The Old Switcheroo

the old switcherooThe future is here, because some amazing genius has invented color changing markers. But do they really work? While Crayola, Alex, and an intriguingly named company called Wham-O all have versions of these markers, today, we’ll be testing the Switch-Eroo set of 12 color changing markers by Ooly ($9).

ooly switcheroo color changing markersEach marker has a color chisel tip at one end, and a slightly rounder white tip on the other end. The premise is simple. Use the color end first, then turn the marker around and use the white end on top of the color. Here’s a rainbow with the color end of the markers:

rainbow testAnd here’s the results of the white end on top of said colors. Pretty cool right? The color yellow was especially surprising. Look at those big, bold purple circles!

rainbow resultsThere was no smudging as you “reversed” the colors, though in my opinion, there seemed to be a lot of yellow resulting from the color reverse. Red, orange and light green? Those basically all reversed as yellow. As did blue and pink. But look at the dark green. It reversed as red! Very cool.

other marker set colorsOne question you might be asking: Does the white end do anything if you just use it on paper? Nope. Below you can see my yellow scribble, and how I drew on top of it with the white end of the marker. But you can barely see where I departed from the yellow and drew an arrow pointing upwards. Once the white tip moves off the color, the ink basically becomes invisible.

marker on paper 5

However, this begs a further question: Can you use the white end to write invisibly on paper, then scribble over it with the color end to reveal a secret message?

yesWooo hooo hooo! The coolness factor just increased ten fold.

I expected the white ends of the markers to start staining as I progressed through testing, but they didn’t. They stayed clean except for maybe the faintest touch of color on the tip. Nice.

The Ooly Switch-Eroo color changing markers are terrific. You not only get 12 extra colors in a set of 12 markers (though there did seem to be a lot of yellow going on), you also have a mechanism for writing secret messages in technicolor. The markers have plenty of ink, and I like the company’s color choices. So for the little artist in your home, this is a terrific extra that will no doubt inspire more creativity. Recommended!

Bonus points to anyone who recognized the Winnie the Pooh reference in the blog title. 1989! Represent!

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.


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!