The Rapunzel Issue

the-rapunzel-issueRapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair…GAAAAAAAAAAAH!

rapunzel-hair-beforeWhoa! What is this snarled, knotted, mess? Sigh. Our children’s dolls come out of the box looking so perfect. But somehow, over the course of a few weeks, their hair slowly begins to revert to a feral state. Eventually, a severe scissor intervention is required. But is a dramatic haircut really necessary? Or is there a magic recipe for working out those knots? We decided to tackle six of the Internet’s most popular methods for getting Rapunzel’s hair a little less, well…Tangled.

Our six testing methods can be further subdivided into 2 categories: 1) Detangling; and 2) Curling. We mixed and matched a bunch of different detangling and curling techniques, and then used the best results to attempt to sort out the Rapunzel doll.

But before we get started, a quick word about an essential piece of equipment – a comb. As you will soon see, plastic combs DO NOT work. They’re just not strong enough to hold up to the knots. The best thing to use is a flea comb from your local pet store. A flea comb has very fine, very strong, and very compact teeth that work very well.

flea-combTo find testing subjects, I went to the local thrift store. There, I found plenty of dolls who were having bad hair days, including Rapunzel. Then it was on to research and supply acquisition. For detangling, we decided to try spray-on detangler, fabric softener, regular hair conditioner, and white vinegar. For curling, we tried drinking straws, bubble tea straws, and markers. With these supplies in hand, Marissa headed to the staff lounge’s sink for a somewhat brutal spa day with the dolls. Take it away Marissa!


METHOD #1: SPRAY DETANGLER

doll-1-beforeFirst, I thoroughly covered the doll’s hair with spray detangler (purchased from the baby care section of Target). Then, I used a plastic comb to work on the knots, brushing from the bottom of her hair and working my way up. My first piece of advice  – make sure you hold the doll’s head tightly. Otherwise, it could pop right off! My second piece of advice – don’t use a plastic comb. It doesn’t work. In fact, I broke a tooth off mine and had to dig through the mess of her hair to find it. Phew!  Eventually, I laid the doll’s hair flat on the counter and really tore into it with the comb. The knots came out, but so did chunks of her hair!

Now that the hair was detangled and rinsed, it was time to curl it. I curled sections of the hair around plastic drinking straws, which I pinched shut and secured with rubber bands.

drinking-straw-curlersI had read that dunking the hair in hot water would lock in the curl, so I dunked the doll’s hair. Note! Be careful when you remove the doll from the water, because hot water gets into the straws and can dribble out, giving you a nasty burn. I let the hair air dry with the straw curlers in it. And…the results were great! Smooth, untangled hair with lots of soft curls.

doll-1-after


METHOD #2: FABRIC SOFTENER

doll-2-beforeI’ll start by saying that this doll’s hair was SUPER knotted. I didn’t think I was going to get any of the tangles out! I filled a plastic cup halfway with warm water and added a tablespoon of fabric softener (Mrs. Meyer’s Natural). Then I soaked the doll’s head in the mix for a minute or two, swirling her around to make sure her hair was completely soaked. This time I used the flea comb. It was much better than the plastic comb, but her knots were still pretty crazy. So I dunked her head in fabric softener again. It was much easier to comb after that! Finally, the knots were out, and her hair was thoroughly rinsed. Unfortunately, the doll lost a significant portion of her hair during testing, leaving parts of her scalp visible. She also lost an earring. Huh.

doll-2-after


METHOD #3: HAIR CONDITIONER

doll-3-beforeI rinsed the doll’s hair under warm water, then added regular hair conditioner (Alba Botanica’s Hawaiian Coconut to be exact). Using a quarter-sized amount, I massaged it evenly through her hair. Then I started combing with the flea comb. It worked well, but pretty soon the conditioner and the loose hair make a kind of paste, which was really gross. I was happy when I finally got to rinse it out. Interestingly, this doll did not experience as much hair loss as the previous 2 dolls. Maybe it was because her hair was much shorter? In the end, her hair turned out puffy and soft. Maybe a little too puffy. It necessitated a binder clip in the back to get the wave under control for her reveal photo.

doll-3-after


METHOD #4: WHITE VINEGAR

doll-4-beforeThis doll had greasy hair (ewwww!). I’m thinking a previous owner had put some product in it which left it quite unpleasant to touch. I thought she was the prime candidate for a white vinegar treatment. Hoping to dislodge some of the goop, I let her hair sit in very hot water for a few minutes. Then I used the flea comb to get the knots out.

