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Awesome Idea for Displaying Student Work

A creative teacher on the A to Z Teacher Stuff Forum has posted a wonderful idea: a "quilt" you can make for displaying student work. The quilt is made of Zip-loc bags and duct tape. Best of all, you can remove and replace papers as time goes by. I'm so excited about this, I'm going to make one tomorrow. In the meantime, check out the excellent photo tutorial.

Free Fonts for Teachers

I make a lot of my own worksheets, signs, and classroom materials. I do this partly because I like to customize them based on student needs, and partly because I just enjoy it. Now that I'm working with preschoolers in a place that doesn't really have a set curriculum, I'm finding it increasingly necessary to design my own stuff. One aspect of this that I love is searching out just the right font. Here are two of my favorite font finds.

Billy Bear has some cute ones, including a great manuscript tracing font called "Zyia Learns Letters."
Better Font shows you a convenient preview of each font. There are some really cool ones here!


• You can turn any font into a "hollow" shape for coloring. Just look in your font options menu for "shadow" or "outline."
• Speaking of coloring, there are hundreds of "dingbat" fonts - fonts that make pictures instead of letters. Type a letter in one of these fonts using a large size (255 is usually the maximum) and you'll have a black-and-white picture ready to print and color!
• You can also make any font traceable by either using a light gray color. Also try the "emboss" or "engrave" options in your font style menu. They won't be the traditional dotted, but they'll be lighter and act as guides.

Magnetic Board... With Bonus Project!

You didn't think I'd just go buy one, did you? Where's the fun in that?

Yes, I could've bought a magnetic whiteboard. But they're pretty expensive, and the white surface gets gross after you write on it a few times. I'd rather use my small portable whiteboard for writing during circle time and this big, soft-surfaced one for flannel-board type activities.

Materials Needed

• A piece of joist panning. Don't panic. Just go look in the ductwork section of Home Depot or Lowe's. You're looking for a flat piece of metal that's approximately 18" x 30". One end will have an odd sort of fold in it. It costs about $5 or $6. Watch your fingers on those sharp edges.
• 1 yard of fabric. Get something that's a medium weight in a neutral color. Avoid patterns.
• Spray glue
• Strong scissors or metal snips
• Optional: 1/4" eyelets and eyelet tool; hammer; large nail

How to Do It

1. First, use your scissors to cut off the folded edge of the metal. Save that piece for the bonus project! Then round off the corners for safety. Please, please be careful. The edges of the metal will be sharp and the pieces will have the tendency to fly around. Wear gloves and eye protection so you don't end up bleeding like I am right now.
2. Optional: If you want holes for hanging, now's the time to make them. Use a hammer and large nail to do it. Make sure you put the metal sheet over a very thick pad of newspaper or a phonebook... Or, have someone handy use a power drill with a large bit; test the bit size on scrap wood first by drilling a hole and sticking in an eyelet. (Thanks, Dad!) Make the hole slightly bigger than you think it should be.
3. Put the metal sheet on newspaper. Spray it all over with spray glue and position your cloth on top of it. (Yes, even over the holes.) Press to smooth out wrinkles. Spray glue is usually repositionable to some extent, so if there are wrinkles you should be able to lift up the cloth and fix them.
4. Trim your cloth, leaving a 1" edge around the metal. Flip the whole thing over and glue the cloth around the back. For a neater look you should start by pulling in each corner and gluing; then do the sides. You may want to use a more easy-to-control glue on the back. I used Gem-Tac.
5. Optional: Locate the holes under the cloth and carefully snip the cloth open over each one. Insert an eyelet and attach as directed by the eyelet tool instructions. If you can't get the eyelet to bend due to the thickness of the metal, you may have to use a strong adhesive like Gorilla Glue to attach it.

Variations & Tips

• Add a fancy trim with ribbon.
• If you like, make the bottom third of the board green (for land) and the rest blue (for sky). This would be perfect for storytelling of any kind.
• When you're done, you have lots of options for making figures to put on your board. You can use cardstock printouts or fun foam sheets. Just cut off a piece of magnet tape and stick it to the back of each one. You can even attach magnets to those old flannel board pieces! You can also get printable magnet "paper."

The shapes in the photo above were made out of fun foam with magnet tape on the back. They took less than five minutes to make.

Bonus Project!

Use that leftover length of metal to make a magnetic strip to put anywhere in your classroom. Glue and wrap it with the extra cloth and attach to the wall with Velcro.

Pretty Ribbon Mobiles (Wind Socks)

This project was inspired by an article from the now-defunct Martha Stewart Kids magazine. It's a refreshing take on the old "wind sock" art project. The original idea was to hang one of these up in a nursery, as a mobile for a baby. I think they're just plain pretty in any room. You can do one for your classroom, or have your students do it as a project.

Materials Needed

• Embroidery hoop (I used a 7" one)
• Ribbon in various colors and patterns, cut into 1-yard lengths; or cloth strips
• Yarn cut into 1-yard lengths
• Double-stick tape

How to Do It

1. Line the inside edge of the embroidery hoop with double-stick tape. (An embroidery hoop actually has two parts, so just separate them and use one.)
2. Drape the ribbon and yarn pieces over the hoop, pressing each one so it sticks to the tape.
3. Add more tape on top of the ribbons if you want more than one layer.
4. Take two lengths of ribbon, about two feet long each, and tie them to the hoop in four places. Try to make them equidistant from one another. These will be the hangers.


• You're not limited to these materials. You could use slices of cardboard tubes instead of the hoops. Yarn or streamers could replace the ribbons. You could also glue the ribbons on rather than tape them - but I prefer taping because it makes the ribbon reusable.
• Use color schemes if you're making these to decorate for a special occasion.
• These would be wonderful to hang outside or in a hallway.

What Teachers Make

What do YOU make?

DIY Teacher Survival Guide

Teachers, take note! DIY Life has posted an excellent article on how to survive that first week of school. The suggestions are ideal for both new and veteran teachers. Having spent five hours moving furniture just today, I can certainly get behind their ideas for scheduling in some relaxation time.
Going back to school is just as exciting and demanding on teachers as it is on students. Unlike students, however, most teachers have the added stress of family and household demands. So, here's a survival guide for the teacher on easing back into the school year without fainting from exhaustion.
Check out the Teacher's First Week Survival Guide.

Toilet Paper Roll Bracelets

Crafty blog Whip Up has a fun project for kids: bracelets out of cardboard toilet paper tubes. A snip here, a dab of glue there, and voila! What a super way to teach about recycling, too.

I can easily see this being converted into a seasonal project. For Halloween, you could use orange and black papers. For Christmas: red, green and gold. It would also make a sweet Mother's Day gift.

I think I'll do this project with my preschoolers sometime soon. I've got to do something with all the cardboard tubes I've been collecting this summer!

Paper Models of Polyhedra

This would have been just the thing back when I was teaching middle school math. These wonderful polyhedra nets are printable PDFs that you can color, cut out and assemble. Some of them are simple and some fantastically complex. A number of people have decorated these patterns to make incredibly beautiful art; here's one example.

