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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

As the kids count down the days until Christmas with a growing sense of uncontrollable glee, I am conducting my own personal countdown. A countdown to the holiday school break. And I am not entirely gleeful. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about the impending festivities…I just wish sometimes that I had more hours kid-free in the day to get ready. I am not a parent who can do a zillion projects while my children are underfoot. (If you are one of those parents…I want to be your best friend and apprentice.) I need to make a plan that will keep us all busy and happy.
Sid the Science Kid Activities
There are lots of fun and quick activities on the website that are meaningful with or without having viewed the corresponding Sid episode.

  • Texture Hunt (Senses Cycle): This is a cute activity that has kids search around the house for different textures on furniture, clothes, floors, etc and report back with findings. I am going to add a “holiday” element and have the boys describe the textures of some decorations like the pine tree, garland, tree skirt, stockings, Christmas cards, etc.
  • Frozen Fruit (Transformation and Change Cycle): Who isn’t trying to build in some healthy eating choices into the menus this time of year? This activity teaches children about reversible change as children freeze fruit in water, think about ways to melt the water to get at the fruit, and then eat it up! I think that it would be fun to freeze the fruit outside overnight if you live in a cold part of the country. I also like that the results will also take care of snack time!
  • The Big Box Investigation (Simple Machines Cycle): Most of you know by now that I moved cross-country earlier this year. I still have lot of boxes stacked up in my garage. We also know the holidays brings boxes in the mail for many of us. Well, here’s a way to use them creatively! In this activity, one child sits in a box while another child (or group…play date anyone?) finds a way to move the box across the floor. I see this one as a great way to expend a lot of pent up energy while learning about something very useful!

Sid the Science Kid Website
Check out the games and activities at http://pbskids.org/sid/index.html. I may be able to sneak in some wrapping or Christmas card addressing while Henry and Leo play a game or color. Go explore and see what excites you and your kids.

  • Shadow Show: This game combines shape recognition with matching while reminding children about shadows. Henry and Leo will love the part when they click the light to check the shapes.
  • Kitchen Magician: Sid asks kids to match a food (such as scrambled eggs) to food source (eggs) and reinforces the concept of irreversible change. It is really cute. My boys are going to LOVE the jokes that Sid tells between rounds. We will be hearing them at the dinner table for months and months to come.
  • Sid Says: This version of Simon Says gets kids thinking about and identifying muscles. The best part is that the game asks the player to get up and move their muscles. Great for working off some energy!
  • Printables: Henry and Leo love to color. The Print tab will take you to some cute pages that you can reproduce and have at the ready. I know that sometimes I just need a few moments of quiet to get through a hectic moment. I pick up a crayon and color my own page. It is so relaxing.
  • Video: Don’t forget to check out the video clips. We love the songs and the kids ask to hear them over and over again. If you ever wanted to see a specific investigation that I mention on the blog you can find most of them here. Sometimes, less is more and I can reward good behavior with a snippet or two of Sid the Science Kid.

More Festive Fun
I have a few holiday go-to activities to share. Many ideas have come from other mom friends, preschool teachers, and cyberspace browsing. It’s great to have something up my sleeve for a slow afternoon with antsy boys.

  • Paper Snowflakes: I tried this with the boys for the first time this year. They love playing with the safety scissors but the mess made me feel like an elf working overtime. That is okay because the boys had a blast. I did most of the cutting while the boys did the decorating. My boys like glitter. Who doesn’t?
  • Wrapping Blocks: Kids are fascinated and attracted to tape and wrapping paper. So I let them wrap wooden blocks. This year I am saving all of the wrapping paper scraps in a box for the boys and letting them do their own “wrapping.” I bought a bunch of tape at the dollar store just for them. I first saw this at Henry’s preschool. Genius. And perhaps now I have something I can use for a centerpiece!

I hope that some of these ideas will help create merriment in your house and bring order to the mayhem!
Do you have any great activities you’d like to share? Post them below so we can all try them out!
PS: I won’t be posting next week. Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2011!

