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boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

What’s round like a top? (but isn’t really)

My boys have been doing a lot of building and experimental building. Read:  coming up with ideas to build and then using only specific materials to build with!

Their building materials of choice? Both LEGO and K’Nex! The materials were selected after they chose what they were going to try to build.

Their creations? Mainly spinning tops! (or spinners and I used to call them)

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

Spinning tops building

Both boys sat down and thought out their basic design (ages 7 and 9). They started trying very hard to create round objects that would spin, but discovered in their testing phase that square objects look round when spun. This opened a variety of ways to build their spinning tops!

When using LEGOs, the boys tended at first to grab the more round pieces, but as they tested more and more of their creations, they started to shift towards the square pieces as they seemed more stable when they spun.

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

Spinning tops testing = discoveries

Also through their testing of their tops, they discovered the need for the top to be balanced, or it wobbled. They seemed to be able to build in a more balanced way on the square (and even sometimes rectangular) pieces. “It has to do with math, mom.”

It was interesting watching them go through a little scientific process to narrow down both their building materials and technique. Their structures got pretty complex, but also heavy and they soon realized the tops wouldn’t spin very well if they were heavy, either.

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com

We had a little photoshoot on the dining room floor trying to capture the designs they made while spinning and then a still-shot so you can see the actual creation. (This also led to them switching some colored pieces in so they looked ‘cool’.)

They had so much fun making these spinning and taking pictures! We’re sharing just a few here (the ones that came out! Its hard to take pictures of spinning things!)

boy-designed and built spinning tops at http://momistheonlygirl.com
This is the spin top in the title image.

 

Action:

Give this activity a shot with your kiddos! Offer the activity suggestion and see what creations they come up with!

What are your kids’ favorite building toys, and what do they build?

 

What's in the box? -a sense of hearing Christmas game using simple home materials {shared from Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com}

What’s in the box? – a sense of hearing {Christmas} game

When my boys were smaller we used to play a sense of hearing game called ‘What’s in the cup’ or some other derivative I would come up with when we were ready to play it. (I’ve written about this here and here.) This year I’m calling it ‘What’s in the box?’

What's in the box? A sense of hearing experiment with Christmas items for an extra challenge! (at Mom is the Only Girl http://momistheonlygirl.com)

Sense of hearing Anytime version:

Basically, I’d put a few objects in a container and they would shake and tilt and tip it trying to use their sense of hearing to figure out what the object was. Usually familiar objects were used…paperclips, LEGOs, beads. These items would be placed in a plastic container – think old butter containers with lids taped on!

Sense of hearing Christmastime version:

At Christmastime this game had a fun twist built in to it. The day after we brought out the Christmas items and decorated, I would place smaller items in unbreakable, covered containers and the boys would try to guess what they were. I would use things like extra ornament hangers, a small (unbreakable) ornament, a candy cane (which they would later have as a special treat).

The twist – I have a few special boxes that I had planned on using to help tell the Christmas story (think the three wise men) and most recently used these in our little sense of hearing game! These boxes are made of wood! Think it changes the sounds the boys would hear if the containers were plastic?

The added challenge of using somewhat unfamiliar items usually only seen, touched, and possibly heard ups the ante for children my kids’ ages (seven and just about nine.)

Since I’m using wooden boxes this year, we haven’t done the written portion of the experiment I wrote about here, as it is just too cumbersome trying to involve numbers and recording hypotheses and still keep this a quick activity, although it is a definite possibility if I prepare this activity ahead of time.

Bonus:

We’ve also played this game placing the items in a sock (or stocking at Christmastime) and tried guessing what the object was by sense of touch only, turning it into a sense of touch game!

Stranger in the Woods – book review

*This post contains affiliate links.

Just a few years ago the boys received the book, Stranger in the Woods (a Photographic Fantasy), by Carl R. Sams and Jean Stoick for Christmas. We have adored this book ever since and I think you will, too!

The forest is waking up, but something is amiss!

Following the forest animals, we track down a mysterious figure spotted in the woods. Is it nice? Is it friendly?

 

Stranger inthe WoodsBook & Bird Craft http://momistheonlygirl.com

“The birds were the first to notice…”

The animals are all flustered and start discussing who should investigate this stranger in the woods. My boys’ favorite is the chickadee.

“But… I am… I am…RED!”

This cute story about a {nice} stranger in the woods (who also has some food for the forest animals) is so cleverly written that my boys love to read it over and over even still! The boys even have plans this winter to build a snowman and leave some birdseed on it!

We simply adore this book and that’s why I’m sharing it with you today!

One day, Sweet Pea wanted to make a cardinal, “like in the book”. I’ll share the simple how-to with you tomorrow, but here is the sneak peek and the list of materials for you to gather!

Red Cardinal Craft http://momistheonlygirl.com

Supplies for the Cardinal Bird Craft:

paper plates (red if possible)
red paint (if plates are not red)
glue
red streamers or construction paper
orange construction paper
white and black construction paper (or google eyes, or black crayons)
scissors

What do you get from a pumpkin?

