An eggcellent Easter. 

I *think* I may be chocolated out. I think. But to the right of me right now I have half of an eaten (or is it uneaten? Hmmm?) Baileys Easter egg. I had half of it at about 2pm and promptly fell into a chocolate induced coma. I woke at 4.30pm to be greeted with rebels who had not been listening to their grandmother. Cue mean mummy and tantrums. I am certain that I was not the only one wishing I stayed asleep!!

You may have gathered from the above that I have over eaten and my kids are running wild. Yep, we are being indulged at Grandma’s house. And there has still been time for a little science. This time something quick and simple and using things from MIL’s kitchen. Remember, my aim is to do science with preschoolers with inexpensive and easily available resources so there is little excuse to not give this a go.

Science at this time of year HAD to involve eggs. There were plenty eggsperiments I contemplated over but I settled to wow the kids with a ‘bouncy’ egg investigation. For this you need: an egg, vinegar, a glass and food colouring (this is optional). This investigation does take some time – needs to be set up roughly 2-3 days in advance. Perfect for the Easter holiday – set up, eat chocolate and hang out with the family whilst you wait.

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Of course to begin, discuss the egg. I asked the kids where the egg came from, what it should become and why the egg had not hatched. An list of the questions asked can be found at the bottom of this article. I ended the questioning asking about the shell and what happens to the shell if the egg was dropped/hit/fell.

I then set up the experiment.

To set this up simply fill the cup/container with vinegar (enough to completely cover the egg) and place the egg in. You can add food colouring in if you wish – just to make it a bit more of a sensory experience for the kids. It is just as cool without colouring. Once you place the egg in, you will see a reaction immediately. The kids observed and we discussed what we saw. I spoke about a gas being produced and my eldest remembered about the vinegar and balloon experiment. The few investigations we have done so far have linked nicely. We have worked with vinegar, talked about CO2 and gravity and so the kids have been able to build and deepen on their knowledge further in this investigation.

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And that is it. Leave for 2-3 days and keep checking on it and you shall see the shell dissolve. Keep discussing observations and referring to their predictions. Just a note – you may want to keep the container covered to avoid the smell of a fish and chip shop in your home. It will overpower the chocolate. We can not have that over Easter.

On the 3rd day we fished the egg out of the vinegar and the kids were wowed. We took a raw egg and the egg that had been soaking in vinegar and a few plates to do the next step. It was going to be messy so we took this outside. With the young ones I thought it important that we compared the egg with a raw egg so they could really experience the difference. We dropped the raw egg, observed and discussed. This was then repeated with the vinegar soaked egg and lo and behold, the kids witnessed a bouncy egg! I did not manage to get a good shot of the bounce, but give it a go for yourself to see!

They enjoyed poking it and I think were pretty freaked out by it!

My youngest then decided to have a go at bouncing and did so with FORCE so you can imagine what happened next! Yep…..

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So as a note, to get a few bounces out of it – bounce gently and not from too great a height. However, this would again be another great experiment: bouncing from different heights, on different surfaces etc. If you would like some suggestions/further ideas then feel free to get in contact.

The science bit:

Vinegar is an acid, a weak acid but an acid nonetheless. The egg is made of calcium carbonate and when the two combine a chemical reaction occurs – a salt, water and carbon dioxide is made. The co2 is what causes the bubbling which is what you see as soon as the egg is in the vinegar. Over time the reaction continues causing the shell to break down and dissolve. As you observe over day 2 & 3 and lift the egg out of the vinegar you will see that you are able to practically rub the shell off. The egg is still raw inside, it is protected by its membrane. This is that clear film you see inside an eggshell. If you choose to break a raw egg at the same time as bouncing the egg you will find this handy as you can take the raw egg’s shell and point out that membrane. Why is it so strong? That membrane is made of strong stuff, like keratin and collagen, the same protein found in human hair and skin. It is incredibly strong which explains why the egg can bounce.

Keywords:

Egg
Eggshell
Yolk
Egg White
Drop
Crack
Smash
Vinegar
Carbon dioxide
Bounce
Bouncy
Fragile
Membrane
Observe/See

Key Questions:
What is an egg?
Where does this egg come from?
What other animals lay eggs?
What is inside the egg?
What is on the outside?
What can the egg become?
What does it need to hatch?
What will the vinegar do to the egg?
What is making the bubbles?
What happened?
What can you see is happening?

