Reading history books can be fun. But kids are more likely to be engaged and remember what they’ve learned when you bring history to life. One way to do that is with crafts and activities from the time period you are studying.
This year we’ve been working on the history of Colonial America. To bring our studies to life we’ve had fun creating tin can lanterns, making (root) beer and corn husk dolls. After reading about the Declaration of Independence we made quills and learned how to make homemade ink.
You can use your quill from this activity with the invisible ink from this activity about spies and secret codes.
How to Make Homemade Ink and a Quill
- Large Feather
- Straight Edge Razor Blade
- 1/2 Cup of Berries
- Strong Colander or Strainer
- Large Bowl
- Metal Soup Ladle
- Small Glass Jar
Making a Quill
Making a homemade quill for this kids activity is very simple. You will need a large feather. We used turkey feathers we found on a walk, but you can also buy them at a local craft store or find large feathers on Amazon(affiliate link).
Use scissors to remove 1 1/2 inches of the feathers from the tip area. This will make a clear spot along the feather’s shaft for fingers to fit comfortably.
Using a straight edge razor blade, cut the very tip of the feather at a 45 degree angle. (You can also try a very sharp knife, but we found cutting with scissors crushed our shaft and left a very crooked tip.)
Making Homemade Ink
We used blueberries to make our ink. You could also try blackberries or another type of berry. Start by using a handful of berries. You can add more later if needed.
Set a colander on top of a pot or large bowl. Using the back of a soup ladle, squish the berries in the colander. You will need to use the ladle to guide and push the juice through the holes. The berry juice will become your ink.
If you have a sturdy strainer, you could use it instead of the colander. It would certainly be easier to get the juice into the bowl. (I discovered my strainer had mysteriously been broken.)
Once you have enough ink, poor it into a small jar. Baby food jars are perfect for an inkwell.
Your child will have fun dipping the quill into the ink to write or draw.
They will soon discover they need to dip quite often. My son made me laugh when he said, “Poor Thomas Jefferson sure had to work hard to write the Declaration of Independence like this.”
We used our ink the same day we made it. However, I’ve read that to preserve it you can add 1/2 teaspoon vinegar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, mixing it well before use.
Making a quill and learning how to make homemade ink is a simple Colonial America kids activity and a fun way to bring history alive.
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This is fabulous! My 8 year old is all about this type of learning. After reading My Side of the Mountain he went outside and created a fishing hook just like the main character. Can’t wait to try this! And the chickens in the back yard make getting a large feather quite easy! Especially the roo!!
Oh, I love that he made a fishing hook! We enjoyed My Side of the Mountain this past winter. I wish we had read it in spring so we could have been out there trying some of the things the character did.