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.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Baking soda and vinegar volcanoes via a 5 year old

A few weeks ago, J woke me up from a much needed nap telling me that he wanted to do science. I asked what he wanted to do, and he really wanted to do balloon science, particularly baking soda and vinegar blows up a balloon. Frankly, I wanted to do something else (because though fun, it is a quick experiment that we've done more than once), but we kept the baking soda and vinegar part of the science he wanted to do. I asked him if he wanted to do volcanoes. He gave us an enthusiastic, "YES!"

Being lazy and having a new baby (who at the time was content), I didn't want to spend time looking up the experiment online. We decided to experiment on our own on how much baking soda vs. how much vinegar and the size of the container we were using for the experiment.

Mountainous material for the volcano:
I admit again that I am lazy. J had been given a lot of Play-Doh for a birthday last year, so I'd figure we'd use some up by covering the paper cup in different shades of Play-Doh. I don't want to be crafty at this point in my life, but here is a homemade playdough recipe if you'd like (painted paper mache volcano might be better if you have time to plan ahead and want it to look cool). The Play-Doh got soggy, but held up. We tossed it after we were done though we were thinking of saving it before we started, which is why we only put a small amount of orange and red on our volcano. We remained lazy and just used the Play-Doh container, without any decoration, to test a smaller container. J enjoyed it just as much as the decorated volcano since the "wow" factor is in the interaction between the baking soda and vinegar.

Place volcano in a pan with high sides, or you'll have quite a mess to clean up afterwards.

Amount of baking soda:
We used 1 tablespoon (tbsp) of baking soda as a starting point. We also used 2 tbsp, but 1 was enough to give multiple eruptions with our amount of vinegar, see note below on limiting reagents. We placed the baking soda in the cup first.

Note: We started with about 1/2 of a box of leftover old baking soda from the last time we switched it in the fridge, so there was plenty to experiment with.

Amount of vinegar:
We had a little under 1/2 gallon of vinegar to experiment with though we initially weren't planning to use it all. An adult poured it into a small 8 oz cup for J to handle. You definitely don't need a 1/2 gallon of vinegar, but we buy it by the gallon because it's cheaper and we can use it in impromptu experiments.

Size of container:
It turns out that if you have limited resources (ie. minimal amounts of mountainous materials, baking soda, or vinegar), go with a smaller container. If not, the bigger container works just fine.

Let your little one lead. We let J measure the baking soda and gave him the vinegar in a kid size cup. He knew what to do from other baking soda/vinegar experiments. I thought the reaction was over after the first pass of vinegar. J's curiosity lead to the discovery that 1 tbsp of baking soda can lead to multiple "eruptions" (reactions).

With 1 tbsp of baking soda, the unmeasured vinegar (under 8 oz) poured in spurts seemed to be the limiting reagent. We poured more vinegar, and the reaction kept going. This is an advance concept for preschoolers, but you can definitely point it out and see if they follow.

After experiment free play:
I'm big on letting my 5 year old continue to play once the experiment is over. This experiment resulted in a sensory bin since there was a big glup of baking soda in basically water. However, when he transferred his pile of baking soda from one part of the tray too another, he got a sizzle. There was still a reaction left!

And apologies for the shaking camera. I was helping J with the experiment, and John was juggling the camera and this cute nugget:

She liked the volcanoes too. Well, at least she didn't fuss.

Have you experimented with baking soda and vinegar volcanoes? How did you model the volcano?

Thursday, May 29, 2014

What scientific things catch my infant's interest?

*Pictures (perception, depth, light, colors)
*Looking through a window (perception, depth, light, colors)
*The baby in the mirror above her swing (reflections)

It's amazing how quickly babies grow and develop. According to my "What is your baby doing this week?" email, at 7 weeks, she should be seeing more colors and in 3D. We've definitely noticed her focusing on objects at a distance. She definitely enjoys contrast. Blinds are some of her favorite things to stare at, and if I raise the blinds, she gets so excited to look out the window and explore the world with her new, sweet eyes. The best thing we can do is safely facilitate her curious interests (ie. don't let her stare into the sun b/c she likes light) and discuss what she sees.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

How early is too early to start science?

