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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Sid the Science Kid starts his day off with a question he wants to explore. He talks to his family, brings his ideas to school, and investigates with his teacher and friends. At bedtime Sid puts his pajamas on, gathers all that he has learned, and comes up with an “Ooper Schmooper BIG IDEA.” At the end of the day, Sid lets his imagination free to engineer solutions and feed his curiosity.

Every child should have a day like that.

As a parent, this is my dream for Henry and Leo. I want them to ask questions every day and take the answers to unexpected and delightful places. That is what the folks and Henson and Sid the Science Kid have given to my family. Sid reminded me that the essence of learning is asking a question about anything and looking for the answer with your family, with your friends, at school, and in the community.

Sid the Science Kid changed my learning expectations for my children and for myself. Before watching the show and starting this blog I would never have attempted to teach my boys physics, engineering, estimation, biology, or anything STEM related. Those things were outside my comfort zone and I was going to rely on school to take care of it. Now, because of this experience, I feel empowered to build the foundations Henry and Leo need to be engaged learners as they head into elementary school and beyond. I always knew I wanted the boys to be good students, but now I know for sure that I can make a tangible impact on the results.

We learn together as a family. Learning doesn’t have to be confined to what their school or state curriculum dictates. It seems obvious, I know, but taking on that responsibility can be overwhelming. Sid has made it easier for me by providing a framework for learning. I take advantage of learning opportunities in our everyday lives. Investigations happen in the kitchen, at the beach, at an amusement park, in the backyard, and on the baseball field. We look up, around, down, and all around as we step out in the world. Best of all, Henry, Leo, and I make each other laugh.

Yesterday, Leo came up to me while I was working on the computer. He asked: “Mom, why do owls have turn their head all the way around instead of just moving their eyes?”

Leo caught me off guard. I was totally involved in my work and his sweet question distracted me. For a split second, I thought about sending him away and getting back to work. But I didn’t want to miss the opportunity. So we quickly looked up some information about owls on the Internet. We didn’t find the answer exactly, but we opened up a conversation. Now my head is brimming with ideas about how we can learn more about owls, research owls at the library, see owls in person, and make something owl related. It only took a moment, a simple question from Leo and we are off on an investigation.

Almost every week for the past two years I have conducted Sid the Science Kid investigations with Henry and Leo on this blog. It is a gift of priceless value to me. How many parents have the chance to chronicle their children’s live in this way? I did, and I am so very grateful to the creators at Sid the Science Kid. Even though this blog has run its course, I still plan on following Sid on all of his new adventures. Henry, Leo and I will continue to watch what Sid and his friends are up to. Leo will always love playing Sid games on the website. As a parent, I will always turn to the Parents page on the Sid website as a resource and for inspiration.

If you want to check in on what Henry, Leo, and I are up to, find us at my blog, Growing Curious Kids at www.growingcuriouskids.com.

Remember to be purposeful in your investigations, stuff your days with rich language full of academic content, laugh, and let your children lead you. We all have a lot to learn. Thanks Sid!

Trina

It has been funny to watch Leo navigate through his first few weeks of Kindergarten. I wasn’t exactly sure how he was going to feel or respond to the new environment, friends, and routine. To be honest, Leo has surprised me. The best way I can describe his reaction is call it “cool and curious.” Leo likes school, but doesn’t have a lot of excitement. He has some gripes about playground rules and access to toys, but he is sailing along with a measure quiet curiosity. “When can I buy lunch?” “When can I play with the blocks?” “When can my new friend come over?” The academics seem to be taking a back seat.

At home, however, Leo is very excited about learning. Henry has started bringing homework to complete, and Leo wants to participate. We have been playing a math game where I show the boys a group of pennies (5). I take pennies (2) and hide them in one hand. I show the boys what is left (3) and they have to tell me how many pennies they need to make 5 (2). It is a fun way to work on addition facts. Henry is a whiz and we are already working with 12 pennies. Leo, not to be outdone, wants to work up to 6. It’s interesting to watch him work it out in his mind. Henry understands that there is a level of memorization happening while Leo patiently counts with his fingers. I am enjoying bringing math into the house in a fun way.

