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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Force & Motion

Time is flying by. We are staring right at May this week and Leo only has 6 more weeks of preschool. How is that even possible? At the end of May Leo will be 5 and in the fall we will wave to him as he marches into Kindergarten. I am feeling very nostalgic and a little panicked. We are all looking forward to summertime fun, but in the meantime I am savoring and treasuring my days with Leo.
Wednesday is our “together” day. I try not to schedule too many activities. We alternate between story time at the library, play dates with friends, errands, and at home hang outs. I have been leaning more towards the at home hang out days where we cuddle on the couch for PBS TV watching, cook in the kitchen, fold laundry, create art, dig in the garden, or have an adventure.
This Wednesday I really wanted to roll up our sleeves and jump into a great Sid the Science Kid investigation – just like the old days when preschool began. With that in mind, I consulted the activities tab on the Sid site and found Wing It!
Leo and Henry have both recently become interested in planes and paper airplanes. This activity, along with the accompanying episode, is perfect for them. Leo and I watched the video clip for the episode and set off on our own adventure. We learned that the first designs for the airplane came from observing birds and learning about how birds fly.
Our first step was to head outside and search for airplanes and birds. We could hear planes overhead (we are on the long descent flight path for LAX) but the cloudy skies made it difficult to see the planes. After much searching Leo spotted a small plane flying very high in the sky.
We watched little birds swoop from tree to tree up our street. Their small wings allowed the birds to glide and dive. We wanted to stay outside longer, but the misty weather wasn’t cooperating so we went inside to conduct our research. On our way in we stopped to examine a birds’ nest our neighbor had found while trimming a tree in our front yard. It is lovely and delicate. Leo loves to hold it gently in his hands and imagine the bird family that called the nest home. It is so cute.
Once inside we pulled out a sketchpad and the “good” colored pencils to start recording our ideas. I wrote “Birds” at the top while Leo drew a picture of a bird. We talked about the parts of a bird and how those parts help birds fly. We made labels too. When I asked him what a feather was he said: “Little extra wings.”
Next we pulled out the iPad and got a little side tracked. I looked up tutorials for drawing a bird. So, the next thing I knew, there we were, drawing a real bird step by step. I was as engaged as Leo and I am quite proud of my little drawing. I am usually so art challenged!
It was a great exercise to draw the bird. It really helped us see the different part and lead us into the next step of our investigation. Planes.
Leo could have spent the next two hours on the iPad looking at images of airplanes. We clicked on thousands and thousands of images. (Okay, maybe only 50 or so.) We discussed the similarities and differences between birds and airplanes. I was interested to hear what Leo had to say because his teacher commented recently that Leo had trouble with comparisons. I was proud to discover that he could generate the similarities (wings, nose/beak, tail) and differences (birds are animals, planes have motors) quite readily. We wrote down our observations and continued to browse through pictures of airplanes.
I see a trip to the local airfield in our future. This investigation flowed so well for us and concluded in such an organic way. It felt like a seamless part of our time together as opposed to an “organized” activity. I am really looking forward to next Wednesday. And time just keeps flying by!

For 16 wonderful months, I have been writing my family’s adventures with Sid the Science Kid. We have conducted many investigations and explored science in many new and interesting ways. So, since I am now an “expert” science mommy, I though I would share some of my favorite Sid investigations. You can find all of these activities online at
Exploring Measurement
This was the first Sid experiment I ever did with the kids. This was long before I moved to California and started blogging for Sid. Henry and I were watching the show, Leo was still really small. The episode was about non-standard units of measurement. Before the show had even finished, Henry asked if we could measure the room in “Henrys”. We did that and had so much fun. I saw him learning and growing right in front of me. It was amazing. I used the idea to send my brother (Henry’s godfather), who lived in Seattle, a life-size Henry on a big piece of paper. Henry, now six, remembers the activity and still talks about it.