Miss Baby J is now 6 weeks old. Time is flying by, when it's not 2 am.

We're starting to get into a routine now that our special helpers/visitors have all gone home, which means that it's just me and Miss Baby J during the day (when J's at preschool). Research tells us that we should talk to our babies starting as young as possible, but what should we talk about? Science!

She is calmer when she hears my voice, so I do love talking to her. Here are some things that I've talked about with Miss Baby J:
  • Kiss a body part and talk about the body part (anatomy) - my personal favorite.
  • Count fingers, toes, and other body parts (math).
  • Colors (physics).
  • The weather (physics/thermodynamics).
  • Sing songs, clap rhythms (music).
  • Identify noises we hear (physics/fluid dynamics).
  • How anything we come across that catches her attention works (various science categories).
  • Facts about different animals while pointing out the animal in J's and her stuffed animals (biology).
  • Trees and other plants (biology).
What do you discuss with your infant?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Do plants grow without leaves?

We recently had a rodent eat all of the leaves off of our cucumber plants:

My husband had high hopes that they would recover. I, on the other hand, was not so optimistic and asked that we buy some more and replant. (my hypotheses: the plants wouldn't survive)

We replanted, but we left the chewed plants for an experiment to see what would happen. We also had a cherry tomato plant that had its leaves only partially eaten. We let that one be without replanting.

The result?

A month later both chewed cucumber plants were completely dead.


Leaves play an essential role in the process of photosynthesis - the process plants use to convert sunlight into energy. I like to think of leaves as mini solar panels, using sunlight to make energy. Without leaves the plant has very little to create the energy needed for the plants to grow bigger.

What about the half-chewed tomato plant?

The tomato plant was only partially eaten by the rodent, meaning that the rodent left some parts of the leaves. The plant has recovered and is flourishing.

What experiment can you do at home?

You don't need a garden or bigger/expensive plants. Beans grow relatively fast from seeds. Plant 3 different beans in jars/cups. When they are big enough to have leaves, break all the leaves completely off of one, break the leaves half way off in one, and leave one to grow normally. Compare how they grow after that.

Personal lessons learned:

We made a crop cage for our garden before planting the new bunch of cucumbers. The new plants have not been targeted. We might blog about the crop cage in the future, but it needs a few tweaks first.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New to the Nerdy Family

We welcomed Miss Baby J two weeks ago. She is a very sweet little girl. J is enjoying his new baby sister and has self-imposed big brother duties of reading to her (he taught himself how to read over the last few months to prepare for this role) and picking out what outfits to wear.

I'm hoping to return to the blogging world in the next week or two. I hope you are having an amazing April.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Dancing Raisins - a Magic School Bus Experiment

This Dancing Raisins experiment came from our Magic School Bus Science Club kit on solids, liquids, and gases. It involves raisins, tap water, and soda water. Concepts to discuss are density (what sinks, what floats), forces, and buoyancy.

We started out placing raisins in tap water. They did nothing. Note that I left the sound on this video. J wanted to take over and conduct his own sink/float experiment.

We didn't have soda water, but the kit came with an alkaseltzer tablet. We tried it. It was supposed to be for another experiment in the packet that we ended up observing/conducting on our own. It wasn't the best. The raisins bounced up and down a few times, but mainly it smelled as the gases were released from the tablet. J really didn't like the smell. Yay, science.

We put the experiment on hold while we walked down the street for dinner. The restaurant happened to have soda water available, so we took a cup of it home. We weren't 100% sure the carbonation would survive the 10 minute walk, but we repeated the experiment using soda water. It worked! This is what happened, note I left sound on for J's commentary:

So what happens is the gases in the soda water get stuck in the crevices of the raisins and give the raisins enough air (forces/buoyancy) to float to the top of the water. Once at the top, some bubbles pop and go into the air, and the raisin sinks back down to the bottom. Pretty neat, huh?

I paid for the Magic School Bus Science Club Kits and have no affiliation with them.

