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Mad Scientists

You know how family members always ask, What does Johnny want for his next birthday?  Or What is Suzie asking Santa for this year? Well, if your kids are elementary school-aged, I have a gift for you: a present you can give your kids that is just plain awesome.

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 I am not getting paid for this, nor do I have any affiliate links.  I really love this primary science kit (and the measuring kit that goes with it) and want to spread the word because it’s summertime and we’re all in this survival thing together.  If your kid has an inquisitive mind, do yourself a favor and invest in these sets that come with experiments made with household items, like the traditional vinegar and baking soda eruptions that every kid loves.  Because, really, all kid deserve to be mad scientists every once in a while.  Complete with safety goggles.

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In the past, we have taken our experiments to the next level by writing down or hypotheses and observations in our handy dandy journals, but, hey it’s summer!  We do experiments in our pajamas and to hell with the scientific method.  We keep it low-key so they hardly know they’re learning.  Everyone wins. IMG_4446

Speaking of learning, even I was surprised by this experiment where you put raisins in a glass with clear soda and watch them float up and down on carbonation bubbles.  It was really cool, even to me! #nerdalert

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So if the summer is stretching before you is a little daunting, invest in some toys that will keep them engaged and using their brains for countless hours to come!  There are worse things than being mad scientists; after all, as Alice in Wonderland says to the Mad Hatter, “You’re entirely bonkers. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”

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Tracking Animals (In Play-Doh)

My kids are so full of questions, I’ve started writing them down so we can remember to answer them all.  With so much snow on the ground, we started talking about deer and where they sleep and how they survive the winter.  Lord knows I have no clue, but Jason (the outdoorsman) went snowshoeing in our backyard and found tons of deer tracks which led to a little deer sanctuary–if only the snow weren’t literally two feet deep, I would love to bring the kids up there so we could explore nature together!  Unfortunately, there seems to be no spring thaw in sight, so I considered an indoor (and less freezing cold) activity that the kids absolutely loved and also kept the science conversations going.

Tracking Animals in Play-DohI pulled out our awesome bucket o’ Shleich animals, which has proven so valuable over the years, until I found a diverse group of animals that we could analyze and compare.  Here’s the all star team.

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Then the kids got to push, roll, and flatten Play-Doh until we had a great surface for leaving footprints.

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One kid closed his/her eyes while the other walked our animals through, which was super interesting to watch!  They were meticulous and tried so hard to get it right.  They LOVED stamping the animal feet in the Play-Doh!  It would be worthwhile just to have that as an option while playing with any sort of clay.  Then the other kid would guess which of the animals made the tracks.  They were allowed to analyze the animals’ feet/hooves/paws to find distinguishing characteristics, which was totally up Jax’s alley.

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Tracking Animals in Play Doh @ Rub Some Dirt On It

This led to some pretty interesting discussions about which animals have hooves, which animals have paws.  Why do they have pads on their feet?  Why are some hooves solid and some cloven?

After a while, we switched up the animals, and Jax, trying to be tricky, threw in a surprise guest to see if Em knew her Rescue Bots as well as she pretends.

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She nailed it.  Better luck next time, Heatwave.

Lastly, they wrote down their findings in their journals.  Basically, they traced the animal feet and I helped label them.  Those journals are worth their weight in gold–they just love any opportunity to write in them, and Jax loves anything scientific that he can record.

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Do Bubbles Freeze? An Experiment

Jax’s love of science experiments continues, and so we pulled out our handy dandy journals and asked ourselves the question,

Freezing Bubbles Experiment @ Rub Some Dirt On It

First we wrote some important data in our journals, such as the outside temperature (11 degrees F) and our hypothesis regarding whether or not the bubbles would freeze, and if so, how long it would take.  Jax thought it would take 10 seconds.  Em thought it would take 5.

When it came to the actual experimenting, the kids stayed inside and watched through the sliding glass door as Mommy braved the freezing weather to determine if bubbles would indeed freeze.  It took several tries because I, being a total wimp, was staying too close to the house and sheltering the bubble with my body.  It wasn’t until I went out into the raw wind that we got the results we were looking for.

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It took about 30 seconds, but when it did happen, I was as excited as the kids.  Watching the icy pattern swirl across the bubble’s surface was really amazing.  And I was surprised and impressed by the solid texture of the bubble when it popped.

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The kids wrote their findings in their journals and talked about the experiment all afternoon.

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Em was impressed with the pattern on the bubble, which of course reminded her of Elsa and Frozen, and therefore she dubbed this experiment her favorite one yet.  Jax liked it, too, but wished it has lasted longer.  Baby H just wondered why I was outside and whether or not the slider was tasty.

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 Conclusion: Not so much.

Since then we have been keeping a list on the refrigerator of things that we wonder as a family.  Jax wonders how the heater works and whether fish sleep.  I wonder how deer survive the winter.  It’s been a nice way to channel all his inquiring-minds-want-to-know energy, and gives me a list of ideas and experiments for the future.  I have my hands full with wonderful fun as they question all the amazing phenomena and how they work in this world of ours!

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Inquiring Minds Want To Know

It doesn’t take a scientist to know that it has been bitterly cold across the country lately, and with subzero temperatures comes lots of indoor play.  When the kids started wondering what the magnets Santa left them would stick to around our house, I knew this was an opportunity to turn a five minute passing fancy into some legit learning.  And so we got our science on.

Experimenting With Magnets @ Rub Some Dirt On It

Is it crazy that I want to invest in dress-up lab coats for my kids for days like this?

This isn’t our first foray into the science world–we’ve been blowing stuff up all winter–and my kids are comfortable with the words hypothesis, observation, and conclusion thanks to Sid the Science Kid and Dinosaur Train (shout out to my babysitter PBS).  All we did was make it feel more formal by writing down what materials we were using in our journals and recording our findings with an X or a happy face depending on the outcome.

Magnet Experiment @ Rub Some Dirt On It

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So the kids wrote down what kind of material we were testing in their journals, which up until now had been used solely for stories and drawing.  We tested the magnets on wood, plastic, paper, and metal.  Jax’s biggest source of disinterest is in writing, and I never thought he would stick through it to write down all those words.  Maybe I have a future scientist on my hands, but he stuck with the experiment long after Em’s interest had waned and she took to just doodling.

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And as we all knew he would, Jax concluded in the end that magnets stick to metal.  He didn’t want to write all that himself, so he passed the baton.  I was happy; I couldn’t believe how seriously he had taken the entire experiment and was proud of all his effort.

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Mommy’s Conclusion:  Maybe science isn’t so bad after all?

So how are you exploring your world this winter?

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One Small Moment

Here is one moment of my life encapsulated.  It’s the small, amazing moments like this that make my heart so glad that they’re mine.

A new notebook and markers.

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I bought these journals at Walmart for less than $3 each, and the kids absolutely loved them.  They spent 45 minutes drawing and coloring, then dictating to me what I should write underneath each picture.  Suddenly, with a special space to write in, their words seemed so much more important to them!  When they grew tired of that, I gave them a pile of stickers and told them to decorate their covers.  Another 45 minutes of creativity!  Worth every penny.

Em’s First Story.

journal writing @ Rub Some Dirt On It

While they worked I fed the baby her dinner and was rewarded with her sweet self and cheerful disposition.  She is getting so curious and loves to point at every new thing (in this case, my camera).  Oh, and she loves food, too.

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Meanwhile, Jax played quietly on the floor with his Cars vehicles.  I thought these might be ready to get packed away, but while we were at the store today we saw a big display of them and Em said, “Jax doesn’t have a little Mater.”  She was right; he has a larger one but not a small one.  She had brought money from her piggy bank to buy a new princess doll (hence the Ode To Ariel above) so I thought I could swing a $3.47 car for Jax.  He spontaneously thanked me about five times over the course of the day and then reinvigorated his love for these cars all evening.

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Quiet, busy moments can be the sweetest.  I love watching them without them realizing it.  It is such a reward when I remember to be present in the moment and not get distracted with my phone or computer.  Being their mom is a gift that I treasure every day, because everyone keeps telling me, they grow up so fast!

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