Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Tie Dye Milk Experiment

The other day my daughter and I completed what we both thought was a very cool science experiment.  It's called Tie Dye Milk.  It's a very simple experiment with a very cool result.  To start, fill a bowl/saucer with milk until the bottom is covered.  Then place a few drops of food coloring (different colors) on different places of the milk's surface.  The food coloring may spread a little, but not by much.  In a separate bowl, mix a 1/2 cup of water with a teaspoon of dish soap.  Then the fun begins.  Take a Q-tip and dip it in the water/soap mixture.  Place the Q-tip on a food color spot in the milk.  At the moment of contact the food coloring will quickly disperse throughout the milk.  I was very impressed with how quick the food coloring dissolved.  Below is the video of our attempt.

As you can see, the color quickly disperses.  So what is going on here?  The Q-tip soaked in the water/soap mixture breaks the surface tension of the milk, allowing the food coloring to quickly move from one point to another.  You can do this over and over until the colors completely mix.  My daughter and I did it a few times and continued to be impressed.  So give it a try.  You probably have these materials already in your home and your kids will love it.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Watching the Olympics with my Daughter

Last night I had the opportunity to cuddle and watch the Olympics with my baby girl.  My 5 year old stayed up to watch the first 90 minutes of Olympic coverage.  There were two medal events during this time.  First was women's synchronized diving, 3 m platform.  The U.S. women took silver which we were both excited about.

Silver for U.S. women in synchronized diving - 3 m platform.

The next event was the women's 100 m butterfly where Dana Vollmer of the U.S. took gold in a world record time.

Dana Vollmer takes the gold in the 100 m butterfly.

I'm not sure what it is about the Olympics, but they get me excited to spend every evening for 2+ weeks watching sports that I haven't watched or paid attention to since the last Olympics 4 years prior.  Sharing that excitement with my daughter made for a great evening.  I was about her age (5) when I first remember the Olympics, although I only vaguely remember the 1984 Olympics.  The first Olympics I can clearly remember was the 1988 Olympics.  There's a big part of me that hopes my daughter develops the same excitement toward the Olympics that I have.

The other cool thing about last night's watching was that my daughter was able to observe a couple of women's events.  As I've said before on this blog, it's important to me that my daughter never feels left behind in any way because she's a girl.  Being able to watch women achieve success last night is part of the message I want her to receive.  I want her to understand that women have the same rights to be successful as men.  Lacking man "parts" should never keep her from achieving her dreams.

My daughter is already looking forward to tonight's coverage.  She asked me this morning, "Daddy, can we watch the Olympics again tonight?".  Of course we can!  :-)

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Top Post After 2 Months

On Monday, this blog celebrates its two month anniversary.  I've had fun posting about science and parenting.  Over the past two months, the most popular post, based on page views, is the Bouncy Egg Finale.

Once my daughters and I finish our summer list of science experiments we're going to try this one again.  It worked well last time, but we broke the egg before it was caught on video.  I need to get some home video of this one.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Out for a Stroll

This morning my daughter and I took a walk through a nature area.  This nature area had woodlands, prairie, and wetlands, so we were able to check out many different types of life.  Animal life was a bit sparse and my daughter was disappointed about that, but she had fun walking on the path through the prairie grass that was taller than her.  Along the way we saw this cool looking tree:

Weird Tree
It was the only tree we encountered like it so I'm not sure what is going on here.  We also saw several large fallen trees from a recent storm that swept through.  We also found a small pond in the wetland area:

We had a fun time this morning before it became too hot out.  I mentioned in a previous post that parents and kids, especially dads and daughters, should enjoy a park, or in this case, a nature area together.  Most of these are free to visit.  I paid 25 cents for parking, but the nature area itself was free.  We didn't have any special plans for today's visit.  It was an excellent way to kill some free time.  So take advantage of places such as this in your area.  Your kids will love it!  Mine sure did.  

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fireworks in a Jar

Yesterday my daughter I set out to complete the Fireworks in a Jar science experiment.  This is a simple experiment involving water, oil, and food coloring.  Fill a jar 3/4 full of water.  Take another bowl and fill it with a few tablespoons of vegetable oil.  Then put a few drops of food coloring in the oil.  There are several things that happen that you can discuss with your child.

