Summer Fun in the Kitchen

by Janean Nusz

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Summer is here again, that means the kids are out of school. And they're bored! What to do? You've already spent all that you're going to on summer camps, camping equipment, swimming suits and pool fees. It's time to bring out the cheap entertainment! But what?

Turn your kitchen into a chemistry lab. With a few inexpensive ingredients found around the house, your children can find hours of entertainment waiting for them in the 'lab', and learn a little about science in the process.

Nutty Putty

Have your kids make a substance a little like the flesh-colored putty that you used to play with as a kid.

You'll need:

  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons liquid starch
  • Food coloring
  • 3 Tablespoons white glue
  • Resealable bag or plastic Easter egg

In a glass bowl combine the glue with a few drops of food coloring. In a second glass bowl, pour liquid starch. Slowly dump the colored glue mixture on top of the starch. Allow the 'experiment' to stand for 6 minutes, or until the liquid starch has been absorbed by the glue. Remove the Nutty Putty from the bowl and knead. The more you knead the putty, the better the consistency becomes. Store the Nutty Putty in the plastic egg or bag. Remember, this concoction is not edible!

The kids can have hours of fun with Nutty Putty. Have them try pressing the putty over a section of the newspaper funnies, or graphics printed with an ink jet printer to see what happens. Nutty Putty can also be rolled into a ball and bounced!

Marker Tie-Dye

For the budding artist or designer, Tie-Dying can be a real treat. But who has time to clean up the mess? Relax! With Marker Tie-Dye, your kids can have all the fun without the mess.

You'll need:

  • Permanent broad tip markers
  • White cotton T-shirts or socks
  • Rubber bands or cotton string
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Spray bottle

Wrap the shirt or socks tightly with the string, or band them with the rubber bands. Press marker tip to the fabric, leaving some areas of white. Be sure to get some inside the folds of fabric. Fill the spray bottle with alcohol and spray onto the fabric. The alcohol will help to blend the colors. Allow fabric to dry completely, remove rubber bands or string, then iron to set the colors, using a moist press cloth. Allow to dry again. Before wearing, wash fabric using the cold water, gentle cycle and dry in the dryer.

Colored Crystal Garden

Do you have a bored miniature 'Mad Scientist' at your house? Have them try growing a garden without any plants! This colored crystal garden produces delicate crystals and will take up to two weeks to complete. This 'experiment' does require adult supervision to put together.

You'll need:

  • An aluminum or glass pie plate (not metal)
  • Small pieces of brick or porous stone (charcoal will work, too)
  • Distilled water
  • Ammonia
  • Non-iodized salt
  • Glass jar or bowl
  • Bluing
  • Food coloring

Make sure your porous stone, brick or charcoal is broken into pieces about 1 inch in size. Place pieces into the pie plate in an even layer. In a separate jar or glass bowl, carefully mix 1/4 cup water, 1 tablespoon of ammonia, 1/4 cup of bluing, and 1/4 cup of non-iodized table salt. Make sure salt dissolves completely then pour the mixture into the pie plate over the porous stone. Be sure that the pieces of stone, brick or charcoal are not completely covered with the liquid. Sprinkle drops of food coloring randomly over the top of the stone or charcoal and wait for the crystals to grow. Growth starts in as little as two days and can last up to two weeks.

When your kids get tired of bouncing Nutty Putty, Tie-Dying socks and watching crystals grow, head to the library for more experiments. Good sources of kid friendly kitchen projects are: Kitchen Chemistry by John B. Bath and Sally Mayberry, Kid Concoctions by Robynne Eagan, and Simple Kitchen Experiments: Learning Science With Everyday Foods by Muriel Mandell.

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