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Science Kids on the Loose

Science Kids on the Loose

Category: Change

I finally got myself back into Leo’s preschool classroom this week to conduct an ever-popular Sid the Science Kid experiment. It totally makes me giggle to know that the children in Leo’s class call me The Science Mom. Who would have believed THAT a couple of years ago? I really love working with the kids and look forward to spending time in the classroom. Thankfully, the Sid website has all the activities I need available to print out and take along to the preschool.
Following Sid’s lead I decided to conduct the Frozen Fruit investigation with the kids. You can find it here. The goal of the investigation is to freeze grapes in a cup of water and figure out how to get them out. Along the way we learn about reversible change: Will the grape change once it is frozen and then defrosted?
I did minimal prep work to make things move smoothly in the classroom. I labeled small paper cups with the children’s names. Then I washed and counted grapes so that everyone had 2 and added a few more to a plastic bag. I brought a large container to store all of the cups later in the school freezer. I planned to do the experiment in two sessions, as the water needed time to freeze.
Once in the classroom I sat with the kids in circle time and we talked about the grapes. We used words to describe the grapes: sweet, shiny, slippery, wet. Then I asked them to predict what would happen to the grapes if we froze them. Once again the kids came up with wonderful ideas: the grapes would explode, the grapes would get crunchy, the grapes would lose the peel. Next, I proposed that we test out our ideas by freezing the grapes in cups of water.
The kids were wiggly with their excitement. We lined up to wash hands and then we handed out the cups. Next the kids placed two grapes in each cup. Finally, they patiently lined up to fill the cups with water…just enough to cover the grapes.
The freezer at school is just across the way from the classroom so we marched them over and placed the cups inside. Apparently it is also where the school stockpiles the juice!
I returned two days later to finish the investigation. The children were eager to examine the cups and see what had happened to the grapes. For me, this is where the real fun started. I brought in a couple of deep pans for the kids to use in the experiment in the hopes of avoiding a huge wet mess. Thank goodness for Miss D.; she encourages messes and reminded me that water is no biggie!
Once we distributed the cups back to the kids we talked about how to get the ice block out. Suggestions included screwdrivers, hammers, and a knife. As they talked I made sure they were holding the cups in their hands, warming the paper. I told them to dump the ice out and voila! They had small grape filled cubes to play with. We discussed how the warmth from their hands loosened the ice.
Then came the big question: How do we get the fruit OUT? Again they talked about tools. Finally, Leo, being a smartypants, suggested that we use warm water. He had done this experiment with me before! So, we filled their now empty cups with warm water that the kids poured onto their cubes. It was so much fun to watch them exclaim as the ice melted away and the grapes were pulled free. The children used their little fingers to the grapes and pop the fruit into their mouths. Yum! Science and a snack!
We wrapped up the experiment by talking about the grapes. We learned that after a deep freeze the grapes didn’t change much at all! They were still sweet, still shiny, and still a little cold. Reversible change!
We had so much fun that I didn’t snap as many photos as I would have liked. I guess that is the measure of a great Sid the Science Kid experiment!

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?

One of my favorite Sid activities is the Decayed Pumpkin investigation. Kids get to experience first hand the wonders of an icky yucky rotting vegetable. Last year, on this blog, I admitted that I was wary of this activity due to the smell and mold factors. But not this year! This year I decided to go for it in a BIG way. I wanted to conduct the decomposing pumpkin activity with Leo’s entire class. Many hands touching the slime and ooze. It was going to be great! Miss D. was on board immediately. She volunteered to sacrifice the class pumpkin that had been acquired at the field trip to the local farm. Note that this field trip occurred in early October.
This very special pumpkin has been through the preschool ringer. First Miss D. had drew a big happy face on the pumpkin, complete with curly hair. For a couple of weeks the face smiled as the children “shaved” it’s face with real shaving cream and play razors. Then Miss D. introduced a new activity with the stalwart pumpkin. She invited the children to pound small plastic nails into the pumpkin with small plastic hammers. So much fun! So in addition to the happy face the pumpkin acquired small holes all over it’s shiny orange surface. This activity went on with gusto until the end of October when it was my turn.
I decided to divide the activity into two separate days in the classroom. The first visit involved cutting the pumpkin and scraping out the seeds and sticky inside. Before we began, I took a picture of the pumpkin in it’s whole state:
The kids were not sentimental about their classroom friend…they were excited when I got the top off and the scooping began! It was fun to see which kids wanted to get in with bare hands vs. the kids who wanted to use the fancy scooper. Miss D. and I lined them up for the task.
I had toasted some seeds at home for the kids to sample at school. It was interesting to see them react to the seeds…some liked them and other didn’t.
Jonathan was a big a fan!
Then I explained that we would be putting the pumpkin away for a few days to see what would happen. I asked the children to make predictions. The word “moldy” came up and we guessed that the pumpkin would decompose. Miss D. and I decided to wrap the pumpkin in a plastic bag, place it between two large black containers, and set it in the sun outside for a few days. It was important for the school that we not attract critters to the classroom.
So, the first part of the experiment happened on a Thursday. I returned on the following Tuesday to see what state our pumpkin was in. I was hoping for lots of gooey, sticky, gross decomposition.
Back in Miss D’s classroom, we talked about the word “decompose” and what we expected the pumpkin to look like. The kids were ready to see what had happened to the pumpkin. I was reminded of the challenges of classroom management as we helped them all put on plastic gloves. It took a while because the gloves were big. Finally we were ready to head outside to see how our experiment turned out.
With great anticipation we unwrapped the plastic and pulled out…
A completely intact and healthy pumpkin!
Yup, the pumpkin did NOT decompose. I couldn’t believe it. We all examined the pumpkin, looking for signs of decay, but there was none to be found. Leo claimed to see tiny black spots on the top, but for the most part that pumpkin was fresh.
Miss D. wisely stated, “That’s why we conduct experiments in science!” We talked with the kids about the tight plastic bag and the lack of air. We also decided to give it a few more days to see what would happen. I was disappointed but thankfully, the kids were not. They were curious and mostly happy about getting to wear plastic gloves. And they did learn about one very important part of science: trial and error. Also a great life lesson!
That is one stubborn pumpkin.
Have you had any experiment go awry? How did you explain the circumstances to your kids?
UPDATE: I checked in on the pumpkin today (13 days later) and it still looks pretty good! The inside has started to mold but the outside is still orange and hard. Miss D. wants us to keep waiting!