1.  Before the experiment you can show your child what happens when you put a drop or two of food coloring in water.  The food coloring quickly dissolves and the water changes color.

2.  Ask you child what happens when the food coloring is placed in oil?  Your child should notice that the food coloring drops remain as drops.  They do not dissolve.

3.  What happens when the oil is mixed with the water?  The food coloring dissolves in the water and the oil, due to a lower density, rises to the top.  This is clearly seen.

If you're child is anything like my daughter, he/she will be excited when the water turns color.  I think my daughter's favorite part of this experiment was watching the water quickly turn pink.  You can tell from the video she was excited.  In fact, she convinced me to do this experiment again with a different color.

This is a very simple experiment, but one that will excite younger children.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


The Mythbusters
My 5 year old is at the age where she no longer takes an afternoon nap unless she's very tired.  At the same time, getting through the day without a nap is sometimes difficult if there's a lot going on.  She can get cranky and whiny later in the day, especially when she's asked to help around the house.  Each afternoon my wife and I try to give her some quiet time where she plays by herself in her room, reads a few books, or watches 45 - 60 min of a children's movie.  Occasionally her Cool Science Dad (that's me!) let's her watch an episode of Mythbusters.  

If you haven't seen Mythbusters on the Discovery Channel, you should check it out.  It's a very cool science show.  I started watching it this spring and was immediately hooked.  Right now we have 27 episodes on the DVR.  The even cooler thing about this show is that my daughter loves to watch it too!  It melted my heart yesterday when at rest time she says "Daddy, can we watch a Mythbusters together?"  How could I possibly say no to that?  

The other awesome thing about my daughter and this show is that she cuddles up next to me when we watch it.  She doesn't do this with most children's movies, but for Mythbusters she always grabs a blanket, cuddles up next to me, and rests her head on my chest/shoulder.  What more could I possibly ask for?  Science combined with cuddle time with my daughter.  The perfect combo!  

The other thing I like about this show is the mixed gender cast.  It's important for me that my daughter sees other women participating in and excited about science.  Granted, the male to female ratio in this show is 4:1, but that's better than the no females you find in many science shows.  The female science person in Mythbusters is not there simply for eye candy.  She takes a very active role in building the experiments and discussing the science.  I hope that while watching Mythbusters my daughter notices this and it slowly builds in her that she can be anything she wants in the future and simply being a girl won't stop her.  

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Tim Hortons

Warning:  This blog post contains no physical science.  It does, however, contain a bit of psychology and a discussion on doughnuts!  

This past weekend my family and I traveled to Ontario, Canada for a wedding.  I've traveled to Canada on 3 other occasions for work, but this was the first international trip for both my wife and daughters.  While there I made sure to take them to a Tim Hortons.  If you've never been to a Tim Hortons, you need to find time to go.  They are everywhere in Canada, but there are a few in Michigan.  We stopped at one in London, Ontario for breakfast on our way home.  You're probably asking, why was I so excited to take my family to a Tim Hortons?  At Tim Horton's they sell chili AND donuts.  I don't know why I find this so funny, but something about eating a bowl of chili and a doughnut at the same time is funny!

Despite this being funny to me, Tim Hortons is obviously very successful.  It seemed like there was one located off every interstate exit.  Determining the right food combos is important in creating a successful restaurant.

Enough about eating chili with donuts.  Now for the doughnut hole story.  Whenever we go out for doughnuts my daughters both want doughnut holes.  At Tim Hortons they are called Timbits, but I assumed that doughnut hole was a common term.  I was wrong.  When ordering I asked for a few doughnut holes for each of my daughters.  After paying I noticed the employee was boxing up regular doughnuts.  I got her attention and let her know that I wanted the doughnut holes.  She looked at me kind of odd, pointed to the hole in the doughnut and said "yes, doughnut holes".  It was then that I realized the phrase 'doughnut hole' is not used in Canada, or at the very least, not used at this restaurant.

Timbits...not doughnut holes.

