Here's a cool experiment that requires few materials, all of which you already likely have in your kitchen. It's the Dancing Noodle experiment. As you can probably guess from the title, the goal is to make noodles dance. It didn't work the first time, but I'll include the video anyway since I explain the procedure in the video.
I highly encourage your kids to investigate nature and not shy away from it, especially when it comes to bugs. Even I'm amazed at how comfortable my daughters are around bugs. The other day they were all excited about the flying ants (ants with wings) they found. I didn't get a chance to take a picture of these ants, but in case you've never seen one, here's a picture of a flying ant I pulled from the web.
Remember that kids have no reason to shy away from bugs. They develop that reason by watching their parents react to bugs! :-)
As a father, I want to make sure that my two girls learn to respect others at all times. I've determined that the best way to teach them respect is to set a good example. In other words, if I want them to be respectful to others then I need to show them that I'm also respectful to others. For the most part we practice saying please and thank you to others. For example, both of my kids know that the local library has a stash of suckers behind the desk. Sometimes the librarian offers a sucker, sometimes he/she doesn't. It usually depends on who is behind the desk at that particular time. If a sucker isn't offered, I've taught my daughters that they need to nicely ask for one and follow it up with a thank you.
Respect is much more than saying please and thank you. Here's an example. Last month, while on vacation, we were eating at an Asian buffet. The waitress who came buy to take our drink order spoke English, but the English wasn't great and you could tell there was a language barrier there. At the table behind us was a family with kids. The father (or so I think) asked for a glass of water with "lots and lots" of lemons, as he put it. Okay, side note time. If you want lemonade, just ask for a lemonade. Don't ask for lots and lots of lemons. The water might be free, but it costs the restaurant $$$ to buy the lemons! Okay, back to the main point. It was obvious that the waitress did not understand his request and came back with a water with one lemon in it. The guy then threw a hissy fit. "What's this? I asked for lots and lots of lemons! What is so hard to understand about that?!?!?!" He said this in a very loud voice with his family at the table.
There is simply no reason for this kind of outburst. His request was not a common one (because most people will just buy the lemonade!), and she clearly did not understand it. The proper way to handle this situation is to calmly ask for a small bowl of lemon slices. That's it. Instead he made a fool of himself (at least in my mind) and set a horrible example for his kids. If I ever pull a stupid stunt like this I hope that someone, preferably my daughters, calls me out on it.
While checking out a light house on Lake Michigan during our trip to the Upper Peninsula this past June my 6 year old noticed that the water near the shore (in a bay area) had a reddish tint to it instead of the expected blue. She wanted to know why the water wasn't bluish like it was supposed to. At the time I wasn't exactly sure, so I had to look it up when we got home.
There are a couple of explanations, so I'm not exactly sure of the cause of the reddish color in this water. Normally water is bluish because water absorbs the red and orange colors from sunlight and reflects the blue. Water can appear reddish if it has a higher iron content. It can also appear reddish if it becomes contaminated with bacteria and becomes oxygen deprived. This recently happened to a reservoir in Western Texas.
Lake Michigan is not oxygen deprived and it was only this small section of water near the shore that was red. So I'm not sure what the exact cause was, but it was a great question from my daughter that led me to dig up some more information.
Sometimes businesses make decisions that I simply do not understand. Subway is one of these businesses. My daughters love to eat at Subway. They will almost always choose Subway over McDonald's, so as a parent, I'm happy about this. A Subway kids' meal includes a 4 inch sandwich and is cheaper than the regular 6 inch meal that adults purchase.
My 6 year old always gets a turkey sandwich on wheat with lettuce. Nothing else. Sounds kind of bland to me, but more power to her for liking a sandwich that doesn't come with the other ingredients that can add calories and fat.
