Support for PBS Parents provided by:


  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Peg + Cat
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Thomas & Friends
  • Arthur
  • Bob the Builder
  • Martha Speaks
  • WordGirl
  • Sesame Street
  • The Electric Company
  • Cyberchase
  • Between the Lions
  • Caillou
  • Chuck Vanderchuck
  • Oh Noah
  • Fetch!
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Mister Rogers
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • SciGirls
  • Wilson & Ditch
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM
Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Leo does not fit in his froggy raincoat and yellow boots anymore. We discovered this last week when the rain was coming down in buckets and we were late for school. “Get your froggy raincoat!” I yelled from the kitchen. I heard Leo head to the hall closet and rustle around. When he came back, I discovered the sad truth. Leo’s arms were sticking out of the raincoat and the Velcro was straining at closure. I stood there for a moment and watched my baby morph from a two year old into a tall four year old before my eyes. Here is Leo in his froggy raincoat less than a year ago.
Rain.png
That’s been happening a lot lately with Leo. I pulled down Henry’s old 5T clothes this week to transition into Leo’s wardrobe. When Leo put on one of Henry’s old long sleeve t-shirts he protested because it was too “long.” Leo is used to wearing shirts that barely pass his belly button because his mommy (ahem) can’t bear to put away some of his cuter t-shirts. Invariably when I take either of the boys to get new shoes, I discover that they have been shoving their feet into a pair of sneakers at least a size too small. I am in denial…and Leo is only 4! What happens at 16?
The loss of the froggy raincoat hit me hard. We’ve had it for at least fours years because Henry wore it too. Raincoats are important to us because rain watching and puddle hopping is a big event with the Helfrich family. It doesn’t rain very often where we live and when it does, we get right out in it!
Leo loves to observe puddles and searches our neighborhood to find the deepest specimens for jumping into. The other day I watched him squat down next at the sidewalk’s edge and observe the water run off with great interest. I leaned down next to him to see what was going on.
“Mom, see that little leaf?” he said pointing. “It is stuck in a whirlpool spinning and spinning. I like that.”
And indeed it was. The leaf was turning gently as the water rushed by to the drain. We talked a bit about whirlpools before he rushed off to find worms.
My favorite time to observe the rain is early in the morning, from the comforts of a cozy bed. Leo and Henry usually make their way into our bed for a morning cuddle. Recently we were all snuggled in when Henry said, “Listen to the rain!”
It was pouring outside. The rain was hitting the house hard and for a moment we imagined we were in a tropical rain forest. As the rain hit the skylight in the bathroom it sounded like a big drum. The boys made observations about the sounds and we all snuggled in a little closer. This was a magical kind of science moment. And a fleeting one.
The good news is that Henry has also grown out of his raincoat and Leo is acquiring the coveted fireman rain outfit complete with red fire detailed boots. Henry claims that the fireman raincoat is for babies and he doesn’t like it when the grownups at school call him “Little Fireman.” Alas, 6 years old is too mature for some good clean rain fun. Luckily, Leo does not share that sentiment. He is more than happy to don the fireman raincoat.
The froggy raincoat will be retired and passed on to a worthy family friend. No matter what the color or style of the rain gear, all of us look forward to our next romp in the rain.
Happy holidays everyone! Science Kids on the Loose will be off for the next couple of weeks. See you in 2012!