The employees there were very nice and fixed MY mistake without getting grumpy.  This was another difference we noticed between people in Canada and the U.S.  People in Canada are generally much nicer and more patient than people in the U.S.  Everyone was very polite while there.  

So despite the lack of science in this blog post, I learned a few things to pass along to my daughters.  Some phrases have different meanings in different countries.  In addition, Canada was a good lesson in politeness.  

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Exploring Mars

The month of August provides an excellent opportunity for you and your child to sit down together and learn more about another planet.  In 14 days the Mars Curiosity rover will land on the surface of Mars.  The NASA Curiosity Mission page has a ton of useful info to help you learn more about the purpose of this mission.  

Artist's Drawing of the Curiosity Rover

In particular on the mission page is an excellent discussion on the landing of the rover.  Even cooler yet, if you have an Xbox 360 you can download, for free, a Mars Rover Landing game.  Unfortunately I do not have an Xbox 360 so I wasn't able to play the game but it has received fairly good ratings (3.5 stars out of 5).  If you have the option, check it out.  Even if you don't have an Xbox 360, there are many other links on the NASA page that teach kids and adults about this mission.  

If you're looking to earn a few extra geek points with your child check out the Mars Rover Landing Event Map.  There may be an event near you to celebrate the hopefully successful landing of this craft.  Have fun!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Dads Cooking with Daughters

If you have are a dad and you have a daughter, make sure you spend time cooking with her.  It seems natural for moms to cook with their daughters, but it can also be natural for dads to cook with their daughters too.  Cooking is full of science and cooking with your daughter shows her that she should expect a future husband to help her with the cooking.  If you're a dad and you never do any of the cooking in your household, you are passing along the stereotype that the kitchen is where women belong.  Teach your daughter that the kitchen is where men belong too.  There are several good science and cooking websites out there.  Here are a few:

If you're not a good cook, don't worry. Your daughter doesn't care.  She's just happy that you're letting her help.  I'm a hamburger helper, cheese sandwich, and chocolate chip pancakes kind of cook.  The other day we pulled out my daughter's Easy Bake Oven.  

The Easy Bake Oven.

I have to admit that I find the Easy Bake Oven a bit disappointing, but my daughter loves it so this is what we cooked with.  The reason I find it disappointing is that the quantity of food that it produces is minuscule.  But it does teach the basics of cooking so it does the job.  

My daughter has a bag full of different Easy Bake Oven foods.  On this day we made cookie sandwiches and cupcakes.  I let her do all of the pouring into bowls and mixing.  All I do is measure out the water and put the food into and take it out of the oven.  Here are the photos of her masterpieces!

Cookie Sandwhiches

Prior to cooking

Fills the stomach...not!

Red Velvet Cupcakes
We both had a lot of fun cooking.  Cooking is something that most of us do every day, so take some time to involve your daughter.  Pancakes, waffles, cookies, and brownies or anything else that requires basic mixing works great for dad/daughter cooking.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Gender Equality

For the first time in Olympic history, women out number (by 8) men on the U.S. Olympic team. If equality can be reached in sports it can be reached in science. Do your part by encouraging and providing your daughters, nieces, cousins, etc. with opportunities to engage in science.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Science of the Olympics

Are you a fan of the Olympics?  If so, you're probably well aware that the Summer Olympics run from July 27 to August 12 in London this year.  I've been a big fan of the Olympics ever since I was a little kid.  For a period of 2-3 weeks every 2 years I find myself glued to the TV every night.  I avoid sports news pages all day long so as not to have something given away before the evening.  This is also the first year where one of my daughters is old enough to watch and appreciate the hard work that Olympic athletes put themselves through.  Whether you realize it or not, there's a lot of science involved in Olympic sports.  A quick web search led me to several resources that you can use as a parent to teach your child some this basic science

As long as I can remember NBC has hosted the Olympics on TV and they'e created a couple of excellent websites on the science of the Olympics.

Here's another link I found on the web that discusses the relationship between science and the Olympics.

I also found a very cool site with Olympic style activities for you and your child(ren) to complete in preparation for the Olympics.  

