Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Ready to Watch Star Wars

As a kid I loved watching Star Wars (Episodes 4, 5, and 6).  I was in college when Episodes 1, 2, and 3 came out.  Episode 1 was okay, but Episode 2 sucked, in my opinion.  I've yet to watch Episode 3.  Now that Disney has the rights to Episodes 7, 8, and 9, I hope they can re-ignite the franchise and vastly improve upon Episodes 1, 2, and 3 and bring back the magic of Episodes 4, 5, and 6.  Anyways, I've been thinking quite a bit recently about introducing my 6 year old to Star Wars Episodes 4, 5, and 6.  I was probably around her age when I first watched them and I think she would really enjoy watching them with her Daddy.


I'm still debating whether she's old enough to watch these movies.  The movie itself is rated PG, so that's not an issue.  The violence in the movie is not bloody, although there is death present.  The violence is no more violent than what she might watch in Shrek, just not animated.  I think she's ready, but I'm still debating.  Hmm...thoughts?  When did you first watch Star Wars?

Monday, December 30, 2013

Fondest Memory

I subscribe to the "Life to Her Years" blog feed which has short, 1 sentence statements about dads and daughters.  It's a joy to read and helps me appreciate the little moments with my daughters.  I encourage you to check it out:

Life to Her Years

A recent post shows a picture of a dad combing his daughter's hair with the statement:

"Brush her hair when she's a little girl.  It will be one of her fondest memories someday."

For some daughters, I suppose that is true.  For my 3 year old?  I'm not so sure.  That kid usually screams bloody murder whenever I or my wife comb her hair.  Usually the screaming/crying starts before the comb even touches her hair!  Fondest memories?  I dunno!

Friday, December 27, 2013

This Blog's History: Lava in a Cup

This Friday's in This Blog's History brings back the Lava in a Cup experiment.  This is another classic density experiment that uses material that you likely already have in your kitchen.  Most of us are familiar with a lava lamp and this experiment produces something similar.  Blobs of material rise when they are less dense than the surrounding material and sink when they are more dense than the surrounding material. For details on how to make your own lava in a cup experiment, please see the original post.

Lava in a Cup Experiment

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Speechless

The other day I was cleaning up the house a bit and saw this:


No words...speechless!



Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

That Crazy Elf on the Shelf

I posted a week or two ago about the new Elf on the Shelf tradition we started in our house.  Things have gone well, but there have been a few hiccups concerning the elf that are best summarized in the following image I saw posted to Facebook.


Yep...there have been a couple of times where we forget about the elf until after we were already in bed.  Ug.  Once we completely forgot about the elf.  It was a Saturday morning and we had the opportunity to sleep in.  Our kids woke up around 6:30 AM as they usually do and went to get some cereal for breakfast.  As I prepared to go back to sleep for a bit it suddenly popped into my mind that I forgot to move the elf!  Crap!  While the kids weren't looking I moved it and then went back to bed.  Later they asked why the elf wasn't moved in the morning.  Sigh.  Sometimes they notice way too much!!!  LOL!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Cooling a Chicken Nugget

The other day at dinner we were having chicken.  My wife and I had a chicken breast of some type and my daughters were eating chicken nuggets.  We all know that food straight out of the oven or straight off of the stove is hot.  We all know from experience that if you don't want to burn your tongue or mouth that you need to let that food cool.  Both of my daughters were complaining about how hot their chicken nuggets were and they were impatient.  We've told them to blow on their food to cool it down and we've cut their nuggets in half before, but for some reason this time I decided to geek it out!


While cutting their chicken nuggets I explained that cutting them allows them to cool down faster, but then I geeked it up by taking the explanation further.  I said that the outeer crust of the chicken nugget acts as an insulator and keeps the energy trapped inside the chicken nugget.  Thus the chicken nugget remains hot inside.  Cutting the chicken nugget lets the energy escape into the air.  Energy transfers from the hotter object (in this case the chicken nugget) to the cooler object (in this case the air).  

They were staring at me a bit weird.  LOL!  

Friday, December 20, 2013

This Blog's History: The Magic Ketchup Experiment

This Friday in This Blog's History I return you to the Magic Ketchup Experiment.  In this experiment the goal is to make a small packet of ketchup (or mustard, hot sauce, soy sauce, etc.) to rise and sink in a two liter bottle of water.  The key is density.  When the density of the packet is greater than that of the water, the packet sinks.  When the density of the packet is lower than that of the water, the packet rises.  The trick is figuring out how to get the densities to change in the same experiment such that the packet rises then sinks then rises then sinks, over and over again.  So how is this done?  That's where you need to check out the original post.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Colored Snow - My Daughter's Own Science Experiment

My 6 year old is all about coming up with her own science experiments.  Just the other day she came up with one that combined snow, milk, water, and food coloring.  Uh...okay!  Since there's no danger in combining these materials, I let her go ahead and do it.  We had to wait awhile for some snow to appear, but once it did, we were all set.  Here's the video of her procedure.

video

After the video she added more snow and started to add food coloring.  I have to admit that the texture and color of the resulting mixture was very cool!






