Archives for January 2014

Repost: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

Over the holidays I’m taking a little time away from blogging. Throughout the week I’ll be reposting some of the most popular posts from The Risky Kids archives. This post is from Lisa. Even though she hasn’t been able to write much lately, she’s still very much a part of The Risky Family. We miss your hijinks, Lisa, Thomas and Ben!

Task: Squash Pennies on a Railroad Track

 

Requires:

  • Pennies (or other coins)
  • Tape
  • Active train track
  • Train schedule

Possible hazards:

  • Death by train
  • Awkward conversations with the police
  • Projectiles

How it all went down:

 

We live about three houses down from an active railroad track – as in a train comes by every five minutes or so.  After living here for about five years, I hardly notice the train but our visitors are always a little shocked at the noise and vibrations.  I don’t want my kids playing on the tracks, so I loaded them into the mini-van and drove to an access point just down the street.  (I know, my kids are going to figure out that they can walk to the tracks, but somehow it made me feel better to have the illusion they could only get there by car.)

 

We duct taped 13 pennies to the track, then went home and waited for a train to pass.  Surprisingly, we only found two pennies when we returned.  The duct tape was melted to the track and the pennies were flat – I mean flat!   I wasn’t expecting them to be this flat.

Nothing like a squashed penny to drive home the point of the sheer weight and force of a train.  It was cool, and I think that the kids learned that getting run over by a train is a very bad thing

Tips:

  • Pick a portion of the track that is very straight – you want to see and hear the train coming from a long way away.
  • A location next to an automated crossing gate is good – the bells will warn you as a train approaches.
  • Don’t try to place pennies on the track if you can see or hear a train or crossing bells. Obviously.  According to Tulley, because of the unfamiliar size of train engines, our brains can’t accurately judge the speed and distance of oncoming trains.  If you can see or hear it, get out of the way.
  • If you see a spot of the track is brighter or shinier than the rest, tape your penny there. That’s where the wheel makes the most contact.
  • Mark the spot with a stick on the ground.
  • If you’re waiting there for the train to pass, stand at least 30 feet away from ALL tracks.  A flying penny will put your eye out.
  • To ensure the safety of the train and the track, never put anything larger than a coin on the tracks.
Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).
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Repost: DIY Slingshot

Over the holidays I’m taking a little break from blogging. Throughout the week I’ll be reposting some of the most popular posts from The Risky Kid archives.  Slingshots are still a big hit at our house, and if we ever see a stick that’s a good candidate for a slingshot we feel compelled to pick it up. You never know when it might come in handy! This fall we hit the jackpot on slingshot ammo: acorns and hickory nuts. Add a target or a pyramid of plastic cups and you’ll have hours of target practice fun.

Make Your Own Slingshot

Task:  Make an awesome shooting tool.

Requires:  

Forked stick

Rubber bands (Medium to long rubber bands work best. You can always tie a couple together if you don’t have bigger ones on hand.)

Scrap of leather or cloth

Pebbles, peas, flower buds, acorns … pretty much any small object for ammunition.

Clear area  (without people, pets, or other things that might get damaged)

Possible Hazards:

Danger to others (depending on your aim!)

Projectiles (you’ll shoot your eye out!)

Property damage

Slingshot

How It All Went Down:

In a circumstance of happy coincidence, Eli and I found the perfect forked stick on our way to throw rocks.  Therefore, that’s my first piece of advice if you want to make your own slingshot:  always be on the lookout for the perfect stick.  Nothing will slow your weapon-making roll like not being able to find a single useful forked stick when you want one.

After that, it was pretty simple.  We chose a piece of fairly thin, supple leather for our ammunition pocket.  Elena followed the instructions and put the slingshot together herself in about 5 minutes.  It’s a sturdy little weapon (okay, we might have needed a little bit of duct tape), and it’s been fun for the kids to work on target practice.  It’s not hard at all to launch a pebble a great distance … it’s the aim and accuracy that takes lots of practice.

We’re on the prowl for more perfect sticks.  One slingshot isn’t going to be enough, especially over the summer.  They’re fun and very portable and the envy of the neighborhood.  Every kid wants to try it and every parent yells at the other kids to get out of the way (rightly so).  Without realizing it, the kids are learning about aim, trajectory, effect of ammunition size and shape … basically their own little hands-on version of Angry Birds.

If you just can’t find that perfect stick or you want to bypass the whole DIY bit, you can purchase a ready-made slingshot.

Make a Slingshot

Slingshot how-to

  1. Make a pocket for your slingshot.  Cut a small rectangle out of leather or a scrap of sturdy cloth.  You can either tie the rubber bands to the pocket, or cut two small holes at the edges and loop the bands through.
  2. Assemble the slingshot.  Tie the rubber bands to the ends of a forked stick.
  3. Gather your ammunition and get ready to shoot!  Place your ammunition in the pocket and trap it by pinching with your thumb and forefinger.  Hold the handle steady at an arm’s length.  Pull back on the pocket, aim, and fire!
  4. Have fun coming up with different targets and ammunition.  Aluminum cans, paper bulls-eyes and lines of action figures make great targets.  Of course if you have terrible aim, you can always start with the broad side of a barn.
Did you ever own or make a slingshot as a kid?  If you make your own, I’d love to see your photos on our Facebook page!

Want more?  Read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).

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