The Olympics are a great way to introduce your kids to more obscure sports and teach them science at the same time.  You don't have to been an expert in a science field to teach your kids the science of these sports.  The above web sites will get you started with plenty of information.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Board Game Strategy: Yahtzee Jr. Toy Story Edition

Board games are an excellent way to teach your kids critical thinking skills while having fun.  Your kids won't even realize that you're educating them.  My daughter and I have played many games of Yahtzee Jr.:  Toy Story Edition.  The Toy Story Edition is much simpler than the regular version of Yahtzee, but there are still several critical thinking opportunities.  The basic idea behind this version of Yahtzee is to roll five dice that have faces of the Toy Story characters.  You get 3 tosses of the dice to roll as many of one character as possible.  

Yahtzee Jr.:  Toy Story game board
Once you use that character, that character cannot be used the rest of the game.  The game continues until all five characters are used.  Then you count up the points and whoever has the most wins.  So where is a critical thinking skill needed?  Take a look at one possible roll below.

A roll of 2 Buzz's, 2 T-Rex's, and 1 Jessie.  Keep the Buzz's or T-Rex's?

In the roll above should one keep the T-Rex's or the Buzz Lightyears's?  It may seem like it doesn't matter (assuming you haven't already used one of the characters), but it does.  In this game one of the dice has a Zerg (sp?) character on it.  If you roll a Zerg, that die is taken out of your turn.  It can't be rolled again, leaving you with a disadvantage.  I'm competitive and don't like to lose, so I want to remove this disadvantage if possible.  So on rolls like this, I've taught my daughter to look for Zerg.  Choose the character whose die has the Zerg on it.  That way Zerg can't be rolled in any of remaining rolls of the turn.  This gives you a greater chance of keeping all 5 dice.  In this particular roll, the Zerg is located on one of the T-Rex dice.  Thus it is more advantageous to to keep the T-Rex's and re-roll the others.  

Zerg is bad.
My wife thinks this is cheating.  She doesn't think it's fair to look at the other sides of the dice, but I disagree.  This act is not forbidden in the instructions, therefore it is legal.  :-)

Even though this is a game for young children, there are opportunities to teach your kids critical thinking skills that will help them for the rest of their lives.  Look for opportunities such as this in other board games.  I'll post these on my blog as we play them at home.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Take Your Child Bowling

Bowling is an excellent activity for you and your child(ren), especially on hot days that are no fun to be outside.  It's a relatively cheap activity that gets your kids physically active and whether you realize it or not, there's a lot of science involved.  You can ask your daughter what she thinks will happen if you throw the bowling ball down the lane slower or faster.  What happens if you use a heavier ball?  Why does her light, 6 pound ball not activate the sensor to reset the pins?  What happens if Daddy or Mommy put a little bit of spin on the ball?  Why is the lane a bit "shinier" than the floor you walk on?  If you're not quite sure yourself, do a quick Google search on these questions and get a basic idea.  This will turn bowling into a fun educational experience for both of you!

If you're looking to reduce costs, I encourage you to check out http://www.kidsbowlfree.com and see if a bowling alley near you is part of this program.  Fortunately one of my hometown alleys takes part in this program.  I can sign my kids up for free and they get two free games of bowling every day that the bowling alley is open!  Can't beat that!  Earlier this summer I was able to take part of promotion from this site that allowed me to buy a family pass (up to 4 adults) for only $19.96.  The family pass lets adults bowl 2 free games every day that the alley is open.  As long as I bowl 10 games (5 times to the alley) before August 31, I make out ahead.  My daughter and I have already bowled 8 games, so only one more trip and I break even. I'm not sure that the pass is a good idea at this point since it ends on August 31, but you can still take advantage of the kids bowl free option.  My daughter absolutely loves to bowl and it keeps us active but out of the blistering sun.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Women, Science, and Stereotypes

There was an interesting article on NPR this week discussing why there are fewer women in science.  I posted this on the Cool Science Dad Facebook Community yesterday.  If you haven't joined this community, you should!  I post a few shorter parenting and science discussions that I don't post to this blog.  But back to the article.  The article mentions the stereotype that men are better at science than women.  Although this isn't true, women are more likely to think about this stereotype when talking to their male colleagues.  This in turn can cause them to appear less competent because their brain power is focused on the stereotype instead of the discussion.  Or so the study states.

