A lazy, active volcano. 

I’m a lazy mum, honestly I am. I see so many interesting things to do but if it requires a shopping trip and more than 15 mins prep then it has lost me – it takes a lot of energy to clean bums whilst plastering an ever lasting smile on my face!!

The kids were watching an episode of ‘My Family’ on CBeebies on the other day and witnessed a family build a volcano – the whole shabang. Pva glue mixed with water, newspaper, dipping it all in, sticking it on, waiting for it to dry, paining it and then creating the magic.

My eldest turned it me with big bright brown eyes, an eager smile and said, “Can we do that mummy?”

My ever lasting smile started falling off my face. Ahhhhhh!! Noooooo! Please no! The mess! And I’ll be doing most of the work! But I kept calm and composed. “Yep, maybe we can.”

After doing a bit of research and thinking I was very happy to come across the idea of a ‘backyard volcano’ which literally was a volcano shaped out of a mound of dirt. No glue. No dripping mess. THIS we could do. So we did!

Now the kids had already seen a demonstration on television so they knew what was going to happen. Also, we’ve worked with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda (the ingredients needed to do this experiment) before – when we were looking at blowing up a balloon, which meant I had to think carefully about how to get some learning out of today’s activity.

So I decided that the following question was posed: Which would create the better/more explosive volcano – adding baking soda to vinegar? Or vinegar to baking soda?

I began the activity talking about volcanoes to see what they already knew. I then showed them a video about volcanoes which you can find here. We re-watched the CBeebies show and pointed out the ingredients they used to make the explosion. Had we used them before? My youngest was quick to say ‘egg!’ She picked up on the vinegar and remembered we had used it to make the bouncy egg – I was super impressed! I reminded them about the balloon experiment and with a little prompting they (well the eldest) remembered a few key words such as carbon dioxide. My youngest then went looking for the vinegar in the kitchen!! They remembered it looked like water and also did not fall for the ‘Mmmm, smell it’ trick!

I gathered the rest of the things needed. For this you will  need:
Vinegar
Bicarb of soda
Food colouring
2 containers/cups
A jug & spoon

Whilst the kids were busy putting their shoes on I poured the vinegar into the jug and mixed in the food colouring (a large amount!)

Off we headed into the back garden. We have lots of gravel/stones in our garden in certain areas – it was with this we created a ‘mound’. You can do it with sand, soil/mud if you prefer or have that to hand instead. If none of these are available then do not worry! You could do this whole experiment with 2 cored apples!! By removing the core of the apple, you have your ‘container’. Just make sure they are the same type of apples because different types of apples can effect the result – but that’s a whole other experiment. When doing science its best to change one variable at a time – so keep it fair and simple.

In the top of the mound the cup was placed and pushed down. We created two volcanoes as we would be comparing the explosions created by changing when an active ingredient would be added.

In one volcano we added bicarb of soda to the cup. In the other we added the vinegar.

Now the preparation was fully complete it was time to make predictions. Which would create the more explosive volcano – adding vinegar to baking soda? Or adding baking soda to vinegar?

Each volcano was tested individually and here are the results…..

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The kids LOVED this. So did I – and no mess to clean up (well apart from washing the pots and jug – but when is there not washing up??). The stones were flattened out and the rain will wash away the rest.

The science bit:

The vinegar (acid) and bicarb of soda (base) mix to make an acid-base reaction, producing carbonic acid. This product is very unstable and splits to form water and carbon dioxide which expands and rises up. Having the vinegar poured directly onto the soda (so putting the soda in the cup first) means that the vinegar makes contact with as much soda as possible and so produces a ‘better’ result than adding the bicarb to the vinegar.

Keywords: 
Volcano
Lava
Fire
Hot
Explosion
Mountain
Rock
Ash
Vinegar
Bicarbonate of soda
Carbon dioxide
Gas
Bubbles
Erupt
First
Better
Bigger

Key questions
What do you know about volcanoes?
What colour is lava?
What happens when you mix vinegar and bicarbonate of soda?
What is the gas that is made?/Why are there bubbles?
Which will make the bigger/better explosion?
Why?

Simple, cheap, quick and explosive fun…..ENJOY!

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…..

More with magnets….

Just in case this beautiful weather does not continue (oh please let the sun shine over the Easter holidays!) here are some more activities using magnets that you can do easily, quickly and with items in the home.


Simply fill a plastic bottle with magnetic items with non magnetic items. I filled a bottle with tack nails and broken uncooked spaghetti. You could use lentils, cereal, pasta, water etc. and fix the top down with sellotape if you need to. Give them a magnet and off they go trying to fish out the magnetic materials. A perfect, peaceful busy activity.

I also showed the kids another magnetic “magic” trick. This activity also allowed me to introduce gravity.

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To start,  I asked a few questions to work out what was known and introduce the concept of gravity. After grasping that ‘whatever goes up must come down’, I set up the trick. For this you need a box, a magnet, string, sellotape and a paperclip.

Stand the box up and secure a magnet to the top. You can tape it on the inside or on top. Then attach the paperclip to the string (tie on) – the length of the string depends on the size of the box, so hold the base of the string at the bottom of the box and move the paperclip up to the magnet to the point at which it stays in mid air by itself. This is the length needed!
What you will see is the paperclip ‘defy’ gravity.

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The kids were amazed even though they understood it was the magnet that allowed the paperclip to ‘defy gravity’. They had fun and, as the magnet was on top of the box, enjoyed moving the magnet about and seeing the paperclip move. The little one was chatting away, repeatedly saying ‘magnekik’. Well done my budding scientist! 

What impressed me happened much later. A few hours after this activity my eldest came to me to say that things in space did not stay in the ground and this was because there was no gravity in space. I found that he had been watching something on Cbeebies which had informed him and I was so proud that he had independently built on his knowledge that he gained with me……he really was listening!! 🙂

If you do purchase some magnets then make sure you get something similar to these:

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These are brilliant! I bought these almost a year ago and had kept them hidden to give as a pressie when they kids were older but what with all the magnet fun we have been having, I could not leave them hidden for much longer.  They are very powerful and make a fabulous noise when thrown in the air – they are drawn to each other and rattle as they hit each other. They came in handy for the investigations too. Just keep them away from electrical items!

Keywords:

Magnetic
Magnets
Powerful
Gravity
Up
Down

Key questions:
What happens when you jump?
What will happen when you throw this (item) in the air?
What will happen when you throw this paperclip in the air?

 

 

Have fun!

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!

Then I’ll huff, I’ll puff and I’ll blow that balloon up!

Today’s investigation all started from a conversation about a bowl of cereal, would you believe it!
Whilst eating a bowl of Rice Krispies we talked about what it actually was, that they were eating and how it was made. Big kid likened it to pop corn and then, blowing a balloon. Thumbs up from me!

I love how they make the links. The kids, well, they just love balloons (and cake). We have a lot of them (balloons, not cake). They love balloons – have I mentioned that before? So I directed the conversation to asking them if they would like to find out how to blow a balloon without using their mouth.

Cue excited faces.

Still in our Pj’s, I pulled some bits out of the kitchen and we began. I enlisted the other half’s help for this so that I could capture the action. This activity required *very* little and takes even *less* time.

We began with some focusing on the actual action of blowing and getting them to think about what they were doing and where it was coming from before trying to blow a balloon.

They huff and they puffed…..before the big bad wolf stepped in to show them how it was done.

I introduced the term carbon dioxide, yes, despite their age. Hey, if they can say Tyrannsaurus Rex then they can learn to say carbon dioxide!! Even the little one gave it a fair go – it was incredibly cute….car oxide was managed!

I will add here that in the past the older one and I have talked about plants taking in ‘bad air’ and giving us the ‘good air’ (he once asked what the plants and grass was for and why there were around). I was able to make the link here between the ‘bad air’ and carbon dioxide. I mentioned it was a gas but refrained from linking this to a fart- well, the other half did with a very firm look from myself.

With no further ado we proceeded with the experiment. For this you need:DSC_0082

  • Vinegar (white vinegar is better but we had malt vinegar and it worked just fine)
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Plastic bottle (75cl)
  • A straw
  • A balloon
  • A spoon, for just in case.

The first thing to do was to fill the balloon with around 2 tbsps of the bicarb of soda. Ideally, a funnel would be best to use to do this – but this would need two people (one to hold the balloon open and another to fill it). We did not have a funnel and so used straw instead.

Next the plastic bottle was filled with around 2-2.5cm of vinegar. Then the last step was to stretch the balloon over the top of the bottle, allow the contents to hit the vinegar and watch the magic happen! Just make sure you hold the base of the balloon down on the bottle throughout.

They loved it! And it really did not take very long either, the chemical reaction begins immediately. The vinegar and bicarb mix to make an acid-base reaction, producing carbon dioxide which expands, rises up and inflates the balloon.

There are lots of factors you can investigate with this experiment to take it one step further and develop the learning. You can have a go with different balloon sizes, bottle sizes and even different amounts of vinegar and bicarb of soda – but not all at once if you want to draw valuable conclusions.

 

Give this a go, it is so quick and simple!

And next time an offspring runs up to you with a sopping wet balloon due to repeated attempts at inflating it…..point them to the kitchen!

Keywords:

  • Blow
  • Lungs
  • Air
  • Gas
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Vinegar
  • Bicarbonate of soda
  • Acid
  • Mixture
  • Bubbles

Key questions:

  • Can you blow out air?
  • Where in your body can you feel it (air) coming from?
  • What can you see happening?
  • Did it blow it up as big as person could?
  • What could we have done to blow the balloon up bigger?
  • What was better at blowing up a big balloon?
  • Why could you not blow up the balloon as big as mummy/daddy?

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Clearly the spoon came in handy…..!

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……