Although the assembly instructions are lacking - when there are any at all - they're pretty self-explanatory. Several of the figures involve making a number of "spikes" that are then glued together. I suggest gluing as you cut. Use a quick-grab glue, like Aleene's Fast Grab Tacky Glue. When you get to the last piece, attach two tabs and let the glue dry before trying to attach the rest.

Even though I now teach preschool, I'm making some of these to hang up in my classroom. After all, it's never too early to teach about dodecadodecahedrons. To hang them up, tie a bead around a piece of string. Thread the other end of the string through a needle and push the needle up through the inside of one of of your polyhedron's points before you attach it to the rest of the model.

Smaller versions would make great Christmas ornaments. And I'm sure someone out there can figure out a safe way to illuminate these from within. You could hang beads or tassels from the points. You could also make bigger stars by enlarging the patterns on a copier. For reference, the one pictured is a "Seventh Stellation of the Icosahedron." Made with the patterns at 100%, it measures about 6" across.

By the way, if you or your students have trouble visualizing how nets come together to make polyhedra, check out this neat tool.

Molded and Painted Plaster Projects

Every time I go to the craft store I look at those white plaster figurines that are meant to be painted and displayed. Usually they're seasonally themed, such as Santas or Easter bunnies. They look like they'd be lots of fun to do with kids... but if you have a good-sized class, they're not cheap. Luckily, there is a less expensive way to do this project - a way that also allows you much more freedom in the theme and shapes. These make great gifts!

Materials Needed

Decorative soap or candy molds of your choice
Plaster of Paris or Durham's Water Putty

How to Do It

1. Mix up your plaster or putty according the the manufacturer's directions. I prefer Durham's Water Putty, which you can get at any large hardware store. It's a little more expensive than plaster of Paris, and takes longer to set, but it's much more durable.

2. Pour the plaster into the molds. Shake the molds gently from side to side to help remove any bubbles. Place them on a level surface that won't be disturbed. Allow them to set until firm, and then pop each piece out.

Another way to approach this is to pour the plaster into a small disposable bowl. Press small objects into it to make patterns or images. You can also do hand- or footprints if you pour it into a plate. However, I admit I've not had much success with either technique. I find it hard to get the plaster at the right consistency; it tends to be too runny or too stiff and a mistake means lots of waste. For that kind of thing I prefer clay.

3. Paint and embellish your creations. They can also be colored with markers. See below for ideas!

Variations and Tips

• Smaller pieces work well as magnets. Hot glue a strong ceramic magnet to the back of each one.
• You can use these as embellishments for picture frames, boxes, or on greeting cards.
• To make ornaments or pendants, place a loop of wire in each unset piece. You can also use a paper clip.
• To make a pin, let the plaster set just a bit and then gently press in a pin finding.
• For colored plaster, add a few drops of food color to the water you use to mix it up.
• Older kids can make their own molds out of modeling or uncured polymer clay. They can sculpt their own or press the clay around small objects. Be sure there are no holes where plaster could leak out. After the plaster sets, peel away the clay.
• There are also materials on the market specifically for making molds. There is a soft two-part putty that makes a great flexible mold, as well as liquid latex that can be painted over an object in successive layers until a mold is created. These are more expensive but might be the right choice for more advanced students.
• Plaster of Paris and putty powders can be inhaled, so use caution with younger children.

Need Children's Books?

Are you one of those people with tons of books all over your house? I've discovered a great way to get rid of some of my old books and stock my classroom library all at the same time.

It's called PaperBack Swap and it's very easy to use. It's free to join. All you have to do is put your unwanted books up on the site. If someone wants a book you have, you get notified and you send it out to them. When they indicate that they got the book, you get a credit to get a book from anyone else on the site. The only cost to you is the postage for sending out your own books, which runs between $2-$2.50 each. The books you get are yours to keep.

If you want instant gratification, you can also purchase credits for $3.45 each. There is no shipping charge. This makes PBS the cheapest place to get books on the web. (Even a 1-cent used book on Amazon still carries a $3.99 shipping charge.)

PaperBack Swap also has a sister site where you can trade CD's. I believe the credits between the two sites are interchangeable.

You'll love this, trust me! I've gotten tons of books so far, and cleaned out a lot of dusty old ones in the process. Unlike giving them to charity, with this system you know each book is going to someone who genuinely wants it. If you live in an area that lacks a decent library or used bookstore, PaperBack Swap could be one solution. Try it!

Popsicle Painting

It turned hot and muggy in my region today, and I was thinking about ways to get the kids cooled off. I remembered a project I did a few weeks ago with another group and I thought I'd share it with you now.

I call this "Popsicle Painting," although depending on the materials you use it may be wise to name it something else so the kids don't try to eat it. All you need to do is fill up an ice cube tray with water and color each cube with food coloring or liquid watercolor. You could probably also use powdered tempera. Put a popsicle stick in each one - they don't have to be upright - and freeze. (If you really want the sticks straight, cover the tray with plastic wrap, cut slits over each compartment, and put the sticks in so the wrap holds them vertical.)

Take your kids outside and let them paint with the frozen paint cubes. For a short activity, do it in the sunlight. To extend it, do it in the shade.

You can use a regular ice cube tray, a popsicle-making mold, or even just disposable cups. I actually have a special "Ice Tube" tray that is perfect for this project. It's meant for making ice that can be slipped through the narrow neck of a water bottle. It makes ice that is thin and cylindrical, about the size of jumbo crayons, and it freezes up really fast. You don't necessarily need the sticks if you use this type of tray, an omission which may reduce the kids' temptation to take a taste.


• You could certainly make these edible if you wanted. Mix up a batch of a light-colored drink, like lemonade-flavored Kool-aid or apple juice. Pour it into the tray and color with food coloring. Insert sticks and soon you'll have a fun summer treat.
• Try placing paper on metal cookie sheets. Put a few pieces of colored ice on the paper and tilt the cookie sheet to slide it around. As it melts it will leave trails of paint behind.
• If you don't have time to make special ice, just let the kids paint as usual with brushes, and then run plain ice cubes over their papers to make designs.

Bulletin Board: On the Path to Preschool

This is an easy - albeit messy - bulletin board that I did just yesterday. First, we had the kids print both of their handprints on construction paper using tempera paint. Later I cut them out and matted them on top of contrasting colors.

Next, we painted the bottom of each child's foot and had them walk across a long sheet of paper. This is much easier if you have two adults: one to paint the feet and help the kids walk, and another at the end of the paper to pick each one up and dunk his feet in a bucket of soapy water. You could also do it all outside. Either way, make sure you hold on to each kid as he takes the first couple of steps, since the paint is slippery.

Once everything was dry, I just mounted the art and the letters on the board as shown. It really brightens the room and I've gotten a lot of nice feedback from other teachers and parents.

By the way, here's a good tip for when you're painting kids' hands and feet. Even if you're using so-called "washable" tempera, you can make cleaning up even easier by stirring some liquid soap into the paint before using. Regular hand soap or dishwashing liquid work fine. I can't recall who taught me that, but I know it was one of my wonderful co-workers... so whoever it was: thanks.

Altered Clock

There are three kinds of teachers:

1. The teacher who looks at an ugly or boring object in her classroom - in our example, a clock - and thinks, "Yuck. They really should buy us nicer clocks." Which she knows "they" won't do, so she ignores the clock for the rest of the year.

2. The teacher who looks at that clock and thinks, "Yuck. I'm going to buy us a nicer clock."

3. The teacher who looks at that clock and thinks, "Yuck. Warm up my glue gun. There's work to be done."

Yeah, I'm a #3. If you are too, you understand why I come home after working 10 hours and then work three hours on projects like this one.

Materials Needed

Cheap plastic clock (see below) and battery for it
Flat head screwdriver
Mod Podge - gloss or matte
Tissue paper (color doesn't matter)
Acrylic paint
Strong glue
Scrapbook paper
Permanent double-stick tape
Embellishments (see instructions for ideas)

Which clock to choose? I've actually done this project several times, and the best clocks I've found are the cheapo ones from Wal-Mart. These are plain, round plastic clocks that come in various colors. Usually, they're attached to the packaging with screws, which is very annoying. Almost any clock will work, though - just take a look at it first and see if you can work out how to disassemble it, since that's what we're going to do first.

This tutorial assumes you have a cheap Wal-Mart clock, probably one of those "Mainstays" ones in the blue box. You can probably figure out how to get the same result with other types of clocks.

How to Do It

1. Remove the clock from the packaging and flip it over. You should see a square black box with a space for a battery. Insert your battery and make sure the clock works. You don't want to spend a whole bunch of time on something that's defective, right? Now, remove the battery and look at how the clockworks are attached. On most cheap clocks, it will be held on with two plastic clips. It's pretty easy to stick a flat tool, like a screwdriver, behind one of these clips to push it back and remove the box. Pull it straight out. When you do, the clock hands on the other side will fall off. This is okay.

2. Next, we're going to remove that clear plastic over the face. You will probably find that the plastic is attached to the casing with three tabs. Stick your screwdriver between the clear plastic and the casing, right at one of the places where the tabs are. Gently push in and up, and it should slide right out. Don't worry if you break any of the little tabs in the process. You can always just glue the clear face back in if you have to.

Set aside the clear plastic and the clock hands for now.

3. The fun part! Pull out the ugly clock face. Don't destroy it; you need it for the next step. Note where the "12" was and mark that spot on the case. (Usually the clock face has a tab to hold it in at the position of the 12, so you may not need to mark it.) Get yourself a pretty piece of scrapbook paper. Trace your clock face onto this paper, and make marks for each hour. Don't skip this step; it helps a lot later on. Don't forget to trace the hole in the middle.

Now you'll want to add numbers to your new clock face. There are lots of ways to do this. What I did was print out nice numbers onto paper of a coordinating color. Then I applied a clear, round epoxy sticker over each number for a 3-D effect. You can get these stickers at any store that sells scrapbooking supplies, and they come in lots of sizes. The ones shown are 1" in diameter. After pressing firmly, cut carefully around each sticker.

Glue the numbers into place. This is where those hour marks will help. Leave about 1/2" between each number and the edge of the face. Allow the glue to set and then cut out the clock face, including the hole in the middle. Set it aside for now.

4. Now we're going to alter the case itself. Because plastic resists most paints, I have a unusual method of adding color. What you'll need to do is use the Mod Podge to adhere a layer of tissue paper to the frame around the clock. Use thin layers of Mod Podge and small pieces of paper. You're basically decoupaging here, so go right over the tissue paper too.

5. Allow the decoupaged clock case to dry. Now it should accept acrylic paint, so have a ball! I used Lumiere metallic paint in Pearl Violet. Paint right up to the edge of the clock face.

Also, paint the inside ridge of the clear cover. Since it's not going to be touched once the clock is reassembled, no surface preparation is necessary. This prevents the unpainted white edge of the clock face from ruining the effect.

6. Allow everything to dry completely. Then use several pieces of double-stick tape to affix the new clock face into the case. You don't want to use glue, since it may buckle the paper. Make sure your "12" is at the original top of the clock. And don't put the clear plastic back yet!

7. Re-insert the clockworks into the back of the clock, and put the hands back on. If you want, you can embellish the hands.

8. Get the clear plastic part, align the tabs with the holes, and press it back into place.


6 Ideas for Displaying Student Work

Admit it: you grumble, but you love this time of year. It's in August that we begin thinking about how we're going to set up our classrooms. Right now, you're thinking about where your shelves are going, whether your desks will be in rows or groups... and where on earth are you going to put your math center? And somewhere in all this, you're almost certainly thinking about how to display your new students' work.

Whether it's the scribbles of toddlers or the artwork of teens, I believe very much in the importance of displaying student work in ways that respects their talents and efforts. If you work in a large school, you likely have access to display cases and hallway bulletin boards, two great ways to showcase what your kids are doing. Others are not so lucky and deal with limitations on space and display methods. Regardless of your situation, here are a few ideas for making sure your students get recognized.

1. Instead of grouping work by project, give every student a specific place in the room and rotate the work that is placed there. You can staple a plastic page protector or or large Zip-loc bag to the wall and switch work in and out, or make cardboard frames. You could even buy plastic frames.

Try making a large frame for each child out of half a sheet of black posterboard. Laminate them and maybe spruce them up with silver ribbon on the edges. Then put white construction paper on the wall in rectangles the same size as the frames. The frames will go over these rectangles. Student work will go inside the frames. The background paper can be switched with the passing seasons and as it gets ratty from staples. Place a "plaque" with the child's name under each frame to add that museum authenticity.

2. String fishing line from one end of the room to the other, and use clothespins to hold up papers.

3. Use Velcro to attach clothespins to the wall. Glue a photo of a student on each clothespin. Then just slip their work into the clips.

4. Try and find a catalog rack. Ask local businesses if they have old ones they don't need. This could sit on a table and serve as a portfolio for the entire class. You could also make a "book" out of student work using plastic page protectors and a sturdy binder.

5. Get long strips of cork. You can also buy cork tiles and cut them. Attach the strips to the wall and use them to pin up papers without having to deal with a stapler. There are also metal display rails into which papers can simply be pushed.

6. At the craft store, you can buy small plastic easels. Use these to showcase special pieces.

Fence Weaving

Today I was flipping through a great old teaching tips bookwhen I found a lovely idea. Basically, you have your students weave long ribbons or strips of cloth through the wire of a chain link fence.

Sometimes I stand outside on our playground and think about how sad it is that the children have to be confined within an ugly metal fence. I'd never really thought of that ugliness as a palette that could be improved with something as simple as a few bright fibers. I envision the entire length of our fence woven through and through with a rainbow of ribbon, yarn, and cloth, the colors gently fading from exposure to the August sun.

There are obvious educational possibilities here - fine motor development, patterning, even the history of weaving - but let's leave that behind for a moment and focus on aesthetics. The real value in a project like this one lies within the desire to improve our surroundings. It also sends a subtle message to our students: safe boundaries can be something worth celebrating. Although there are limits, we can work within them to create beauty.

I told a colleague about this idea and she immediately insisted we do it as soon as possible. Her unexpected enthusiasm underscored a very basic human craving, a desire to be surrounded by peace and beauty. We were feeling a powerful need not only to refine our surroundings, but to share with our students the very idea that it was possible to do so. As adults we are usually aware of our power and ability to create beauty, even in unexpected places. This knowledge and power must be shared with our students. We are raising the generation that will make or break the very survival of the human race. It's zero hour, folks. If today's child doesn't grow up to recognize her own ability to improve the world, there's little hope for her sons and daughters.

We are surrounded by extraordinary beauty. Let us teach our students to appreciate and increase it before the rosy filters of childhood fall away.

Smashed Flower Prints

Here's a unique way to preserve the beauty of fresh flowers. This project also has a strong sensory component, since the scent of the flowers will be embedded into the print for a while.

Materials Needed

Fresh plant material - flowers, leaves, and greenery
Heavy white paper or cardstock
Hammer or flat rock

How to Do It

1. Lay down a sheet of white paper or cardstock on a protected surface. Thick newspaper is a good choice. A phone book is, too.
2. Sprinkle flower petals and greenery across the paper. You can do it randomly or try to make a pattern. Make sure there are no bugs on the paper.
3. Lay another sheet of paper on top of the plants.
4. Using a hammer or rock, pound all over the paper to transfer the flower pigments. After a while, lift up the top sheet to check your work. Continue if desired.
5. When finished, peel apart the papers and discard the flowers.

Variations & Tips

• Experiment with which flowers work best. Phlox, shown in the photo above, works very well. So do marigolds, violets, and black-eyed susans. Greenery from plants makes wonderful bright colors, but autumn leaves didn't work for me at all. I also found that some flowers with thicker petals didn't work.
• Make sure the plants you use smell reasonably good, because the paper (and your classroom) will pick up their aroma before you're finished.
• Since each project makes two prints, consider having two kids work on the pounding and then letting each person pick which print they want when they're done. To be sure both prints look good you should flip the papers over so hammering is done on both sides.
• If you use flowers with thin petals, you may want to leave the petals right on the paper instead of removing them. Allow to dry completely, and then laminate.
• If you're nervous about giving kids hammers, just give each child a handful of petals and leaves. Let them ball it all up in their hands and smoosh them against the paper to "paint" it.
• Some children might enjoy drawing in stems or a scene after the pounding is done.

Autumn Apples Folder Game

I've created a simple apple-themed counting (1-10) folder game that you can download, totally free, just because I love you. ;) It's suited for preschool through grade 1 and includes two different options for assembly and play. Enjoy.

Toys From Household Items

Matt, of Unclutterer, has posted some fun ideas for using common household items to entertain your small one. Click here to take a look. And check out the rest of the blog for ways to reduce clutter - many of them are just as useful in the classroom as they are at home.

Make Your Own Magic Wand

With the release of the final Harry Potter title - and I admit freely that I am a huge fan of the whole series - I've been experimenting with DIY magic wands. This article details several different ways to create a wand, from the extremely simple to detailed and complex. These make great projects for all ages, props for your dramatic play center, or additions to your Halloween costume.

Wand Bases

1. Extreme simplicity: Use a plain stick, dowel, paper towel tube, popsicle stick, unsharpened pencil, ruler, chopstick, wooden spoon, or just roll up a piece of paper and tape it. Let the kids use their imaginations.

2. Natural wand: Find a nice, fallen stick, or cut a sucker from the base of a tree. If you live near the ocean, driftwood is a wonderful choice as well. Make sure it's not rotted. Break it so it's just the right length and carefully peel off the bark. Sand it with coarse sandpaper. You can get the ends smooth if you put the sandpaper in your palm and then twist the stick's ends into it, although it may take a while. Finally, sand it again with finer sandpaper. Paint or stain, if desired. You can then seal it with clear varnish or polish it with furniture wax.

3. Dowel wand: Cut a long dowel or purchase shorter lengths. See tip below about rounding off the ends. Embellish with paint, stain, glitter, etc.

4. Paper wand: I wish I could take credit for this neat idea. Basically, you roll up a sheet of paper, decorate it with hot glue, and paint it using special techniques to make a wonderfully authentic-looking wand. I'm not sure how long these would last with younger kids, but with fairly gentle handling they'd be fine. This could be done with cardstock for something more sturdy. See the whole project at DadCanDo, and the amazing light-up version over at Instructables.

5. Pipe wand: Use a length of copper or PVC pipe. You can purchase caps that fit the ends. This is a fun one, because you can insert your "phoenix feathers" and whatnot before sealing. The hollow construction makes it easy to put in a crystal or marble at the tip for a truly pretty effect.

6. Wooden trim wand: Get a strip of wooden trim. These are wood strips that have been carved into patterns, and they're used to add decorative edges to household and craft projects. You can cut two pieces of equal length and glue the flat sides together to make a wand that looks like it took a lot of work.

7. Knitting needle wand: You could use plastic knitting needles, but I don't like their pointiness. Instead, try wooden ones. They usually have pretty "handle" ends, and the pointy tips can be sanded down. This is too costly for a class project but if you only want one or two, it might be worth it.

8. Wire wand: Get some heavy copper wire from the hardware store. Bend and twist it together into the desired length and shape.

9. Venetian blind opener wand: I don't know what they're called, but you know those clear plastic rods that are used to twist open venetian blinds? Broken to the right length and with the ends sanded for safety, they make unique wands. You can get them at your local Home Depot or Lowe's. You might even be able to find hollow ones that you can fill like the acetate wand (see below).

10. Acetate wand: Instead of rolling up plain paper, try rolling up a blank transparency sheet. Tape the roll in place at each end. Fill one end with hot glue to close it. Now you can fill the tube up with glitter, confetti, feathers, tiny beads, or anything else you want. Seal the other end with hot glue. You can wrap colorful paper around the tips to conceal the tape, if you like.

11. Aquarium lift tube wand: Pet stores sell aquarium lift tubes, which are used to circulate water in fish tanks. They're clear and about 3/4" to 1" in diameter. You can design caps for each end out of polymer clay and glue them on with lots of waterproof glue (pick up some aquarium sealant while you're at the pet store). That would make the wand fillable; try baby oil and confetti.

12. Soft 'n bendy wand: Cut two strips of felt or other thick fabric about 1" longer and wider than you want the wand to be. Sew together one short side and two long sides. Turn inside out. Now take a length of very thick copper wire (very cheap to get by the foot at Home Depot) and make a small loop at each end. This will prevent the wire from shifting too much or poking through the fabric. Insert this into the wand and stuff it with cotton balls or polyester fill. Sew it closed and embellish as desired. This one is excellent for the littlest ones.


1. Fancy handle wand: Use any of the following to create a fancy handle on any stick or dowel:

• Clay (air-dry, natural, polymer)
• Hot glue
• Durham's Rock Hard Water Putty (from your local hardware store)
• Papier mache
• Layers of masking tape or glued paper
• Mini wooden candlestick
• Large-holed beads or dowel topper
• Leather, cloth
• Wire
• Ribbon
• Yarn, embroidery thread
• Drawer pull
• Attach a marble by dabbing on strong glue and wrapping with cloth or leather
• Wooden jumprope handle
• Wind/glue on a long strand of seed beads
• Pen barrel (see below for painting tip)

2. Fancy tip wand: Gussy up the business end of your wand with some of these ideas:

• Glue on a quartz crystal point or marble and wrap with leather, cloth or ribbon
• Drill a hole and insert a crystal
• Tie ribbons to the end
• Cut a notch and glue in a wooden star or other shape
• Add a strand or two of beads or feathers
• Glue on a large-holed bead or dowel topper
• Hammer in a decorative nail (check the upholstery section of your craft store)
• Drawer pull
• Jingle bells

3. Decoupage wand: Prepare a smooth dowel. Paint on some Mod Podge and apply cut-out images from magazines, old books, wrapping paper, printouts, even newspaper ads. Paint over the pictures with more Mod Podge to seal. Before sealing you may like to let the wand dry and then apply brown paint to antique it a bit. Just spread on the paint and then wipe the wand with a damp paper towel to reveal the antiqued images.

4. Woodburned wand: Pencil on a simple design and then use a woodburning tool to etch it in. Obviously this one is better for the big kids, but the effect can be stunning. Try using esoteric symbols, like the runes.

5. Crazy pattern wand: As with the paper wand from above, drizzle hot glue all over your stick or dowel and paint as desired.

6. Weathered wand: Paint your wand with a base color. Allow to dry and then paint with crackling medium, a clear gel you can get at the craft store. When that layer is dry, paint with a different top coat and watch the cracks appear! Black paired with silver and gold are really beautiful choices for this technique.

7. Watercolor wand: Layer on watercolors or diluted acrylics for a subtle effect.

8. Silver wand: Large hardware stores carry aluminum tape, which is basically sticky aluminum foil. Wrap a dowel with this for a neat effect. For extra coolness, drizzle hot glue on your dowel first, or wrap it with cord, wire, or layers of narrow masking tape. Then cover with the shiny tape and burnish with the back of a spoon. If the aluminum tears, just add some more on top. Paint with black paint and wipe, leaving the crevices dark and the wand looking antiqued. Seal with varnish.

9. Resist painted wand: Wrap a wand with low-tack masking tape, like that used by painters to mask off trim. paint the unmasked sections. Let dry and peel off the tape. Put on more tape, exposing unpainted wood, and repeat the process until you have a design you like.

10. Shimmer wand: Paint your stick black. Crush up some cheap eyeshadow from the dollar store and dust it lightly over the wand. Seal with varnish.

11. Gemstone wand: Adhere plastic or glass crystal gems all over your painted stick. I like the new Swarovski crystals that have a meltable glue on the backs - you use a special heat tool to melt the glue and apply them. They stay on really well. They're also expensive, but it only takes a few to make a really nice sparkle.

General Tips

• Paint wands in two parts. Paint half of the stick, and then put some masking tape on the unpainted side and stick it to a bookshelf or door frame so it can hang freely. Allow to dry and then repeat with the other end.
• To easily round off a dowel, shave off bits of the ends with a handheld pencil sharpener. Look for the kind that has both large and small openings. Once you have a rough dome shape, sanding it smooth is very easy.
• If you wand has a plastic component, like a pen barrel handle, don't waste your money on special plastic paint. Instead, paint on some glue and cover the plastic with tissue paper. Let dry, and you'll have a paintable surface.
• Some people balk at the word "varnish," remembering the fumes from Grandpa's last furniture refinishing project. The truth is, I never use spray varnish. Inexpensive, safe, no-odor varnish can be found in the craft store aisle beside the 2-ounce acrylic paints. It comes in several varieties and works very well. You can also use Mod Podge (and that's what it's called - people, it's not "Modge Podge." Sorry. Pet peeve.)
• The best glue I've found for wood is Quick Cure Gorilla Glue. If you can't find the new Quick Cure type, the regular stuff works fine too. Make sure you follow the directions on the label and don't let the kids use it. Middle school and up can handle it - just don't get it on skin and clothes.
• If you Google the search term "magic wand," make sure "safe search" is on. Please just trust me on this.


My absolute favorite children's book about wands is The Wandmaker's Guidebook. I bought it for my class but I decided not to use it with them - it's just too beautiful. The beauty of this fascinating book defies description. Best of all, it actually comes with a wand that has a removable handle so you can insert your own secret ingredients.

I was surprised at the beauty and variety of the wands I found on the web, and wanted to share a few links. There are numerous companies specializing in high-quality wands. Their sites are eye candy for anyone seeking to create their own.

Gargoyle Wands
Willowroot Wands
Valley Wands
HP Wands
Wistman's Wands
The Wand Shop
The Noble Collection
Bard Woodcrafts
Crafty Owl
Silverlight Source
Clay Wands
Spirit of Old
The Baby Hammock
Magical Omaha

Cardboard Tube Bag Saver

Someone looked at my 100 Uses For Cardboard Tubes post and asked what I meant by "Bag Savers" (#21). It's just what it sounds like - a handy way to save grocery bags that takes up very little space. Making these takes almost no effort at all. Just stuff a whole bunch of bags into a paper towel or toilet paper tube. Doing this saves a lot of space!

In case you hadn't noticed, though, I like to... embellish things. My plastic bag saver is wrapped with colorful paper and protected with clear contact paper. I attached it to the wall with Velcro. It's a really simple and useful little thing. I'm going to make a couple more and toss one in our emergency bag (the one we grab during fire drills) and one in the bathroom for transporting wet clothes when someone has an accident.

I suppose you could try using a wider tube, like a mailing tube, to hold more bags, but I'm not sure how well they'd stay in.

Either way, this is one of those clever little ideas that'll make the other teachers a bit jealous of your craftiness. :)

DIY Bug Catchers, Nets and Boxes

I noticed from my stats that someone was looking for bug catchers, and it so happens I've got a boatload of ideas for bug collecting. Most of these are for preschool, pre-K, and kindergarten, but I'll add some adaptations for the big kids. Ahh, bugs. Love them or hate them, they're a prime source of interest for younger kids. Although many teachers balk at bringing bugs inside, there are plenty of ways to do so without hurting the bugs or the kids.

Disclaimer: Know your kids and know your region. I don't have any students with insect allergies, and I live in a region where we don't have dangerous critters. I'm not responsible for what happens if you take the deathly-allergic-to-bee-stings kid bug collecting in a field full of nasty venomous beasties. I'm just sayin'.

Another Disclaimer: Please don't try to catch adult butterflies, no matter what the net's called, unless you're doing this with older kids. Younger kids almost always kill the poor creatures. If you want them to see butterflies, collect caterpillars and watch the changes. And for heaven's sake, whatever kind of bugs you catch, don't hurt them. Observe and release.

DIY Butterfly or Bug-Catching Net

To make a bug-catching or butterfly net, you'll need a pole of some kind, strong wire, netting (see below), and duct tape. The pole should be something of an appropriate length and weight for your students. I really like the 3'-4' bamboo poles you can get at the garden store; they're light and seem sturdy. You could also use lengths of dowel, strong sticks, sections of a broom handle, lengths of PVC pipe, or even rulers for smaller nets.

Next, you'll need netting. The obvious DIY choice is old pantyhose, but the problem is finding pieces large enough. A better choice is cheesecloth or that material they use in bridal veils - tulle. Both are pretty cheap and easy to obtain. In a pinch you could really use almost any thin fabric.

To make each net, take a length of strong wire (a cut-up coat hanger works well) and bend it into a circle, with two prongs at each end to attach it to the pole. Place these prongs against the pole and affix them with duct tape. (If you're using bamboo or pipe, you can stick part of the prongs right into the pole before you apply tape.) Now, cut a circle of netting that's about an inch or so greater in diameter than the wire circle. It doesn't have to be perfect.

To attach the net you can go fast and easy or painstaking but better-looking. For fast and easy, just duct tape the edge of the net circle right around the wire loop. For slow but more professional, sew the netting on with strong thread. You may be tempted to use the slower method, but remember this is an item with will likely be dragged through dirt, weeds and mud puddles. I'd save the sewn version for older kids or for kids who will use the net to catch fish or frogs.

You can make a deeper net by using two rectangles of netting whose short lengths are about 5" longer than the wire loop's diameter. Sew or tape three sides of the rectangles together. Attach the open part to the loop. You could also use two long, thin triangles of netting.

Another option for making the net is to use an embroidery hoop. Separate the two parts and insert your netting. Put the parts back together and tighten the screw. Then use wire to attach the hoop to the pole.

Bug Catchers

Tube: You can just use cardboard tubes, or get some lengths of wide, clear plastic tubing at your local Home Depot-type store. (Ask for the plumbing or jacuzzi supplies section.) To use, gently push the bug into the tube and cover one end with each hand. Alternatively, take two lengths of tube. On each one, seal off one end with a binder clip. To keep bugs in this type you just hold the open ends together.

Cup: Tried and true! Give each kid a clear plastic cup and a square of cardstock. Scoop the bug into the cup with the cardstock and then put it on top to keep it inside. Great for spiders!

Bug sucker: Okay, I know some of you are going to cringe at this one, but it looks like a cool idea. Check it out here.

Cut bottle: Cut plastic bottles in half and keep the ends with the caps. Use cardstock circles or butter tub lids to capture the bugs, guide them into the bottle and keep them inside.

Bottle: Just give them empty plastic bottles and caps. Poke holes in the bottles first even if you're only keeping them in there for a few minutes. (When the kids put the covers on the bottles, heat can change the pressure inside them and quickly kill the insects. Please do not ask how I know this.)

Bug Holders

A temporary bug holder can be simple or fancy. All you really need is a closed, transparent container with small holes poked in it for air. Soda bottles work fine.

For something a little more long-term, cut a rectangle out of the side of a soda bottle and tape window screen material or netting over it. You could put soil and small plants inside it first.

I've yet to find a really good, cheap DIY ant farm idea. A few weeks ago, I was inspired to DIY my own gel ant farm, like this commercial one. I figured I could just use Jello - ants like sugar, right? I made some double-strength red Jello and poured it into a soda bottle. Poked some holes near the top and dropped in some ants (yes, from the same anthill). Result: total failure. Glad I only used a few ants, poor things. So if you've got a better idea for a DIY ant farm that's really cheap and lets the kids actually see the tunnels, please put it in the comments!

For More Information

DIY Rattles, Shakers, and Maracas

Whatever you want to call them, making instruments that are shaken to produce sound is a time-honored activity that spans all age groups. Since my school recently had a music-themed week, I've collected some maraca-making ideas to help you shake things up in your classroom. (Sorry.) You’ll find instructions for these kinds of instruments all over the web and in countless books. Here’s a roundup of techniques for creating shaker instruments ranging from preschool-simple up to adult-professional.

A shaker or rattle type instrument is typically (not always) a hollow container in which small objects are placed. Sound is produced, of course, when the instrument is shaken. To make these kinds of instruments you need three basic supplies: small objects to make the sound, something hollow to put them in, and a way to seal it up. A handle can also be added.

The Body of the Shaker

Basically, almost anything hollow and closeable can be used. It all depends on how fancy you want to get and the ages of the people involved.

Cardboard tubes sealed with strong paper on each end, or a paper cup sealed at the top
Empty plastic water bottles
Plastic Easter eggs
Two paper plates
Film canisters
Empty pill bottles (wash first and remove labels)
Metal cans - coffee, juice, tea
Metal boxes - Altoid tins, for example
Papier mache (similar to making a pinata - just use something smaller for the forms, like inflated water balloons)

You can also use dried gourds, available at craft stores in the fall. Many of these come with natural handles and seeds inside, so it may seem all they need is a paint job. Wrong. Dried gourds have dusty mold both inside and outside. Before you use them with kids, an adult should put on a dust mask, take them outside, and give them a light sanding. Then rinse them off. You can drill holes in them so objects can be inserted - just make the holes fairly small and don't let the kids sniff them. Although I have asthma and have never had a problem with gourds, I would avoid using them as a project material with a child who suffers from any respiratory condition.

For a really long-term project, you could dry your own gourds. This one's probably better as a homeschool activity or for a teenager. Just buy some nice decorative gourds at the supermarket and put them someplace cool and dry. For a year. Don't let them touch each other. Turn them over once every few days until they harden, and then let them dry until you hear the seeds rattle. Buy extras, because some of them will rot or otherwise be unsatisfactory.

For a really really long-term project, grow your own gourds. I haven't tried this, mostly because I have a black thumb. I can't even keep a plastic plant alive. Anyway.

Inside the Shaker

You'll want to experiment (or better, let the kids experiment) with different objects and amounts to get just the "right" sound. Also, try combining some of these items!

Unpopped popcorn
Rice, beans
Dry cereal
Ball bearings, BB's
Nuts, bolts, screws
Sand, pebbles, gravel
Jingle bells


Naturally, handle materials will depend on the design of the shaker. In most cases no handle is needed at all. It's usually unnecessary and makes the instrument more likely to break. Still, if you'd like one, consider dowels, tongue depressors, pieces of fallen branches, paper towel tubes, etc.

Sealing the Shaker

Once everything's assembled, you'll need to seal the shaker in some way. How you do this will depend on what you used for the body. For simple instruments, like those made with paper plates, a stapler works fine. Egg shakers should be sealed with strong glue - and I also tape them both ways with colored masking tape ever since the Rice Incident of 2006 (don't ask). A small hole in a gourd can be covered with strong tape or filled with hot glue. Another good option is Gorilla Glue, which has an awesome new quick-setting version.

Shakers in lidded containers may not seem to need sealing, but if you're working with small children it's better to be safe than sorry.

Decorating & Extras

Use any decorating method you like to jazz up your shakers. Young children are fine with stickers or paint. Older kids might like more challenging methods, like decoupage or wood burning (works great on gourds - just wear a mask).

Another fun technique is to add sound-making items to the outside of the shaker. You can do this in addition to what's already inside, or you can have the sound come exclusively from this source. An example of the latter would be the shakere, a gourd instrument with beads or shells strung around the outside.


Rain sticks: Covered in a separate, future post, which will be extremely cool and have a photo tutorial, I promise! :)

Jingle sticks: Nail bottle caps onto dowels and decorate with paint or colored tape. You could also use wire to attach jingle bells to the dowel, and then tape to secure the wire.

Easy tambourine: Get some plastic embroidery hoops (look in the sewing section), various sizes of jingle bells, and some thin but strong wire. Separate the hoops - each hoop yields two instruments - and tie a 3' length of wire around one of them. Thread on a bell. Bring it down to the hoop, bend down the remaining wire, and twist a couple of times. Wrap the wire around the hoop a few times and add another bell. Continue until you go about 3/4 around the hoop, and then tie off the wire. These make a surprisingly nice sound when shaken or tapped against the palm. The hoops and bells come in lots of different sizes and are super cheap, so you can have lots of variety.

Bell wristlets: All you do here is fasten a string of bells around the child's wrist(s) and/or ankle(s). In a pinch just use yarn or plastic lacing. For longer-lasting instruments, use those stretchy woven ponytail ties and sew a few bells on with strong thread. Or get really elaborate and use felt strips with velcro or snap closures. You could also use cloth headbands for a head-shaking instrument! There's a lot of potential here for music and movement activities. You could even have a color-coded set for teaching left/right... Oh, the ideas I get...

Sound discrimination center: The object of this game is to listen and match eggs based on the sounds they make when shaken. Use 6 pairs of plastic Easter eggs with 6 different fillers. Use pairs of colors to make the game easier. For example, fill two blue eggs with pebbles, two green eggs with fine sand, two yellow ones with rice, and so on. Seal with hot glue and/or colored masking tape; store in a plastic egg carton. Voila - for practically nothing, compared to the wooden ones in that expensive catalog. You know the one.

For More Information

Upper- and Lowercase Matching Games With Manipulatives

Here are some ideas for upper- and lowercase matching activities, ranging from cheap and easy to elaborate.

With a little thought, you can create an upper- and lowercase matching game that is partially self-checking. To do it, you'll need two sets of small objects. The two sets should be natural matches for each other - things that normally or potentially go together. Examples:

  • Spoons and forks (plastic)
  • Small wooden circles and squares
  • Clothespins and sections of rope (label the rope pieces with paper strips)
  • Black and red checkers, or counting chips in two colors
  • Pencils and pens
  • Pencils and removable pencil-top erasers
  • Wooden popsicle sticks colored or painted in two different colors, or large and small popsicle sticks

You'll need 26 of each object type. To make the games, simply use a permanent marker to write the uppercase letters on one set of items and the lowercase letters on the other set. For some kinds of items, like black checkers, you'll need to use labels instead.

You may also want to create custom mats or containers for sorting. For instance, if you use spoons and forks, you might have a paper plate for the uppercase letters and another for the lowercase ones.


Write the letters of both cases on counting chips, and provide two plastic piggy banks (or make simple ones from Pringles cans). Mark one bank with uppercase letters and the other with lowercase, or color code them to the chips. Have the children sort the "coins" into the correct banks.

For a slightly more challenging game, 52 of the same item can be sorted into two containers. Just mark 26 with uppercase letters and 26 with lowercase letters. The possible items are endless; any small object that can be written on or labeled could be used. Try some of these:
  • Acorns
  • Pebbles
  • Large beads
  • Buttons
  • Twigs, popsicle sticks, short dowels, straws
  • Can lids, bottle caps, wine corks
  • Old unifix cubes, cuisenaire rods, etc.
  • Old puzzle pieces, Legos
  • Small wooden blocks
  • Marbles (Try the flat ones sold for floral decorating. Write the letters backwards on the flat part; protect with clear sealer, nail polish, or contact paper.)
  • Tile chip samples
  • Paint color samples (Use a large punch to cut out shapes; write on the letters and then laminate.)
  • Mosaic tiles
  • Small plastic toys (Check your local party or dollar store.)
  • Pennies (Disinfect first)
  • Walnut shells, unshelled peanuts
Important: Some of these small objects are not going to be appropriate for children under three!

Pipe Cleaners, Googly Eyes Cut From Elementary School Arts Budget

News parody site The Onion has posted a hilarious commentary on school budgets and art programs.
Pipe Cleaners, Googly Eyes Cut From Elementary School Arts Budget

The Onion

Pipe Cleaners, Googly Eyes Cut From Elementary School Arts Budget

PARAMUS, NJ—"I'd love for students to make Santas with big, bushy beards, but times are tough, and cotton balls don't grow on trees," said Superintendent Jim Eckford.

"Cutting pipe cleaners and googly eyes is simply going to lead to the elimination of more items from school budgets, like Popsicle sticks and yarn," said Geraldine Mailer, president of the Washington Street Elementary School PTA and a mother of four. "To write out one's name, or the name of one's mommy, by pasting dried macaroni to colored paper is to illuminate the human soul. We're going to wind up raising a generation of mindless conformists."

100 Uses For Paper Plates in the Classroom

Here, find dozens of uses for those leftover party plates.

For Inspiration

The Uses

1. Decorate, fill with beans, staple together – maracas
2. Cut to make sun or moon
3. Butterfly or bird wings
4. Emergency index cards
5. Place under paint cups – or use to actually hold the paint for printing projects
6. Frisbees
7. Snowmen
8. Masks
9. Glue on pictures of foods for a tasty wall display
10. Cut in spiral to make a snake
11. Use bottom part to make tracing templates; use whole plate to trace circles
12. Make any number of different animals
13. Make an upper- and lowercase matching game
14. Make mailbox pockets for Valentine’s Day
15. Flying Saucer
16. Glue two or three together to make a stable mobile support
17. Ribbon Dancers
18. Snowflakes
19. Flowers
20. Wreath base
21. Rainbow
22. Crown
23. Life-Size Portraits (use for the head)
24. Put some in the Dramatic Play center
25. Clocks
26. Planet Earth
27. Lily pads with frogs
28. Pumpkins
29. Witch Hat
30. Simple weaving
31. Traffic Lights
32. Stop Signs
33. Make texture touchers
34. Plate Puzzles
35. Hold beads or small craft items
36. Paint them with liquid watercolors and pipettes
37. Tambourine
38. Fan
39. Stencils
40. Sewing Frame
41. Collars
42. Necklaces
43. Stained Glass (Cut out the center, place on top of clear contact paper, press on tissue paper, cover with another clear sheet.)
44. Party Hat
45. Pig
46. Spider
47. Reading Caterpillar
48. Fish
49. Puppets
50. Emotion Faces
51. Rug Skating (Attach the plates to your feet with an elastic and slide around the carpet)
52..... Uh oh... help! Put your ideas in the comments and I'll transfer them up here - with a credit link, if you like! :)

Color Mixing Wands

Demonstrate basic primary color mixing for any age group with sturdy, inexpensive mixing wands or bottles.

We’ve all seen the project where you put oil and water with blue food coloring in a bottle to make “waves.” Oil and water don’t mix, of course, so the oil sits on top of the water and makes an interesting effect. It’s fun to look at and for older children can spark a conversation about liquid density. For the younger ones, though, wouldn’t it be nice to have two primary colors in that bottle, which when mixed would make one of the secondary colors?

Such a product does exist, but the price is a bit steep for what you get. I’ve discovered a cheap DIY alternative that can just as effective and attractive as the commercial tubes. Assuming you already have some basic ingredients and a little bit of creativity, you can make a nice set of color mixing tubes for less than $10.

Materials Needed:

- Three clear, waterproof, sealable plastic containers. Make sure they’re sturdy! Possibilities include tall and slender water bottles, aquarium lift tubes sealed with rubber chair leg caps, clear plastic tubing used for packaging various items, etc. Be creative! I went to my local Dollar Tree and found “bubble wands,” clear capped tubes with a bubble wand and solution inside. Their handles are even the right colors. Perfect!
-Light-colored cooking oil. I used “Pure Wesson Vegetable Oil” just because it was the lightest oil I could find. Whatever you have on hand is probably fine.
- Food coloring (red, yellow, blue)
- Candle-making dye (red and yellow). It might be possible to use crayons instead.
- Glue gun, aquarium sealer, Gorilla Glue, or some other waterproof glue
- Rubbing alcohol (optional)

How to do it:

1. First build your tube, if necessary. Clean it with hot water and, if you want, rinse with rubbing alcohol. If it has two open ends, seal one up and make sure it’s secure. Use lots of waterproof glue. Use more than you think you need, especially if the “wand” will be used by the children (as opposed to just being a demonstration item).

2. Put a few shavings (about a teaspoon) of yellow candle dye into a microwave-safe cup, and pour in the vegetable oil. Microwave this on high for 15-20 seconds. Stir well and repeat until the dye is completely dissolved. Add more if you want a more intense color. Let cool. Repeat to make some red oil. You’ll need about twice as much yellow as red.

3. Now prepare some blue and red water.

4. This step takes experimentation to find the right proportions to make good colors. For me, here’s what worked:

Orange: 2/3 yellow oil, 1/3 red water
Green: 1/3 yellow oil, 2/3 blue water
Purple: 1/3 red oil, 2/3 blue water

5. Pour your colored oil into the tube with the water. Leave a small pocket of air at the top to make mixing easier. The color from the oil shouldn’t migrate into the water, since candle dye isn’t water-soluble. Cover the open end of the tube and give it a good shake. You should get a decent green. If not, you may need to experiment with the intensity of the colors. Tip: don’t try to put food coloring in after you put oil in; it’ll just sit in globules within the oil. Instead, pour off the oil first.

6. When you’re satisfied, securely glue on the cover. Use lots of glue. Trust me, I speak from experience. Colored oil is not easy to get out of a carpet.


- If you can find small tubes with caps, like Steve Spangler Science’s “Baby Soda Bottles,” you could have each child make their own. (Or use mini water bottles.) Just prepare the colored oils beforehand.
- Try placing small objects in the tubes to see how they move through the liquids. Glitter would also be an interesting addition.
- You could use a large soda bottle to make a class-sized demonstration model. I wouldn’t give this to the students, though. Again, I speak from experience.
- To show the principles of separation, try using a dark-colored oil with plain water.
- Although alcohol is sometimes used in place of water in similar projects, be warned – it will pick up the candle dye’s color.

100 Uses For Cardboard Tubes in the Classroom

If you have dozens of paper towel and toilet paper tubes lying around, here are some ideas for using them up!

General Tips:

  • Reinforce the tubes with contact paper.
  • There are many sources for tubes other than your own paper towels and toilet paper. Try calling your local newspaper printer or graphic arts supplier. You can also purchase sturdy mailing tubes, which come with handy stoppers in both ends.
  • For thick tubes, try cutting with a serrated knife or hacksaw.

For Inspiration:

Look What You Can Make With Tubes (Craft)
Fun With Paper Bags & Cardboard Tubes
Adventures With a Cardboard Tube (His First Science Experiments)

100 Uses:

1. Cut them into 1” lengths and use to hold rolled-up posters and student art
2. Dip them in paint and make circles on paper. Try using patterned scissors to cut off one end for interesting effects. Or, make stars/suns by cutting strips into the end and splaying them out.
3. Store extra lengths of electrical cords in them to keep them away from children
4. Totem Poles
5. Pretend Binoculars
6. Pretend Spyglass/Telescope
7. Pretend Megaphone
8. Pretend Campfire
9. Pretend Camera
10. Pretend Vase
11. Color Viewers
12. Choking Hazard Tester
13. Signposts
14. White Picket Fence
15. Elephant Trunk Disguise
16. Goofy Glasses Disguise
17. Duckbill Disguise
18. Scroll
19. Kaleidoscope
20. Rainsticks
21. Bag Savers
22. Bird Feeders
23. Chalk Molds
24. Crayon Molds
25. Snowman
26. Paint, insert small gift, and seal both ends
27. Ribbon Dancers
28. Kachina Dolls
29. Napkin Rings
30. Seed Starters
31. Hamster/Gerbil/Mouse/Rat Toy (just stick them in the cage – they love them!)
32. Make an organizer for pens, pencils, etc.
33. Rockets
34. Magic Wands
35. Marble Run
36. Party Poppers
37. Bowling Pins
38. Wreaths
39. Pretend Candles
40. Dinosaur Bones
41. Olympic Torch
42. Magnetic Pen Holders
43. Maracas
44. Pinwheels
45. Kazoos
46. Multi-Crayon Holders
47. Mini Baskets
48. String & Ribbon Storage (or Dispenser)
49. Solar System Relative Distance Model
50. Lincoln Logs
51. Supports for Egg Painting (cut 1” sections and set the eggs in them)
52. Rabbit
53. Snake
54. Butterfly
55. Bracelets
56. Bats
57. Octopus
58. Fish Puppet
59. Mini Planetarium
60. Bug Catchers
61. Airplanes
62. Guitar
63. Funnels for sand or rice in the sensory table
64. Bubble Wands (line one edge with foil or clear tape)
65. Paintbrush Storage
66. Trace one to make circles
67. Time Capsules
68. Caterpillars
69. Mobile Hanger or Wind Sock
70. Robots
71. Window Decorations
72. North Pole
73. Pretend Firecracker
74. Swirly Hangers
75. Parent Communication Center
76. Raft
77. Trees
78. Paper Tube Zoo
79. Giant Toothbrush
80. Surprise in the Mail (to Parents)
81. Personal Kleenex Holder
82. Nature Collecting Tubes
83. Play Car Tunnels
84. Pipe Cleaner Storage
85. Giant Beads
86. Stacking Game
87. Jumprope Storage System
88. Papier Mache Forms
89. Length Comparing Game
90. Ordering Games (Colors, numbers, etc.)
91. Mini Windsock (use ribbons)
92. Listening Ears
93. Bank
94. Canoe (Cover with contact paper)
95. Mini Ring Toss
96. Tube Trombone
97. Mini Castle
98. Sun Viewer
99. Tube Blocks (Velcro on the sides)
100. Fishing Game