I'm taking a brief break from the blog to focus on my family. I'm sure we'll have tons of scientific discussions. I'll try to post some insights to our Facebook Page or Twitter as they come and catch up on the blog once I come up for air.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Garden Disaster

I guess this is our punishment for 80 degree weather in March. Something ate all of our cucumber leaves!!

This makes us all sad (J was on the verge of tears upon discovering this scene today). We'll wait a few days and see what the plants will do. I'm thinking we'd have to invest in new cucumber plants (it is early in the season)...or maybe steer clear of cucumbers this year. It was a hot item for creek rodents last year (I never saw what was eating our plants, but I have seen raccoon and squirrels in the neighborhood). We didn't need to net the plants this early before. The problem with netting/covers is that it doesn't allow for J to freely pick his produce. The netting was more annoying than anything else. The rodents chewed through it, and the cucumber plants grew through it.

I just bought a decoy owl and some Deer Off spray that should arrive by Thursday. We might have to still devise some sort of cage/cover. Sigh.

Any tips for garden disaster recovery?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gardening 2014

After a month of much needed rain (and we still need more to not see sky-high produce costs this summer), we've been blessed with sunshine and weather in the 70s - perfect gardening weather. Being almost 9 months pregnant, I debated planting a garden this year. It's hard to get up and down from the hard ground at this point and keeping another living thing alive during the summer might be overwhelming with a newborn. However, the motivating factors won: fresh homegrown produce that tastes better than what you can buy from the store and J's excitement for eating said produce. Plus, it wasn't going to be as big of an investment this year since we had made big planter purchases over the last two years.

Tackling concern #1, getting the garden started at almost 9 mo pregnant:

J is almost 5. He's become quite the helper and was super eager to help us with all steps off setting up the garden. This was probably our most successful garden shopping experience yet with him. He wanted to buy almost every sprout at the gardening store (because of our limited window space, we start most of our garden with store bought sprouts). We settled on lemon cucumbers, regular cucumbers, and cherry tomato plants, and we are germinating bell peppers and green beans. 

Here's J helping us plant the tomato plant:

He then staked the tomato plant since tomato plants like to have support to aid their growth.

Then he helped water all of the plants.

Our strawberries survived another winter and already have buds! This surprised us because we're in the middle of the worst drought in CA record keeping (and we basically ignored them all winter). This is 3 years in a row for our strawberry plants - definitely a great investment for us. I still love our strawberry planter (affiliate link).

We're trying cucumbers again this year. They were really successful last year, maybe even too successful because we saw how many cucumbers were growing, but they would disappear before we'd get to pick them (it was a hot summer last year and they are mainly water - the neighborhood critters got to them before we could). Going into gardening cucumbers last year, we didn't know/realize that they were a climbing plant, so this year, we spread them out a little more and gave them a cage to grow on. I hope keeping them off the ground will keep some of the critters away. We'll probably end up netting them again.

We just planted the green beans and bell pepper seeds. They are currently in terra cotta pots in our window sill. I'm hoping they'll sprout in time to get them in planters before the baby comes. If not, it'll be shortly thereafter.

As for concern #2, keeping other living things alive:

I think I can manage a garden, especially since I'm on maternity leave for a few months. The garden is right outside our apartment. If we had invested in a community garden plot, motivation to get out and about would be harder to find.

We're focusing on planting things that can be harvested all summer long. I love seeing J pull off green beans and strawberries, wash them with the garden hose, and pop them in his mouth. We haven't had good luck with our larger tomato plants, but we've done alright with cherry tomatoes in the ground in the past. I'm hoping we can do alright with this year's cherry tomatoes in a pot to give J the satisfaction of eating them all summer long.

If you have any tips to get the most from our plants, I'd love to hear them. How do you deal with critters? Ours are mammalian (raccoon and squirrels). How often do you replenish your soil? Do you use any plant food? Do your kids eat more veggies when they help in the growing process?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Pi Day 2014 - Family Pic and Pi Treat

I hope you had a fun Pi Day 2014!

We celebrated with Pi Cake! One of the great things about being a nerd is people give you nerdy things for occasions like these. Last Pi Day, we received a pi cake pan from one of my good friends. We made decorating it a family affair:


J writing on the fondant

The finished Pi Day Cake 2014!

