During winter, or any other time where there is inclement weather that keeps children indoors, it can be difficult to find ways to keep children entertained, learning, and focusing their energy in positive ways.
Not to fear! Banish Boredom is here! Rebecca Green, author of Banish Boredom, offers dozens of simple, fun, and educational projects that you can do with easy to find objects around your house or classroom. Far more than your typical picture-painting, Green’s suggestions are fascinating to adults and kids alike, teaching concepts like symmetry, the water cycle, and density with vibrant colors and interactive experiments. While her book is full of all kinds of activities—indoors and outdoors— here are three of her fantastic projects that you can save for a day with inclement weather to create some excitement indoors!
- Symmetry, reflection, color theory
- Have the children fold the paper in half lengthwise o that a crease runs vertically from top to bottom. (This helps the children visualize the line of symmetry)
- Open the paper to lay it flat again and allow the kids to squeeze paints into whatever pattern they’d like. They may try to make matching patterns on each side of the fold or they may paint over the whole paper randomly
- Fold the paper closed using the pre-painting fold for guidance. Let the child squish and smooth the paper shut. Open to see the finished design
- Try folding twice for a really unexpected result. After pre-folding the paper vertically, fold again horizontally, creating four quadrants when you unfold the paper. After painting, fold along one line of symmetry to squish the paint. Open again and fold along the second line.
- Add accessories such as eyes and mustaches to make monsters, dragons, silly faces, and more!
- Spend some time examining a dried painting with your child and try to pick out shapes and pictures.
- Use the paintings as background art pages to write your own storybook.
Density, states of matter
- A tall bottle
- Cooking oil (enough to fill ¾ of the bottle)
- Food coloring
- Fizzy antacid tablets (Alka-Seltzer)
- Submersible light or flashlight
- Let the kids fill three-fourths of the bottle with the cooking oil.
- They can fill the remainder with water, but not quite all the way to the top. You’ll need some room for bubbling.
- Have the kids add a few drops of food coloring.
- Leaving the top of the bottle off, let the kids break up the fizzy tablet and drop it in a bit at a time. Watch what happens to the gas bubbles created and observe the rising droplets of colored water.
- Add a submersible light, which will float on top and light downward, or shine a flashlight up from the outside bottom for a more realistic lava lamp effect.
- Do you have a child who likes to sparkle? Add a healthy dose of glitter to the water first and see what happens when you add the fizzy tablet
- Try creating a reverse lava lamp effect by sprinkling a little bit of salt onto the top of the water (after the fizzy tablets have fizzled out). The salt is heavier than water, so when you sprinkle it on the oil, it will sink through the mixture and carry a bit of oil with it down through the water. When the salt dissolves in the water, it releases the oil, which will then float back up to the top of the water.
- Spend some more time observing density. When the fizzy tablet is gone, replace the bottle top and tip the bottle back and forth. Shake it in different directions. Help the kids make observations about what is happening
Make it Rain
- Meteorology, water cycle
- A glass mason jar
- Small plate
- Hot water
- Ice cubes
- A weather-related book
- Room-temperature water
- Shaving cream
- Food coloring
- Pipette or dropper
- Fill the mason jar three-fourths of the way with hot water and screw the metal lid. Cover the lid with the plate and let it sit for a few minutes while the water warms up the air inside.
- Have the children place ice cubes onto the plate.
- Watch as the cold plate cools the air inside the jar, making condensation run down the sides of the jar.
- If you have a child who loves to look for rational explanations of why the world works as it does, this is a great project. Of course, that’s exactly what science involves. If you have a child who prefers fantastical reasons, loop him in to learning science through that interest. For example, I have a child who is obsessed with all things Greek mythology. He particularly loves Zeus, the god of the sky and thunder. So I think it would be really fun to work this experiment into a story-playing session and let Kane pretend it’s Zeus, making it rain. Alternatively, you could pick a favorite book that is also weather related (such as Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and tie the experiment in to that story. The children will learn the science without realizing it.
- Take the experiment a bit further to show how rain comes from clouds, which are condensed water. When those condensed water droplets become too heavy, rain falls from the clouds. Get a cup of water and mix in blue food coloring. Instead of placing the lid and a plate of ice on the top of the mason jar, make a sort of cloud out of shaving cream. Using colored water will drop down into the jar and you’ll see the rain coming through
- Look for other examples of condensation and discuss how similar principles of condensation apply