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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Month: July, 2012

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:
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:
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.
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.

This weekend the Helfrich Family went CAMPING. Yes, I took the plunge in honor of Sid and his campout. Some of you might remember that I am a reticent camper; I much prefer a nice hotel. Or at least I thought I did, until this weekend. We chose a spot under an hour from home and decided to rent a teepee instead of investing in a tent. I know, I know, it isn’t “real” camping without a tent, but give me a little leeway. Although the teepee had beds and a comfortable living space, it didn’t have running water, electricity, or a bathroom. (All things I can count on in a hotel, by the way.) Here is a picture of our site.
The campground was set in a pretty spot with views of the mountains on one side and a swimming creek on the other. There were tons of activities for the kids and it felt great to be outdoors for days on end. And the smores…ah, how we all love smores!
I had no idea how wonderful this experience would be for Henry and Leo. Everyone told me they would love it, but I was amazed to see it for myself. Henry and Leo were in their element. They turned into wilderness boys! The safety and size of the campground allowed them an unprecedented amount of freedom. They ran wild for three days (under parental supervision, of course.) They became wilderness boys. And in the wilderness, science finds you.
Within minutes of our setting up camp a flock strange and exotic birds wandered in. Peacocks! A mommy peacock was walking around with three baby peacocks. What do you call a baby peacock anyway? Chicks? We were all stunned and mesmerized. We warned the boys to give the birds a lot of space and the family moved on. Henry immediately went looking for a science tool in order to study the bird family.
Henry was so engaged with watching the birds and speculating about how they got there and where they nested. We observed them all weekend. They make a honking sound and nest in the trees. Gerry even saw one fly out of a tree and said it looked prehistoric with an 8ft wingspan! We also saw lots of signs and warnings about Bigfoot sightings. I am not sure that counts as science, but it made for great campfire stories.
Leo and Henry spent a lot of the weekend conquering the rock climbing wall. For a small fee they got a wristband that allowed them to climb the wall and bounce on the huge jump pad for hours on end. The wristband also allowed me to read a book in the shade! Both boys were determined to reach the top. It took a lot of work and a lot of strength. They didn’t give up! By Saturday night they had both made it up.
The best part of the campground was the creek. It was deep enough for swimming but shallow enough for walking. The boys had a blast! There were rocks to climb over and pools to swim in. We found little fish, tadpoles, and frogs. Leo and I examined moss and other plants that grew in the water. It was lovely. Aren’t these the kind of days that all little kids should have? We should all spend days catching frogs and chasing dragonflies. It is almost too good to be true.
In the evenings Dad taught the boys how to make a proper campfire. Once the fire was steady enough to leave with me (the novice) Gerry led the boys on a flashlight hike through the nature trail to see stars and the almost moon. When they got back we all ate smores. I sang show tunes and Leo fell asleep in my lap. It was heaven and I never once wished I was in a hotel.
Tell me about your favorite camping adventures! Did you find any science along the way?

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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