To continue with tradition, we took our annual Pi Day Family photo:

Related Posts:

Investigating Pi for Preschoolers

Happy Pi Day to you!! Today, I'm participating in my first ever Blog Hop. Some math loving mommy bloggers and I have all written posts about Pi and/or Pi Day! Please, check the links at the bottom of the post for more fun things to do on Pi Day. Thanks for stopping by Nerdy Science's feature, Investigating Pi for Preschoolers:

While making our Pi Day Posters, we decided it would be a good time to investigate Pi: the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter.

We traced a circular bowl on the paper:

Then we measured the diameter of the circle, three different times, using yarn. What is the diameter of a circle? It's a line that cuts the circle in half, which you can do many (well, infinite) ways. We chose to be satisfied with measuring the diameter three ways. We cut the length of the diameter out of string/yarn:

We compared the length of the strings to see if the diameters were the same:

The diameters are about the same length (we live in an imperfect world and yarn is stretchy and was probably cut at different tensions - and the circle was traced by a four year old).

We then thought it would be easiest to tape the yarn to the outside of the bowl that was traced, along its circumference. We asked J if one piece of yarn, that we had cut to the length of the diameter, would fit all the way around the bowl. His hypothesis: "No!"

He was correct (the string is hard to see in the picture, so we marked the beginning and end with markers, the string is going from purple to red):

Then we asked about 2 pieces of yarn we had cut to the length of the diameter. He wasn't as certain, but he answered "No," again. He was correct, again (the string is going from red to purple, sorry for the inconsistency):

It took all three strings to make it around the bowl (the yarn we used was pretty stretchy and the actual circumference of the bowl was a tad bit smaller than what we had traced).

So how many strings, measured to the length of the circle's diameter, did it take to go around the bowl? About 3! This is approximating Pi! The actual ratio of circumference to diameter length is an irrational number that goes on forever and ever. It starts out 3.14159 and keeps going. For our 4 year old, seeing that Pi is about 3 made this activity a success!

This ratio, Pi, is used to calculate many things like angles and circular motion, but it takes a lot of math to get into that fun stuff. The most common uses of Pi are found in geometry, like finding the: circumference of a circle = Pi*diameter; area of a circle = Pi*(diameter/2)^2, and the volume of a sphere = 4/3*Pi*(diameter/2)^3.

As for our Pi treat and holiday photo, tune in tomorrow to see our creation and annual family Pi Day Photo.

Blog Hop Time! Check out what these fantastic educators are doing about Pi and Pi Day!

We Love Math blog hop is hosted by 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Pi Day Posters

Let me tell you how excited I am about March 2014. Basically, it's Pi MONTH! 3.14, get it? Why wait till March 14 (also 3.14, in the US, at least) to celebrate? I decided we should get into the nerdy spirit a little early and start decorating.

Pi is the ratio of the circumference of the circle to its diameter. I thought we can have art with circles and numbers to hang above our couch for Pi Day.

Here's what we did:

I convinced J to help me lay out some circular items we had around the house (it helps that I have a lid collection for unknown special occasions). We used bowls, lids, bottle caps, and a tape roll and arranged them on some craft paper. Then we traced each circular item. J was really excited to trace the double circles of the tape.

J is almost 5. He's getting really good at writing his letters and numbers, so I let him write Happy Pi Day and as many numbers of Pi that he had the patience to write. He added a heart (though it looks like a pie with a slice taken out) and "I Love You Pi."

Friday is the official annual Pi Day (March 14 or 3.14...). I will be participating in my first Blog Hop, where a group of bloggers write their own posts about a particular topics and link to other blogs writing about the same topic. Friday's topic: Pi Day!! Make sure to come back for a geometry lesson on circles!

Happy Pi Month to you!

Related Post:

Sunday, March 2, 2014


We've had a rough week. Last Thursday, J decided to grab the inside of a restroom door as it was being shut, breaking the tip of his finger and turning his finger nail completely black almost immediately. The doctors say it should be back to normal in the next four weeks. Though it's sad to see my child in pain, this incidence got me thinking about how much I love learning about the body and how it continues to motivate me in my current research.

