Who says that fireworks are the only fun thing about the 4th of July? Not me! Independence Day is also a great day to do some crafts together with your kids—especially these extra-special, extra-flashy crafts. Grab the Alka-Seltzer and the crayons, because you’re going to make real rockets and fireworks on canvas.
Film Canister Rockets
These rockets are colorful and exciting and even go bang (or at least pop!)—all without fire. Kids are going to love making these messy explosions, and you are under no requirement to tell them that they’re learning science as they play.
You will need:
- Film canisters. These aren’t as easy to come by as they used to be, I know, but even if you can only get your hands on one, I promise that will be plenty. Check out Steve Spangler Science if you want to buy a brand-new set.
- Paint. Look for a washable tempera or acrylic, because it’s going to go flying!
- Large-format paper. The paint will wash off, so you can do this project right on your driveway, but the splashes that the launching rockets make are pretty enough to keep.
- Alka-Seltzer tablets (OR vinegar and baking soda OR yeast and sugar and warm water OR hydrogen peroxide and potassium iodide). Any chemical reaction that releases a gas, whether it’s Alka-Seltzer fizzing in water or yeast eating sugar and releasing carbon dioxide, will make for a good film canister rocket.
- Set up your rocket launch pad. Lay down a sheet of large-format paper in the middle of a large, clear area—depending on the chemical reaction, your rocket can soar 20 feet or more, so you want to be able to see where it lands.
- Prepare your rocket. For an Alka-Selter-powered rocket, put one squirt of paint into the film canister, followed by a glug of water. Drop the Alka-Seltzer tablet into the film canister, pop the lid on, and quickly set it lid-side-down onto the paper.
- Enjoy the lift-off! Anywhere from a couple to several seconds later, the gas being released inside the film canister will achieve enough pressure to pop the canister’s lid off. The lid will stay put, the canister will go flying, and the paint will splash onto the paper in an awesome blast pattern.
- Collect the canister and lid, rescue the Alka-Seltzer tablet if it isn’t completely dissolved, and you’re ready for a re-launch.
These film canister rockets are great fun and make awesome abstract art, but feel free to add some more science in. Challenge kids to compare the reaction that they get from the Alka-Seltzer tablet to the reaction made by baking soda and vinegar, or to figure out a way to measure the height of their rocket’s launch, or to reliably time it.
Melted Crayon Fireworks
Show kids how to play with crayons in a new way, as they splash a canvas with color for a result that will remind you of fireworks in the night sky. Kids who can keep track of an object in each hand simultaneously can do this project; working with melted wax may feel like a big adventure for a younger kid, but using a hair dryer will keep things from getting too hot.
You will need:
- New, unwrapped crayons. New crayons are long enough to keep kids’ fingers away from where the melting will happen. My secret trick for unwrapping crayons is this: Cut down the wrapper with an x-acto knife, then peel the whole thing off in one go.
- Hair dryer or heat gun. A hair dryer will keep the temperature lower for little fingers, but a heat gun, found in a scrapbooking store, may be a better tool for an older kid who’s likely to get really into their work.
- Canvas or corrugated cardboard. Any sturdy surface will work for this project, but it’s going to look beautiful, so you might as well use a canvas and then hang it on your wall!
- Set up the work area. Lay a large sheet of newspaper over your work surface, then set up the kid’s canvas, with the hair dryer on the side of her dominant hand and her unwrapped crayons in easy reach. You can also lay out glitter and confetti for sprinkling onto the warm wax, and watercolors for painting.
- Model the method for melting crayons. Show your kiddo how to hold the crayon in her dominant hand, fingers near the back, and the hair dryer in her non-dominant hand. Turn the hair dryer on, point it at the tip of the crayon, and watch a bead of wax melt, fall, and splash onto the canvas.
- Have fun watching your kiddo have fun! This project is as much sensory as it is process-based, so don’t be surprised if your kid wants to spend ages on it, watching the wax melt, exploring new ways of directing the drips, and adding ever more colors and details.
When your kid is finally finished, you’ll probably have to buy a new box of crayons, because your little artist now has a whole new medium in his/her toolbox!
Hungry after creating these works of art? Need a last-minute dessert to bring to your Fourth of July celebration? Learn how to make this fun, educational (and delicious!) cookie-cake map of the United States.
Julie Finn is a writer, crafter, and homeschooling momma who loves science experiments, messy art and dessert. She blogs about her hands-on life over at craftknife.blogspot.com and craftingagreenworld.com.