So there you go.  I highly encourage you to let your kids develop their own science experiments.  The experiments might seem silly and pointless to YOU, but they aren't silly and pointless to your kids.  Make sure your kids stay safe, but let them explore science and try different procedures.  Let them be creative.  They'll thank you later!




Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Science of a Heat Vent

I've been attempting, unsuccessfully, to teach my daughters the purpose of a heat vent and how it works.  Here's a picture of a heat vent in our house.


In the typical home you have a furnace that warms air and then a large fan pushes the warm air through ducts and up through the vents that are scattered around the house.  In order for a room to warm, it needs an unblocked heating vent.  If the vent is blocked, the air just re-directs to a different vent in the house.  I've tried telling this to my daughters over and over, yet they still insist on stacking toys and/or boxes on the heating vent in their toy room when they clean.  As a result, the room is usually cooler than other rooms in the house.  They then complain about it being cold in there.  Well, duh!!!  

I guess this is one of these cases where they just need to learn the science the hard way...as in being cold!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Inside of a Watermelon

I think we have all seen the inside of a watermelon, but have we seen the inside of a tiny watermelon?  This year my 6 year old wanted to plant a watermelon plant in our garden, so we did.  However, the seeds never sprouted, or so we thought.  We later discovered that the seeds did sprout, but not where we planted them!  They had been washed away to a different part of the garden and eventually took root and produced a single, full sized watermelon which was very yummy.  Due to the late start in growing, there wasn't enough time to produce more full sized watermelons, but there were two mini watermelons produced.


I figured these weren't edible, but my daughters wanted to see what they looked like inside, so we cut them open.



They sort of look like the inside of a watermelon, but not as red/pink and very little actual edible fruit.  We licked the central part and it tasted like a watermelon, but not much there to eat, so we just tossed them into our compost pile.  

So no fruit, but still cool to cut open and observe!  It's the little things in life that make great scientists, so look for opportunities such as this to share with your kids.  


Monday, December 16, 2013

Exploding Pop and Mentos Experiment Revisited

A very common science experiment that I've posted about on this blog before is dropping several pieces of Mentos candy into a two liter bottle of pop and watching the pop explode out of the bottle.  The height that the exploding pop reaches varies with pop type, but usually you can get the pop to fly upward 4-6 feet or more.

I recently did a Saturday class for 3rd - 6th grades and as part of the class we did the mentos/pop experiment.  Having done this experiment many times I expected typical results.  However, we did not get typical results.  In fact, every bottle of pop, and there were 8 of them, were duds.  The pop barely reached 1 foot above the nozzle.  After the first bottle I was a bit surprised, but just figured something was going on with just that bottle.  Nope.  Same result for all 8 bottles!

So why the big difference?  I'm not entirely sure, but I came up with a few possibilities.

1.  The pop was flat.  A possibility, although unlikely since I purchased the pop that week and bought different varieties.

2.  The mentos candy was bad.  Again, a possibility, but I just purchased the mentos that week.  There's no reason to suspect a candy malfunction.  Plus the mentos tasted fine.

3.  It was very cold out.  I'm not convinced this was the cause, but it's the most likely possibility I came up with.  After buying the pop I left the bottles in the trunk of my car.  Although my car was sitting in the garage, the temperature dropped to the upper 30's/lower 40's in the garage.  The trunk of the car was sitting close to the garage door.  With no time for the pop to warm to room temperature, the pop was still cold when we did the experiment.

Was cold pop the problem?  I don't know, but it's the one difference between this attempt and previous attempts.  Usually I do this in the summer and/or fall/spring with kids.  I've never done this experiment when temperatures were this low.  So that's my hypothesis.  Future tests are needed for confirmation.

Friday, December 13, 2013

This Blog's History: The Bouncy Egg Experiment

In today's This Blog's History I bring back a classic egg experiment that can be done with materials that are most likely in your kitchen.  Needed are the following materials.

Egg
Vinegar

That's it!  Fill a jar of vinegar and drop the egg in.  Wait three days, then very carefully remove the egg.  The egg feels very 'rubbery' and will bounce if dropped from small heights.  For full details and pictures, see the original post at:

The Bouncy Egg

This is a great indoor activity that will excite your kids!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Elf on the Shelf

This year we decided to start the Elf on a Shelf holiday tradition.  We have several friends who do this with their kids and our kids keep asking about it, so we decided to do it ourselves.  So far so good.  If you're not familiar with Elf on a Shelf, check out the following link.

http://www.elfontheshelf.com/

We started by reading the book and learning about the history of the elf.  Then starting the morning of December 1, my wife and I hid the elf in the house.  The goal is to hide the elf each night or have the elf doing something for the kids to find.  I'm pretty sure my 6 year old understands the elf isn't real, but my 3 year old probably thinks the elf is real and moves by itself (in the same way she thinks Santa is real).

