Lemon Scented Science: Invisible Ink & Cleaning Pennies

A fridge clean out yielded two lemons of dubious vintage, so Junior Scientist had a new material for science experiments (seriously, we can’t grow mold on ANYTHING around here! Those lemons were a good 4 months old, the bread we wiped all over the ground isn’t showing any signs of mold, and a loaf of bread forgotten in the pantry 20 days after sell-by is still mold-free).
Since I asked him to haul in the giant bag of baking soda from the garage, he anticipated a lemon-baking soda reaction and rubbed some all over the outside of the lemons. No go for any reaction, but a good hypothesis and test. John cut the lemons himself (supervised, of course) and juiced them (fine motor skills + strengthening hand and finger muscles, check). He was so proud to use the adult knife and cut through a large fruit all by himself!
DSC_0184<–Not lemonade, but he actually liked the “sour” lemon juice.
We added vinegar to baking soda as our control reaction, since we knew what would happen (and it never gets old to watch it fizz!).
Then we tried our “unknown” and added lemon juice to baking soda. John observed the similarities in the reactions (they both fizzed up and made bubbles) and the differences (the bubbles in the vinegar fizzed up quickly and died down quickly, whereas the lemon juice bubbles took a few seconds longer to fizz up to the same level, created bigger and foamier bubbles–almost like bubble bath bubbles, and the bubbly foam lasted longer).
After the bubbles died down, John and I used Q-Tips to write secret messages with lemon juice.
I showed John how to make the messages appear (although he didn’t have the patience to hold the paper level for long enough to see the letters appear so I did all of them but one).
I used the opportunity to write some words he learned a few weeks ago–“cat”, “hat”, “mat”, and “love”–and he was excited to watch the letters appear one by one and read the secret word. I can’t wait to try this method of writing invisible messages–I know John will love it, since it involves his favorite ingredient (baking soda) and looks a bit messy.

While we were waiting for the messages to dry, we found some dirty pennies to clean. John added salt to a bowl of vinegar and to one of lemon juice, stirred them up, and added the dirty pennies. We left the pennies to sit for about ten minutes while we revealed the secret messages. John fished out the pennies and I wiped them with a cloth, revealing the shiny surprise.
Before: Ick                                                                After: Bright and clean
We talked a bit about the chemical reaction that cleaned the pennies (the acid in the vinegar and baking soda reacts with the copper oxide that made the pennies look dirty). Finally, we put a shiny new screw into the vinegar bowl used to clean the pennies and left it there until after dinner. When we pulled it out, John noticed how much “dirtier” it looked.
I didn’t go into the science behind this change, other than to say the copper from the pennies that had dissolved in the vinegar was attracted to the metal screw (protons and electrons may be a bit too much at this point).

After all that experimenting, Junior Scientist was feeling a bit peckish and we got some natural sorting, counting, and comparing practice at snack time.
(Captain America crackers came in #1 with 7, while he had only 2 Hulk crackers).

Anthony is crazy about the Three Little Tamales and The Library Gingerbread Man, so John made some little tamales again and acted out some of the book.
DSC_0222 <–Obviously these are tamales and clearly not used tissues I should throw out. Ooops.

John is still talking about the “dirty” screw the next morning and wanted to see what would happen if we put a clean screw and the dirty one in unused vinegar. We will wait and see!

Posted in Experiment, Literacy, Math, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Playtime = Learning Time. A day in the Pre-K life.

“Are your boys in school?” Well, they’re learning, but so far it’s not “school”. As we work out our homeschooling philosophy and methodology, a more relaxed approach–dare I say it, an unschooling approach–is particularly attractive to me at this point with young children (4K and 2K + baby). This is both liberating and terrifying–it is so easy to be swayed by others’ recommendation of “the best” curriculum and to feel I “ought” to take a more school-ish approach, but as I see John and Anthony engaged and curious about their surroundings and in love with reading, I think we’ll stick with this for now.
photo (4) <–I brought books home from the library and was mobbed by both big boys begging to read everything I brought home.

