Peep Nests and Peep Science

 

rice crispy nests

Peep Nests

This use of Peeps is not so exciting nor so entertaining as the Dueling Peep Microwave Battle, but it’s probably more socially acceptable .

 

Tips:

  • You can’t possibly use too much butter. Butter your hands, spoons, everything (EVERYTHING). This is going to be messy.
  • While it’s important to work quickly, you can let the Treats cool to a warm but comfortable temperature before working with them. Then be fast.
  • The Kellogg’s Rice Crispy recipe seems to work really well for this. It calls for a higher Crispy-to-Mallow ratio than does the Marshmallow-Bag recipe  and that seems to work really well for shape retention.

 

DO save a few extra Peeps and DO have a Peep Battle. One of my son’s classmates came over and they had a (supervised) blast.  Unless you like cleaning plates with melted marshmallows cemented to them, I highly recommend staging the battle on graham cracker halves, and placing the Peeps on a bed of Peep Poop* before the battle begins. Upon removal from the microwave, top with another graham cracker half and enjoy.

__________________________

Science Lesson Of the Week

(How to Transform Peep Dueling into a Socially Acceptable Pastime)

When a marshmallow is heated (in the “heat of battle” as it were), it’s not the sugar that’s visibly expanding. It’s the air that has been whipped into the candy.

  1. Air is made up of gas molecules.
  2. The molecules are heated (with the microwave).
  3. Heat is a form of energy.

    Heated Air, from http://www.britannica.com

    Image courtesy of britannica.com

  4. If you give a child more energy (like sugar, which is stored energy), said child will bounce off the walls and make the most of his enclosure. Er, space.
  5. If you give gas molecules (such as the air that’s been whipped into a Peep) more energy, they will do the same thing a child will:  bounce off the “walls” and make the most of their (in the case of the Peeps, stretchy) enclosure.

Follow  up question:  The air-filled spaces inside of a peep are stretchy and sealed. What would happen if you heat up air inside of a sealed, rigid container? **

Duel the Peeps. After all, it’s for science.

 

*Chocolate chips, for those of you who don’t have 8 year old boys in the house.

 

** Answer: Pressure will build up. If the pressure exceeds the strength of the container, the container will burst. Boom.

Categories: Cooking, Kids, Science | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The year Dad ran over the Rabbit.

Dad is a truck driver. A long-haul driver for most of my childhood, he was often unable to make it home on the day everyone else celebrated a holiday.

We therefore became accustomed, over the years, to writing letters to Santa and the Easter Bunny:

 

I'm surprised I even bothered to sign the other children's names.

Even little kids understand the power of, well, let’s just call them incentives.

Did I mention my dad drives a BIG truck? It’s important to keep this in mind.

If you’ve been around children on the night before a holiday, you know that there is a special sort of magic in the air. This particular Easter took place a week late, in 1982.*  Picture, if you will, four sweet little children (“Sweet” as in, “Bless their sweet little hearts”**) ranging in age from 2-6 years old.  We’ve just finished dyeing the table, each other, and by a remarkable feat of effort on the part of our parents, most of the eggs.  Conversation has naturally turned to cataloguing potential hiding places…

  • Barbecuer? Yes.
  • Truck bumper? That’s a given.
  • Wheel well on the Blazer? It could go either way.
  • And every child in our family for three generations knows that the Bunny has a weirdly obsessive compulsion to stick an egg in the end of the clothesline T-post. It’s in his genetic makeup and has to do with the relationship between rabbits and holes***. I’m a scientist so you can believe me in this.

It's the law.

…when dad looks up from removing his last egg and says,

“Oh, I don’t think you’ll have to look for eggs tomorrow. I’m pretty sure I ran over the Easter Bunny on Sunday.  About yay high, wears a bow-tie?”

He looks from child to stricken child.

“Yeah, I’m pretty sure it was him.”

And this, folks, is how you create those special family memories that last a lifetime.

Stay tuned to a future post to find out how you can traumatize your child at Christmas with just a chimney and an old Don Knotts/Tim Conway movie. Wookalars may be involved, but I don’t want to spoil the surprise.

 

*Which I believe is the year before classmate Rachel told me the truth about the Rabbit and the Big Guy in the Red Suit. It was a conversation I purposefully and successfully managed to repress for several more years, having come to the realization that, as the oldest child, holidays would be much less magical when my parents found out they had a “Little Helper”. Finding the hidden Easter eggs is much more efficient but decidedly less exciting when you’re the one who hid them.

** This was mainly true of those who knew us, and of our propensity to do things like break into the house paint of a morning, and color coordinate ourselves and the deep freeze with our home’s exterior. Or to dig out the Christmas lights and joyfully stomp on them one at a time. Pop! Pop! Pop!  It’s like stomping on mud cracks but with that extra little thrill that comes with the growing certainty that you are in imminent danger. No, not from broken glass. From Mom.