I'm not sure how much of this is really the case or not, but I can see some truth behind it.  When I was a grad student I always wanted to sound smart and competent in front of my PhD adviser.  With my focus on sounding competent, I'm sure there were many times when I came across as less than competent for various reasons.

Anyway, this was an interesting article.  It is a reminder to all of us that although the number of women entering and remaining in science fields increases every year, there is still much work to do before equality is reached.

Friday, July 13, 2012


Another cool science experiment/activity you can do with your kids is build a simple hovercraft.  You need an old CD or DVD, the cap of a sports bottle that pops up and down, a balloon, and superglue.  Glue the cap on the center of the CD/DVD.  Blow up a balloon and attach it to the closed cap.  Pop the cap open and you've created a simple hovercraft.  The CD/DVD won't rise above the table top, but a cushion of air between the disk and the table removes friction, allowing the disk to slide around.

My daughter and I did this yesterday and our first attempt (not recorded unfortunately) was very successful.  The CD flew across the table very quickly.  The second attempt, which I recorded, shows a bit of hovercraft action, but not nearly as much as the first attempt.  See below.

We set out to do this a third time and get a successful attempt on video, but while attaching the balloon to the cap, I broke the cap.  This was the only cap in the house, so that was the end of the experiment for the day.  My daughter was a bit sad, but she was glad to see it work the first two times.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fizzy Balloon Experiment

Today my daughter and I set out to complete the Fizzy Balloon experiment.  It's a very simple experiment that is certain to light up the eyes of any child.  It certainly lit up my daughter's eyes.  For setup you need an empty 16 oz or 20 oz soda/water bottle.  Put 1/2 cup of vinegar in the bottle.  Put 1 tablespoon of baking soda in a non-inflated balloon.  Use a funnel if necessary.  Then fit the balloon over the bottle top.  Tip the balloon such that the baking soda falls into the vinegar.  Then watch the show.  Below is our successful attempt.

The baking soda reacts with the vinegar which causes from the bubbling.  This chemical reaction releases a gas that fills the balloon.  My daughter and I did this 3 times before she was satisfied.  Then she proceeded to stir the mixture in a bowl in the sink.  She had a blast with this experiment!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

North Carolina Trip IV (Finale): Pit Stop in West Virginia

As a graduate student I had the opportunity to stay in Green Bank, West Virginia several times within a span of 5 years.  On a map Green Bank, WV doesn't look like much.  It's a tiny town in very rural West Virginia. According to the 2010 census, Green Bank has a population of 143!!!  Not exactly a hot spot for visiting.  However, Green Bank has one great thing going for it in that it is the location of one of the few National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) sites.  Green Bank is home to the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT).  The GBT is a radio telescope 100 meters in diameter.  An entire football field can sit on this telescope with room to spare!  It's taller than the statue of liberty and although it isn't the largest telescope in the world (the Arecibo Telescope holds this distinction) it is the largest fully steerable object on land in the world!  That's big!  Below is a personal picture I took of the telescope.  You are not allowed to take digital pictures close to the telescope due to possible radio interference.

The Green Bank Telescope
The reason I'm writing about the GBT today is that I had the opportunity to show this facility to my wife and kids.  Given its very rural location I never expected to have the opportunity to show off the telescope I used for part of my PhD work to my family.  Our trip to North Carolina last month provided that opportunity.  Green Bank was not on the direct path home, but a relatively short detour led us here.  They have a very cool science center that my kids loved!  And they provide daily tours every hour down to the telescope.  The numbers tell us that it's big but pictures don't quite illustrate how big it is.  You need to stand next to it to fully comprehend the size of this telescope.  My 5 year old was amazed at its size (although I think she thought the bus ride down to the telescope was cooler since it was her first time on a bus!).  Below is a to scale illustration of the telescope.

Taller than the statue of liberty!

