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Surface Tension Experiment

A simple experiment out of 50 Science things to make and do (by Usborne Activities) that we tried recently was a surface tension experiment. I have seen similar experiments elsewhere on the internet and in books, but found the scientific explanation in this book to be the most clear for my 3 and 5 year olds.
We’re really enjoying the experiments in this book and it has spurred Cutie Pie on to suggest experiments of his own!
Materials needed:
food coloring

First fill a bowl half way with water and sprinkle a little pepper on the surface.
Then dip a toothpick into your dishwashing liquid. Touch the middle of the water with just the tip of the toothpick. What happens to the pepper? Cutie Pie hypothesized the pepper would sink.
Next, fill a bowl half way with milk and add a few drops of food coloring in different places, possibly different colors.
Dip the toothpick in the dishwashing liquid and then into the milk. You can dip it into the milk in several different places. What happens? Cutie Pie hypothesized the milk would ‘climb’ up the toothpick.
We also tried this with both food coloring and pepper at the same time!
Of course, you can always just drop some food coloring in and mix it with your toothpick, but that isn’t nearly as exciting!
So, what’s happening? The dishwashing liquid is reducing the surface tension in the bowl. It’s letting the water and milk spread out more, and when that happens the pepper and food coloring moves. When they move, they create patterns!
Like I said before, we are really enjoying the experiments in this book. They are simple, require mostly items that you already have in your pantry, and are fun!
(This book was given to us by a family member as a gift. We are not being compensated by Usborne Activities for this honest review and are only sharing out of our personal interest in science experiments. I am an affiliate with Amazon, which is the link I provided.)

More Texture Fun

Do you have a Cuttlebug or something similar? For some texture fun, get it out!

Have your child feel the textures on each side of the folders. Are they smooth? Bumpy?

Help your kiddos make a texture on some paper or cardstock. Ask them what they think will happen to the paper. My boys thought they would make the smooth cardstock bumpy when we used the machine with a texture folder. We ran the cardstock through and, sure enough, the cardstock was made bumpy (texturized)! This took some coordination, but the boys loved being helpers!

We experimented with texture like this initially when we were learning the letter T, but have had fun with it several times since then!

GFC is going away

With the pending departure of GFC I’ve tried to get Mom is the Only Girl on Facebook and Twitter going well to give you an alternative to staying in touch so you don’t miss any of the science experiments or alphabet learning ideas and activities I share. I’m working on Google+, too. I’m a little technically challenged still, so bear with me! Any tips are welcome!

Please like me on facebook! And/or follow me on twitter, @OnlyGirlBlogger.


Want to do it on my own

Stock Photo - Hot Cocoa with Marshmallows


Sweet Pea wants to do it on his own! This time making hot cocoa! I let him. Why? Because he is learning when he does! Science, math, language (hot, cold, full, empty)…

  • He’s learning the process of making something. 
  • He’s learning how much a mug can hold. 
  • He’s learning his numbers by pushing buttons on the microwave. 
  • He’s learning about hot and cold, experimenting with his sense of taste. 
  • He’s also gaining a sense of accomplishment, pride in completing something. 
  • He’s exercising independence, but within limits I set for him. And yes, I am supervising the whole time.

Sweet Pea is definitely different than Cutie Pie, and this is evidenced many ways including this. Sweet Pea definitely learns by doing!

Mammals – Field Trip

Rochester Museum and Science Center currently has the traveling Extreme Mammals exhibit from New York City’s American Museum of Natural History. Unfortunately photography in the exhibit itself is not permitted, however, in their lobby is a mamoth creature that my youngest calls a ‘camel’. He calls another mammal in the exhibit a camel as well, which much more closely resembles a camel!

For reference, 3 year old Sweet Pea can just barely see the writing on the information table you see under this creature! It’s incredible to think mammals like this once roamed the earth! Within the exhibit there is also an incredibly small mammal that resembles a mouse, however, it is breathtakingly tiny!

What an interesting exhibit. I would recommend seeing these mammals if nothing more than to take in the extremes. It is unfortunate that a fee is required to see them, much greater than I expected for non-members of the museum, as I have several friends who would have loved to take their kiddos but could not afford to. I also would have loved to have a take-away information sheet to do further research with my boys as they were extremely interested in several of the mammals, but did not locate one within the exhibit.

If you are in this area and have the chance to explore this exhibit before it leaves RMSC in mid-April I’d love to hear your opinions on it!

Letter P

Please. Polite. Pour. Punxsutawney Phil. Penguin. Pepper. Paste. Pretty. Plane. Plastic. Pasta. Pen.

Social/Emotional: Field trip to Play at The Strong National Museum of Play. 


  1. Cutie Pie and Sweet Pea counted straws this week. Cutie Pie also helped me measure and cut index cards to 1″ x 5″ to make straw Planes!
  2. Straw Plane Directions: Take a straw and 3 pieces of 1″ x 5″ card stock (we used the index cards). Tape two pieces end to end to make a circle, tape this to one end of the straw. Tape the remaining piece together to make a circle and tape that to the other end of the straw. Voila! A straw Plane! The boys loved these! I found this idea on All for the Boys.
  3. We made Milk Plastic!

Literacy: Cutie Pie’s name starts with the letter P, so he’s pretty good at writing this letter. Sweet Pea not so much. He had fun using a glue stick inside the letter P outline I gave him. He really enjoyed this, but got a little carried away with the glue stick and used the entire thing! (Sticky boy!) Cutie Pie helped decide on the thing starting with P that we should stick to our letter and he chose Pepper! He also came up with that little list of P words up there!


