“Magical” Hands-Free Inflating Balloons

My kids have had always minor obsessions with balloons, and they’ve always been frustrated by my inability to blow up balloons on command.  So when I saw this project on a list of “Amazing Science Projects” on marthastewart.com, I knew it would be perfect for us to try.

First, I had to reinforce the idea that balloons (at least the small ones we have) are really, really hard to blow up for normal mortals.  And even for five-year-olds.


Then we gathered the materials needed to create the Magical Balloon Inflater.

Magical Balloon Ingredients

  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda
  • Balloons (don’t want them to be too small, or you won’t be able to fit enough baking soda inside)
  • Bottle (with a small enough neck to fit your balloon over it)
  • Small funnel (you need this to get the baking soda into the balloon)

Getting Started

First add 4 TBSP of vinegar to the bottle.  To make it more kid-doable, we measured the vinegar into the measuring cup, then H poured the vinegar through the funnel into the bottle himself. You don’t absolutely need the funnel for this part, but it does make it easier for a kid to get the vinegar in without spilling.

Forming the Magical Balloon

Then you add the baking soda to the balloon.  To do this, slip the end of the balloon over the end of your funnel and measure 1 TBSP of baking soda into the funnel.  Our balloons were a little small, so we ended up using a chopstick to get most of the baking soda into the balloon.

Then carefully slip the balloon off the funnel and slide it over the end of the bottle with the vinegar.  At this point, you want to make sure the baking soda stays in the balloon hanging over the side of the bottle.

Inflating the Balloon

Now comes the fun part!  Holding the mouth end of the balloon pretty tightly onto the bottle, lift up the other end and dump the baking soda into the vinegar.  Keep holding onto the balloon – there’s some pressure as it inflates, and you don’t want it to blow off before it’s really inflated.

We had to do it over and over again, of course!  We found it worked best to dump out the vinegar & baking soda from the bottle and rinse it a bit between each go-round.

It’s also fun to let go of the balloon and see it whiz around the kitchen.  Just be sure nobody’s face is right in front of the balloon, of course.  I wasn’t fast enough to capture the balloon in flight, but this is the split second after it was released (you can see the specks of baking soda coming out of the bottle.)

Why It Works

(from marthastewart.com):

When baking soda and vinegar come into contact, they form carbon dioxide. This gas fills the bottle and can’t escape, so it rushes into the balloon, causing it to inflate.

Summer Activities Round-Up, Part 2

We posted Part 1 of our Round-Up of favorite summertime activities last week.  Here’s the rest of our compilation of ways to fill the last few days of summer!

1) Sun Prints

Celebrate the sun by creating these gorgeous prints from paint cut paste.  Glue the prints to folded cardstock afterward to make pretty note cards to use for thank you notes.

2) Cork boats

We’ve tested the seaworthiness and do-ability of MANY, MANY boats for projects here at Kiwi Crate (more on that for another post), and were so impressed with these awesome boats shared by Jonah Lisa Land on The Crafty Crow. It’s a good way to use up any leftover wine corks you just may have laying around – or get donated from willing friends…

3) Hot colored rocks

This project is such a neat idea (coloring hot rocks with crayons) and is a great excuse to head out to a local beach, river or park to collect rocks.  It’s also courtesy of Jen at paint cut paste as a guest post on Moms by Heart (Jen has tons of more summer ideas here.)

4) Pool noodle printing

With summer coming to a close, you can find pool noodles for sale at the drug store or the dollar store for a song.  Use them for  this cool printing project from The Chocolate Muffin Tree. And after you’re done painting, you can repurpose the noodles to make Floating Sculptures – another great project from The Chocolate Muffin Tree.

5) Water Sponge Toys

From Marie at Make and Takes – just in case your kids need another way to get wet outside!  Marie also has a great how-to video on her site for this, which we’ve included here as well.

Photo credit: Make and Takes

That’s it for this year’s Summer Round-Up – hope your summer has been as fun as ours!

What were your favorite activities?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Popsicle Sticks & Masking Tape

I find that if I give my nephews tape and almost any other material, they can come up with some pretty cool stuff all on their own.  My nephew happened across a bag of popsicle sticks and a roll of masking tape and soon whipped up this delightful – and entirely seaworthy (or at least sink- and bathtub-worthy) little raft.

Here he’s using it with his battery-powered toy hamsters, but it also works really well to float plastic or foam toys in the bathtub.  This is a fairly conventional raft design, but there are, of course, innumerable variations of other vehicles and structures as well.

Popsicle sticks are the perfect size for small hands to manipulate, and great for fine motor skills (lining up the sticks side-by-side) and counting practice (“how many sticks should we use for our raft?”)  Who knew you could find such a remarkable toy for just a penny apiece!

What creations have your little ones made with popsicle sticks?

