Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Card games for preschoolers

With the new baby, we've been spending a lot of time at home and encouraging quiet activities. Being from Vegas, I have more than my fair share of cards, but J recently received a Batman deck for his birthday, which increased his interest in card games. Here are a few of our favorites so far and the skills that they teach the players.

Go Fish!:
How to play: Shuffle the deck of cards. Each person gets 5 cards, and the rest of the cards go in a pile in the between the players. The players look at their cards (not showing their cards to opponents), and if they have any matches, the players put them face up in front of them. The players then take turns asking one another if they have a card that would match a card that is currently in their hands. If the person asked has the card, they forfeit (give) the card to the asker, and the asker gets to go again. If the person asked does not have the card, they say, "Go fish!" and the asker picks from the pile of cards in between them. We play a variation that if the person draws the card that they just asked for from the "Go fish!" pile and gets that match, they get to go again. We play until one player gets rid of all of his/her cards. Then we count everyone's matches, and the person with the most matches win!
Skills: Matching is important in science, especially biology with classification of species. Go Fish! also teaches the mathematical skill of strategy where the players have to listen and remember who asked for which cards. The players want the most matches.

How to play: Shuffle the deck of cards. All of the cards get evenly distributed between the players (2-4). The cards are placed face down in a stack in front of each player. Nobody looks at their cards. Each player then holds their deck of cards face down and places the top card from their deck face up in the play area, in between the players. The player who drew the largest card gets the cards in that round (which the won cards go face down into a pile/stack in front of the player, when a player gets to the end of his/her deck, he/she picks up and shuffles the cards in front of him/her and resumes drawing his/her cards). If the largest card is a tie, the players go into "War" which requires the tied cards' players to place 3 cards face down (they put down 1 card per syllable while saying "I declare") and then one card face up (saying "war!"). The person with the largest face up card gets all of the cards that round. If it's tied again, repeat "War" until someone gets a larger card. All  number cards (2-10) have face value, and then the face cards are greater than number cards. The order of face cards are Jacks < Queens < Kings < Aces. Repeat the drawing/collection of cards/War until one player has all of the cards (the winner has all of the cards).
Skills: War teaches the mathematical skill of greater than/less than. This is a game of chance. It all depends on the cards the dealer gives whoever is playing. You aren't allowed to peak at your cards, so there's no strategy here. It would be nice if you get the higher, face value cards through wars, but you have no control over it.

Stay tuned for our "More Card Games" that we've taught J. They need a little more of a schematic description either via pictures or diagrams, and I'm not doing so well in the free time category at the moment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Babies repetition and hypotheses

Miss Baby J is growing so fast! Her giggles are contagious.

She loves knowing what comes next (babies love repetition - that's how they learn). Miss Baby J loves to dance. We started singing a made up song, "a dancey dance dance, a dancey dance dance, a dancey dance dance dance ___" where ___ is "jump" or "kiss" or "dance," etc. We do the song and dance a few times one way and then switch it up saying it another way. We always get a giggle after the different one. It's almost like she's formed a hypothesis about what will happen next and giggles when it doesn't turn out to be what she predicted. Wouldn't that be fun if we all took our mistakes like that? "Oh, that was different. Ha."

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Keeping critters out of gardens with a crop cage

A few months ago, I was 9 months pregnant, had just planted a garden, and then had a garden disaster where all of the leaves of our cucumber plants were chewed by a critter. The plants subsequently died. My husband took pity on me and purchased a few more cucumber plants and quickly built a crop cage out of PVC piping and leftover (affiliate link) >> protective netting << from last year.

The rectangular prism is PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (4 equal lengths for length, 4 equal lengths for width, 4 equal lengths for height), with eight 3-way elbows (our piping and fittings were spray painted to blend in with the netting). I recommend using PVC pipe glue to secure your structure (ours was made relatively quickly and was not glued in place, causing occasional frustration).

Each side was covered in protective netting held in place with zip-ties.

Originally, we were going to have a door that we could swing open for us to water and harvest, but there was a miscalculation on the amount of PVC pipe needed and ended up with a half door, which turned out better than anticipated, as I'll explain later. The door is 4 more PVC pipes cut to our custom dimensions (2 equal lengths for length and 2 equal lengths for height), with four 90 degree elbows. It was planned to be secured semi-loosely with zip-ties on one side and a string/latch on the other which would be used to open/close it. However, it's firmly zipped on both sides.

We were considering placing sand in the bottom PVC pipes, but my husband forgot to buy sand when he was purchasing material for the cage. We played it by ear and would have purchased some later, but it stood by itself and held up to some stronger wind gusts, probably due to the larger size. The cage was too big to remove and replace for watering every day (plus the plants eventually grew into it). However, it was lightweight enough for us to lift the sides for harvesting the hard to reach larger crops in the far corners. Some crops like the smaller strawberries and green beans could be pulled through the netting. You can also water through the netting if needed.

With a half door, we ended up not using the door at all. Instead, we draped the top section with the netting, which we moved up when we needed to water. The plants grew into the door, leaving it non-functional. The door is about hip height for me, which makes it hard to reach the stuff on the ground or beyond arm reach, but that's how I found out about the lifting of the cage to get the hard to reach stuffs. This complicated door design/access also could have deterred neighbors/strangers (we have our garden in a shared area), who, along with critters, we think were stealing some of our crops in previous years.

We were concerned about the netting and pollination of the plants. The netting was big enough to allow bees entry for pollination.

We ended up with so many cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, and green beans that we were able to enjoy many for ourselves and share with neighbors!

Plate of fresh regular and apple cucumbers

I highly recommend a crop cage if your garden is suffering from critter problems.

Do you have any hobbies you do and improve upon based on trial and error?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Look Mom! It sticks!"

Fun with friction!

Felt and fleece work really well when it comes to adhering to other materials using friction alone. This is a great, quick science lesson to hypotheses about what will and won't stick vertically on things. Would the pillow stick to the wall? What about a heavier pillow? Would silky objects stick to the couch? Would silky objects stick to the wall? What if the materials were wet? Experiment and have some fun!

What can you stick to the back of your couch?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Doing science with your kids blog

Christopher Danielson has been a reader of this blog since the beginning. He started the Talking Math with Your Kids blog where he discusses how he and his young children talk about math. We follow each other on Twitter where he virtually introduced me to Casey Rutherford. Inspired by Talking Math with Your Kids, Casey started the hashtag "#dswyk" which stands for "doing science with your kid(s)," and I promptly joined the #dswyk party. A few days/weeks (I'm oblivious to time at this point in my life, thanks to Miss Baby J) later, he created a blog: Doing Science with Your Kids, and now I'm a contributor.

My first entry is a lesson on sink or float led by my 5-year old boy, J. Does a Duplo sink or float? The answer might surprise you. Click on over to check it out!

I'll still be using this as my main blog and contributing as I can to Doing Science with Your Kids.