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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: March, 2011

I feel like a lot of my daily mental energy is taken up by food: what to make for my family, how to get the boys to eat, what to give for snack, how to say no to requests for treats, how to get dinner on the table before 6pm, and how to manage my budget at the grocery store. Of course, healthy eating is something I strive for, but with so much to juggle, I can’t say that I always succeed.
As the boys get older, I find myself loosening the food restraints I have traditionally enforced. This is especially true for snacking. When our world was more home-oriented, snacks were always healthy, rarely sugary, and never ever given on demand. As our world has expanded to include school, sports, and play dates, I have been unable to follow through with all of my at-home rules.
Every Monday we have a play date with Henry’s classmates at the park. We all bring a snack, potluck style. At the beginning of the school year I always tried to bring fruits, nuts, or crackers. As time goes on, however, it is easier to buy a bag of cookies. I know how busy we all are and somewhere along the way I stopped caring about big buckets of cheese balls. I let the boys play with their friends and feast at the snack table, no matter what’s there. To be fair, there is usually a fruit in the mix, but the kids don’t really gravitate that way. The times when Henry would pick a strawberry over a cupcake are long gone.
Let me be clear, I ALWAYS want to eat cake, just like Sid does on the show. I totally understand the struggle for the boys. We just get in a rut, and I lose my routine. I sometimes need to reboot, and remind myself about what’s important for the whole family. Henry and Leo are learning the tools of how to make eating choices for the rest of their lives right now. In honor of Food Week on Sid the Science Kid, I am going to make some changes. The first step is to educate my boys about healthy foods vs. sometimes food.
So, Leo and I headed to Trader Joe’s to grocery shop and have a lesson about healthy eating. Once we got in and Leo was pushing his own little cart, we started talking about what kinds of food are healthy choices and which foods are only to be eaten sometimes. We decided that only healthy foods would land in his cart.
We began in the vegetable and fruit area and he clearly knew that both varieties are definitely healthy foods. When we moved over to the whole grains and bread area, he wasn’t so sure, but I helped him understand that this food group is important.
He was very happy to get these cookies in his hands, and not so happy to put them in the big cart. But he knew right away that this was a sometimes food.
Once again, Leo was way ahead of what I think he knows. He ran around that store on a mission. He never got it wrong. For some reason, Leo was insistent that I take his picture in front of the healthy yogurt.
Our last stop was by the chips and snacks. He loves to snack on cheesy crunchies, although he did know to put in my cart as a sometimes food.
Once again, it is evident my kids are way ahead of where I think they are. They can only eat what I offer them, and I feel like it’s my job to provide them with the healthiest foods I can. To give them credit, Henry has been known to insist that a mom call me when he’s offered a sugary snack on a playdate. Makes me proud. They will have plenty of time on their own in the future to choose for themselves. I just need to be mindful and not let the occasional “treats” become everyday routines.
What tips do you have about healthy eating? Tell me about some of your successes with your kids and healthy food habits.
NOTE: Leo fell on the corner of a coffee table last week. That’s why his cute little face looks a little blue. I keep telling them not to jump on the furniture…

When I first read through the Estimation Exploration on the Sid website, I was a bit confused. How could they expect preschoolers to understand such an abstract concept like estimation? I even thought about talking to Kim Brenneman, an educational consultant on Sid and my blogging partner here online. I thought that maybe they intended this activity for older kids. Henry and Leo certainly couldn’t be expected to grasp estimation, right?
Boy, did I ever underestimate my boys.
First Leo watched the episode called Enough with the Seashells! where Sid estimates the amount of shells in a jar. Leo watched the show and went on to do other things. Later in the car, I listened as Leo began to tell Henry about estimation.
Leo: Henry, did you know that you can look at a pile of stuff and guess how many there are?
Henry: What kind of stuff?
Leo: You know, seashells, rocks, M&Ms.
Henry: Cool.
Okay, it’s not rocket science, but it was clear to me that Leo learned something from the show. So, I decided to give the activity a try. I had Henry watch the episode too, and Leo watched for a second time. I watched too and I noticed the usage of important terms such as more than, less than, and fewer during the episode. I have to admit that I had no idea there was such a thing as an “estimation jar” as a science tool.
The boys have a basket of pretty stones and a small jar that we use as a reward counter. The boys do great things like making a bed, sharing with each other, or cleaning up toys and we give them a stone or two for the jar. When the jar is filled, they boys get a reward such as a movie outing or a trip to a toy store. It works (when we remember to do it). The stones and the jar were perfect for this activity.
I asked Henry to count out 10 stones and put them into a pile. Then I counted 22 stones and put them in the jar. I kept the visual pile close by and asked the boys to estimate how many were in the jar. More than 10? Less than 10? Leo immediately went for an outlandish answer: 109. Henry however, took his time and guessed 12. Granted, 12 isn’t close to 22, but it is in the ballpark and made for a good guess.
Then, it was time to count. I was pleased to listen as Henry counted out all the stones. I showed him how to place the stones in groups of 10 to help with his counting. Henry understood that his estimation was off, but that he recognized more than 10.
Leo just likes to count. It was so cute to watch him meticulously count the stones and put them in a line. He counted out of order in the teens, but I gently put him back on track. We played the estimation game a few more times and by the end, Leo was making reasonable estimations. Henry even got the number right on the last time through.
I very rarely play any kind of math or counting games with the kids. This estimation activity brought math and science together in a really fun and engaging way. Henry and Leo clearly understand that you don’t have to count out every single number in a pile (although they like to sometimes) and that an estimation can tell them “about how much” is there. I clearly understand that I need to build more math into our play and stop underestimating what my preschoolers can do. This was a nice, gentle reminder. I’ll let Kim and the team at Sid keep doing what they do best, without any complaints from this mom!
What kinds of everyday objects could you use to conduct the Estimation Exploration with your kids? Have you ever underestimated what your preschooler can accomplish?

