Support for PBS Parents provided by:

  • Arthur
  • Cat in the Hat
  • Curious George
  • Daniel Tiger
  • Dinosaur Train
  • Let's Go Luna
  • Nature Cat
  • Odd Squad
  • Peg + Cat
  • Pinkalicous and Peterriffic
  • Ready Jet Go
  • Splash and Bubbles
  • Super Why!
  • Wild Kratts
  • Sesame Street
  • Ruff Ruffman Show
  • Mister Rogers
  • Cyberchase
  • SciGirls
  • Sid the Science Kid
  • Martha Speaks
  • The Electric Company
  • WordGirl
  • Caillou
  • Oh Noah
  • Fizzy's Lunch Lab
  • Maya & Miguel
  • Postcards from Buster
  • Clifford
  • WordWorld
  • DragonFly TV
  • ZOOM
Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Backyard Science

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.


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!


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


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.


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.


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:
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?

Last week we had a string of rainy days with lower than usual temps. Henry’s elementary school held recess inside and Leo couldn’t play on the playground at preschool. We spent the afternoons inside playing with toys and watching TV. I love a rainy afternoon every once in a while. The weather here is so wonderful on a regular basis that I often feel guilty staying inside instead of going to the park or taking a bike ride. But, after two or three days in a row cabin fever sets in, the sparks between brothers fly, and tensions flair.
I was so happy on the third day to see the sun peeking though the clouds after school. I had a pile of work to do in my office and another pile in the laundry room and the boys were bickering over something silly. Time to change the dynamic. So I made a decree:
“We are going out to get some air. We are taking a walk. NOW!”
The boys seemed surprised but happily put on coats and sneakers. We tromped outside and stood in the driveway. After a short discussion we decided to take the “long” way to the park and explore along the way.
As we set out, Henry immediately jumped into the beautifully landscaped area that runs alongside the sidewalks in our community. I tried calling him out but when he said “But mom, I am exploring! You never know what I will find,” I didn’t have the heart to follow through. He was making up his own nature walk in the middle of our tame, planned, manicured neighborhood. I have to admire that.
Henry was tracking along a cinderblock wall and came upon a huge root. It was growing from an enormous tree on the opposite side of the wall. We stopped to talk about the root and how it managed to thrive, despite the man made wall in its way. Leo was particularly impressed and examined the big root for long time.
Further down the sidewalk, we noticed that the landscapers had been cutting back bushes. Henry and Leo were very interested in the trunks and smooth planes left behind. We talked about how the cuts looked fresh and new. I explained that sometimes we cut bushes to help them grow better. It was fun for them to touch and see the results.
Then Henry found this specimen and he was really really excited. Where did the holes come from? I really have no idea but we hypothesized that perhaps it was bugs in the tree. I tend to agree.
Leo started collecting interesting seedpods as we wandered along. There were so many different varieties. Whenever we picked something interesting up, we would look above our heads to figure out which tree had dropped the treasure. Each specimen has it’s own features and cool details. Some were fuzzy, other spiky, one looked like corn in a soft pod. The seeds gave us a chance to talk about how trees deliver their seeds and how the seeds are often protected by a hard shell or husk.
Both boys made unforgettable observations. First, Henry stated wisely that we were on a Nature Walk Walk and that we did not have the proper tools.
“Next time, mom,” he said, “we need a magnifying glass, a bucket, and a picker up thing. Let’s do this every week and see how the walk changes.”
I swear to you, he actually said that. I have a science kid!!!
Leo’s thoughts were more abstract. When we were examining a hole in the sidewalk Leo put his fingers in the dirt and said:
“Now I know what it looks like under the sidewalk.”
I smiled and smiled that afternoon. I felt really good about my decision to get outside for some air. I loved that the boys led the expedition and they were the science observers. I just went along for the walk.

I don’t think that science is supposed to be random, but sometimes the boys come up with science when I least expect it. By now, I should probably expect it all the time…Henry and Leo are such charming young scientists. Maybe it is just that this year of science has opened my eyes to the things Henry and Leo investigate and explore every day.
For example, we were sitting at the dinner table the other night when Henry asked: “What are calories?”
Uh oh.
“Well, I said, calories are the energy your body uses as fuel.” (I have no idea if that is correct, by the way.)
“Mom, what happens when your body has too many calories?” Henry continued.
Obviously, Henry was trying to make a connection between calories, health, and what he may have heard out there in his small universe. I decided to go for full disclosure about calories.
“When a body has too many calories, it stores the calories to use later.”
“As fat.” And I pointed to my hips. That seemed to do the trick because Henry nodded knowingly and went back to eating his dinner.
I also enjoy when the show itself gets one of the boys so excited that they need to tell me about it IN THE MOMENT. For example, Leo likes to watch Sid while I take a shower. I like the arrangement because I have episodes recorded on our bedroom TV, which means Leo can be close by while I have some private time. Theoretically. I always remind Leo that Mommy needs to be alone while showering and to please stay out of the master bath. This may not count as a random act of science, but it was memorable.
I was showering, hair full of shampoo, when Leo came busting into the bathroom.
“Mom! Mom! Mom!” he yelled excitedly.
I just about jumped out of my soaked skin. My moment of shampoo zen completely disturbed by 4-year old frantic energy.
“What Leo, what? Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“Mom! Bees think my ears are flowers!”
“Bees. Think. My. Ears. Are. Flowers!”
‘Wow, great Leo! Now leave mommy alone.”
I really appreciate the excitement that Sid can generate, and I may have lost a wonderful teachable moment, but I really wanted my quiet time back!
Later that day Leo was lying on the grass in the backyard waiting for patiently for bees to land on his ears. I wish I had taken a picture.
I am often reminded that Henry has the makings of good engineer someday. We’ve been having plumbing problems in our downstairs bathroom toilet. The toilet has flooded a few times leading to unmentionable messes. When the plumber was here, Henry was fascinated by the mechanics of the toilet.
The plumber suspected that perhaps a small something had been dropped into the bowl and caused a blockage. (WHAT? My kids would NEVER drop anything into a toilet bowl.) So, the toilet was hauled out to the front yard for inspection.
Henry shadowed the plumber as he used the garden hose to flush out the bowl and inner workings in the middle of the driveway. Amidst the horror of having a toilet in my driveway, I was impressed by Henry’s curiosity. Henry was armed with several different hypotheses about what may have happened: the pipe to the street was blocked, the toilet paper was bunched up in the small pipes, the bolts were loose, or there was too much water. Thank goodness the plumber was patient, because he listened to Henry with a smile on his face.
Thankfully, all we needed was a new toilet and not a major plumbing overhaul. But days later, Henry was still trying to figure out what made the water overflow and what could have stopped it. I often joke with Gerry that we would be fortunate if Henry became a plumber and Leo an electrician. Maybe I might not be that far off the mark!
Finally, I am so enchanted by the ordinary things that Henry and Leo do that clearly reflect a scientific structure. At the beach this summer the boys discovered the joys of digging holes and constructing tunnels in the sand. They spent hours up to their elbows in sand trying to dig deeper, hit water, route tunnels, and build retaining walls. In the course of an afternoon, little cities would emerge with complex designs. Henry and Leo had to come up with logical solutions to problems such as poor drainage or being in the way of mom’s beach chair. They were always so proud of their creations. A couple of days before school started we hit the beach for last hurrah. They managed to dig a hole that was so deep, they could both sit down inside and be rendered invisible. It was their crowning achievement of the summer. This time I did capture the moment on my cell phone camera. It is grainy, but you can see the pride on their faces.
How are your scientists exploring the world around them? Do you have budding engineers, nutritionists, and chemists in your house?

Let’s talk about dirt. Dirt is interesting. Dirt is fun. Dirt is everywhere! I am as enthusiastic about dirt as I am about cleaning it up. Honestly, I have never given more than two seconds thought to the dirt in my backyard. That is, until Sid the Science Kid, reminded me once again that most obvious and simple things can sometimes be the most rewarding.
This week’s cycle on Sid is about Backyard Science. Sid and his friends explore bird nests, animal communication, leaves, and yes, DIRT. When I read the activity called Dirt Detectives, I wasn’t too excited about the prospect of looking at brown dirt collected from all over my yard. I really didn’t think the activity would hold the boy’s attention for too long.
When am I going to learn? The folks at Sid the Science Kid know their stuff and they know what preschoolers will like. And Henry and Leo were ALL IN for this activity. I did tweak the activity a little bit and made it a family affair. Dirt IS fun. Let me explain…
I told the boys that we were going to be dirt detectives. I went through the instructions step by step. We were going to have a family dirt hunt. But first I wanted to get some predictions.
“Do you think the dirt is going to look the same in each pile?” I asked.
Henry thought about it and said, “I think there will be worms.”
“And twigs,” Leo added.
“But what about the way it looks?” I repeated.
“I am going to find bugs,” Henry said.
So, off they went. Dad got little shovels and I sent them off with instructions to fill the shovel and bring me back the dirt. In the meantime, I prepared paper plates, labeled with the locations of the dirt samples. With Dad’s help Henry and Leo gathered samples from 4 different spots in the backyard.
Then we really started having fun. (As if digging in the dirt wasn’t enough!) We began to talk about the dirt. I had the boys touch the dirt and tell me what it felt like. We talked about color and texture and weight. We looked at what was inside the dirt and found rocks, twigs, leaves, and white fertilizer balls. No bugs or worms, by the way. I asked the boys to tell me what pile was the darkest, the lightest, the finest, the coarsest. As they talked I wrote their ideas down on the paper plates so we could remember. When we finished gathering our impressions, we thought of statements to describe every plate of dirt. As usual, Henry and Leo impressed me with their thoughtful observations and understanding of science concepts. They used great vocabulary and of course, we laughed.
The boys wanted to continue gathering samples and talking about dirt. They could have gone on and on. (The mark of excellent scientists!) However, it was getting late and even though summer is still in the air, it was a school night. The last part of the investigation was to remind children to wash their hands and clean off all the dirt. So, although it was bedtime, I bent the rules a little bit and lured the boys out front the driveway. I turned on the hose and chased the boys around until their hands and the rest of their little cute selves were drenched and cleaned off. The squeals and giggles were the perfect end to our “dirty” investigation. Summer lives on for a bit longer.
Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by an activity? What kinds of fun adventures are you planning for the end of the summer?

This week as we watch Sid the Sid the Science Kid, I have a chance to remind the boys and myself about the simple things we can do every day to help the environment and be mindful of the world around us. Recycling seems to be a snap for the boys (their school environments really set them up for success) and I am often the one who needs reminding about turning off the water. What I really like about this week’s cycle is that the activities and the lessons that tie into things families do every day.
Take, for instance, gardening. My husband does most of the yard work and he can spend hours in the garden, mowing, trimming, pulling weeds, etc. I like to handle the flower boxes, container gardening, and front walkway. To be honest, it is about instant gratification for me, or at least after a morning’s worth of work. This weekend, I decided to include the boys, so we could talk about plants, water sources, the sun, and air. Also, Gerry is out of town and I needed something to keep us all busy! So, we headed over the garden center to buy materials to replant flower planters on the backyard patio.
In the car on the way over, I asked the boys some prep questions.
“What is the environment?” and all I got was silence.
After a few moments, Henry said, “It is everything in nature.”
Not bad! At that moment, I wished I had the glossary from the Sid website at my fingertips. I started talking about the water, air, earth, and plants around us. Then we moved on to dirt.
“Not dirt, mommy,” Leo corrected, “It is SOIL. Plants grow in soil.”
And so they do! So when we got the store, the first thing we did was go in search of soil.
Next we looked at plants. I explained that we needed to find flowers that liked a lot of sun. We examined the labels and pictures in various kinds of plants and came up with a cartload of flowers.
As we were wandering around and looking at all the flowers and plants it dawned on me that the garden center was a wonderful and somewhat inexpensive excursion for us. The center has lots of information, visual support for learning, and wide aisles for the boys to run up and down. I have to remember that the next time I am desperate for a simple afternoon jaunt.
Once we got home, I gave each of the boys their own planter to work on. The flowers I had planted in the spring were dried out. We discovered they were root bound. It was a great opportunity to talk about roots and how plants need space to grow. Then we opened up the bag of soil and the boys got to work.
It took a while for the kids to fill the planters with soil and place the flowers. I pointed out the sun on the patio and the placement of the pots. After the flowers were settled in their new home we soaked them with water. The boys lead every step of the process and learned about what plants need to grow: soil, sun, and water.
Soon Henry and Leo were on to other activities in the yard. I decided to do some more gardening. So I weeded, tended to the ailing lemon tree, and pruned roses. I called the boys over to look at various bugs and tickle their palms with wriggly worms. It was a great afternoon. I am starting to understand why Gerry can spend hours in the backyard. Our environment is a lovely place.
Do you garden with your children? How do you incorporate science words and concepts into you experience outdoors?

One of the most satisfying things about summer vacation is the freedom the boys and I have to pick and choose our activities every day. Without the constraints of the school/soccer/baseball/life schedule we can take each day as it comes. It can also be a trap, where we stall within our freedom and end up doing a lot of nuthin’. As I reviewed my blog post about summer activities from earlier this month, I realized we need to get moving. Summer doesn’t last forever and here in Southern CA it ends with an August 23 school start date. Oh no!
At bedtime I asked the boys what they wanted to do the next day. I suggested the zoo or a museum. Henry was quiet for a bit and then asked if we could go to the farm. The farm! The one in our very own town, so conveniently located, inexpensive, and fun?! Yes, of course we could go to the farm! It felt satisfying as a mom to let Henry take the lead and choose the activity. It made him feel good. In the morning I called a couple of our friends and we made an afternoon farm date.
Our local farm is a family destination in the LA area. Not only can kids pick all kinds of fruits and veggies, but there the farm is home to many animals: goats, cows, chickens, oxen, emus, rabbits, horses, and the biggest pig I have ever seen in my life. Not to mention a view that makes me think I have landed in a postcard.
After visiting the animals we grabbed a wagon and went out to see what we could pick. I think I was more excited than the kids. As we came up row after row of green we loved looking at the sign to see what was growing. Many times the kids had to push aside lush greens to find the vegetable below. The cucumbers were especially fun. The skin of the cucumber was surprisingly bumpy and even spiky. It was a great opportunity for the kids to use description words and a stark reminder to the moms about what happens to veggies on their way to the grocery store. How DO cucumbers get all waxy and why?
We tried to pull our some carrots, but soon discovered that they weren’t ready for picking yet. We stuck them right back in. I hope they keep growing!
The big highlight for the kids was the berry picking. We walked far out into the fields to find the most delicious and sweet strawberries. As my friend said, we should have weighed them before the picking started and then after to pay for what landed in their bellies. It was an idyllic afternoon; the weather was perfect, the sky blue, and the kids were happy.
On our way out, we came across some unfamiliar vegetables that I had to pick. One was called a sunburst squash. I have no idea what to do with it, but the kids were delighted. It will turn into a kitchen investigation soon! The other was a purple pepper. Who knew there were purple peppers! When we got to the front to pay everyone was hot, dirty, and tired – exactly what we want after a day on the farm! Look at our bounty (and Henry’s dirty face!)
Of course, I can’t sign off without reminding you all about our good friend Sid the Science Kid. This week is a great week to sit down with the kids and watch some special Sid episodes! Some of our favorites are on this week, including the camping episode and the sing-along special. As I have said before, I like to remind my kids it is okay to sit down and take a break in the middle of our busy day. I like to get them out of the hot sun and give them a chance to rest before we head out on our afternoon adventures. Why not let them hang out with Sid? I hope you are all enjoying your summer so far! Tell me what you’ve been up to with your kids!

Summer is in full swing and with it brings new opportunities. Both the boys are out of school and we recently returned from a family trip. Now the rest of the summer stretches before us, full of endless possibilities.
I am challenging myself to think of science as I plan our summer. Here is a list of things I would like to try with the boys over the next few months–some big and some small. Mostly, I want to keep it inexpensive, fun, and full of opportunities for science learning and language development.
I want us to plant something and watch it grow. I am thinking about planting strawberries or an easy flower from seed. It seems crazy that we’ve never done this before, but it’s true. I like the idea of having something to check on daily, chart progress, and even teach a little about jobs and responsibility.
We can also learn about the creatures in the garden. We have lots of snails. Henry sometimes wants to step on them while Leo is repelled and fascinated at the same time. They are really, really slimy. I see lots of investigation potential involving trips to the library, Internet research, and hands-on investigations. High yuck factor here!
I have to admit that we haven’t spent a lot of time at museums with our preschoolers. But I think I may be missing out on some learning opportunities. For example, Henry said last week as he gazed at the mountains, “When I grow up I want to be the guy who jumps into caves and measures how deep they are.” How cool is that? We started talking about geology, paleontology, and archaeology. So, I think we should explore those three professions through museums. Many libraries offer free passes and many museums have free days each month. My bank even has agreements with some museums for free and discounted admission. It’s time we start taking advantage of that!
The Kitchen and the Farmer’s Market
I will teach the boys to prepare a 5-course meal. Just kidding. But I think I’ve been babying them too much. Cups still have lids around here. I am so ashamed. Henry made his own sandwich last week and was so proud. Leo wants to get his own cereal. It’s time for me let them try more food preparation on their own. I want to raise men who know their way around a stove and know how to feed themselves and their families.
Nutrition is still foremost on my mind. I am planning to hit the Farmer’s Markets in the area with the boys. I want to talk with the growers and have the boys ask questions. In addition to purchasing familiar foods, I want us to pick out something new and unfamiliar every week. We can then research how to prepare the new food and have some fun. Leo chose kumquats last week and we had a blast. Everyone keeps telling that when kids participate in meal prep they are more likely to eat new foods. I am all in!
Nature Centers
In our area, there are many state parks, national parks, wildlife refuges, and ocean labs. Although my boys might not be ready for daylong hikes, camping in the wilderness, or three-hour whale watching tours; they are ready for the nature center and activities that can be found there. Many centers are free and offer great programming for small children. As you learn about nature and the science of the area, children can cultivate an interest and desire to move onto the bigger stuff. Every state has somewhere you can go!
The Beach
The beach, the beach, the beach! There is almost too much for me to say about the ocean. (Feel free to substitute whatever body of water you travel to in the summer time.) I feel like I am seeing the beach with a whole new science filter! We can talk about tides, dunes, erosion, and surfing! I have no idea what is involved in surfing, but I bet there’s a fair amount of physics and fitness involved. Another research topic! We can collect ocean creatures in buckets, observe them, draw pictures, and put them back. I want to paint beach rocks and make sand castles. (Engineering anyone?) I am excited to just BE with Henry and Leo and make summer beach memories.
As I keep saying in this blog…it is all about creating opportunities to bring science into your life. Our preschoolers are natural scientists and they can’t wait to get out there and explore. What kind of adventures will you have this summer?

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

What's this?

PBS Parents Picks

  1. Wild Kratts image

    Wild Kratts App Teaches Young Children How to Care for Animals

    In this app, kids are charge of feeding, washing, and playing with baby animals.

  2. Curious Kids image

    How (And Why) To Encourage Curiosity

    "...when people are curious about something, they learn more, and better."

  3. Gardening Benefits image

    The Benefits of Gardening With Kids

    Don’t let the idea overwhelm you. A few containers and soil in a sunny spot will do.

PBS Parents Newsletter

Find activities, parenting tips, games from your child's favorite PBS KIDS programs and more.