Late last year I decided to try out a Tinker Crate subscription box for my son. He’s a very active kid both physically and mentally. I thought the subscription box would be a great way to keep his mind active, while teaching him about engineering. You can read all about his first experience in my post Tinker Crate: Circuits and Optics! My son had so much fun learning from his first Tinker Crate box, I decided to get him a one year subscription for Christmas. Once it arrived in the mail, he quickly realized we would be making slime and learning about polymers!
Exploring Polymers by Making Slime, Putty, and a Bouncy Ball!
His first box of the year showed up the second week in January. When he jumped off the bus after school, he was super excited to find a box with his name on it. He ran into the house, immediately opened his Tinker Crate box, and here is what he saw!
Inside the Tinkerzine book was a list of items that were included in the box. He laid them all out to make sure he had everything, and then he started reading the book.
Listening to him read, I realized how much I love the Tinkerzine book! Since kindergarten, we have struggled to find books my son is willing to read. He usually finds a book at the library he’s excited about, but he loses interest in about 5 minutes of reading. On the other hand, he loves reading the Tinkerzine book. First, he reads about a new concept, and then reads a hands on experiment to illustrate the concept. This is THE only book my son reads all the way through without me telling him to finish. He eagerly reads between the lessons and experiments.
As he started reading the Tinker Crate Tinkerzine, we both learned he would be exploring polymers. Tinker Crate explained polymers as a chain of molecules linked together. To help visual the concept, they equated the concept to a chain of paper clips linked together. Each paper clip individually represents a singular molecule, and the chain of paper clips is a polymer! The simple representation also illustrated the concept of cross linking polymers as chains of paper clips linking together. The simple explanation helped my son visualize both complex polymers and single polymers (or monomers), both terms he learned while reading!
The first activity to explore polymers was to take a gummy bear and submerge it into water overnight. First my son measured the length of the gummy bear, wrote it in the notebook provided, and then measured it again after it had sat in water overnight. The next morning my son was excited to see what happened to the gummy bear. Not only had it grown a whole quarter of an inch, but it had changed colors too!
After seeing what had happened to the gummy bear, he was excited to move onto the next exercises. Four experiments would teach him more about polymers and chemistry. All four experiments included the same basic ingredients (water and borax), but each experiment taught him how adding an ingredient or increasing the amount of an ingredient changes how a material behaves.
The first experiment in our Tinker Crate was to make slime out of borax, water, and glue. First he mixed borax with water in one cup, and glue and water in another. Using a pipette, my son slowly added the borax/water mixture to the glue/water mixture, and stirred the mixture until it clumped around the stir stick. He scraped all the mixture out of the cup, and had ooey gooey slime!
The next Tinker Crate experiment was to make silly putty. We used the exact same ingredients as we did in making the slime (borax, water, and glue), but also added cornstarch to the glue mixture. I pointed this out to my son, and told him to be aware of how the cornstarch changed the slime.
After playing with the putty for a little, I asked my son what the cornstarch had done. His response? It made it less drippy!
The next Tinker Crate experiment making a bouncy ball out of the same ingredients as the putty. The difference was the amount of the ingredients used. For example, the borax mix had only 2 large scoops of water in it, instead of the cup being half way full. So the borax mix had a higher concentration of borax in it versus the putty. Also, the glue mixture only had cornstarch and glue, and no water.
He mixed all the ingredients together, until it stuck to the stir stick. Then he scraped all of it out and rolled it into a ball!
And viola! He had his very own, hand made bouncy ball!
Making the bouncy ball showed my son that even though you may have the same ingredients, the outcome can be completely different. The amount (or concentration) of a certain ingredient can completely change the end product!
What We Learned!
We had a lot of fun with this month’s Tinker Crate! But the primary reason I bought Tinker Crate was to sneak learning in while he was doing something fun. So let me review what he learned:
- What I love the most about Tinker Crate: He reads! Willingly! We took about 2 hours to complete all the exercises, and he read intermittently the whole time. I think that’s awesome, considering I have to fight tooth and nail to get him to read for 20 minutes! The Tinkerzine book is full of explanations of different concepts like the difference between a liquid and a solid, and cross-linking of polymers, so he was also increasing his vocabulary!
- When I worked in a high hazard chemical factory, I learned how much concentration of ingredients significantly affected the product we were trying to make. My son learned the same concept through the use of simple, harmless ingredients!
- What a POLYMER is. He was already familiar with the concept of a molecule, and the way Tinker Crate explained a polymer as a chain of paper clips was PERFECT for his 6 year old mind! I love how Tinker Crate takes a complex concept like polymers, and explains it a way easily understood by kids.
- How to use a Pipette. To some it may be insignificant, but think about when you learned what a pipette was. Maybe high school chemistry? My son has learned what a pipette is and how to use it, and he’s only in first grade!
If you’re interested in trying a subscription to Tinker Crate, use code SHARE30 to get 30% off the first month subscription!
Make sure you check out my other Tinker Crate posts:
Tinker Crate is a great way to introduce your kids to Engineering concepts!
For other ways to introduce your kids to engineering, check out some of my other posts!
Teach Your Kid to be a Mechanical Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Project Engineer!
Teach Your Kid to be a Reliability Engineer!
Be a Process Engineer: Play “How’s it Made?”
Learn about Forces at the Splash Park!
Exploring Energy: How are Height and Distance Related?
An Explosive View of a Dinosaur
10 Books that Inspire Kids to be Engineers
Toys that Teach Engineering
11 Engineering Toys for Girls!