The human body amazes me! And, guess what? We're still learning about us! Research is awesome.

Do you know how many bones are in our body? 206, at least for adults. Babies are born with more, but they end up getting fused/grow together as they age. One of the reasons babies have more bones is to make them more squishable to help with the birthing process.

Did you know that astronauts lose bone when they are in space? The same goes for people who are bed-ridden for lengthy amounts of time. Bone is this amazing material that responds to load/weight/forces that you apply to it. If you don't use it, you lose it! Fun studies have shown that the opposite is also true. Tennis players tend to have thicker forearm bones in their dominant arm when compared to the other arm.

More research: One of my favorite grad school classes, Orthopaedic Bioengineering, was taught by Dr. Dennis Carter. He co-authored Skeletal Function and Form: Mechanobiology of Skeletal Development, Aging, and Regeneration (affiliate link) with Dr. Gary Beaupre. Both gentlemen have spent their research careers studying the formation and redevelopment of bones and other structural materials in our bodies and have shared the information they've learned with us through this book.

Since we've been preoccupied with J's finger and getting ready for Baby Sister (who will be here in six short weeks), I thought it would be a good time to do the Magic School Bus kit on the Body and Bones, but we've already done the age appropriate experiments in some form or another. Here's a flashback to some of the fun with the human body we've had:

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Mathematical Dice Games

J spent a day sick at home last week. It was a minor illness, so he was very antsy about being inside all day. He pulled out his dice to pass the time. J's great aunt had given him the Tenzi Game (affiliate link) over the summer. We haven't played it the way it's supposed to be played (getting all 10 dice to show the same number, which sounds like some super Yahtzee game), but we now have 40 dice to play with however we want. This is heaven for this math mama! Let me tell you some fun math games we've played with them and how we plan to continue to grow and develop mathematically with the dice.

We started out with each person having their own color of dice, so we can easily distinguish who rolled what.

The Bigger Number Wins!

J actually came up with this game on his own. We started out with one dice (aka. die) each. We rolled the dice, and J first counted the dots on each die and told me which die had the most dots. As we played more, I encouraged J to make his decisions quicker, without counting.

This game is great for older toddlers (who won't shove dice in orifices that they shouldn't be in) and preschoolers to understand the concept of greater than/less than.

Addition: The Bigger Number Wins!

The next game included two dice each. Again, having different color dice is wonderful for determining what numbers belong to each person.

We rolled the dice, and J added up the dots on everyone's rolls. Whoever rolled the biggest number wins! J also ranked who came in second, third, and last. We also increased the frequency of rolls and decreased the amount of time between each roll as we progressed. This challenged our 4.5 year old to make quicker decisions and encouraged more mental math rather than counting dots. In our picture example, the yellow dice wins with 11, green comes in second with 10, white is third with 9, and blue is last with 7.

For older kids: This game can be adapted to use more dice for a greater challenge.

Subtraction: The Smaller Number Wins!

We haven't played this game yet. I imagine it going something like this:

Each player gets two dice of the same color. Everyone rolls their dice and each person's smallest number rolled is subtracted from the larger number rolled. Whoever gets the smallest number wins! In our picture example above, we have a tie for first: yellow and blue both have 1. Green comes in next with 2, and white loses with 3.

For older kids: This can also be a two player game with two dice of different colors each. Pick a color to always subtract from the other color. Note that this might give you negative numbers! The smallest number still wins.

More Math Fun with Dice!

During his childhood, my husband was given a dice game by his grandpa (he has no idea of what it is called). After his old game broke, John went on to design one for himself on his 3-D printer and uploaded it to Thingiverse (to share with other nerdy people). The goal of the game is to use mathematical operations (you know, please excuse my dear Aunt Sally's loud radio - the mathematical order on how you're supposed to solve complex problems parentheses, exponents, multiplication, division, addition, and subtraction from left to right) on the 5 white dice in order to get the result of the two black dice added together (so on the picture above: how would 2, 3, 3, 3, 6 make 42?). If you want more details on the game or want to print one of your own, visit the Dice Game Thingiverse page. This game is also great for older kids.

