Paper Roll Marble Run

If you’re like me, there’s a pretty good chance that you have a growing “collection” of toilet paper and maybe paper towel rolls filling up your recycling bin, and you may have already found ways to repurpose them into crafts with your kids. This project was born out of my daughter’s interest in marble runs, and it kept her entertained for hours over the course of a week, which is truly a feat! What I especially love about this activity is that it requires very little in terms of materials, the clean-up is minimal, and it encourages children to use problem-solving and creative thinking skills.

Materials

  • Toilet paper and/or paper towel rolls
  • Masking or Painters Tape
  • Scissors
  • Marbles
  • Optional: Your favorite mark-making tools. We used markers.
  • Optional: Colorful tape for decorating the tubes.

My daughter began by decorating the tubes with strips of colorful tape. When she was done, I cut the rolls lengthwise and then she decorated the inside of the rolls with markers.

With her help and input, I taped the tubes to a canvas with blue painters tape, and then we tested the run to see if it worked. It did! If you look closely you’ll see an orange marble falling (very quickly) out of the bottom of the last chute. The nice thing about the tape is that you can move the parts around easily, add new chutes, and test out different configurations. After this prototype, we made another run — much larger – directly on our newly-painted walls…and it worked out great.

Happy rolling!

 

 

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Cornstarch & Water

I love interesting activities that you can do with things you already have around the house. I have a lot of old ingredients in the kitchen from one-time attempts at cooking (I hear the sighs of relief from those who do not wish to see a second attempt) – so I was thrilled to find something to do with the extra cornstarch that has been sitting in my cupboard for years – making oobleck!

Pour cornstarch into a bowl or pan, slowly add water and mix until a very special effect happens – the mixture becomes hard the more pressure you apply to it. It looks like a liquid lying in the pan, but when you press on it, it hardens and feels like a solid! For even more cool effects, add food coloring and you can see the colors changing as you press down. You can take the mixture out into your hands and experiment with pinching it, hitting it with objects, etc.

cornstarch experiment

Before they touch the mixture, ask your kids what they expect to happen. Are they surprised by what happens when they touch it? Why?

This activity is very easy to set up and keeps kids occupied for ages!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Sequins & a Dixie Cup = Collecting Fairy Treasure

We’re starting a new series: Two Ingredient Tuesdays. We’ll share fun activities to do with your kids involving just two ingredients!

Every few weeks for the past two years, my five year old has brought tiny little paper Dixie cups of sequins home from preschool.   I was a little perplexed by the origins of the treasure until about a month ago when I was volunteering in my son’s classroom.

It was reaching the end of “free play” time, and things were getting a little chaotic when I observed their teacher strolling quietly through their playground area, dropping little handfuls of sequins behind her – along the pathways and in the sand box.  The effect was amazing – one child noticed some sequins sparkling in the sunlight, and announced “treasure!”  The rest of the kids grabbed cups and began diligently picking the sequins up off the ground with their little fingers.  The whole group quieted down, focusing intently on the task at hand.  Once again, I was inspired by and in awe of the wisdom of preschool teachers… and so excited to take this little tip home with me!

Just last week, we were doing some kid-testing on projects for Kiwi Crate.  As we were wrapping up, I thought I’d try out the Fairy Treasure trick.  I strolled through the front yard (see pic below), dropping the Fairy Treasure behind me.

Then, after I distributed baggies (instead of cups – it’s what we had on hand), it was off to the races!

The kids were totally mesmerized – it was remarkable!  We played the game again and again, and it never seemed to get old (for them, at least ;)).  Sometimes, the kids tried to get as many as possible.  Other times, they were selective about the shape or color they were collecting.

It was a great way to engage them in independent play – and for them to practice their sharing and bartering skills as they displayed and swapped their treasures.

So I’ve invested in a few bags of sequins to keep on hand for those times when we have a bunch of kids over (or just my own kids are going a little stir-crazy), and I’m looking for a way to entertain them for a bit.  The experience is magical for them – and the 10-15 minutes of silent play is pretty magical for me :).

Do you have a go-to activity (involving two ingredients — or more) to engage your kids in an independent activity?

Felt Cuffs at Maker Faire

This cuff was our booth activity at this year’s Maker Faire in San Mateo, CA. It was two days of non-stop cuff-making madness, and it was so much fun. We were excited to receive the Educator Award for our activity, and we wanted to share the project that engaged 400 kids.

Here’s what we used:

  • Felt
  • Sticky-back felt sheets (or felt and glue)
  • Sticky-back Velcro dots (or snaps)
  • Scissors

First, cut a 3-inch wide strip of the plain felt. (We found that 3 inches is a good width for optimal decorating space and style, but feel free to make it larger or smaller.) We helped children measure the cuff around their wrist and cut so there’s an inch overlap. Stick on the Velcro dots – one on each side/end as the closure, and ta-da – a cuff!

From there, the kids decorated them by cutting the sticky-back felt sheets into various shapes and sticking them onto the cuff.  If you’d like, you can add sticky jewels or beads on a safety pin or marker.  A word of warning: we found that washable marker tends to smear.

What I loved so much about working on this project is how intense the kids got about these little strips of felt. Each cuff was unique.  My favorite moment of the day was when a 3-year-old who declared that his cuff was a wrist communicator and walked out of our booth telling his wrist, “Batman! Batman! Hello Batman!”

Here are just a few more of the amazing cuffs from our Maker Faire activity.

Hey – that’s our kiwi, on cuffs!


This is now my go-to activity for kids’ birthday parties. I love that it’s low-mess, accessible to all ages, and you can create a design that works for any theme from fairies to robots to pirates.

Why the name “Kiwi Crate?”

One of my kids’ favorite push toys is a stuffed kiwi that my husband and I had picked up from New Zealand years ago.  As we were running through potential names, it struck me that Kiwi (as he’s called) would make the perfect mascot for our company.

As my son and daughter envision him, Kiwi is friendly, curious, and a willing companion on all their adventures – just the sort of qualities we hope to convey ourselves.  Since my kids were the inspiration for the company to begin with, I love having them tied into the process at so many levels, from branding and design critics to Chief Product Testers.  In fact, they picked out our logo when presented with a few different kiwi options.

As additional background, the kiwi is a bird found only in New Zealand.  It has no tail and tiny 2 inch wings on its chicken-sized body.  It doesn’t fly.  When Yael and I had separately visited New Zealand years ago to experience the country, our travels included an opportunity to see the kiwi.  We really appreciate the fun adventurous spirit, the innovation, and the natural beauty of the country.  The kiwi, which is known to be super alert, stands for the “ability to give birth to large ideas.”   Again, all of those qualities are ones that Kiwi Crate aspires to and embraces in children.  And yes – we love kiwi fruit too.

These are photos of Sandra and Yael and the kiwis taken in New Zealand years ago… little did we know!

Sandra with Kiwi
Yael with Kiwi

Welcome to the Kiwi Crate blog!

As busy moms, we know how hard it is to come up with fun hands-on activities to do with your kids, let alone get the materials! Kiwi Crate is designed to spark kids’ natural creativity and curiosity with hand-selected and kid-tested projects and materials. We created KiwiCrate because we want to make it fun and easy to spend “healthy,” delightful time building, exploring and creating together.

We’ll post fun activities for your kids and update you on news about Kiwi Crate. If you have activities you’d like to share, we’d love to hear from you!