  1. Glued pepper onto the outline of a letter P. (Coordination, fine motor)
  2. We made groundhogs out of construction paper hearts. I got this idea from here. Of course we named him Punxsutawney Phil since we made him on Groundhog Day!

Physical: Fine and Gross Motor: 

  1. scissor practice cutting Punxsutawney. 
  2. Cutie Pie traced his letter P and practiced writing it on the chalkboard. 
  3. Sweet Pea picked up lots of peas from his tray while scooping in his pea-filled sensory box!

One thing I found, but that I wasn’t able to print out until after P week was over (but is really fun now that we have played!) is a Penguin game found here!


Milk Plastic

Our science experiment for letter P week was Milky Plastic from 365 Science Experiments published by Hinkler Books. Sounds interesting, doesn’t it?


  • Full-cream milk
  • Vinegar
  • Eye dropper
  • Microwave safe container
  • Spoon

Before we started I asked Cutie Pie what he thought would happen when the vinegar and milk were mixed together and he said “they will make funny tasting milk.”

 Warm the milk in the microwave or on the stove. Warm, not hot. (number recognition, coordination)

 Slowly squirt vinegar into the milk and stir gently. What’s happening? (fine motor, coordination)

Carefully pour the milk on to your hand, making sure it isn’t too hot. It’s best to do this over the sink! What’s in your hands?

Observations: The milk became stringy when the vinegar was mixed in. Eventually it became a white ball that, per Cutie Pie, felt like soft plastic, almost like silly-putty. It was squishy. The liquid remaining in the bowl was yellowish in color, yet translucent (per Cutie Pie see-through-able).

What’s happening? Per the book “Milk contains a chemical called Caesin.” The vinegar separates the caesin, which is a type of plastic, from the rest of the milk.

Cutie Pie didn’t really like holding this in his hands, but thought it a very neat experiment and loved the almost immediate change in the milk? Try it!

365 Science Experiments published by Hinkler Books is one of my family’s favorite sources for experiments. This post about this experiment is solely to share a fun experiment and experience with this blog’s readers and has not been posted as a result of compensation.

Chiming Fork Experiment and book review

The kiddos received a new book for Christmas, Usborne Activities 50 Science Things to Make and Do, and we love it! Every project to try is laid out very clearly with pictures and simple instructions. At the end of each is a section called “What’s going on?” and explains the science details of what you just did! It is recommended for ages 9+, but my kiddos love it and have understood the simple science concepts of each project so far!

The first experiment we chose to do was the Chiming Fork.

Objective: Find out how sound vibrations work.

Materials: Thread, fork, fingers, ears, table


  • Cut a length of thread as long as your arm. Tie the middle to a fork and wind the ends around your index fingers. Swing the fork so that it gently hits the table. What do you hear?
  • Next, touch your index fingers to the flaps in front of your ear holes. Swing the fork gently against the table again. What do you hear?


  • Cutie Pie observed the fork initially made a “clunk” noise, just like the experiment described.
  • The noise I heard when putting the thread to my ear was the same as when the fork hit the table initially.

Cutie Pie wonders if the weight of the thread would change the outcome of this experiment, or would affect the pitch of the noise heard when the thread is held close to the ear. We plan to do this experiment again to test his theories.

“What’s going on? When the fork hits the table it vibrates. This makes the air around it vibrate and you hear a dull clunk. But it makes the thread vibrate too. When you put the thread near your ears, you bring the thread closer to the sound sensors in your ears. You can hear the vibrations much more clearly. They now make a clear chiming sound in your ear.”

50 science things to make and do was given as a gift by a family member. I have not been compensated in any form by the publisher or author of this book. This review is based on my and my family’s honest enjoyment of this book.

Coconut Milk?

Cutie Pie for some reason had been asking a lot about coconuts lately and whether they had juice in them. One day when at the grocery I decided to get one and examine it with the boys!

Examining the coconut exterior – texture, size, shape
This was supposed to be easy open, puncture with a knife…
it wasn’t! Hubby to the rescue! All the while we talked about what it might taste like.
As you can tell from the expressions, coconut milk was not delicious!

 The boys had a great time with this experiment!

The initial examination: (The exterior of) the coconut is rough. It is hard, maybe so animals can’t eat it.

The hypothesis: coconut on cakes is sweet and dry so this coconut will be sweet, but maybe the other stuff (flesh) will be wet but sweet since there is milk in it.

The discovery: ‘Coconuts don’t have milk. It’s water that tastes yicky.’ Hubby says it tasted bitter. I couldn’t describe the taste, sour, bitter? The ‘flesh’ of the coconut ‘is not sweet’ (expressed with much disappointment!)

The conclusion: Cutie Pie’s fascination with coconut has ended. He admits he still likes the dry coconut on cakes.

The question: What new things have you tried lately?


Sweet Pea’s inner scientist came out a while back. While playing with Magneatos, he discovered they can ‘stick’ to things other than themselves! (Magneatos are plastic toys with a magnet encased in each end.) He then proceeded to almost every item in the house to see if a Magneato would stick to it.

We talked about what made the magnets stick, that it was the material the item was made out of. We then methodically revisited a few items and had more fun trying to build off of them, resulting in some interesting dangling structures, some tall skinny towers, and some ‘porcupine quills’! (science, problem solving, processes)

If this was my 5 year old Cutie Pie we would have hypothesized which items the Magneatos would stick to and then test our theory, but that is for another time with Sweet Pea!

