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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Human Body

When Henry and Leo were babies, I watched them breathe. Hearing your baby take his first breath and start wailing is the beginning of relationship that is as important to you as your own breathing. I think it is primal for mothers to make sure their babies take air into their lungs and let air out of their lungs. Even if it means we are up in the middle of night instead of getting precious minutes of sleep. I remember positioning Henry with rolled up towels so he could sleep on his side, fearing that he would stop breathing if I allowed him to sleep on his stomach, even though he really slept better that way. I loved to watch his little torso move up and down as he slept. It was beautiful.
Fast-forward almost 6 years later and my sweet baby boys are running, laughing, screaming bundles of energy. A lot of their breath is expelled on baseball fields, soccer fields, on bikes, and in running up and down the stairs. I let out a lot of hot air yelling at them to slow down, quiet down, and come down those same stairs. Breathing is no longer an event I watch in the still of the night (although I do sometimes sneak in for a peek). It is something I just depend on.
So, when I saw that there was a Sid activity about lungs this week, I was happy to go back to basics with my baby boys. And who doesn’t want to play with straws and bubbles?
I got us set up on the front patio with tall glasses of water and straws. Henry was fidgeting, as usual, asking if he could drink the water. Leo wanted to pour it on the flowers. To get them engaged, I started asking question about breathing: What do humans breathe? Where does the air go? What comes out? Do plants breathe? What do you think will happen when you blow softly into the straw?
They answered the questions eagerly and I reintroduced them to the terms oxygen, carbon dioxide, and photosynthesis. We talked about the lungs as an organ and how we need oxygen to live. It sounds like a complicated conversation, but in fact it was quite simple. And the fun part was trying it all out.
I first asked Henry and Leo to blow softly into the straws.
They laughed like they couldn’t believe I was letting them get away with such horrible table manners. Then I told them to blow really hard into the straw and feel their lungs working. The reaction was priceless. Water came spouting out of the glass and drenched their faces. They cackled and tried it again and again.
By this point neither Henry or Leo was interested in talking about lungs anymore, they just wanted to explore with the straws and water to see how wet they could get. And that was great because experimentation is the fun part.
While they go soaked, I went and found some bubble wands for our next part of the investigation. For the next hour or so we played with bubbles. At first, we were experiments with our lungs, seeing how what happened when we blew softly into the wand and then with more strength. Their predictions were mostly correct, but none of us anticipated the volume of bubbles that came out the wand with the stronger air for a sustained amount of time. All of sudden there were bubbles everywhere!
It was delightful to see Henry and Leo chasing bubbles around the front yard. It was like they were babies again, discovering the magic of bubbles for the first time. It was lovely family time, sitting on the grass, laughing, and experimenting with a bubble wand. And yes, we learned a bit about our lungs. And I got to watch my boys breathe for a while.

When the boys and I are at the park, I sit with my friends and we watch the kids run around for hours. Inevitably, from time to time, one of us says something like: “Can you remember having that kind of energy?” Or “Don’t you wish they could bottle that?” One day last week our kids ran around the park for over 4 hours! My favorite comment on days like that is: “They will sleep well tonight!”
My boys don’t think about keeping their heart rates up while exercising like I do while trying to walk off my extra pounds. The boys just run and play. Nature and metabolism do the rest. (I am guessing on that point…not a scientific observation.) However, in light of the Sid the Science Kid Health cycle this week, I thought it was a good idea to illustrate the power of the heart.
On one of our park days I called the Henry, Leo, and their friend Logan over. They came running, explaining a complicated game I was interrupting. When I asked if they wanted to do an experiment they all yelled “Yeah!” I hope their future high school science teachers received the same kind of enthusiasm.
I had the boys sit on the grass and listen for the thump thump of their heartbeats. It was challenging for them — mostly because they kept talking as they searched. I asked them to be very quiet and very still and showed them where to place their hands. Eventually, they all felt the steady rhythm of their heartbeats at rest. It was sweet to watch them listen in earnest.
I also tried to show them how to feel heartbeats through their pulse, but we were less successful. I did, however, talk with them about the job of the heart and helped them understand how important it was to keep it healthy–specifically with exercise.
Then, I told them to run: “Go up the little hill, run around the big tree, run back down the hill, come back to me, and then DO IT AGAIN!” They took off in a sprint. Of course, they fumbled the directions and balked when I sent them back out again, but they ran with gusto!
By the time Leo, Logan, and Henry flopped back on the ground they were obviously energized. I quickly told them to put their hands on their hearts and tell me what they felt. All three boys were amazed at how swift their hearts were thumping. They didn’t feel challenged to find their heartbeats this time. I asked them to cover their ears to feel the sensation in their heads of their hearts beating after exercise.
A moment later Henry asked, “Can we go now?” and off they went back to their game. Energy unbound. Hopefully our little investigation on a sunny summer day will have impact so they remember and understand the importance of heart health through exercise. It is somewhat like the nutrition instruction I try and work subtly into their lives. I don’t force the information on them; I try and weave information about health into our everyday lives. For now, I can feel good about the fact that Henry and Leo will run and play and swim for hours a day without complaint. I hope they make time for that as adults too!
What activities keep your kids’ hearts pumping over the summer? How do you talk with them about heart health?

The time between dinner and bedtime can go one of two ways. On a “good” day it means cooperative playtime between two loving and generous brothers. On a “challenging” day it means an hour of incessant whining, discord, and accusatory play between two frenemies. As I think about what triggers one kind evening or the other, I have come to the conclusion that the answer lies with Mommy. Yes, ME. While I am busy trying to clean the kitchen, sort the mail, catch up on phone calls, or play scrabble online with my friends the boys get a little unhinged. They don’t need me to play with them per se, but they want to know I am there and available. To be honest, by that time of the day I am counting down the seconds to when Dad gets home.
Tonight, I decided to try something different. I organized an after dinner activity. First, I told them that we were going to conduct an investigation after I washed the dinner dishes. They played nicely with toys and even put on their pjs independently. Then the evening’s entertainment began.
I thought that digestion would be a great topic to tackle since we had just eaten supper. I asked the boys to tell me where their food goes. Henry and Leo were surprisingly well-informed. (Is that you again Sid?) They told me that the food goes down their throat, into their bellies, and out in the bathroom. I will spare you their more graphic rendition. It was interesting to me that they didn’t know anything about how the body takes the good things in the food to keep us healthy and energized.
So, I pulled out the materials: crackers, lemon juice, and sandwich bags. I had the lemon shaped bottle of “lemon juice”. I decided to use that since I had no idea how it got into my fridge.
I explained that the bag was a pretend stomach, the juice was the acid in our stomach, and the crackers were the food. Both boys wanted to get right into it. I asked Leo what we could do with the crackers to make it seem like we were eating. Brilliantly, the boy said “put the cracker in your mouth.” Ah, the elusive wall between real and make believe!
I modeled for them how to break the crackers into smaller pieces before dropping them into the baggie “stomach.” We talked about the role of teeth and how small food needs to be in order to make it down our throats. Then we sealed the bags and they started mashing, just like our real stomach muscles. As you can see, they had fun.
It didn’t take long for the lemon juice to break down the cracker. The mish mash in the bag looked quite gooey and mushy. It had a high gross factor, which we all know is the best thing for little kids. Henry remarked, “Is that really what’s happening in my stomach? Cool.”
The action provided so much for us to talk about. They wanted to know all about what kind of juice was in our real stomach and where the food went and how does the body know what it needs. Amazingly, the bathroom talk was minimal. Honestly, I didn’t have all the answers, but that didn’t matter. All at once we were talking about healthy food, healthy bodies, and healthy activities. It went way beyond digestion.
In the end, Henry’s bag broke and we had to stop smushing the “stomachs.” This activity was a great way to transition from dinner to bedtime. I know I’ve said this many times before, but these Sid investigations really engage the kids in concrete, informative, and purposeful ways. And when the activity helps me as mom, that’s even better! Happy digesting everyone!
I would love to hear from you about your experiences with the Sid the Science Kid investigations. Have you tried one at home? How did it work for you? Please share your children’s adventures!
You can find the digestion investigation here.

Sometimes science can be really silly. At least, Leo and I certainly think so. We did more laughing than serious investigating this week, but I make no apologies. We had fun! Sid the Science Kid is all about the human body this cycle and Leo’s belly laughs definitely count as a whole body experience. He may be getting early admission to clown school.
We really like the episode “How Did My Dog Do That?” mostly because of the guest star: Grandma’s dog Filbert. In it, Sid observes Filbert scratch an ear with a hind leg and attempts to do it himself. Sid can’t get his leg to bend and hilarity ensues — mostly in my own home. When we watched, Leo got up to see if he could have more success scratching an ear with his foot and started laughing almost immediately. It was funny. He jumped on one leg, grabbed the other with his hands, and tried to wrench his foot up to his ear. Kersplat! Leo was on the carpet giggling. Then, in a moment of Zen that would make any yogi master proud, Leo DID manage to get his foot up to his ear. “See Mom!” he exclaimed. “I can do it!”
In the episode, Sid’s experience with Filbert leads to an investigation about joints and bones. Leo, my pretzel boy, got his learning off on the wrong foot, so to speak, with his yoga moves. Thankfully, the cool graphics of the dog skeleton got his attention and he started to understand the role of joints. In the Super Fab Lab, Sid and his friends use splints to see how difficult it would be to complete simple tasks without joints. Leo was hooked, and very willing to try it out himself.
Once I looked at the Bones Investigation online, I realized that I did not have the exact materials. So I improvised with crayons, wooden train tracks, and blue painter’s tape. My best friend Susan first introduced me to the wonders of painter’s tape before a cross country flight with the boys. But that’s a blog post for another time. You should all just run out and get some painters tape. Trust me. (Although it occurs to me that I should probably also have white medical tape on hand, as the activity calls for.)
The challenge of this activity was getting my preschooler to stay still long enough to apply a splint to a finger, arm, or leg. Leo was very wiggly and giggly. An extra set of adult hands would have made it easier. I couldn’t help but wonder what would happen if I had to apply a splint in some sort of first aid, woodsy, hiking scenario…I may need to get some wilderness training.
We tried a finger splint first. I had to break a couple of crayons to size for Leo’s little fingers. I asked him to try and pick up blocks and spoons. I was impressed how he managed to adapt and use his other fingers and the palm of the hand. On the other hand, I felt challenged to immobilize him to reinforce the importance of joints. More tape! We tried his arm next, with better success. It was hysterical to watch him try and put on and take off a ball cap, especially since he was laughing so hard. There is no sweeter sound in the world, as far as I am concerned.
Our final splint was on the leg. When I set him loose he tried to run but fell down, belly laughing again. He got and tried to maneuver up a step into the hallway. The sensation made him exclaim, “I can’t bend!” Finally, the aha moment! I explained joints again and this time he seemed to understand.
Ultimately, the learning in this investigation was less important than the process. We had a blast and laughed so much. We used ordinary objects in interesting ways. What kid doesn’t like to break a crayon or two? Leo extended his learning out to the neighborhood that afternoon when he ran outside to talk with a friend who recently had a leg cast removed. He wanted to explain joints and splints to our neighbor. I guess he learned a lot after all!
How do you like to put the fun into learning? Have you had an experience with your child where the process was more as rewarding as the result?

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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