Walking outside to investigate a suspicious silence, I stepped into the verandah to be met with a eureka-like ‘Dad. I’ve made paint!’ There he stood with a bucket and paintbrush. One of the trees, a fair few of the verandah posts, some patches of wall, and quite a lot of the deck were covered in a kaleidoscope of chalk.
A little part of me wanted to start screaming right then. The look of elation on his face, though, coupled with the obviously focused intent which had gone into all of this, demanded a closer inspection.
‘Science experiments’ have been a fairly large part of play in the last year or so. Ever since seeing what happened when bicarb soda was mixed with vinegar, they have been a recurring theme.
The basic idea is to get a container of some description, put some kind of liquid in it, and then add things. Containers can be everything from a bucket, through various kitchen bowls, to small glass bottles, bought specifically to try and contain the game. Water makes a pretty good solvent, but obviously vinegar of any kind is highly prized, milk is not too bad, and even things like soy sauce and honey have been tested.
As for what you are trying to dissolve in it, the list is exhaustive. Coffee grounds, road gravel, custard powder, detergent, bicarb soda or any white powder which might resemble it, rice, food dye, lavender leaves, flour, wool, etc, etc. Although choices for this sort of thing are becoming increasingly refined, they are broadly determined by how much attention the grown ups are paying. Because of their easy availability once the household is awake, buckets of water are a good first choice.
Here is how you make paint. Take a big chunk of sidewalk chalk, and one of dad’s hammers. Put the chalk on the concrete slab, and then break it into small pieces. Tip them into the bucket. The chalk will start to dissipate in the water. Any that doesn’t, just use the hammer to grind it into smaller pieces. Once you are satisfied with this, get yourself a paintbrush. Don’t mess about with anything from the craft box. Make it a big house brush. Use the brush to stir it all up into a real good suspension, then paint stuff with it.
For some variation on a theme, you can make a puddle of water in one of the dips in the concrete (it’s not a very well laid slab), and grind the chalk directly into it. You don’t get to use the paintbrush here, but you do get a bright red puddle, and that’s worth something.
Truth is, chalk paint works pretty well. It sticks onto most surfaces, and once it dries, it leaves a good, thick layer of colour. It doesn’t even come off very easily. You really have to scrub it off with a broom while hosing it.
He has watched us making watercolours by adding food dye to water. He knows that tea and coffee are produced by mixing ground up plant material in hot water. He has helped us use the mortar and pestle in the kitchen. He has taken concepts from all of these disparate ideas, put them into a different context, developed a theory, and after a lengthy period of experimentation, was enjoying the fruits of a success.
In the face of such passionate and rigorous scientific inquiry, I would be a fool indeed to fuss over a few chalk marks.