It seemed like a perfect time to introduce Leo to the concept of Estimation. Henry and I did the Sid Investigation called Estimation Exploration last year, but I hadn’t introduced the concept to Leo yet. When I told Leo we were going to do Sid Homework, he jumped with excitement. Sid has such a special place in his little heart! I put a handful of colored rocks in a bowl and we began.

First, I asked him to look at the bowl. How full was it? He answered that is was almost half full. Next, I asked him to count out 10 stones. I wanted him to see what that amount looked like.

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Then I had him put the stones back. This was where the fun started. I asked him to make a guess, or estimation, about how many stones were in the bowl. He took a very long time deciding and came up with 24. Before I could even ask him “How do we check your estimate?” Leo was counting the rocks in the bowl. We lined the stones up in two groups of 10 and counted to 20. Leo was very pleased that his estimate was so close.

We played more rounds; I would add stones or take stones away. A couple of times Leo tried to count stones with his eyes instead of estimating. He didn’t want to be “wrong”. I also took the opportunity to start basic grouping and understanding of sets and skip counting. We made groups of 10s, 5s, and 2s with the stones. We counted by 2s and tried counting by 5s. Leo could have plugged along all night.

More and more, I am finding myself in a position where my boys’ abilities and mental capacity far exceeds my expectations. At this age, they are so smart and so willing to take on new concepts. Leo isn’t wary of math or science, much in the same way he isn’t afraid of Kindergarten. New things mean new possibilities and another chance to “get it right” and excel. It’s amazing how much I learn from them, even with the simple act of doing homework or math games.

What new concepts are your kids bringing home? Are you surprised about how much their little brains can soak up?

I love this time of year when we get to connect with old friends and acquaintances at school. Leo and Henry share exuberant reunions with school buddies from last year and I catch up with my “mommy friends” at drop off. But there are some familiar entities I would rather not reacquaint myself with. Germs: those insidious, yucky, messy friends who stay too long at any party.
For me, the germs got to work right away. By the second day of school I had a slight stomach bug that reminded me of my first trimester. (And the answer is NO to anyone who thinks I may be on that boat again.) I visited my doctor who shook her head, saying, “It’s that time of year again” and told me about the woman who had puked in the very spot I sat not a day earlier. Ewww. For several days I was on the rice, water, clear foods diet. Welcome back to school!
For Leo, it took a couple more days. On Friday he came home from school with the sniffles and by Monday he was in full “cold with a head ache” mode. Leo didn’t have a fever and his energy level was fine. So, I sent the poor little guy off to school with a handful of tissues and strict instructions to use a lot of sanitizer. As a new Kindergartener Leo was concerned about getting permission to leave the sharing rug to blow his nose and wash his hands. I assured him that his new teacher would support him in his efforts.
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So far, Henry and Gerry have not been visited by the Germs. I am crossing my fingers. But we can all do much more than that to keep germs and illness far far away from our homes this back to school season.
I sat down with the kids to re-watch the Sid the Science Kid episode “The Big Sneeze” about germs and hand washing. (You can get the episode on iTunes as a part of the Sid the Science Kid Season 2 collection.) The message never gets old. Germs stick on your hands, so wash them! Wash your hands! Even though we can’t see the germs, we still need to wash our hands.
With the fall approaching and flu season creeping up on us, even the simple act of washing our hands can make all the difference. When I visited my doctor about my stomach bug her main recommendation for helping my family was to wash my hands frequently. She also told me to use the dishwasher instead of hand washing dishes. I had never thought of that before. I need to make the boys appointments for the flu shot (or spray) and Gerry and I need to follow suit.
So, in this time of new beginnings, new friends, new schools, new outfits, and new lunchboxes I need to be vigilant and protect against new and unwanted GERMS. I know the kids will be learning more about it in school, but I love turning to Sid for a reminder.
How are your kids doing at school or preschool? Have any unwanted germs invaded your home? Share any tips you have for reminding your kids about hand washing!

