Tuesday, July 31, 2012

We're serious about science

We had a fun time doing marble roller coasters this weekend.  I'll try to post the project by the end of the week.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Money money money

J's been obsessed with his piggy bank since a very young age. Under close adult supervision, even kids under 2 can learn to take money in and out of the piggy bank (I'm sure you can find one super cheap at the dollar store). Ours was a shower gift from a friend. Also, we never walk past money on the ground anymore since J is always interested in filling his bank.

Toddler age:
*Take the money out of the piggy bank.
*Identify that there are different coins that represent different amounts of money (don't go into too much detail).
*Start counting with the money (count as high as your child has attention span for).
*Put coins back into piggy bank.
*Shake piggy bank - what kind of sound do you hear?
*Is the piggy bank heavy or light?

Older Toddler/Young Preschool age:
*Take out the money from the piggy bank.
*Sort the money into different piles, one for each type of coin.
*Identify the types of coins by name (ie. penny, nickel, dime, quarter).
*Start the conversation that pennies equal 1, nickels equal 5, dimes equal 10 (even if they are the smallest!), and quarters equal 25.
*Count pennies as high as your child can given their attention span.
*See if you can start counting by 5's or 10's (probably not, but worth the try).
*Count coins as your kid puts them back into the piggy bank.

Older Preschool/Early Elementary:
*Sort money into different piles by coin type.
*Count how many of each coin there are.
*Introduce addition: if your child has 3 pennies in his bank and you find 2 pennies (say on the dresser) and add them to his bank, count how many he now has.
*Which is more money: 3 pennies or 7 pennies?
*If 7 pennies are more than 3 (hope I didn't ruin the above bullet), and dimes are actually worth 10 pennies, can you identify with is worth more: 7 pennies or 1 dime?
*Count by 5's for the nickels and see how much money you have in nickels (early multiplication).
*Count by 10's for the dimes and see how much money you have in nickels (early multiplication).
*Have your child divide the pennies into equal piles (I recommend one per person in the house). How many does each person get? (Early division)
*Have a treat that costs 8 cents and see if your child can come up with a combination of coins that equal 8 cents (addition/subtraction).  If your child has 11 cents and it cost 8 cents for the treat, how much money does he/she have left? (yay, math word problems aren't really that scary).
*Take your child to a party store, where you can buy little fun, cheap toys with his/her coins. This can show that money actually represents something.
*Consider allowance for chores to add to the wealth.

Yay, math!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Nightly Reading

No joke (or alteration of the scene), this is how I found J on my nightly check-in before I go to bed.

At this rate, he'll know his multiplication tables in no time.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Park Science - Parallel Bar

We live in a small apartment without much wiggle room. However, we have a park nearby. This has saved my sanity on numerous occasions, but I'm a worrywart - I've always been a little bit of a chicken/scaredy cat when it comes to taking risks that could result in injury. Unfortunately for me, I have a son who has the "I can do anything" attitude of my dearest little sister (who was deemed "concussion queen" of the family and left a few dents in our elementary school floors). I've also learned if I don't let him try, I usually cause myself more grief. Luckily, playing on the playground uses a lot of science, which I'm trying to explain to J as he's learning (so he can do it right and understand "What happens when..." in a safe and controlled environment). I was also a recreational gymnast in my past, so I feel pretty comfortable spotting J as he learns.

While playing on the parallel bar (chin up bar?) the other day, J was swinging his legs. He let go before I was able to get to him, and SPLAT, he had a face full of sand and the wind knocked out of him (I'm still a big sand as a landing material proponent). He's ok and wanted to continue playing after a few snuggles.

We've been working on the only drop when your legs are perpendicular (straight up and down) from the ground and you aren't swinging. However, it's been a few weeks since we've been able to go to the park and he must have forgotten.

Here's what happens:

When you hang still, your center of mass is directly inline with your feet, making it easy to let go and land on your feet (with bending your knees, of course - and the obligatory "Tada!" after making a perfect landing).

What J did the other day:

His center of mass still wanted to be directed downward (thanks to gravity). However, with his feet still swinging backwards, he ended up with a moment (rotation) which resulted in him splat-faced on the sand. I don't recommend experimenting with this way, as it really hurts to get the wind knocked out of you, and it doesn't taste good to eat sand.

However, you might try falling a different way (in a safe environment - meaning on soft/safe landing materials - sand, gym mats, etc. - and not from very high). In my family, we come with built in cushions, so falling on our behinds is no big deal.

J demonstrates the slight forward leg swing (think opposite of the second drawing):

When J lets go in this position, he's going straight to his bottom. Please note, I would recommend a more centered position on the bar, as scraping the playground on the way down is also no fun (he didn't drop from this position). Also, if you swing too much forward, you'll end up on your back (also, probably with the wind knocked out of you) and/or hitting your head.

I might not recommend going out and seeking your own answers to this experiment, but I'm sure if you have a monkey like I do, he/she is experimenting on their own and figuring it out (physics). Now you might be able to explain why a straight drop is recommended and not to let go during a swinging motion.

P.S. My biggest fear is that J returns to the ledge after hanging and lets go with his center of mass still not all the way on the ledge, falling head first off of the playground equipment. So, yes, I encourage straight drops. Practice makes perfect (or at least a little more relaxed mommy).

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Silly Putty Proportions

This silly putty recipe made a gigantic amount of silly putty and took 2 adults a good 30 minutes to knead (with a little help from J).  Ultimately, it split up into quite a few different little hands (who weren't around to help knead it).

This large silly putty blob was made from 2 cups white Elmer's glue and 1 cup liquid starch (StaFlo) (J was in charge of the food color, so I'm not sure how much actually made it in the batch):

Massive amount of silly putty

I wanted to experiment since that's what scientists do best (and I wasn't 100% satisfied with try # 1).  I wanted to get the optimal proportion for each kid at the preschool I'm visiting on Friday (mainly to be organized) and make sure the experiment could be replicated and the questions I ask will be able to be answered.

So, I varied the glue/starch ratio to see what happens.  I started with 1:1 since I found a site that said it works that way.  FALSE.  It was just a gooey mess, so I added more glue to get it 1.5:1 (white).  I kept the other at 2:1 (blue).

The white putty had 3/16 of a cup (1/8+ half of 1/8) of glue and 1/8 cup of liquid starch.  The blue had one drop of blue food coloring, 1/4 cup white glue, and 1/8 cup liquid starch.  Both fit nicely into zipped sandwich baggies.

My opinion of the two:

I'll stick with the 2 parts glue to 1 part liquid starch (the original recipe).  Mixing it in a smaller batch allowed less kneading and it absorbed the liquid starch much better than a bigger batch.  Thus, it's not as gooey or stretchy as the previous batch.  It actually feels more like silly putty.

The 1.5 part glue to 1 part liquid starch made the putty come out almost the texture of egg whites (and I'm guessing having it white color didn't help me with that association).

Anyways, I'm excited to be bringing science to the kids tomorrow.

Main points to Friday's lesson:
*Intro to chemistry - you have two (or more) different parts, and when you mix them together, you create something new.
*Intro to material science - some materials behave differently when pulled at different rates (under different loading conditions, ie. soft gentle pull versus a fast tug).
*Have messy fun.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Baby Sunflower

Remember my post about our first sunflower blooming?  Well, some critter snatched it a few weeks ago (see the chewed off stub at the left of the pic).  We found a petal trail to the nearby tree.  I was pretty sad, but our sunflower sprouted a baby sunflower, and our other two sunflowers are taller and almost ready to bloom.  All is well in the world.

We also just got back from an adventure to the NW.  We drove along I-505 to get up North and enjoyed seeing the fields and fields of sunflowers.  I wouldn't recommend going out of your way for it, but it was nice scenery since we were going on it anyways.  Much of CA along/near I-5 is a drag, and sunflowers make me happy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Wrong holiday, but I'll take it!

J went to tour AT&T Park (where the Giants play) for the 4th of July.  Before going, J states that he needed to find his Pi shirt for the holiday.  I love this kid.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Make at home silly putty and no-cook playdough

I'm preparing for a fun visit to a local preschool.  I was given the theme "Silly Lab" and free to do whatever came to mind.  Immediately, I got a vision of little kids with gunk and goo.  Sorry in advance, parents.

For J's 2nd birthday, we did a very non-toxic cornstarch based goo, and it was a hit, but it was VERY messy.  I told the director that I'd try some homemade silly putty recipe this weekend and report back.

So here's the recipe for homemade silly putty that I went with.  I actually found one with measurements, so I went with that: 2 cups Elmer's White Glue, 1 cup StaFlo (according to all sources it has to be the exact brands) + food coloring.

Combine ingredients into a plastic zip baggie.  If you use 2 cups of glue + 1 cup StaFlo, use a quart size bag, as the sandwich bag was too small.  I recommend 1 4oz bottle of glue + 1/4 cup StaFlo for something a little smaller (or even half that!).


We're not that patient

Liquid Starch

Food coloring

Kneed, press, shake the bag.  After a while, solids form.  This is where you should start to get your hands dirty.  We kneaded the mixture inside of the bag some more before pulling it out.  We started stretching, folding, and kneading some more for about 15-30 minutes.

Mixing it together
Kneading it

Stretching it

fun texture


Is this what pulling taffy is like?

This has to be my fave pic of the day

This made a giant amount of "silly putty"**.

I left it out all day to dry (on top of gallon plastic baggies since the putty picks up every piece of dirt/crumb), kneading it intermittently between my other Saturday duties/obligations.  While we were meeting our new neighbors, I was kneading the mixture.  The new neighbor's 3 and 5 yr old girls thought the putty was great!  While I continued kneading, J and our two new friends divided half of my putty and started playing.  They all seemed intrigued by the stringiness of the putty (all over the freshly cleaned carpets, I'm sorry :-( ).

What's left after we shared with the neighbors - still drying

**I'm disappointed that this is called "silly putty" hence the " " 's.  It's a very similar texture to Nickelodeon Gak back in the day (yes, I dated myself) - it even makes the farting noise.  I didn't point this out to my 3 year old boy yet.  It's still great and has a lot of similar properties to silly putty (viscoelasticity).  See below lesson for how to demonstrate this property to kids (if they don't figure it out on their own).  After drying overnight (and getting a dry film on top that we removed since we didn't wake up every hour or two to knead it like we were doing during the day), it felt more like real silly putty, and it bounced a little, but not super high bounces.

Safety warning: though Elmer's is non-toxic, liquid starch, such as StaFlo, probably shouldn't be consumed.  I don't see warning labels, but it has lots of chemicals.  It's used to starch clothing, not for eating.

Side notes: stores are getting in back-to-school mode and you can get bottles of Elmer's glue for super cheap.  4oz bottles (1/2 cup glue) were $0.50, and I'm sure that's not the best deal out there.  I was worried about where to find StaFlo.  I searched online.  Amazon does have it, but so does Walmart.com.  However, the store locator for the item was not available.  I decided to start my search for liquid starch at Walmart and succeeded (under $3 for a gallon in the laundry section).

We also did a simple homemade playdough recipe when the blog was a baby.  It was cooked, which makes it hard for kids to do themselves.  I found another no-cook playdough recipe on Cooks.com to try today.  I substituted cream of tartar for alum (there was a comment that said in England they use c of tartar as a preservative, similar to alum - and I've seen it on other playdough recipes, so I did it too instead of buying alum).  It's super salty (I didn't even use the full amount of salt) and gritty, but it'll work for this lesson.

No cook playdough

Lessons to learn for this messy, silly lab:

Mixing different ingredients
Different chemical properties (viscoelastic, plastic)
Making a mess

Physical Science:
How do different materials react to different stresses?

Things to do to demonstrate:

*Slowing stretch or let the putty hang.  What happens?
*What happens when you pull the putty apart quickly?
*Squish the putty into something (like a cup).  Does it make any sounds?
*Which material keeps its shape when you squish it?
*What happens if you let the putty sit for a few minutes?
*Can the putty bounce?  Can the playdough bounce?

J's quote: "It's like icky sticky bubble gum!" when referring to his first experience with the silly putty.

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Friday, July 6, 2012

Lego Race Cars in the Park

Welcome to Nerdy Science Saturdays!

Look!  We're official, with a banner :-)
We spent Saturday morning building Lego race cars in the park.  We then sent them down some fiber boards (think heavy, smooth cardboard) we got cut in half at Home Depot.  I set the ramps at different heights and added a board to the landing strip of the last ramp.  The kids were able to experiment with how the cars reacted with different heights and different landing surfaces (we also had a ramp in the wood chips close by).

The kids sent their cars down the ramps.  The highest ramp with the board landing strip yielded the fastest car!

The kids figured it out all by themselves.  It's so fun to see them experiment.

The kids also added more/less Legos for weight to see how it affects the car's drive.  We also had some washers for weights too.  They were taped to the cars or enclosed using other Lego pieces.

We even got a drag racer.

We had a few tree cars too:

Friends hard at work with their creations:

The house car.

The test drive: it drove fairly well.

The Pepsi Refresh Grant is officially over.  However, I bought enough infrastructure items to keep Science Saturdays in the Park going about once a month for the rest of the year.  This month, we're most likely doing the last Saturday in July and making marble roller coasters.  To keep informed of Science Saturdays, please email me using the link over there <<, and I'll put you on the email list to tell you where we'll be and what we'll be doing.  We hope you can join us!

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