If you are ever in West Virginia, a detour to Green Bank will not disappoint.  Not only is it a cool facility, but the scenery here is beautiful.  The facility is nestled in a valley between two mountain stretches.  You do need to drive on some curvy mountain roads, but it's well worth it!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Enjoy a Park

Looking for a cheap activity to do with your daughter or son?  Take a walk through a park.  It doesn't have to be a national or state park.  Any little city park will do, and if the park has a pond or river running through it, even better.  Below is a picture of  small man-made pond I took yesterday.

My daughter and I passed this small pond on our way to a gift shop, but we stopped to look at it.  This was an excellent opportunity to ask her a few basic questions.  What do you see in the pond?  What's your favorite thing in the pond?  Why do the fish move away when you get too close to them?  I just asked her a few quick questions to get her thinking.  This particular pond had a few fish, rocks, lilies, and some "slime" built up on the rocks.  Earlier this year in the spring there were little tadpoles everywhere in this pond.

You don't have to plan something elaborate or expensive to teach your child science.  All you have to do is slow down, let her explore nature, and ask her a few basic questions and she'll be learning science without even realizing it.  And you'll be teaching science without realizing it!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Why are the Oceans Blue?

In my last post I discussed why the sky is blue.  It's a common question kids ask adults, and as a parent, you should have a simple, yet intelligent, response prepared.  If you don't have an answer, then do the responsible thing and look it up with your child.  If your child is asking why objects have a certain color, another common question is why are the oceans blue?  Is it because the sky is blue?  Does it have something to do with fish?  Is it caused by pollution?  Or is water just naturally blue in color?

The bluish Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Emerald Isle, North Carolina.
As with the blue color of the sky, this discussion begins with light.  Remember that although the Sun appears yellowish (Why?  Check in later for this discussion) it emits light of all colors on the rainbow.  Thus the surface of Earth receives red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, and violet colored light.  Water is an excellent absorber of red, orange, yellow, and even green light.  Since the light is absorbed it doesn't reflect back to your eye.  Bluish light, however, is not absorbed very well by water so most of this light reflects back to your eye and the water appears blue to you.

The next time you are near water with your child, ask him/her why the water is blue?  Then, depending on their age, help them through the real reason.  At 5, my daughter is a bit young for this conversation on light, but it won't be long and she'll be able to grasp the physics behind it.

Here are a couple of sources, including one (the first) with a few ideas for exploration.


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Why is the Sky Blue?

Why is the sky blue?  That's a question that is often asked by kids and often answered incorrectly by parents and unfortunately teachers.  The common misconception is that the sky is blue because the oceans have a bluish tint to them.  Supposedly this bluish tint reflects blue light to the sky, causing it to appear blue.  This is, of course, completely incorrect.  The blue color of the sky has nothing to do with the color of water.  If it did, then the following should also be observed.

1.  The sky in Kansas or the middle of Asia should appear green or brown or whatever the common ground color is.  If the oceans cause the sky to appear blue but there is no water nearby, why would your sky appear blue?

2.  If the oceans are reflecting blue light upward, why are clouds white?  Shouldn't they also appear blue?

Somehow these questions are never brought up in the "why is the sky blue" discussion.

Blue sky, white clouds.

So why is the sky blue?  The sky is blue due to the composition of our atmosphere.  The Sun emits all colors in the visible spectrum (think colors of the rainbow).  Red, yellow, orange, and green light all pass through the atmosphere unaffected.  Blue light however has a shorter wavelength and is scattered by particles in the atmosphere.  Blue photons (light particles) bounce around the atmosphere before they reach your eye on the ground.  Since they bounce around, everywhere you look you will see blue photons just reaching your eye.  Therefore the sky appears bluish.  The oceans play no role in this.

Now here's the tough question.  How do you explain this to a 5 year old?  My daughter has yet to ask me this question, but I'm preparing myself for the day she does.  How will I respond?  At this point I'm not exactly sure.  I suppose I'll start by saying the air around us causes the atmosphere to be blue, which is true, but provides no details.  If she's older and wants more details, then we can get into the details a bit more, but I'm guessing that a 5 year old will be satisfied with a simple, yet correct, response.

Here are a couple of other questions to ponder.  Why does the sky appear reddish at sunset and sunrise?  Why does the ocean/water appear bluish?  I'll address these in future posts.  