Ah…applesauce. The is the very first investigation I conducted with little Leo for the blog. This activity sold me on the science investigations I was trying to write about because my three year old kid could tell me the meaning of “irreversible change.” I am a vocabulary lover and this one really send me over the edge. Here I was making applesauce, something I make all the time, and my kitchen became lab for science learning. The energy for this blog and the idea that everyday life is full of science opportunities was very clear to me and I loved it. Leo was able to participate fully and learn new vocabulary and we had a great time. I am so grateful for the times I have had with my kids in our home fab lab.
What’s That Smell?
In this investigation, I gather items from the kitchen for the kids to smell while blindfolded and guess what is in front of them. Leo asks to do this investigation over and over again. I think he likes the mystery of the blindfold and the guessing game. I like the idea of using household kitchen items (food, spices, etc) to illustrate the importance of smell. The activity lends itself to repeating because there is an endless variety of things we can experiment with in the kitchen. It is tons of fun. It can be done as a seasonal game, or an outside game, or even as a game with craft items with crayons, glue, markers, etc. Hmmm…Maybe I will do this one when the boys get home from school!
Sid’s Skateboard Inertia Investigation
I love this activity because I learned right along with my kids. I would not have been able to explain inertia if my life depended on it until this Sid episode came along for us. As I have testified before, I am afraid of physics because I am not able to articulate what I know to be true in the physical world. Leo loved this investigation because it joined two of his favorite things: stuffed animals and daredevil stunts. We didn’t even own our own skateboard so we searched the neighborhood, borrowed one from a friend, and conducted the investigation. I knew that the stuffed animal would go flying off the board once it hit the step, but I had no idea WHY. Now I know. I also love this investigation because it provided Leo with an opportunity to teach his brother Henry. Leo was so excited about this one that as soon as Henry was home from school they replicated it over and over again. Leo shared his science.
Cave of Darkness
Darkness is the absence of light. So simple yet not intuitive, for me at least. The fort activity gave us a chance to an investigation as a family and to learn this concept together. We all took turns adding to the fort, being inside the fort, playing with the flashlights, and trying to achieve total darkness. It was fun and it was also challenging. This activity and this whole episode demystifies the dark. Leo and Henry, to this day, remind themselves of this Sid episode when they are spooked by something in the night. The things in their room at night are the same things as in the day. It resonates with them and I appreciate the help at bedtime.
There is definitely a personal pattern I see when I think of my favorite Sid investigations. I like the activities that are simple, completed with household items, pack a nice academic punch, and create memories for my boys. Come to think of it, most Sid activities are like that. I can’t wait to keep exploring and experimenting with new activities while revisiting come of our old favorites.
What are your favorite Sid the Science Kid investigations? Why do you like them so much?

This week on Sid the Science Kid we return to the classroom to learn about force and motion. When I first started writing this blog, I was worried about this cycle because of its emphasis on physics. As a student I systematically avoided this subject because it literally made my brain hurt. The concepts frustrated me and I remember feeling like “I can’t do this!” Little did I know that if I just relaxed and let the world around me lead the way, I might have been pleasantly surprised by what I could accomplish. Isn’t that a lesson we all wished we could have learned early on?
I am happy to say that I do think my kids are learning that the world around them can unlock the questions they have about science. Much of that skill has come from our investigations with Sid. When I looked back over the activities in the Force and Motion cycle, I saw that we had investigated all four of them. And upon reflection, I realized that these physics activities had long-term impact for Henry and Leo.
Friction is a great example. I think it has been at least a year since Leo and I slid around our house on the tile and on the rug wearing shoes, socks, and no footwear at all. Not only did Leo remember the concept and the vocabulary, but he was able to reenact the investigation for Henry. Now, when they are solving problems with their play, I can sometimes hear them reference “friction” and having too little or not enough of it.
Another activity that has longevity here in the Helfrich household is the exploration about inertia. It appeals to the boys because they get to roll stuff into a curb or against a wall. The toys go flying and they get the destruction-induced boy giggles. They aren’t even realizing that they learned about inertia, they just know that when the vehicle stops, they toy will not. It doesn’t matter that they can’t articulate that. What I really like is that someday, when they are sitting in a high school science class, they might remember when their stuffed animals flew off the skateboard. They will have background knowledge about science. I envy that!
On the Sid website there is a link to all the cycles under the Cycle Overview Tab. I know that I am supposed to be an expert on all things Sid, but even I forget the resources that available sometimes. Here is what I learned about physics:
Developmental research reveals that human infants know quite a bit about the physical laws that govern objects and events. Using particular experimental procedures, researchers have shown that babies are surprised when a ball seems to float in space, as if they expect it to fall because it is not supported. Infants also notice when one solid object seems to go through another one, as this is not something that “should” happen. These are just a few examples of what is called naïve physics knowledge.
As they get older, children can talk to us and tell us what they notice and think about the physical objects and events in the world around them. That’s exactly what Sid is doing this week when he and his friends ask, Why can’t I slide in my sneakers? Why won’t my play dough ball bounce? Why did Ignatz keep going when the skateboard he was riding on stopped? Why did my soccer ball go farther than I wanted it to go? Designed with physics education expert Dr. Noel Enyedy, each episode begins with an event that piques Sid’s curiosity. His observations take him, and our viewers, on explorations of friction, elasticity, inertia, and force. Through these episodes we hope to illustrate, for kids and their caregivers, that these concepts help us explain really interesting stuff that happens all around us, every day.

Interesting stuff happens all around us every day. That’s a great motto for living with preschoolers. So, give these activities a try this week. Many of us are stuck indoors due to rain, snow, cold, or stuffy noses. These physics activities are sure to keep your kids engaged just long enough to build some great science memories for the future.
I would love to hear how from you about your investigations. Leave a comment and share your experiences!

Those of you who listen to the Sid the Science Kid podcast might recall that Gerry and I decided to “unplug” for the Thanksgiving holiday and head up to Sequoia National Park with the boys. We are eager to start exploring the wonders the National Park Service has to offer. So we rented a cabin by a river and went out into the wild.
I knew that this trip would be full of opportunities for science learning, observing, and practicing science words. What I didn’t expect was the overwhelming sensation of trying to capture the science in the midst of all the nature. Oh, and nature is dangerous in my mom’s eye.
Exhibit A: Big Wet Rocks by a River.
The boys were so very excited to go bouldering by the river. I can’t think of many more activities that would appeal to Henry and Leo as much. Especially Henry, the boy with no boundaries. So, while I am trying to take in the scenery, the boys went scampering off. Soon they were out of site. Gerry and I had to drag our forty-something selves over the rocks to make sure they didn’t go splash into the moving river.
Science Lesson: We discussed the meaning of “current” and threw objects in the river to see how fast they disappeared downriver. Then we extrapolated to how fast a person would go. Henry seemed skeptical, feeling confident that he could swim it out. Uh oh.
Exhibit B: Giant Sequoia Trees
I was very eager to get up into the park and see the Giant Forest of Sequoias. As far as I am concerned, these lovely towering trees are heaven on earth. The boys, however, just saw them as lots and lots of big trees. In their defense, all trees are big to kids their size. I especially wanted to see Sherman, the oldest tree, most majestic tree. We walked with the kids into the grove and I felt a special kind of reverence for nature, while the boys explored lots of climbing opportunities. There were fences marking the pathways with NO CLIMBING signs all over. So, Gerry and I spent a lot of time pulling the boys off.
Science Lesson: I do think the boys were interested in some of the facts about Sherman. For instance, scientists calculate that the Sherman is 2,200 years old. We looked at the rings of a fallen tree and they were mightily impressed. We also got to spend some time looking at trail maps and talking about scale. Leo found a sequoia seed and reflected on how something so small could become a gigantic tree. Made my heart sing!
Exhibit C: Snow
Weather played a big role on our trip. When we left home it was 80 degrees. In the Three Rivers, outside the park, the temperature was in the 60s. As we drove in the park and made the climb up past 5000ft, the temps dropped into the low 40s and we found SNOW! The boys started to squeal when we first sighted snow in the Giant Forest. As we parked the car, we put on snow gear on in a frenzy so that boys could get out. They literally threw themselves in a pile of snow by the side of the road. I guess there is still a little New England in these California boys.
We managed to find a great sledding spot and spent a glorious sunny morning racing down a small hill. The whole family gave it a try as we blazed our own run down an untouched hill. We laughed and laughed. The boys had snow pants but I was soaking wet. And it wasn’t cold!
Science lesson: The weather and the temperatures gave us a chance to talk about altitude and temperature. The boys know the air has to be cold enough for snow and the connection to how high we were was interesting to them. While sledding we inadvertently learned about friction, speed, and “catching air.” I did have to talk with Henry about thin ice as he stepped into a stream and broke through the thin layer.
Exhibit D: We Saw a Bear.
As we drove out of the park on our last day, we saw brown bears by the side of the road.
Bears. Real live bears.
We couldn’t believe it. Several cars had pulled over and we all took pictures while the bears ambled about and did their thing. I know that the National Parks are famous for wildlife, but I really didn’t expect to experience it first hand. All four of us knew we witnessed something special.
Science Lesson: Natural science doesn’t get too much better than this. We chatted about habitats, food sources, and endangered animals. The boys asked questions about where the bears live while I explained that WE were visiting the bears’ home. I hope they never forget it.
We purchased a National Park Passport and inaugurated our book with the Sequoia Stamp. Henry and Leo are already asking when we can explore another park. It isn’t easy to head into the wild with young children, but I think it is worth it. The science opportunities were everywhere but it was also about the opportunities we had as family to learn together, grow together, and laugh together. I can’t wait to get back out there.

I love a fair. I have been telling anyone who will listen just how excited I was about heading to the county fair this weekend. I love the animals, the rides, the games, the lights, and of course, the food. Ah…the food. It is one of those days in the year when we let the boys have and do whatever they like, as long as it isn’t too dangerous. Cotton candy? Yes! Humungous scary slide? Yes, yes, and yes! It is wonderful to see their little faces light up when they ask for treats and actually get what they want.
This year, I decided to put on my Sid the Science Kid filter while at the fair. Would I be able to tie some our learning from Sid to a day at the county fair? I wanted to try.
For starters, I dragged all three of my boys (Dad included) through all of the animal exhibits. It is my favorite part. Not so much for them, because they were chomping at the bit to get into the Hall of Mirrors. Natural science abounds in the livestock exhibits! We saw baby pigs and a big mama pig. We learned about their weight, age, and even got to vote on names. (Lots of data!) We examined chickens and saw more varieties than I even knew existed. We used our senses as we walked among smelly cows, sheep, and goats. Leo had his nose pinched all the time. It was fun to see the prize animals and learn more about the farm. I wanted to look more, but the Hall of Mirrors beckoned.
The rides were a wonder of engineering and physics principles. If I thought about it too hard, I got butterflies in my stomach. My boys are brave, and no ride was too scary. Thank goodness for some of those height restrictions. It was so great to see science in motion, so to speak. The best example was the long slide. Both boys climbed the tall stairs, carrying a sack, and came speeding down with smiles of glee. The immediately wanted to do it again, and we said Yes! This time, the boys came sliding down flat on their backs, laughing even harder. When I questioned Henry about it later he explained that lying down was faster because there was less wind than when they sat up. Science Kids at work!
I thought a lot about lights as the afternoon turned to evening. This week on Sid the Science Kid, the children explore light and it’s sources. There was no lack for light sources at the county fair. As we went up on the Ferris wheel, I pointed out that it was twilight. Henry had asked me the meaning of the word, earlier in the week. It is the time when day turns into night…not dark but not sunny. The fair was the perfect place to see that: it wasn’t dark, but the carnival lights were wondrous to see from above.
We played a game where the force of water caused a balloon to fill up and POP we had a winner! Henry and I watched a man use all his strength to hit a hammer and make the lights go on for a prize. Both boys learned about measurement as they stood tall to see if their height would allow them on a ride. We think that Leo is about 41″, because he had to stretch to follow Henry onto rides that required 42″. And Leo learned that a corn dog is a delicious Sometimes Food.
The last stop of the night was on the bouncy trampoline. Henry and Leo were outfitted in harnesses, attached to long elastic ropes, and jumped on a big trampoline. Gerry and I observed as the instructors adjusted the length and tension of the ropes to help the boys jump higher and higher. To be honest, I don’t know how to explain the physics of how the whole thing worked, but boy, did I have to trust the science! Henry and Leo were gleeful, so I am thankful for science that made it all work.
As you may know by now, I really like the way Sid teaches my family how to find science in our everyday life. I thought that the fair would be a tough science challenge, but I was wrong. Science is everywhere, even at the county fair.
Happy summer to everyone! What kind of science do you find at the fair, or on other unexpected adventures?

Until Trina asked me to write a guest blog I would have told you that both my children have had equal experiences in math and science. But I was lying to myself. Writing this blog has made me pause, reflect and question. Have I been parenting my daughter with the same eye on academics that I employ with my son? A walk into their bedrooms had a sobering effect. My 8-yr old son, Nathaniel’s room is filled with maps, books on dinosaurs and nonfiction text. My 4-yr old daughter, Morgan’s is a whimsical journey to far-off lands of talking animals and small winged creatures.
I need to bridge the area between my two children’s interests as well as expose my daughter to a higher framework of scientific thought. But how?
(Sound trumpets) Enter Sid the Science Kid! Aside from watching Sid’s show on PBS and amusedly following Trina’s blogging exploits I never took time to delve into all that Sid has to offer. I had no idea of the music video clips, supporting games, and activities that the website provides.
In episode “Slide To The Side,” Sid can’t do his “brand new fabulous Slide-to-the-Side dance” in his rubber-soled sneakers. It’s all about friction. He was able to do it just fine in socks. Why the problem now? Living in a house with hard wood floors my kids understand all too well the problems associated with running in socks on slippery surfaces. This prior knowledge and life experience allowed for my kid’s immediate buy-in to Sid’s dilemma.
We started with some basic ideas on friction: the force that resists the motion of one thing on another thing. Nathaniel pointed out that the reason his hands heated up when he rubbed them together was because of friction. Morgan quickly discovered that her hands didn’t get warm when she rubbed them up and down on the wall. This lead to a good discussion examining properties of surfaces and determining which ones create the most friction.
We then moved on to a suggested activity: In the investigation with sliding an object across different surfaces a hockey puck is recommended. I don’t play hockey. I don’t even really ice skate. I do however, own a puck-shaped paperweight and thus, substituted. This was working well until I came upon the recommended list of surfaces to test the slide distance. Slippery surfaces were no problem (see above the treacherous existence of raising children on hardwood floors). I had an area rug we could use to test “carpet”. The third surface suggested was a yoga mat for a rubbery texture. I would truly like to believe that I could simply walk to my fitness closet and readily access my yoga mat. I know at one time I have owned something of this nature. It was purple. I haven’t seen it in at least 2 years. I am not proud.
Undaunted, I went in quick search around the house for a rubbery surface. Voila! Wouldn’t you know, there it was, sitting in the bathroom directly in front of the shower? My bathmat has a rubbery backing and when flipped over certainly fit the bill for friction testing. I don’t think I’ll be busting out any downward dogs coming out of the shower but hey, nice to know what’s out there in a pinch!
Introducing the idea of a hypothesis as having no “right” answer leveled the playing field for my two young scientists. It was exciting to see Morgan taking risks with her predictions. I loved hearing 4-year-old logic explain why the rubber mat would allow for the greatest sliding distance: “Because a rubber duck can go really far in the tub.”
We tested our hypotheses.
Their findings did not stop their enthusiasm for wanting to know more! This is where I discovered the true beauty of Sid. Our exploration and experiments with friction didn’t end with our hand-on investigation!
We moved over to the computer! Online, my kids got to “play” with Gerald as he tested the friction of various surfaces doing an activity that looked very familiar to them. Because we had just done a similar one in our house!
We then went on to watch racecars zooming around a track at breakneck speeds to the tune of “Go As Fast As You Can”. We watched the history of the rubberized wheel unfold in a readily comprehensible manner for any age group. We used multiple methods to explore the same concept again and again. Each time it was novel, engaging and appropriately timed. This whole experience in friction, including experimentation, took under an hour and yet provided conversation for days. As we finished our time on the computer my daughter walked off saying the eight words that guarantee a repeat visit, “That was fun! Can we do it again?”
Have you explored all that Sid has to offer? Will you schedule science fun into your summer?

If I could scientifically calculate the amount of time I have spent on a playground in the past 5 years my guess that is that it would come out to be about 20% of my waking hours. Something like 5 bazillion hours…and that is a technical mommy term, thank you very much. I am not complaining though. I am grateful for the warm weather and plethora of parks within a 4 mile radius of my house that make our outdoor adventures possible.
The boys have their favorite playgrounds and they name them affectionately. We play at Rocket Ship Park, Dino Park, Castle Park, and even Starbucks Park. (You can imagine why the kids call it that.) The boys pick a park depending on their mood or who we are meeting up with. I think back to a year ago when we were new to this town and I feel a nostalgic affection for these parks. In those early weeks I picked a new park every day for us to explore. These excursions helped me learn my way around the surrounding area and kept me distracted from my homesickness. I met some of my first friends out here at these playgrounds. I like playgrounds.
The playground area on Sid the Science Kid plays an important role for the kids on the show. In the morning Sid conducts his surveys and explores his Big Questions with his friends on the playground. After an investigation, Sid and his friends sometimes go outside to act out a new science concept of learned skill. I especially like the “Laugh-In” style segment where the kids tell silly jokes on the playground. I appreciate the way the creators of the show use the playground as a place where children practice and expand on what they have learned.
I have also noticed how much playgrounds have changed since I was a child. There are lots of toys that I don’t even recognize and the boys have to figure out how to play on them. We’ve played recently at some really cool playgrounds where the equipment is designed to get the kids moving and to challenge them. One playground has a cool skateboard simulator where the boys stand on a metal plate with a handle that slides up and down a curved bar. It’s very exciting and I have to hold my breath hoping they don’t fall. I can’t help but notice that the equipment often relies on the force and energy the kids create in order to create and keep the momentum.
On this toy, Leo and Henry bounce and jump on the “snake” to create a wave motion. It requires balance, strength, and bravery from my little ones.
Here, Henry must use the weight of his body to spin. The more oomph he applies, the faster the spin. This makes Henry laugh and laugh.
These days even the climbing structures provide challenging ways to get up and down. Yes, there are still the stairs and slides, but most structures also have more interesting ways to get up and down.
As you can see, they are both really working hard and having fun at the same time. I like to go to the park in the late afternoon to get the maximum exhaustion effect in time for dinner and bedtime. We’ve come a long way from the jungle gyms and merry go rounds of my childhood. But in the end, the boys play, create, imagine, and invent just like I did with my brothers and friends. Any playground, park, or open space that can inspire creativity and exercise is a precious gift of childhood.
What do some of your favorite playgrounds and parks look like? What equipment do your children like the best?

In the Sid the Science Kid cycle called Simple Machines, all the activities are fun and they really get the boys involved. I get excited to do these investigations, mostly because I find myself saying things like “Let’s do that again!” or “Really cool, huh?” I think the boys like them too. What really matters is that we all get a kick out of simple machines.
This week we learned about inclined planes or slides in preschool language. The concept for the investigation was easy: fill a bucket with something heavy, ask the kids to lift the bucket to the top of a play structure, give them rope…supervised hilarity ensues. The boys and I enlisted the help of our neighbor and friend, Brayden. We had the rope and the bucket; Brayden had the rocks and climbing structure.
The boys would have been happy just playing with a bucket of rocks (what preschooler wouldn’t be?) but when I started explaining the task they jumped right in. I posed the question: How can you work together to get the bucket to the top of the play set? The first thing I had them do was try and lift the bucket up to top. No luck there!
Next, Brayden suggested that he could push the bucket up the slide to Henry, who was waiting at the top. As you can see below, it was quite a challenge!
Then, I gave the boys the rope. The rope was a bit too long and tended to get tangled, so if you are trying this at home you may want to measure it out first. Once the boys had the rope they talked about how to attach it to the bucket and how it could be used to pull the bucket. Brayden wanted to try pulling the bucket up the climbing wall. All three boys sat up at the top, I passed them the rope, and they tried to heave it up together. Great teamwork!
It was wonderful to watch Henry, Brayden, and Leo adjust their plans. Once they realized their collective strength couldn’t life the bucket to the top, the boys turned to the slide. We talked about the properties of the slide: smooth, high, slippery, and curved. The boys made a connection to how fast they can get down from the top via the slide…could it help them get the bucket up?
They gave it a try!
Success! All three friends were really proud of themselves. They were astonished at how much easier the task became when they used the slide. The bucket easily slid up while they worked together above to pull. I explained that the slide was an inclined plane and that the slide could be used a simple machine. A great concept that I am sure will be put to good use, as evidenced later on when Henry and Brayden tried to put Leo in the bucket and pull him up. Too bad Leo didn’t fit!
Although I am happy about the science concepts that the boys learned, I am even more excited about the collaboration that took place. I asked questions; all three friends listened and participated. They encouraged each other’s ideas and laughed through the successes and failures. It was nice to see.
As Henry and Leo moved on to a game of baseball, I noticed Brayden wasn’t done with his investigating. I think he’s ready to move on to the investigation about pulleys!
How do you little ones exhibit good collaboration skills? Do you think this activity would be a hit at your house?

We learned about the word “oomph” this week and we are all the better for it. Oomph is Sid-speak for “force” and during the episode called “Sid’s Super Kick,” we had lots of opportunities to explore oomph. Leo was particularly struck by the episode because he just began taking a pre-soccer class at the recreation center in our town. After only a few Saturday mornings my boy is hooked. Leo already has great moves and strong focus. So, having the show open with Sid asking question about kicking a soccer ball was great.
I am always saying that preschoolers need to have concrete ways of understanding science concepts. Force is no exception. The example of the soccer ball was a perfect way to get out to the park with the boys and practice our oomph with kicking. Honestly, the idea that you have to kick the ball harder to get it to go farther was not unfamiliar to Leo or Henry. They knew intuitively as we practiced kicking the ball with different degrees of force what the outcome would be.
However, knowing the concept is different from mastering the words and using the academic vocabulary on your own. So, although Leo and Henry didn’t have trouble understanding the concept of force, they didn’t have the science vocabulary until this week. And I think that is cool. I’ve notice that the boys discuss new ideas in the car, and all week they’ve been chatting about force and “oomph.” I love listening from the front seat.
Sid’s use of the word “oomph” and soccer example also got me thinking about another True Trina Confession. (Yes, I need to trademark that.) So far in this blog I have confessed to not liking vegetables, forts, or playground snacking. This week, I will confess to not really doing a good job at all at being an active mom. My kids are very active, don’t get me wrong, but this Mom need to get her rear in gear.
I had no idea that baseball and soccer oomph would be just the thing I needed!
Leo’s soccer class requires parent participation. So there I am, at an early hour, running around with Leo, passing the ball, and chasing him around. Leo absolutely loves it. To be honest, I do too. I get winded, but to share that time with Leo and watch him learn to be healthy and active is really inspiring to me. It’s the same kind of excitement I get when we read a really great book together and the story makes us laugh or learn something. I never realized that I could get the same enjoyment out of running around. It’s the best incentive I’ve ever had to exercise. And boy, do I need it.
Henry is also beginning his first season of sports with baseball. My town takes little league very seriously and T-ball is the first introduction to the culture that makes my town tick. Gerry and I are pretty excited about it. Henry, unfortunately, is not as jazzed. So, what that means is that Mommy needs to don a glove at practice every week and help to motivate Henry.
My job is to warm Henry up before practice by playing catch. I have never played catch in my life. Really. When Henry whips that ball at me, it is all I can to keep from yelping and hiding my face in the glove. I am terrified, but exhilarated. Anyone who knows me will tell you about my fanaticism for the Boston Red Sox, but I have never ever played the game. It’s fun because Henry gets to watch me learn a new skill and I get to participate in his practice. He’s getting more comfortable with the idea of playing and I am trying to throw with “oomph.”
I am always looking for news ways to build some “oomph” into my life. I like the idea of finding ways to exercise and be active with my kids. The benefits are boundless and the rewards will show in my waistline and in my relationships with Henry and Leo.
Do you have any advice for how to be a more active parent? What sports or activities do your preschoolers like? How do you motivate your kids? I would really love to hear from you on this one!

Ever since I decided to write about friction for this week’s blog post, I have been thinking about the ways in which the concept applies to my life with my two boys. Yes, friction is a great science concept to teach to preschoolers and makes for some great fun explorations. Then there’s the social emotional kind of friction — the kind of head to head battles that occur and cause disagreement and resistance at home.
We watched the Slide to Side episode when the boys were recovering from yet another bout of what I call the Lethargy Fever Plague. It was encouraging to see a pale-faced Leo perk up when he watched Sid slide across the floor in his socks and then come to a stop with his sneakers on. I thought that Sid’s investigation question about “Why can’t I slide with sneakers on?” was so authentic to a preschooler’s experience. Leo obviously did too, because he got up off the couch to conduct his own investigation.
First Leo tried sliding in his socks and got the slipperiest results. He did a little slide jig and then decided to try his bare feet. The results were less satisfying. To add to his investigation, I offered to provide him with another pair of socks with rubber dots on them and his footie pajamas.
Leo really led this investigation on his own. He employed a process of elimination and ranked his sliding success. At one point he wore one smooth sock and one sock with the treads. As I watched the little scientist at work, I could almost see what he was thinking. Afterwards Leo had a concrete understanding of the concept. I sensed that he felt satisfied for having tried out what he saw on TV for himself. Now he’s sliding all over the place. We have a lot of tile.
Now, on to the other kind of friction — the kind that can turn an ordinary day into a very long day. Friction about a shirt, for example. At the risk of sounding stereotypical, let me say that dressing my boys every day is not an exercise in trendy style or fashion. However, I do like to spread my fashion wings around the holidays. I will cop to buying an occasional matching spring outfit for church services in light blues and greens and matching pajamas in December. I look forward to clever t-shirts at Halloween (My Mummy Loves Me!) and chain store Fourth of July clothing.
Valentine’s Day is one such fashion opportunity. Leo had a party at school and I was ready with a button down red Hawaiian shirt that makes anyone within a 50-yard radius sigh at his curly cuteness. On other days Leo has requested the red Hawaiian shirt. This was not one of those days. Leo pitched a rare and honest to goodness fit when I tried to put the shirt on him. And the sparks started to fly.
I have no idea why it meant so much to me that Leo wear the silly shirt. I had a chance to take the smooth route and let him choose something else but instead I applied force and resistance. The friction mounted all the way through our morning routine with tears, raised voices, and hurt feelings. I am not proud to admit that the conflict continued in the car on the way to school. It was not pretty.
In the end Mommy did the apologizing and Leo quietly stated that he just didn’t want anyone to see him in that shirt. That’s just the way it is sometimes. I can’t help but think about the laws or rules of science really can apply to life. If the surface is smooth and the object moving across is also smooth then we glide happily along. As soon as either the surface or the object is rough or resistant, the movement forward stops, along with the fun. Amazingly, it’s not always the kids who provide the resistance. Sometimes it’s me, the parent. And it’s my job to reduce the friction. Thanks Sid, for reminding me!
How do you smooth things out when the friction gets too high? Do your kids ever find solutions on their own?

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