Saturday, December 29, 2012

Cheap and Easy Kid Science!

Being "thrifty" means a lot to me. Neither Brandon or I are making lots of money. We do a little better than minimum wage but we're not making enough to afford many luxuries. If I could, I would go to my local Walmart and purchase every single one of those DIY craft kits and science kits for my kids. Unfortunately, even though they are *cheap* they're just not feasible. I could spend that money on more important things that we really truly need. So, when I have the time, I scour the web for cheaper ways to create a good learning experience with more than just construction paper and glue. Not that I'm knocking construction paper and glue. Those two things combined have given me a little mommy time on more than one occasion.

Learning is a big deal in my house, and I love finding new ways to teach all three kids new things. At the toddler age I feel that science is the best. You can create a lot of interesting reactions that can keep their attention for hours. The important part of teaching these reactions to kids is discussing how it happened and why. In any case, if you have a toddler, they are going to want to know so try to have the correct answers waiting for them. Try to stray away from big words, and use smaller more understandable words to explain what the big words mean. I still believe in mentioning certain words like malleable and brittle for example- those are huge words to a child. I want my kids to have them in their vocabulary. They don't have to use them, just have a general understanding. I did.

Dinosaur Eggs:

These are so so much fun. Go to your local dollar store or Walmart and purchase a bag of tiny plastic dinosaurs. Then you're going to need:
  • 1 1/4 c. dirt
  • 1 1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 c. salt
  • 1/2 c. sand
  • water
Add water slowly to your dry ingredients until it forms a stiff dough like consistency. While it's still wet form balls of the mix around the little dinosaurs, completely covering them. These should resemble rocks. Then just set them in the sun to dry and harden. You now have fossils. Bury these in sand or loose dirt and give your child a shovel and a paint brush or even a plastic sieve. Allow them to dig through to find their fossils and then have them use the paint brush and something like a screwdriver or stick to dig the dinosaurs out of their fossils. Here is a great website to help you out in explaining fossilization to your kids.

Plant Science:

This lesson is very popular with children and very easy to do though it does take a while to work. You'll need several things:
  • cotton balls
  • dirt
  • rocks (like small gravel)
  • seeds (like lima beans)
  • styrofoam cups or plastic bottles (cut an empty 20 oz. in half, I feel that these are the best because they're clear and allow for a better view of roots)
  • paper towels
  • water
ok so take your containers and line them up. You will put just dirt in one, just gravel in another, just cotton balls in another and just paper towels in the last one. Now, for your cotton balls and paper towels, wet these down before moving on, you'll want the container to be almost full when damp, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Then "plant" a lima bean in each container, about one inch deep. You'll have to shift your gravel to do this without hurting the seed. Remember that you're not putting dirt in all of these containers, just the one. Once every container has a seed planted place them in the sun and wait. After about a week (that's roughly how long it takes for a lima to sprout) check them every day with your child. Make note of which seed is growing the best. Your child may be very surprised that the seed doesn't need dirt to grow, talk about what plants need to survive and how each growing material is different.

The Naked Egg:

I remember doing this as a child, it was very very fascinating. This experience explains how acids work. All you will need is vinegar (our safe acid of choice), a container with a lid and some eggs. You could do this experiment with just one egg but I can't guarantee you that it will survive. Place your eggs in your container, making sure that they don't touch. Cover your eggs with vinegar and place the lid on your container. Bubbles will almost immediately form on the shell of the egg, this is the acid beginning to eat the shell and be sure to point out this reaction to your child. Then place the container in your fridge over night. After 24 hours pull the eggs out very carefully, rinse with water and cover again with vinegar. Note any changes in the shell with your child, and again note any bubbles. Place back in the fridge for another 24 hours. At this point the shell should be completely dissolved leaving only a rubbery membrane and the yolk- a naked egg.

Germ Farm:

warning: this experiment may just turn you into a germaphobe. It's gross. So, so gross. You are going to realize just how dirty every thing is.

I did this project in high school science but I see absolutely no reason to not do this with your child. This lesson is all about germs and how even though you can't see them, it doesn't mean they're not there. With a little bit of food and the right conditions however, you will see them with this. You will need:
  • several cotton swabs
  • flavor-less gelatin (bought easily at any grocery store)
  • small containers with lids (dollar stores sell small tupperware like containers for really cheap)
  • masking tape
  • marker
Now, make the gelatin according to the box directions and let it set. It's basically flavorless Jell-O. Now, take your cotton swabs and start swabbing different places. Only use one cotton swab for each place, do not reuse. You could swab:
  • different door handles in the house
  • the toilet
  • the bathroom sink
  • the gear shift in your car
  • the interior door handles of your car
  • the floor
  • a pets food bowl
  • a bed rail
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • your own hands
The list goes on, you can swab anything. Now, take one of the cotton swabs and rub it lightly across your gelatin. This transfers the germs from your swab to the container. Place the lid on loosely and use the masking tape like a label to let you know which area you swabbed is in the container. Don't skip this step you're, at the very least, going to want to know what you need to spray with disinfectant. Throw the swabs away. Place the containers somewhere dark and room temprature. Under the sink or in a cabinet would be perfect. After a few days take out each container and check it. Eventually you will see things starting to grow. The bacteria and micro-organisms will feed off of the gelatin and grow like crazy. There will be all kinds of different forms of fungi and mold and in all different colors. It's morbidly fascinating. 

Volcano Explosion:

This is a lot of fun and you probably already have most, if not all of what you need already in your home. Here is what you're going to need:
  • kool-aid
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • glitter
  • a small vase like a bud vase
  • a baking sheet
Ok, so first take a small bowl or plastic bag and put in enough baking soda to fill the bulb of the vase 3/4 of the way full. Then add your kool-aid packet and glitter. Mix these really well and pour into your vase. Set the vase in the middle of your baking sheet and have your child pour in the vinegar, let's say a 1/2 c. and stand back. Mixing vinegar and baking soda in any application will cause a chemical reaction- making a lot of fizz and bubbles. The vase forms pressure causing the bubbles to rise to the top and pour over (this is what the baking sheet is for- easy clean up) and the glitter and kool-aid just make it pretty.

That's all I'm going to do for this post as it has gone on long enough, enjoy the experiments and comment if you'd like to let me know what happens with your child!

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