Simple Homeschool’s The Myth of the Uninvolved Unschooler made unschooling seem a lot more reasonable and doable–and it looked a lot like what we do, or at least what I’d like to do. Perhaps we may move to more formal schooling later, but for now our days are full! I am loving reading through Jaime’s day-in-the-life posts as I try and get us into a rhythm of our own. Here’s what Monday looked like at our house:

6:00 a.m. Baby wakes up. Groan and roll over.
6:30 a.m. Drag self upstairs to feed and change baby. Baby falls asleep nursing, I catch up on morning prayers and Facebook.
7:15 a.m. John comes in, baby re-wakes, boys play while I shower. Anthony is quiet in his room, we leave well enough alone.
8:00 a.m. Find Anthony reading and playing Legos, everyone tidies boys’ room. We read Winnie the Pooh An Arts & Crafts Day together.
8:30 a.m. Anthony goes outside to play Octonauts in the water table, John screws in some nuts and bolts and makes a book for me with stencils and stapler (the cover says “To Mama, Love John”), baby looks for interesting dirt and fuzz to eat, and I make pancakes.
DSC_0115 DSC_0116 DSC_0113 DSC_0114
8:45 a.m. Anthony is still playing, so John and baby eat pancakes and I chug coffee. Anthony comes in and I read Tomie dePaola’s The Parables of Jesus to the boys. Anthony insists I read The Three Little Tamales, so we read that too.
9:15 a.m. Both boys head outside to play. Baby and I fold some laundry.
10:15 a.m. John comes in and we read about fungi and bacteria and classify various types of living creatures. We talk about yeast and make connections with our yeast experiment and bread making.
10:50 a.m. John heads back outside with Anthony. Baby and I play and do more laundry, then eat an early lunch.
11:50 a.m. Boys come back in and change after playing in the dirt, then eat lunch while I read more Parables of Jesus. I put baby to sleep while they watch Octonauts and read. John loves his new bug robe and Anthony pretends a too-big camo hoodie is his “robe”.
DSC_0124 DSC_0125
12:20 p.m. The boys and I cuddle on the couch to read more Parables of Jesus, Hedgie Loves to ReadThe Library Gingerbread Man, The Pirate Cruncher, and The Mitten. Then John watches a Magic School Bus episode while I bring Anthony up for his nap (and read him The Three Little Tamales and a Scooby Doo book).
12:50 p.m. John watches another Magic School Bus while I write this post.
1:20 p.m. John and I set up our fungus experiments and look for fungi outside. John gets the experimental fruit moist with a sponge, then wonders why the sponge floats and tries to make it sink (which he accomplishes by smushing it under the Gup A).
DSC_0150  DSC_0154
1:30 p.m. John asks to make chocolate chip muffins, so we make these delicious beauties. We use the sliding measuring spoon to go over fractions. DSC_0152
He eats some chocolate chips and tells me they are like eating a salad before dinner–a pre-snack appetizer. Riiiight.
2:15 p.m. I clean a bit and write a bit while John plays. He shows me his bug/Joker creation and we play a dice game (throwing foam dice up to see who gets a bigger number, then stopping after we both roll the same number twice).
3:30 p.m. John eats a muffin (or, as I realize when I get downstairs, 3 muffins) while I nurse baby and wake Anthony.
4:00 p.m. Snack time! Muffins for all as we talk about today’s saint (St. Louis, our parish’s patron). Somehow we end up talking/reading about St. Thomas Aquinas as well.
4:20 p.m. John makes some crazy guns that shoot up, down, and sideways. We head back to the couch to read more Parables of Jesus, Library Gingerbread Man, and Little Tamales.
4:40 p.m. Boys play ball together while I clean up the snack detritus and hang laundry out to dry.
john and nini
5:00 p.m. John makes up stories about Senor Robo the evil scientist robot from his sticker book and tells me and Anthony all about the dastardly robot and his friends.
5:10 p.m. Anthony goes out to play. John tells me about the three little tamales he made from dinner napkins and toy rings and makes up a game involving a fishing pole, toy egg, and the tamales.
5:20 p.m. John realizes the fishing pole is magnetic and hunts around the house to see what is and is not magnetic. I suggest going outside to search for magnetic items and he follows Anthony out.
5:30 p.m. John calls me out to show me the magnetic scissors he found. Anthony uses the scissors to move Octonauts toys from the boat to the basket.DSC_0159 DSC_0162
5:45 p.m. John calls me out to show me that the sun warmed up the water in Anthony’s boat, but that it hadn’t all evaporated yet. He then turns the water red with a washable marker and puts different things in the boat to see how they looked in colored water (the truck still looked dark orange but the silver spoon looked red).
DSC_0165Anthony brings some trucks over to wash in the water table.
5:55 p.m. I change baby and start thinking about dinner.
DSC_0146 DSC_0180
6:07 p.m. Dinner is on, I’m called out to see…I’m not sure what. John is fascinated by how an old piece of paper looks after it was covered in mud that dried out. Anthony makes me some “food” in the mud pit, then he plays with cars in the mud.
DSC_0170 DSC_0178
Dominic crawls out the open door and plays with some sidewalk chalk and practices standing unaided by the playhouse.
DSC_0173 DSC_0166
The boys dig and hoe the dirt and John explains to Anthony that roots are the part of the plant that go underground and suck up the nutrients and water to feed the plant. Anthony plays with the messy water table, pours water from a cup into his elephant watering can and waters some plants.
6:17 p.m. After the 10th time Dominic tries to eat the sidewalk chalk, we go in to check on dinner. The boys are still out playing with dirt and Play-Doh.
6:30 p.m. Two filthy boys come in for dinner. They eat while I read The Pirate Cruncher. John tells me his favorite part of the day was playing with the warm water. Anthony says he liked playing with the cool water. We all pretend race around the living room (John is himself, I am Mrs. Margaret–a friend who is running the road race series with me, and Anthony is Mrs. Margaret’s dad).
6:50 p.m. Tidy up downstairs, then bath time.
7:10 p.m. Husband gets home, bed time.
7:45 p.m. Baby fed, boys in bed.
7:47 p.m. One last question: “What can a protozoa do to a fungus?”
8:00 p.m. I sit down to dinner and beer before cleaning up the terrifying mess that is the kitchen/breakfast area, taking in the laundry, and relaxing with my husband.