Lunch isn’t Leo’s favorite meal of the day. To be truthful, Leo isn’t a voracious eater at any meal and he is a self-proclaimed “plant eater.” If Leo had his choice, I think he’d eat snacks all day long. I am sure you all know his type: a fly-by eater, small bites, and minimal meat. I don’t think of him as a “picky” eater but he does like to eat “pickies.”
Pickies is our family name for appetizers or finger foods. I often set out Pickies for dinner on family movie night or big sports events. We all pile on the couch and stuff our faces. I usually serve crackers and cheese, some sort of chip and dip, veggies and ranch, fruit kabobs, and chicken bites. Of course I get fancier depending on the event. I basically clean out the fridge and make it all look nice on platters. Pickies is Leo’s favorite dinner — and his requested birthday dinner.
When it came time to pack lunch for preschool, I was worried about Leo. He tends to eat slowly and hardly ever finishes a full sandwich. He likes to chat, use the potty, and stare into space while eating a meal. It takes a while. I had to come up with some creative ideas to get food in his tummy at school. I began making Pickies for lunch:
Here are some of the lunches we came up with:
Homemade Lunchables: My kids love these pre-made lunches, but they are full of salt, sugar and other fillers. I buy them every once in a while for a treat or while traveling, but we prefer to make our own. I save the real lunchable containers and fill it with crackers, turkey, and shredded cheese. I seal it up with plastic wrap.
Chicken Fingers: Leo has a thermos that he loves. I discovered that I can fit 3 or 4 hot chicken fingers in the thermos and they stay warm all day! (Duh.) I put ketchup in a small container and voila! It becomes a very special lunch. With fruit on the side, it makes the perfect meal.
**A Special Note About Ketchup: I have spent a lot of the last year researching the processed sugar content in foods because Henry is very sensitive to sugar. I had no idea how much sugar was in ketchup!! And ketchup is practically a food group in my house. I am not able to eliminate it completely, but I do buy organic ketchup because the sugar is less processed. And it isn’t that much more expensive. I buy the Trader Joe’s brand.
Fruit and Cheese Plate: Fancy, right? This meal is so very simple and Leo loves it. I pack a big bowl of fruit, a cheese stick, and crackers. For protein I send cashews. (Leo’s school was peanut free, but cashews were okay.)
Cheesy Roll-ups: Leo isn’t crazy about sandwiches, but he is willing to eat the inside of a sandwich. I roll up cheese and turkey or ham into long logs. Sometimes I cut them into wheels or I just leave them. As a treat, I sometimes add a soft sweet Hawaiian roll.
Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese: Leo will eat tomato soup and grilled cheese for any meal on any day. I love packing this lunch on a rainy day when I know they will be playing inside and this have more time to eat lunch. Soup goes in the thermos and I make a grilled cheese sandwich, chop it into little squares and wrap it in foil. It isn’t hot at lunch, but he doesn’t seem to care.
I don’t have time every day to make special lunches but I try. Never underestimate the power of the cookie cutter. Cookie cutters transform sandwiches from blah to WOW! For drinks, I tend to pack water. Sometimes, I send a juice box, but not every day. I fill a bigger sized cup and he can sip on it at lunch and then on the playground.
I love lunch containers, don’t you? I am always searching for the perfect little sectioned containers. I try and find containers the boys can open on their own, but I also know they have help from teachers and aids. I can’t say enough about our SnackTaxis. If you haven’t seen these before, you will love them. It is a snack bag made out of fabric, coated on the inside for easy cleaning. I have seen online tutorials for making them and I know there are several companies you can buy them from. I found SnackTaxi when Henry was a toddler.
Don’t forget about the power of a good breakfast! I love that Sid the Science Kid often shows the family sitting down to a hearty breakfast before school. I have to be purposeful about breakfast and make sure the boys load up before heading out. I could write a complete blog about breakfast alone!!
Finally, I try and remember the sage advice of my favorite family pediatrician: Children eat when they are hungry. If Leo comes home with an uneaten lunch, I don’t make a big deal out of it. I simply sit him down at 2pm and we eat. It doesn’t matter if he eats at 11am or 2pm, as long as he eats when he’s hungry. This was a hard lesson for me learn. I can always offer Leo a healthy snack and send him on his merry way.
Happy lunch packing! I would love to hear your lunch ideas! I am taking all my tricks up to Kindergarten, but I would love to have a few more! What kind of lunch makes your kids happy?

For months, everyone has been asking me “Is Leo excited about Kindergarten?” Without hesitation I have always replied. “Leo is so READY for Kindergarten.” I haven’t worried about him at all. Leo has been going with me to Henry’s school, now his, for two years. He knows the routines for lining up, playground rules, and he recognizes all the Kindergarten teachers. And they know him! I even skipped over the orientation for new K students last spring because Leo was so familiar with the classroom after spending so much time there with Henry. No problem, right?
A lot of people have asked me how I am going to spend my newfound “freedom” when Leo starts all-day Kindergarten. (Um…work.) And I get a lot of comments about how much harder things are about to get with homework, PTA, sports, etc. To be honest, I thought I was looking forward to the day when both boys were at the same school with the same drop off time. I have fantasies about going to the gym, having lunch with friends, and getting hours of writing done in my home office.
But as the time ticks down to the first day of school next week, I realize how wrong I am about a lot of things: both for Leo and for me. Leo has anxiety about starting Kindergarten. I got the first hints of it in July when he misheard me and thought that school was starting the next day. Understandably, Leo burst into tears and said he did not want to go to school. More recently, Leo has asked to visit his preschool. He wants to stop by and see the wonderful Miss D. before Kindergarten starts. My usually laid back, transition champion is having a rough time.
What can I do to help him? I feel like I am scrambling last minute to ease a summer’s worth of fears. First of all, I called the preschool and made a date this week with Miss D. I think it will go a long way to easing his mind and maybe providing some closure. I also took him to a community event called Kindergarten Roundup, which featured a magic show for new Kindergarteners. I really billed it as a special celebration for kids like him and made sure that he felt special.
Mostly, though, I am downplaying the anticipation. I love the buildup leading up to big events like holidays, birthdays, family vacations, and milestones. But time goes by, I have come to realize that my children do not feel the same way. The anticipation seems to cause anxiety. So, instead of plastering a big smile on my face and saying “I am so proud of my big Kindergartener,” I take quiet moments to ask how he is feeling. I’ve done a little bit of school shopping here and there, but I haven’t made it a big event. In other words, I am trying to ease Leo into his new role as Kindergartener. He needs some more time.
As for me, I am quietly mourning my quiet times with Leo. I treasured our time together when Henry was in school. Leo and I are kindred spirits and enjoy each other’s company. We loved our Wednesday Sid investigations. Change is hard for everyone, but this one has snuck up on me. My baby is going to Kindergarten, and it seems like a lot of clichés are true. I am wishing we could have a little more time but I am excited to see Leo start off on a new adventure. Thank goodness we can still watch Sid the Science Kid every afternoon and continue investigating after school.
How do you handle big transitions with your kids? Do you have new Kindergartner? I would love to hear your tips and strategies!
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This photo captures the summer for me. A part of me wishes we could just stay at the beach!

