters who inspired us with these projects! And please leave a comment if you’ve found a fun earth day project or activity that you’d like to share or recommend.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Grass Seed + Sponge

This simple way of growing a garden with your kids is perfect homes with limited outdoor space. All you need is a handful of grass seed and a sponge. No Dirt!

For a little extra inquiry, I decided to use two sponges, one with antibacterial chemicals and one from Trader Joe’s. Both work! Grass seed can be found at local nursery, but was only sold in detergent sized containers at the one warehouse store I checked. B’s scoopful only cost $0.33 and there were wagons at the nursery!


First wet the sponge. The Trader Joe’s sponge came compressed and watching the expansion was a hit. I gave B a spoon and dropper to extend the play, but this is not necessary.


Then spread some grass seed on top of the sponge.

Leave the sponges in a sunny spot and wait. In about four days we saw some tiny sprouts. Then we went on vacation for a week and returned to full grown grass!


For some more fun B continues to water and “mow” his indoor lawn with scissors.


Please share:

  • What tips do you have for low mess gardening with kids?
  • What types of plants do you recommend for amateur adult and kid gardeners?



Egg Carton Challenge: Transport Ship

Space Ship Egg Carton

Space Ship Egg Carton

Our friend Rachelle at Tinkerlab is running her latest Creative Challenge: Egg Carton, so of course we were so excited to participate! The rules are simple: all projects should be child-directed (although grown-ups are welcome to join in as well) and must use an empty egg carton. The objective of these challenges is to help children learn to trust their own ideas, build creative confidence, and envision new purposes for common objects.  You can check out all the fantastic project ideas at the Creative Challenge post, and if you have an egg carton project to share, you can join the fun, too! See details at the bottom of this post.

This was a timely challenge for me, as I’d collected a pile of egg cartons left over from Easter. Plus egg cartons are one of my favorite recycled building materials – easy to cut, easy to decorate, and the perfect size for keeping little treasures. My son immediately jumped on the idea of making a spaceship, which evolved into this rocket-powered car transport ship.

Egg Carton Ingredients

You’ll need:
empty egg carton
duct tape
markers and other decorative embellishments (optional)

Egg Carton - cutting the hatches
Step 1: Cut the hatchways
This is the only step I helped with. I cut two hatchways, positioned so there was enough material left on the ends for our spaceship’s rockets. I created really big hatches because I knew I needed to leave room for cars get on board.

Egg Carton - tape it closed
Step 2: Tape the carton shut
Take the duct tape and seal the carton, so the only openings are the hatchways. We taped all the way around the edge, and then added more on top of the hatchways so they’d match.

Egg Carton - decorating your spaceship
Step 3: Decorate and fly!
We just used different colors of tape and markers to decorate our spaceship, but at this point you could glue on any embellishments you like. We used red duct tape for the rockets, outlined with the marker. (We used a permanent marker since washable markers don’t work well on duct tape, but you could certainly use washable markers to decorate the carton). At that point, my son declared his spaceship “awesome”, loaded it up with cars and zoomed away!

Tinkerlab Creative Challenge

If you want to submit your own egg carton project for this challenge, or just get inspiration from all amazingly creative submissions, go check out Tinkerlab’s Egg Carton Creative Challenge post. To participate, you can submit to the Linky at the end of the post. Or if you don’t have a blog, just add a photo in a comment. Plus, all comments submitted before Sunday, April 15, 2012 will be entered to win a free crate from Kiwi Crate. Happy creating!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Tin Foil Monster Truck Rally

Monster Truck Rally

My 6-year-old has been obsessed with trucks since before he could talk, which has led to a truly impressive collection of small-scale vehicles. In fact, just about every game in our house involves a truck or a racecar. So I was really excited to find this brilliant idea from Time for Play for creating a monster truck rally out of nothing more than aluminum foil and toy cars.

Tin foil cars set up and ready to be crushed

All you do is press a sheet of foil around a car to create an impression. It helps to cut the foil into roughly car-sized squares, so you don’t wind up with a big lump of foil at the bottom.

I formed a bunch of cars for my 3-year-old since getting the shape right was a little too difficult for him. My 6-year-old, on the other hand, happily shaped an entire herd of junkers to be crushed by the monster trucks.

For my little monster truck fans, this was a great activity to provide some happy distraction while I got food on the table.

Painted Garden Markers

Painted Garden Stones

Painted Garden Stones

Time to welcome spring! This is a fun project to spruce up a newly planted garden. Plus it’s a perfect activity for getting artistic – and maybe a little messy – outside.

You’ll need:
Rocks – ideally, larger ones w/ a flattish surface – or bricks
Acrylic paint safe for outdoor use or washable paint, which just means you can have fun painting again with the rain
Sharpie permanent marker, optional
A bowl or pail of water

Outdoor Paint for Garden Stones

When you’re picking out the acrylic paint, you just need to look for two things on the label. First, check the front and make sure it’s good for exterior/outdoor use. Second, turn it over and check that the instructions say something like “clean up with soap and water”. That means the paint is water-based and therefore easy to clean up. I found these little touch-up sized jars at a hardware store, but a hobby shop would be a good bet, too.

Child Painting Garden Rock

We like setting up outdoors to minimize clean-up. Kids should be dressed in “paint clothes” or covered with a really big smock – an adult’s button-down shirt turned around backwards works really well. To clean up, just rinse out the brushes in the pail of water (no need to get an indoor sink dirty). Tip: set brushes to dry with the bristles pointing up – this prevents the tips from getting stiff.

If you’re creating garden markers, it really helps to give the child a photo of what the grown plant or vegetable will look like. (The pictures on seed packets are perfect for this.) This is a great way to talk to kids about how plants grow from seeds!

When the painting is done, set the rock aside to dry overnight. Then, if you’d like, take a permanent marker and write the name of the plant.

Decorative Garden Stones

After creating a few garden marker stones, my kids moved on to more free-form decorative projects (see the colorful bricks above!)  Less useful, but still festive and bright in our garden.

Happy spring!