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Science Experiment: Liquid Rainbow in a Jar

May 7, 2014

By Jessica Vician

A girl smiles as she looks at the completed experiment.
Photography by Jennifer Shaffer Photography

Children love science, whether they know it or not. From inventing little contraptions with things they find around the house to watching what food coloring can do to hard-boiled eggs or some cake icing, activities influenced by science fascinate children of all ages.

This weekend, teach your children about density by creating a liquid rainbow in a jar. Even if they are too young to understand the concept of density, your children will enjoy mixing the liquids and watching the colorful results develop.

For this activity, you will need:

A photo of the ingredients for the experiment.

½ cup light corn syrup

½ cup blue liquid dish soap

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup isopropyl alcohol

blue, red, and green food coloring

Let’s get started!

In a glass, use a spoon to combine the light corn syrup with one drop of blue food coloring and one drop of red food coloring.

Mixing the corn syrup with food coloring.

Pour the corn syrup mixture into a Mason jar that can hold a little more than 2 ½ cups of liquid.

Pouring the corn syrup mixture into the Mason jar.

Pour the dish soap slowly down the side of the Mason jar.

Pouring in the blue dish soap.

In a separate glass, mix ½ cup of water with two drops of green food coloring, again using a spoon.

Mixing the water with green food coloring in a separate glass.

Slowly pour this green mixture down the side of the Mason jar with the dish soap inside.

Pouring the green mixture down the side of the Mason jar, the green layers on top of the blue liquid.

Pour the vegetable oil down the side of the Mason jar slowly. At this stage, you are demonstrating to your children that oil and water don’t mix.

Pouring the vegetable oil into the Mason jar, resting on top of the green liquid.

In a separate glass, use a spoon to mix the isopropyl alcohol with two drops of red food coloring.

Mixing the alcohol with red food coloring in a separate glass.

Slowly pour this red mixture down the side of the Mason jar.

The liquid rainbow in a jar is complete! Starting with a purple layer of liquid, each layer rests upon the other in blue, green, yellow, and red.

Congratulations! You have completed the science experiment and should now have a Mason jar full of colorful, layered liquids. Hopefully you and your children learned that not all liquids are created equal, as some are denser than others.



Thank you to Jennifer Shaffer for photographing this activity. Jennifer Shaffer is a Chicago-based photographer, specializing in family portraits.

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DIY: Edible Finger Paints

April 30, 2014

Article and photograph by Nikki Cecala

The writer's son looks up at the photographer as he puts the edible finger paint in his mouth.

Finding activities for infants and toddlers can be challenging, but it’s not impossible. As a parent to a one-year old son, I wanted to find a fun activity for him and I to try. After a little fiddling around in my kitchen, I found a solution: edible finger paint! I have read many different ways to approach this activity, but I tweaked my own version that is taste-friendly and safe. All you need is plain yogurt, food coloring, and a plastic tablecloth.

  1. Take a dollop of yogurt and put it in a small bowl mixed with a few squirts of food coloring.
  2. After mixing it, scoop the colored yogurt out of the bowl and place on a plate. Repeat this for as many colors you are using.
  3. Then place a plastic tablecloth on the floor of the room you are doing this experiment in. Using a plastic tablecloth is best because it’s cleaned easily. If your child is still too young to sit up alone, you can put him or her in the highchair and place the colors on the pullout table.
  4. Depending on the temperature of the room (and how strict you are with messy clothes), strip him or her down to just the diaper. Place the plate in front of your child and watch him or her curiously engage in the "paint." If it seems like he or she is not as interested as you, talk to your toddler. What a child sees, he does, so scoop a little paint up with your finger and put it on his or her arm, leg, or cheeks. My son didn’t seem too interested in the concept until I sprinkled some baby puffs in… then he was thrilled!

This activity provides several development benefits, including encouraging colors, texture, individuality, creativity, exploring senses, and, depending on how your child is playing with the paint, sound effects. This activity is good for ages as young as six months. As your toddler gets older, you can also add more to the project such as including paintbrushes and paper or enhancing the "paint" to make it thicker. Have fun!

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DIY: Make a Pampering Coffee Scrub with Your Kids

January 28, 2014

By Jessica Vician

Jessica Vician makes a pampering coffee scrub with her friend, Byrdie Von Hines.

Photos by Josh Hines

What mom doesn’t yearn for a spa day? Juggling schedules, from school to daycare to feedings, is exhausting. Sometimes you just need an hour or two at a spa to relax, unwind, and exfoliate. But let’s not kid ourselves—there’s no time for that!

Don’t worry— I have a solution that will work with your schedule and allows you some bonding and teaching time with your children, regardless of their ages. Make an exfoliating coffee scrub! You likely have all of the ingredients in your kitchen already.

This scrub is easy to make for kids aged two and a half and up. If younger children are helping you, supervise them throughout the process to make sure they don’t eat any ingredients or get the liquids in their eyes. As your kids help you make the scrub, teach them about measurements and fractions.

Once the scrub is ready, turn your shower into a spa! Massage it on your skin to exfoliate the dead skin cells away and moisturize your skin. If you have teenagers or college-age children, they will likely want to use some as well so be sure to include them in this DIY-activity.

Let’s start with the ingredients. They’re pretty simple.

Ingredients include sugar in the raw, coffee grounds, oil, and vanilla extract

1 cup coffee grounds

I like to use a winter-themed blend, like gingerbread, for a delicious added scent.

0.5 cup sugar in the raw

This sugar is courser than other sugars, but if you don’t have that you can use brown sugar.

2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of oil

Use any oil you have. I always have a lot of olive oil on hand, but you could use a massage oil, canola oil, grapeseed oil, etc.

Jessica Vician helps Byrdie Von Hines measure the coffee grounds.

Have your kids measure out each ingredient, putting them into a medium-sized bowl as they finish measuring. Show them that the ½ cup of sugar is half of the one cup of coffee scrub to help them understand fractions. Then have them stir the ingredients thoroughly, making sure to evenly distribute the wet ingredients throughout the dry ingredients.

Pour the scrub into a plastic container with a lid if you’re using it at home (I use old gelato containers). If you’re giving it as a gift, use a glass mason jar or pretty jam container.

The coffee scrub is ready to use in a Mason jar.

Voila! You now have a coffee scrub to use in the shower for a spa moment no matter how busy you are. And in the process of making a little something to pamper yourself with, you helped your children learn real-world fraction use and how to measure, all while bonding through an activity. Enjoy!

Thanks to Josh Hines for this article's photography and to his daughter, Byrdie Von Hines, for her excellent coffee scrub-making skills. For more of Josh's photography work, visit his website.

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