Pumpkin Decay

Sid the Science Kid has an episode about Sid’s banana turning brown. In it the characters learn about how food changes by examining pumpkins in various stages of ‘ripeness’ including decay. Cutie Pie decided he wanted to document the changes in his Jack-o-lantern this past Fall and diligently took pictures of it often hoping to prove his theory that pumpkins decay over a period of time. I recently came across these pictures again and he was excited to share his observations.

The first image you see is of our Jack-o-lanterns on Halloween night. The second is from a day or two later. Cutie Pie observed the pumpkin itself hadn’t changed much, but that it’s shape had changed due to something eating it for meals. Over the course of the next few days he discovered squirrels like pumpkins, but not the seeds as they were scattered around the food source as well as left inside it. Even several weeks later the pumpkins’s basic form was the same, however by this time the inside was becoming covered with mold. Cutie Pie hypothesized it takes longer for a pumpkin to decay than a banana because it is larger in size and kept cold at night. We haven’t tested this yet. He also hypothesized the mold grew because rain had gotten inside and made it soft, one more thing we have not tested. Eventually the pumpkin became soft and sort of mushed into the ground with most of it becoming black, just like in the episode of Sid. (At which time he was OK with shoveling it into the trash, much to our delight!)

Cutie Pie was excited to see the result to his experiment was almost exactly the same as on the show. He was also happy that this meant his theory that pumpkins decay over time was accurate! I was impressed that he was so diligent in taking pictures, rather in having me take pictures and telling me exactly what he wanted pictures of, to record this experiment!

 Do you experiment with your kiddos? We’d love to hear about some of your experiments! Please share a link so we can check them out!

Cutie Pie’s ‘kit’

I’ve seen a lot on mom blogs about activity bags to keep kiddos occupied. Cutie Pie has come up with something very similar all on his own. He calls them ‘kits’!

Cutie Pie was diligently playing by himself near the truck box. Hubby went over after he walked away and checked out the collection of vehicles. Cutie Pie said it was a ‘kit’ and was meant to be played with! He was a little perturbed that Hubby didn’t seem to know right away that he was supposed to get down on the floor and play!

Since then, we’ve seen several kits laid out on the floor. Some are all construction vehicles, others are a mix of cars and trucks, and still others are sorted by size! Every once in a while we even overhear him telling Sweet Pea that he’ll get a kit out for him to play with and Sweet Pea sits patiently waiting until his big brother tells him it’s OK to start playing!

I hadn’t really thought about setting out a particular grouping of toys hoping the boys would play with them, and I seriously doubt if I did that they would! However, it almost seems like sorting, classifying, organizing or whatever you want to call it comes naturally to Cutie Pie. Even when we are cleaning at the end of the day, most times things have to go to their ‘homes’ now, rather than just shoved somewhere to call things clean!

Playing with blocks

Sweet Pea got the large blocks out, which is hasn’t done in a long time. It was surprising the many ways he played with them (all in about 10 minutes!) (science, math, coordination)

They were:

  • RR tracks for his trains
  • Car tracks, 2 different ways – with cars riding on the blocks and also in between them as they formed a road
  • Building -exploring which floor is better to build on
  • Incline planes – resting them on each other and sending a car down
  • Counting how many of each color/type, sorting

The simple fun simple objects can be for a 3 year old!

Letter D

Sweet Pea has not been very interested in his letters, learning his letters, coloring his letters, or anything else obviously related to letters. When he and I are alone all he wants to do is play. That is fine, and it’s easy to sneak in learning colors, counting and other things, but not always easy to teach letters if there are no obvious letters to point out! We do, however, still do lots of activities related to the letters we’re learning. This is a long explanation for why I haven’t posted any Mama’s Week in Review lately! Sometimes letter-related things just aren’t in the forefront of my mind.

Anyway, here’s what we did for letter D:

Social Emotional:

  • Sweet Pea, Cutie Pie and I spent time at Rochester Museum and Science Center checking out the Dinosaur skeleton, playing with each other and other little ones in the ‘Dig pit’. 1) dinosaur skeleton 2) fossils 3) dinosaur images 4) daring climbers 5) dinosaur shadow


  • Dots on letter D with a paint Dabber
  • Wrote letter D on chalkboard
  • Listed words beginning with letter D


  • Dots on letter D
  • stamped with dinosaurs on the letter D

Science and Physical: Fine and Gross Motor:

  • Dinosaur fossil excavation (picture) that will roll over to next week with letter E (fine motor)
  • Played a lot in the Raceways section of Rochester Museum and Science Center with the DISH, which is a big plastic funnel on a board frame where children can send balls down a chute and watch the balls gain speed as the funnel narrows until they finally fall out the bottom! (gross motor)
  •   I’m linking to:

    The Attached Mama's Alphabet Craft Collection

Letter B

Letter B week! This was a fun week! Sweet Pea still doesn’t want to do much fine motor activity associated with letters, but we had a lot of fun doing things related to the letter B!
Wanna bop my balloon, Mommy?


  • We counted balloons. How many total? How many of each color?
  • We counted how many times we dropped or caught the balloons.
  • We counted how many balloons popped on the grass.