As I sat down to write this week’s blog, I realized that I had reached a milestone of sorts. I have been writing this blog about my kids and Sid the Science Kid for a year! On one hand, it’s hard to believe because the year seems to have sped past, full of fun, investigations, and family moments. On the other hand, as I look back on all of our experiments and learning, I am proud of what I have experienced with my kids. On a weekly basis I plan and follow through on a purposeful science-based activity with one or both of my boys. Sometimes the investigation involves materials, preplanning, and background knowledge. Other times, I find myself in the middle of science activity without even realizing how I got there. A great metaphor for life with preschoolers!
I had to smile when I saw that this week’s cycle on Sid the Science Kid is Transformation and Change. Life has a funny way of reminding you exactly where you should be sometimes. One of my first blogs was about this cycle. Leo and I made applesauce and learned that heat changes raw apples to mush. Once the apple is heated it cannot go back to being crunchy: irreversible change. Leo was still a young 3 and I was afraid of letting him play with a plastic knife. As a mom, I learned about letting go of control in our investigation and allowing Leo to be more hands on in the kitchen. I am still working on that, but as I peek back at my relationship with Leo from a year ago, I see that a lot has changed. All of it is good, and for the most part irreversible.
For one thing, Leo is much more mature, verbal, and independent. He is able to understand concepts through his own explorations and makes his own hypotheses. He even uses the word “hypothesis.” This year Leo is at school three mornings a week instead of two, and I am acutely aware that this time next year he will be in Kindergarten.
As we drove home from an errand yesterday, I asked Leo if he remembered making applesauce with me last fall. After a quiet moment, he said “No.” Immediately, I was disappointed. It had been such a special activity for me.
Then I asked: “Leo, how do you change an apple into applesauce?”
“You make it hot, Mama”
“Can you change the applesauce back into a crunchy apple again?”
“No way!” he said vehemently.
“Do you know what that is called?” I was hoping he remembered.
“Irreversible change,” I answered. “We learned that on Sid the Science Kid!”
Leo repeated the word a couple of times and I am hoping it sticks. What did stick was the concept and that makes me happy. I can keep working on the vocabulary. Preschoolers love to repeat familiar activities and so it is time for Leo and I to make applesauce again. Today we are headed to the farm for his very first preschool fieldtrip. And even though we’ve been to that very same farm about 10 times in the past few months, I know he will learn something new today.
I hope you will keep visiting my blog as Leo, Henry and I continue to learn and grow with Sid the Science Kid. I will be adding a new feature once a month where I will be conducting experiments with Leo and his classmates in preschool. It should be lots of fun!
Do you have any fun Sid memories to share? How has your preschooler changed as he or she grows and learns about science?

In the past few months I’ve watched both Leo and Henry’s enthusiasm grow as we try out the fun Super Fab Lab investigations from Sid the Science Kid. When we first began I had to sell the activities a little bit. I was cautious of sounding too excited or “into it” because for some reason, my boys sometimes shy away from things that I am too jazzed about. And I kind of get jazzed about these investigations.
Lately, I’ve heard the boys asking casually, “When are we going to do our next experiment?” or “I wonder what Sid is doing in the Super Fab Lab today?” They’ve gone from passive participation in this science exploration to active instigators. I love it.
The boys were especially keen to freeze some fruit and find out what happened. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Frozen Fruit Investigation is so much fun for the kids. I found that the activity provided us with a lot of choices and lots of ways for kid-driven exploration.
We started the activity before school by choosing fruit and dropping them into a small plastic cups. The boys decided on 1 blueberry, 1 grape, and 1 baby carrot. We wanted to add a veggie into the mix to see what would happen. I then let the boys use the water dispenser on the fridge to fill the glass. I am still trying to give the boys more freedom in the kitchen and the water dispenser is a BIG thing for me. They were both pleased and surprised that I let them fill the water. Then the cups went into the fridge. I asked them both to predict how long it would take the water to freeze. Henry predicted 1 day and Leo predicted 2 days. Note that I did not even have to define the word “predict” for my little scientists.
After school Henry and Leo made a beeline for the fridge. I hadn’t even put down my purse before they were exclaiming, “It’s frozen! It’s frozen! The fruit is frozen!”
We discussed their predictions as I grabbed two baking pans and told them to get the fruit out of the ice. They looked at me like I was crazy, and then the lights started going off in their brains.
Henry decided that he needed a plastic knife to start chipping away at the ice. Okay! I got them both knives and they set to work. After a little while Henry and Leo realized that this was going to take a long time and a lot of effort.
So, I asked them to think about the ice and not the fruit. We talked about ice as water and what makes water turn into ice. Then we speculated about what makes ice turn back to water. Leo thought that maybe we should put in the fridge. Henry disagreed.
“Make it hot,” Henry said.
“How?” I asked.
Henry and Leo thought it over and choose to use hot water. We moved our investigation over to the counter by the sink. I provided hot tap water for their pans and the boys told me when to add more or stop. Both boys yelled with excitement as the ice began to melt and they were able to get at the fruit. Henry noticed that although the grape and blueberry were delicious, the carrot was still frozen on the inside. Leo just wanted more fruit. Healthy snacks!
We talked a bit about reversible change and I reminded Leo about our applesauce investigation from a few months ago. Both of them were so engaged. For this busy mom, the time and effort on my part was minimal. But the effect lasted for days. Henry keeps coming up with new ways to melt the ice: use the microwave, build a campfire, put the ice in the sun, hold it in your hands for a long time. I admire his problem solving dedication. Today, after preschool, Leo asked me if we could freeze fruit again. So we did.
How do you find ways to give your children choices throughout your day? Have any of the Sid activities you’ve tried generated ongoing discussions? Please share!

Today is the first real rain we’ve seen since moving to Southern California in June. I’ve been missing fall in New England: apples, vibrant trees, pumpkins, the smell of wood burning from chimneys, and the autumn rain. With the feeling of fall in the air, today was the perfect day for an apple project.
After we dropped Henry off at school, Leo and I went over the local family farm. In rain boots and froggy coat, Leo climbed on the hay, looked at pumpkins and helped me choose apples that we could transform into applesauce, ala Sid the Science Kid. I try and cook with the kids regularly so when I saw the Super Fab Lab investigation about applesauce and irreversible change, I was so excited. A fall science activity with a yummy result!
I have never had so much fun making applesauce.
I noticed that by following the investigation from the Sid website, I put aside my usual boundaries in the kitchen, allowing us to explore more fully. Leo was eager to use “grown up” tools for the first time as he helped me peel the apples and I let him use a plastic knife cut them into small pieces. He stood by the stove on a stool to watch the apples heat up. When it was time to mash the heated apples into applesauce he was fascinated. Leo really liked the potato masher. He called the mixture “noodle applesauce” as the apples squished through the masher. When we poured the applesauce into the bowl he said, “It’s like an apple waterfall!”
Throughout the experiment, we talked more than usual. Leo made logical predictions like “The masher will make the apples soft.” He learned new vocabulary when we talked about the seeds. He said the seeds were “nuts” which I thought was clever and interesting. Honestly, I thought the planned activity would feel forced, but it was the opposite. I came out of autopilot/cook and really shared a learning experience with my little scientist. I have heard from teachers about the “high” that comes from watching the light bulbs turn on in their students’ heads as they learn. It is exhilarating. And we laughed a lot.
At one point when we were waiting for the apples to cook I put on my “teacher” voice and said: “Now Leo, when the apples are done on the stove we will be observing, comparing, and contrasting the cooked apples and the uncooked apples. We have to look at them, smell them, and touch them.” Then Leo chimed in and said: “And taste them Mommy!” How could I have forgotten that? Silly mommy.
We had a great time together and our applesauce is delicious. In an everyday activity, I can see how Leo understands the concept of irreversible change. When my kids acquire new vocabulary and learn something that I teach them, I get a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart. It is amazing.
How do you use everyday activities as learning opportunities? Have you every stretched your parental boundaries to enhance a learning experience? I can’t wait to hear from you!

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