Summer Activities Round-Up, Part 1

It’s hard to believe that we’re nearly mid-way through August, coming into summer’s home stretch.  Some of you are probably starting school again in the coming days, but chances are, wherever you live, you’ll still be enjoying at least a few more weeks of sunny days.

We recently posted about Painting with Ice Cubes and Jello, and fun with spray bottles, both of which are fitting activities for summer scorcher days.  We thought we would do a round-up of other great activities to get you and your kids through the final Dog Days of summer:

1) These beautiful Bubble Wands made by Kleas featured on The Crafty Crow.  (If you need bubble solution, try this homemade recipe: mix 1C liquid dish soap, like Dawn, with 9C water.)

2) Ice Sculptures with Salt and Liquid Watercolors from by Jean at The Artful Parent.  You just freeze a block of ice in a milk carton and then let the kids go to town with salt and liquid watercolors.  Aren’t they cool?

3) Water Balloon Color Mixing from No Time for Flashcards.  I bet you could use squirt guns for this if you’re out of water balloons, or (like me) find filling them to be a challenge.

4) The Mudpie Kitchen – While you’re outside getting wet, you may as well get muddy too!  (Just an excuse to hose off afterward.)  Check out this incredibly creative project by Rachelle at TinkerLab.

5) Finally, more Painting With Ice Cubes over at The Chocolate Muffin Tree

Stay tuned for 5 more activities next week!

What were some of your favorite summer activities?

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Rolling Pin & Rolling Pin

My son loves playing with kitchen utensils and cookware.  The other day, he grabbed a large rolling pin.  Then, he proceeded to roll it on the ground while crawling on his knees.  Of course, this looked like great fun.  So, his sister grabbed the other rolling pin.  Together, the two of them created a new game…Rolling Pin Races!

It’s super simple.  All you need is 2 rolling pins.

Make sure your race area is clear.  Then, set up for the race.  On your mark, get set…


Here’s a little video of the race in action.


I’ve found these games that kids make up to be so creative.  Along with friends and family, we’ve had great fun with this one.  Race participants have ranged from ages 2 through 65!

Why Art is Important for Kids

Interview with Lisa Medoff, PhD, Child Psychologist.  Lisa works with students of all ages, consulting with families and schools to help them provide the optimal home and school environments for their children. She has taught child & adolescent development and psychology courses at Stanford University and other schools in the Bay area, and is the author of a weekly child psychology column for the website Education.com.

We here at Kiwi Crate are big believers in getting kids involved in hands-on activities, like art and crafts.  Aside from just the fun of it and creating great gifts for grandparents, is there any science to show it’s helpful to kids down the line?

There are many reasons that giving children a space to create artwork is extremely important.  Supporting their explorations in art fosters creativity, which is not merely helpful in an extracurricular sense.  With the fast pace of change in the technological and business worlds, creative people who can engage in abstract, flexible thinking will be more in demand than those who can merely memorize information and regurgitate it on an exam.

So if my son keeps working on his pictures of Luke Skywalker battling purple dragon bats, he may actually get a job someday – whew!  My daughter is younger, so her forays in artwork are more about exploring materials – practicing with markers, paintbrushes, scissors (oh, the adventures with scissors!)  Are there benefits to that?

Definitely – in addition to the impact on creativity, there are huge physiological benefits from engaging in art.  Art engages both gross (large parts of the body, such as torso and arms) and fine (smaller parts of the body, such as fingers) motor skills, which means that children will get practice controlling the parts of the body that will be necessary to use when they are learning a wide variety of skills in school, from kicking a ball on the field to mastering writing. Working on artwork helps children learn how to coordinate different physical movements to create a desire result.

How about MY desired result of getting the caps back on the markers?

Well, I can’t guarantee that, but there are other benefits too.  Art can help children express feelings that they do not yet have the language to communicate.  Talking about feelings in the context of art can validate what the child is experiencing, as well as helping your child to remember new words to express himself by directly connecting a word to an experience.  Art can capture a feeling that a child does not yet know how to share verbally, but give her a sense that sharing emotions feels good.

I knew that it “felt right” to encourage my kids’ interest in art, but it’s great to hear that there are so many real benefits to them.  Anything else you’d like to share?

Last, but certainly not least, art is fun!  In a world where children are increasingly pressured to achieve in many areas from younger and younger ages, it is important that they learn how to relieve stress and enjoy themselves.  Children who discover when they need to lose themselves in a joyful escape from a stressful situation may be better at coping with difficult situations when they do arise.

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Koolaid & Paintbrush

We recently posted about painting with Jello and Ice Cubes.  Here’s another edible painting medium to try…

For some scratch n sniff painting fun, just mix a high concentration of KoolAid with a little water in a bowl. Dip your paintbrush and start painting your way to a berry good time (sorry)!

We tested three flavors: cherry, grape, and lemonade. Cherry and grape performed best – lemonade needs a really high concentration to not be washed out.

In order to really embrace this activity, we first drank the KoolAid (needs added sugar).

My son really liked the idea of painting with something that he had just tasted.

He spent a lot of time smelling his painting in progress. So much so that he got a little red nose!

And here is the final product, ready to be hung in a museum – one where it’s ok to smell the paintings.

We spend so much time warning kids not to ingest their art materials that it’s a nice change of pace to paint with a drink and produce something that’s fun to smell. Caveat: KoolAid stains so protect your table and clothes!

Which unconventional materials have you painted with?

Exploring Texture

Children learn about the world through their senses, and its important to make time for them to explore the sense of touch. Just think about how babies learn about objects by putting them in their mouths or how a young child might hold his hand straight out on walks, in order to feel every passing plant breeze through his fingers. There are so many ways to explore texture — both real and implied — and today I thought I’d share a couple of my favorite easy texture activities for 3-6 year olds.


It doesn’t get much simpler than this. All you need are printer paper and crayons that aren’t covered with paper. Place the paper on top of a textured surface to “collect” the texture, and rub over the paper with the side of the crayon. My two year old collected tire textures at an art exhibit we saw at the de Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park, so it’s never too young to start!

To take this a step further, make a Texture Collection Book. Gather a few sheets of printer paper, fold them in half, and staple them together to make a book.

Now it’s time to collect some textures! Will you collect outdoor textures, indoor textures, textures with letters, etc.? For more on this idea, you can read this post: Book of Textures.

Printing with textures is also a fun experience — it’s like making a rubbing with paint! It’s a little messier than rubbings, but worth the extra effort.

To make a relief print (a print made from an image that protrudes from the surface of plate), simply glue pieces of foam, raised stickers, strips of yarn, or anything else you can think of that has a raised surface and can be glued to a board.

Roll some tempera paint over the surface (the “plate”) and then press a piece of printer paper on top of it. Carefully peel the paper back to reveal your print.

We took this idea in a slightly different direction by applying tempera paint directly on top of a textured sink mat. Click here to see how we did it.

Have fun exploring texture!

Two Ingredient Tuesday: Spray Bottle & Water

I know that everyone seems to have been talking about the heat wave lately… it seems to be finally relenting its grip on most of the country, but any excuse to get outside and get wet still seems like a good idea to my kids.  I had picked up a bunch of new spray bottles recently for another project, so we filled up a couple and headed out for some late afternoon fun.

There were SO many things to spray!  First, the flowers definitely needed some love…

The shed was next… It was fun for S to see how the water changed the color of the wood.

Then we decided that McQueen needed a trip to the car wash…

After observing the good time his sister was having, H wanted to get into the action.  He had fun just spraying the water up into the air and trying to catch the drops in his mouth.

And of course it ended with a sibling water fight — what says summer more than that?

This is a low-effort, low-cost, low-mess activity that’s great for all ages — perfect for a hot summer afternoon.  Plus, it’s always fun to see the joy that such simple things as a spray bottle and water can bring to a child’s face!

What are your favorite Two Ingredient summer activities?

It’s Summer! Fun with Jello & Ice Cube Paintbrushes

Just the other day, my daughter asked, “Mommy, I want to paint.” Without even thinking twice,  I was quick to discourage her efforts.  But as I was saying no, I asked myself why not? The answer was simple. I didn’t want to deal with the mess. For my eldest, I made activities involving paint, sand, glitter, glue readily available. For his younger sister, I only cringed at the thought of the havoc she could wreak. My son was capable of independently using these materials; I knew he would use them for what they were intended. However, my free-spirited daughter would definitely test her limits – you can only imagine the kind of “accidents” we’ve had in the past. The clean-up usually took longer than the actual craft. But after realizing how frequently I rejected her artistic curiosity, I decided that from that day forward, I was going to make a conscious effort to spend more time doing arts and crafts with her. I went on a search for crafts that weren’t daunting or overwhelming for me, and would be entertaining for my daughter. My first project was jell-o painting – materials were readily accessible, messiness was low, and it was a huge success.

First we made ice cube paintbrushes; filling an ice cube tray with water, covering it with foil and inserting popsicle sticks into the cubes.

Then we waited patiently for the cubes to freeze. Of course, my daughter forgot about the ice cube paintbrushes five minutes after they were in the freezer, but she was excited the following day when we pulled them out. The next day, we spread an old towel on the floor, laid a big piece of white paper on it,  sprinkled green and red jello powder on the paper, and away she went, painting with her ice cube paintbrushes! The powder amazed her, the melting ice amazed her, the designs she created amazed her, even the taste amazed her, and, as usual, she amazed me!

Though this is an activity that’s great for getting younger kids involved with creative materials, older kids can enjoy it as well.  Everyone gets a kick out of experimenting with new materials and using them in unconventional ways (painting with jello?? and ice cubes??? how cool!!!!).

What are your favorite unconventional art materials?