Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Science Experiments for Kids Ages 2-6

Life is Good: we've got that down to a science

Some of you have emailed me and asked..."where are you?" Well, I haven't been on the blog, that is for sure. Many thanks to those of you who checked on me! We have had a little virus appear at our house and with both kiddos prone to croup, we had to pull out the nebulizer. Oh, I have a love hate relationship with that machine. I love that it works. I hate that we have to use it. But I am grateful that we have meds available so easily to take care of our two sweet boys.

And we've also been stuck inside off and on due to extremely cold temperatures. I am talking wind chills of 40 below zero. Yikes. I've said so many prayers for people who have to work outside in these conditions like postal carriers and the UPS driver. And of course, hoping all of those without a home have found a warm bed and meal inside.

After two days of no school due to these extremely cold temps, the big kid is back to school this morning. Do you think he looks warm?

I'm not going to lie, I was sad to see him go this morning. I started to get a tear. Man, I love spending time with that kid. I was also glad to get to sleep past 5:40 AM for a couple of days! And mostly, I was glad that school administrators made the difficult choice to keep kids home. I know that some of my friends were going a little stir crazy staying in the house with their kids and I understand how that can happen. Some of my friends who don't have flexible work schedules were also frustrated and I understand that, too. I am grateful that my schedule is flexible right now and also that I just plain love to be with my kids. But I also know that the school closings are not so much about our kids and me, but rather kids that don't have proper gear or have parents who leave very early each morning and the children have to get themselves ready and then wait for a bus that may or may not arrive on time. Here's a great op-ed piece written by a school nurse about the subject.

So what do you do when you are stuck inside the house for a couple of days? The better question is what don't you do!

I have a few "inclement weather/too sick to go out but feeling good enough to be bored" tricks that I employ at times like this. First of all, I had saved a few toys from Christmas. Our kiddos are fortunate to get way too much, so they didn't realize that I had kept a few back. I do this with birthday stuff, too.

We also had lots of snuggle time reading together. You will never regret time spent like this with your child. It is an intimate moment where the world stops. And they get so, so much out of books!

We played with toys that they don't play with all of the time. You know, the toys that don't get dragged out every day. Maybe they are in a bin that is a little too high or just not top of mind. All of a sudden, they feel "new", too.

We also did some "special projects". The mere mention of these two words and my kiddos get excited! The anticipation itself cuts the boredom in half!

Our big kid came home last week talking about how his science teacher mentioned making a "lava lamp" at home and told the kids she saw it "on the computer", so I did a quick web search and found the instructions. While I was at it, I bookmarked a couple of other fun, but simple ideas using ordinary household ingredients. This came in handy when, all of a sudden, we were stuck inside due to cold weather!

So, the lava lamp lived up to the hype! We used a pilsner glass (but a plastic bottle would be great and you could shake it up and stuff). Here's how to make your own:
1. Get a clear glass or plastic bottle
2. Fill it 2/3 full with cooking oil
3. Add water to that, leaving about 2 inches from the top of your glass/bottle
Notice how the oil and water stay separated? And the oil floats to the top?

4. Drop in 5 drops of food coloring, slowly, one at a time
We noticed that our drops stayed like drops for quite a while and then slowly, each one "exploded" and flowed downward into the water

5. Drop in 1/4 tablet of Alka Seltzer and watch it react

Look at it from all angles. What's going on in there? What does it sound like? What does is smell like? What is in bicarbonate that makes this happen?

The bubbles and "lava" change as the Alka Seltzer tablet dissipates...

As with most science experiments, this is all about the observation and the waiting, which is really great since "patience" is a concept that our 5-year old has been struggling with lately!

Before each step, we talked about what we could see and hear and smell. We also hypothesized. We wondered about what might happen before we took each step. Our always enthusiastic 2 1/2 year old enjoyed all of this, too, which was also fun to watch.

We had so much fun with the blue food coloring, that the big kid wanted to try green...

And purple!

Of course, the "scientist" in me thought this looked like art! ; )

I found the lava lamp idea here.


We also made "fizzy paintings". We mixed baking soda & food coloring to make our own "watercolors". The big kid used them to paint a scene of "fish in the water".

Then, he dropped teaspoonfuls of vinegar on the painting and watched it fizzzzzzzzzzz!

We talked about what the fizzing bubbles were doing and how the vinegar was changing or not changing the painting. We talked about how this was a "reaction".

We talked about why the bicarbonate in the baking soda reacted to the vinegar. And we remembered that the lava lamp also reacted due to bicarbonate.

We also sprinkled a little salt on the painting to see what would happen. (Nothing happened, but it was still fun to experiment!)

The next day, the big kid was surprised to see that his painting looked much paler than when it was wet. It was much paler. (Sorry, I didn't take a pic!)

Here's how to make your own watercolors for this project (this makes a small amount):
3 tablespoons of baking soda
2-3 drops liquid food coloring
a few drips of water (to make it spreadable)

You can really control the amount of "paint" you make and how thick it is. The thicker it is, the more baking soda that you use and the more the painting will fizz in reaction to the vinegar. We varied the thickness of the different colors of paint to see which colors fizzed more. Not bad for a mom who will never be a science teacher, huh!?!

Here's the post where I found the "baking soda watercolors" recipe. She suggests trying a spray bottle with vinegar or eye droppers. We didn't have those downstairs and little brother was napping upstairs, so we will have to try that next time.


We also did a quick experiment with milk, food coloring, and dish detergent. It wasn't anything worthy of a Nobel Prize, however, the big kid liked it all the same. And I liked that it was a vehicle for talking about science. We waited and we watched. Observation is so important, isn't it? Not just for scientists, but for humans, too. We earthlings miss so much of the goings on of this earth because we are blazing through life and not observing. My kiddos have really taught me to stop and marvel at more in this world.

First, I filled a clear jar with water and a clear pie plate with milk. We talked about the differences between the two liquids.

Then, I put one drop of purple food coloring in each liquid. See how the color travels throughout the water, but stays still in the milk? That is because of the fat content in the milk.

 So we added more color...

But it still stayed put...until we added a dash of liquid dishwashing detergent...

And then the colors started to move! So we used a straw to stir them up a little more...

Does that look like a Jackson Pollock painting or what? Oh, sorry! Back to the science! So we talked about how the detergent has a property in it that cuts through grease (fat) and that's why the color started moving.

We kept stirring with the straw. And it started to look like the Earth!

In the pursuit of science, we decided to see what would happen if we added the jar of purple water...

And this happened...

Gorgeous art! I mean, science!

We used the straw again and stirred up some green color from the base of the dish...

And then, we decided to throw some baking soda in there...

It didn't do anything but make the color kind of chalk-y. But it made us feel very scientist-y! I found the experiment here, but of course, we put our own spin on it. Like good scientists do. ; )

So what did we learn from all of this? I think our kiddo learned to take time to watch what might happen (still working on the patience thing, but this helped) and he learned that there are all kinds of amazing things that this world has to offer. I think he learned that some extraordinary (for a 5 year old) things can happen using ordinary ingredients. And I learned that I don't have to be a scientific genius to teach my child basic science. And as always, the time spent together was the magic and the activity was just a vehicle driving us straight to each other's hearts.

And that wasn't all. We also did some fun art activities...stay tuned!

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