Those of you who listen to the Sid the Science Kid podcast might recall that Gerry and I decided to “unplug” for the Thanksgiving holiday and head up to Sequoia National Park with the boys. We are eager to start exploring the wonders the National Park Service has to offer. So we rented a cabin by a river and went out into the wild.
I knew that this trip would be full of opportunities for science learning, observing, and practicing science words. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming sensation of trying to capture the science in the midst of all the nature. Oh, and nature is dangerous in my mom’s eye.
Exhibit A: Big Wet Rocks by a River.
The boys were so very excited to go bouldering by the river. I can’t think of many more activities that would appeal to Henry and Leo as much. Especially Henry, the boy with no boundaries. So, while I am trying to take in the scenery, the boys went scampering off. Soon they were out of site. Gerry and I had to drag our forty-something selves over the rocks to make sure they didn’t go splash into the moving river.
Wild1.jpg
Science Lesson: We discussed the meaning of “current” and threw objects in the river to see how fast they disappeared downriver. Then we extrapolated to how fast a person would go. Henry seemed skeptical, feeling confident that he could swim it out. Uh oh.
Exhibit B: Giant Sequoia Trees
I was very eager to get up into the park and see the Giant Forest of Sequoias. As far as I am concerned, these lovely towering trees are heaven on earth. The boys, however, just saw them as lots and lots of big trees. In their defense, all trees are big to kids their size. I especially wanted to see Sherman, the oldest tree, most majestic tree. We walked with the kids into the grove and I felt a special kind of reverence for nature, while the boys explored lots of climbing opportunities. There were fences marking the pathways with NO CLIMBING signs all over. So, Gerry and I spent a lot of time pulling the boys off.
Wild2.jpg
Science Lesson: I do think the boys were interested in some of the facts about Sherman. For instance, scientists calculate that the Sherman is 2,200 years old. We looked at the rings of a fallen tree and they were mightily impressed. We also got to spend some time looking at trail maps and talking about scale. Leo found a sequoia seed and reflected on how something so small could become a gigantic tree. Made my heart sing!
Exhibit C: Snow
Weather played a big role on our trip. When we left home it was 80 degrees. In the Three Rivers, outside the park, the temperature was in the 60s. As we drove in the park and made the climb up past 5000ft, the temps dropped into the low 40s and we found SNOW! The boys started to squeal when we first sighted snow in the Giant Forest. As we parked the car, we put on snow gear on in a frenzy so that boys could get out. They literally threw themselves in a pile of snow by the side of the road. I guess there is still a little New England in these California boys.
We managed to find a great sledding spot and spent a glorious sunny morning racing down a small hill. The whole family gave it a try as we blazed our own run down an untouched hill. We laughed and laughed. The boys had snow pants but I was soaking wet. And it wasn’t cold!
Wild3.jpg
Science lesson: The weather and the temperatures gave us a chance to talk about altitude and temperature. The boys know the air has to be cold enough for snow and the connection to how high we were was interesting to them. While sledding we inadvertently learned about friction, speed, and “catching air.” I did have to talk with Henry about thin ice as he stepped into a stream and broke through the thin layer.
Exhibit D: We Saw a Bear.
As we drove out of the park on our last day, we saw brown bears by the side of the road.
Bears. Real live bears.
We couldn’t believe it. Several cars had pulled over and we all took pictures while the bears ambled about and did their thing. I know that the National Parks are famous for wildlife, but I really didn’t expect to experience it first hand. All four of us knew we witnessed something special.
Wild4.jpg
Science Lesson: Natural science doesn’t get too much better than this. We chatted about habitats, food sources, and endangered animals. The boys asked questions about where the bears live while I explained that WE were visiting the bears’ home. I hope they never forget it.
We purchased a National Park Passport and inaugurated our book with the Sequoia Stamp. Henry and Leo are already asking when we can explore another park. It isn’t easy to head into the wild with young children, but I think it is worth it. The science opportunities were everywhere but it was also about the opportunities we had as family to learn together, grow together, and laugh together. I can’t wait to get back out there.