Do you have any fun math games you play with dice?

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Scientific observations of different balloons

I promised J some science after naptime. I decided to nap too instead of prepare a science lesson. He awoke pretty excited, so I asked him what kind of science he wanted to do. Since he was close to our stored, small helium tank while waking me up, he pulled that out. Not wanting to repeat the hover balloon lesson, I had to think of something else with balloons on the fly (which is harder to do in a sleepy stupor and with preggo brain). It's also been bothering me from the scientific standpoint that a post is going around Pinterest saying that our baking soda + vinegar reaction blowing up a balloon is a good alternative to helium.

I decided that we should play with the weight of the balloons and that this could be a good lesson for J in making hypotheses (educated guesses about what he thinks will happen when conducting the experiment).

*To determine what three different balloons will do: sink or float. The three balloons would be filled with 1. air (blown up with our mouths); 2. helium; 3. carbon dioxide (CO2) which is the gas product of the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar.
*To determine which gas is heavier: air, helium, or carbon dioxide.

J's Hypotheses:
*Hypothesis 1:
     1. Air will sink.
     2. Helium will float.
     3. Carbon dioxide will sink.
*Hypothesis 2:
     1. Air is heavier than carbon dioxide.
     2. Helium is lighter than air.

*Fill 1 balloon with air from your mouth.
*Fill (or obtain) 1 balloon with helium.
*Conduct the baking soda + vinegar reaction (see link above) and tie off the balloon once it's full of carbon dioxide gas.
*Hypothesize about what the balloon will do when dropped: sink or float?
*Drop each balloon and observe what happened.
*Make conclusions on your observations: where your guesses correct?
*Now using what you just learned from your balloon dropping observations, make hypotheses about which balloon is heavier or lighter.
*Weigh the balloons on the scale/balance (like the one we used in our balance game), or create your own balance from office supplies.

*Helium floated.
*Air balloon sank.
*Carbon dioxide balloon sank.

*Air balloon is heavier than helium:

*Carbon dioxide balloon is barely heavier than the air balloon, but it is also smaller.

*The air balloon is slightly heavier than a deflated balloon (but not by much).

*There is a difference in balloon volume between the air and the carbon dioxide. We didn't have a large enough reaction to really blow the balloon up to the same size as the one we blew up with our mouth. Even with a smaller balloon volume, the carbon dioxide balloon is heavier than the balloon we filled up with our air.
*It's also important to note that carbon dioxide is a product of what we exhale when we breathe (or blow up a balloon). However, there are a lot of other gases mixed in with the carbon dioxide.
*We couldn't figure out a good way to measure the weight of the helium, so we tied it to the scale, which immediately raised the scale on the side of the helium balloon, but helium is lighter than air.

Some other fun we had:
*We played, what can we tie the helium balloon to in order to keep it from floating to the ceiling.
     - We ended up using a Cootie Bug.

After the experiment, J thought it would be fun to launch balloons with our balance/scale.
     - I always recommend well-supervised free play time after experiments.
     - Kids are awesome at finding fun new ways to explore their world.
     - Don't forget to explain what's happening as they make new discoveries.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Guessing Game - Practicing Descriptive Words

Lately, J has been playing this game where he pulls out everything he owns and hides it behind his back. He then makes us guess what it is by his clues. Luckily, his clues have gotten better as the game has progressed.

This is a great game for beginning to use descriptive words, which are useful in the scientific world. 

These words can describe:
  • what the object looks like.
    • Is it big, small, colorful, etc.?
  • the shape of the object.
    • Is it round, oval, square, rectangular, etc.?
  • what the object feels like.
    • Is it smooth, slimy, bumpy, etc.?
  • what the object is used for.
    • Is it used for cooking, cleaning, fun, a specific purpose?
  • what letter the object begins with.
  • what sounds the object makes.
  • if it can be used more than once.