What do you get from a pumpkin?

If you ask my boys, they’ll say ‘pumpkin seeds!’ If you ask the boy next door he says, ‘a Jack-o-lantern!’
What if we ask you?
Last year we creatively stumbled upon a recipe for toasted pumpkin seeds! What’s that you say? You’ve never thought about eating pumpkin seeds? Neither had I until just a couple of years ago when hubby mentioned he used to eat them as a kid! Ever since then I’ve been searching for a recipe my boys would love and I think we’ve created our own!
Read more
pretzels, Oreo cookies make spider cookie

Simple Spider Cookies

spider-shaped cookies made from Oreos and pretzels

Sweet Pea’s kindergarten teacher had some great ideas for Halloween last year. I admittedly am not that into Halloween, so to search out ideas for this particular upcoming holiday has not been high on my to-do list, but has been requested by the boys. So this year, I have a couple of things in mind. Simple things where they can get their hands dirty! Read more

Dinosaur Books for Dino loving kids at http://momistheonlygirl.com

15 Great Dinosaur Books – needs pic

Cutie Pie loves his dinosaur books still, even though he’s really into dragons. With so many books about dinosaurs on our shelves, I thought I’d compile a list of the dinosaur books from our ‘little’ collection for you. I’m sure most of these are in your public library – maybe some are more popular than others.

15 Awesome Dinosaur Books for Dino loving kids at http://momistheonlygirl.com

I’ve only linked to a few books, just so you can check a few out (I’m not an affiliate). Most of these will be available from your local library!

As Cutie Pie started to read on his own more and more, he gravitated toward Graphic Dinosaurs Comics by Rob Shone. Our librarian showed us these books in the comics section. These are laid out in more of a comic book style, and he really liked that about them.

I think to some degree dinosaur books will always be on our shelves! What about yours?

 

Does it add up? (experiment)

This is a fun experiment that’s almost like a magic trick. I came upon this when we were having fun with the materials for the Sky Blue Experiment and Cutie Pie was trying to make his own little experiment.

Since this involves both water and rubbing alcohol, which look the same when in a clear container, you can easily leave your child totally confused if you don’t let them know you are using two different liquids! (I’ll leave it up to you if you’d like to be a magician or not!)

Does it add up Experiment

 

It goes without saying that this is a science experiment, so use protective clothing, cover your workspace if you deem it necessary and make sure there is an adult around! Read more

DIY Spring Bird Feeders

…and you can find a bag of birdseed anywhere…
-from Tom T. Hall’s song Everybody Loves to Hear a Bird Sing 

We made spring bird feeders the other day. Crazy, I know, since there is still about 3 feet of snow on the ground, but we are beginning to see and hear some birds around! Since everything is still frozen, we decided to make bird feeders so our migrating friends won’t starve!

 

Spring Bird FeedersThis method of making bird feeders has been around a long time, and was even put into song by Tom T. Hall in the early years of my life. (Scroll to the bottom to find out who he is!) Hubby even has a picture book that goes along with the record which he kept from his childhood!

                                           …Here’s how to make friends with a bird…

Read more

St. Patrick’s Day Rainbow Science (#1)

Affiliate links imageSt. Patrick’s Day is a great time to talk about the Rainbow while reinforcing the letter R. There are all sorts of fun rainbow activities to do with your little one, and lots of science, too!

For a favorite rainbow drink activity, check out my post on Rainbow Milk and to make rainbow cookies check out this post.

Rainbow Science

Another fun rainbow science activity involves a glass of water, a box and a bright sunny day. (The boys and I have done a lot of experiments, which we later found in 365 Science Experiments. This is one of them! This is an affiliate link.)

Read more

Coffee Filter Flowers

Coffee Filter Flowers. Simple creative fun for any day.

Sweet pea loves playing with water and color, so we used some medicine droppers and water with food coloring added and had some fun just playing. We got to combine colors, experiment with how we used the medicine droppers, so much to explore!

Then we made our flowers! This isn’t something I came up with, rather a quick search on Pinterest for simple coffee filter flowers will bring many results for how to manipulate the coffee filters into pretty flowers with chenille stems.

This is such an easy craft. But something about scrunching up the centers of these coffee filters when they are dry and wrapping them with a chenille stem to resemble flowers always melts the heart!

Have a wonderful time sharing love to those around you with pretty flowers!

 

Shy Blue science experiment

Affiliate links imageWith the bitterly cold weather we’ve been doing a few more things inside. (Read – experiments!)

Science Experiment at http://momistheonlygirl.com

I’m sharing a fun one today. It’s called Shy Blue and requires only a few materials which you most likely have in your home. (We’ve done this experiment before. I took pictures this most recent time, but only the one with green food coloring came out. The one below is from last year when I prepped another post, but never published it.) Read more

Ice ornaments

I don’t know about where you are, but in my area it is sooooo cold! Cold enough for people to be doing those experiments you hear about every winter like throwing boiling water outdoors and it turning into snow.