  • We pointed out a lot of things that are Brown
  • SP and I made Magic Bubbles using the recipe from Creative Kids at Home. Here’s the recipe we tried. They have more on their site, you’ve got to check it out!
Magic Bubbles
1 tblsp glycerin
2 tblsp dish soap
9 oz water


  • We read Little Bunny Foo Foo.
  • We read When I’m Big by Sam McBratney
  • Cutie Pie enjoyed wiping the letter F off of the blackboard with a wet paintbrush 
  • Practiced writing letter B in chalk on driveway then washing them off with wet paintbrush


  • We painted with small balloons by pressing them onto paper. This made neat little spots, which Sweet Pea loved!
  • We drew and colored balloons on the driveway with chalk and chalkpaint

    Physical: Fine and Gross Motor:

    • Bopping Balloons outdoors.
    • Throwing and catching balloons.
    • Chasing runaway balloons.
    • Practiced writing letter B on driveway in chalk
    • Bike rides! 
    I’m linking to:
    The Attached Mama's Alphabet Craft Collection

      Conduction Experiment

      We haven’t done very many experiments lately, at least not any that I actually planned! Cutie Pie seemed to want a little one on one time and asked if we could do an experiment the other day. I pulled out 365 Science Experiments book (published by Hinkler Books) and flipped open to this conduction experiment number 128. It couldn’t have been more perfect as it was right before our hot cocoa date! Read on to see why!

      • Hot water
      • Drinking glass
      • Ceramic mug
      • Foam cup

      “Find out which material is a better conductor of heat.”

      1. Fill each “cup” with the hot water.
      2. Feel the outside of each container with your hand. Be careful, the water was hot!
      3. What do your fingers tell you (sense of touch)? Which was hottest? Coldest? (Or which couldn’t you touch for long?)
      Heat travels better through some materials than others. These materials are said to be good conductors. In your experiment, which was the good conductor of heat? That’s the container you would be least likely to hold if drinking something like hot cocoa or coffee unless it had a handle! The foam cup was the worst conductor of heat, and that’s why hot drinks are often served in them!
      1. The ceramic mug felt hottest.
      2. The glass at first wasn’t very hot, but when testing the temperature of each container again, we noticed it had gotten quite hot. Possibly a slow, but good conductor of heat?
      3. The sound of pouring water was different with each container we used. Cutie Pie hypothesized this was due to the different shape of the containers or the materials the containers were made of.

      We put this all to the test during our hot cocoa time. Cutie Pie thankfully doesn’t drink his hot cocoa at a very hot temperature, so I allowed him to pour it into the different containers to see the real-life application, since before it was just hot water, and “hot water isn’t really something you drink” according to Cutie Pie!

      This was a lot of fun, but I encourage you to be careful with the hot water, as the containers can get quite hot  depending on how hot your water is. I also encourage you to use a tray with lips as your work surface as spills are quite possible!
      This experiment was taken directly from 365 Science Experiments, published by Hinkler Books, a book which I purchased on my own, although some wording has been changed. I have in no way been compensated by this publisher.

      Post-Christmas toy search

      Cutie Pie has a birthday coming up in a couple of weeks, which puts me in a search for toys yet again. I came across CP Toys by Constructive Playthings and I am really liking their selection of educational toys for kids. He got some really great toys for Christmas, so I’m looking for something a little different than can be found at the big box stores and I think this might be the place!

      As you know from previous posts, Cutie Pie loves his science! He’s also been into pretend play lately. The first category I searched under was Pretend Play and found unique put-together toys as well as wooden play sets like kitchens and the food to fill the cupboards. The dress up items look like a lot of fun, too! The Science and Nature search brought up microscopes and a neat looking Dino dig and build kit.

      I am trying to decide what to get Cutie Pie as a gift. I just have to remind myself to look at the fun, educational toys for kids that I know he’ll have fun with and enjoy a little longer!

      Trio Gears Review

      Sweet Pea also received Fisher-Price Trio Gears for his birthday. Cutie Pie absolutely loves them and has sort of claimed them as his own! Sweet Pea doesn’t seem to mind that much, though. Since they are loved I thought I’d share my review of them, like last week’s built it review, just in case you need inspiration for yet another toy for your child!

      Have you seen or played with Fisher-Price Trios? They are heavy duty plastic cubes that are made to clip together. There are holes on each side to allow the assortment of accessories to be attached in various ways. The basic set comes with the simple pieces and a great pamphlet of building ideas. The theme sets come with the fun accessories (like eyes and rods that can be used like arms) and the instructional pamphlet of ideas, all of which are clearly explained with step by step pictures. Trios are generally recommended for children age 3+. I have found that a three year old needs help clipping them together in addition to following the instructions, but Cutie Pie (at 5yrs old) requires help mostly with deciding what to build (because there are so many choices), how to get started and making sure the accessories are pushed in tight enough. I’m imagining an 8 year old would still have fun with this toy with a lot less adult intervention.

      Finishing touches
      In action

      The Gears set has been a really fun addition to our other sets of Fisher-Price Trios. (We have the fire department set, the crane construction set and the basic set.) Cutie Pie was anxious to get them out of the box and play with them before Sweet Pea even realized what they were! The Gears are traditional Trios, but with a simple gear attached to some of the single cubes (you can also find several cubes attached together to make building a little more simple in sets of Trios) and several big gears as well as accessories like a propeller. You assemble different toys by connecting the gears in a certain way, rotating the handle shaped gear and the gears work together to move! Cutie Pie gets so excited when we finally finish his creations and they work just like he hypothesized they would!

      Cutie Pie loves to count (like I said in at least one past post) and when he plays with Trios its the same ~ he follows the picture directions and counts the number of cubes of each type as well as counts how many cubes should be attached together when finding a longer piece. He also loves to describe what he wants to make (when he has the idea) as well as how he thinks it will move (if he’s using Gears). He seems to love the process of building with Trios! (science, coordination, fine motor, concentration, predicting, sequencing, comparing, math, creativity)

      The only thing I wish to change about all Trios is that sometimes they come apart a little too easy. I’m sure this is because they have to fit together snug enough to hold, but not too snug or little fingers would have a hard time fitting them together. We can live with this as often Cutie Pie will attach what fell off somewhere else and make a new creation!

      To put how we feel about Fisher-Price Trios Gears simply:

      • Pros: fun, simple, heavy duty, clear picture directions, colorful, educational (science, logic, math)
      • Cons: sometimes not tight enough connection between pieces, adult help may be needed for younger children (if this is something not desired it makes it a con, otherwise it would be a great child-parent activity!)

      If you are looking for a Christmas or birthday toy for a child between the ages of 3 and 8 I would definitely recommend Trios! For the older child in this age range I would recommend the Trios Gears for additional imaginative play!

      Fisher-Price has in no way provided compensation for this review. This review consists of honest opinions of my family and myself and has in no way been influenced by Fisher-Price or it’s affiliates.

      Shadow Play

      Remember the centerpiece my mom and I made for Levi’s party using Mom’s Cricut? I planned on doing something fun with the pieces when we made them and the boys loved my idea, shadow play, the other night!

      Have you ever made shadows on the wall with your hand? Our shadow play in this post is very similar. 
      I took the engines (with the sticks still attached) and held them between a flashlight and the wall. We talked about how shadows are made by placing an object between a light source and whatever the light is hitting. Then we experimented making their engine shadows with other light sources and they discovered which made better shadows. (science, sensory, coordination)
      They really liked this type of shadow play, even following my directions and kneeling to make their engines run along the back of the couch without their heads getting in the way. I think next time we pull these out I might try draping a tablecloth between a couple of chairs and taking turns sitting in front of it while the others have their engines between the light source and the cloth!
      Have you used a scrap booking or stamping tool for fun or learning with your kiddos? I’d love to be inspired! Please share!

      Utica Children’s Museum – Review (revise with updated info)

      Grandpa has been wanting to take the boys to the Utica Children’s Museum for a while now and our visit this past weekend was the perfect opportunity to go. We had a beautiful, sunny day to drive there and it afforded us the chance to see some trains as well, since it is across the street from the train station (much to Sweet Pea’s delight!) Being regular visitors to The Strong National Museum of Play here in Rochester I wasn’t quite sure what the boys would think and was hoping it was going to be fun for them. Boy, I had nothing to worry about! They didn’t want to leave!

      Now, I have to say The Strong is a fabulous children’s museum, with grand funding from a variety of sources as well as recipients of grants and therefore is the wonderful place that it is for kids. The Utica Children’s Museum doesn’t receive funding of this magnitude, if at all (I talked with the wonderfully nice woman who runs it with her husband, but cannot honestly remember if they receive outside funds, but I know she said they don’t receive anywhere near what The Strong does.*Revision: I heard from the director of Utica’s Children’s Museum and she made this comment: We don’t receive any operating funds from the City, County, State, or Federal governments, relying wholly on our visitors, field trips, and sponsors of our annual Fundraising event, held every year the 3rd week of November.) That said, you can see some of the lack of funding in the quality of some of the exhibits (which I know they are working on!) However, I hope you don’t hold that against them…this is definitely a children’s museum worth visiting! You can check here for the City of Utica says about the museum.

      This entire museum is kid-friendly and just about everything is hands-on and packed with sneaky learning opportunities. Everything is at kid level and some of the experiential rooms are even built to kid-size, so watch your heads if you go into the grocery store or into the lab to learn about germs!

      As you walk into the first floor you are greeted with a variety of hands-on areas. In the center of the room you’ll find a working traffic light, a gravity experiment with a ping-pong ball, a light board that works by flipping switches to create a picture and a few other things just as attractive to little hands. My boys, of course, spent a long time at the plastic Thomas train table which was located just outside of a few experiential rooms. A few of these had themes like eating healthy, set up like a small grocery store, a room with a microscope decorated with germs that teaches how to keep germs at bay and at the end of the kid-sized rooms was a plastic tube that was a little science experiment in sound. On this floor this was also a very large wooden train for the kiddos to climb all over, located near the exploration area just for beginning walkers.

      The second floor housed a great musical hands-on area. There were several marimbas, including one made of 2x4s, one of pipes, and another of wrenches. Up on the stage were several pianos. I loved this area, because the kids loved just making music and checking out the instruments in a whole new light, and they loved having spectators! This floor also housed the dinosaur exploration area (see the pics above). There were a lot of toy dinosaurs set out for the kids to play with as well as a big dinosaur dig pit. In this pit were wooden fossils, each numbered for the older child to assemble a large dinosaur, but also for the little ones just to feel and explore. Cutie Pie loved guessing where the bones he found might go on a skeleton. Grandpa seemed to like the dinosaur puppet theater the most and entertained Cutie Pie by trying to put on a show for Sweet Pea and I!

      The third floor had a wide open area with tables and chairs on which a couple of science experiments were taking place while we were there as well as huge tables of Legos, another train table and several bikes of different sizes set up for kids to try. (They were set up as stationary bikes.) There was also a construction pit on this floor, filled with all sort of construction toys, hard hats, safety vests and little pellets of rubber for the kids to use their imaginations! And I can’t forget to mention the nature room which the boys loved! There was a snake, several bones and skeletons which the kiddos could touch and examine with magnifying glasses as well as a turtle, gerbil and bees (in the warmer months). I think it’s important to note students from the local college were in charge of the slime and sensory experiments and they related really well to the kids and had a really good knowledge of what they were sharing with the kids.

      The fourth floor won over my boys almost equally as the paleontologist exploration area. This floor housed the model train sets that were donated and recently put on display. The children can step on little gas peddles to get the engines moving and there was a small unit for the sound effects. Sweet Pea could have stayed there all day as there were many trains set aside just for display and he loves looking at trains! Plus there is a small plane that the kiddos can actually climb into and move the instruments. Cutie Pie loved this, even letting the aid close the cockpit so he could get the real experience. This plane was actually flown for 10 years and was donated to the Children’s Museum. What a neat experience!

      As you can see (from the length of this post and the multitude of pictures) my children loved their visit to the Utica Children’s Museum. They had some very unique experiences there and have asked several times since for us to go back. Even if you feel your kiddos might be a little too old to visit this museum, check out their school break camps activities- they look pretty interesting! This museum is a wonderful resource for the community it is located in and I truly hope funding finds it’s way to them so they can be around for years to come. It is a museum that is worth the effort to visit for the unique experiences and the sneaky learning through fun activities! (math, science, language, fine motor, gross motor) And remember the added bonus of the train station being right across the street! More on that soon!

      This post is the compilation of my family’s experience and opinions after having visited this museum. The Utica Children’s Museum has in no way compensated me for this post or influenced our opinions.

      Making Fossils

      I found a salt bread dough recipe a bit ago that was supposed to be good for making fossils. Cutie Pie and I tried it out one day when it was warmer.

      The recipe called for water, flour and salt to be mixed together in one bowl. (I’m not going to share the recipe, because I actually wouldn’t recommend it, even if it were me that got it wrong. It just didn’t seem right for this kind of fossil project.)

      It really mixes up like a bread dough, but thicker and heavier.

      Can you tell how hard Cutie Pie is working on mixing?!

      After the dough was well mixed, we dumped it onto the hard table and kneaded it for a few times, then flattened it with our hands. We then made impressions of our feet and hands!

      We baked them according to instructions and when they were cooled the fossil was nice and hard. (But not hard enough for our liking, hence the reason I won’t give you this recipe!)

      Cutie Pie had fun placing the fossils around the house and ‘going on a hunt’ for them, pretending he was a paleontologist going out into the field looking for fossils. When he found them he would measure them, to the best of his ability, and take very good care of them pretending to dust the dirt off. He would then spend a few minutes debating what animal could possibly have made these incredibly rare fossils!

      I will definitely try this again, but with a different recipe, or maybe even something edible (as long as we use something other than dirty feet to make the fossils!)

      Science and Friends at Grampa’s

      Whenever we go to Grampa’s my boys look forward to a few things, two of which are playing in nature and playing with his young neighbor!

      Uncle Craig and Aunt Lisa are both into science, too, so my boys were totally in their element with them exploring. One night they went on a creepy crawly search. They found centipedes, potato bugs and salamanders! That’s a salamander in Uncle Craig’s hands (above).

      Of course a trip to Grampa’s always includes a fossil hunt. In the above pic Aunt Lisa and Uncle Craig found creepy crawlies, but the boys were checking out the fossils!

      Interesting Bug

      I remember seeing stick bugs growing up out in the country. They are the most amazingly camouflaged creatures, in my opinion that is! This August when visiting my Dad the boys got to see two up close!

      I apologize for the dirty window making this a horrible picture, but this stick bug was seen crawling up my dad’s workshop door. It was a nice sunny spot, and this guy and his friend hung around on the window for several hours a couple of days in a row. We’re thinking it must have been a good hunting spot or they enjoyed the warmth.

      The boys were fascinated with these stick bugs, but didn’t stay around long observing them. They were probably too high up and they didn’t move, which made them a little boring to watch! We had great plans of reading about them in our bug book when we got home, but we still haven’t done it. It was great to see them get excited about something they’ve never seen before, though!


      To say my boys were fascinated with this (large and creepy) spider is an understatement! I spied it on one of our outdoor plastic chairs. It just kept crawling around the back of it, back and forth.

      The boys didn’t try to pick it up, but they did try to get it to crawl onto a stick, which of course it didn’t do (much to my relief!) I am all for my boys being interested in science and creepy crawlies, but hairy spiders just freak me out!

      After watching this spider for at least half an hour, we looked up spiders in our bug book and on the Internet. While outside we observed that this spider was a little hairy, had eight legs and looked like he had bulging eyes. We discovered from the bug book and Internet that spiders have eight legs, two body segments and that they cannot chew. Their legs are attached to the front segment of their body, and they have 48 knees! Also, the hair on their legs pick up vibrations and smells from the air.

      All of this is way too much information for me and way more than I could tell my boys about spiders, but the boys loved it! I’m so glad that I can use the Internet as a learning tool with my boys! I’m just worried that I’ll find them trying to dissect one!

      Science week at Stay and Play

      I came across this great blog called Stay and Play a couple of weeks ago and was very excited to discover this week is science week there! I can’t wait to try everything that’s already been shared with my boys! I encourage you to check it out – science-y stuff for more than just a grade or two to enjoy!

      This is just a reflection of an interest of mine (and my boys). It is not a paid advertisement, I am not being compensated in any way other than reaping the benefits of fun science time with my boys!

      Fort Rickey

      On our visit to Gramma’s we visited a neat children’s petting zoo called Fort Rickey Discovery Zoo, located near Rome, NY. I used to go here as a child, and although it wasn’t exactly like I remember, it brought back a lot of memories!

      In the petting area there is animal food available for purchase and you can feed the deer, which you can also feed this food to any hoofed animal in the park. Also in this area is a little pond on which you can take out the paddle boats and feed the fish. In the picture above that’s me, Sweet Pea, another family and a deer watching the fish jump up to practically eat food right out of our hands!

      Here are Cutie Pie and his Uncle Craig out on the paddle boat!

      There were also goats in the petting area, which Sweet Pea really liked!

      Fort Rickey is rather small, but that allows you to spend time checking out each animal, like donkey and goats…

      or just jumping into a huge pit of balls in their playground structure!

      Sweet Pea really liked feeding the different animals that he was allowed to feed. He also liked the baby goats, although you aren’t really supposed to feed them (they need a sign).

      My guys were fascinated getting up close to the animals, and even more tickled that they could feed some! The variety of animals wasn’t that huge, but that was a good thing for us because it got the boys asking some good questions and noticing how the animals we saw were alike and how others were different (think different kinds of deer, a couple of otters, bunnies, turtles and snakes).

      I would definitely recommend checking out Fort Rickey if you are in the Rome, NY area. It seemed like just the perfect activity for kids my boy’s ages!

      (The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely those of me and my children. We have received no compensation for this review from Fort Rickey or any other source.)

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      Exploding Paint Experiment

      I believe I saw this experiment at Familyfun.com, but I cannot find it now. It sounded like it would be really fun for the boys since it involved a little explosion. There is a little process to follow, and some coordination required, and definitely some adult supervision needed.

      First, assemble your tools and ingredients:

      zipper-style plastic baggies
      big sheets of paper
      1/4 c vinegar per bag
      1 Tbsp baking soda per bag
      1 piece of toilet paper per bag
      liquid paint or food coloring, 1 per bag

      First, place the baking soda in the middle of a piece of toilet paper, fold it neatly and place it in one corner of a bag.

      Second, twist the bag to ‘seal’ the baking soda pillow into the corner.

      Third, pour your paint and vinegar into the other corner of the bag.

      Fourth, seal the bag.

      When you are ready, untwist the bag and let the baking soda, paint and vinegar mix. Place the baggie on a big sheet of paper, preferably outside.

      Your bag will inflate, like a balloon, and eventually pop, sending a splatter of color over the paper during the explosion. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen!

      Our bags inflated well, but after the explosion we saw that the vinegar made the paint appear to curdle. Not quite what we expected, and not a very neat print on the paper at all.

      Obviously, this didn’t work as I had hoped, but I’m blogging about it anyway! It was a pretty neat experiment to try, and in a way good that it failed and led to disappointment, as it gave us an opportunity to talk about the process, what we observed and what we could alter next time.

      If you try this experiment and it works, please let me know how you did it. I’m sure I must have done something wrong or they wouldn’t have published this experiment for public use!

      NOTE: I wanted to try this again, but without having to experiment and tweak (yes, I know, but with 2 squirmy and anxious boys at this stage tweaking might take an entire box of baggies…) and I came across this experiment, almost the same but with different measurements….check it out, it’s called Bag Boom Explosion on education.com!

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      Inflating Balloon Experiment

      Child's PlayI’ve seen this experiment several places, so I take no responsibility it. We’ve also done this experiment a few times before and each time it gets my boys’ attention. Most recently, I’ve seen this in the book Child’s Play by Leslie Hamilton, listed as Magic Balloon.

      You’ll need a balloon, small pop bottle, baking soda, vinegar and a funnel.

      Use the funnel to put about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the balloon. Use it again to put 1 to 2 inches of vinegar into the pop bottle.

      Secure the mouth of the balloon to the mouth of the pop bottle by making sure the baking soda is the the bottom of the balloon and then folding the balloon over so the baking soda doesn’t fall into the balloon. Work with only the mouth of the balloon. Yes, I know, this takes some coordination!

      Hold onto the balloon tightly while your child lifts the baking soda-filled part of the balloon, letting the baking soda fall into the vinegar.

      What happens? Gas is formed by mixing the baking soda (a base) with the vinegar (an acid) and the gas fills the balloon!

      Can you tell there are two underlying themes this week? If you guessed ‘what we did this summer’ and ‘balloons’ then you are right!

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      Inflating Balloon Experiment

      I’ve seen this experiment several places, so I take no responsibility it. We’ve also done this experiment a few times before and each time it gets my boys’ attention. Most recently, I’ve seen this in the book Child’s Play by Leslie Hamilton, listed as Magic Balloon.

      You’ll need a balloon, small pop bottle, baking soda, vinegar and a funnel.

      Use the funnel to put about 1 tablespoon of baking soda into the balloon. Use it again to put 1 to 2 inches of vinegar into the pop bottle.

      Secure the mouth of the balloon to the mouth of the pop bottle by making sure the baking soda is the the bottom of the balloon and then folding the balloon over so the baking soda doesn’t fall into the balloon. Work with only the mouth of the balloon. Yes, I know, this takes some coordination!

      Hold onto the balloon tightly while your child lifts the baking soda-filled part of the balloon, letting the baking soda fall into the vinegar.

      What happens? Gas is formed by mixing the baking soda (a base) with the vinegar (an acid) and the gas fills the balloon!

      Can you tell there are two underlying themes this week? If you guessed ‘what we did this summer’ and ‘balloons’ then you are right!

      If you liked this experiment you may also like: Balloon Rocket!