My favorite clues J has come up with:
  • It is used to hit a baseball. (Baseball Bat)
  • I wear this on my head to protect my eyes from the sun. (Baseball cap)
  • It begins with an M and is used to make cold food warm. (cardboard microwave - this one threw gma off during a Skype guessing game session)

One that threw us off:

  • He said there was something behind his back.
  • He was not holding it.
  • It's blue.

Yay for static electricity!

Seriously, this game has killed much time in our household. It's usually an impromptu game due to boredom, but we love to play it on Skype with his grandparents. It's fun to see him improve on his descriptions too.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy 3rd Blogiversary to Nerdy Science!

It's always fun to do an annual reflection on how things are going with this blog and my goals. Thanks for joining me on our science adventures.

My goals have always been to do simple, easy science at home and making science part of everyday life/conversation.

My goals from last year and how I met them:

- I want to be still blogging weekly about the wonderful scientific world around us. 
**Blogging weekly has been a challenge this year. We're having a new nerdy addition joining our family in April, and though I've been blessed with no morning sickness, pregnancy is no walk in the park. We talk about math and science all of the time in our house. Translating interesting and thoughtful lessons to the blog became the bottleneck.

- I want to continue Science Saturdays in the Park, hopefully starting back in February or March. 
**Science Saturdays have been a real gem in my life. I have so much fun sharing science and conversing with families who have similar passions. We had one per month from March - October (except May), with many new lessons including: Squishy Circuits, Magnet Detectives, and Ice Cream in a Bag to name a few. Every time we pass a park where we've had a lesson, J states that's a park for science and which science we've done there.

- As J grows, I want to establish worksheets, puzzles, and games that keep his mind active and help him learn new science and math concepts. These would be shared with my blog followers. 
**I have not been able to much progress on this goal. I did make a worksheet for the M&M math for preschoolers.

- I want to learn how to draw to help with the worksheets and activities listed above. 
**I still suck at drawing anything.

- I hope to have a website to go along with this blog. 
**Ya, this goal was supposed to be completed by June 2012. I have all of these ideas of what I want it to look like, how I'd like it to function, and the features I'd like it to have. Unfortunately, the little html knowledge I have will not translate into a website that I can be proud of. I will maintain the domain name with hopes of one day having a website.

- I hope to have time to join the bigger community of Mommy Bloggers. There's so much we can learn from each other.
**Thanks to suggestions from my friend MaryAnne of Mamasmiles, I joined the Kid Blogger Network and have connected with many other parent bloggers.

2013 highlights

For 2014, my goals are:
  • Give birth to a healthy baby girl.
  • Show Miss Baby J the world through science, hoping to add on to my baby science tag.
    • I secretly hope J gets in on the lesson creations for Miss Baby J. I just love how his mind works! And right now, there is nothing sweeter than him reading to the baby and explaining the pictures and what big words mean.
  • To continue bringing simple, fun science to young children through Science Saturdays and community outreach programs.
  • Develop some fun supplemental science and math worksheets.
  • Blog more about science that does not need set-up/clean-up time: how science in our everyday life and how to think like a scientist.
  • Continue to develop and grow the relationships that are formed by networking.

Related Posts, Previous Year's Reflections:

Monday, January 20, 2014

Order Numbers and Math

It's no secret that we love In N Out in our family. For those of you who are unfamiliar with this West Coast chain, it's probably the freshest fast food you can get, and it's often very crowded. You order at the counter, and they call your number when your food is ready. J's favorite thing has been to ask, "How many more till our number is called?"

You can do this quick and easy game to pass time at any restaurant where they shout out sequential numbers. At In N Out, the numbers go from 1-99.

John and I don't like to answer, but we turn the tables on J (age 4.5) and make him figure it out. It's hard for a four year old to mentally subtract the smaller number (what was called) from the bigger number (what we have), for example: they called 33 and we were 40; 40-33 = 7, and so we had 7 orders till ours. Instead, we've taught him to count up using his fingers starting with the next number, as in our example above: 33 was called and we want to get to 40, so he finger counts starting with 34 as 1 on his hand, 35 is 2, and so on. He'd stop at 40, which would be 7 fingers he placed up. He's starting to catch on that 30 is 10 away from 40, and he can do the 2-3 numbers away in his head. He loves having the right answer, and it excites me when he's excited about learning (especially math).

