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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Holidays

My little Leo turned 5 last week. I feel like we have stepped from babyhood to boyhood. Although he’s been out of diapers for over two years and he no longer asks me to pick him up, I could still squeeze his chunky legs and cuddle him at bedtime. This week Leo looks taller to me and not as squishy. We still have lots of cuddles (thank goodness) but I see the Kindergartener in him. Tall, confident, talkative, and a little more defiant than the 4 year old I knew. It is all good news, it is all natural, and I am proud of him.
But I couldn’t resist the urge to throw him a good, old-fashioned birthday party. Leo requested a pool party at our community pool and I was more than happy to plan it. I love planning birthday parties. I spent hours on Pinterest, on birthday websites, in party stores, and at Target (of course.) We invited Leo’s buddies from school and planned it all for a Friday afternoon. Siblings were welcome. We invited 16 children in all. Then I thought about it: 16 kids swimming in a pool, under my supervision. Uh oh.
The best money I spent for Leo’s party was on a certified lifeguard. I found her through a friend and it was well worth the expense. Her only job was to watch the kids in the water and it allowed me to throw the party and the other moms to relax a bit and enjoy what I put together. The lifeguard is also a swim instructor and she happily agreed to talk with the kids about pool safety.
Water safety is a big deal out here in California year-round. Many homes and communities have pools, there are plenty of vacation areas with lakes, and of course, the Pacific Ocean is in our backyard. Drowning is a huge concern for children’s safety out and it is imperative to me that Henry and Leo learned how to swim. We took lessons last summer and the focus was on floating and treading water. More money well spent.
For Leo’s pool party, the lifeguard waited until all the guests had arrived and the kids were in the pool to give them her talk.
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She had three main rules:
1. No running and jumping into the pool.
2. No pushing or jumping on your friends.
3. No swimming in the deep end.
It was hard to keep the swimmers’ attention but Leo did offer to demonstrate a dead man’s float to illustrate drowning. I have to admit, I did not enjoy watching my little man float around on his belly. I prefer the new term for that kind of float: the jellyfish float.
Surprisingly, there were no mishaps that afternoon. Everyone got along and no injuries were reported. The lifeguard sat on the steps of the pool for two hours and then we all had cake. It was wonderful. We all felt safe and relaxed. Summer has arrived! One look at Leo at the end of the afternoon confirms it:
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What rules do you have in your family for swimming safety? Do you children take swimming lessons?

Happy Halloween Sid fans! The big day is upon us all. My kids have been busting out of their skins all weekend. They are ready for trick or treating! I did my best to fill up our weekend with Halloweeny activities: a town carnival, pumpkin carving, a Halloween birthday party, and lots of house decorating. And a candy jar continuously filled with candy corns. I am hoping that Henry and Leo will be so Halloweened-out by tonight that an early evening might be possible. Hahahahaha! A mom can dream, right?
Anyone who has been following this blog for the month of October knows that I have decided to embrace Halloween and shower my kids with science and activities related to the holiday. We made slime, created a web with Leo’s class, and crafted at home. I admit it has been lots of fun. Before having children, in my single days, Halloween was like New Years or Valentine’s Day: pressure filled with the need to be clever, charming, and alluring. I am so happy that those days are past me now and Halloween can be like I remember it as a child: magical, mysterious, and exciting.
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However, even as I have tried to keep Halloween fun and festive, there are moments of fear and trepidation for my boys. Leo, in particular, has a hard time with the spooky aspects of Halloween. Our neighbors across the street started decorating their house before the end of September with bloody skeletons, ghosts, and other spectral horrors. It looks amazing, but to a four year old, it has been absolutely terrifying. Even in broad daylight. I have found myself trying to find words to explain the meaning of coffin, corpse, sarcophagus, and zombie to my little boys. It hasn’t been easy. The living dead isn’t something I focus on too often.
At school Henry and his friends have been playing zombies and vampires. They are very vocal about their appetite for brains and blood. All in jest, of course, but Leo isn’t so sure all the time. He came to our bed in the middle of the night crying because he dreamed that zombies were trying to eat his head. As a preschooler, I see Leo trying to keep up with the big kids and their games, yet his tender heart isn’t ready for the frightening concepts. What’s a mom to do? I struggle with wanting to let the boys find their own way but also wanting to protect them from concepts that are clearly too old for them.
Thankfully, I can fall back on some of my Sid strategies to allay fears. We ask questions about scary things like spooky lights or skeletons hanging from the trees. We touch objects in the daylight and make observations about why these things are scary. Leo isn’t convinced completely, but I have found that exploring, talking, and touching has helped him relax a little bit.
Thankfully, Henry and Leo love to dress up. It’s not just a Halloween activity at our house. We have lots of costumes, mostly super heroes, community helpers, and even a princess dress. And they all get worn on a regular basis. This weekend, as we had so many different events, the boys got to hop around town in various disguises. On Saturday night they went to a festival dressed like this:
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On Friday, they were Darth Vader and a Jedi for a birthday party. Tonight Henry and Leo will trick or treat as Anakin Skywalker and Obi Wan Kenobi respectively. I love that their imaginations are fired up by the costumes and I get questions like, “Mom, how will I carry a light saber and all of my candy? Can you make me belt for my light saber?” (Am I the only one who grew up thinking it was a light SAVER?)
I am really looking forward to tonight. I have big pot of chili on the stove, bags of candy in bowl, spooky music downloaded, and flashlights at the ready. I know that Leo and Henry may have some moments of fright, but that’s all a part of being a kid on Halloween. I just need to stand by with open arms and a safe haven for my little trick or treaters.
Have fun tonight everyone! Share your favorite Halloween moments or delight or terror on the blog today!

Last week I had the pleasure of spending some time with a group of very brilliant young scientists. Leo’s amazing preschool teacher, Miss D., invited me into the classroom to try out a Sid the Science Kid investigation on a real preschool class, with all of Leo’s preschool peers. Seven little scientists in all.
Leo was beside himself with anticipation as we made our way to his classroom. He was talking nonstop and ready to get going on our adventure. My goal was to recreate the spider web activity from the new Sid the Science Kid Halloween special. In the activity, four children use classroom furniture as a base to make a spider web out of twine. On the show, the live action is shown in fast forward speed as the children move back and forth to create a fantastic spider web. How ingenious! And fun! And easy?
Miss D welcomed me into the classroom and I got right to work. First, I asked the children to tell me what they know about spiders. It being Halloween time and all, I got plenty of information about poison, biting, and what to watch out for. As we talked more we learned some basic facts about spiders: eight legs, make webs, eat insects. Then I read them a wonderful big book about spider webs that I borrowed from Henry’s Kindergarten teacher. The children loved the large-scale photos of the icky spiders and the various kinds of webs.
As we read the book, I got a sense of the challenges we would be working with. Mainly, the kids were really, really excited and they talked constantly. And they wiggled constantly. And they really wanted to make a web. Miss D stepped in now and then to reestablish order. It was fascinating to watch.
Then we put the seven kids into two groups and Miss D and I stood on either side of four chairs as we began to have children walk across the space and hand twine back and forth. It was tough manage seven excited kids who weren’t really sure what we were actually making.
Web1.jpg
Miss D and I sent the boys and girls back and forth, making it up as we went along. The twine would slip on the back of the chair, or unravel off the spool, or a little friend would drop the whole thing. The key was to keep the chairs in place to that the twine could stay taut.
My seven little spiders LOVED it. They were totally entranced by the process. We even had to prod them along every once in while because they were so busy watching the web come alive. I talked with them about silk, spiders, and a little about engineering. But they mostly wanted to get to a point where they could PLAY with the web.
When Miss D and I decided that the web was well formed I gave each of the children a spider to place on the web. The glee was frenzied and Miss D had to step in quick with a loud yet calming song. The kids were mesmerized and frankly, I was too! Then we got back to the task at hand and started placing spiders.
Web2.jpg
It was tricky work getting those spiders to stay on our delicate web. We talked about how strong, yet delicate spider webs needed to be. Each child had a turn stepping or crawling into the web to place a spider.
Web3.jpg
Web4.jpg
Soon, all of the spiders were placed precariously on the web. The activity had taken us close to an hour and the kids were spent. And I was exhausted. I cannot tell you how much admiration I have for Miss D. She was the model of patience, perseverance, and poise. Miss D exhibited helped me engage the kids, keep them on task, and move them along when she saw things get hairy. I could never have done the investigation alone. I am so lucky as a parent to have Miss D teaching Leo this year.
Before leaving, I asked the kids to pose for me as a group of spiders. It was hard to get a clear photo, as they totally got into their roles and became scary gang of spiders!
Web5.jpg
I can’t wait to go back and try out another one of Sid’s investigations with Leo and his friends. They all are bright, quick, and curious scientists. I am sure they will have lots of information to me as the year goes on. And I just have to give huge shout out to all of the “Miss Suzies” out there. Preschool teachers have the most wonderful and challenging job!

Halloween is in the air! And this year I have decided to embrace this spookiest of all holidays and plan lots of spooky fun. And where else can I turn for ideas but to Sid the Science Kid? This week’s new Halloween Special is truly delightful. I am sucker for cute cartoon kids dressed up in adorable costumes. Henry and Leo loved the novelty of seeing the characters in difference clothes and were blown away by the experiments in the episode: making a spider web and investigating green slime. Both are really accessible and oozing with good fun.
I was particularly excited about the green slime activity. You can find it here. I love it when we can get our hands into messy goo and talk about its properties. Yes, I have become a science geek…and I am proud. So, last night after dinner, much to Gerry’s horror, I told Henry and Leo that we would be making green slime. (Make sure you rub your hands together and laugh maniacally as you make the announcement.) For the record, I planned the activity after dinner and BEFORE bath time. You will see why.
First we gathered all of the materials. I let Henry and Leo run around and find everything.
Slime1.jpg
The boys did all the measuring, pouring, and mixing. I stepped in when they asked. The first thing we needed to do was measure the corn starch and add the water. I was quickly reminded that cornstarch is a main ingredient in baby powder. Poof! Henry squirted in the green paint and then it was time to mush it all with our hands.
Slime2.jpg
And here is where I started learning new things about my boys. Henry was very interested in getting his hands all slimy. He was all in. Leo, on the other hand, got his fingers in there and immediately wanted out. I would never have guessed it! Leo didn’t want to get gooey and he wasn’t pleased by the consistency. Henry and I, on the other hand, couldn’t stop playing with the stuff.
Our next step was to separate the slime into two more bowls and see what would happen to the slime if we added more water or more cornstarch. We made some predictions and here is what it looked like.
Slime3.jpg
The slime in the middle bowl was very watery and the slime small bowl became crumbly. We talked a lot about the word consistency. The irony is that the both of them were so fascinated by the various consistencies that I am not sure they actually learned the word. But I know they got the concept.
After finishing with the steps of the investigation I let the boys run amok with the slime. Henry wanted to know what would happen if we poured bowl 3 into bowl 2, so we did it. (Still watery.) Then he wanted to pour into the big the bowl and we added more cornstarch to make it a little slimier. We had SO MUCH FUN! And we made a BIG MESS!
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My one piece of advice is to have a big bowl of water handy for your kids to rinse off in. As soon as Leo started balking at the slime, I got the bowl of water for him to use. It was much better than having him drip across the kitchen for a rinse.
I am psyched to try the other activity from the Halloween special and make a spider web. Leo and Henry are insisting that I dress up like Teacher Susie as a mad scientist for Halloween. I think I might have to do what I am told!
Do you have any great Halloween crafts to share? What are your Halloween plans with your little scientists?

As the kids count down the days until Christmas with a growing sense of uncontrollable glee, I am conducting my own personal countdown. A countdown to the holiday school break. And I am not entirely gleeful. Don’t get me wrong, I am excited about the impending festivities…I just wish sometimes that I had more hours kid-free in the day to get ready. I am not a parent who can do a zillion projects while my children are underfoot. (If you are one of those parents…I want to be your best friend and apprentice.) I need to make a plan that will keep us all busy and happy.
Sid the Science Kid Activities
There are lots of fun and quick activities on the website that are meaningful with or without having viewed the corresponding Sid episode.

  • Texture Hunt (Senses Cycle): This is a cute activity that has kids search around the house for different textures on furniture, clothes, floors, etc and report back with findings. I am going to add a “holiday” element and have the boys describe the textures of some decorations like the pine tree, garland, tree skirt, stockings, Christmas cards, etc.
  • Frozen Fruit (Transformation and Change Cycle): Who isn’t trying to build in some healthy eating choices into the menus this time of year? This activity teaches children about reversible change as children freeze fruit in water, think about ways to melt the water to get at the fruit, and then eat it up! I think that it would be fun to freeze the fruit outside overnight if you live in a cold part of the country. I also like that the results will also take care of snack time!
  • The Big Box Investigation (Simple Machines Cycle): Most of you know by now that I moved cross-country earlier this year. I still have lot of boxes stacked up in my garage. We also know the holidays brings boxes in the mail for many of us. Well, here’s a way to use them creatively! In this activity, one child sits in a box while another child (or group…play date anyone?) finds a way to move the box across the floor. I see this one as a great way to expend a lot of pent up energy while learning about something very useful!

Sid the Science Kid Website
Check out the games and activities at http://pbskids.org/sid/index.html. I may be able to sneak in some wrapping or Christmas card addressing while Henry and Leo play a game or color. Go explore and see what excites you and your kids.

  • Shadow Show: This game combines shape recognition with matching while reminding children about shadows. Henry and Leo will love the part when they click the light to check the shapes.
  • Kitchen Magician: Sid asks kids to match a food (such as scrambled eggs) to food source (eggs) and reinforces the concept of irreversible change. It is really cute. My boys are going to LOVE the jokes that Sid tells between rounds. We will be hearing them at the dinner table for months and months to come.
  • Sid Says: This version of Simon Says gets kids thinking about and identifying muscles. The best part is that the game asks the player to get up and move their muscles. Great for working off some energy!
  • Printables: Henry and Leo love to color. The Print tab will take you to some cute pages that you can reproduce and have at the ready. I know that sometimes I just need a few moments of quiet to get through a hectic moment. I pick up a crayon and color my own page. It is so relaxing.
  • Video: Don’t forget to check out the video clips. We love the songs and the kids ask to hear them over and over again. If you ever wanted to see a specific investigation that I mention on the blog you can find most of them here. Sometimes, less is more and I can reward good behavior with a snippet or two of Sid the Science Kid.

More Festive Fun
I have a few holiday go-to activities to share. Many ideas have come from other mom friends, preschool teachers, and cyberspace browsing. It’s great to have something up my sleeve for a slow afternoon with antsy boys.

  • Paper Snowflakes: I tried this with the boys for the first time this year. They love playing with the safety scissors but the mess made me feel like an elf working overtime. That is okay because the boys had a blast. I did most of the cutting while the boys did the decorating. My boys like glitter. Who doesn’t?
  • Wrapping Blocks: Kids are fascinated and attracted to tape and wrapping paper. So I let them wrap wooden blocks. This year I am saving all of the wrapping paper scraps in a box for the boys and letting them do their own “wrapping.” I bought a bunch of tape at the dollar store just for them. I first saw this at Henry’s preschool. Genius. And perhaps now I have something I can use for a centerpiece!

I hope that some of these ideas will help create merriment in your house and bring order to the mayhem!
Do you have any great activities you’d like to share? Post them below so we can all try them out!
PS: I won’t be posting next week. Happy New Year everyone! See you in 2011!

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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