Rusty Divine

Live, Love, Learn, Teach

Backyard Baking Soda & Vinegar Co2 Rockets

We found a great way to pass an afternoon by combining a little vinegar and baking soda to make rockets. You can also make grenades by shaking and throwing the container after snapping the lid on.

Baking Soda & Vinegar Rockets

Geocaching with a Three-Year Old

My son loves to find treasure. He is outside right now playing his latest favorite game where he rides his trike around the patio a few times, then the “mail man” hands him a padded envelope with one of his little toys in it – a bouncy ball, a hot wheels, a sticker, etc. – and he opens it up and either takes the toy or gives it back saying “Return to sender.”

We just got back from a geocaching trip where we hiked through a wooded park named Wilderness Park that is near our house looking for a peanut butter jar that has been wrapped in camouflage tape and stuck into the head of a decapitated statue. He only likes the geocaches that are big enough to hold toys – some are just a log book, and others may be just a puzzle or marker.

We didn’t find that cache today, likely because we took the wrong fork in the path, but we did see a lot of amazing things we wouldn’t have if we had stayed home.

Not long after we parked and started walking on a grassy trail, we found a painted turtle. We picked him up and felt his claws and his shell and talked about how he can hide in his shell when he wants to, then let him go on his way.

Soon, we crossed over a creek on a bridge made of cement blocks from some torn up street or building. We saw some trees that had fallen into the creek to make a dam.

Farther up the trail we noticed a doe watching us. She stood perfectly still even as I picked Rowan up and we pointed at her.

Then we found a muddy puddle with lots of tracks. He wanted to know what left the mountain bike tracks and the goose tracks and the dog tracks.

We followed the compass on my phone until we realized we had passed the cache and it didn’t look like our trail was going to turn the right direction, so we turned around. On the way back, we walked to the edge of an embankment and looked down at a creek that had flooded recently and washed several dead trees into a pile in an elbow of the creek.

Just before we got back to the boulder bridge, we noticed some deep purple mulberries within reach from the path and enjoyed a few while talking about coming back tomorrow with a couple of buckets so that we could make some mulberry syrup.

On our way to another cache, we stopped on the gravel road to see a flock of wild turkeys. We parked and walked toward them and were impressed at how well those big birds can fly!

After we traded a little monster toy that lit up from the inside for a couple of google-eyes, we talked on the way home about wanting to make the world a better place by leaving toys that were better than the ones we took in contrast with some of the pieces of garbage we find in geocaches sometimes.

Our adventure was under two hours, but we really packed it in! Not every excursion is this successful, but its nights like these that make such great memories and are worth sharing with you.

Three Weekend Projects for a Toddler

We’ve been getting creative this winter to keep our three-year-old busy! A closet dedicated to art supplies, including boxes and canisters that can be re-used, can be a source of inspiration when looking for something to break up the day.

Make a Geometric Puzzle


This puzzle was inspired by the 7-piece tangram puzzles, which would also be a fun project on their own. We weren’t sure our son would be interested in a nice wooden tangram puzzle, so I created this cardboard puzzle of a fish to test his interest level.

  1. Do a Google image search for something, like fish.
  2. Click on Search Tools and change Color to Black and White and Type to Line Drawing.ImageSearch 
  3. Download the image and print it on a sheet of construction paper.
  4. Cut out an 8.5x11” section of cardboard box, and use some Elmer’s glue to glue the picture on. Putting a book on the page for 30 minutes will be enough to let the glue set.
  5. Take a blank sheet of paper and draw some line across the page. Make each line intersect an edge of the page, and make about 7 internal shapes for the best configuration. Make sure there is a little bit of the image on each piece.
  6. Lay the page on top of the picture and use a ruler and razor to cut out the pieces.

Make a Monster Truck Hauler

monster_hauler monster_hauler_inside

We had some mailing tube end caps laying around that looked a lot like monster truck tires; and there’s nothing my three-year-old likes more than monster trucks.

  1. Take some mailing tube ends and use a razor to trim off the rim so that they look more like wheels.
  2. Find 4 washers and screws where the washers are large enough to cover the holes in the mailing tubes.
  3. Trace around a 3/4” dowel where the axels will go through a box; approximately 2” from each edge and 1/4” from the bottom of a box.
  4. Use a razor blade to cut out the holes in the box where the dowel will slide through.
  5. Find the right length for the dowel by pushing it through the box and putting the wheels on; leave about 3/8” spare so that the wheels have some room to turn.
  6. Cut the dowels and then assemble them onto the monster truck with the washers and screws.

We found it rolls well on carpet, but slides on smooth surfaces.

Make a Snake Car

snakecar_1 snakecar_2

Our son fell in love with a wooden snake toy we found at a nature center here in Lincoln. It was made by someone here in town who has an Etsy shop, but this toy doesn’t appear to be listed at the time of this writing (he may make one for you if you ask, though).

I made this toy one afternoon with a hand drill, which made it difficult to get the holes drilled straight. After that lesson learned, I asked my mother nicely if I could buy or borrow her drill press, and she kindly obliged. So, although you can do this project with a hand drill, it will turn out better with a drill press.

  1. Cut 12 wheels in 3/4” segments off of a 3/4” poplar dowel.
  2. Cut 10 body parts in 2 1/2” segments from a 5/8” square poplar stick. Sand these to round the edges. Drill a 5/8” hole in the end of each segment – in two of the segments drill only one hole; these will be for the head and tail segments.
  3. Cut 6 axels from 1/4” oak dowel at about 3 1/2” length (enough to go all the way through the wheels and leave some wiggle room for the body segments).
  4. Use a drop of wood glue on each axel and push it flush into a wheel, then thread on the body segments as shown in the pictures above.

Our son loves to play with this car and have it wrap up onto itself. It reminds me of a Jacob’s Ladder in that fluid sort of way.