I have a love/hate relationship with daylight savings. I love summer! I hate it when I can’t get predictable sleep. I am NOT a morning person. I work pretty hard at maintaining a schedule with Henry and Leo, especially at bedtime. The structure and predictability works well for the boys. The knowledge that I will be done for the evening at 8pm is essential for my sanity. Henry and Leo also wake up at 7am on the dot every day. I know how lucky I am; believe me. We’ve got a nice thing going here and I don’t want to mess with it.
But twice a year, the calendar (or is it the government?) steps in to tinker with my harmonious schedule. When Henry was a baby I followed the advice of friends and started putting him to bed 15 minutes earlier a week before the changing of the clocks. It was hard work, but seemed to be worth it. The past year or two we’ve hit the time change running and struggled for at least a week to get back to our sweet spot at bedtime and in the morning. I think the key is to stick to the same bedtime, no matter the time change. Act as if it never happened.
My own mom and dad employed that technique. I remember having to go to bed when the light was still out in the summertime as a child. I could still hear my neighborhood friends playing outside. But bedtime was sacred. And I guess it was the best thing for me…it’s not like I didn’t fall to sleep.
I think it is time for me to relax about daylight savings time. I don’t need to be afraid. If I examine it from a scientific standpoint, the idea of daylight savings is quite interesting. I did some Internet research and realized that my ideas about daylight savings were all wrong. I always believed that we moved the clock around based on some sort of old-timer farming/harvest thing. Wrong. Turns out that daylight savings is about saving energy. Some folks think it works, other don’t. Here is the link to the article I read, in case you are interested. (Yes, I can be geeky.)
Fact checking can be useful and even fun. As Sid will learn later this season, we can’t always believe what we hear when it comes to science and sometimes we need to check our sources. It’s hard to let go of what you think you know sometimes…what do you mean we aren’t moving the clocks for the farmers? But local folklore isn’t always true. Although I am not convinced that daylight savings can make a huge impact on energy consumption around the country, I do know it gets us outside in the light of the sun for more time every day.
For all of my complaining about daylight savings, I cannot deny the relief of knowing that summer is right around the corner. The days are already longer. This evening we were able to play on the beach well after 6pm and dusk seemed to fall a little gentler. The boys played in the long shadows cast from the light from the beach restaurant where we had dinner. Henry made monsters with his shadows as Leo giggled and jumped beside him. It was fun, and it was simply like summer.
Longer days mean more time at the pool, the park, and in the backyard. It’s shorts, bare feet, sand, and sun. So I have to sacrifice a few days of normal sleep. More light and longer shadows are worth it.
Do you have any tips about how to manage daylight savings with your kids? What are you looking forward to this summer?

The time between dinner and bedtime can go one of two ways. On a “good” day it means cooperative playtime between two loving and generous brothers. On a “challenging” day it means an hour of incessant whining, discord, and accusatory play between two frenemies. As I think about what triggers one kind evening or the other, I have come to the conclusion that the answer lies with Mommy. Yes, ME. While I am busy trying to clean the kitchen, sort the mail, catch up on phone calls, or play scrabble online with my friends the boys get a little unhinged. They don’t need me to play with them per se, but they want to know I am there and available. To be honest, by that time of the day I am counting down the seconds to when Dad gets home.
Tonight, I decided to try something different. I organized an after dinner activity. First, I told them that we were going to conduct an investigation after I washed the dinner dishes. They played nicely with toys and even put on their pjs independently. Then the evening’s entertainment began.
I thought that digestion would be a great topic to tackle since we had just eaten supper. I asked the boys to tell me where their food goes. Henry and Leo were surprisingly well-informed. (Is that you again Sid?) They told me that the food goes down their throat, into their bellies, and out in the bathroom. I will spare you their more graphic rendition. It was interesting to me that they didn’t know anything about how the body takes the good things in the food to keep us healthy and energized.
So, I pulled out the materials: crackers, lemon juice, and sandwich bags. I had the lemon shaped bottle of “lemon juice”. I decided to use that since I had no idea how it got into my fridge.
I explained that the bag was a pretend stomach, the juice was the acid in our stomach, and the crackers were the food. Both boys wanted to get right into it. I asked Leo what we could do with the crackers to make it seem like we were eating. Brilliantly, the boy said “put the cracker in your mouth.” Ah, the elusive wall between real and make believe!
I modeled for them how to break the crackers into smaller pieces before dropping them into the baggie “stomach.” We talked about the role of teeth and how small food needs to be in order to make it down our throats. Then we sealed the bags and they started mashing, just like our real stomach muscles. As you can see, they had fun.
It didn’t take long for the lemon juice to break down the cracker. The mish mash in the bag looked quite gooey and mushy. It had a high gross factor, which we all know is the best thing for little kids. Henry remarked, “Is that really what’s happening in my stomach? Cool.”
The action provided so much for us to talk about. They wanted to know all about what kind of juice was in our real stomach and where the food went and how does the body know what it needs. Amazingly, the bathroom talk was minimal. Honestly, I didn’t have all the answers, but that didn’t matter. All at once we were talking about healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy activities. It went way beyond digestion.
In the end, Henry’s bag broke and we had to stop smushing the “stomachs.” This activity was a great way to transition from dinner to bedtime. I know I’ve said this many times before, but these Sid investigations really engage the kids in concrete, informative, and purposeful ways. And when the activity helps me as mom, that’s even better! Happy digesting everyone!
I would love to hear from you about your experiences with the Sid the Science Kid investigations. Have you tried one at home? How did it work for you? Please share your children’s adventures!
You can find the digestion investigation here.

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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