It’s also a dreary time. Everything seems grayish white unless there is fresh snow in the air or it is bright and sunny, but too cold to go outside. Today is, thankfully, one of the sunny days, however, it is below zero!

Ice at http://momistheonlygirl.com

It seems like the perfect day to share a fun, easy little activity we do when it gets this cold. Ice ornaments! (Adult supervision is a good idea!)

Ice ornaments at http://momistheonlygirl.com

First, get out some tins, cupcake tins, empty yogurt containers, anything you’d like to use as a mold for your ornaments. (Any size will do as long as it isn’t too big to fit flat in your freezer and hang by a string/rope from something!) Outside one house a couple of years ago I saw large ice wreaths with cranberries inside, made from an angel cake mold. It was beautifully big!

Read more

Melted Crayon Homemade Ornaments

Have you been enjoying this week of simple homemade Christmas ornaments you and your child can make together? This last one I’m sharing seems like it should be for older children, but I think with supervision and help preschoolers would enjoy getting involved, too! I’ve provided an affiliate link for the ornaments for you below.

This homemade Christmas Ornament the boys and I made last year involved a heat gun (or hair dryer), crayons, clothespins and small glass ornaments. (Make sure they are glass! Using heat and glass makes this a no-brainer – adult supervision is strongly encouraged!)

Melted Crayon Christmas Ornaments

These came out so beautifully that we are making some for our own tree this year! I bought the ornaments from JoAnn Crafts this year, but you can also find them on Amazon by following this (affiliate) link. I’m going to warn you making these can be addicting! It’s strangely relaxing, so you might even want to make these by yourself!

Using a grater or whatever method you find easiest to make your crayons into small pieces, crush them up! It’s up to you if you’d like to group the shavings by color, but we found that to have the best results.

Be careful with little fingers
Be careful with little fingers

As you remove the ornaments from the packaging try not to ruin the plastic package, as this makes a neat, safe place for the ornaments to cool off.

Everything you should need
Everything you should need

Carefully take the top hook portion off the ornament by squeezing the round loop and pulling gently. Remember, these are made of glass. They are pretty sturdy, but can still break if squeezed too hard. (If it helps to know, we didn’t break any!) Set the loop aside for now.

Get those little crayon shavings in there!
Get those little crayon shavings in there!

Decide what color(s) you’d like your ornament to be, use your imagination, and place a few crumbs of crayon in your ornament. Experiment with color – its a great activity to review colors and introduce shades of colors and color creating to younger onese. Get the science lingo going if you’d like to make this into a mini science lesson! Then carefully put the hook back into the ornament. Clip the clothespin to the round hook and hold tightly as shown above.

Use your hair dryer or heat gun to melt the crayon. I suppose you could also hold your ornament over a stove burner as well, but be very careful with whatever method you use. We used the clothespin to help keep our hands away from the heat.

Keep turning the ornament and heat source until the desired swirling effect is achieved.

Let the melted crayon ornament cool!
Let the melted crayon ornament cool!

Get creative with your color combinations and pattern attempts! Even one swirl of a bold or shimmering color has wonderfully beautiful results! For some ornaments, we heated until just starting to melt and it created a spotty effect! I wish I had taken pictures of all the ornaments, or at least of a couple on a tree! I loved every creation for a different reason. You’ll know what I mean when you make your own!

Once the ornaments are cooled package them in a pretty container and wish the recipient a very Merry Christmas!

If you try this with your kiddos let me know what you think! And if you missed any of the previous kid-friendly ornaments I shared, feel free to check out the star ornament or the cutout ornament!

Thank you for letting me share these homemade ornaments with you! Go spend some time with your kiddos and create something beautiful!

How fast does snow melt?

How fast does snow melt experiment at http://www.momistheonlygirl.comYou know how cold it’s been lately. That means the snow is still sticking around. Are you as tired of the cold as me? And if you are reading this from some nice warm place, please comment so we can all live vicariously through you! And hopefully we’ll see some green grass soon!

Here’s a simple science experiment that you can do with any age – preschool up through mid-elementary would probably find it interesting and stay interested.
Since we have lots of the white stuff I thought it might be fun to do a little science experiment with the boys one recent Saturday when it was bitterly cold. I grabbed 4 cups and filled them up with snow.

I asked if they thought the freezer would keep the snow just as old as the outdoors, and what would happen to the snow if we put it in other locations, too.

We set one cup on the table, put one in the refrigerator, put one in the freezer, and one outside after marking on the glass the level of the snow (using dry erase markers).

The boys thought something would happen to the snow in the freezer, that it might not be cold enough. They thought the other cups would just have ‘melted snow’ in them after a few minutes.

To test their hypothesis, we set a timer for 10 minutes. When it went off we checked the glasses of snow in each location and talked about what we observed, then set the timer for another 10 minutes. We continued the process until the evening, talking about our observations each time.

