Light It Up

light it upWhen it comes to crafting, the best way to send that project over the edge of coolness is to LIGHT IT UP! We’ve wired flannel boards with conductive thread, tested a neon sign writer, made super simple lanterns, made some slightly-more-complicated lanterns, crafted a vehicular night light, a castle votive, lightning bugs, cities of light, and illuminated underwear. And who can forget the interior lights on Marissa’s blog birthday cake?

glow baby glow croppedSo when we spotted the Circuit Clay kit by Klutz we were excited. Ideally, the kit allows kids to do all sorts of electrical experimenting, with the added bonus of sculpting unique creations. But conductive clay? Would that even work? I must admit, we were a wee bit skeptical.

klutz circuit clay kitThe Klutz kit retails for around $22 (ages 8 & up). It contains a 52-page instruction booklet, 4 packs of color conductive clay, 1 pack of white insulating clay, 20 color LEDs, a battery pack (4 AA batteries required), and 52 paper embellishments for your projects. Katie put the kit through its paces. Take it away Katie!


Following the instruction booklet’s explanation of a basic circuit, I molded two balls of green clay into cubes, pushed the wire legs of a red bulb into each cube, and inserted the positive (red) wire and the negative (black) wire into the cubes. Lo and behold, the bulb illuminated when I flipped on the battery case!

klutz circuit clay battery pack and bulbFeeling certain in my understanding of basic circuits, I moved ahead in the instruction book and created a Princeton University-inspired orange and black flower, complete with a little glowing bee and butterfly from the kit’s paper add-ons.

The flower project required the use of the insulating clay, which doesn’t allow the electric current to flow through it. However, the instructions were straightforward. The clay petals were pretty thin, so it was challenging to make sure the bulb’s wire legs were fully inserted. One wrong move, and the bulb would go out. This issue would be doubly hard for kids. However, the end result was pretty cool:

klutz circuit clay flower projectA note about the instruction book: it is an exceptionally well written and illustrated manual that provides easy to understand lessons for kids about electricity. Kudos to Klutz for using every inch of the book with colorful images and educational descriptions.

klutz circuit clay bookletRiding a wave of confidence, I decided to crank it to 11 and make my own design with as many lights as possible. As I was forming the letters to say “Hi” and the circle around it, I had to remember to maintain the circuit between the conductive clay and the insulting clay. I will admit this was a little challenging, and I *may* have broken several bulbs putting it together. But eventually it worked! Here’s a photo of it in full darkness. Notice that the blue bulbs are much dimmer?

hi in the darkNow for the bad news. I found the clay was quick to crumble and shred, even fresh out of the package. It was sometimes tough to keep the LED bulb’s long wire legs fully inserted into the designs, and it was frustrating at times to figure out how to set up the different circuits. Finally, the book says to “keep your clay in a resealable plastic bag or container so it won’t dry out.” I did seal it in a Ziploc bag, but a couple weeks later, the clay was dry, flaky, and nearly impossible to manipulate.

crumbled clayThe Klutz Circuit Clay is definitely a clever way to teach kids about electricity without them accidentally getting hurt or shocking themselves. It’s an activity children with patience and strong reading skills can do on their own, but younger kids will definitely need assistance. The suggested age range may be a little low (ages 8 & up), but I’m not sure if kids older than 10 would find this experiment worth their time and attention.

Following in the footsteps of our kid tester, Hope, and weighing the pros and cons, I rate this product 2 out of 5. The lessons about electricity, circuits and positive/negative charges are great, but the flaking clay, easy-to-break LED lights, and tough-to-mimic designs might be frustrating for kids.

Love Potion No. 9

love potion no 9

Magic abounds as you create your very own “Love-Never-Lies” potion and examine the mystical properties of liquid nitrogen. Katie recently unleashed her science wizardry at To Be Continued, our chapter book story time for 6-8 year-olds!

We read The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell (Little, Brown, 2017). Back in the Dark Ages, in a dangerous woods, two children from warring tribes unexpectedly meet. Xar is from the Wizard tribe, even though he possesses no magic, and Wish is from the Warrior tribe, even though she is clumsy. Both feel out of place in their homes. Both are a tremendous disappointment to their royal parents. And both are currently doing something they definitely should NOT be doing. Their meeting sparks an epic adventure involving magic, dangerous creatures, daring escapes, clever double-crosses, a fainting assistant bodyguard, and the discovery of what friendship truly means. The Wizards of Once is hilarious, fantastical, and face-paced read-aloud. Our story time absolutely kids loved it.

One potion that plays a pivotal role in the book is “Love-Never-Lies.” It has two properties:. 1) If you eat, drink, or smell it, you fall in love with the next person (or animal!) you see; and 2) If you are holding the potion and tell a lie, it changes from red to blue. The bigger the lie, the darker the blue.

So with color changing potions in mind, Katie put together an awesome little demonstration with acids and bases using household items and red cabbage juice.

katie experiements with pHThe red cabbage indicator demo is simple, inexpensive, but impactful. The experiment involves adding red cabbage juice to various household acid and bases, and then observing how the acids and bases change color according to their pH level. Katie used these instructions from ZLIFE Education’s website, and lectured about pH, acidity, and anthocyanin. Then, she upped the science magic with liquid nitrogen.

scientist katieWearing gloves, wielding protective eye gear, and armed with her knowledge of nitrogen-infused particles, Katie froze balloons, carnation flowers, and made clouds. It was AWESOME.

nitrogen balloonfrozen carnationsnitrogen cloudsThe grand finale was mixing your very own bottle of “Love-Never-Lies” potion to take home. Katie purchased some 5″ vintage replica bottles with corks from Amazon (10 bottles cost $20). These are the same bottles we used with much success for our Sherlock Holmes escape room.

three potion bottlesKatie filled the bottles with water, and then kids came forward to choose the color and amount of food dye for Katie to drip into the bottle. As the colors mixed, the kids predicted the final color of the potion.

potion color predictionCressida Cowell is also the author of the How to Train Your Dragon series. If you’d like to see what we did with that book, you’ll find the post here. And holy clouds, if you haven’t seen the trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 3, get thee to the internet!

Incendio!

Want to make your fire pit extra, extra, EXTRA cool this summer? How about featuring flickering flames in hues of purple, green, and blue? I’m always on the lookout for igniting things in the name of Harry Potter (see giant green fireball here) so when I found packets of Big Fire at a local fireworks store for a mere $2, I had to try them out.

Big Fire purports to add color to flames on any wood fire (and “Fireside Romance,” to your next date, apparently). It’s about the same size as a Kool-Aid packet. You don’t open the packet. You just toss the whole thing right on the fire and let the cupric sulfate, cupric chloride, and the polyvinyl chloride take the lead!

We had a small to medium fire, but what the heck…I threw in 4 packets at once. Within minutes, we had incredible green and blue flames, with little hints of purple too:


Were there any weird chemical smells? Nope! But the packaging is quite clear – this product is for outdoor use only in a well ventilated area. Also, I was expecting just a quick flash of color flames, but I am happy to report that the flames burned different colors for well over 30 minutes. And the flames were wildly beautiful.

Big Fire color flame packets are an inexpensive science experiment with extremely cool results. Definitely recommend tossing these in your backpack for your next campfire, Halloween shindig, or Harry Potter party.

A very special thanks to Mr. Fran P. Chismar for the experimental use of his fire pit. You make Gryffindor proud, sir!