Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jell-O Suncatchers

Back before Easter, I was flipping through the newest issue of Family Fun Magazine and found this fun idea to make "plastic" sun catchers using gelatin and food coloring.  Fun, right?

I asked the kids if they wanted to try it out and they gave me kind of a hard time about it, but eventually gave in when I told them they could squirt in the food coloring.  Food coloring is fun!

So we gathered our materials:

  • A box of unflavored gelatin
  • Some food coloring
  • Some glitter
  • Some plastic plates
  • Little bowls (make sure they are heatproof so they don't collapse when you add boiling water)
  • Spoons for mixing
  • And some boiling water (I was in charge of water).
First we put an envelope of the gelatin (which is icky smelling stuff) into each of our little glass bowls.

Then I carefully added 3 Tablespoons of boiling water to each.  The steam came leaping out of my Pyrex measuring cup at one point causing me to spill a full spoon of boiling water over my hand - ouch!  Be careful!

The kids diligently mixed until the gelatin dissolved in each bowl.  It got a bit lumpy here and there, but with more and more mixing, the lumps eventually went away.  I tried zapping one of the bowls in the microwave for a few seconds to see if that would help and - oh my - that was not a good idea.  There was a lot of frothing and bubbling.  Very frightening. I wouldn't recommend it.

Once we had the gelatin powder all dissolved the kids added a few drops of food coloring to each bowl and mixed that in well.  Somehow everyone ended up with very green hands.  Not sure whether that was an accident or intentional.

Then we poured each batch of colored gelatin onto an individual plastic plate.  I had these strangely shaped rimmed plates.  Bigger flatter ones would probably be easier to work with.  It was hard to peel the dried gelatin out of the corners of these.

Anyway, we spread the hot gelatin mixture out on the plates and then added a few drops of a contrasting color and swirled it around on a few.  We also dusted the surfaces with a little bit of glitter.

Then we waited overnight for the cooling, drying process to take place.

The next day I peeled the almost dry (it was still a little rubbery) result off of the plates and laid them out to dry the rest of the way.  You can see the swirls on the surface of the finished product and how they got a weird bendy, organic-type shape to them.  I think this was because of the weird plates.  If you had bigger ones and could just pop the dried disks off, I bet they would stay flat.

In the magazine, they said to cut the dried "plastic" into shapes.  But when I tried that with the blue one, it was too brittle and cracked all along the edges.  Maybe if I had tried when they weren't quite dry it would have worked better.  Or if I had a decent pair of scissors.  Or talent.  This picture is supposed to show the cracking.

I like the effect of the bendy circles anyway.  I think they have a blown art-glass sort of feel to them.  This one reminds me of the sun.
This was a fun project, but sort of dangerous and tedious for the kids.  They liked the coloring part, but the boiling water part was sort of nerve-wracking and the waiting-for-things-to-dry part wasn't fun at all.  But the final results were really cool.

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