However, we only can have the math game when he wants it or else we get, "Mommy, [deep sigh] I don't want to do math right now."

**We've been heavy on the math recently mainly because it requires little-to-no prep work and mess for this pregnant mama. Math and science go hand-in-hand. I encourage you to make both math and science everyday topics of discussions in your household.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Why I Love My Cheap Microwave

It's big, it's blue, and it's bulky. It doesn't match anything in our kitchen, but I've grown to love our cheap microwave. It has been a topic of many conversations and a great math tool! Yes, this is a post about our microwave; please keep reading.

I started college in the fall of 2001 (dated myself). My roommate and I worked out that I'd buy the microwave if she brings the mini fridge. This microwave was in no way unique! In fact, they were all over the place and came in many different colors to suit many different personalities (not to mention, they were the cheapest microwaves out there). When we "temporarily" moved to the Bay Area almost 9 years ago, it came along and just never got replaced because it works just fine. Nowadays, people who never saw these microwaves ask if they were an Apple product of the same general time frame (honestly, I can't blame them for that assumption).

I've recently grown fond of this fine product thanks to the little 4 year old hands that always want to help. The microwave is within his reach, and he'll jump on any task that involves using the microwave.

I'll let you in on my secret on why I love this microwave; we just don't push numbers 0-9 on the key pad and press start. We are given limited options to choose from: 10 minutes, 1 minute, and 15 seconds.

This means J has to think about what to push when I ask him to microwave something for 30 seconds. He quickly learned that 30 is 15 twice and 45 is 15 three times. If I ask him to microwave something for 10 seconds, he watches the microwave and stops it when it says 5 seconds are left. Math is very much a part of our everyday life.

Because of his young age, J's not quite grasping that time (seconds and minutes) are in base 60. We are beginning conversations that 1 minute does not equal 100 seconds and 1 hour does not equal 100 minutes. This microwave will be a useful tool for these conversations too.


Can you microwave something for 90 seconds given the buttons on our microwave? What would you push? 
(note the 15 seconds only goes to 45 then it goes to 00 without making 1 minute)
  • You could do it in two 45 second waves: 45 + 45 = 90
  • The better choice, assuming the recipe doesn't need 2 - 45 second waves: how many seconds are in 1 minute? 60 (remember the microwave doesn't do 60 seconds but has a 1 minute button). How many seconds remain after you microwave for a minute (which we just established is 60 seconds)? 90-60 = 30. So, the answer is: When microwaving something for 90 seconds, you'd want to set the microwave to 1 minute and 30 seconds by pushing 1 minute and two 15 seconds on our microwave buttons.

What's your favorite nerdy kitchen tool?

*Note, I did prep for this lesson by cleaning out the microwave, a task that I've been putting off for many months. Yay for Nerdy Science and motivation to do my chores.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Streetlight Shadows

I love impromptu science lessons. Today's experience came from J's observations on Grandpa's shadow cast by the streetlights as we were walking to their favorite frozen yogurt store at night. Unfortunately, I didn't have my camera with me to capture the original excitement, so I tried to recreate at home under our streetlight.

We were walking down a well-lighted pathway at night, behind Grandpa. We were originally stepping on Grandpa's shadow, but as we walked, Grandpa's shadow jumped ahead of him. What caused this?

As Grandpa (modeled by J) was approaching the light, the shadow was behind him. The further away from the light he was, the longer the shadow was.

As Grandpa reached the light, his shadow became smaller and smaller and was basically straight out from his body, not at an angle.

As Grandpa walked away from the light, his shadow went in front of him and became larger (until the light from the next streetlight took over, not pictured, but imagine the series repeated).

Note: Nighttime shadows are hard to capture on camera since you don't want to use a flash. My camera had a "Handheld Night Scene" mode, which is what I used.

Luckily, the pathway was long enough to continue with our forward progression and explain what was happening to J while in real time. We definitely saw his light bulb moment.

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