Gerry and I took the boys to the dentist for the first time when Henry was 4 and Leo was 2. It was a wonderful office, populated with friendly faces and decorated with cartoons and bright colors everywhere. The goal was to have a preliminary examination and have the kids’ teeth counted. No big deal. I was happy to see that each exam chair had a TV and that there was plenty of space for the parents to sit and stay close by, and stuffed animals were strewn everywhere. Henry was nervous and Leo was completely oblivious.
Leo got into the big chair first. He didn’t flinch as the kind dentist counted his teeth with a metal instrument. Gerry and I got a gentle lecture about the dangers of a pacifier for new teeth and Leo was done! Things got dicey when Henry took his seat. He was very uncomfortable in the chair and nearly jumped off when the dentist tipped the head back. Then Henry started to squirm as the dentist tried to look in his mouth. Finally, Henry went into hysterics when he saw the pointy metal instrument the dentist wanted to use to count his teeth. It was bad. I tried to soothe Henry, but he was terrified. And his screaming was starting to scare the other kids in the office. Ultimately, I had to hold a crying Henry in a back (soundproof room) as we coaxed him to let the dentist count his teeth. The ordeal was emotionally exhausting.
I haven’t been back. It’s 2+ years later and Henry is almost 7. Neither of my boys has had their teeth cleaned, x-rayed, or checked for cavities. I won’t go into my own personal dental horror stories, but suffice it say, we have been scarred as a family. But I am a parent, and it is my job to keep my kids healthy. Dental health is so important and I simply dropped the ball, or brush, if you will.
So this month I scheduled an appointment. I decided to take things slow. I talked to all of my friends and found an office I was comfortable with. I called, explained the situation, and scheduled a simple “meet and greet” appointment with the dentist. I told Henry all about the plan and promised him that we could go back as many time as he wanted before we even had a check up. I wanted Henry to be comfortable. I wanted him to feel safe.
Last week, we went to the dentist. The office was amazing, decorated everywhere with murals of safari animals. The waiting room was full of toys, puzzles, books and VIDEO GAMES. Henry was thrilled. Leo was excited. When we met the dentist, the boys were enchanted. She was beautiful, petite, non-threatening and to the point. I could tell that she was itching to get a look at the boys’ teeth. So she gambled.
“Do you want to watch another child have their teeth cleaned? Maybe you can try it too?”
Henry and Leo were interested. So we stayed. We watched the incredibly friendly and cheerful dental hygienist go to work on a tween girl. The boys were mesmerized and tempted by the choices of bubblegum flavored toothpaste and cherry flavored fluoride. The dentist stopped by again to tell the boys that they were welcome have their own teeth cleaned and join in the fun. She invited them to simply sit in the chair and learn about the tools. I decided to take advantage of the situation and offer a bribe.
“Boys, if you get your teeth cleaned, I will let you stay afterwards and play video games. We will stop any moment you want, if you feel scared or uncomfortable.”
It worked. The dentist called Leo over first and Henry watched as his brother picked a strawberry flavored toothpaste. Leo was a trooper, I tell you. He was a little scared by the instruments because they made noise, but I held his hand. He was nervous when the dentist counted his teeth, but didn’t make a fuss at all. No cavities! Clean teeth! It was a huge step forward for our family!
I looked at Henry, trying to gauge his readiness. But he surprised me by climbing right into the chair and saying, “Let’s do this. I want bubblegum toothpaste.” I couldn’t believe it! He sat still as the dentist counted his teeth (no cavities!) and began the cleaning herself (no hysterics!). He endured the entire cleaning and fluoride treatment. I was so proud of Henry in that moment that I actually got misty eyed.
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I learned a lot at the dentist. I learned that I need to let my kids face their fears and just be there for them no matter what. I know that seems obvious when I put that in words, but I had been sheltering them by not going to the dentist. I was projecting some of my own fears onto their experiences and not making the best choice for their overall health. I also know that it is time to get myself to the dentist…if they could do it, then so can I.
Have you taken your preschooler to the dentist? How did it go? What advice would you give about the first trip to the dentist?

One undeniable thing I have learned while teaching science to my children is that no matter how many answers we find; we always have more questions. In the questions I can watch Henry and Leo use their intelligence with what ifs and what happens when? At first, when we tried investigations, I was wary of the questions because I wanted to complete the activity at hand, check off the accomplishments, and review what we learned. But that has changed. These days I look forward to the questions because I admire their critical thinking skills. I am proud of their curiosity.
I never thought about encouraging my children to become scientists until we started watching Sid the Science Kid and trying all kinds of science investigations. Now I want them become engineers or biologists or paleontologists just so they can have a career of exploration and curiosity.
Recently, the boys have been all about space exploration. The Star Wars craze here has been building for many months and seems to have hit an apex with the viewing of Return of the Jedi. Henry is taken with the opening phrase: “A long time ago, in a galaxy far far way…” To him, these words are truth and he is trying to figure out how to travel to this galaxy far, far away. I don’t discourage him at all, because I think there is a fine line between truth and science fiction sometimes. Henry is convinced if he can find a way to get to a place “far” away then the next logical step is “far far away.” Follow me? Leo is concerned about aliens and if they are coming to Earth for a visit.
Star Wars is fun but nothing beats the true-life drama and intrigue that took place this week at the Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) in Pasadena, CA. We were lucky enough to hear a story in the car last week on NPR about JPL and the upcoming landing of the Mars Rover Curiosity. All weekend long we tuned into the NASA channel for updates and checked out all the amazing resources online for kids at http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/participate/. We checked out books from the library and looked at images of the solar system online. Both boys asked many, many questions. Henry wanted to know if there was life on Mars right now and why did water matter? Leo wanted to know if we could cool off the sun with enough water. I wanted to know how to explain the vastness of the universe to two young boys – a difficult but thrilling task.
On Sunday night I made a decision to let the boys stay up until 10:30pm to experience the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. For those of you who may not be familiar with the mission, the drama of landing the car-sized rover centered around the “7 Minutes of Terror” when Curiosity would enter the atmosphere of Mars and attempt a complicated landing…all out of radio control from JPL. The coverage on the NASA channel was great for the kids. There were interesting graphics, views of the control room, and 1 minute animated shorts to help kids understand the engineering and science involved in landing Curiosity.
One of my favorite questions of the evening came from Henry: “How are they planning to get Curiosity back to Earth?”
As I explained that Curiosity was going to stay on Mars and conduct experiments, I watched shock register on Henry’s face. Curiosity was more than a machine to Henry; he was upset at the thought of leaving the rover behind on Mars. I reassured him by explaining that JPL would be communicating with Curiosity and that they would conduct many science experiments together. Maybe Curiosity could tell us if there had every been life on Mars.
Henry, Leo, and I were invested, to say the least. Sadly, Gerry was absent, on a business trip to China. I was missing him a lot, the original NASA fan in the family. Gerry has been enthralled with NASA since he was a young boy collecting patches and had the thrill of watching the moon landing live on TV. I wanted to give Henry and Leo a taste of that.
Sadly, it was not be for the boys. They fell asleep a full 45 minutes before the “7 Minutes of Terror.” I, however, was riveted. I watched as the engineers and scientists literally quaked in their boots waiting to see if Curiosity had landed safely. And I admit to shedding a tear or two when the first images came through and the control room erupted in cheers. It was quite a moment, quite an achievement.
The images from Mars are quite stunning. Here is my favorite.
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Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
When the boys woke up in the morning we watched the landing again. Henry and Leo jumped up and down and whooped with joy. I hope the memory stays with them. Science can take us anywhere! Just imagine if someday one of my boys could work for NASA at JPL.

What is a home? It’s where we live and eat and share our lives with our families. It is certainly more than a house, more than the roof over our heads. As a parent I am conscious of all the things we do to make our house a home; from the family pictures on the walls, the meals we cook, the songs we sing, and the memories we make. My mom always told me that home is where your family is. Over the past few years I have put that definition to good use as we made our new house in California a home.

The actual walls and roof and the windows of a house mean something too. Think about the house you grew up in or your first apartment on your own. You probably don’t live there anymore, but driving by or looking at an old photo can stir up those memories of home. My heart still yearns for our house back east where I brought my babies home for the first time. Home can stay with you for a long time.

But those definitions are different in the animal/science world. When we talk to preschoolers about “animal homes” we are trying to teach them about the different shelters, caves, burrows, nests, etc that animals build or move into. When the boys and I started on our Animal Homes investigation I hadn’t really thought through the semantics of the science we were learning.

As usual, I set up the investigation by asking the boys “Where do different animals live?” Mistake number one. Henry and Leo immediately replied by saying things like in the ocean, in the dessert, and in the jungle. My kids obviously know their habitats. Then I revised my question and asked, “What kind of home does a bird live in?” This time they got caught up on the word “house.” To Henry, a nest doesn’t qualify as a house but it is where a bird lives. So I asked one more time: “What is a bird’s home?” A nest, of course! Then we started looking around the neighborhood for animal homes.

On our front porch we have a spring treasure that a friend gave us. The boys ran to it grab it for our first find on the Animal Homes Scavenger Hunt.

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Henry and Leo had a hard time coming up with ideas for animal homes until I started naming animals. When I asked about squirrels, Leo said “in a tree.” I had to explain that squirrels made nests like birds for homes. The tree is not the home, the nest is. Then we moved on to spiders. That was an easy one!

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When I asked them for another animal home, Leo ran across to my neighbor’s garage and found a home for a dog.

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Technically, a dog crate isn’t a home for a dog. See how things get complicated? Dogs live in houses with us…at least in this culture. But I thought Leo was clever, so I let it count. Then we started talking about ants. We often follow ant trails around the yard, the boys like to see where the ants are going and what “highways” the ants are using. Leo is convinced that ants live in holes under the ground and I think he’s right — at least around here. He found a hole he insists is an ant home.

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We made our way into a friend’s house across the street. I am taking care of their critters while they are on vacation. Henry was very excited to add the pet rat, Spice, to our animal home list. Spice lives in a cage.

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I was hesitant to include pets on our lists, but I guess the cage is the rat’s home in this case. I explained how rats like to build nests and gather all kinds of materials to make a home, either in a cage or out in the world.

It was funny how a simple activity got us all thinking about the meanings of the words “house” and “home.” Animals aren’t so different from people in a lot of ways!

Have you tried this activity with your kids? What did you find?

I hope all of you are enjoying the dog days of summer as much as Henry, Leo, and I. We’ve been busy with swimming lessons, beach days, zoo days, park days, pool days, free movies, camping, and lazing around. One of my neighbors made a passing comment about being “half way through summer” and my heart dropped. Talk about a buzz kill! We have five more weeks and that means summer is far from over for my family. I haven’t even begun to tackle my summer bucket list! It’s time to get serious.

As much as I love the spontaneity of our summer days, I also love the structure of a well-planned playdate. My boys have been missing their buddies. As we head into August I want to meet up with friends. I am also looking forward to catchimg up with some of my parent friends too! To give our playdates some extra fun, I am turning to some of my favorite Sid activities and giving them a summer twist. No reason to stop injecting science into our everyday experiences, right?

Scavenger Hunts
I have learned over the past couple of years that the folks at Sid the Science Kid love a good scavenger hunt activity. One great activity is called Texture Hunt where the kids are asked to find objects with specific describing words like bumpy, scratchy, and soft. I think it would be fun to add summertime words like sandy (sandbox), hairy (grass), cold (ice), wet (water), rubbery (balloon). Fun with language building!

I also thought it would be great to expand on our Exploring Measurement activity from a couple of weeks ago and adapt it as a scavenger hunt. The kids would have to find specific measurements such as “Find something that is 36 inches high” or “which chair is 24 inches” or “who has the longest shoes”? I suspect the kids will be busy for a long time.

Craft Time
One of the boys’ all-time favorite Sid activities is the Shadow Investigation. The loved making puppets and learning about shadows. The puppets had lasting appeal for both of them. This activity will definitely make an appearance with a summertime makeover. The kids can make summer puppets with ocean animals or summer sports like swimming.

Another fun talk-home craft for a playdate is the Big Bird Nest activity. You can use up lots of crafting materials or spend some time outside gathering natural materials to create bird nests. With both of these activities I envision my dining room table strewn with creative materials, scissors, glue, messy hands, and lots of giggling.

Outdoors Time
I never underestimate the power of the Backyard Camp Out. Last summer we camped in the yard as a family. This summer I see potential as a dinner and evening playdate. We don’t do that very often, but the fun of this activity might mean we make an exception. How fun would it be set up the tent and host a mini party with your best buddies? We can talk about nature and the stars while cooking dogs and smores over the backyard fire pit. I am going to start planning this right away!

If you have a kiddie pool set up in the backyard there is a great Sid activity for you to try called Wind Power. You kids and their friends can make boats to race in the kiddie pool. Technically, this is also a crafting activity, so lots of modalities are satisfied. And who doesn’t like getting wet on a hot summer afternoon?

For a quick transition activity on a challenging playdate, I might try Sound Garden and literally take it into a garden. There are so many sounds in nature and in the neighborhood. The quiet listening activity might be the perfect solution for a sharing conflict or moment with hurt feelings…both typical of longer playdates.

Fail Safe Sid Activities
The following activities may need some advance planning or materials before the playdate but they are GUARENTEED to inspire fun, teamwork, laughter and learning. Trust me.

Cave of Darkness
Bones Investigation
Engineer a Solution
Frozen Fruit
What’s That Smell?

All of these activities are explained in detail online. There are many more to choose from. I loved reading through all of them again with the playdate filter. Who knows, I may turn to some of these on a hot afternoon when the boys are ready to declare war. Science is a peacemaker!

I want to hear about your summer! Do you have any advice for playdate harmony?

My neighbors like to leave gifts for the kids on the doorstep. About half of the neighbors on the street have lived here for thirty years or more, raising their own families on the same block where my little guys play today. When we first moved here I had many conversations about how the cul-de-sac used to be filled with kids and then for a while it was filled with tweens and teens. Now those kids are off finding their places in the world. And now my children (along with one or two other families) are filling up the neighborhood with little ones.
Inevitably, when my older neighbors begin to clean out closet and garages, childhood treasures start to emerge. And sometimes really amazing things land on our front step. One time we arrived home to find an entire Darth Vader outfit along with a box full of gently used cleats. (Can you guess which item I was thrilled about?) Another time I came upon an old cribbage game, a deck of cards, and a book called “Card Games for Kids.” We’ve received board games, magic tricks, boogie boards, and sleeping bags. For the most part, I know where these gifts come from (thanks Bob!) but there’s a charm in coming home and wondering who left the treasure for us to enjoy.
But one gift has taken center stage for Leo and stands out as a stellar acquisition. We came up to the steps on afternoon last month and found this:
ScienceKit1.jpg
Sold in the mid-80s, this science kit is AWESOME! Leo was immediately intrigued by the microscope, slides, tweezers, and magnified containers. He was thrilled to discover one of the containers still had a fascinating experiment inside: two dead bees. Leo studied at those bees for a long time and we speculated on how long they had been waiting for us to find them. For a few days Leo carried the little case around with him everywhere, ready for science experiments at any time. Miss Suzy would be proud to see Leo opening up the kit to examine flower petals, cat hair, and toenails. I just went along for the ride.
This week Leo hit the science jackpot. I was getting ready to vacuum, scanning the carpet for Legos, tiny Star Wars blasters, and lost marker caps when I came upon this:
ScienceKit2.jpg
I think it was a June bug and I knew it was dead, so I didn’t run into the street screaming. (There was an incident in Venezuela in 1997 with a large tarantula in my apartment that didn’t go as smoothly, but that’s a story for another time.) I called the boys to come look and Leo came running.
“Wait, Mom!” he exclaimed. “Don’t touch it. I am going to get my science kit.”
Leo rushed back with his kit, took out the tweezers and the second container and transferred the bug. He was so thrilled to have his own bug to add to the collection.
“Look, it’s dead just like the bees Mom! It can’t sting us at all,” he said very seriously.
I asked Leo if I could take a picture and he proudly posed with his treasure.
ScienceKit3.jpg
These gifts from our neighbors are the noblest form of recycling, I think. So many of these amazing toys are still in great shape and still provide fun learning experiences for my kids. I know that even if we had found the bug and didn’t have a kit, Leo and I would have had a great science conversation. But the tools provided in the kit allowed Leo to take ownership of the science and expand on it as he pleases. And maybe someday, when he goes off to college to become a bug scientist, I will leave the kit on a neighbor’s steps for her kids to enjoy. Or, I might just keep it because it remind me of the days when my boys were little.

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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