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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: October, 2011

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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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?

As I sat down to write this week’s blog, I realized that I had reached a milestone of sorts. I have been writing this blog about my kids and Sid the Science Kid for a year! On one hand, it’s hard to believe because the year seems to have sped past, full of fun, investigations, and family moments. On the other hand, as I look back on all of our experiments and learning, I am proud of what I have experienced with my kids. On a weekly basis I plan and follow through on a purposeful science-based activity with one or both of my boys. Sometimes the investigation involves materials, preplanning, and background knowledge. Other times, I find myself in the middle of science activity without even realizing how I got there. A great metaphor for life with preschoolers!
I had to smile when I saw that this week’s cycle on Sid the Science Kid is Transformation and Change. Life has a funny way of reminding you exactly where you should be sometimes. One of my first blogs was about this cycle. Leo and I made applesauce and learned that heat changes raw apples to mush. Once the apple is heated it cannot go back to being crunchy: irreversible change. Leo was still a young 3 and I was afraid of letting him play with a plastic knife. As a mom, I learned about letting go of control in our investigation and allowing Leo to be more hands on in the kitchen. I am still working on that, but as I peek back at my relationship with Leo from a year ago, I see that a lot has changed. All of it is good, and for the most part irreversible.
For one thing, Leo is much more mature, verbal, and independent. He is able to understand concepts through his own explorations and makes his own hypotheses. He even uses the word “hypothesis.” This year Leo is at school three mornings a week instead of two, and I am acutely aware that this time next year he will be in Kindergarten.
As we drove home from an errand yesterday, I asked Leo if he remembered making applesauce with me last fall. After a quiet moment, he said “No.” Immediately, I was disappointed. It had been such a special activity for me.
Then I asked: “Leo, how do you change an apple into applesauce?”
“You make it hot, Mama”
“Can you change the applesauce back into a crunchy apple again?”
“No way!” he said vehemently.
“Do you know what that is called?” I was hoping he remembered.
“Irreversible change,” I answered. “We learned that on Sid the Science Kid!”
Leo repeated the word a couple of times and I am hoping it sticks. What did stick was the concept and that makes me happy. I can keep working on the vocabulary. Preschoolers love to repeat familiar activities and so it is time for Leo and I to make applesauce again. Today we are headed to the farm for his very first preschool fieldtrip. And even though we’ve been to that very same farm about 10 times in the past few months, I know he will learn something new today.
I hope you will keep visiting my blog as Leo, Henry and I continue to learn and grow with Sid the Science Kid. I will be adding a new feature once a month where I will be conducting experiments with Leo and his classmates in preschool. It should be lots of fun!
Do you have any fun Sid memories to share? How has your preschooler changed as he or she grows and learns about science?

Children change everything. Did you hear that often before becoming a parent? I did and of course, it is true in many ways. Hello irreversible change! Like many other parents I know, awareness of (and anxiety about) disaster preparedness has dramatically changed since I became a mom. I’ve lived in the San Francisco Bay Area since 1994 and I’m embarrassed to admit it: I didn’t put together any emergency supplies for us until about a month after my daughter was born in 2007. Sure, I knew I “should” do it but there was always “later.”
“That takes care of that,” I thought as I zipped up the backpack and stashed it in the hall by the front door.
Eighteen months later, we moved and it seemed like a good time to check on our grab-and-go bag. What an eye-opening experience! The bag contained many too-small diapers (37 of them!) along with a package of wipes, a mini first aid kit, one granola bar, a flashlight and a bottle of water. That’s what happens when you make an emergency bag in a postpartum haze.
My daughter is 4 years old now and our grab-and-go bag is in much better shape. That was my first step. I noticed that getting our emergency bag together eased some of my anxiety. Then I took a free CERT class on disaster preparations. Then I joined my neighborhood disaster prep committee. Each step has helped me prepare both my family and myself. There are so many resources out there to help get you started; a quick Internet search will provide an overwhelming list of things you “could do” to prepare. In lives that are busy, rather than put off the big list till that mysterious “later,” I advocate for taking small steps to prepare your family for an emergency.
Step by Step
Being a parent adds new needs (and new fears) to disaster preparations. My solution has been to start by focusing on what preparations I can do; these include buying and storing supplies, taking CERT classes in first aid and fire suppression, securing bookcases to the walls and becoming involved with my neighborhood committee. Talking to other parents (especially those with older children who went through the 1989 Loma Prieta) has helped me deal with my fears. A big goal for me is to know that I can stay calm and present for my daughter if a major earthquake does happen.
If preparing ourselves is the first part, then actively preparing our children is the next step. I want to educate my girl about both the scientific facts (what is an earthquake) and what to do if there is one (for an earthquake, the classic advice remains the best: stop, drop and cover). This can be a fascinating topic for our young scientists. The topic is not scary for her and so in talking about it, I focus on the science. My current explanation is that the ground that seems solid beneath our feet is made up of huge pieces like a giant puzzle. This puzzle covers the whole earth and the pieces slide around very slowly. Sometimes, when the pieces push against each other, stored up energy is released and we feel an earthquake.
Are you ready to get more ready?
Put a pair of shoes under or near every family member’s bed.
Add bottled water to your grocery list – plan one gallon per day per person in your household for at least three days. If you have pets, include extra water for them.
Email the emergency contact list you leave for your babysitters to your out-of-state-family. Designate one out-of-state contact as your main person and make sure they are able to notify other family members.
Make it a goal to talk with a neighbor about disaster prep. My neighbors have been great sources of ideas and advice. One neighbors uses her earthquake supplies as an outdoor pantry so it is part of her regular routine to use and replace canned/dried food. Another neighbor keeps her family’s camping gear with the earthquake supplies.
A very wise fireman told me to add leftover Halloween candy to emergency supplies. I know that I crave comfort food when I’m under stress and a little sweet can be a great pick-me-up for any member of the family. (And if there’s none leftover, you can always buy some inexpensively during post-Halloween sales.)
We check and update our earthquake supplies when Daylight Savings Time starts and ends (also check those smoke alarm batteries). This is a great time to get the next size up in diapers or bigger clothes. (Even if your kids are potty trained, a package of back-up pull-ups is a good idea.)
If need more ideas, here are some links for emergency/disaster preparation for families:
Sesame Street: Let’s Get Ready Together: This is not specific to earthquakes and is a great video for kids about emergencies.
USGS Earthquakes for Kids
Ready Kids
Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT): Find CERT classes in your community that will help you be confident and competent dealing with an emergency situation.
You can also get kids involved in your preparations. My girl is fascinated by our stash of supplies (stored in four plastic bins under her playhouse) and looks forward to our twice a year check. During the check, I have her help unload and reload the bins and let her sample food she is curious about. Our bins are only half full and I have a list of things to add that I’m working my way through. Now that I’ve got most of the basics covered (water, food, first aid, flashlights, clothing), I’m focusing on what will help my family specifically. This month, I’ll be adding some favorite photos, few toys, books and art supplies along with a special lovey.
Where to keep it all? My Dad built a playhouse for us with a storage space underneath for our supplies. Other folks we know use garden sheds or heavy duty trashcans.
We haven’t done an earthquake drill but I think that is one “should” that is headed towards the top of my list. What tips do you have for preparing for earthquakes or other natural disasters? Do you have any special plans for your preschoolers? Anything you share can help all us be better prepared!

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