It’s unusual to be home all day–we have Mother’s Day Out, two play dates and a preschool session with friends, and a MOPS meeting later this week, so it was relaxing to have a day together without any plans!

Posted in Uncategorized, child-directed learning, DIY materials, Messy Afternoon, Literacy, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Fungus Among Us

Junior Scientist is obsessed with all things gross–bugs, bacteria, viruses, fungi, mold–so in addition to letting him follow the exterminator around and talk his ear off about various insects (“Are those carpenter ants or termites?” “Termites live in the ground and eat wood. The queen is big and lays eggs.”), I pulled out our books on fungi and bacteria (purchased like-new at <$1 from a Friends of the Library sale) and left them on the dining room table for him to find. Within minutes, he picked out these beauties:
After reading them a few times and discussing the characteristics that distinguish living things from non-living, we hunted around the house and outside for living and non-living things (ie, cat, baby, bugs, and trees = living, chairs, tables, toys, shoes = non-living). Then John sorted pictures of various kinds of organisms into the 5 kingdoms, and we talked a bit about what made the kingdoms different.
DSC_0123 DSC_0118
Next up is experiment time!
DSC_0131 DSC_0132
We wiped the bread on dusty sections of floor (super hard to find here, of course!) and sprinkled them with a bit of water. Then we put an apple and some almost-rotten cherry tomatoes in an open bag out in the yard. We’ll check them in the coming days to see how the mold grows and how the fruit starts to decompose (we may or may not dump it out, I don’t want to attract big critters). I hope the floor was dirtier than John’s mouth was so that these slices of bread actually grow some mold!
DSC_0137 DSC_0142
We also investigated some fungus we found on one of our plants and on a tree stump in the messy play area. I was thrilled that both looked just like some of the fungi pictured in John’s book!