To start out we hung the elf from a hook hanging between the living room and kitchen area.  Both kids completely passed under the elf without seeing it!  It wasn't until they finished breakfast and walked back into the living room that my 3 year old finally found it first.  The next morning we set the elf up on the kitchen counter with a bowl, a spoon, an box of open cereal, with some cereal in the bowl and some scattered on the counter.  The kids loved that!  In the future we have several other things planned such as the elf reading a book, the elf getting into the DVD collection, the elf playing with toys, etc.

Our elf, Sparkle, reading a book to stuffed animal.s

Sparkle spying on the kids through the Galileo telescope!

The kids love it and I have to admit that I love it too.  I keep thinking of interesting things for the elf to do at night!  So there you go.  Elf on the Shelf is fun for the entire family!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Superstitions

On Thanksgiving day this year my wife and I had to have a talk with our 6 year old about superstitions and myths.  She was in the kitchen helping grandma with the turkey and grandma (through no fault of her own) pulled out the wishbone in the turkey and told my daughter to go have Mommy or Daddy help her break it.  So she came to me and had me grab one end and her the other.  I had the small end, so when we pulled it broke on my side so she earned to right to make a wish.  This is where trouble set in.


She didn't know what to wish for and after a few minutes of thinking, started to cry.  Granted, she had already had a long day and was tired, but she was also really worried about her wish and whether it would come true.  So my wife and I sat down with her and chatted about superstitions.  We said the wishbone breaking wish thing is just a superstition that people do for fun.  It doesn't make your wish come true.  We said that sometimes people wish for things and sometimes those wishes come true and sometimes they don't.  And if they do come true it's not simply because you wished for it.  My daughter is already skeptical about certain things and I want to continue to reinforce her skepticism over unbacked claims.  We also said that wishes don't always come true (like getting everything you want for Christmas or a sick person not getting better, etc.).  In the end this made her feel better so she wished for Playdoh for Christmas.
My wife and I certainly didn't anticipate this question, but the opportunity presented itself and given the emotional state my 6 year old was in, we had to step in and say something about wishes and how they do or do not come true.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Take a Moment to Appreciate Your Kids

Today I want to remind all parents to take a moment to appreciate the small moments in your child dominated lives.  Anyone with kids knows that life is busy.  There's school, daycare, homework, doctor's visits, sports, family visits, etc.  Oh, and then the crying and whining that never seems to end on some days!  But built within all of that your child will say something or do something that makes you forget about all the annoying aspects (i.e. crying and whining) of raising a child.  The other night I was reading a book to our 6 year old while my wife was playing "I Spy" with our 3 year old.  All of a sudden my 3 year old says "I spy a tooting chipmunk"!  Yep, a tooting chipmunk.  Not only that but she starts giggling like crazy after saying it.  Nothing beats these little moments in life!

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Tough Talk

My wife and I recently had a very difficult talk with our 6 year old.  She wasn't in trouble or anything like that.  There are certain talks that parents must have with their kids in order to raise them properly.  If you're a parent, you know the talks I'm referring to.  I'm not willing to say what the talk was about although I will say that it went well.  My point is that although talks with your children can be very difficult, they are absolutely crucial in your child's upbringing.  If you, as the parent, don't give your child the talk, who will?  The bully on the school bus?  TV?  Cartoons?  Make sure that talk comes from you and not someone else.

Friday, December 6, 2013

This Blog's History: The Tie Dye Milk Experiment

For this week's This Blog's History post I point you back to July 2012 when I introduced my now 6 year old to the Tie Dye Milk Experiment.

This is a very simple experiment using simple, easy to obtain supplies.  You need milk, food coloring, basic dish soap, and water.  That's it!  Chances are you already have these supplies in your kitchen, so no need to delay in showing your child this awesome demonstration/experiment.  Simply fill a bowl of milk.  Drop a couple of drops of food coloring across the surface of the milk (don't stir).  In a separate bowl, mix water with a teaspoon of dish soap.  Then take a Q-tip and dip it in the water/soap mixture.  Then touch the Q-tip to a spot of food coloring on the milk.  The food coloring will disperse quickly across the milk.

The original post (see link above) explains the physics of what happens.  My daughter loved this demo and has talked about it many times since.  Great fun for a lazy or rainy weekend afternoon.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What's the Difference Between a Hurricane and a Typhoon?