What bothers me about the Subway kids' meals is the method by which they make the sandwich. They take a regular 6 inch section of bread and cut of 2 inches at the end. Then they throw the 2 inches away!!! What a waste! I understand why the sandwich is shorter. It's cheaper than a 6 inch, so Subway doesn't want to include 6 inches of meat and ingredients. I get that. But tossing away the bread? That's simply wasteful. Either develop a loaf of bread that is 4 inches long (or 8 to cut it in half and get 2 sandwiches), or let the kid keep the 2 inches of bread as a side item. Maybe these solutions aren't perfect and there may be better solutions, but simply tossing the 2 inches is the worst possible solution.
I talked about geocaching on this blog last summer and I bring it up again now. It's a great outdoor activity for you and your kids. The basic idea of geocaching is that you are using a GPS unit to search for "treasure". The "treasure" is usually a small log that you sign to mark that you've found it. Sometimes geocaches are boxes with small coins that you can take as a real treasure.
You can learn more at www.geocaching.com. I love geocaching because it's a great way to bond with my daughters and get them outdoors and having fun. It's treasure hunting without the booby traps, falling rocks, snakes, and people hunting you down. Okay, so maybe snakes come into play now and then, but you get my point!
There's a big push to get your kids (as well as yourself) outside and active. You're supposed to limit your kids to no more than an hour of screen time per day. For the most part I agree with these statements. However, it's important to realize that it is okay to sit down and enjoy a movie with your kids. My 6 year old and I did just that the other day.
It was a very hot day, about 93/94 degrees. We went for a walk down to a pond and fed the fish in the morning. We did a science experiment. We worked on some of her summer "homework" to keep her from falling back over summer break. By the afternoon we were a bit bored, tired, and had no desire to do anything outside given the heat. So we decided to make some popcorn, cuddle up on the couch, and enjoy a movie.
Never underestimate the joy of your daughter cuddling up with you to watch a movie. One day she may be a rebellious teenager who wants nothing to do with you. And one day she'll no longer be living in your house. She'll have moved out and be cuddling with her own kids. When that day comes she won't be there to cuddle with you. Take advantage now while the opportunity is there.
Last month our local library held a family bingo night. The library does this every now and then, but this was the first time I took my 6 year old daughter. My 6 year old already knows her numbers and letters, but while playing, I realized that this is a great opportunity for a child who is still learning his/her letters/numbers to learn them through a fun activity.
Think about it for a second. In bingo, a letter and a number is called, such as G59. Then you have to match up the letter and the number and put a chip on it. Bingo can be a fun activity that tests your child's ability to hear a number/letter and match it up with what they see on the board. The next time our library offers a family bingo night, I'm bringing my 3 year old. She's still learning her letters and numbers.
There's a big misconception that in order to find the Moon in the sky you need to go out at night. This is portrayed in movies, newspapers, magazine articles, and unfortunately, several children's books. The other night before bed my daughter was reading the following book.
The book is about a family that can't sleep at night, so they decide to sleep during the day and stay awake at night. Okay, but the problem is on this page.
By itself, there's nothing wrong with this statement, but it implies that the Moon always rises at night. If not, then the father would not be able to watch the evening news. The Moon does rise at night...sometimes. But it also rises during the day and during the morning. It all depends on the phase of the Moon. A full moon will rise around 6 - 7 PM. A third quarter moon rises around midnight. A first quarter moon rises around noon, and a new moon rises around 6 AM.
Think about it. If the Moon only rose during the evening, then you'd never see it during the day. Granted, it is easier to see the Moon at night compared to the day, but it's not difficult to see it during the day. In fact, it's still very easy to see it during the day. Both of my daughters point out the Moon all the time, and most often it's during the day because they sleep at night!
If you haven't checked out the thunder/lightning misconception post, please do so. Since it is summer, we are likely to see thunderstorms now and then. Learn the truth of thunder and lightning. Don't pass along those silly misconceptions!
