Monday, February 28, 2011

Ice, water, and vapor

J has taken interest in learning about the phases of water.  This also correlates well with our unusually late wintery weather.  Sorry, despite the everyday fascination we've had with ice for the past three weeks, we don't have pictures of the fun yet (if I get them, I'll update this post).

Ice (solid):

Have your child help you fill ice trays with water.  Wait a day.  Have your child accompany you to the freezer to check on the water.  Whoa!  What happened?  Where did the water go?  What is in its place?

How does the ice feel on your skin?

If you have an icy patch in your area (it's unusual here, but I found a few this morning), have your child slowly walk across it with your assistance.  Ask him/her what is different about walking on the sidewalk without ice versus walking on the ice on the sidewalk.  I've also stuck an ice cube on the ground and held J on top of it, and we went "ice skating" around our kitchen linoleum.

How long does it take for an ice cube to melt?  What happens as it melts?  What does the ice cube turn into?

What happens to room temperature tap water when you add an ice cube or two or three?  How long does it take for the ice to disappear?  If you're advanced (and have a more patient kid than mine), take the temperature of the water before and after the addition of ice.  If you want to be really nerdy like us, take multiple temperature readings and plot the results.

*Note, snow also works as a solid form of water.  We were close to getting snow this past weekend, but the moisture stayed in the ocean.  However, J's face sums up how we feel about the cold (let alone the fake snow behind him).

Water (liquid):

We have the liquid part of water down!  (see Puddle Jumping)

Vapor (gas):

When it stops raining, what happens to all of the puddles?  This has been J's biggest concern this week.

Why can't you see vapor?

Fill a bucket with water and measure the contents daily.  Of course, include your child in the measuring process.  Keep track of your evaporation progress.  Make a nifty graph to show off your results.

Other People's Phases of Water Experiments**:
Preschool Rainbow suggests adding food coloring to the water pre-freezing.  Then let the toddlers play with the bags of ice/water as they melt during the day.
Parenting Science has a few more ideas for ice experiments, including test ice melting in the shade vs. the sun.
Science for Preschoolers has an experiment about creating rain using a frozen mirror and a kettle.
Suite101 suggests comparing 5 inches of snow to 5 inches of rain.  Are they equal?  Why not?

**Note, I haven't tried these yet, but am bookmarking for a less hectic time in our lives.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Outdoor Rainy Day Science Fun

We're experiencing our winter here.  We're getting a little antsy though since we haven't been able to play outside much this week.  In anticipation of this latest storm, I bought J boots (really, I was hoping the storm would pass us buy since I bought the boots).

If you're willing to get wet, here are some fun outdoor rainy day science experiments.

Puddle Jumping:

How high can you jump?
Can you get the water to splash sideways?
How many waves can you make and count with one splash?
How many puddles can you jump in during 60 seconds?

Dada and J jumping high!

Drop an object into a puddle:

What happened to the water after the object dropped?
How long did it take the water to calm?

Floating objects (in puddles - stay away from flowing water):

What objects make good boats?  Think recyclables!!
Can you make your boat move?  How can you move the boat without your hands?  Without stomping next to it?  Can you direct the boat through an obstacle course?
How many "passengers" can your boat hold?


Find a stick.  Start sticking the stick in puddles and marking the water level of that puddle on the stick.  Which puddle has the deepest water (note it might not be the puddle with the largest area)?

We used J as a measuring stick.  Deepest puddle found!

Put a cup outside at the beginning of the storm and bring it in once the storm is over.  Measure how much water fell in the cup.  Put it in terms that your child can understand (since I'm sure a few inches or cups won't mean a lot to them right now though use the terms to get them used to comparisons).  Think, "1 inch of rain fell into our cup.  That's enough to fill your cereal bowl."  or "What container do you think will hold this amount of water?"  How long does it take the water to disappear from the rain catching container?

Other people's suggestions for sciency rain fun:
TLC suggests looking for bugs that come out when it rains and looking at the material properties of the leaves.  Compare dry and wet leaves or compare leaves from different trees. suggests painting with raindrops and powdered tempera paint (colors are physics!).
Squidoo suggests playing the lava game with puddles.  How can you get from point A to point B only by hopping in puddles.

If you're kid is like mine, he'll be having so much fun that he won't want to come inside (even if he's freezing cold).

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Box Fun

Lately, I've been turning to boxes to help keep my sanity. You can do a lot with boxes. Since this is supposed to be science based, I'm going to convince you boxes are scientific.

First, let's talk shape. Kids are pretty good at identifying shapes. This is a good one for any age!

What type of objects fit in a box?
Can you fit different boxes within boxes? Who needs nesting toys when packaging is so plentiful?
How many different things can you pack into a box? Include baby, and trust me, baby will have fun helping you take everything back out (and putting it back in again!)!  I live for the giggles that occur when babies are having scientific fun!

Then, there's make believe fun! You can make boxes into just about anything using your imagination. I won't go into too much detail, but I am convinced that boxes are great inexpensive structural engineering materials for kids.  I'm sure if you use your imagination, you can justify making castles, forts, kitchen sets, cars, trains, etc. for "science".

J driving his car at 6 months!

Next, let's talk trajectories (yes, this is me getting giddy). Yay, physics! I was helping J clean up his toys, but I was being lazy and didn't want to get up. J pulled down his toy bin, and I threw a ball into the bin (now, I'm really not that sporty or coordinated). I didn't think anything of it until J squealed with delight. Then we played a little basketball, but Mommy mixed it up a little.

For background purposed: trajectories need a vertical and a horizontal component. You can hit the same target through multiple trajectory paths.  Show that you can throw the ball multiple ways and still (hopefully) make a basket.

Can you throw it a ball up high and still make it in the box?
If you miss, how can you change your throw to try again?
How far away can you stand and still make it into the box?
How hard can you throw? (Maybe, try that one outside)
What happens when you switch balls/throwing materials? Maybe put a lot of force into a lighter Nerf type ball, but it won't go as far as as a solid ball. Why is that?
Can you put a spin to the ball?  How does that affect your basket making capabilities?
Color different boxes (wrapping paper, construction paper, tempera paint) and have your kid throw into a specific box color. If you're super creative or have a lot of time on your hands (I'm envious), make cute bean bag toss targets (like a clown with an open mouth - or something that won't scare your kid).
Time your games.  How many balls can you make into the basket in a given time?  How long does it take you to make all of your balls into the basket?  Can you beat your high score?

Most of all, have fun!  This started out as what I thought would be a one time thing, but J loves playing makeshift basketball now (as you can see from the pictures above, we haven't moved far from the target yet).  Let me know how your games go and any other suggestions to add to why and how boxes are scientific.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Homemade Bubbles

What kid doesn't like bubbles?

It's not really bubble season, but we had a beautiful 70 degree February Saturday and J wanted to play with his bubble blowing Octopus.  We unfortunately didn't have enough bubbles left to make the toy blow bubbles, and we were temporarily car/bikeless, so trying to see if stores had bubbles wasn't going to be easy.  We did a quick Google search on homemade bubbles and found this recipe: homemade bubbles which seems to agree with a lot of other bubble recipes out there.

To fill the empty bubble container, we did the math and used:
2 tsp Ultra Concentrated Dawn
1/2 Cup + 2 Tbsp filtered water (we don't have distilled water on hand)
1/2 tsp of light corn syrup

Right away: The bubbles were great in the sense that they were heavy duty and remained a bubble shape on the floor without popping.  However, they didn't float very well compared to store bought bubbles (which in all actuality don't cost to much, so I still highly recommend them for quick and easy sciency fun).  These bubbles seemed heavy and came out one at a time.  Too much corn syrup, maybe?

Some tips on the Google search said to let the bubbles rest over night in a sealed container.  Some other sites say corn syrup is optional.  I experimented.

Results of corn syrup recipe resting:
*More bubbles per blow than previous day (pictures below).
*Still heavy compared to store bubbles, but didn't seem to sink as quickly as previous day.

Results of no corn syrup (also resting over night):
*Not recommended.  Bubbles barely formed.  No pictures since it wasn't very exciting.

Overall evaluation: Use corn syrup if making homemade bubbles.

Stomping on the bubbles
Bubble Science:

What shape is a bubble?
What do you need to create a bubble?
What different objects can you use to blow bubbles?
What happens when you blow into the bubble wand fast/slow?
What happens when you blow bubbles into a fan?
What happens when two bubbles touch?
Can you catch a bubble on the wand and blow a bubble again? How many times can you do this?
Can you blow a bubble within a bubble?
Why do bubbles float?
What colors do you see in the bubbles?
What happens to the bubbles if you touch/stomp on them?
Can you catch a bubble on your hand?
Can you touch a bubble with your ___ (name favorite body part)?

Catching bubbles on nose!

Update 2/14/11 - Bubbles work even better when rested a week!  The week old bubbles floated a lot better than last week.  The only problem with this is planning ahead!  Good luck :-)

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Free/Low Cost Science Museum Days

Last updated: February 5, 2011 (added Bank of America info).

Hands-on science is fun!  Museums are exciting ways to see kids' light bulb moments.  However, they can be spendy.  Many museums offer free days.  Check your museum's website or call their offices for more information about reduced pricing, free days, and/or special admission days.

If you find information about your area, please send it to me and I can add it to this page for other families to enjoy.  I'll start with information about museums close to friends and family and expand as I learn about more opportunities.

Austin, TX:
Texas Natural Science Center-free admission.
Austin Children's Museum -Wednesday community nights 5-8p, suggested donation of $1.

Bay Area:
Exploratorium - free admission, first Wednesday of the month.
Bay Area Discovery Museum - free admission, first Wednesday of the month.
The Tech - free admission, select Sundays of 2011, listed on their website.
CA Academy of Sciences - free admission, every 3rd Wednesday of the month.

Boston Children's Museum - every Friday night 5-9p, $1 admission.

Cleveland Museum of Natural History - free admission, first Thursday of the month.

Las Vegas, NV:
Lied Discovery Children's Museum - per phone call on 2/1/11 - 1st full weekend of the month (both Saturday and Sunday), Bank of America card holders (debit and/or Visa/MC) get free admission (card holder only). For info call: 702-382-5437.
Las Vegas Natural History Museum - free admission to Bank of America card holders on the first full weekend of the month.

Portland, OR:
OMSI - $2 admission first Sunday of the month.

Sponsoring Companies

Bank of America offers admissions to over 150 museums nationwide ( to card holders for the first full weekend of every month.  Check it out to see if there's a museum by you.

Target also sponsors a lot of events.  Check here for information about what they sponsor in your area.

Please let me know if you know of other science themed museums offering free/reduced price days!

Most of all, enjoy science!  Maybe, take in what kind of activities/exhibits catches your child's interest and see if you can create something similar at home (see fan experiment).