I mixed 1 part vinegar to 1 part water and dunked her hair in it for a few minutes. Then I rinsed her hair (which successfully remove the vinegar smell), and set the doll aside to dry. Well, it didn’t work. Her hair was still greasy. In fact, it seemed greasier then before! Maybe dish soap would have been better?

doll-4-after


METHOD #5: DRY COMBING

doll-5-before I decided to not use any product on this doll’s hair. I just dry combed it with the flea comb. It was a bit challenging. If you use this method, I recommend laying the hair flat on the counter and working from bottom to top. Once the tangles were out, I decided to curl it using fatter bubble tea straws. Like the doll in Method #1, I rolled a section of the hair around the straws, then pinched the straws shut with rubber bands. Next came the hot water dunk. Then I wondered – would the curl stay in if her hair was wet?

wet-curlsYes, it worked! Even soaking wet, the hair was curled. It held its curl while drying too!

doll-5-after


METHOD #6: MARKERS vs. STRAWS

doll-6-beforeThe curl results from Method #1 and Method #5 got me wondering about the radius of the curlers and the sort of curl it produced. So for my final doll, I decided to do a side-by-side comparison. For the wide curls, I decided to try something firmer than bubble tea straws. This time, I used fat Crayola markers.

First, I dry combed her hair with a flea comb. Then I wrapped one half of her hair with markers, and the other half with drinking straws secured with rubber bands. I knew that dunking in hot water locks in the curl, but what about NOT dunking it? I skipped the hot water dunk and just left the markers and straws in to set overnight. It worked! The markers made big bouncy curls. The straws made smaller, tighter curls.

comparison-curlsShe definitely had lots of body to her hair, so we brought out the binder clip once again.

doll-6-after


AND NOW, THE GRAND FINALE…RAPUNZEL!

rapunzel-hair-before

If I thought I had dealt with knotted hair before, it was NOTHING compared to Rapunzel’s mess. To further complicate things, her hair was interlaced with sparkly tinsel. After testing six different methods, I decided to go with spray detangler. It worked really well for doll #1, and I could also spot spray the really big snarls. It took 3 people 2 days and several hours to get the tangles out. Rapunzel lost a ton of hair in the process.

rapunzel-hair-clumpSince her hair was 15″ long, I decided to use markers to curl it (I also read good things about using wooden dowels, but didn’t have any on hand). Her long hair resulted in some pretty bulky curlers, so I secured them with pieces of twine. Here’s her  big reveal…

rapunzel-hair-afterTA-DAH! You know, I think she looks pretty good! Sure, she lost a lot of hair, but there’s still enough left to climb a tower!

Island Science

islandThis charming little island really floats! Thanks to some well-placed wine corks, the island (and 2 little sailboats) will bob away in your bathtub, pool, or water table. This project is also a good way to introduce a some science terms to the story time set – namely, prediction, testing, saturation, buoyancy, and capillary action.

floating islandWe read An Island Grows, written by Lola M. Schaefer and illustrated by Cathie Felstead (Greenwillow Books, 2006). This non-fiction rhyming book follows the growth of an island from the first tremors of an underwater volcano to a busy and colorful island community. Don’t miss the last page which is full of the scientific information behind the book’s charming rhymes. 

You’ll need:

  • 1 box (mine was 4” x 4” x 4”)
  • 1 box cutter
  • A selection of patterned paper
  • 3 small squares of fabric (approximately 2″-3″)
  • 3 short pieces of thin ribbon (approximately 3″)
  • 1 small seashell (optional)
  • 1 paper towel tube
  • 1 corrugated cardboard base (approximately 8″ x 9″)
  • Green construction paper
  • Brown construction paper
  • White construction paper
  • Flower stickers (optional)
  • 20 wine corks
  • Scissors, tape, and glue stick for construction
  • Markers for decorating
  • Hot glue

Begin with your island home. Use the box cutter to cut a door and three windows in the sides of a box. Decorate the outside of the box with markers and add a roof of patterned paper (or construction paper). Use tape (or hot glue) to attach fabric squares to the insides of the box, right above each window. Knot a piece of ribbon around the fabric squares to create a window sash. Finish by hot gluing a small shell to the door to serve as a doorknob.

houseNow for your palm tree! Start by cutting 3″ off the top of a paper towel tube. If you’d like, you can use markers to draw rings around the tree. Next, cut 4 rectangles from the green construction paper (approximately 2″ x 5.5″ each). Cut each rectangle into a leaf shape, and make small cuts around the edges so it better resembles a palm frond.

palm leavesTape the palm fronds to the paper towel tube (I taped mine to the inside of the tube, but younger children might find it easier to tape them to the outside). To make coconuts, cut small circles out of the brown construction paper, then attach them to the tree with little loops of tape.

palm treeAt this time, I’d like to give a shout out to Anou, age 8, who came up with the coconut portion of our craft. I was in our library’s program area, trying to find a way to make three-dimensional looking coconuts that didn’t require hot glue. Anou walked up, offered the tape loop suggestion, and it looks great! Brilliant Anou, thanks!