Last month I told you about a fun fort activity we experimented with to explore the absence of light. Sid the Science Kid is a gift that keeps giving, as far as we’re concerned. As the Light and Shadow cycle rolls around again this week, I have a few more stories about the role of light in our lives.
On a recent Friday night, we found ourselves without power. During dinner. Henry and Leo were very excited and a little scared as Gerry and I ran around trying to find candles and flashlights. I overheard Henry reminding an apprehensive Leo that things were the same in the dark as they are in the light…nothing to be afraid of. (Thanks Sid!) Gerry searched our box-filled garage for flashlights while I hunted around the house for dusty candles. I say “dusty” because I don’t think we’ve lit a candle since before Henry was born. To tell you the truth, I was thrilled about the blackout. I didn’t care about the whys or how long or even that dinner was forgotten. I immediately saw the potential for family time. We all gathered in the living room for a family dance party to music from my fully charged iPad. We danced by candlelight and it was so special. I definitely felt a twinge of disappointment when the lights came back on at bedtime. I am sure Gerry and I watched Leo and Henry make a life-long memory that night.
The blackout led to a great dad purchase: headlamps for the boys. Now they spend full afternoons finding dark places in the house, like my closet, to hide away in and switch on their lamps. Great scientific tools! I pretend not to notice where they are and eavesdrop as they whisper secret instructions and crawl around among my shoes. I think there is something universal in this childhood spirit of adventure, as they explore light and dark, what scares them and what makes them feel safe. I listen to my sweet boys and I am transported to my own mother’s closet where my brother Jeff used to hide. I remember the smell of leather and Chanel No. 5. I wonder what Henry and Leo will remember.
While the boys spent the month of November learning about the dark, December came roaring in with all the light and cheer of the holidays. And I mean that literally. As a transplanted New Englander, I am grateful for the bright sun illuminating my days. I am also grateful for the gift of diversity in our lives as the boys learned about Chanukah for the first time this year. The boys were captivated by the Chanukah story and very interested in lighting Menorah candles. Leo was particularly enchanted as we watched a dear friend light the candles and sing the blessings at a Chanukah party last weekend. As I watched Leo in the candlelight, I choked up, knowing that he was growing a little bit in front of my eyes. It was beautiful.
In our own home, Christmas came barreling in over the weekend. The lights are up on the house, on the tree in the living room, in the little tree in the boys’ room, and wherever else I decided to string lights. At night when I turn off the regular lights, the house glows with Christmas illumination. I love it and the boys do too. For me, the Christmas lights make this new house in California feel like home for the first time. Maybe I am finally settling in.
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And what does all this have to do with Sid the Science Kid? Well, on the surface, not too much. However, as this tends to be the time of year for reflection, I can think of quite a few ways in which Sid and this blog have illuminated my life this year. I am so much more aware of the questions Leo and Henry ask. I am more present and less likely to brush the questions off in the bustle of the day. I am willing to admit when I don’t have the answers and explore with them. Henry and Leo are becoming critical thinkers right before my eyes and that is amazing to me.
I would love to hear about the way you illuminate the holidays!

