Thursday, January 27, 2011

Encourage Learning Experiences

Sometimes failure will occur.  Learn from mistakes and celebrate the successes!  Most of all, be encouraging. "What happens if we try it this way?" can go a long way in science.  And, trust me, Mommy doesn't always necessarily get it right the first time either. Let your children see that you also make mistakes and how you deal with something going wrong.  Explain your thought processes as you solve the problem.  Include your children to help you explain the problem and steps to a solution.  Many times, they offer a fresh perspective.

My favorite line, "Oh oh!  That didn't work!"  Followed by: "What should we do?"  "Can you help me rebuild?" or "Maybe we can make it taller this time!"

Monday, January 24, 2011

Homemade Playdough


I picked up J from his school on Friday and was invited by J and his friends to play with their expensive playdough that ended up mixed together. His teacher said they were just going toss it when they were done. I thought it was very wasteful, but I had so much fun that I wanted to play with more playdough over the weekend.

I Googled "Homemade Playdough" and found that there were TONS of recipes to try, almost overwhelming. As a scientist, I encourage experimentation. As a Mommy, I am on burnout mode, so I asked J's Grandma A., who raised 5 rambunctious boys, what her favorite recipe was. Here is the basic recipe.


Medium sauce pot
1 cup flour
1/4 cup salt
2 Tbsp cream of tartar
1 cup of water
1 tsp food coloring (*Gma's original recipe was 2 tsp. I added 1 and decided it was more than enough)
1 Tbsp oil


Cook ingredients over medium heat and stir for 3-5 minutes. It took about 3 minutes before I really couldn't stir the playdough anymore. Cool. Knead until smooth.


Add food coloring last, as you are kneading the dough. The recipe makes enough to make at least 3 different colors, so divide up the dough and color separately.

Play away!

Guess what J did first?

Cutting with cookie cutters:

Playing with his shapes:

Making a ball:

Being silly with a playdough beard:


1. What shapes can you make? How flat can you make it with your hands? What's the longest and wackiest shape you can make? Use rolling pins, cookie cutters, plastic shaping tools. Surprisingly, snakes and balls are extremely popular with the young ones. If you suggest it and show them, they'll think you are a genius.

2. What happens when you mix the colors together?

3. Can you make a statue/artwork? How high can you stack the playdough?

4. Can you mold the playdough? Place the dough over textured surfaces and press.

When done, store playdough in an airtight container.

This recipe contains a lot of salt. Please do not ingest it (see J's pic above on his "taste" - he didn't try it again) or let your pets ingest it.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fan Experiments

This floating ball experiment inspired me to start this blog.

It was a hot summer day - note diaper only baby, so we had the fan turned on full blast. J's favorite toy at the time was a beach ball. I remembered seeing floating balls at the science museums, so I thought I'd give it a try at home. J's light went on. Each of the following days, he asked us to turn on the fan so he can make the ball float. He also tried to unsuccessfully float other balls, but figuring it out experimentally is really fun! All you need is a beach ball and a fan!

But wait, there's more fan fun!

Spray your kid with water and point the fan at him.

J learning about convection

Scream as loud as you can into the fan. Closer to the fan = better results!

J learning about voice inflection due to air flow

**edited 3/29/12 - you may not be able to tell from the picture, but the fan is seated far enough away from the cage + J has fat fingers that they wouldn't fit through the cage. Also, it's very important to make sure your child knows limits. J is not allowed to touch the fan no matter what. Make sure parents/adults follow the no touching rule too! (we need a fan since we don't have A/C and it gets over 100+ degrees in our apartment)

Introduction: the Term NERD

I spent my childhood running away from this term.

I spent the first year of college trying to be considered cool, suppressing my nerdiness, since I was starting clean in a place where nobody knew me, and I was miserable.  I had more fun when I hung out with people who I had more in common with, who happened to be the smart people, aka the nerds.

I want the term to be embraced.  It is ok, no - it is cool, to be a nerd, excel in school, and use your brain.  The U.S. doesn't have enough smart people.  People only use the term in an offensive manner because they know it bothers you.  It took some time, but I am no longer offended when someone calls me a nerd.  I think that it means they think that I am smart and know how to use my brain.  I wish more people used their brains.

In short, I use the term nerd as part of my identity.  My family is also a part of my identity, luckily they are nerds too.  I do not mean for nerd to be derogatory or offensive.  If you are offended, substitute in SMART instead, but I will not cease from using the term "nerd".  Being a nerd is a compliment.

Introduction: About Baby Science Blog

I have a young son.  I've been able to see his eyes light up many times as he discovers his world. We have discovered unintentional science teaching moments along the way. I want to share this blog to show how fun and accessible science is to a young mind.

I will be using a combination of my own ideas, ideas taken from workshops I've taught to young kids, and modifications of workshop and other ideas from the internet.  I will try to cite/link the original experiment if it is something I didn't make up or modify to the point of no recognition or something that's not original anyways (baking soda and vinegar volcanoes, for example).

I do want this to be a community and will be very open to other's ideas and modifications to the ideas I post.  I will give credit for ideas.

Since I want science to be accessible, I will try to post projects/ideas that do not take a chunk out of your wallet.  We like to use recyclables, blocks, balls, Popsicle sticks, household fans, etc.

I am a full-time working Mommy, so I am unsure how frequently posts will be.  I want to make a goal to post a fun project weekly.  I will post pictures of my son, J, and his friends/family who happen to be around when we're having fun.  Please be respectful.  If you use pictures and ideas, please link back to our website as a reference.


Science is fun, but you are the parent and decide what is best for your own child.  Please don't try anything on this website that you think will cause problems for you and your family.  All of these activities should be conducted under close adult supervision.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Introduction: About Me

I grew up loathing, yes - loathing, science, but I was good at math from a very young age.  I had mentors who kept telling me that I should be an engineer because I was good at math and liked the idea about improving people's lives through innovation.  However, as I entered high school, I learned that engineers need to be good at science.  Sigh.  I got through high school science but I never really felt that I learned anything.

It wasn't until college when I started mentoring and volunteering teaching young children science that I actually began understanding the scientific world around me.  The difference: presentation!  The volunteering activities were always hands-on and allowed me to explain the concepts to the kids in a very graspable manner.  I enjoyed watching many kids' light bulbs turn on as they made discoveries and wished that someone could have shown me those light bulb experiences when I was younger.

I graduated with a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Portland and a MS in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University.  I've worked for almost four years as a Biomedical Engineer in research analysis of human motion trying to understand the mechanical and biological pathways to knee osteoarthritis. Though this isn't my forever job, I would like to stay in the medical field, as helping others feel better is very rewarding.

My teaching background includes teaching science at Camp Galileo, tutoring middle and high school science, multiple volunteer experiences teaching middle and high school girls about the joys of science, math, and engineering through the Society of Women Engineers (SWE), and volunteering with the Physics of Toys program at the Exploratorium.  The biggest teaching job I currently have is being Mama to my 20 month old son.  I started Nerdy Baby in hopes to help encourage other parents foster their children's natural desires to explore the world around them.

J and I fountain hopping, Nov 2010