Here in the United States we are very familiar with hurricanes, especially if you live along the coast of the Gulf of Mexico or the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.  Hurricanes, as most of us know, are very large, intense storms that develop in the Atlantic Ocean and work their way toward the coast.  They are huge rotation systems with wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour.  Hurricanes are ranked by category numbers.  A category 1 hurricane has wind speeds ranging from 74 - 95 miles per hour.  As the wind speed increases, so does the category number.  Category 5 hurricanes, the strongest hurricanes, have wind speeds greater than 155 miles per hour.  The greater the wind speeds, the greater than damage done.


A large rotation system with wind speeds between 39 and 74 miles per hour are called tropical storms.  Many times hurricanes begin as tropical storms.  Often a hurricane decreases in strength as it approaches land and turns back into a tropical storm before reaching land fall.

So what's a typhoon?  As a kid I was once told in school that typhoons are tornadoes that start over water.  It sounded good at the time, but I later learned this is completely untrue.  Tornadoes over water are simply that.  They are still called tornadoes!  A typhoon is really the same thing as a hurricane, but with one difference, location.  

Large rotating weather systems starting in the Atlantic Ocean are called hurricanes.  Systems starting in the Pacific Ocean are called typhoons.  In addition, systems starting in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones.  That's it.  The difference is based on location.  The storms are all very large rotating systems with high wind speeds.
So now you know the truth.  Don't make the mistake that a teacher once made to me and tell your kids that typhoons are over-the-water tornadoes.  :-)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Science News Magazine

If you're looking for a great source to gain basic knowledge of current events in science but don't want to get bogged down in the minute details of the research, then I highly recommend Science News Magazine.

Science News

Science News is published every 2 weeks and basically summarizes several science studies across a wide range of science fields.  There are usually articles on astronomy, physics, chemistry, and biology.  It's a great way to learn about interesting studies and advancements, and a great resource to share with your kids (depending on age there's a kid's version of Science News).  For example, here's one of the recently posted articles (this one is available as a subscriber only).

Eating Peanuts May Extend a Person's Life

Now that sounds interesting!

The website offers many articles to read for free.  If you want more, you can subscribe to the magazine at very reasonable rates.  I subscribe to the Kindle version of the magazine and look forward to it every 2 weeks!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Last Year Believing in Santa?

I think this is probably the last year that my 6 year old believes in Santa Claus.  In fact, I'm not sure she entirely believes in Santa Claus this year, but I can't tell for sure.  She's beginning to ask a lot of questions and is becoming more skeptical about things which is exciting for me to see.  On the other hand, it opens up a few awkward conversations.  Take this conversation, for example, that took place at the dinner table the other night.

6 year old:  Daddy, does Santa Claus die?

Me:  Uh...what do you mean?

6 year old:  Does Santa Claus die?

Me:  Do you mean has he already died or will he die sometime in the future?

6 year old:  Will he die?

Me:  (Not knowing what to say since my 3 year old is sitting at the table listening.)  Well, some people live longer than others, so I don't know when Santa will die.

6 year old:  How old is Santa?

Me:  I don't really know.  (Always an appropriate answer to kids.  Never be afraid to say I don't know.  It's much better than making up an answer that later leads to a misconception in your child's life).  Santa was alive when I was a kid, when your grand parents were a kid, and when your great grand parents were a kid.

6 year old:  Ok.

And that was the end of the conversation.  AWKWARD!  And it was just me since my wife worked late that night.  No adult backup from my better half.  Ug.

So I'm guessing she's questioning Santa Claus and will discover the truth on her own soon.  On one hand it's sad to see this since it means she's growing older and is no longer the baby/toddler she was once.  But on the other hand, watching her think critically about the world around her is an amazing sight to observe.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Respect

As a parent, I beg you, on my knees, to teach your kids to respect others and the property of others.  I've done everything I can to teach my kids to be respectful and will continue to do so.  When they aren't respectful and I catch them, I'm certainly going to call them out and deliver the appropriate punishment.  I wish others would be just as responsible on this issue with their kids.  Why am I ranting about this?  I'll tell you.  In the past I've never had much of an issue with trash in my yard, but this year it's gone to a great extreme.  Every time I mow the lawn I first have to walk through the lawn and pick up the trash (usually candy wrappers, ice cream wrappers, etc.).  I have pictures to prove my point.  The picture below is the trash I picked up BEFORE mowing the lawn this past week.  My lawn is about 1/4 of an acre with most of the trash in the front yard.


For crying out loud, there's a cookie in there!!!  While mowing the lawn I picked up even more trash, shown below.


Seriously!?!?!?!  Throw your damn trash away!  It's several neighbor kids around us from 3 different houses.  I find it very uncomfortable knocking on the door and talking to parents (there will be issues there with the parents, trust me!), but it's getting to that point.  

I leave you with the following request.  Teach your kids respect.  Teach them that it's not right to leave candy wrappers on the ground.  Punish them when they do something that they know they shouldn't be doing...like throwing candy wrappers in my yard!!!  :-)