*** You may have thought I would say something else here. Shame on you.


Categories: Growing up Boonie | Tags: , | 1 Comment

Care Packages and Reverse Care Packages

An Easter Care Package for my cousin in the Navy

Deployed service members have limited access to a lot of the little things we take for granted, and care packages from friends and loved ones back home really mean a lot.

  1. How to ship? The US Postal Service offers a reduced FPO/AE rate on their large flat rate box. For $12.95 you can mail up to 70 lbs.
  2. What to ship? Well, don’t send chocolate (it melts). If you make cookies, make sure they’re the sort that can last a week or four in processing and that they are very well packaged. For more suggestions, check out this list.
  3. Who to ship? Haha, just seeing if you were paying attention. You can’t mail yourself – 70 lb weight limit, remember?

With social media becoming so popular, we are much more likely to know when our cousin, old high school buddy, or friend’s husband, ships out, than we were even 5 years ago. Get an address before they ship out, and make a note on your calendar to send something out at the “halfway point” or a major holiday.

More ideas:

  • For fun, try sticking to a theme.
  • Unofficially, you (or the kids) can decorate the flat rate boxes as long as you leave the shipping information area clear.
  • Sending off a  Reverse Care Package for the spouse and/or children of a deployed service member is a very special sort of kindness.

 

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Little Helpers

Bug helps make Daddy's birthday breakfast.I think kids should help out in the kitchen as frequently as possible.

In order to convince you that this is true and good, I’m sharing a picture of Bug.

 

Yes, she’s covered in flour.

Yes, she has squished blueberries in her toes.

Yes, I had to watch her so closely that the recipe (Dutch Pancakes, in this instance) took about twice as long.

But look at that face. That is a face of pure contentment, and it’s a photo-op you can’t get in any studio.

 

My tips and observations regarding young toddlers and kitchens:

  • Your toddler will need his very own bowl and spoon. Bonus points if you have an extra “neat” utensil to share, like a whisk, or a small rolling pin.
  • Hold them up to the sink and let them wash the ingredients. Even if you have to re-wash after they leave the room.
  • For a very young child, a spoonful of flour is enough to “mix”. A sprinkle of cinnamon makes the mix smell nice.
  • My friend’s 2-year-old enjoys mixing a 1/4 cup of dry rice around the bowl while we mix our bread dough. After we have dough, of course, we give her a bit to knead.
  • Give an older toddler a little of each ingredient you are mixing. If the ratios are reasonably close, you can even bake/cook a mini version (as a pancake on the griddle, for example, or if you’ve given him a bit of bread dough to knead, bake a mini loaf).
  • If your toddler has the stirring thing down, get her involved with the “real” food. Let her mix the cake batter or pancake batter. Let him beat the eggs.
  • Take a picture. Take lots of pictures.
  • Never leave your child unattended, not even for a moment.

 

While you’re cooking together, be sure to sprinkle your conversation with such tidbits as “Oh boy, I can’t wait to do the dishes! That’s the best part!”

You never know. It might work.

Categories: Cooking | 8 Comments

Going Green (For St. Patrick’s Day)

GreenBread

Leprechauns invaded our home during the wee hours of the morning. They broke into my pantry, swiped my potatoes, and hid them throughout the house.

The milk was green.

My fresh-baked loaf of bread was green. Try eating a tuna salad sandwich on green bread. I dare you.

Does anyone know of an earth-friendly, “green” leprechaun repellent?

Categories: Cooking, Crafts, Kids | Leave a comment

Two-for-One Space Shuttle: Valentine Box and Monster Truck Piñata

CRASH LANDING!

Our nation’s farewell to the beloved space shuttle has been at the front of our minds this past few months, so it’s no wonder that when I asked our 2nd grader what type of Valentine’s Day box he wanted to decorate (thinking of the oatmeal-can rocket ship, or the ubiquitous construction paper-wrapped shoe box) he insisted on a space shuttle.  Mom and Dad built it, and Boo (our son) decorated it. After completing its noble card- and goody-carrying mission, it was decommissioned to the top of our son’s dresser. I despaired of ever getting rid of it.

Fast forward a month to Boo’s (belated) birthday party. After looking around town, unsuccessfully, for a suitable piñata for a mature young man of 8 years, we decided to build our own.  Boo wanted a monster truck, and as we tried to negotiate features (he wanted fancy rounded edges, I wanted a simple boxy design) we remembered the Valentine Shuttle. It even had a handy dandy candy compartment in the form of a cargo bay.  Why not turn it into a custom Monster Truck? So we did.