Sometimes science can be really silly. At least, Leo and I certainly think so. We did more laughing than serious investigating this week, but I make no apologies. We had fun! Sid the Science Kid is all about the human body this cycle and Leo’s belly laughs definitely count as a whole body experience. He may be getting early admission to clown school.
We really like the episode “How Did My Dog Do That?” mostly because of the guest star: Grandma’s dog Filbert. In it, Sid observes Filbert scratch an ear with a hind leg and attempts to do it himself. Sid can’t get his leg to bend and hilarity ensues — mostly in my own home. When we watched, Leo got up to see if he could have more success scratching an ear with his foot and started laughing almost immediately. It was funny. He jumped on one leg, grabbed the other with his hands, and tried to wrench his foot up to his ear. Kersplat! Leo was on the carpet giggling. Then, in a moment of Zen that would make any yogi master proud, Leo DID manage to get his foot up to his ear. “See Mom!” he exclaimed. “I can do it!”
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In the episode, Sid’s experience with Filbert leads to an investigation about joints and bones. Leo, my pretzel boy, got his learning off on the wrong foot, so to speak, with his yoga moves. Thankfully, the cool graphics of the dog skeleton got his attention and he started to understand the role of joints. In the Super Fab Lab, Sid and his friends use splints to see how difficult it would be to complete simple tasks without joints. Leo was hooked, and very willing to try it out himself.
Once I looked at the Bones Investigation online, I realized that I did not have the exact materials. So I improvised with crayons, wooden train tracks, and blue painter’s tape. My best friend Susan first introduced me to the wonders of painter’s tape before a cross country flight with the boys. But that’s a blog post for another time. You should all just run out and get some painters tape. Trust me. (Although it occurs to me that I should probably also have white medical tape on hand, as the activity calls for.)
The challenge of this activity was getting my preschooler to stay still long enough to apply a splint to a finger, arm, or leg. Leo was very wiggly and giggly. An extra set of adult hands would have made it easier. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I had to apply a splint in some sort of first aid, woodsy, hiking scenario…I may need to get some wilderness training.
We tried a finger splint first. I had to break a couple of crayons to size for Leo’s little fingers. I asked him to try and pick up blocks and spoons. I was impressed how he managed to adapt and use his other fingers and the palm of the hand. On the other hand, I felt challenged to immobilize him to reinforce the importance of joints. More tape! We tried his arm next, with better success. It was hysterical to watch him try and put on and take off a ball cap, especially since he was laughing so hard. There is no sweeter sound in the world, as far as I am concerned.
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Our final splint was on the leg. When I set him loose he tried to run but fell down, belly laughing again. He got and tried to maneuver up a step into the hallway. The sensation made him exclaim, “I can’t bend!” Finally, the aha moment! I explained joints again and this time he seemed to understand.
Ultimately, the learning in this investigation was less important than the process. We had a blast and laughed so much. We used ordinary objects in interesting ways. What kid doesn’t like to break a crayon or two? Leo extended his learning out to the neighborhood that afternoon when he ran outside to talk with a friend who recently had a leg cast removed. He wanted to explain joints and splints to our neighbor. I guess he learned a lot after all!
How do you like to put the fun into learning? Have you had an experience with your child where the process was more as rewarding as the result?

I do not like shots. I am a big baby when it comes to needles. I am convinced that my needle phobia can be traced back to Star Wars. Yes, Star Wars. Remember when the evil Darth Vader threatened poor Princess Leia with the truth serum in the needle and the spacey door swooshes shut? My little six-year-old self sure does! The phobia has stayed with me throughout my adult life. To this day, I claim that the worst part of giving birth to my two gorgeous boys was the 45-minute epidural incidents. And that was to STOP pain!
I am not proud of myself. Intellectually, I understand the need for the flu shot and I get one every year. Emotionally, however, I am wreck. When the boys were babies I cried through all the wellness visits that ended with shots. The anticipation undid me. Three years ago, when I went back to work I got a reprieve from the shot appointments. My brave and honorable stay-at-home husband took over shot duty. I am relieved to say that I didn’t witness Henry’s four-year-old, 4-shot ordeal. I cowered at my desk In Boston that morning, anxiously awaiting the all-clear phone call. Henry was fine, by the way.
Now we are on the cusp of flu season 2010-2011. Last year, Gerry taught the boys “brave faces” before receiving their flu vaccination. It was a big hit and they return to their poses in times of distress. (See Henry’s picture below.)
braveface.jpg
But this year, I am the stay-at-home parent and I armed myself with information and Sid the Science Kid.
(Okay, I have a tiny confession to make. I scheduled Leo’s flu shot appointment on the Donuts with Dad day at our preschool. Sneaky, I know. But I have a phobia! And Gerry didn’t seem to mind taking him. Leo was happy about his lollipop and boasted that the shot “did not hurt one bit!”)
The role of supportive parent for Henry’s flu shot fell to me this year. I was ready. In preparation, Henry and I watched the Sid episode called “Getting a Shot: You Can Do It!” Henry really got behind the concept of building antibodies to fight the flu. I loved that this was another episode that uses science to stomp out a childhood fear. Henry watched intently as kids on the show received their shots. Bravo to the team for providing real footage of kids getting shots. The facial expressions on the kids were perfect. We also really liked May saying “No big deal” in her sing-songy voice. After the show Henry practiced his brave face and proclaimed, “I am ready for my flu shot!”
In a show of solidarity, I also decided to get a flu shot at the pediatrician’s office. It was a challenge for me to fight my nerves and keep a smile on my face as Henry scrutinized my every move and expression. Then it was Henry’s turn. And it did not go as planned. The nurse would not allow him to sit on my lap for the vaccination and he flipped out. He ran under a chair when the nurse asked him to sit on the table. I had to coax him out, hold him down on the table, and keep eye contact. I kept saying “no big deal” in my best May voice. The nurse administered the shot as she lay over his legs, and he didn’t even notice. He smiled and asked for his lollipop. No harm done, right?
Wrong. I was very shaken by the experience. Here is the thing…back home we had the most amazing, educated, straight-talking, shot-administering pediatrician in the world. I have learned the hard way that finding a new peds office is a daunting task. So, although Sid did a great job preparing Henry for a flu shot, nothing can replace a good pediatrician and a caring staff. I wish I had insisted on a nurse that would let Henry stay on my lap. It is my job to advocate for someone who spoke to him kindly and did not restrain him for a simple flu vaccination. I have a lot of “I should’ves” from that visit. I am trying not to beat myself up as I look for new pediatrician.
But there IS good news. Henry tells everyone who will listen about antibodies and vaccines. We also discovered a fun game on the Sid website called Super Duper Antibodies that served as a great reward for Henry’s bravery. Henry is proud of himself and that is a very good thing. And we are all vaccinated which means our family should be flu free this year. All reasons to smile!
How do you prepare your children for trips to the pediatrician? What do you look for in a pediatrician and the office staff?

Sometimes when I get together with other mommy/parent friends we end up chatting about “when we were kids.” We talk about the cartoons we watched and how simple, yet violent they were. We reminisce about the hours of playtime around the neighborhood without parental supervision. This often leads to a discussion about technology…who remembers the rotary phone? Cable television was new and we were a one-car family. Parenting trends have certainly changed. Sometimes I feel like we, as parents and caregivers in the 21st century, have a lot more to worry about. And that makes me crabby.
However, one thing that has certainly changed for the better is the prolific use of sunscreen on our children and on ourselves. And let me tell you, it took me a long time to get there. I was a teen who spent the months of June to September covered in baby oil. Sun protection was to be avoided at all costs. As a teen in the 80s, bronze was the color I wanted to achieve. (What is bronze, exactly? I wanted to look like metal?) As I got older, I started to listen to the health news and wore more sunscreen. But the moment of real understanding came when a close family member was diagnosed with skin cancer a couple of years ago. It was treatable and all is well, but for a little while it was extremely scary. I went to the dermatologist for a baseline check of all my freckles and spots. That’s when I built sunscreen into our daily life.
Then there are my boys. Henry is so fair that you can practically count all his veins. Leo is less so, but we still have to be careful. Sunscreen has become an everyday thing for me. A no-brainer. Especially as we live in Southern California. For my kids, sunscreen is a part of the daily routine like brushing our teeth. As we move further into winter and fall here it is easy to forget sometimes. The funny thing is that the boys DO remember. They have never (knock on wood) had a sunburn so the idea of one is terrifying. (Good work Mom! Isn’t fear an old-fashioned parenting strategy?)
Leo was very interested in the Sid episode about sunscreen and we decided to try the Sunblock Investigation. When I asked Leo about sunscreen he turned out to be quite the little expert. When asked why we wear sunscreen he replied: “So the sun doesn’t hurt our skin. (Pause) And so we can go swimming.” He also described a sunburn as “when you skin is hot and red.”
The investigation involves smearing sunscreen on one half of a sheet of
construction paper (Leo loved that!) and letting the paper sunbathe for several hours. We chose a blue piece of paper and put it on the back porch. Then, for the rest of the afternoon we ran around, following the sun, moving the paper from spot to spot. It eventually ended up across the street in a neighbors’ driveway.
Sunscreen.jpg
Unfortunately, our results were inconclusive. We used the wrong paper. A little investigation into our inconclusive results revealed that the construction paper was the wrong kind for this experiment. It was not the fuzzy kind but matte. I think when I was a kid, there was only one kind! We talked about how the paper was supposed to look and speculated about why it didn’t turn out that way. Leo wisely observed that blue paper is different than skin. I was impressed that the sunscreen didn’t dry up after being in the sun all day. Leo wasn’t disappointed by the results, but he did mention that he prefers painting with paint, not sunscreen.

There aren’t a lot of regular moms like me who get the chance to see what goes into making her kids’ favorite shows. Especially an animated show at The Jim Henson Company! I giggle to think that I was one degree of separation away from some of my all-time favorite characters. Too cool! To say I was star struck by it all is a gross understatement.
When I walked on set, I entered a huge soundstage buzzing with activity (it happens to be the historic Charlie Chaplin soundstage). There are so many people who make this show possible. The body performers who play the characters are dressed in black jumpsuits with sensors. The puppeteers sit in special booths with sophisticated equipment that allows them to bring a character to life with voice and facial expressions. The camera operators sit in front of a zillion screens capturing the input from bazillions of tiny sensors and cameras on the set. Above the set on a platform, the computer folks work their magic to eventually turn it all into the images we see on our TV. A director stands over the script adjusting cues, lines, and positions. The assistant director gives the call to begin (among a million other things). And lots and lots of people were doing I can only guess what!
I was so very lucky to have Gerard, stage manager, as a guide through the entire process. He used language I could understand to explain what was happening. Here is what I came away with: the body performers have suits covered with sensors that capture signals from small cameras as the camera people shoot the scene.
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The body performers move while the puppeteers create the voices and facial expressions for the characters. As the body performers and puppeteers worked in perfect synchronicity, the familiar animated Sid the Science Kid appeared on gigantic screens mounted around the set. I think it IS MAGIC.
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And that is just the technology of what’s going on. Not the heart. What struck me the most were the PEOPLE on the set. Professional people listening to each other, providing positive feedback, making suggestions, tackling complicated details, and revising performances, and LAUGHING through it all. A lot of laughing. Sid and his friends cracked grown up jokes during rehearsal. Hilarious. But when the call came for quiet on the set (yes, they actually say that) and ACTION! they were all spot on. In the two hours I was there, they filmed about a minute of the show. A minute! These are a group of dedicated people.
Everyone was incredibly generous with their time and all my questions. It was abundantly clear that everyone cared about the job they are doing. Sid the Science Kid gives children — MY children — the chance to learn about science while seeing themselves reflected in family, school, and friendships. This talented group of artists are putting a lot of good into the world. And that’s a great place to be every day, I imagine.

I am really enjoying the new cycle on Sid the Science Kid about light and darkness. In the episode “Discovering Darkness,” Sid learns about darkness in order to overcome his fears. While Henry and Leo are not afraid of the dark, I really like the idea of using science and experiments as a way to allay a child’s fears. The episode also featured an activity that involves building a fort.
The mom in me is not a huge fan of “forting.” My living room is turned upside down (quite literally), cushions stacked in precarious positions, blankets unfolded, toys under the furniture, and little boys fight as it all comes tumbling down on their heads. Clean up is usually a battle. Not fun for me.
On the other hand, the little kid in me remembers the joy of building a fort in the living room: an indoor clubhouse and adventures in the living room created out of cushions and blankets. I loved pretending with my own brothers in our couch forts. It was fun and adventure. I just don’t remember there being such a mess!
When I suggested that we conduct a family experiment the boys had a lukewarm reaction. However, when I said our experiment would include making a fort it was like they hit the jackpot. Whoops, hollers, yells, and hurrahs rang through the house.
Dad joined in for the fun as we gathered chairs from the kitchen, blankets, a flashlight, and a cardboard box for a roof. I asked the boys to sit under the chairs as Dad and I covered the fort with blankets. Their job was to tell us when it was dark in the fort. No light coming in. They were confused at first because they wanted a door to the fort, but soon got the hang of it. I think Henry and Leo liked telling us what to do. They boys yelled out directions like: Over where the leaves are! NO OVER HERE! WAIT! There’s light at the bottom! Cover it!
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We had to use many blankets and even though it was nighttime, we never achieved full darkness. But that didn’t matter. Once it was mostly dark, I crawled in with Henry while Dad and Leo shone the flashlight around. I took a moment to bring some science concepts into the play:
“Darkness is the absence of light. Do you understand what that means?”
“Mom, I thought that absence was when someone was missing at school.”
“You are so close, Henry! Absent is like the word absence. The light is missing from our fort!”
Talk about a light going off in a kid’s head! I was so impressed by Henry’s word association. I am a word person and I love making vocabulary connections with the kids. It was a great moment.
We played in the fort for a long time. The kids really enjoyed switching roles around: light spotter, blanket adjuster, flashlight holder, and fort architect. I am always looking for new things we can do as a family at home. This activity was great because everyone was involved, we learned something, and it did not involve removing all the cushions from my couch. You can’t go wrong with that.
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What are some of your favorite family activities for at home? How do you build learning opportunities into family time?

Parents Pop Quiz:
Define “elasticity” in preschooler-friendly language.
Are you stumped? Scrambling around in your brain for the right word? Laughing at yourself? That was ME last Sunday as I bravely attempted an elasticity activity in the driveway with Henry and Leo.
I should back up and tell you how this all started. On Sunday morning Henry asked if we could do a Sid “experiment.” (Science vocabulary–thanks Sid!) We’ve had gloomy weather for a week or so and Daddy is away on business. We needed a break from the indoors so I decided to put Henry’s initiative to good use.
I ran upstairs to print off an activity from this week’s theme: Force and Motion. The episodes are new and we hadn’t seen them all. I chose the activity about elasticity (looks like fun!) and went back downstairs. I skimmed the directions and started to grab supplies. The kids and I hunted around for a large piece of paper, markers, and balls to bounce in the experiment. In our house full of toys it was shockingly difficult to find the balls we needed…ours just aren’t that bouncy! We settled on a basketball, wiffle ball, small rubber ball, tinfoil ball, and play doh ball. Then we headed out to the driveway.
As I tried to weigh down the paper to record our observations, Henry and Leo started throwing the balls around. Henry was quick to point out that the play doh went SPLAT! I started to think “oh no!” because we were supposed to “discover” that fact in the activity…not yet! Henry then started to talk with Leo about THE FORCE as he slammed the basketball into the ground for a higher bounce. Cool, but I was not teaching them about force today. Bounce was the objective, but isn’t that related to force? I was confused.
Trying to get us on the same page, I asked: “What is elasticity?” Blank stares. My brain started racing. I had NO IDEA how to define elasticity. How was it possible that I was conducting an experiment about a word I couldn’t define? A dear friend of mine reminded me recently that being unprepared will always make a teacher’s life very difficult and a lesson unsuccessful. I was definitely winging this one.
So, I went back to the activity and read through it again while the boys played basketball. I got my materials in order, drew a stick figure on the paper, lined up the balls, and then called the boys over. I modeled the activity for them, explaining that we were trying to see how high each ball bounced. The boys stood on the sidewalk and dropped the balls from outstretched arms and recorded the heights on the stick figure. Leo really enjoyed bouncing the balls and Henry loved recording their findings.
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We determined that elasticity made some balls bounce higher than others. We also learned that play doh is really gross when dropped into a muddy puddle.
A couple of days later we watched the episode “That’s The Way the Ball Bounces.” Now we all understand what elasticity means: material that can be pushed in and pop back out to its original shape. The show brilliantly simplified the concept and made it accessible to this age group. Additionally, the kids liked watching Sid and company conduct the same experiment we did in the driveway. Ultimately, Henry, Leo, and I decided that we preferred watching the show BEFORE conducting an experiment. That’s the power of modeling instruction and building background for preschoolers — and their parents!
What do you do when you get stumped when helping your children learn?
Do you have any good organization tips? I could use a few!
Put your Jack o’ Lanterns to good use this week! Take a look at the Decayed Pumpkin Activity in the Transformation and Change Cycle. Henry and Leo are looking forward to it. There’s nothing like sticking your hands into a rotting gourd in the name of science! I’ll be sure to tell you how it goes at our house.

Today is the first real rain we’ve seen since moving to Southern California in June. I’ve been missing fall in New England: apples, vibrant trees, pumpkins, the smell of wood burning from chimneys, and the autumn rain. With the feeling of fall in the air, today was the perfect day for an apple project.
After we dropped Henry off at school, Leo and I went over the local family farm. In rain boots and froggy coat, Leo climbed on the hay, looked at pumpkins and helped me choose apples that we could transform into applesauce, ala Sid the Science Kid. I try and cook with the kids regularly so when I saw the Super Fab Lab investigation about applesauce and irreversible change, I was so excited. A fall science activity with a yummy result!
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I have never had so much fun making applesauce.
I noticed that by following the investigation from the Sid website, I put aside my usual boundaries in the kitchen, allowing us to explore more fully. Leo was eager to use “grown up” tools for the first time as he helped me peel the apples and I let him use a plastic knife cut them into small pieces. He stood by the stove on a stool to watch the apples heat up. When it was time to mash the heated apples into applesauce he was fascinated. Leo really liked the potato masher. He called the mixture “noodle applesauce” as the apples squished through the masher. When we poured the applesauce into the bowl he said, “It’s like an apple waterfall!”
Throughout the experiment, we talked more than usual. Leo made logical predictions like “The masher will make the apples soft.” He learned new vocabulary when we talked about the seeds. He said the seeds were “nuts” which I thought was clever and interesting. Honestly, I thought the planned activity would feel forced, but it was the opposite. I came out of autopilot/cook and really shared a learning experience with my little scientist. I have heard from teachers about the “high” that comes from watching the light bulbs turn on in their students’ heads as they learn. It is exhilarating. And we laughed a lot.
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At one point when we were waiting for the apples to cook I put on my “teacher” voice and said: “Now Leo, when the apples are done on the stove we will be observing, comparing, and contrasting the cooked apples and the uncooked apples. We have to look at them, smell them, and touch them.” Then Leo chimed in and said: “And taste them Mommy!” How could I have forgotten that? Silly mommy.
We had a great time together and our applesauce is delicious. In an everyday activity, I can see how Leo understands the concept of irreversible change. When my kids acquire new vocabulary and learn something that I teach them, I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. It is amazing.
How do you use everyday activities as learning opportunities? Have you every stretched your parental boundaries to enhance a learning experience? I can’t wait to hear from you!

This week is all about Health on Sid the Science Kid. I thought you might be interested and amused by a conversation we had at my house over dinner this week. Turns out that I had something to learn about nutrition from my little scientists.
For dinner I made the boys leftover grilled chicken, stuffing, and peas. In an ongoing, never-ending effort to build healthy eating into my lifestyle, I decided to throw together a spinach salad with chicken, cashews, peaches, cheese, and vinaigrette for myself. What happened when I sat down at the table with Henry and Leo was a big surprise.
Henry: Mom, what’s that? [Pointing to the salad.]
Me: A green salad. [Cleverly evading a word Henry dislikes: “spinach.”]
Henry: Would I like it?
Me: I don’t know. [Nonchalantly.] I love it. [Avoiding eye contact.]
Leo: Can I smell a leaf?
Me: Sure. [Placing leaf, cashew, peach on Leo’s plate.]
Leo: I like this food.
Henry: Me too! I want some.
Me: Okay, okay, but remember this is my dinner. [Keeping it cool.]
Henry: [Munching] Mom, I like this! I like the sauce. Can I have more leaves?
Mom: Please use your manners.
Henry: Please? Why haven’t you given us salad before? [From the mouths of babes.]
Then I watched my little boys devour spinach and chicken salad. It was glorious.
I am sure you understand why I felt victorious; and a little bit guilty. Had I forgotten to offer them salad over the years? The boys like all kinds of vegetables and I try to offer them new things. What happened? I am a terrible veggie consumer. I don’t like a lot of green vegetables and I struggle to work them into my diet. I do, however, love salad.
The truth is that I don’t take the time to make a salad for myself very often. I also don’t follow the healthy eating habits that I am trying to instill in my children. I suddenly realized that I was not modeling the habits I am trying to teach. Henry was interested in my salad because Mommy was eating the salad. It isn’t enough for me to serve Henry and Leo dinner and pretend that they do not notice the peas and broccoli missing from my own plate.
A foundation of my healthy eating philosophy is to give all the food on the dinner plate equal enthusiasm. By doing this, the kids don’t feel pressure to eat the veggies like I did when I was a kid. We talk a lot about the colors, textures, and taste of food, and I try not to say “eat your veggies!” What kind of subtle message am I sending when we have the conversations over my vegetable-free plate?
So where do we go from here? Well, the kids and I had a great conversation about all the different kinds of things that can go into salads. We planned a menu built around salmon and lettuce cups for later in the week. (Henry insists on the same salad sauce.) As a parent, I believe that it’s my responsibility to provide them with a variety of healthy food options and the flexibility to make some of their own food choices. As an adult who is trying to become a healthier person, I owe it to myself to follow my own advice.
henrysalad.jpg
What challenges do you face as you try and teach your children about healthy eating habits? How do you introduce new foods to your dinner table?

Produced by: Funding is provided by:
Jim Hensen Corporation logo CPB ViNCi MetLife The Rosehills Foundation S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation logo The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations logo
 

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