The boys were surprised by what they saw happen with the snow in the freezer. Will the same happen for your kiddos when they do this little experiment?

It was very simple, but kept the boys interest. They were determined nothing could keep the snow cold like the conditions outside.

If you do, or have done, this with your child comment and let us know your results! (And if it’s warm where you are, let us know so we know there is hope that spring really is coming!)

Color snow play

Indoors snow play at http://www.momistheonlygirl.com
Indoor snow play

Remember the other day when I posted about painting snow? I had totally forgotten that I typed everything 5 year old Sweet Pea was saying as he played.

He really could’ve gotten along without me even sitting there, just talking along to himself (as you will read) so I didn’t feel guilty typing, especially because it was something he wanted to play with by himself and didn’t even want me to stick around!


Here’s his monologue:

For me snow mixing and butter mixing and color mixing, and juice mixing, those are the only mixings I know of.

Hey, it’s dotted!

It feels like foam but it’s colder.

Look at the snow after I put in the water!

I wonder what will happen if we mix it with beaters.

I like just putting little hunks of snow in cups of water so you can pretend its….when you put water in the snow it makes it less snow, I’m going to keep adding some water.

Me: What will happen if you add water?

The whole thing is going to freeze.

Why are the ice cubes sticking to the ice? Hmm, maybe we should look that up!

I think we will be doing some more little experiments with ice! Some days he just doesn’t go for whatever I set out on the table to try to interest him in a little more ‘formal’ learning. Other days he does. We’ll see!

Now, honestly…do you have constant talking in your house like this, or is it just here?

Rainy/Snowy Day Indoor Fun – Sense of Hearing Game

Have you been affected by this bitter cold and snowy weather? Are your kids going bonkers being stuck inside like mine?

Here’s a sense of hearing game for you that we called “Do you hear what I hear?” We really only gave this a Christmas-y title because it is still sort of Christmas time, but this game is all about what you hear! (You can read about how we did this game last spring here.)

This was so fun and so simple to throw together the first time, that it naturally came to mind as a go-to game for when we were stuck inside due to extremely cold temperatures this past week. It also ended up being played when I least expected it, so I didn’t have my camera ready.

I found several old, small butter containers. (You know, the ones that have a lid, but you cannot see through them?)

I then looked through my cupboards and drawers for a few items to put into the containers. I came up with coins, LEGOs, marshmallows, marbles, hot cocoa powder, popcorn kernels and a screw.

I put the items in their own container and taped the tops on (very important because the kiddos will be shaking these!), wrote a number on the tape on each container and listed the numbers down the side of a sheet of paper. I also made 3 columns on the paper, one for each boy and a third for the actual item in the container, but I folded the paper so the third column that listed the actual item couldn’t be seen. (I know, Cutie Pie isn’t a great reader yet, but I know he’ll surprise me one day and read everything I write!)

I simply placed everything on a tray along with a pencil and when they started bickering after being stuck in the house for a bit I asked it they wanted to see what I had set out for them. Attitudes changed pretty I quickly then!

One by one they took turns shaking the containers and telling me what they thought was inside after we counted how many containers we had. I didn’t give them any hints, but simply wrote down what they thought. I wrote their guesses in their respective columns.

After we had heard each container as it was shaken, we listened again before we took the top off. This time the boys talked about why they guessed what they guessed, saying things like “it’s heavy”, “it sounds like there are a lot in there.”

Then we opened the containers and discovered what was inside!

The boys really had fun talking about what each item sounded like to them and mentioned it was helpful for some to be able to shake them themselves rather than just listen. Sometimes they were really surprised it wasn’t what they guessed. Other times they were right, but maybe for reasons other than what they said.

This activity didn’t take very long to prepare and was over in about 15 minutes or less, but did a great job switching gears in our house when things started getting old. I found the boys had a renewed interest in playing together after this, too!

Try it on the next day you are stuck inside due to rain, snow, or too-cold temperatures and let me know what your kids thought!

D is for DNA experiment

6 year old Cutie Pie has had his eye on this DNA experiment from our 50 Science Things to make and do book ever since we first got it. Unfortunately, whenever we sat down to do an experiment in the past this was just never picked! So the Friday Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea had off for Superintendents conference I made sure to pull this out. Little did I know how perfectly it would fit into our weekend! (But, if you read We are Unique then you already do!)


This Seeing DNA experiment is rather simple, but very interesting and can easily be combined with a lesson on how we are all unique, Psalm 139 or the letter D! Check out We Are Unique to see how!

(This experiment was taken from 50 Science Things to Make and Do, by Usborne Activities. We really love the experiments in this book!)

Materials:
an adult
bowl
onion
sharp knife
dishwashing liquid
teaspoon
salt
water
rubbing alcohol
sieve
glass jar
timer

First, make sure an adult is helping you. Then either you or the adult can finely chop up your onion with a sharp knife and place the pieces in a bowl.

Pour in just enough dishwashing liquid to coat the onion pieces and stir.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and carefully pour in two tablespoons of water trying not to make any foamy bubbles. Stir again, trying not to make any bubbles. Let this mixture sit still for 10 minutes.

Stir the mixture gently again, then place it in a sieve over a bowl. Pour the liquid that escaped into a glass jar, removing any foam with a spoon.

Carefully trickle rubbing alcohol into the jar, letting it run down the side of the jar so no more bubbles are made. This will make a second layer of liquid in the jar. Do not stir!

Set your timer for 20 minutes this time. At the end of 20 minutes or so you should see a white, stringy substance in the top layer. This is the onion’s DNA!

What’s going on? DNA does not break down in the dishwashing liquid and salt like the rest of the onion does. DNA doesn’t dissolve in alcohol, so it appears as the solid white strings!

This post contains an affiliate link for an Usborne book. I may or may not be compensated for your following or purchasing an item through the link. I am linking to this item because my family and I like it, not because I am being compensated in any way.

Beetles in the House

I don’t know about how it is where you live, but sometimes when the weather gets cooler around here we find bugs in our home. Bugs like beetles and bees.

It seemed sort of fitting that this happened during the week Sweet Pea was learning all about the letter B! And why not turn this into a science lesson rather than get all squeamed out!


The boys were really excited to investigate the beetle they discovered wandering around our Rumpus Room floor and wanted to know what kind it was.

We talked about what it looked like – what color, how big, how many legs. As well as what things we thought it could do – climb because of prickly looking legs, crawl!

After a quick search I found this neat site that helps identify insects. It was neat being able to read about this beetle right away and discovering their observations were correct!

My kids spent a long time checking out all of the insects and tried to find them in their insect books! (Explore Bugs by Maurice Pledger and Fandex Family Field Guides Bugs)

A is for apple/Apple Investigation

In the spirit of fall and wanting to get back into more learning activities with Sweet Pea (like I did with Cutie Pie at this age) we took a little trip to the apple store and did some fun ‘A is for apple’ letter activities!


After talking about the possibilities of why apples are sometimes red, sometimes green and sometimes both red and green, we picked out some that we thought would taste yummy! We plan to make apple crisp with some and eat the others! We also did a little investigation with one.

Here’s how to do our quick little Apple investigation Activity:

First, set out the apple.

  • Touch it. Talk about what it feels like -soft, hard, smooth, bumpy.
  • Talk about it. Here are some questions that might spur your kiddos mind:
    • What color(s) it is?
    • How/where did it grow?
    • How long did it take to grow?
    • How did it get to the store?
  • Talk about why it has a peel.
  • What does the inside look like? How can you open it to find out?
Don’t worry if you don’t know the answers to the questions raised. Take the opportunity to look up the answer together, or give the question back to them and ask what they think!

Then, slice the apple around it’s diameter instead of through it stem-wise.

  • What shape do you see?
  • What else is in there? (seeds)
  • What can you do with what you find?
Tomorrow I’ll share what we did with the apple after we investigated it!

4 Year Old’s Questions

The other morning 4 year old Sweet Pea and I found a cicada exoskeleton and he got curious.

He questioned

All on his own he closely examined it in his hands, then started voicing his questions and observations about it.

Ultimately he decided to see if it would still ‘stick to the tree’. As you can see above it does!

And Mom did nothing

I loved just standing by listening to his observations and questions. He wasn’t really talking to me, so I kept quiet for the most part.

I love it when some learning comes as a result of hands-on-investigating!

Oil and water experiment 2

Earlier this week I posted a simple, fun oil and science experiment. My kiddos loved this so much, that they asked for it the day after we initially did it! I liked it too, so I pulled out the materials again (an edged dish, cooking oil, food coloring, medicine dropper) but this time I got out the vinegar and baking soda as well! Such a fun twist!

Once again I coated the bottom of the dish with a small amount of oil.

Then I poured a bit of vinegar into several medicine cups and added various colors of food coloring to them.

The boys grabbed their medicine droppers and had fun again with the colors.

I handed them a couple of small cups of baking soda. They looked at me like I was crazy, then each picked up a pinch and dropped it into their dishes.

Can you guess what happened? You should try it!

Oil and Water experiment

Sweet Pea concentrating on getting water in his dropper

We’ve had a lot of rain here lately and the boys were getting a little antsy. I pulled out the water and oil, taking a tip from Growing a Jeweled Rose, added some food coloring to the water and set it out along with a couple of medicine droppers. The boys, of course, were immediately drawn to it asking if it was for them!

This is a great activity for fine motor pincer grasp work, learning/reviewing colors, science talk about liquids.

Isn’t this cool?!

It’s pretty self-explanatory what to do. Pick up drops of colored water and drop them into the thin coat of oil (preferably in a dish with sides).

Hint: I found medicine cups to be the perfect size for holding paints and water for their projects!

When the water came into contact with the oil it formed little droplets, which alone looked pretty neat. Here are some questions to ask while you do this experiment:

What happens to the drops of color?
Does it stay in little droplets? Why?
What happens when you try to make two droplets into one? How do you do that?
What happens to the color when they are mixed?

I hope you have fun with this experiment! Tomorrow I’ll share with how we switched things up a bit the next time we pulled out the oil!

Maple Syrup to your liking

Have you tried pure maple syrup before? If you’ve been to a maple sugaring festival before, you’ve probably seen several ‘types’ of maple syrup, ranging from dark amber to light. The lighter the amber, the less maple-y the taste.

The gentleman at the festival explained the darkness depends on several things including the weather conditions over the winter and how long the sap was boiled (how much water evaporation took place). I tried to find information on the internet to support this information and found so many sources of information, that I thought I’d simplify things and suggest just doing a taste test at a festival and talk to someone who actually makes the syrup. They can tell you the specific preparation process for the syrup you liked best.

So if you are heading to the store to buy some pure maple syrup and want to buy what my kiddos and I like the best, purchase some dark amber. It has a wonderfully maple-y taste! You might be a little shocked at the price, but it does last longer than store-bought, as the flavor is richer and it is much more thin! Enjoy!

Jack Wax How to

Monday I told you about our trip to a Maple Sugaring Festival. They told us about a treat the Native Indian and early American children used to have during maple sugaring time. They would take a bowl of snow and drizzle the boiling syrup over it to create a toffee or hard treat (think hard like peanut-brittle).

As a child my dad used to give us a bowl of snow with nice warm pure maple syrup over it. I don’t remember it getting stretchy like taffy or hard like peanut brittle, but I remember it being a delicious slushy treat. I think the trick for it to become true Jack Wax is to get the pure maple syrup to the ‘soft ball’ candy stage, if I remember what they told us yesterday correctly.

If you don’t have snow around you, maybe try this with finely chopped ice? If you try it please let me know how you liked it! I’d be interested in seeing what your kids think the science is behind it!

Maple Sugaring Festival

Cutie Pie and Hubby trying to tap a log

Do you live in an area where there are maple trees and maple sugaring festivals?

Maple Syrup and sugar is made from the sap of sugar maple, red maple or black maple trees in colder climates, which store starch in their trunks and roots before winter. This rises in the sap in the spring, providing nutrients for new leaves. Sap can be harvested from the trees at this time by boring holes in the trees to collect the sap (called tapping), which is then boiled down leaving the maple syrup!

Listening to a description of how sap
was collected in hollowed
out logs while the sap boils behind us.
Cutie Pie experiencing how kids his age helped collect the sap

The Native Indians and early Americans in the colder North American areas used to boil this down even further creating maple sugar (hence the name Maple Sugaring Festival) which was used in trading as it was very valuable. Since the maple sugar was the only sweetener, and therefore very valuable on it’s own, tapping trees and collecting sap to make maple sugar was a major family project and very important to their welfare. We were told approximately 16 gallons of sap turns into 1 gallon of maple syrup, so it was also a very large project!

How do I know all of this? We live in central New York, where maple sugaring, as it is called, is common in early spring, and so are Maple Sugar Festivals. We spent Saturday about an hour away at Cumming Nature Center (an extension of Rochester Museum and Science Center) for their festival, where we enjoyed a delicious pancake breakfast, learned about the maple syrup making process, a treat called Jack Wax, walked the snow-covered trails, found lots of animal tracks and picked up lots of ‘specimens’ (read ‘twigs’). A perfect way to spend the day as a family! It was a bit nippy, too cold for the sap to be flowing, but truly fun learning history and how pure maple syrup was and is now made. The free samples weren’t bad either!

If you live in this area, you’ll have to watch for the Maple Sugaring Festivals next year, or possibly there will be some in the coming weeks during the thaw. It is a great opportunity to learn and to get outside and into nature!

5 Senses Experiment – Sense of Touch

I remember being in Earth Science class in High School having to reach into a box and determine what kind of rock I was touching. I put together a simple sense of touch experiment for the boys based on this very thing, but I made it much more simple and you can do it too (and for a big range of ages)! I apologize for the lack of a picture, it was hard to get one and keep them from cheating by peeking!


Simply take your pillowcases or paper bags and fill them with items found around the house (or outside of you don’t mind them getting a little dirty.) Twist the ends closed and blindfold your kiddos, or hold your hands over their eyes. Let them put their hands into the bag and guess whats inside! If you are doing this with several kiddos you might want to record their answers to compare, and make sure to only have one child in the room at a time!

The boys loved this little guessing game. After we compared their guesses we opened the pillowcases and determined if their guesses were correct. We also talked a little about how they knew what each item was. I did the experiment in this order because I wanted to see if they knew that touching was one of our senses! They got it!

We actually didn’t get to an experiment for the sense of smell because the boys came down with colds before we could get to it and I didn’t think it would be much fun to do a smelly experiment if they couldn’t sniff! I’ll be posting about that in another week or so. I can tell you it involves baking ingredients!

If you go ahead and complete your week with a sense of smell experiment please share!

5 Senses – Sense of Taste Experiment

To continue on with the 5 sense experiments theme, today I’ll share about our little taste experiment. (sense of taste, coordination, science) This was also very easy to set up, and I’m sure you have items in your kitchen that you could grab to pull this off quickly. (Very easy to adjust for different ages, ingredients.)

I remembered once a long time ago hearing that different parts of your tongue could detect certain tastes like bitter and sweet. I also remembered hearing this wasn’t true. I, of course, only told them the first part thinking the ‘real’ experiment would be to see if they thought it was indeed true by tasting bitter and sweet things on different parts of their own tongues.
Here’s what we did:

Taste Experiment

Materials needed:
small bowls
sugar
salt
lime, lemon or orange slices
marshmallows (or something sweet, we used M&Ms too)
we also used raisins and Craisins to see if they could taste the difference

First, I explained that they would be able to taste different items on different areas of their tongues and showed them a diagram I found on the internet which shows you taste bitterness at the back of the tongue, sour on each side, and salty/sweet on the tip, with little tasted in the center.

I let them each pick up a tiny bit of sugar, asking them to put it only on the very tip of their tongue, then again on the back of their tongues. I asked them if it tasted different in each area. We repeated this with the salt, with me not telling them beforehand which was salt and which was sugar.

I placed either a raisin or Craisin in their hands and asked if they could taste the difference.

They each tasted an orange slice and told me if it was sour or sweet.

Finally, I asked them to eat a marshmallow then an M&M, then taste the orange slice again and asked if the taste was sweeter or more sour. (For one it was, the other it wasn’t.)

They both loved the little tastings, but didn’t seem to notice they tasted everything no matter where they put it on their tongues. An hour or so later, though, Cutie Pie came back to me and mentioned it. I thought it was funny it took him that long!

I’d be interested in knowing (if you try this with your kiddos) if they taste more strongly in different areas of their tongues and whether the sweet treats intensified the taste of other foods. Please share!

5 Senses Experiment – Sight

Yesterday I mentioned doing some other fun things with the boys on the day we did our sight experiments. One taught about visual perception and was very fun. All you need to do it is a large piece of paper and makers. I found the idea, along with a wealth of other experiments for older kids, here. (visual perception, coordination, communication, colors, counting, math)

Sense of Sight Experiment
Visual Perception Experiment

Visual Perception Experiment

  • First, draw a target on the paper.
  • Give each child markers, use different colors.
  • One child stands with their arm outstretched with their hand over the target holding a marker with the cap off. The other stands a few feet away, giving directions to the other.
  • The child without the markers is to give instructions to the other (move your hand to the right, left, back, forward, drop!) aiming for the marker to land on center of the target.

My kiddos used markers of different shades of the same color and kept track of how many drops (marker dots) landed on the target. (You can label each circle of the target with a number and sneak some math practice in there if you’d like!)

After a while they just stood over the target and tried to get their marker to drop in the center without any instructions from the other, which was surprisingly difficult for them!

This was a very fun visual perception experiment, and it can easily be altered for a variety of ages!

5 Senses – Sight Experiment

Next in our week of 5 Senses Experiments we experimented with our sense of sight. (Remember yesterday I posted about our sense of hearing experiment?)

In preparation for our sight experiment I got out just a couple of things: old pairs of glasses, some pictures that included dark outlines.

Sense of sight experiment
Glasses for the experiment

First we closed our eyes and tried to make our way around a room that I led the boys to. I wanted them to see what it was like to not see, if only for a few minutes. (Wearing blindfolds would not have worked with these boys…) And we talked about what things we noticed using our other senses.

Then Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea each put on a pair of my old glasses and I asked them to tell me what they could see around the room and then right in front of them. I also gave them a picture with bold outlines to look at close up and then across the room. They found this pretty humorous.

I explained to them that I see things blurry without my glasses or contacts, just like they see things blurry with my glasses on. We talked a little about how not seeing clearly could be a difficult thing, even though in this experiment it was pretty funny.

They had a really good time going around the house with my glasses on, then taking them off while looking at things. For a few minutes just one day it won’t damage their sight.

Later in the day I did a couple of other fun things with them for sight, but that’s to be shared in another post.

Density Experiment

Our liquid density tower

Over the past few weeks we’ve done a few experiments, but it’s taken me a while to get the pics onto the computer. I’ve seen this density experiment in many places, several books I have as well as several blogs.

I’m posting about it simply because it was fun, but also to show you can do this with several difference liquids, not necessarily needing to go by an official experiment ‘recipe’. (Just make sure the liquids you are using are safe to be used together as well as safe for your child.)

Density Experiment

Experiment Liquids: olive oil, dish soap, water,
vegetable oil, food coloring

What we used: 

the same amount of olive oil, dish soap, water, and vegetable oil, a drop of food coloring, clean glass jar

What we did: 

I asked the boys if they thought the liquids they had in front of them weighed the same.

One by one I slowly poured the liquids into the jar, letting them dribble down the side rather than pouring into the middle of the jar. (I dyed the water red so we could see it more easily.)

Final density tower with items at each level

What we observed:

The liquids formed layers. (Cutie Pie loved this as he’d been learning about strata!)

It did not matter what order we poured the liquids. If a heavier liquid was added after a lighter one, it settled under the lighter one.

What we learned:

The liquids have different densities (or weights) and therefore do not lie in the same layer.

Further investigation:

After letting our density tower sit for a while to make sure the layers weren’t going to combine on their own, we gathered a few small items and carefully dropped them into the jar. It was interesting to see where they settled. We used a small LEGO, a toothpick, a raisin, and a small stone.

Cutie Pie had fun with this experiment, trying to guess which liquid would be lighter and therefore higher in our final tower. He also had a lot of fun coming up with the items to drop into our final tower and guessing where they would settle!

When you try this experiment please let us know what results you came up with!

Color Mixing (more fine motor play)

“Mommy, this is a really cool experiment!” I love hearing this!

I was on the computer checking out a couple of blogs when I came across this little project. Little did I know it would be the perfect sensory activity to settle my boys down before dinner! It’s also a fun little way to strengthen those fingers for holding a pencil or crayon! (read fine motor)


I happened upon Dilly Dali Art’s No Mess Color Mixing post. It is so simple and my boys were in love with it immediately!

Simply take contact paper, squirt some paint in the center of a square, then place another layer of contact paper over that and press down on the edges (and add tape if you’re worried about leaks). The kiddos will enjoy mixing the color without the mess, just like the post is called!

Modification: Tape the whole thing to a window to be squished for an added sensory experience! Write numbers or letters or make shapes.

It’s one of those “Why didn’t I think of that sooner?” things. Actually, come to think of it, we might have tried mixing colors in a baggie before, but for some reason this just sticks out in my memory!

(Sorry there were no pictures…dinner preparation took priority on this one.)

Shaving cream play

Friday I posted about revisiting the geoboard with Sweet Pea after Cutie Pie had set it aside for some time. Another activity I decided to revisit recently was shaving cream play, although this time I re-introduced it to both boys after trying it here about a year and a half ago. (fine motor, sensory play)


Sweet Pea loved it! At first there was no color, I just let him feel it with his hands, but after I added color he really loved it! His tray of shaving cream was used as a road for his monster truck, a writing tablet which he used to make O’s and L’s as well as lots of swirls and curly-q’s and quickly became brown!

He wasn’t afraid of getting his hands ‘yucky’ at all! I actually think he had as much fun washing everything off after his playtime as he did during it!

Cutie Pie never really liked getting his hands ‘messy’ unless there was a purpose behind it. To just sit and play in a tray of shaving cream never went over well with him when I first introduced him to this. This time, however, he really got into it. I think having done some shaving cream writing practice in UPK last year helped!

He didn’t just drive his cars and trucks through it, make designs, swirl colors and make hills, we also tried a game of tic tac toe and made shaving cream cards. He was actually pretty good at tic tac toe!

Next time I will get out some kitchen utensils to run through and fill up with shaving cream as well as try painting with it on the easel, or maybe even just use it to create a cloud in a jar!

Be Safe: If you introduce shaving cream play to your kiddos please be safe and don’t let them put it in their mouths or eyes.

Dinosaur Skeleton Experiment

Thursday I posted about this great book we discovered at the library, Dinosaur Discovery. (I meant to post this on Friday, but got caught up in making a really fun LEGO/dinosaur party come together for Cutie Pie’s 6th birthday…sorry!) This great book contains a lot of dinosaur information that we haven’t come across in other books about dinosaurs, or perhaps just not in such a simple and attractive way. As I shared yesterday, this book also contains some really neat experiments! (Simple enough to do with a preschooler on up!)

Sweet Pea, Cutie Pie and I tried the ‘Standing Up to Force’ experiment about skeletons being built “to take the forces pushing and pulling against them, without breaking.” The experiment describes sitting on a table because it has legs positioned strategically to support the force of the tabletop pushing down on it. The bones in dinosaurs are no different.

Quite simply, take two toilet paper rolls, stand one up in its end. Carefully set one book at a time on the roll that’s standing up, balancing them with your hand if necessary. How many can it hold before collapsing?

Now take the other roll and set it on its side. Stack the books on it one at a time, holding the bottom book to keep it in place. How many can this one hold?

Why?

What is the difference between the two?

Can you figure out how dinosaur bones are similar to the toilet paper roll standing up?

See, isn’t this so simple and fun? For more really fun experiments check out the book!

According to Cutie Pie the T-Rex rules the roll

The link contained in this post is an affiliate link that I may or may not receive payment from, however, I would not post about any product I didn’t wholeheartedly want to share with you. My just about 6 year old wants me to share this book with you, too!