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:
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.

Bicarbonate of soda
Carbon dioxide

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?

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.


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.


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…..



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.


Egg White
Carbon dioxide

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.

DSC_0840 - Copy

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:

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!

Happy Mother’s day to me!

Happy Mother’s day to UK yummy mummies!

Finally, a lovely weather weekend with a bright, warm sunny Sunday morning for Mother’s day. A pretty tiring one for my husband and I though, as the littlest ‘wowzer’ was up pretty much the whole night with a developing cold and sore throat. Fun times. Most of the night was an ‘almost asleep….drifting, drifting, zzz – WOAH, GET UP!’ hourly experience. I repeat, fun times.

Nevertheless, in the morning I was rewarded with a beautiful bunch of flowers accompanied with a strong coffee which hit the spot. The kids also left me alone for a BIT (3mins and 42 seconds) to enjoy all of this. I want to take this opportunity to thank my husband for entertaining them for the whole of the 3mins and 42seconds. It could not have been easy.

So what to do with a lovely bunch of flowers whilst semi-hungover (yes, I forgot to mention this earlier!) and lacking sleep…..cut them up and dip them in coloured water of course! I took advantage of some of the white flowers I had in my beautiful bouquet and planned a quick science session. This took no time at all and again, I had everything I needed in my kitchen. The results for this are visible which is great for preschoolers however, time is required. So they get to practice a bit of patience too!

For this you need:

  • White flowers (Roses, Chrysanthemum, Carnations, Daisies. You can even use Celery or Chinese cabbage leaves)
  • Equal sized cups/glasses
  • Water
  • Liquid food colouring.




Before beginning the experiment we had a general discussion about the flowers. Many of the key questions from the activity are listed below. I began the session this way just to find out what the children already knew, if anything, and also to just ‘warm them up’ as it were and get them focused.

We talked about the parts of the flowers and what they do. The little one spoke a lot about bees and honey – well she just kept saying ‘bees’ and ‘honey’ in a variety of differently phrased statements. It made us chuckle but, also, allowed us to extend the learning further by explaining simply and briefly pollination and the importance of bees. We also discussed how to look after plants in general and the fact that this bunch would not grow but we could keep them alive. It was at this point we started to draw attention to the water in the vase and why it was needed. It was fabulous when my number one ‘wowzer’ made a straw sucking noise to imitate what was going on and pointing where the water was going. This led to enquiring as to how we could prove this was the case. I stopped asking questions at this point and actually informed them as to what I was going to set up.

A little food colouring was put into the glasses with equal amount of  water in each glass, mixed and then we simply placed the flowers (which were all cut to an equal size and snipped at an angle) into the glasses. I only had blue, green & red colouring but they were smart enough to suggest some other colours with a little prompt into colour mixing. I also had a flower kept in normal water as the ‘control’ and just out of interest I split one flower’s stem in half and placed each half in a different colour.

It was at this point I encouraged the children to talk about what might happen. Now the littlest is 2.5yrs old – honestly she got this! I had prepared very quickly a hand drawn ‘worksheet’ for them to record their predictions on. Nothing fancy, all hand drawn in a few minutes – if that.


All they had to do was record what they think would happen. There was no wrong answer. They could have left the flowers uncoloured or coloured them.

Mine coloured them in. Then asked for a biscuit.

Now these will be great to come back to when we check the results as the results are not instant. You will probably see changes in 1hr+ and the results can be checked against their predictions.


And we wait…….

The kids have been so eager and checking throughout the day. I will update with pictures of the final result. The tips have begun to change colour and the kids are pretty impressed. I think they are also pretty smug that their predictions seem to be turning out right….

How does it work?

‘Up the xylem, down the phloem’ – a phrase I remember well from a-level biology. I don’t know why?! The flowers are taking the water via the stem using tubes called the xylem. The water passes up the xylem to the top and into the petals. With coloured water this process becomes visible. This is called transpiration. Go ahead and introduce these words to the midgets!

Keywords used:

  • Flower
  • Growth
  • Water
  • Alive
  • Stem
  • Petal
  • Leaf
  • Absorb
  • Drinking
  • Carried
  • Guess
  • Predict
  • Transpiration

Key questions asked:

  • Can you name the parts of a flower?
  • How do we look after flowers/a plant?
  • What do plants need to grow?
  • What do these flowers need to stay alive?
  • Why do we keep them in water?
  • Where is the water going?
  • How do we know the plants are ‘drinking’ the water?
  • How do we make purple?
  • What do you think will happen?
  • Which parts will change colour?
  • How long will it take?
  • Which colour will be absorbed first?
  • Which colour will create the darkest flower?
  • Which will create the lightest?
  • Which colour will not be absorbed?

To extend this investigation further (there are LOTS of ways, here are just a few that would work with preschoolers):

  • Use different types of white flowers
  • Use different coloured liquids e.g. fizzy drinks, cordials
  • See if placing the flowers in different conditions e.g. sunny place, dark place effect the speed at which transpiration occurs.


This really is a piece of mothers day cake. So if you have a lovely bouquet with some white flowers that could do with some jazzing up then give this a go. If you don’t then how about that rotting celery in the salad drawer? Come on, who on earth even likes celery??

I have a great one planned for next week. Both myself and my husband will be severely hungover and it involves fire……..watch this space!

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