With the house and tree complete, it’s time to make your base. Start with a 8″ x 9″ piece of corrugated cardboard (I cut ours from copy paper boxes). Use the glue stick to attach green construction paper to one side of the base. Then hot glue the house and the tree to the top of the base. It’s important to keep the house and the tree fairly close together in the center of the base. This will keep your island balanced while it’s floating on water.

fairly close togetherOnce the house and tree are attached, add a little landscaping with green construction paper fringes and flower stickers (or just draw flowers on the base with markers). We also used red file label stickers to create stepping stones leading to the front door of the house.

stepping stonesTo make your island and sailboats float, you’ll need 20 corks. Since we needed to prepare enough supplies for 24 kids, we needed lots of corks (480 to be exact). So we hit up a couple local wine shops and bars (thank you Public Wines, Cool Vines, Princeton Corkscrew, and Yankee Doodle Tap Room). But the real jackpot was a restaurant called Mediterra. They had THESE stashed in their kitchen. Woo hoo!

corks To make your island’s “cork stilts,” begin by hot gluing 4 corks together like this:

four corksRepeat this step three more times until you have 4 stilts (composed of four corks each). Hot glue the stilts to the bottom of the cardboard base like so:

cork stilts on baseWe had to do a little trial and error to determine the total number of corks needed to get this project to work. You can turn our experimentation into story time science by doing the following…

Fill a dish tub with water and set it on a table. Have three different bases prepped. The first base is cardboard with no corks.

base 1

The second base is cardboard with cork stilts. The stilts are two corks each.

base 2The third base has cork stilts too. These stilts are 4 corks each.

base 3

  1. Start by saying “Let’s take a look at these bases and predict which one will work best for our island.” After the kids make their predictions, say “Time to test them out!”
  2. Place Base 1 in the tub. It will immediately become saturated. Ask “What happened? What do we need to change to make this float and stay dry?”
  3. Place Base 2 in the water. It will float, but barely above the water. Eventually, water will begin saturating into the bottom and edges of the base. Ask “Is this any better? What’s the problem now?”
  4. Place Base 3 in the water. The base will float above the water, keeping the island dry. Say “It finally worked! Any guesses why?”

During the experiment, you can refer to the concepts of saturation, density and buoyancy. A cork floats on the water because it is less dense than the water. This gives the cork buoyancy, meaning that upward force on the cork is equal to the weight of the cork. The cardboard base, however, was just too heavy for the 2 cork stilts. As a result, Base 2 sunk down and got wet. But Base 3, the 4 cork stilts, did the trick! They gave the island enough buoyancy to lift the cardboard (and the house & tree) above the water level.

Time for sailboats! Cut a small sail (mine were about 2″ tall) out of white construction paper, and color both sides with markers. Hot glue the sail to one side of a cork (make sure the paper doesn’t extend below the cork). Then, hot glue a second cork next to the first.

cork boatWe discovered that, as the corks get wet, the water seeps up the sail, pulling the ink with it. This is capillary action…in action!

before and after boatsIf you’d like to turn the sailboat activity into a quick science lesson, create the boat you see in the “Before” photo above. For best results, make sure the marker extends all the way to the base of the paper sail. Fill a dish tub or plastic plate with water. Then:

  1. Show the kids the boat. Say: “This sailboat needs a little more decoration. Want to see a super cool way to decorate the sail – without drawing on it?”
  2. Place the sailboat in the water. It takes a few minutes to really get started, so you might have to go for a couple rounds of “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” while you wait.
  3. Talk briefly about capillary action (i.e. the ability of water to flow up or though something – sometimes in defiance of gravity itself) and how they just observed the water moving up the paper sail, carrying the ink with it!
  4. If you’d like, you can prep a bunch of sailboats with different color inks, and see if the different colors move up the sail at different rates.

And that’s it! Your island and sailboats are complete! Float them in a bathtub, dish tub, baby pool, water table, or, in my case, the giant fountain outside of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs (that’s Ai Weiwei’ s Circle of Animals/Zodiac Heads you see in the background). The perfect place for an island getaway, yes?

fountainLooking for some more island experiments? Do you like coconuts? Check out this post!