If there is one piece of technology that I want developed before I die, it's something that will give me the ability to hear the inner thoughts of a 3 year old. Obviously I'll never be able to do this with my daughter, but maybe a future granddaughter or great-granddaughter. So why am I wishing for this?
Last night at the dinner table my 3 year old suddenly says "I dreamed that a deer was kicking me in the head and it pushed me backwards down the slide. Then I said STOP IT DEER!"
Where does a thought like this come from?!?!?!?! That's why I want the technology to know what my children are thinking in their heads. Plus my daughters often give us weird looks. I'd love to know what they are thinking at these times. LOL!
Skip-Bo is cool card game that will teach your child critical thinking skills and introduce them to thinking about strategy.
The basic idea of Skip-Bo is to get rid of your pile of cards first. You usually have several play options on your turn, but what you do first can determine whether you get rid of cards in your pile. My 6 year old picked up the game rules pretty fast. Actually, she won the first time we played!
So if you're looking for something to do on a rainy day or a super hot summer day, try playing Skip-Bo.
Looking for a fun way to help your small child learn to count? Here's one method that I discovered the other day. Hide and seek! I'm guessing everyone knows the rules of playing hide and seek, but basically someone hides while someone else counts to 20, or 30, or 50, or whatever. My 2 year old does a pretty good job counting to 20, but like her big sister before her, tends to skip 13 and a couple of the other teen numbers. She goes 10, 11, 12, 14, 15...and so forth. Playing hide and seek with her and her big sister was a fun way to help correct her and teach her that 13 comes after 12, but before 14. Any way you can make learning fun is a benefit to your child.
Over the course of my life I've lived in three different Midwest states. As a result, I've been warned to watch out for ticks when hiking through the woods or tall grass. Given this, one would think that I've come across a tick in my life, but the answer is no, I haven't. At least knowingly. Maybe as a small child my parents removed a tick, but I have no memories of this. On our Upper Peninsula trip we encountered many, many, many ticks! The people up there (Yoopers!) said that it was a banner year for ticks. Every night at the campfire we found ticks crawling on our clothes. Among the four members in my family, we only found 2 attached ticks, so that's good. But every night we had to do a thorough tick check. We usually found at least one. We even stuffed our jeans into our sucks to prevent them from getting in, but they still found ways. One night I found one underneath my foot in my shoe!
Despite the large number of ticks we had a great time, and it was a learning experience for my daughters. Now when someone tells them to watch for ticks, they know what they are looking for.
Want to see a disgusting tick picture? See below. Ticks gone wild on a dog!
This makes me glad we don't own a dog and don't have to deal with this!
You know you're the parent of a recently potty trained 3 year old when you're peacefully working at the kitchen table and suddenly hear her yelling from the back of the house "DADDY!!!! I HAVE TO GO POOPY!!!" LOL!
A couple of weeks ago I posted about a gummy bear experiment I did with my two daughters. The goal was to make a gummy bear expand in size by heating. Instead, the gummy bears simply melted, as I expected. Turns out that I did not follow the experiment's procedure correctly! The heating part was just a simple test to see how quickly gummy bears melt. To make a gummy bear expand, you're supposed to put it in water. This makes much more sense. I was very confused when I thought that the experiment was telling us to heat gummy bears to make them expand. So here are a few pictures of us doing the experiment correctly. All you do is take a gummy bear and drop it in a glass of water. Let it sit for a couple of hours and you'll notice a big change in the gummy bear size.
Gummy bears will absorb water and thus increase in size. They also have a more jelly/wiggly texture. Both of my daughters thought this was cool. They enjoyed playing with and then eating the larger, jelly like gummy bear. :-)
While driving through the Upper Peninsula in Michigan on our vacation in June we noticed something odd with many mailboxes. Many had a large board or piece of plywood guarding them. See the images below.
My 6 year old asked about these and at first neither my wife nor I had a good answer. Later in the trip we realized that all of these mailbox boards are in front of the mailbox when driving down the road. Our conclusion is that they prevent the mailbox from being covered by snow that the snow plow pushes off the road.