 

Part One: Valentine Box

We used NASA Diagrams for  the cool background information (did you know the orbiter is just a very elaborate glider, when all is said and done?) and for the shuttle’s general shape:

pinata1a

Fairly simple construction – a corrugated cardboard box, with paper board sides and a cone for a nose. For the Valentine Box, we used packing tape and painted with tempura and acrylic paints.

Another view of the original Valentine Box, as Boo prepares to paint:pinata1

 

After Boo’s first coat of paint.  Acrylic (white paint) worked well on cardboard and but just “okay” over packing tape: Pinata2

Boo did (nearly) all of the painting and sticker positioning. We forgot to take a “completed” picture, so here is a picture taken after the school party, and the following mile-long walk home in the bottom of Bug’s stroller (fortunately, you can’t see the footprint where I trod on it after it escaped containment):

pinata3

 

 

Part Two: Monster Truck Piñata

The first thing we had to do was take the entire thing apart and replace packing tape (stronger) with masking tape (weaker), and introduce some points of weakness into the body (we want the piñata to break, eventually). We filled the cargo bay with candy, and shut the payload doors. Using spray adhesive, we wrapped the shuttle in several layers of tissue paper:

pinata4

Missing steps, many missing steps. Well, you can see that we had to wrap and replace all of the shuttle bits, but we also added:

  • A trapezoid-shaped box with straws glued to it, for the monster truck’s suspension
  • Wheels (we glued on crumpled tissue paper bits, à la preschool craft hour)
  • Pom-poms for flame-exhaust.

Our son supervised the decorations and named the monster truck Crash Landing. (Yeah!)  Finally, we did something we should have done at the beginning (woops) and added the hangers – zip ties – so that we’d be able to hang the piñata. Ta-da!

pinata5

And here is one very excited little guest:

Photo Credit: Tara Bobadilla

Categories: Crafts, Kids, Science | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fingerpainting with Pudding – Fun for the Bigs and the Littles

 

It’s been harder to find activities that are fun for both of the kids – the one-year-old as well as the eight-year-old – but this fingerpainting activity kept them both busy for nearly an hour (and not just the kids – Jason had a blast playing with his new camera lens).

Finger painting with vanilla pudding is nothing new, terribly exciting, or science-related, but I liked how the pictures turned out and it’s been a while since I’ve written anything new here. I guess in that sense, it kept me busy for awhile, too. Score.

________

Step one: Thing One mixes instant vanilla pudding according to directions.*

Step two: Separate the pudding into a few individual bowls.

FingerPaint1

Step three: Add food coloring (Thing One used about 3 drops per 1/4 cup of pudding, and nobody came out permanently dyed as a result of this ratio**).

FingerPaint2

Step four: Paint.

FingerPaint3

Step five: Laugh.

FingerPaint4.

Step six: Wear.

FingerPaint5

Step seven: Love. And a hot bath.

 

Some background – our son (the eight-year-old) has been complaining about my cooking of late. As a result, I’ve suffered a Mr. Hyde– like transformation into my mother, and parroted (quite without engaging my brain first) that if he didn’t like what I was cooking, he could jolly well cook dinner himself.  This backfired, because my son doesn’t actually know how to cook dinner yet, and the prospect of his favorite meals every night excited him so much that he started complaining even more.  Long story short, we’re teaching him how to cook.

**It’s important that the dye not be too concentrated, or you may end up spending the next few days with Zombie-colored children.  This is a good lesson in color mixing.

Categories: Crafts, Kids | 5 Comments

Water: Fun for the Bigs

We have 48 hours of stuck-at-home time as the Big Winter Storm blows through the area.  “Big” is relative, as we’re only 50 miles from the US/Mexico border, but there you are. This is Part Two (see Part One).

Oh Groundhog Day Tree, Oh Groundhog Day Tree…

DWIce3

We borrowed the Ice Bauble idea from the Babyccino Kids site.

It’s entirely possible that I find this project so exciting for the simple reason that it hasn’t been cold enough to do this project until yesterday. It probably won’t get this cold again for another 6 years. Maybe longer, because I think we’ve hit some sort of record low in the borderlands.  I won’t apologize to those of you who deal with real winters – try making a snowman out of 1/4″ snow accumulation before you judge.

Materials:

  • Food coloring
  • Water
  • Mini muffin cups, tins, plastic or flexible containers*
  • String/yarn
  • Decorations (leaves, rocks)

*I would avoid glass containers, since you may need to dip the container in warm water to release your Ice Bauble.  If you dip frozen glass, you may end up with Insta-Thermal Shock Lesson.

