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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Socks, Shirts, and Friction

Ever since I decided to write about friction for this week’s blog post, I have been thinking about the ways in which the concept applies to my life with my two boys. Yes, friction is a great science concept to teach to preschoolers and makes for some great fun explorations. Then there’s the social emotional kind of friction — the kind of head to head battles that occur and cause disagreement and resistance at home.
We watched the Slide to Side episode when the boys were recovering from yet another bout of what I call the Lethargy Fever Plague. It was encouraging to see a pale-faced Leo perk up when he watched Sid slide across the floor in his socks and then come to a stop with his sneakers on. I thought that Sid’s investigation question about “Why can’t I slide with sneakers on?” was so authentic to a preschooler’s experience. Leo obviously did too, because he got up off the couch to conduct his own investigation.
First Leo tried sliding in his socks and got the slipperiest results. He did a little slide jig and then decided to try his bare feet. The results were less satisfying. To add to his investigation, I offered to provide him with another pair of socks with rubber dots on them and his footie pajamas.
Leo really led this investigation on his own. He employed a process of elimination and ranked his sliding success. At one point he wore one smooth sock and one sock with the treads. As I watched the little scientist at work, I could almost see what he was thinking. Afterwards Leo had a concrete understanding of the concept. I sensed that he felt satisfied for having tried out what he saw on TV for himself. Now he’s sliding all over the place. We have a lot of tile.
Now, on to the other kind of friction — the kind that can turn an ordinary day into a very long day. Friction about a shirt, for example. At the risk of sounding stereotypical, let me say that dressing my boys every day is not an exercise in trendy style or fashion. However, I do like to spread my fashion wings around the holidays. I will cop to buying an occasional matching spring outfit for church services in light blues and greens and matching pajamas in December. I look forward to clever t-shirts at Halloween (My Mummy Loves Me!) and chain store Fourth of July clothing.
Valentine’s Day is one such fashion opportunity. Leo had a party at school and I was ready with a button down red Hawaiian shirt that makes anyone within a 50-yard radius sigh at his curly cuteness. On other days Leo has requested the red Hawaiian shirt. This was not one of those days. Leo pitched a rare and honest to goodness fit when I tried to put the shirt on him. And the sparks started to fly.
I have no idea why it meant so much to me that Leo wear the silly shirt. I had a chance to take the smooth route and let him choose something else but instead I applied force and resistance. The friction mounted all the way through our morning routine with tears, raised voices, and hurt feelings. I am not proud to admit that the conflict continued in the car on the way to school. It was not pretty.
In the end Mommy did the apologizing and Leo quietly stated that he just didn’t want anyone to see him in that shirt. That’s just the way it is sometimes. I can’t help but think about the laws or rules of science really can apply to life. If the surface is smooth and the object moving across is also smooth then we glide happily along. As soon as either the surface or the object is rough or resistant, the movement forward stops, along with the fun. Amazingly, it’s not always the kids who provide the resistance. Sometimes it’s me, the parent. And it’s my job to reduce the friction. Thanks Sid, for reminding me!
How do you smooth things out when the friction gets too high? Do your kids ever find solutions on their own?

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