I love my smart phone. I really love it. I can take pictures, spy on my friends on social media websites, play word games, look for recipes, update my calendar and even answer phone calls. It keeps me company during some of my most boring times of the day like basketball practice or watching the boys at the park. I turn to my phone for help in for those tricky moments in the post office or doctor’s waiting room when the boys need something to keep them quiet. Is it a crutch? Perhaps. Will I ever give it up? Never ever.
But I certainly don’t want my kids to know that! And as Sid the Science Kid shows us this week, the little eyes are always watching and the little ears are always listening. It’s no secret that our children learn from the behavior we model. Sid made this point in a comical way in the latest episode about computers. He giggles as his parents respond to every alert on their computer, interrupting conversation to check email with every “ding!” Sid even says something like, “The computer makes my parents do stuff.” Talk about perspective! The episode goes on to teach about the computer as a tool for science. Sid and his friends learn that scientists use technology to share information and research new ideas.
It really made me think about the ways I use technology in my life. I certainly use the computer as a tool for writing, research, banking, travel, shopping, and scheduling. But that isn’t the way my kids see me using technology. I work when they are at school or asleep. Henry and Leo see me talking on the phone, playing games, interacting socially, taking photos, and basically “playing.” I realize that I need to purposefully take time to teach the boys about using technology as a tool.
And the kids on Sid the Science Kid did an activity on the show that does just that. The kids complete a simple science activity, journal about it, take a picture of the journal, download the picture onto the computer, and then email the picture to a parent.
I enlisted Dad’s help with the activity. While I went out shopping, they took a nature walk on the cul-de-sac looking for evidence of nature in the winter. Apparently, the whole neighborhood got involved, as the boys wandered around. Our neighbors offered information about trees, squirrels, and the weather. Gerry recorded their findings on a list as they explored. They had a great time.
When I got home, I asked to see the list. Then I invited the boys into my office to talk about the computer. I wanted them to make the connection between the information they gathered and the computer as a way to share that information. I asked them how they could share the list with Dad. Henry wisely stated that since Dad wrote the list then he probably didn’t need to see it again. I explained that Dad often forgets things and that he needed a copy of the list. So we took a picture.
Technology1.jpg
Then came the process of downloading the picture onto the computer. I let them connect the wires and press the keys. And then we waited. And waited. It felt like the days of dial up. The boys got antsy so I quizzed them on the parts of the computer. Henry knew the names for mouse, keyboard, and screen, but Leo didn’t. Leo liked “mouse” because “it moves fast and quick.”
When the photo was uploaded we talked about email as a letter we send over the computer. We worked together to compose an email to Dad and press the correct buttons to send the information. Here is the email:
Technology2.jpg
I know that Gerry will be tickled to receive the email and the picture. I am glad that the boys know they can use the computer to communicate. There is a more to do than play Angry Birds with a computer!
For now, I know that I won’t cut back too much on my smart phone usage. But I do think I can be smarter about what I model for my kids and when I choose to use the technology.
Do you limit your smart phone usage when the kids are around? How much do you children know about technology?

I have noticed over that past month or so that Legos are becoming more popular with Henry and Leo. I have been waiting for this shift for quite a while and I am pleased that the Lego fascination has begun. Don’t get me wrong; the boys are still wrecking the house with their huge plastic cars, bat caves, and super heroes. And Legos aren’t the easiest toy to wrangle and clean up…but at least they inspire a different kind of imaginary play. Dare I say simple science play?
At the end of most Sid the Science Kid activities you can find additional fun things to do with your children related to the science topic of the show. This week I took a look at the suggestions related to Simple Machines and the wheel. There was a wonderful idea to use building blocks to make cars, some with wheels and some without wheels. The object was to race the cars and understand the role that wheels play as simple machines. Fun and simple, just the way I like it!
So, I gave the boys quick instructions and we got to work building cars. Henry worked independently while I teamed up with Leo. The playroom was silent except for the sound of Legos clinking against each other in the bin as we looked for wheels, axels, drivers, and steering wheels. I don’t usually play Legos with the boys, but this time I made sure to give it a try and overcome my fear of Legos. Yes, I said fear. I am afraid that I won’t be able to make anything cool. My brothers were brilliant Lego engineers. I just couldn’t keep up! Thankfully, I get to try again with Henry and Leo.
Lego1.jpg
Henry decided to make a “slanty” racecar. It was a neat concept and we were all eager to see how the car would race. Once Leo and I finished our collaborative effort (he insisted on a slanty car too) we started racing.
Lego2.jpg
I used blue masking tape to mark the distance each car traveled with the wheels on. Then they boys went back to work reconstructing their cars without wheels. We made predictions and raced again. As expected, the cars didn’t travel as far without wheels. Surprisingly though, the cars did manage to move quite well. Henry pulled in other science concepts by remarking, “Mom, it’s about the friction on the tile floor!” Bravo!
Lego3.jpg
Next our investigation took on a new hypothesis. We wanted to learn about the role of wheels, but we also wanted to explore body style and aerodynamics. Would a slanty car be faster or slower than a flat model? Uncharted territory for Sid scientists! Once again, we made predictions and got ready to race. The boys altered their cars again for the next stage of our race. I thought for sure that the flat car would be faster, but what do I know? Henry had a lot of confidence in his slanty model.
And Henry was right! The slanty cars traveled farther than the flat ones. We jumped, whooped, and clapped! I have never had so much fun with Legos! I asked the boys to also think about the weight and steering on their cars as we reexamined the design. All three of us had equally important input and ideas. We really enjoyed the collaborative effort.
Every night at bedtime they boys say something they are grateful for from the day. That night Henry said he was grateful for playing Legos with Mom. Made my heart sing! I guess I can say now that I DO like playing with Legos, especially when it makes my boy so happy.
What are your children’s favorite toys? Can you think of ways to bring simple science into your everyday play? I would love to hear your ideas!

One of my favorite Sid activities is the Decayed Pumpkin investigation. Kids get to experience first hand the wonders of an icky yucky rotting vegetable. Last year, on this blog, I admitted that I was wary of this activity due to the smell and mold factors. But not this year! This year I decided to go for it in a BIG way. I wanted to conduct the decomposing pumpkin activity with Leo’s entire class. Many hands touching the slime and ooze. It was going to be great! Miss D. was on board immediately. She volunteered to sacrifice the class pumpkin that had been acquired at the field trip to the local farm. Note that this field trip occurred in early October.
This very special pumpkin has been through the preschool ringer. First Miss D. had drew a big happy face on the pumpkin, complete with curly hair. For a couple of weeks the face smiled as the children “shaved” it’s face with real shaving cream and play razors. Then Miss D. introduced a new activity with the stalwart pumpkin. She invited the children to pound small plastic nails into the pumpkin with small plastic hammers. So much fun! So in addition to the happy face the pumpkin acquired small holes all over it’s shiny orange surface. This activity went on with gusto until the end of October when it was my turn.
I decided to divide the activity into two separate days in the classroom. The first visit involved cutting the pumpkin and scraping out the seeds and sticky inside. Before we began, I took a picture of the pumpkin in it’s whole state:
Pumpkin1.jpg
The kids were not sentimental about their classroom friend…they were excited when I got the top off and the scooping began! It was fun to see which kids wanted to get in with bare hands vs. the kids who wanted to use the fancy scooper. Miss D. and I lined them up for the task.
Pumpkin2.jpg
I had toasted some seeds at home for the kids to sample at school. It was interesting to see them react to the seeds…some liked them and other didn’t.
Jonathan was a big a fan!
Pumpkin3.jpg
Then I explained that we would be putting the pumpkin away for a few days to see what would happen. I asked the children to make predictions. The word “moldy” came up and we guessed that the pumpkin would decompose. Miss D. and I decided to wrap the pumpkin in a plastic bag, place it between two large black containers, and set it in the sun outside for a few days. It was important for the school that we not attract critters to the classroom.
Pumpkin4.jpg
So, the first part of the experiment happened on a Thursday. I returned on the following Tuesday to see what state our pumpkin was in. I was hoping for lots of gooey, sticky, gross decomposition.
Pumpkin5.jpg
Back in Miss D’s classroom, we talked about the word “decompose” and what we expected the pumpkin to look like. The kids were ready to see what had happened to the pumpkin. I was reminded of the challenges of classroom management as we helped them all put on plastic gloves. It took a while because the gloves were big. Finally we were ready to head outside to see how our experiment turned out.
Pumpkin6.jpg
With great anticipation we unwrapped the plastic and pulled out…
A completely intact and healthy pumpkin!
Yup, the pumpkin did NOT decompose. I couldn’t believe it. We all examined the pumpkin, looking for signs of decay, but there was none to be found. Leo claimed to see tiny black spots on the top, but for the most part that pumpkin was fresh.
Pumpkin7.jpg
Miss D. wisely stated, “That’s why we conduct experiments in science!” We talked with the kids about the tight plastic bag and the lack of air. We also decided to give it a few more days to see what would happen. I was disappointed but thankfully, the kids were not. They were curious and mostly happy about getting to wear plastic gloves. And they did learn about one very important part of science: trial and error. Also a great life lesson!
That is one stubborn pumpkin.
Have you had any experiment go awry? How did you explain the circumstances to your kids?
UPDATE: I checked in on the pumpkin today (13 days later) and it still looks pretty good! The inside has started to mold but the outside is still orange and hard. Miss D. wants us to keep waiting!

Leo and I have spent some time this week playing the new math-based science games on the Sid the Science Kid website. Or perhaps I should say that Leo has been playing the games while I fold laundry and clean out the boys’ closet. I listen from the floor as he sits on a big chair in front of the computer and plays with Sid and his friends. And let me tell you, I like what I am hearing. These games are COOL!
The nine new games, collectively called “Sid’s Science Fair,” can be found on the first game screen (they are marked with a small math symbols bar). In a nutshell, these math games cover various skills, including matching, sorting, measuring, weighing and patterns. These are not easy concepts for a preschooler who has little or no background knowledge. But the games are “hosted” by Sid and his friends, who explain the tasks in kid-friendly language, and during the game the host provides tips and encouragement.
That said the games do need parental support as children navigate the site and learn the rules and goals of each game. Most of the important instruction is available through audio cues, but Leo still needed help with navigation. I was in the same room so it was easy for me to help him along. Then, I found myself leaving my laundry in the pile so I could participate with him. As I have found in the past with Sid investigations, Leo was capable of completing activities and mastering concepts that I would not have thought possible.
For example, there is a game called Pan Balance. In the game Leo had to click on weight and move them to onto the pan to balance the object on the other side. He had never seen this kind of tool before, but through trial and error he got the hang of it. Amazingly, I was able to actually watch him learn the concepts of weights and balances. Leo liked the clicking and he also enjoyed seeing what the object on the other side of the balance would be.
panbalance.jpg
I also watched Leo gain proficiency in basic computer motor skills. We have a tricky wireless mouse (I often want to throw it against the wall) but Leo managed to work through the frustrating moments. I showed him some tips and we worked with the mouse together and he did fine. He also asked me to show him how to get to the game from the main Sid page. I was able to teach him about icons and show him how to navigate the site. In those moments I am reminded how I never touched a computer until I was in college and how my children will never use a rotary phone. Am I dating myself?
I also appreciated the “Tell Me More” feature in each game (found in the lower right corner of every game on the site). Each one provided extra facts I could share with Leo, or a way to think about the math concept more offline.
These Sid’s Science Fair games provide a moment of peace for me in the midst of a media gaming storm that is raging in our house. My parents generously gifted our family a gaming system last year for the holidays and it has been tough going. Henry, especially, has had a hard time managing his emotions, competitiveness, impulsiveness, and patience when it comes to video games. We tried many different strategies and rules with the rated E games to help the boys negotiate the charged emotions that came along with the gaming system. However, more often than not, the strictly monitored sessions would end in monumental tantrums. I can’t tell you how many times I thought to myself: “Why are we letting them play these games?”
Why indeed. Last week after a particularly terrible tantrum involving both Leo and Henry, the gaming system was put away for good. Surprisingly both boys took the news with a wise nod of the head. They are hoping to get it back when Henry is 8 years old. We’ll see about that.
That is why the Sid games are a welcome oasis for us. The games do not cause any of the aforementioned tantrums and I feel like they boys are learning valuable computer skills while being exposed to important educational concepts. That’s a win-win, in my book. I can participate without feeling like a mean referee and that is how it should be with a family activity.
Please go check out the new games and let us know what you think. What is your philosophy about computers in the home with preschoolers? I’d love to hear from you!
Computer1.jpg

Happy Halloween Sid fans! The big day is upon us all. My kids have been busting out of their skins all weekend. They are ready for trick or treating! I did my best to fill up our weekend with Halloweeny activities: a town carnival, pumpkin carving, a Halloween birthday party, and lots of house decorating. And a candy jar continuously filled with candy corns. I am hoping that Henry and Leo will be so Halloweened-out by tonight that an early evening might be possible. Hahahahaha! A mom can dream, right?
Anyone who has been following this blog for the month of October knows that I have decided to embrace Halloween and shower my kids with science and activities related to the holiday. We made slime, created a web with Leo’s class, and crafted at home. I admit it has been lots of fun. Before having children, in my single days, Halloween was like New Years or Valentine’s Day: pressure filled with the need to be clever, charming, and alluring. I am so happy that those days are past me now and Halloween can be like I remember it as a child: magical, mysterious, and exciting.
Halloween1.jpg
However, even as I have tried to keep Halloween fun and festive, there are moments of fear and trepidation for my boys. Leo, in particular, has a hard time with the spooky aspects of Halloween. Our neighbors across the street started decorating their house before the end of September with bloody skeletons, ghosts, and other spectral horrors. It looks amazing, but to a four year old, it has been absolutely terrifying. Even in broad daylight. I have found myself trying to find words to explain the meaning of coffin, corpse, sarcophagus, and zombie to my little boys. It hasn’t been easy. The living dead isn’t something I focus on too often.
At school Henry and his friends have been playing zombies and vampires. They are very vocal about their appetite for brains and blood. All in jest, of course, but Leo isn’t so sure all the time. He came to our bed in the middle of the night crying because he dreamed that zombies were trying to eat his head. As a preschooler, I see Leo trying to keep up with the big kids and their games, yet his tender heart isn’t ready for the frightening concepts. What’s a mom to do? I struggle with wanting to let the boys find their own way but also wanting to protect them from concepts that are clearly too old for them.
Thankfully, I can fall back on some of my Sid strategies to allay fears. We ask questions about scary things like spooky lights or skeletons hanging from the trees. We touch objects in the daylight and make observations about why these things are scary. Leo isn’t convinced completely, but I have found that exploring, talking, and touching has helped him relax a little bit.
Thankfully, Henry and Leo love to dress up. It’s not just a Halloween activity at our house. We have lots of costumes, mostly super heroes, community helpers, and even a princess dress. And they all get worn on a regular basis. This weekend, as we had so many different events, the boys got to hop around town in various disguises. On Saturday night they went to a festival dressed like this:
Halloween2.jpg
On Friday, they were Darth Vader and a Jedi for a birthday party. Tonight Henry and Leo will trick or treat as Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi respectively. I love that their imaginations are fired up by the costumes and I get questions like, “Mom, how will I carry a light saber and all of my candy? Can you make me belt for my light saber?” (Am I the only one who grew up thinking it was a light SAVER?)
I am really looking forward to tonight. I have big pot of chili on the stove, bags of candy in bowl, spooky music downloaded, and flashlights at the ready. I know that Leo and Henry may have some moments of fright, but that’s all a part of being a kid on Halloween. I just need to stand by with open arms and a safe haven for my little trick or treaters.
Have fun tonight everyone! Share your favorite Halloween moments or delight or terror on the blog today!

Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time with a group of very brilliant young scientists. Leo’s amazing preschool teacher, Miss D., invited me into the classroom to try out a Sid the Science Kid investigation on a real preschool class, with all of Leo’s preschool peers. Seven little scientists in all.
Leo was beside himself with anticipation as we made our way to his classroom. He was talking nonstop and ready to get going on our adventure. My goal was to recreate the spider web activity from the new Sid the Science Kid Halloween special. In the activity, four children use classroom furniture as a base to make a spider web out of twine. On the show, the live action is shown in fast forward speed as the children move back and forth to create a fantastic spider web. How ingenious! And fun! And easy?
Miss D welcomed me into the classroom and I got right to work. First, I asked the children to tell me what they know about spiders. It being Halloween time and all, I got plenty of information about poison, biting, and what to watch out for. As we talked more we learned some basic facts about spiders: eight legs, make webs, eat insects. Then I read them a wonderful big book about spider webs that I borrowed from Henry’s Kindergarten teacher. The children loved the large-scale photos of the icky spiders and the various kinds of webs.
As we read the book, I got a sense of the challenges we would be working with. Mainly, the kids were really, really excited and they talked constantly. And they wiggled constantly. And they really wanted to make a web. Miss D stepped in now and then to reestablish order. It was fascinating to watch.
Then we put the seven kids into two groups and Miss D and I stood on either side of four chairs as we began to have children walk across the space and hand twine back and forth. It was tough manage seven excited kids who weren’t really sure what we were actually making.
Web1.jpg
Miss D and I sent the boys and girls back and forth, making it up as we went along. The twine would slip on the back of the chair, or unravel off the spool, or a little friend would drop the whole thing. The key was to keep the chairs in place to that the twine could stay taut.
My seven little spiders LOVED it. They were totally entranced by the process. We even had to prod them along every once in while because they were so busy watching the web come alive. I talked with them about silk, spiders, and a little about engineering. But they mostly wanted to get to a point where they could PLAY with the web.
When Miss D and I decided that the web was well formed I gave each of the children a spider to place on the web. The glee was frenzied and Miss D had to step in quick with a loud yet calming song. The kids were mesmerized and frankly, I was too! Then we got back to the task at hand and started placing spiders.
Web2.jpg
It was tricky work getting those spiders to stay on our delicate web. We talked about how strong, yet delicate spider webs needed to be. Each child had a turn stepping or crawling into the web to place a spider.
Web3.jpg
Web4.jpg
Soon, all of the spiders were placed precariously on the web. The activity had taken us close to an hour and the kids were spent. And I was exhausted. I cannot tell you how much admiration I have for Miss D. She was the model of patience, perseverance, and poise. Miss D exhibited helped me engage the kids, keep them on task, and move them along when she saw things get hairy. I could never have done the investigation alone. I am so lucky as a parent to have Miss D teaching Leo this year.
Before leaving, I asked the kids to pose for me as a group of spiders. It was hard to get a clear photo, as they totally got into their roles and became scary gang of spiders!
Web5.jpg
I can’t wait to go back and try out another one of Sid’s investigations with Leo and his friends. They all are bright, quick, and curious scientists. I am sure they will have lots of information to me as the year goes on. And I just have to give huge shout out to all of the “Miss Suzies” out there. Preschool teachers have the most wonderful and challenging job!

Halloween is in the air! And this year I have decided to embrace this spookiest of all holidays and plan lots of spooky fun. And where else can I turn for ideas but to Sid the Science Kid? This week’s new Halloween Special is truly delightful. I am sucker for cute cartoon kids dressed up in adorable costumes. Henry and Leo loved the novelty of seeing the characters in difference clothes and were blown away by the experiments in the episode: making a spider web and investigating green slime. Both are really accessible and oozing with good fun.
I was particularly excited about the green slime activity. You can find it here. I love it when we can get our hands into messy goo and talk about its properties. Yes, I have become a science geek…and I am proud. So, last night after dinner, much to Gerry’s horror, I told Henry and Leo that we would be making green slime. (Make sure you rub your hands together and laugh maniacally as you make the announcement.) For the record, I planned the activity after dinner and BEFORE bath time. You will see why.
First we gathered all of the materials. I let Henry and Leo run around and find everything.
Slime1.jpg
The boys did all the measuring, pouring, and mixing. I stepped in when they asked. The first thing we needed to do was measure the corn starch and add the water. I was quickly reminded that cornstarch is a main ingredient in baby powder. Poof! Henry squirted in the green paint and then it was time to mush it all with our hands.
Slime2.jpg
And here is where I started learning new things about my boys. Henry was very interested in getting his hands all slimy. He was all in. Leo, on the other hand, got his fingers in there and immediately wanted out. I would never have guessed it! Leo didn’t want to get gooey and he wasn’t pleased by the consistency. Henry and I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop playing with the stuff.
Our next step was to separate the slime into two more bowls and see what would happen to the slime if we added more water or more cornstarch. We made some predictions and here is what it looked like.
Slime3.jpg
The slime in the middle bowl was very watery and the slime small bowl became crumbly. We talked a lot about the word consistency. The irony is that the both of them were so fascinated by the various consistencies that I am not sure they actually learned the word. But I know they got the concept.
After finishing with the steps of the investigation I let the boys run amok with the slime. Henry wanted to know what would happen if we poured bowl 3 into bowl 2, so we did it. (Still watery.) Then he wanted to pour into the big the bowl and we added more cornstarch to make it a little slimier. We had SO MUCH FUN! And we made a BIG MESS!
Slime4.jpg
My one piece of advice is to have a big bowl of water handy for your kids to rinse off in. As soon as Leo started balking at the slime, I got the bowl of water for him to use. It was much better than having him drip across the kitchen for a rinse.
I am psyched to try the other activity from the Halloween special and make a spider web. Leo and Henry are insisting that I dress up like Teacher Susie as a mad scientist for Halloween. I think I might have to do what I am told!
Do you have any great Halloween crafts to share? What are your Halloween plans with your little scientists?

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
 

What's this?

PBS Parents Picks

  1. Wild Kratts image

    Wild Kratts App Teaches Young Children How to Care for Animals

    In this app, kids are charge of feeding, washing, and playing with baby animals.


  2. Curious Kids image

    How (And Why) To Encourage Curiosity

    "...when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better."


  3. Gardening Benefits image

    The Benefits of Gardening With Kids

    Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. A few containers and soil in a sunny spot will do.


PBS Parents Newsletter

Find activities, parenting tips, games from your child's favorite PBS KIDS programs and more.

×