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      Balloon rocket

      Here’s another balloon post for you, except this time on a much smaller scale! We’ve done this several times since I saw this idea in a few of our many science experiment books. The boys love it and never seem to tire of it being the fun indoor activity that I reach for when I need to get something done in the kitchen and want to have them nearby, like on a ‘bickering day’. It’s really quite simple!

      Take a piece of yarn and thread it through a straw.

      Tie the yarn to a doorknob across the room.

      Tape the straw onto a balloon that is full of air, making sure to pinch the balloon closed so it doesn’t shrink while you are taping. This step is a good one for working together as a team, otherwise you’ve got to have a lot of coordination!

      Hold the string tight and let go of the balloon!

      What happens? Does the balloon go fast or slowly? What happens if you don’t blow the balloon up quite so much? What happens if you forget to use tape? What other observations can you make?

      I tried many times to get a picture of this and it comes out blurry every time. I can’t even manage one of either of them simply holding the yarn as they are so giddy with excitement to watch the balloon rocket take off!

      We finally got Rain!

      We’ve had a pretty dry summer here. This is a good thing because we haven’t had to mow the lawn for about 5 weeks, but our garden is suffering, along with many crops in the area. However, the other day it rained. (I wrote this before hurricane Irene. In this area we only had high winds and not the damaging weather Northern New York State experienced. My prayers are with those who are still dealing with damages from this hurricane, especially my friends and family in Northern NY.)

      This was a good thing for us. The boys and I talked again about why rain is good for the ground, plants, animals and farmers (and have since talked about what happens when we get too much). All through the month of July while we watered the garden we talked about the plants drinking the water from the ground up and were careful to not water the leaves, but the roots to help the plants the most.

      This summer it’s been fun watching the garden grow with the boys. We’ve got lots of tomatoes and peppers growing! What have you been growing in your garden? Have you had a great harvest this season?

      Life in the Country

      Visiting my dad is always special for me. There was something special about growing up in the country where the school bus sometimes couldn’t get up the hill and where you could play out in the woods, far enough away that you couldn’t hear your parents call you in for dinner and didn’t have to worry about anyone ‘stealing’ you. I’m glad my Dad still lives ‘up on the hill’ so that my boys can experience a little of this, too, on our visits.

      Hubby and I live in ‘the village’ in a very nice little neighborhood where neighbors know each other enough to stop on the street and visit when walking after dinner, or hang over the fence to talk. It’s a great place to raise our boys. They’ll have neighborhood kids to play with and a few safe places to run to if they need to. Growing up on the hill with my Dad’s best friend and wife sharing ownership of the property I had that, but on a much smaller scale as there just weren’t as many neighbors. However, at my dad’s, there is a great freedom in being able to walk out your door, explore nature, stay out for hours and not have your parents with you. Here we don’t let our boys out by themselves, and probably won’t for a long while, as it’s busy enough to have that nagging worry about people watching your kids for a moment when you’re not there.

      Dad’s property used to be surrounded on 3 sides by fields and one side by the road. Today it still has fields on 2 sides of it and the road is a bit busier, but that’s the back of the house, so it never really mattered much. Even the third side has a good boundary of trees and a hill between his house and the neighbor’s.

      My boys love to run to the bottom of the property and explore the stone fence for fossils, rocks to throw into the field and search for little insects without a care, and I love the fact that I can watch from inside the house, just to keep an eye on them not wandering too far over the property line.

      They’ve also been exploring the back field, looking for animal footprints to track. Grampa has a great book about tracking and last time we were there we used it as a guide to help us know what animal tracks we found. As long as they don’t find the bear that’s been seen several times up there on property farther up the hill! (Yes, another reason I watch from the window, mostly I’m watching the property.)

      And of course, you never know what you’ll find at Grampa’s! This time it was a huge pile of dirt, which the boys utterly enjoyed! Something about going to my childhood home and being surrounded by nature revives me and I can’t wait to go back!

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      Will this fall? (experiment)

      Here’s another photo from a few months ago….

      Cutie Pie was fascinated with making bridges for a while this spring, building them with whatever he thought would work. It was pretty interesting when he pulled his art paper roll out and tucked one end in a drawer of the sideboard to make a bridge. I wondered what he was doing when he ran to the other room and brought back a truck. Evidently he constructed a bridge!

      Cutie Pie actually tried setting several small trucks and cars on this paper bridge, and seemed to pay close attention to what happened with each – whether it rolled and which way, if it quickly fell off or stayed on the paper for a while. It was like his own little experiment! Even though we didn’t chart anything, I know he would have been into it if we had! All sorts of science going on there!

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      As you probably have already guessed, my boys seem ‘into’ science. Mostly dinosaur-related and tangible experiments, but they also like to read about things and ‘touch’ if they are able to.

      My sister gave the boys a great bug book and collecting kit for Christmas and now that it’s bug season they are enjoying them even more than they did before! Explore Bugs, by Maurice Pledger, is a great kid’s bug book! The pages are full of brightly colored pictures and packed with lots of information in the format of simple information-filled sentences. There are also small fold-out books attached to some pages with even more details, as well as ‘Fun Facts’ and ‘At a Glance’ highlights.

      My guys like to pull this book out after we come in from outside on those days when they saw bugs in the grass or on the driveway and try to find the bugs they encountered. They seem fascinated by the details, especially when they just saw the bug.

      In this instance they were just looking at the book with their magnifying glasses (like they look at the bugs outside) and were checking out the Atlas Beetle, which according to the book can carry more than 8 pounds! Isn’t that crazy!?

      I tried to show the boys how much 8 pounds is by letting them hold my two 4 pound weights. Cutie Pie was amazed at that Beetle even more after that!