The moral of this story is to educate yourself before answering your kids.  If your kids ask you questions that you are not entirely sure of, don't make something up or go with what you think might be the answer.  Don't plant a misconception in their heads that may stick for 30, 40, or 50+ years.  Do the right thing and say "I don't know, but let's go look it up together".  Do this and you are an awesome parent.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Teach Your Kids to Love to Read

Reading is important.  It's one of the first things the pediatrician tells parents when it comes to educational development.  Reading and providing reading opportunities to your kids is shown to increase their chances of success in school.  So how do you get your kids to love to read?  Here are several methods I'm currently using to get my daughters to love to read.

1.  Read to them every day!  Even if it's just one book or a few pages from a book you should make time to read to your kids each and every day.  This makes it part of their routine and they understand that it's an important part of the day, something that they do every day, possibly before bed or after dinner.

2.  Be excited when you read to your child.  Don't read to them in a monotone voice.  Change the pitch and volume of your voice.  Sound excited during exciting parts of the book.  Make faces or talk in weird voices. Anything you can do to make the story more exciting to your child is a plus.  If you are excited about reading to them, your children will be excited to be read to.

3.  Make children's books easily accessible to your children in your home.  I read somewhere awhile back that it's important to have books accessible for your kids at home.  By doing so, whenever your child gets the urge to read he or she doesn't have to ask for help in getting a book.  If you make it difficult for them to get a book in their hands, they are less likely to read.  At my house my daughters have books in each of their rooms, plus a row of books on a bookshelf in the living room.

Children's books in my house.

Both of my daughters grab and read these books all the time.  They are easily accessible at any time for them.

4.  Read your own books in front of your children.  Let your children know that you value reading too by letting them see you read your own book.  If you're reading from an e-reader, such as a Kindle or Nook, make sure your child understands that you are reading a book and not messing around on your phone or laptop.  It's not obvious to small children what an e-reader is.  If you have your own books, have them on display for your children to see.

My books!

Again, if your children see that you love reading, they are more likely to love reading.  Even if it's just a magazine or newspaper, any reading in front of your children will encourage them to read.

5.  Be flexible.  My oldest daughter loves to grab 5, 6, 7, or more books before bed and read them by herself.  This takes place after my wife and I have read her a couple of books.  She's learning several sight words, but can't officially read yet.  But I imagine she makes up her own story using the pictures and words that she knows.  At times this is irritating to Mommy and Daddy in the sense that she isn't going to bed at her bed time, but it's hard for us to say no to her.  We usually let her read for awhile and then if she's still up we make her put the books away.  Many nights she'll fall asleep surrounded by books in her bed!  The last thing we want to do is discourage her from reading.

6.  Take your kids to library...often!  Open them to a world of books they've never seen before.  I love it when my daughter picks out a science book, but I'll never force her to pick out science books only.  I'd much rather her explore different types of books.  After all, a part of science is exploring.  Many libraries have summer programs.  Take advantage of these for your child.  We try to head to the library at least once a week, sometimes 2 or 3 times during the summer months.  If it's too hot outside to play, head to the library to burn off some steam.  That's where we are headed today, and probably tomorrow given that today's high is supposed to hit 101 F and tomorrow is 103 F.

Those are just a few things I do to encourage my daughters to read.  My oldest daughter loves books and loves to read.  She's always asking about going to the library.  My younger daughter (2 this month) is a little impatient when it comes to books.  She loves flipping through the pages herself, but tends to get distracted by other things when we read to her.  Hopefully this is a phase that will go away.

If you have other methods you use to encourage reading, please let me know.  As a parent, I'm always excited to discover new parenting methods.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

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Fireworks Success

Our personal fireworks last night were a success.  Before we started my oldest daughter and I setup the garden hose in case it was needed.  We talked about holding sparklers away from the body and not pointing or running after anybody with them.  We also talked about the fireworks with fuses and how it's important to move away quickly once the fuse lights.  Later in the evening an excellent opportunity presented itself to show my daughter the importance of having water ready.  One of the small, colored smoke bombs started a very tiny patch of grass on fire.  Although this probably would have gone out on its own, we used our ready-to-go hose to douse the fire.  Safety in action!