There are a lot of interesting investigations that you can do with eggs – even ones that will challenge the idea that the eggshell is fragile.

Give this eggsperiment a go, it is a great way to get started and will certainly wow!

Have fun!

Now, where is that Baileys egg……ooohh….wait, hot cross buns…..

Magic Magnets

Well, this post has taken a little longer to write. Not because I didn’t know how to – but entirely because it has taken me longer than anticipated (much longer) to recover from a night out! I do not know what has been worse on my body…..the drink or the heels?! Day 4 and though I am still tired, I am finally starting to feel like myself. I may even manage a run in the morning! Here’s hoping. Well, I really ought to. Filling myself with warm pizza, cold pizza and 300 million biscuits is beginning to show itself around my middle.

[Update – I did in fact manage a run this morning!]

This week we have had fun, a whole variety of fun with magnets. With two horseshoe magnets that I bought from Wilko’s for £3, we have managed to occupy 3 days so far!

My kids are familiar with magnets. We have the standard fridge magnets, magnetic phone and tablet chargers and a magnetic picture/puzzle board.  They also have a magnetic building block set but yet with two large horseshoe magnets they have managed to really explore and learn with them. They went nuts as I pulled them out of the bag. I thought it would keep them still (maybe even actually sitting). Who was I kidding? It only fuelled and gave even more purpose to the constant running around the house. The first activity was to run around testing which bit of furniture the magnet ‘stuck’ to. For children, magnets really are magical. I was really impressed that something that cost me £1.50 and bought on a whim inspired instant investigation and wonder. Why was it not ‘sticking to that’? Why was it ‘sticking’ to this? I decided to not supply with answers immediately but urged them to explore, test even more and repeatedly nagged them to stop dropping their magnets.

Whilst they did this I found a box and filled it with small random items of household junk. Think of that drawer you have (everyone has it) the one in which you throw all the stuff you have no idea to put anywhere else. Yep, that drawer.  That random stuff is about to come in handy.

Fill a box/tray with the random stuff making sure you have a good selection of magnetic items in there too. To help you out here, items such as a fork, spoon, screw, nut, allen key, keying, paperclip, staple, jar lid, tweezers, safety pin, double/triple A batteries etc.  I will make a note here about basic health and safety – obviously ensure that the items you have chosen are age suitable and that your kids are aware how to hold them, not put them in the mouth etc. Small magnets which can be swallowed are also very dangerous and can lead to serious injuries. So please, be safe and supervise your children if you chose to play and explore with magnets.

I also quickly drew on a piece of paper: a horseshoe magnet and another with a cross through it (which I later cut into two). With some masking tape, I divided an area of the floor into two. We were going to do a basic sorting activity.

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Quite simply, the kids pulled out an item from the box and tested if it was magnetic or not and placed it into the correct category. This activity really did keep them busy. To encourage thoughts and discussion we went through the names of the items, described them (they also asked me a few questions here) and before testing I asked if it would ‘stick’ or not. Initially we stuck with this word for the first few items before introducing the word ‘magnetic’. Once this was grasped and association was made, even the youngest preferred using the technical term – or in her case ‘magnekik’.

I did do this activity individually with the kids. I wanted to ensure the youngest was getting a chance to explore and speak independently. It also gave me the opportunity to challenge the older one. With my older one I was able to talk about the materials the were made from, the similarities and differences between the magnetic items and even get him to consider if all metal items were magnetic. The older one, whilst sorting, also saw that with some items e.g. clothes peg, part of them were magnetic and other parts were not. This opened up a new sorting group and he began placing these sorts of items in the middle of the two established categories. I was pretty impressed! I was even more impressed when the lazy fart stopped physically picking things from the box and instead simply hovered his magnet over the box to see what would be attracted to it!!

After establishing that not all metals are magnetic we talked about the main magnetic metal, Iron. I know there are others, but I felt that right now that is all he needed to know. Plus, Iron is an easy one to remember when you love the superhero Ironman. Though this was a simple sorting activity, it was great for developing predictions. It was not a simply case of ‘yes/no it will be magnetic’ but I encouraged the older one to think about why he made a particular prediction.

This was not the end of the magic magnetic experience. Not only do I have a few more activities lined up this week but I decided to do one more cool thing with magnets.

I took a glass and dropped a paperclip in there and asked if they thought the magnet could work through the glass. Once amazed by this, I filled the glass with water and asked if the magnet would work in water. Watch out for bright eyes and open mouths. Easily pleased at this age!