Posted in Uncategorized, child-directed learning, Science | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Does it dissolve?

Junior Scientist needed another experiment, so we experimented with dissolving solids in water in preparation for this month’s Magic School Bus water unit.
John chose salt, sugar, baking soda, and powdered sugar for his experiment. I added cornstarch, flour, and sprinkles. Half the fun for John was spooning out the substance and stirring it up. We talked about hypothesis, experiment, and result and he enjoyed testing his hypotheses and telling me his results and observations.
DSC_0082 DSC_0081
John noted that the sugar and salt dissolved–although the coarse salt took more stirring and a trip to the microwave–and that the powdered sugar and flour made the water cloudy (likely because he added a ton of each, so the small amount of water likely reached its saturation point fairly quickly).  He also noticed that the blob of flour floated and the sprinkles, granulated sugar, and coarse salt sank. DSC_0080 DSC_0090
The experiment was easy to set up, kept his attention, engaged him in both hypothesizing and testing, and lead to post-experiment free play (“What would happen when I add salt to the flour cup?”). The only thing I would change would be to have small quantities of the substances pre-measured in cups as they did here, to make it obvious which substances dissolved and not “cloud” the issue (and perhaps make more available to illustrate saturation point).
We went one step further and talked about dissolving liquids. We tried olive oil, dish soap, and pancake syrup.
DSC_0093 DSC_0092
John was fascinated by the insoluble olive oil, especially after adding dish soap, which broke down some of the oil and made a pretty glittery look.
Finally, John checked on the jar of salty water and ice cubes he had put in the freezer after our cloud demonstration. He noticed the layer of slushy ice on top and the still-liquid salt water underneath and just had to taste it.
He was not impressed with the salt water, but wanted to play with the slush and ice, so we brought it outside to the water table and the Octonauts visited the Arctic.
For 45 minutes! The wonders of ice + water.

Posted in Experiment, Science, sensory play, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Clouds in a Jar & Melting Ice

Today’s forecast is cloudy with a chance of science. John and I made a cloud in a jar–another last-minute, no-prep experiment. The best kind!
Warm some water, pour in jar, strike a match, and cover the jar with lid (invert lid and fill with ice). Voila! A cloud begins to form inside the jar.  *Note the importance of inverting the lid and putting the ice on top–NOT inside the jar. The site I originally pinned didn’t make that clear and we had two failed cloud attempts. Ooops.
DSC_0065 <–touchable clouds!
After observing the ice cool the warm water during our failed cloud attempts (and noting how the ice cubes got much smaller after immersion in the warm water), John wanted to explore ice further. I put three ice cubes in a tray and we covered one with fine salt, one with coarse salt, and one with sugar and observed what happened.
After noting that the salty ice cubes were getting smaller, John wanted to add salt to water and put that on the ice cubes.
DSC_0074 DSC_0073
And then taste the results. DSC_0072
Easy and fun!

Posted in Experiment, Science, sensory play | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Dancing Raisins

After two spectacular fails (actually 3–I gave the growing bacteria on bread a week before throwing the somewhat wet but in no way moldy bread out. I’m not sure if that means John has the cleanest mouth ever or if Bunny bread is treated with some unspeakable antibacterial chemical. Despite the Captain America spin brush, I am leaning toward #2), I was desperate for something easy. Enter the dancing raisin.

Tempting fate, I brought out the bottle of ginger ale in the pantry left over from the last stomach virus from Hades (I made sure to replace it immediately, because a house without ginger ale and saltines is a house begging to get the stomach flu) and some raisins I hid from Anthony six months ago and forgot about. In a bid to make it more exciting, I added Craisins, peppercorns, pistachios, and dried cherries to the buffet. John was excited by the fizzy soda itself, which was good since the first raisins dropped into glass #1 did not dance. They didn’t even lurch around a bit.
DSC_0035 DSC_0039 <–lazy raisins
The second glass of raisins started to boogie a bit and the Craisins were pretty crazy. The pistachios and peppercorns floated and the cherries sank like giant stones. John loved watching the carbon dioxide bubbles attach to the raisins and lift them up and even remembered that the bubbles were made of the same thing as the carbon dioxide released in the baking soda and vinegar experiments and the naked egg experiment. Obviously the next part of the experiment was to pour them all together andsee what the various bits tasted like!
DSC_0041 DSC_0045

Off to the backyard to try some melted crayon art. Since John constantly asks how he can get burned by the sun, I thought a hands-on demonstration of the sun’s heat would help. He was very keen on arranging his crayon bits, but, alas, this was yet another Mommy fail. Despite sitting in direct sunlight on a table that felt hot to the touch, these little buggers did not melt. They didn’t even feel a bit soft by dinner time. (They did, however, melt into a huge puddle the next morning as they lay there, forgotten, the paper they should have melted onto used in yet another “does it dissolve?” experiment.)  DSC_0047 DSC_0051
While waiting for his crayons to melt, John tried his hand at farming and spent a happy afternoon examining roots and bugs.
DSC_0054 DSC_0060 DSC_0062



Posted in Experiment, Messy Afternoon, Science | Leave a comment

Nailed it!

Today’s experiments were totally Pinterest-worthy (at least of the “Nailed it!” variety). John wouldn’t be put off again (no school on Sunday?!?), so we tried the walking-water demonstration.
DSC_0015 DSC_0016
We set it up…and waited. And waited. Drip. Wait. Drip. Wait. How I messed up putting water in a cup and adding a paper towel, I’ll never know, but we missed the wow factor on this one by a mile (and 15 minutes).

While we waited on the slowly creeping water, I tried the magic milk experiment.
DSC_0001 DSC_0003
We built up to the magic moment and added the dish soap and…
saw some swirls in the 1/2 and 1/2, but that was about it. Perhaps adding the dye to the milk and not the opposite messed it up, but by this point I was done. John had been clamoring to pour the still-not-moving water, so I obliged.
When he fished out the soggy paper towels, he noticed how the water level rose as his hand went in deeper, so I sent him out to the garden to get some rocks to explore water displacement.
DSC_0020 DSC_0019
Scrambling to find something to float on top to “push out” with the rocks, I floated a button on top. When I asked how many rocks he thought it would take to push the button out of the glass, he dropped a rock directly on top of the button and dropped it to the bottom of the glass. Facepalm.
I sent him outside with the rocks and a bucket of water and he designed his own sink and float experiment with rocks, cups, paper, and his own socks.
DSC_0023 DSC_0024

John asked for “just one more” experiment, so we pulled out the naked eggs.
DSC_0026 DSC_0027
John noted that the egg in the orange jar (with the baking soda) still had its shell (which he promptly cracked to examine the yolk).
The eggs in the vinegar-only jar were indeed naked (finally, Mom for the win!). John bounced them a few times on the plate before he squeezed one a big too energetically and it splatted all over the floor. Ah well. He compared the membrane of the naked egg with the membrane of the still-shelled egg and we reviewed the chemical reaction that dissolved the shell.
DSC_0030 DSC_0031 DSC_0032
We took the “can’t make an omelet without breaking some eggs” to heart and broke a lot of eggs for John to make his own omelet.

Finally, John worked on some “less/more”, “heaver/lighter”, patterning, and dot-to-dot worksheets that he found on my desk and made some words with his sandpaper letters . He was very proud of how hard he concentrated on his work! He also wrote in the book he made: “Fat cat sat a mat”.
photo 3 photo 4
I’m learning to follow his lead on reading/writing–he will ask questions and ask to learn how to write letters or words because he is motivated to accomplish a task he has set himself or to express himself. If he “finds” the worksheets (which I can helpfully “accidentally” leave out on my desk), he’s thrilled to do them. If he gets to play with pencils and paper in private, he’ll come down to show me his work and ask for help. I can add some more to these child-initiated sessions to encourage him to try some new letters/words (which he usually does with enthusiasm), but so far sitting down with the express purpose of doing seatwork has met with frustration. My new mission is to set up these invitations to learn and (I hope!) help John find some initial success to improve his confidence and stretch his willingness to take direction.









Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment