Winter break is here, which means we get two glorious, homework-free weeks with our kids! Right now, we’re busy prepping for Christmas, but once the holiday is over, my kids will be looking for things to do. We love projects, and while I’m not always as crafty as I’d like to be, we’ve managed to complete some fun, holiday-inspired crafts over the past several weeks. During my time in Bentonville, we were introduced to some creative project ideas available in Walmart’s craft department. One of the ideas that I liked was the Smithsonian Science Kits that hit store shelves earlier this season.
My son, in particular, has become incredibly interested in science, likely timed with what he is learning in school. These Smithsonian Science Kits offer engaging ways for children to learn about science in exciting, hands-on, easy-to-replicate projects. We were sent 3 kits including Magic Rocks, Rocket Science, and Rock and Gem Dig. The very first kit my son wanted to try was the Rocket Science activity which provides an easy way for kids to build and launch a rocket.
For this activity, we put together the foam/plastic rocket which took just a few minutes. Next, we poured the baking soda and vinegar into the tube and gave it a shake (I highly recommend having parents complete this part of the project). Unfortunately, we did not get the result we were anticipating. According to the instructions, our rocket should have soared up to 10 feet. We made several attempts but to no avail. I personally liked the concept of this project including the fact that it comes with a Rocket Engineering Fact Sheet that teaches children the principles of rocket science.
Next, we decided to tackle the Magic Rocks project. The goal was to grow an underwater rock garden and I’m happy to say we were successful. The kit includes a tank, a variety of colored rocks, and the “growing solution.”
During set-up, the instructions stated that we needed to fold a small piece of foil to place at the bottom of the tank, but we were unsuccessful at doing this as it kept floating to the top once we poured in the solution. We broke the rocks up a bit as directed with a kitchen mallet, then placed them on the bottom of the tank, ensuring that none of the rocks were touching. After the solution was mixed with some water, we poured it in the tank and waited for our rocks to grow.
Perhaps the best part of this kit is the fact that kids can see results almost immediately (15 minutes or so). The rocks will continue to grow over the next two hours, up to 4 inches. Included with the kit is a fact sheet about chemical gardens, which is a great way to turn this science project into a learning experiment.
The last project we endeavored was the Rock and Gem Dig. I have to say that this was probably our favorite activity, particularly because it took some time to complete. The kit comes with a sand block (which contains the gems), a pair of goggles, a magnifying glass, a wooden mallet, a wooden dowel, a streak plate, and a brush.
I highly recommend doing this project outside since it’s very messy. Set out some newspaper on an outdoor table and start excavating! Using the mallet and the dowel, begin chipping away at the sand block until you start to see a stone/gem. Continue digging around the stone, being careful not to crack it. Once you’ve released the stone, give it a rinse! There are 11 stones total and we completed this project over several days. Included within the kit is a Gem Stone Guide which talks about how to identify minerals and makes for a great science lesson.
These Smithsonian Kits, which are available at Walmart, begin at just $12.97 and make for a great gift or a fun at-home activity.
What do you do to keep your kids entertained and engaged during Winter break? I’d love to share your ideas below.