And some more playing with magnets….

The science bit:

Magnets can attract other magnets but they can also attract magnetic materials. All magnetic materials are metals however only a few metals are magnetic.
Iron IS magnetic, so any metal with iron in it will be attracted to a magnet. Steel contains iron, so a steel paperclip, for example, will be attracted to a magnet. Most other metals, for example aluminium, copper and gold, are NOT magnetic.

Keywords used today:
push
pull
attract
repel
stick
magnetic
metal
describe
sort
horseshoe
same
different
Iron
metal
wood
tin
plastic

Key questions:
Do you know the name of this magnet?
Will it stick?
Is this magnetic?
Why do you think it is/is not magnetic?
How do you know it will/will not be magnetic?
Were you right?
What is the same/different in the magnetic items?
Are all things metal, magnetic?

There are an abundance of activities you can do with magnets and many are perfect for preschoolers. For example, the paperclip in the glass of water could easily be lots of paperclips in plastic bottles filled with lentils, sand, rice etc. I will be doing a few more activities with magnets and will keep this blog updated.

Have fun with an activity that takes less than a few minutes to set up but entertains for hours!

We’re going on a bug hunt, only Mummy is scared……

On our walks out over the past week we have seen many minibeasts resurface due to the warming weather. We have seen squashed ones, scratched ones, living ones, big ones and small ones. My boy has had great ideas about why they look the way they do (especially squashed ones), where they are going and what they are doing – pretty hilarious stuff. And my girl looks on adoringly at the creeping crawling bugs calling it “a cutie”, which is equally hilarious.

Anyway the plan this morning, armed with our magnifying glasses (we have loads in various shapes and sizes) was to have a dig in our mud pit in our back garden, have a scavenger hunt and take it from there. Would you believe it, the sun did not have his hat on and we barely found a bug – most probably they were doing what all other sane living things were at that moment in time…having a cuppa and dunking a hob nob. 

Today was about exploration, observation and making predictions. It was incredibly simple and again, lead by the children. All we needed today was to be properly dressed, have a magnifying glass and the all important, but by no means necessary (unless you are one of my offspring), a bucket and spade.

And so wellies on, and armed with bucket and spades, we went off to have a dig in the muddy patch at the back of the garden. I must add here that this patch is not an an intentional nature reserve, but an area the other half is ‘working on’. This ‘work’ has been going on for a year. It’s still a patch of mud. I hope he is reading this. 


The kids actually LOVE this patch in the garden. They especially love digging in it so I just let them explore and dig. Once they got warmed up I showed them a scavenger hunt (image saved on my iPad as I do not  have any ink left in the printer and you must be mad if you think I am going to stay up late designing a worksheet because, I am on a career break).

It was a simple “worksheet” with pictures of various bugs commonly found in the garden with a tick box. There are a million online you can print off and use. Simply search for minibeast scavenger hunt, or similar, however I have provided a link at the bottom to the one I used. We talked a lot about where we were most likely to find particular bugs so that we would not be  randomly searching – which would lead to boredom. My big bug made some fairly educated guesses based a lot on the conversations we had been having on our walks to school when we spotted worms, snails and slugs. We also talked about safety, touching bugs and taking care while we explored. 

I also showed them a child friendly chart (also on my iPad) of some common minibeasts so that they had an idea of what would be out there and pick out and name the ones they already knew. This was a handy chart as we compared a few bugs we found against it. I will put a link at the bottom of the resources I used, but again, there are a lot out there. 

Spot the spider
    
                                                    
Peter Rabbit’s radish
 

We had some interesting finds but not nearly as good as the ones we had yesterday when it was a lot warmer. Despite this we had a good go at making predictions as to what or who made the holes in the ground, what the minibeast was up to and why they liked it either in the soil or on top. The big bug also dug up a bulb and we discussed roots. Little bug immediately likened the bulb to a radish and declared that Peter Rabbit would like it! Actually little bug, who is 2, was really engrossed. When ask what she was looking for she had said a caterpillar, a spider before deciding that she was going to look for a peacock. She really does make me laugh. 

I let them get back to digging (because they never tire of it) before introducing the idea of making a “bug hotel”. I had an empty water bottle which I cut in half and kept at open both ends, so essentially, you have a plastic cylinder. I have not photographed this as I totally forgot but it is as simple as it sounds.  In it we stuffed twigs (bamboo twigs are best – twigs with a hole in, but don’t worry too much about it), leaves, stones, bark and an acorn we had found. We filled the hotel to the brim. If you want specific insects then you would need to fill it with specifc items. Again, I’ll put a link to a resource you may find useful. You could also create butterfly feeders but I am going to save that for another, warmer day and time of year.


We then decided on a spot to put the hotel. Seeing as we have not long returned from our holiday in Goa we thought it would be nice to recreate that tropical palm tree feel. So we dumped the hotel right amongst the weedy flowers. I am pretty sure we’re going to get 5* trip advisor ratings. There’s even trampoline nearby and a pool (the minibeasts do not need to know it’s collected rainwater on the trampoline cover!)

 
We willcome back to the hotel at check out time and see if we have anything interesting. Fingers crossed! 

Another interesting thing we found that we linked to our recent holiday, was a collection of shells. Big bug thought it quite funny that on the beach we found a range of sea shells belonging to crabs etc and here in our own garden we had a range of shells belonging to snails. When I asked where the snail had gone, he said quite matter of factly: “to find bigger shells to live in of course!” It was great to see him base his answer on previously gathered knowledge from our holiday and discussion on hermit crabs. Of course this isn’t the case and we discussed how a snail is attached to its shell and grows from it, so if it’s empty it means the snail died for whatever reason.

 

Then it was lunchtime and Annika had decided she wanted to wash her hands. All in all it was a good morning of hunting, making predictions and building on what they already knew as well as learning some new things. I am sure we will continue to have even more talks as we start seeing more minibeasts around here and of course, exploration of the hotel. 

I better brush up on my biodiversity! 

Some of the resources used today (and again, there are millions of different yet similar available on the internet. I just chose something simple that would work for my kids):

Some keywords: 

  • Minibeast
  • Insects
  • Bugs
  • Dark 
  • Light
  • Underground
  • Overground
  • Mud
  • Soil
  • Earth
  • Gentle
  • Harm
  • Living
  • Antenna 

Some key questions asked: 

  • Can you tell what minibeast it is?
  • Why do you think this lives under/overground? 
  • How many minibeasts did you find in one place? 
  • Could you spot that minibeast easily or was it difficult to see? Why? 
  • Why do you think the shell is empty?
  • What made that hole in the ground? 
  • What minibeast do you think you will find there? 
  • What do you think a slug etc might need in his hotel? 

So I hope this inspires you to explore, there was no cost at all but well used time and very few resources (90% of which were natural). Have an adventure in your back garden, park, bit of green by the pavement and enjoy the simplest of science. 

All about me

I’m Gina.

If you are in this very moment: on the sofa with a cuppa, iPad open on Pinterest searching for ‘things to do with kids’ (looking for the tab labelled ‘this is real life’ & ‘I don’t live near the U.S shop Target’, to narrow things down a bit) whilst CBeebies Justin sings about friends and the kids….well the kids…..are on the floor flicking  broken bits of toys at each other’s head then…..this may well be the page for you!

Or, if you are on the sofa with a cuppa whilst CBeebies hums in the background and have just been rudely awoken from your racing thoughts (on life and what to do with it), by a smack in the head from a wheel of a racing car and giggles…then this again may be the page for you.

I’m a trained teacher, was even a deputy head for a while before I gave it all up, relocated to Germany before returning back to the UK with my two children. During the initial stage of motherhood I struggled, found my feet by following a routine to ensure survival before moving on to teaching my kids as if they were in a classroom with my own handwritten curriculum (they were under three!). Cue next stage….sit back and doing very little while they explored the world around them and each other quite happily and independently. So much so, that I am often frowned at by them or upset their flow if I interfere. But as I watch I am slowly seeing sparks of interest, being asked questions, enjoying their conversations and am floored by the observations they are making.
A lot of what I do with kids, or have done, has involved coloured paper, glue, paint, scissors, googly eyes or icing sugar. I really do enjoy a bit of art & craft with the kids, even the mess. But I began to find myself feeling that there was only so much I could do with glitter, and remembering that there’s actually so much more I could do. I’ve noticed amongst my two rascals that there is so much more of an interest of nature, of taking toys apart to see how they work and hungry questions about who, what and why. With my eldest starting full time school in September I’m beginning to worry that that spark in the classroom will be dimmed or even extinguished as the days become filled with phonics, nonsense words, Biff & Chip, number bonds and multiplication facts. I know this probably won’t be the case, but I do love to worry (ha!)
During my career as a teacher I saw ‘it’ going. Squashed out of the curriculum, linked to other subjects creatively and then desperate attempts to claw it back by dedicating a week to it. Science. Now I wasn’t a science specialist but I loved teaching it, probably because I loved it at as a child at school, won awards in it and had a very enthusiastic science teacher when undertaking teacher training. Science was a big thing at home too, so it was encouraged. And I want to do the same thing in my home.

