Everyday Magic in Your Backyard
Glistening ice filled with colors, gravity-defying water experiments, snowball fights in the warm autumn, home-made (but safe) explosions. These are parts of everyday magic you can create at home. While incredible activities certainly lay in town, across town, or in a different city, sometimes it just feels better to stay home, engage in some fun, and save some dinero at the same time. With that in mind, there are many inexpensive activities you can create in the comfort of your very own backyard. Take a look…
Go ahead and dabble with this one when there’s lots of sun outside. The different colors and light refraction will astound big and small kids. Materials: salt, eyedroppers, liquid watercolors, plastic containers, trays, muffin tin or plastic cups. Directions: First, you’ll want to freeze some ice in a variety of different shapes. Use an ice cube tray, then think outside the tray with freezable containers. Next, turn these shapes out on to a tray that’s deep enough so the shapes won’t slide right off. After that, you’ll mix the water colors with the salt. Use the muffin tins or plastic cups for this, mixing a heaping spoon of salt with each water color. Last, using an eyedropper, drop salty colors on to the ice shapes. Watch the shapes melt and warp with the colors.
DIY Water Wall
With the weather still warm, now is the time to construct an inventive water wall. You’ll definitely need to think outside of the box as you and your children gauge gravity, connect bottles with funnels and tubes, create dead-ends and flow-throughs, and generally have fun with water. Materials: plastic containers (save your recyclables!) of any sort (those with lids are fun to use as you can stop the water at different junctures), twist-ties, perforated hardboard or a fence that you don’t mind drilling holes into + screws and wingnuts, and a large plastic container that the water will drip into so that you can recycle it . Directions: Probably the best thing to do is look at a few examples, like the picture you see on the left from Things to Share and Remember or this example from Irresistible Ideas. Then, have at it!
Snow in Summer
Itching to have a snowball fight, but there’s no snow around? Here’s an easy and cheap way to have fun with the kids. All age groups seem to enjoy this one. Materials: Two boxes of cornstarch and one can of shaving cream. If the shaving cream seems to smell too strongly, you can always try women’s shaving cream with a peach or other fruity scent. Optional: powdered tempura paint in different colors. Directions: Mix one cup of shaving cream to approximately 2 cups of cornstarch. You can add more or less, but ultimately the mixture has the ability to both crumble as well as form snowballs. You can also add powdered tempura paint if you desire. Carefully mold your snowballs, choose your teams, then see who throws the first ball!
Diet Coke and Mentos Eruption
Looking for some explosive fun? Try this fun experiment outside with Diet Coke, Mentos, and other sodas for comparison. Materials: A roll or box of Mentos mints and 2-liter bottle of diet soda (regular also works, but diet is less sticky), and other bottles of sodas for comparison. Directions: Choose a location away from the house. A lawn is a good place. Things are about to get messy! Next, open a bottle of soda and place it on a table or the ground. Unwrap the whole roll of Mentos. You are going to need to drop all of them into the soda simultaneously. You can roll a piece of paper into a tube and place it directly over the opening to the bottle. The idea is that you’ll want to drop all of the Mentos in at the same time, then sprint away. Here’s a video that shows you the fun.
Art and Creativity is a truly incredible website that has all sorts of art activities which will stimulate your mind and inner artist. While the website refers to Early Childhood Education, it clearly has ideas that also include older children and adults. Backyard Science is a fabulous Australian TV show (found on the Discovery Channel in some areas) that has different backyard experiments each week. Here’s a small taste on YouTube. Lastly, Family Fun Magazine has a huge number of resources around crafts, learning activities, travel and more for the family. No need to sign up for anything. Just stop by and check it out.
Everyday magic. It’s all around you, whether that’s in nature, in the snow and water, or in the sound of your children laughing as Diet Coke fills the sky. Take time to see the wonder around you, and create some while you’re at it. Go ahead. A pack of Mentos is only about $.85. What are you waiting for?