The only blemish on the night was toward the end when my daughter "burned" her finger.  I put burned in quotes because she didn't really burn herself.  There's no mark on her finger this morning.  I think it was more shock than anything else.  She was holding the burning incense-type stick that I used to light all the fuses.  Although I'm not exactly sure what happened, I think a piece of ash dropped and fell on her finger and scared her.  I'm sure it was hot, but it didn't cause any lasting damage.  Although I'd never do this on purpose, this was a first hand experience for her that fireworks can be dangerous if proper cautions are not taken.

Okay, I won't leave you in suspense anymore.  In my last post I mentioned the Poopy Puppy firework.

The Poopy Puppy
I know you're dying to see the outcome, so here it is:

Poopy Puppy in action.
Yep, the Poopy Puppy pooped.  Smoke came out of its behind along with some "poop".  Kids loved it!  For $0.99 it was a big hit.  One of their other favorites was the chicken laying an egg.

Chicken laying an egg.
It amazes me what people come up with for fireworks.  It depresses me a little bit knowing that someone probably made a bunch of money from the Poopy Puppy and the Egg Laying Chicken.  Depressed because I didn't come up with the idea first!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Fireworks and Safety

It's the time of the year where adults and kids gather together to blow stuff up.  Let's face it, every one of us has it hardwired into our DNA that explosions are cool and the fourth of July provides a legal path to explode stuff.  This is the first year my wife and I have purchased fireworks for a family display, aside from basic sparklers.  As you can see below, most of the fireworks we purchased were small, $1-3 sets.

Our fireworks for the 4th of July.

We let the kids pick out ones they liked.  I have to admit that my favorite, simply because of its name, is the Poopy Puppy!

The Poopy Puppy.

I'm sure the Poopy Puppy will be a disappointment, but for $0.99 how could we go wrong?

July 4th fireworks are a time to have fun, but they are also a time to teach your kids safety.  My younger daughter is probably too young to understand this year, but my older daughter is fully capable of understanding safety.  Before we start our fireworks we're going to have a short lesson on safety.  If the firework says to not hold in hand, then it's very important to not hold it in your hand.  If you're supposed to move away after lighting the fuse, then guess what, you need to move away.  We'll discuss why it's important to have a fire extinguisher and a bucket of water on hand.

Science is a wonderful thing, but it can be dangerous at times if certain precautions are not taken.  That's especially true for fireworks.  In 2009, nearly 9,000 people were injured by fireworks.  Of those, 1 in 3 were children.  In addition, fireworks started 30,000 fires nationwide.  So firework safety is not something to take lightly.

With that said, have a happy July 4th celebration and wish us luck with the Poopy Puppy!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Thunder and Lightning

Anyone with small children has experienced the middle of the night takeover of Mommy and Daddy's bed.  We haven't had rain here in awhile, so I wasn't used to it, but a couple of nights ago at 4:30 AM I hear the pitter patter of small feet, followed by a small body wedging its way between Mommy and Daddy in the bed.  Sure enough, there's a thunderstorm with some loud thunder taking place outside.  This is followed by several minutes of a small leg kicking and pushing me as someone tries to get comfortable.  In the end, I usually give up and take my pillow to the couch.  :-)

Reason why I slept on the couch the other night.
I'm at a loss as to what to tell my daughter during thunderstorms.  A simple "it's just thunder" doesn't calm her down at all and why should it?  It's this very loud boom happening for no reason at all to her.  Me simply saying it's just thunder does nothing to help her understand why thunder occurs.  Then again, telling her the real reason for thunder isn't going to help either.  What 5 year old is going to understand "don't worry, thunder is just the result of lightning super heating the air causing it to rapidly expand, pushing against other air particles and starting a vibration that we hear as thunder"?  And I'm definitely not making something up to make her feel better.  Making up an explanation for thunder that is not true will only hurt her education farther down the road.

So I have no clue on this one.  I can tell her what causes lightning.  I can explain to her why there's thunder, but I can't make her feel better when thunder occurs except to hold her tight and tell her that everything will be okay.  Of course, sometimes that's the duty of a Dad, to hold his little girl tight and tell her that everything will be okay.