My two are amazed by the life and world around them and those moments are truly priceless. I’ve decided (with the help of my husband who has an amazing technical mind) that I’m going to cultivate that interest by doing a little more science at home. We’ll still do the odd card making of course but I think the vacuum cleaner will appreciate a little less glitter and dried up playdough for a while.

In this blog, I will be documenting kid friendly science activities with stuff you actually would have in your own home, not in a science lab. I’ll be mainly following my children’s lead for area of interest with the odd experiment here and there just because I want to!

Don’t worry, that won’t be all. I’ll be blogging about life in general too because, I just won’t be able to help myself! I’m at a crossroads in life and trying to work out who I am, just what it is I like and what it is I’m going to do. I thought I had a good idea but I know that watching television and biscuit tasting is not exactly inspirational and nor will it pay the bills (so the other half says). I’ve decided to take up a hobby of photography which is something that I’ve wanted to do for a long time (like writing a blog) but have not had the confidence to do. I’ll be snapping away and sharing. I live in quite a picture perfect area, which I am going to take advantage of. I will also be blogging about living in Rutland from a mother’s perspective, sharing what’s going on and where to go with young ones.

So watch this space….

Hope you enjoy!

I have a car, I have a balloon. I have a balloon car!

Cars, balloons and motion.

I doubt these lyrics will make a tune as catchy as ‘Pineapple pen’ but it may be a catchy activity to do with the kids as it is inexpensive, readily available and an easy way to introduce Newton’s third law (if you want to take it that far!). 

My kids love cars. They build them, pretend to be one and like to throw play with them. They also LOVE balloons. We are a house in abundance of balloons and cars so I’ve decided that this weeks activity will combine the two. We simply taped a balloon to a plastic straw, taped this to a toy car, blew up the balloon and let it go! 

To get them warmed up we had a bit of fun racing cars (excuse my shoddy iPhone pictures. They will get better!). 

                                       

I posed the question of moving the car without using hands. Smarty pants number 1 suggested we use feet before we swiftly moved on from using any body parts.

I showed them the balloon attached to a straw and we discussed how it was made before we made one together. 

All in all for this activity, you’ll need a toy car (fairly lightweight one BUT don’t limit yourself to this, more info on this in a bit), straws, masking tape, scissors, a clothes peg and of course a balloon. 

                                             

What you’re aiming to create is something like this (below) which you’ll tape to a toy car.           

                           

                    

Then it was a simple case of blow up the balloon and release. 
                                     

The air escaping propels the balloon in the opposite direction which illustrates that ‘for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction’. We likened this to a rocket too. But, naturally because things with very young kids (and even with science) rarely goes to plan, we ended up having more interesting conversations about friction. Initially we tried this experiment on the carpet before taking it outside and then back inside on some laminate flooring. Of course we got very different results and discussed why. D also started to suggest ‘better’ surfaces. 

Above I mentioned about using a light weight car. We used a range of cars: heavy, light and even a constructed car from magnetic blocks. Again each had different results which we discussed. 

So you can see, this opened up a large amount of dialogue. If you want to avoid all these factors to keep it simple then make sure you complete this task on a smooth surface with a light weight car. You can even construct your own car using light household items from the recycling bin e.g. cardboard, bottle top lids for wheels etc. 

For us, this task is just the beginning. The rest of the week we are going to spend a few minutes repeating this experiment to explore different surfaces and different weighted cars before coming up with the ideal way to race the cars. This will hopefully reinforce the learning that has taken place and reinforce the main point of the experiment (3rd law of motion).  

However, it has been requested that I just blow up the balloon (whilst attached to the straw) and release them – yes we even got distracted by doing that!! 

Taken by the big brother.
Some keywords explored today: 

  • Opposite 
  • Push
  • Friction
  • Smooth
  • Bumpy
  • Light
  • Heavy

Well, there ends my first ever blog. I’ve already made a billion notes on what needs to improve for next time and I’m sure week on week I’ll continue to learn. 

Until next time……