Procedure:

  1. We premixed colors in plastic cups because we can’t get to the fallen leaves. You can use plain water, though, especially if you want to use leaves or rocks.
  2. Partially fill muffin cups and set outside to freeze
  3. Place a looped string on the now frozen bobble, and finish filling with a second color. Set outside to freeze.
  4. Decorate tree, fence, or other immobile object of your choice.

20110202_273

My son’s favorite lesson? Mixing all three primary colors results in the color “root beer” .

You can also use this time to talk about energy loss/transfer, and phase changes. Since this topic ends up on all the elementary school science-standards exams, this isn’t such a bad idea, really.

If you make Ice Baubles with your kids, take a picture and share!

Categories: Crafts, Kids, Science | 3 Comments

Water: Fun for the Littles

We have 48 hours of stuck-in-the-house time as the Big Winter Storm blows through the area.  “Big” is relative, as we’re only 50 miles from the US/Mexico border, but local resources are stretched to the breaking point, so there you are. This is Part One (see Part Two)

Water Play!

Never leave a baby or toddler unattended, even for a moment, with any amount of water.

  1. 20110202_211Strip baby to diaper.
  2. Fill a shallow container with water. I even put a few drops of dish soap into the water,* since I knew my daughter wouldn’t drink it but would enjoy the bubbles. If you think your baby/toddler will try to drink the water, you can skip that step.**
  3. Place the shallow container on a towel in the middle of a non-carpeted floor.
  4. Add cups, floating objects, and adult supervision and you get Insta-Joy.

* I totally did not add dish soap just so that when it spilled on the floor and my son cleaned it up, I’d have a really clean floor.

** Even ingesting it, I don’t think the dish soap will hurt her in small quantities.  I’m basing this on the fact that my mom used to “wash my mouth out with soap” for cursing and nothing is wrong with me. With me. With me. With me. Damn it.

Categories: Kids | Tags: , | 1 Comment

What’s in a Golf Ball?

Sawing golfballMy son asked us, this past summer, what’s inside a golf ball.

This experiment is extra fun because you can tie it into your golf game (I don’t play golf, so I did not), geology (I am a geologist, so I did), and good mechanical/shop skills.

Purpose:

Find out what’s in the middle of a golf ball.

Background Research:

Analyze the golf ball. Does it float or sink in water? Does it bounce? What does the surface appear to be made of? Can you think of other tests to perform on the golf ball?

Hypothesis:

The hypothesis simply states what your child thinks she will find in the center of the golf ball, based on her background research.

Materials:

  • golf ball
  • vise
  • hack saw with new blade (you may need two-three blades)
  • safety goggles

Procedure:

  1. Wear goggles. Your child has her hypothesis, but she can’t be sure what’s inside the ball. YOU should have some idea*, but she won’t. This is part of the fun.
  2. Clamp the golf ball into the vise (if possible, let your child do this herself).  Ideally, it shouldn’t be too tight because that will make it more difficult to cut. However, it needs to be tight enough that it won’t wiggle around.  Fiddle with it a bit. Kids love playing with vises so let her take her time.
  3. Show your child how to change a blade in the hack saw. One side is sharp. You know this, make sure she knows this. The properties of a hack saw are not enhanced, to any appreciable degree, by the addition of blood.
  4. At this point your child may be feeling quite mechanically accomplished. If this is her first foray into your shop/garage, you may be feeling quite parentally accomplished. Give each other a high five.
  5. Start cutting. I started the cut for my son, just because the hacksaw can slide around before the first ridge was cut.  Your child’s fingers shouldn’t be anywhere near the ball or saw blade (please see above photo), so it’s up to you, but be sure to stay nearby.
  6. Adjust the position of the ball as necessary to get entirely through the ball.

*There are two probable golf-ball gut scenarios.

      1. solid core
      2. liquid (non-toxic) core

Results:

DW Golfball2After your child finishes cutting the golf ball open, have her analyze it again. What does she see?

Conclusion:

Your child based his hypothesis by analyzing exterior properties of the ball (density, bounciness, etc.). Have her restate her hypothesis now that she has seen the interior of the ball. Was her reasoning sound? Was her hypothesis correct? If it wasn’t, that’s okay!

Science-y Parallel/Parable of the Day: Geologists can’t cut the earth in half to learn about about the earth. Just as your child couldn’t scratch very deeply into the plastic shell of the golf ball, a geologist can’t “scratch” much of the Earth’s surface and must gather information from the surface.

 

A small junior hacksaw and extra blades can be picked up very cheaply from Walmart or Harbor Freight.  Since hacksaws are good for other noble pursuits, such as building PVC Marshmallow Shooters, you should persuade yourself that they are a good addition to your child’s Young Inventor’s Kit.

Visiting from Skip to my Lou? Be sure to let me know what you think!

Categories: Kids, Science | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment