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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: January, 2011

Sid the Science Kid is focused on health this week. I love learning new and clever ways to teach Henry and Leo about the importance of living a healthy life. The show really hits on the fundamentals of giving little ones the foundations for fighting germs and staying fit. And as usual, it was all wrapped up in a bunch of fun. The Big Sneeze episode is near and dear to my heart because fighting germs is a daily battle in my house. And sometimes we lose…over the holidays for example.
So this week, Leo played in the dirt and got dirty on purpose with the Clean It Up! activity. Leo’s friend Devon was also here getting muddy and icky. And I didn’t care. Really!
I was engaged, excited, and happy for several reasons:

  • 1. We were playing outside.
  • 2. The dirt was confined to a big bucket.
  • 3. I did not have to clean up my house.

The boys were happy because I said we would be playing with dirt. Magic words, apparently.
I highly recommend getting all of the materials ready and reachable before you start. The potting soil I have is organic and had bits of splintery mulch in it. Not perfect, but still dirty!
The first step was to put potting soil in a big bucket. Then I had the boys stick their hands in it and get dirty.
Believe it or not, the soil wasn’t dirty enough until I added some water and made it muddy. That’s how we achieved maximum messiness.
Then I asked the boys to clean their hands with paper towels. It was interesting to see how earnest they were about trying to get the dirt off. I think they knew the activity was building up to something.
Next, I had the boys examine their “clean” hands with a magnifying glass. We talked about the places in their hands where the dirt gets stuck: fingernails, cuticles, between fingers, and in the lines.
I asked Leo and Devon to brainstorm about what they needed to do in order to get really clean. Water, of course! So they dunked their hands in water. Note, that I didn’t use the soap yet. I wanted to them to understand that soap is an essential part of getting clean.
It was clear with further examination under the magnifying glass that water alone wasn’t going to get those cute chubby fingers clean!
What was missing? Soap of course! We added bubbles and they started scrubbing. It wasn’t easy to get the soil out from under their nails.
And then they were clean. Whew! Too bad I didn’t get their faces as sparkling!

This activity is a perfect example of how children respond to concrete, real-world experiences. Kids get dirty and that dirt (invisible or otherwise) sticks. We had a great discussion about germs. Although germs are invisible they can stick to all the same sneaky spots as the dirt. Both boys seemed to understand the concept.
Later, when Leo came out of the bathroom he put up his hands for inspection and showed me all the clean spots. The activity suggests taking before and after pictures of dirty hands and hanging them in the bathroom as a reminder. I think that’s a great tip. Visuals make all the difference!
How do you teach your kids about germs and keeping clean? Do you have any great tips to share?

In the past few months I’ve watched both Leo and Henry’s enthusiasm grow as we try out the fun Super Fab Lab investigations from Sid the Science Kid. When we first began I had to sell the activities a little bit. I was cautious of sounding too excited or “into it” because for some reason, my boys sometimes shy away from things that I am too jazzed about. And I kind of get jazzed about these investigations.
Lately, I’ve heard the boys asking casually, “When are we going to do our next experiment?” or “I wonder what Sid is doing in the Super Fab Lab today?” They’ve gone from passive participation in this science exploration to active instigators. I love it.
The boys were especially keen to freeze some fruit and find out what happened. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Frozen Fruit Investigation is so much fun for the kids. I found that the activity provided us with a lot of choices and lots of ways for kid-driven exploration.
We started the activity before school by choosing fruit and dropping them into a small plastic cups. The boys decided on 1 blueberry, 1 grape, and 1 baby carrot. We wanted to add a veggie into the mix to see what would happen. I then let the boys use the water dispenser on the fridge to fill the glass. I am still trying to give the boys more freedom in the kitchen and the water dispenser is a BIG thing for me. They were both pleased and surprised that I let them fill the water. Then the cups went into the fridge. I asked them both to predict how long it would take the water to freeze. Henry predicted 1 day and Leo predicted 2 days. Note that I did not even have to define the word “predict” for my little scientists.
After school Henry and Leo made a beeline for the fridge. I hadn’t even put down my purse before they were exclaiming, “It’s frozen! It’s frozen! The fruit is frozen!”
We discussed their predictions as I grabbed two baking pans and told them to get the fruit out of the ice. They looked at me like I was crazy, and then the lights started going off in their brains.
Henry decided that he needed a plastic knife to start chipping away at the ice. Okay! I got them both knives and they set to work. After a little while Henry and Leo realized that this was going to take a long time and a lot of effort.
So, I asked them to think about the ice and not the fruit. We talked about ice as water and what makes water turn into ice. Then we speculated about what makes ice turn back to water. Leo thought that maybe we should put in the fridge. Henry disagreed.
“Make it hot,” Henry said.
“How?” I asked.
Henry and Leo thought it over and choose to use hot water. We moved our investigation over to the counter by the sink. I provided hot tap water for their pans and the boys told me when to add more or stop. Both boys yelled with excitement as the ice began to melt and they were able to get at the fruit. Henry noticed that although the grape and blueberry were delicious, the carrot was still frozen on the inside. Leo just wanted more fruit. Healthy snacks!
We talked a bit about reversible change and I reminded Leo about our applesauce investigation from a few months ago. Both of them were so engaged. For this busy mom, the time and effort on my part was minimal. But the effect lasted for days. Henry keeps coming up with new ways to melt the ice: use the microwave, build a campfire, put the ice in the sun, hold it in your hands for a long time. I admire his problem solving dedication. Today, after preschool, Leo asked me if we could freeze fruit again. So we did.
How do you find ways to give your children choices throughout your day? Have any of the Sid activities you’ve tried generated ongoing discussions? Please share!

I love charts. Visual organization really appeals to me. Although I struggle to stay on top of my crazy life, I do enjoy making a list, planning a trip, charting progress, or looking at a cool pie chart on my bank statement. As children will learn this week on Sid the Science Kid a chart is: A science tool that we use to record information. This information is called data. Charts can help us remember how many chores we’ve done, tell us what the weather will be, and record how many children are in school. It’s never too early to teach children about charts, I believe, because of the visual nature of how information is organized.
Charts can help parents too. When I was a new mom, and Henry was under two years old, Gerry and I took a number of “parent enrichment classes.” We went to a CPR class, a baby nutrition class, a potty training class, and a positive discipline class. These evenings provided us with good tips, practical strategies, connections with other parents in our community, and a night out. They also provided a ton of great charting ideas: charts for food, charts for how to get dressed, charts for chores (later on), homework charts, and sticker reward charts.
Ah, the sticker reward charts! Our biggest event with a sticker reward chart was with potty training. By the time Henry was well into his third year, I got a little antsy about the potty training. At the potty training class I was comforted to hear that only 80% of boys are potty trained by the time they are 3 ½. Still, I wanted something to kick-start the process. I went online, found a chart, and let Henry pick a Spiderman motif. We bought stickers and I explained to Henry that he could have a sticker every time he peed in the potty. (Along with an M&M to sweeten the deal.) Finally, I told him that he could pick out a new toy when the chart was full. He needed to have stickers in all the little boxes.
And the games began. Suffice it to say that Henry was only mildly interested in the stickers and often forgot about the candy. I reminded him about the final reward occasionally, but Henry didn’t seem to make the connection. That all changed when Henry saw the big plastic Bat Cave.
Henry really wanted that Bat Cave. It was HUGE and came with Batman, Robin, and a Bat car. So my clever little boy got to work on his sticker chart. In ONE day. Yes, one day. Henry diligently went into the bathroom many, many times during the day and peed in the potty. He did not have a single accident in his big boy underwear. I had no choice but to follow along and reward him as I promised. Lots of M&Ms and many stickers. In fact, a whole chart full of stickers.
I admired Henry’s entrepreneurship while fuming at being outsmarted by a three year old. That weekend we were at the toy store. Henry was beyond thrilled. Two years later, that Bat Cave is still one of Henry’s favorite toys. And he is fully potty trained. Touché, young man!
I think charts can be such an amazing resource when used in the correct way. Both boys really enjoy it when Sid conducts his interviews with the other kids and shows his results on a chart. I have to admit that Henry does understand how to make and use a chart. However, I think that in our house, charts will be used purely as informational tools, as opposed to reward systems.
Have you had success with sticker reward charts? How do you use charts in your everyday life with your children?

Leo started preschool in September and made his first real friend who was outside of Henry’s direct sphere of influence. Devon is Leo’s BFF. The boys see a lot of each other because in addition to being in the same preschool class, their older siblings are in the same Kindergarten class. It’s great because I also get a mommy friend out the deal, Shelly. Heaven knows we can all use more support during pick up, drop offs, volunteer days, coffee runs, play dates, and work-at-home mom meetings. I am so grateful for my village!
When Devon and Leo have an extended play date, I plan the time into segments that a 3-year-old can handle: play/snack/play/lunch/rest and TV/play/snack/pick up. The boys play really well together; so for the most part this kind of play date means I have some time to myself while I keep an eye on the boys.
On a recent play date, I had a lot of segments to fill. I want to be THAT mom in the neighborhood. You know, the mom that all the kids like, the one who thinks of fun activities, initiates adventures, makes tasty treats, and legendary grilled cheese sandwiches. So I pulled out my secret weapon: Sid the Science Kid! I put on the episode called “Ignatz’s Inertia” and looked up the corresponding activity. When I saw the materials included a skateboard and stuffed animals, I knew I had made a really good choice. Devon and Leo sang their way through the episode. They also had an adorable conversation while watching.
Leo: Sid is having a play date with Gabriela.
Devon: She’s a girl.
Leo: Yeah, a girl and boy.
Devon: We are a boy and a boy.
Leo: (giggles) Our play date is a boy and boy. Not a girl and boy like Sid and Gabriela.
They seemed to conclude that THEIR play date was far superior. Priceless.
After the show the show I asked them to each choose a stuffed animal to use in their own Sid experiment. Both boys were very interested. Leo returned with a kangaroo and Devon with a moose. After a quick call to a neighbor I located a skateboard and we were ready to roll.
At first we tried rolling the animals into a curb on the street, but a slight downgrade made them fall before impact. As we experimented with different obstacles and locations I couldn’t help but notice how engaged the boys were in problem solving. They moved the animals to different spots on the skateboard, tried different speeds, and took turns without being told. Good times!
We finally found success on the front stoop of the house. Leo and Devon were able to observe the skateboard stop as it hit the step, while the kangaroo and moose went flying through the air. Inertia exemplified. Leo and Devon were able to articulate the concept when I asked. I was so incredibly satisfied. It was a great play date.
Later that afternoon, before dinner, Leo and Henry were playing in the garage. Henry was intrigued to find a skateboard and questioned Leo about it. From what we can gather, Leo took Henry to the front stoop and recreated the inertia activity. All by himself! Afterwards, Henry burst into the house, full of praise for the fun Sid activity.
As I explained the science behind the experiment to Henry, I could tell he was really thinking it through. Then my little smarty pants older son started talking about riding in the car with a seat belt and how when mommy stops hard he feels his body move, but the car stops. I almost fell over. Henry used a real world example from the show — an episode he had never seen. I definitely felt like THAT mom for a moment: the one with the brilliant kids.
How do you make play dates fun at your house? What kinds of activities are your kids interested in?

Happy New Year! Thanks for coming back to read more about our family adventures in science. I am happy to report that we enjoyed the vacation holiday season in spite of a nasty stomach flu that rendered us housebound for both Christmas and New Years. Such is life with our germ-attracting little ones. To be totally honest, I feel responsible for bringing the plague to our family. In an effort to fill every moment of vacation week, I planned lots of events with the boys that involved cavorting in germ ridden locales, such as a jolly jumper play space, an indoor park at a fast food chain, and the play space at the mall. I know that many of you out there are groaning and wagging your fingers at me. I just wanted the boys to busy and really exhausted every night. Well, I got that and SO much more. I will spare you the details.
On to the brighter side of the holidays…
Among the many wonderful gifts the boys received was a Sid the Science Kid microphone. Leo enjoys running around proclaiming: “Science Kid in the HOUSE!” Adorable.
Today’s science discussion was about shadows. In the episode “Shadow Smile,” Sid sets out to discover why his shadow does not smile back at him. It is one of those episodes that gave me the correct academic language to back up what I instinctually know about shadows. While watching the show Henry and Leo joined in with the Sid gang as they pretended to be each other’s shadows. I was fascinated to watch them work together to take on the role of each other’s shadows. As usual, there was plenty of giggling.
The boys were really motivated by the activity from the episode: making shadow puppets. Our shadow puppet project lasted a full afternoon and employed aspects of science, art, fine motor skills, and lots of fun family time.
The first step was to make the puppets. Since I am not much of an artist, the boys and I used stencils of trucks for our puppets. The fish is freehand, as you can probably tell. Here are the boys hard at work:
I had to search around for paper that was hefty enough to hold the craft stick. I ended up using the back of a construction paper tablet.
The final products:
Then it was time to make shadows. We used our trusty headlamps as the light source and started the show. Leo and Henry understood right away that the colors from the puppets wouldn’t be visible. We spent more time experimenting with the distance between the puppet and the light source. The size of the image on the wall was directly related to how close or far the puppet was from the headlamp. We also had to practice keeping our bodies and hands out of the way so as not to block the light.
Here is what the show looked like:
The headlamp also has a red light that we used to make more discoveries. Henry made a prediction about the color of the shadow in the red light and he was correct! The shadow stays dark, no matter what color the light.
After the bulldozer and snowplow devoured the fish and rammed into each other a few times, Henry and Leo were ready to make their own hand shadow puppets. They talked a lot about the animals and how to manipulate their fingers. Here they are trying to figure it all out:
This one of those activities that I know we’ll come back to again and again. I really liked listening to my two boys talk together and make predictions as a team. They learned by trial and error while being totally entertained. I can’t wait for the next puppet show!
What kinds of activities inspire teamwork and collaboration with your kids? Are you noticing more science in your family activities?

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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