In most areas this isn't a concern since snow is rarely high enough to cover a mailbox, but given that these roads are close to Lake Michigan and get great amounts of snowfall due to the lake effect, having a mailbox protector can be very useful. This is first time I've ever seen these.
Maybe I'm completely off in my explanation, but it's the one that makes the most sense to me at this time.
A while back I posted about a nest of baby birds my 6 year old and I found in a tree in our backyard. We then let them be for several days and went on vacation. The day after returning from vacation we went out to check the nest to see how the baby birds were doing. To both of our surprise, the birds had grown significantly! They were sitting in the nest, but sitting on the edge. Once we approached they flew off. Later in the day we saw them on the deck, seen below.
Okay, granted, the picture isn't very good because I'm trying to take it through the screen window, but those are two of the "baby" birds. You can't really tell in the picture, but they are still more "furish" then featherish. Just made up a couple of words there. :-) I did a Google search and found that typical birds leave the nest in 2-4 weeks, so that makes sense.
Although our observations were short lived, it was cool showing my daughters the baby birds with no feathers and now seeing them again with feathers and flying around. Very cool!
The other day my 6 year old was excited to show me a science experiment that SHE came up with. She called it the mixing milk experiment. It's a very simple experiment that involves milk and water.
First, fill up a small bowl with water. Next, drop a quarter of a cup or so of milk into the water. The milk will quickly mix with the water, but what's cool is that it looks like a cloud advancing through the water.
Ok, so this wasn't an extremely exciting experiment, it's one that my daughter came up with by herself without my assistance. Therefore, in the end, it is exciting because she's using her own skills to conceive of questions and answer them. All parents should encourage their kids to do just this.
In June my family visited the Upper Peninsula in Michigan for the first time. On the second night in our house/cabin, there was a constant tick, tick, tick on the sliding glass door. A bit creepy out in the woods, but it turned out to be a moth. No big deal right? Well, check out the size of this moth, if it really is a moth!
Wowsers! Kind of cool, but I think I'm glad he was on the other side of this door!
Looking for an out of the house activity for your kids? Try mini-golfing. I just took my two daughters (6 and 2) mini-golfing. It was our first outing of the year. It's not a time intensive activity (my daughters take about 30 - 45 min to complete a round), but it gets them outdoors doing something different that they don't normally do at home. Plus, depending on the age of your kids, you can teach them a bit of science. A mini-golf course is filled with all sorts of hills, dips, and elevation changes. A great opportunity to teach about gravity and the effect it has on a rolling golf ball!
I've had a blast launching different types of rockets with my daughters. You've seen several rocket related posts on this blog. You can imagine my excitement when I saw a short article in Popular Science magazine outlining a procedure to create a rocket out of a simply match.
The procedure is very simple. Take a match, place a pin, or small nail adjacent to the match such that the point touches the match end. Now wrap the match/nail end in foil. See image below.
Now pull the nail out without disrupting the foil. This creates a narrow channel from the match end to the bottom of the foil. Next set the match at a 45 degree angle using a paperclip as a launching pad.
Now take another match or a lighter of some kind and hold a flame underneath the foil covered end. This will eventually cause the match tip inside to ignite and propels the match forward...or at least it's supposed to according to the Popular Science article. This didn't happen with our match. When the match ignites some gas is released. That gas must go somewhere, so it's propelled out the only opening possible, the one created by the nail you pulled out earlier. This downward push should cause the match to propel forward.
Each time we did it, and we tried several different ways, there was a quick burst of smoke/exhaust out the end of the foil, but no launch. The force simply wasn't large enough to launch the match into the air. We only had one type of match at home, so it could be that a lighter match or a match with more fuel is needed. Regardless, the smoke/exhaust that quickly emits from the foil was cool. Give it a try. Hopefully you do better than I do.
