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Family STEAM Challenge: Smelly Ornaments

The cold weather has arrived – which means the windows are now closed and all the kiddos are inside. Here’s a great way to heat the house up, keep the kiddos busy, and make the house smell great, all while making a home decoration or present for a loved one!


This Issue’s Topic:

Exploring and observing the science behind making and baking your own smelly ornament.

The Mission:

Use your scientific and detective skills to figure out the best way to mix, shape, decorate, and hang a cinnamon ornament.

The Challenge:

What can you create with cinnamon dough?

Materials You Could Use (But Are Not Limited To):
  • 1 cup ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 2 tablespoons white glue
  • Rolling pin
  • Straw
  • String
  • Cookie cut-outs
Building Your Ornament:

This challenge is open-ended and can be applied whenever and wherever materials are available!

To start, measure out the cinnamon, applesauce, and glue. Then mix the applesauce and cinnamon until fully combined. Then mix in the glue. Make sure that it is mixed very well – you may want to knead it with your hands. (They will smell great afterward!)

Put a dusting of cinnamon on a smooth surface and put the dough onto it. Using the rolling pin, roll the ball of dough into a flat, even circle. You can use more cinnamon to put on the rolling pin if it is sticking to the dough. Once it is evenly rolled out, you can cut out or stamp on your ornament shapes. When all of your ornaments are cut out, use the straw to poke out a hole in the top so you can put string through it once they are dried.

Dry time! There are different ways that you can “finish” your ornaments.

  • Dehydrate them in a dehydrator for about 6-10 hours.
  • Bake them in the oven at 200 for 2-3 hours.
  • Air dry them. This can take a few days.

When they are completely dry, you can share them as a gift or hang them around the house. If you put them by a fireplace or on holiday tree, the cinnamon can be smelled all winter long!

Questions to Mull Over:
  • What is the best way to decorate these: Markers? Melted crayons? Paint?
  • What is the best way to dry them?
  • What are other smells or spices you could add to make a different version on these?
  • Can you change the color of them?
  • Do pressed imprints or cut-outs turn out better?

The Family STEAM Challenge is all about experimenting with the ordinary to make the extraordinary! Chippewa Valley Family challenges your family to think and play together all in the name of science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics (that’s where the STEAM comes in).

Each challenge can be completed as a family or a group of friends in as little or as much time needed; however, most challenges can be completed within one sitting. The Family STEAM Challenge is also designed to get all ages involved through hands on experimenting. So get ready to put your collective thinking caps on to design a seriously cool apparatus made almost entirely out of reusable or recyclable materials laying around the house.

Thanks to Sarah Zwiefelhofer of the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire for her help with this issue’s STEAM Challenge!


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