(Disclaimer: my camera is still broken, so today's photos are awful. I hope you can still get an idea of this project with the blurry monstrosities I'm about to share.)
Last week, through Ninna's play-based preschool, I had the pleasure of learning about a pioneer in the field of play-based early childhood education--a dynamic woman named Bev Bos. We watched a DVD of various clips of her giving talks on the subject interspersed with one-on-one interviews. During the talks, she stood behind a table full of projects, toys, and tools she recommends for the classroom.
At one point, she picked up a large bowl-shaped gelatinous thing which she proclaimed was a "very large breast implant." Being a tad bit gullible, I believed her at first and wondered how she had access to such a thing. After I realized it was, in fact, gelatin, and after watching clips of children experimenting and playing with it, squirting paint into it, poking holes in it, and so on, I knew we had to replicate this activity at home.
Her explanation of the project calls for pipettes (used to squirt paint into the gelatin as if you are giving it a shot). While I knew what a pipette looked like (primarily from the DVD), I really didn't know what it was for. I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home, thinking that perhaps a pipette would be found in the medical supplies aisle.
Most store employees in my area are bilingual, but I occasionally encounter one whose English is worse than my French, and the logical result is that we conduct our business en francais. On this particular day, I spoke with an employee who was both primarily a French-speaker and hell-bent on finding what I needed. I tried to just keep to myself, knowing I wouldn't be able to communicate, but she wouldn't let me be, so I stood there blank-faced as I tried to figure out how to explain, in French, that I wanted to find some pipettes so that my two children could use them to squirt paint into a breast implant-shaped blob of gelatin.
Eventually an anglophone employee overheard my babbling and directed me to the medical supplies aisle where they did not, in fact, carry pipettes, since pipettes are not a medical device. The closest thing I could find was a large eye dropper/medicine dispenser, so we went with that.
And all of that was a really long way of saying that we did a fun and crazy gelatin activity. When we got home, I found Bos' instructions online here, in a PDF of a book she put together called Oodles of Art Recipes (find "gelatin fun" on page two.)
Bos is particularly adamant about keeping art and science experiences for preschoolers process-focused. I'm pretty good about this already, but watching her inspired me to spend even more time allowing them to just go wild with the materials without focusing at all on a final product.
This activity is excellent in that regard since the longer they play with the gelatin form, the messier and less "finished" it becomes.
Want to play with gelatin?
Here's what to do:
First, gather supplies
**a box of unflavored Knox gelatin
**a pot/pan and spoon
**containers for molding gelatin
**plates to hold your hardened gelatin
**tools: be creative as you like. Fun ideas include baby nose suckers, eyedroppers, pipettes, toothpicks, etc.
**containers of diluted paint
1. The night before, mix plain, unflavored Knox gelatin with cold water. She recommends 16 packets (don't worry, the box contains something like 20 packets) to 12 cups of water. I made a slightly smaller amount, but I kept the same ratio of packets to cups, and I found the gelatin a tad too dense, so you might want to use slightly less.
2. Heat it on the stove until the gelatin dissolves and is clear. Pour into containers that you've sprayed with Pam or a similar product. I made two large mounds, both in stainless steel mixing bowls. You could use anything you have in your kitchen that can withstand the heat of the liquid gelatin. I can imagine lots of fun shapes--a bundt pan would be particularly fun.
3. Leave it in the fridge overnight. Come back and poke at it every so often if you're impatient and have never made jello before.
4. The next day, when you're ready to be wild and crazy, carefully remove your mounds from their containers. Even with the Pam spray, I had to use my fingernail to loosen the edge of the gelatin from the container and very deliberately remove it so it didn't break. After you've removed it, plop it, flat side down, onto a plate--the larger the better, since this will be messy.
5. Give each kid a mound, distribute the tools, and watch them go crazy. Here's what we used for tools:
From left to right: newborn baby snot-suckers, both saved from when my girls were born (and yes...both washed); vitamin dispensers saved from Bojey's vitamins (we use these all the time for projects); the large dropper we bought at the drugstore; and toothpicks.
Also, dilute some paints in small containers. These are highly diluted--there's really only a squirt of paint in each.
The kids had a ball with this. There is no "right" way to do it; you're just giving them a material (gelatin) and some tools and letting them lead the way. The only thing I did was to suggest to Ninna that she might suck up some paint and poke the blob. Here she is trying this for the first time:
Ninna still laughing from the fart noises the gelatin made when she squirted paint underneath it:
Bojey inserting lots and lots of toothpicks: And the remainders of the great gelatin massacre of 2010:
But wait...there's more. In her explanation, Bos mentions that this can be cooked down and re-formed. Are you kidding me? You can re-melt gelatin and shape it again? So I had to try it. I did my best to strain out the liquid and plopped all the big blobs of gelatin back into the same pan (which was conveniently still dirty from the night before) and, in the interest of not catching the paints on fire, I heated it on low for a long time, staying in the kitchen with it.
And what do you know? It's true--you can melt the gelatin down and start again. Ours ended up a light lavender color from the remaining paint. We poured it back into the two stainless steel bowls, and this time we added silver glitter. They're now taking up half of the fridge, so I suppose that means we'll be doing this again soon.
Now I'm feeling inspired by gelatin, devising all kinds of wild plans for it. I'd never considered it a play material before. What fun things have you done with gelatin?