Ever had your child ask where adult teeth come from when the baby teeth are lost? Ever wondered yourself? The truth is that the teeth are already there in your jaw/face. Take a look at the following skulls. Warning: They are a bit freaky!
Cool, right? I find this cool. This will make you think twice the next time you look at your cute little 2 year old! LOL!
Last year my wife and I took our kids on vacation to North Carolina. We stayed in a beach house less than a block from the water. It was there that my 2 daughters were first exposed to salt water. This year we went to the Upper Peninsula and stayed in a house on Lake Michigan. Lake Michigan is, as are all of the Great Lakes, a fresh water lake. This turned out to be a great opportunity to talk to my daughters, mainly my 6 year old, about the differences between the water and the two different beaches we've been to in the last two years.
Fresh water, of course, tastes like normal water, assuming it isn't polluted. The body needs fresh water to survive. The body can't survive long on salt water. The body can't handle the extra salt intake. The extra salt in your body causes your cells to become dehydrated and your body begins to shut down. If you've every been to the ocean, you also know that the water tastes different from regular tap water. The water tastes salty.
So there you go. If your kids ever ask why ocean water tastes different from tap water or water from fresh water lakes, now you can give them a truthful answer.
The latest issue of National Geographic (July 2013) has a couple of great articles on the Solar System. Both are available to read online and will give you a detailed overview of the workings of our Solar System. They are a great read for any parent and will give you some valuable knowledge for the next time your child asks about the Solar System.
The first article details the Curiosity rover on Mars:
Right now my wife and I are working on getting our 2 year old to properly wash her hands after using the potty. I recently learned from a science podcast that only 5% of people properly wash their hands after using the bathroom. Although most people wash their hands after using the bathroom, most don't wash long enough and don't wash under their fingernails. Getting kids to wash their hands for the proper amount of time can be tough.
Most of you have probably seen this picture before or one similar to it. Most people fail to lather and scrub for 20 seconds. I'll admit to being one of those people. Twenty seconds seems like a short period of time, but it's longer than you think. There are several ways to help your kids reach that 20 second mark. Have them slowly count to 20 is one option. This also helps the little ones learn to count! You can also have them sing the Happy Birthday song a couple of times or sing another 20 second song that you know.
If you can hammer the 20 second rule into them at a young age it will become habit and not be an issue later in life. Good luck!
This past weekend we went to a local garden event at the farmer's market. While there we passed a booth that was set up for kids to plant a sunflower seed. Both of my daughter's planted one of the seeds in a small cup.
Later we transplanted them into the garden. I have no idea what type of sunflower's these are, but I guess we'll find out. I've said this before, but I'll say it here again. Planting something in a garden, or a pot in the house, or in the landscaping along the house, or anywhere else, is a great opportunity to teach your kids about growing a plant. With a plant, kids learn about appropriate sunlight, the importance of fertilizing and watering it, and if in a garden, the importance of keeping competing weeds away from the plant. It's a good opportunity to teach your child responsibility. If you're not responsible in taking care of the plant, it will quickly die.
If, as a parent, you're looking for an opportunity to pick up some additional science knowledge to share with your kids, here are a couple of podcasts that I'd highly recommend. They are all intended for a general, non-science, argument, so you don't have to worry about any fancy science talk that might leave you confused.
2. Scientific American 60 Second Podcasts - The cool thing about these is that they are only 60 - 90 seconds in length. Plenty of time for even the busiest of people to listen to. There are several podcasts subjects such as space, science, health, mind, earth, etc. I listen to all of them. They are produced once a week, except for the science subject which is produced daily during the week.
3. BrainStuff - Produced every few days and about 3-5 min in length. Covers a random science related topic.
4. Radiolab - Produced once every week or two and about 45 min in length. Covers random science related topics.
If you do a search for podcasts you'll find many many more covering science. These are just a couple of my favorites.