365 TV-Free Kid Activities
TV-free day 188: EGGS-periment with the chemistry of dyeing Easter eggs


Turn your holiday decorating into a science project with this cool article on the chemistry of dyeing eggs from www.education.com

Problem:  How does vinegar change the egg dyeing process?

Will the eggs in the vinegar get darker or lighter than the eggs in the water, or will they all be the same?


  • 3 cups of distilled water
  • 3 teaspoons vinegar
  • Teaspoon
  • Spoon
  • 3 white eggs
  • Food coloring
  • 3 cups
  • Old towel


  1. Get three containers and fill each one with a cup (250 mL) of distilled water.
  2. Label one container “1 teaspoon vinegar”, the next “2 teaspoons vinegar”, and the last “control”.
  3. Add several drops of food coloring to each container (adding the same amount to each).
  4. Add a teaspoon of vinegar to the first container and two teaspoons to the second.
  5. Using a spoon, place a white egg into each container.
  6. Wait for a few minutes, and then remove the eggs, placing each one on a towel to dry.
  7. Look at the eggs. Which one is the brightest? Which one is the lightest? Why do you think this happened?


The egg that was immersed in the most vinegar is the brightest.



Food coloring is an acid dye. It bonds using hydrogen, and this chemical process only works in an acidic environment.

Distilled water is usually neutral, with a pH of 7. This means that it is not acidic and not basic. Vinegar is acidic and contains around 3% acetic acid. When you add vinegar to water, it creates ideal conditions for food coloring to dye the egg. Since eggs are made out of calcium carbonate, this calcium in the shell reacts with the acid in the vinegar to make carbon dioxide. If you place an egg in vinegar and water, you can often see that chemical reaction taking place as bubbles of carbon dioxide form in the liquid.

Going Further

What would happen if you tried boiling an egg with red cabbage, beets, or turmeric powder? What colors would you get, and how intense would they be? How would adding vinegar affect the absorption natural dyes? What about if you colored the eggs with Kool-Aid?

What would happen if you tried boiling each egg with the dye and the vinegar in the same amount of water? Compare an egg that’s been boiled with vinegar and dye to an egg that has not been boiled, and figure out whether warmer water temperatures help in dye absorption.

Our TV-Free Side note on chemical bonds: We also talked briefly about how color bonds to the egg, and that led to a discussion of atoms and chemical bonds. Here are some good sites for introducing this concept:
Dogs teaching chemistry: Short and hillarious video that introduces the concept of atoms bonding by illustrating the notion with cute dogs.
Chem4Kids.com has a great intro about atoms being stable and “happy.”
187th TV-Free Activity for Kids: Balloon Race

We recently discussed Newton’s Laws of Motion in our homeschool for 5th grade.  The third law of motion states: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

To illustrate this point, we adapted an experiment that was suggested in Harcourt School Publisher’s Science book (page 729 of the 5th grade 2009 edition) for balloon rockets.

For the Balloon Race, you will need:

  • 2 balloons
  • String or thread
  • 2 straws
  • Tape


  1. Cut 6-8 feet of string, and thread a straw through on one end.
  2. Tie one end of the string to a door knob or post.
  3. Repeat these steps with the other straw and string.
  4. Try to find something like a bed post or two door handles that are along the same wall to provide the same “racing distance.”  Tie the end near the straw to the post.
  5. Blow up the balloons, but don’t tie them (have a kid hold them tight).
  6. Face the open end of the balloon toward the end of the string that is tied to a post.
  7. Hold the balloon under the straw, then gently tape the balloon to the straw (while a child still holds it tight.)
  8. Now count to three and let the balloons go. 

 What direction did they travel?  Toward the air that was released or away from it?  How does Newton’s 3rd law apply here?  The balloon moves in the opposite direction of the air that is released from the open end, and along the line of the string.

Did the one filled with more air go farther? Why?  Was more force exerted that resulted in an equal and opposite force in the other direction?

 Jayne’s book recommendations to go with this balloon activity:

Even though our youngest isn’t studying Newton’s Law yet, she had a blast racing the balloons and wanted to do this over and over again.  So for the younger crowd, try The Mystery of the Hot Air Balloon (The Boxcar Children Mysteries) by Gertrude Chandler Warner and illustrated by Charles Tang (Albert Whitman 2011). The Boxcar children learn how hot air balloons work and even help launch one, but before they get the chance to ride in one they have to figure out who is trying to ruin the rally.

For your middle-graders aged 11-14, try Water Balloon by Audrey Vernick (Clarion 2011, 320 pages).   It’s just right for those tough middle school years when life (and friends) can change in the blink of an eye.  It’s had several great reviews, and here is a synopsis:Marley’s life is as precarious as an overfull water balloon—one false move and everything will burst. Her best friends are pulling away from her, and her parents, newly separated, have decided she should spend the summer with her dad in his new house, with a job she didn’t ask for and certainly doesn’t want. On the upside is a cute boy who loves dogs as much as Marley does … but young love has lots of opportunity for humiliation and misinterpreted signals. Luckily Marley is a girl who trusts her instincts and knows the truth when she sees it, making her an immensely appealing character and her story funny, heartfelt, and emotionally true.”

Sorry Ohio, Our Buckeyes Became Hearts Today

Can peanut butter and chocolate ever be wrong?  We took a basic buckeye recipe and squished them into heart shapes. Then dipped the tops in chocolate for Valentine’s Day!

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/3 cup butter, softened

1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2-3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (depending on how proficient you are at dipping….we were a bit messy)

Blend together all but the chocolate. The dough will be stiff.  Make tablespoon sized balls, then shape them into hearts and put them on a wax paper covered cookie sheet.  Freeze for at least 30 minutes (we did this overnight).

Melt the chocolate in the microwave on 30 second intervals until it is glossy when stirred.  Then remove the hearts from the freezer (if they are out too long, the chocolate doesn’t stick right).   Dip the tops of the hearts in the chocolate and set them back on a waxed paper sheet.  Refrigerate, if you can wait to not scarf them down, that is it. 

: )

Day 186 Happy Valentine’s Day - Woven heart baskets

My girls have been in to origami lately, and asked me to find a way to fold paper hearts for Valentine’s Day. This craft came to mind, and I found a great set of instructions here:  http://craftyb.com/2012/01/valentines-day-woven-heart-craft/

You will need:

Two separate colors of paper of the same basic weight and scissors.

Step 1:  Cut the folded over U-shaped template, making one color’s center cut slightly longer than the other..  We free-handed the design and it made it harder to fit together.  So it’s worth taking the time to cut the template out. 

Step 2:   I thought it was easier to show you in pictures than to try and explain the weaving process, so here we go.  Fit part of the white inside the loop of the red. 

Then slip the lower part of the red inside the white loop.


And finally, 

Then you should have a basket you can open up.  You can tape a handle to it and fill it with small treats and you are all set.

Book Recommendation for today:  A great Valentine’s Day picture book which has a great message (without being preachy) is Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch, by Ellen Spinelli and illustrated by Paul Yalowitz (Simon & Schuster 1996). One wintry day, a postman delivers a mysterious package with a big pink bow to a lonely man named Mr. Hatch. 
"Somebody loves you," the note says. 
"Somebody loves me!" Mr. Hatch sings as he dusts his living room. 

When Mr. Hatch is happy, he spreads his cheer around town. When he learns the package was delivered to his house by mistake, he returns to his rather grumpy ways. But his neighbors learn of his plight and repay his kindness.

Day 185 - Turn it Around Art Project


Here’s a great way to introduce your kids to symbolism in art. A really talented Florida author/illustrator, Janeen Mason has a template for this on her website.

Use her template and follow the instructions. We didn’t have black felt at home, so we just traced the template on one side of a paper. Then on the other side drew the outline of a fish.  We asked the kids to draw a “dead fish” on one side and a happy healthy fish on the other side of the paper.  

We then discussed that the art is a symbol for the choices we have to make on keeping our waterways healthy in Florida.  We have several rivers that are very sick. But we can turn it around by changing the way we care for our water and our environment.  The act of turning over the paper made the symbolism very clear to the kids. They had a lot of fun. 


If you want more information about Florida Waterways, here are some good sites: 

Educational Resources from St. John’s Riverkeepers:  http://www.stjohnsriverkeeper.org/the-river/education-resources/

Florida’s Springs:  http://www.floridasprings.org/protecting/

Books to go with this project: Ocean Commotion by Janeen Mason (Pelican Publishing 2012). 

The Secret River by Florida author Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings (Atheneum 2011). A classic story that is worth sharing with a new generation. 


Starred Review. Grade 3–5—Rawlings penned what she called a “child’s story” in 1947 to accompany paintings by Robert Camp. Found in her papers after her death, The Secret River was finally published in 1955; it posthumously received a 1956 Newbery Honor. Originally illustrated by Leonard Weisgard, the 55-page story followed young Calpurnia and her ever-constant puppy, Buggy-horse, on a self-determined expedition to “turn hard times into soft times.” Spurred on by Mother Albirtha, a wise woman of the forest, the girl and her dog find a fish-filled river and, with the help of a red boat and the pink paper roses tied to Calpurnia’s pigtails, bring in a giant catch and cleverly devise a way to get the fish back home. 

Lego Math - adding fractions

We recently reviewed our Hershey’s bar fractions recently. But I think this visual does a better job of teaching the addition of fractions.  We also found that once those candy pieces were apart, we ate them too quickly to add them back up again. ; )

TV-free Day 184: Santa Shells

What to do with all those shells our kids picked up on the beach throughout the summer?  We’ve washed and dried them and made Santa Shells for the tree.

What you need:

  • Any oblong shell at least two inches long. We used Eastern Oyster shells, they are abundant in Florida and they often have interesting patterns.
  • Paint
  • Hot glue gun and string to hang the ornaments

Step one: Wash and dry the shells

Step two: Paint the base skin color for Santa. Then blend it with pink for his cheeks. Let it dry.

Step three: Paint the red hat and let it dry.

Step four: Paint the white for his hat and beard. Let dry.

Step five:  Attach a ribbon or string in a loop shape on the back side of the shell to hang as an ornament.

This took two days for us to complete due to all the drying in between.

Books to go with this activitySanta’s Time Off by Bill Maynard (Putnam Juvenile 1997).  Have you ever wondered what Santa does when Christmas is over? Does he ever get a vacation and head to the beach? These wonderful illustrations and easy poems are a fun way to think about how Santa might relax.

For the chapter book set, try Santa Paws #9: Santa Paws on Christmas Island by Kris Edwards (144 pages Scholastic 2007). The Callahans are about to settle in for an unusually snowy holiday at home, when a last minute opportunity lands them in the tropics instead. With surfboards, sand castles, and sunshine, this vacation to Christmas Island might be the best trip the Callahans have ever taken.
While the Callahans try to relax, Santa Paws is hard at work. He saves people from drowning and even prevents Abigail the cat from being devoured by an alligator. But before the holiday is over, it’s Santa Paws who will need to be rescued.

Family media diet from HealthyChildren.org

I LOVE THIS idea….just like food, the eye-candy of TV and screen time has a place in our kids’ lives. But it shouldn’t be the staple food in that diet. And just like with sweets, parent have to say no and be gentle but firm about setting boundaries with the screen. I’m not opposed to screen time, just don’t want it to be all consuming…

Check out the article here: http://www.healthychildren.org/English/family-life/Media/Pages/How-to-Make-a-Family-Media-Use-Plan.aspx

What do you think? How do you find balance with your kids and screen time? 

Day 183: Float your boat


I like boats, but prefer to watch them from the shore rather than be in them. Here’s a TV-free project that explores what it means to float and how to make a cardboard boat.

You will need:

  • Cereal boxes
  • Duct tape (again….isn’t it great?)
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Weights for your boat (optional)


1. Talk to your kids about what makes a boat float and what shape of boat might be best. How much weight can a boat handle before it sinks or tips over? How fast does it sail? Does the shape of the boat (the width of the bottom of the boat, etc.) matter in that?

2. Decide on your shape. My eldest wanted to try a canoe shape, since that has been used for centuries. She used the bottom of the box (without cutting away the thin part it stands on) to create this template:


She then curved up the sides and began taping it all together. I had to hold it in place a bit while she first got started.


Then I hot glued all of the corners for both boxes. Notice that the very top of the cardboard here was not covered. We learned from that at the end, as the more weight put in the boat, the lower it sat in the water. Once the water reached the top where there was no tape, it drenched the boat and it sank.


My youngest tried the cereal box in its original shape and just cut off one side.


These early concepts were enough for us; we didn’t get into buoyancy or more technical science. For more on that, you may want to try this video explanation for kids from Discovery.com: http://science.discovery.com/tv-shows/what-the-ancients-knew/videos/what-the-ancients-knew-buoyancy-defined.htm

Jayne’s Boat Book Recommendations:

Picture book: If you want to see a whale by Julie Fogliano and illustrated by Erin Stead (Roaring Brook 2013). If you want to see a whale, you will need to know what not to look at. Pink roses, pelicans, possible pirates …

In this quiet and beautiful picture book by Julie Fogliano and Erin E. Stead, the team that created the Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor book And Then It’s Spring, a boy learns exactly what it takes to catch a glimpse of an elusive whale.


Middle grade: We just finished reading Navigating Early, (Delacourte 2013) by Newberry winner, Clare Vanderpool.  This book is a bit complex for a six-year-old in terms of vocabulary, but overall a lovely read.  Jackie’s mother has died suddenly, leaving him alone with his navy father that doesn’t quite know how to deal with his son.  Dad sends him to boarding school where he meets Early Auden, the strangest of boys, and they begin an adventure through the Maine woods that teaches them about life, loss, and the aftermath of war.  Vanderpool is an excellent story teller, who weaves together a wonderful plot that includes nautical information for those of us that are land-locked or have never seen a pirate or volcano in person.

Day 182: Marshmallow launchers

imageTo make marshmallow shooters you will need:

  • 1/2 inch PVC pipe (so that the inside of the pipe measures 1/2”)
  • Mini Marshmallows (which happily measure just a little less than 1/2”)
  • Duct (Duck Tape brand) for decoration, if you’d like.

I like to keep things simple and this is about as good as it gets.  We bought 1/2 inch PVC pipe and had the home store cut them to one foot long.  Then the kids wrapped them in their duct tape color of choice, just to differentiate and decorate them.



Put a mini-marshmallow in the end opposite of where you’d like to blow it out with your mouth. Trust us, it doesn’t work if it is near your mouth—it gets sticky and icky quite quickly.

Finally, we made a rule that everyone understood all marshmallows must be shot **outside**.  Then the launching began.

  • How far can you get a marshmallow?
  • Can you shoot one into a bucket?
  • Can you hit each other? (only time I’ve ever allowed that one of course)

Our kids had a ton of fun with this and it was a great way to spend a TV-Free afternoon.

Jayne’s book recommendations to go with this: The Marshmallow Game Book by Justin N. Smith. http://www.justynsmith.com/2010/10/new-resource-the-marshmallow-game-book/ 

This is a departure from my normal recommendations. As I began a search for a Marshmallow-inspired book, I came across this free downloadable book from a youth pastor in Minneapolis. It has more marshmallow games than I ever thought possible, and indicates whether you’ll get sticky in the process. Very cool resource for those of us that like a little sweet time with the kids.


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