Category Archives: Fun with Science

Activities for September

September is here, and so is Autumn. In India, autumn is usually not taught as a season to students. But it should be, because just like the rest of the world, India experiences its version of autumn. Golden or brown leaves are usually a sign of autumn or fall. While we don’t often get to see autumn leaves in India, we do experience other changes, like the days become shorter and nights become longer. The days are sunny, but the sun’s rays are not as hot as they are in the summer.

Autumn in New York

Autumn in New York (Photo credit: blmiers2)

Weather in Autumn Activity:

I took a globe and positioned a flashlight on one half of the Earth. I asked Big A to place her hands on different parts of the globe, to tell me which felt hot and which part felt warm. Then, I took a ball and held it straight (not titled like the globe), and I placed the flashlight on one half of the ball. I asked her to tell me if there was a difference in the heat across the different parts of the ball. Except for the top and bottom, where the flashlight rays don’t hit directly, the rest of the ball will be of the same temperature.

We concluded that because the earth is tilted, areas that get direct heat feel hot and those that do not get direct heat feel warm, and this is why we have seasons. In September, India does not receive direct sunlight, hence the days are warm, and are shorter than nighttime.

Here’s a list of other activities I’ve planned for this month:

  1. Talk about the weather in September and decide what type of clothes to wear for the weather. Work with your child to place clothes for September at the front of the cupboard shelf. By doing this, children realize how clothes are designed for seasons. And when they grow big, they are likely to be fashion conscious and  will dress up for the season.
  2. If you have fashion magazines at home, show pictures of the Autumn/Fall collection and discuss the trends in fashion with your kids.
  3. Autumn begins with Janmashtmi celebrations. Tell your kids a story about Krishna and then show them how to make butter.
  4. September is also a month of harvest festivals – Onam in Kerala and Nuakhai in Orissa. Discuss the meaning of harvest, and why farmers celebrate the harvest festival.
  5. Ganesh Chaturthi is another big festival that comes in September this year. Newspapers are going to be filled with photographs of the Elephant God. Have your child skim through the papers each day and cut pictures of Ganesha and create a collage.
  6. Take a nature walk, collect some leaves and make leaf skeletons.
  7. Collect fallen leaves and flowers, trace their designs on paper, cut the paper drawings and thread them together to make a toran. You could also make a toran with real leaf and flowers, but it will stay fresh only for a few days.
  8. Download and print fall theme worksheet set 1 and worksheet set 2 and have kids fill them up.

If you have fun ideas to do with kids in September, please do share them.

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Fun with Water & Science

The rains don’t seem to want to leave our city, and rainy days means the kids stay at home. The challenge for most parent’s then becomes figuring out ways to keep the little ones occupied in meaningful activities. Since rain is all about water, I decided to do some water activities with the kids.

I organized water in containers and first did the dissolving activity with them followed by the sinking and floating activity. Big A participated actively, while little A watched. Before doing the activity, I told her Big A that was a scientist, and she had to think like a scientist, that is, she had to observe, analyze, predict results and then check/verify prediction.

We began with soluble and non-soluble items. Each time I asked her to pick the item and feel it with her hands, I asked her to describe how it felt – was it smooth, was it grainy, did it feel heavy or light. Then, I asked her to predict if it would mix into the water or stay at the bottom. Every time her prediction came right, she was thrilled.

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Next, we did the sinking and floating activity. We followed the same inquiry-based learning method. She concluded that  heavy items sink and light items float; and was super surprised when the bottle with paint bottle floated while the hair clip sank.

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It was an hour and a half well spent, and by the time we were done, the rains stopped, so both of them put on their shoes and went down to play.

Shapes, Colors & Art

Today’s activity draws inspiration from the Georgetown Elementary Art Blog about Murals. If you visit their site, you’ll see the amazing mural that students made. I loved the vibrant colors and loved that the entire piece was put together through teamwork!

I decided to do the same activity at home with A & A. I gave each a white sheet of paper and asked them to use a black crayon and draw different shapes all over the paper. When they were done drawing shapes, I showed them how to connect shapes together with lines. After our paper was filled with black outlines, I brought out four colors – red, blue, yellow and white.

Both of them began filling colors inside their shapes with their paintbrushes. After using each color a few times, they wanted new colors. I told them we only had four color bottles with us, but we could maybe try mixing two colors to see if we could create a new color. And so, the fun began, they learnt that:

  • red+white = pink
  • red+yellow = orange
  • blue + yellow = green
  • blue + red = purple

We added white to the colors to make different hues, so we managed to get light and dark green, light and dark purple and light and dark orange.

After the coloring was over, we let the paper dry. Later at night, I used black paint to redo the outlines around the shapes, since the little ones had colored over them. The next morning, we opened up two photo frames, and replaced the art in it with our own artwork. The kids were thrilled at seeing their artwork on the wall.

July

Do you display your kid’s artwork in your home? Do share your pictures with us.

Make a Farm at Home

A & A have been coming home each evening with soiled clothes. It’s because they have just discovered “mud play”. Due to continuous rains, the soil in the building compound has been moist for a long time. So the children have found a little spot near the flower bed, where the meet each evening, and dig out soil and make soil cookies and vessels. As much as I don’t like them coming home covered in dirt, I don’t want to stop them, because as kids, even I loved making little mud structures.

But, the fear of them falling sick has been bugging me for a while, so I was determined to find some safer activity they could do and yet not lose the wonderful experience of playing with mud/soil. After a lot of searching, I found this fantastic pretend play farm activity at Frugal Fun for Boys.  I love how Sarah has put a little pond in the middle of her garden and added plastic animals and figurines, and I knew that I had to do this for the kids.

The things needed for the activity are:

  • One plastic container with holes
  • Soil
  • Small plants
  • One small plastic bowl (to serve as pond)
  • Plastic figurines

So here are pictures of our version of the plant a garden activity; we call it our Home Farm.

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I bought a packet of plastic domestic and wild animals and mixed them together. After the garden was made, I asked the kids to tell me which animals would fit in the farm. We discussed why wild animals could not live on farms, and also discussed how farm animals are useful to us.

The next day morning, after they woke up, they quickly went to see their farm. Big A told me that the rooster woke everyone up with a loud “Cock-a-doodle-do”, and it’s time to bathe the animals. So both of them spend the morning, bathing their animals and playing with we mud.

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I am hoping to add a little fence with Popsicle sticks and maybe make a coop for the hen in the coming days. Keep watching this space for more pictures!

As promised, here are pictures of new additions to our farm. We made fence enclosures for animals, and discussed which two animals could stay together in the same enclosure. We also used the magnifying glass to check if any tiny insects have made a home in our farm.

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If you liked this activity, then please spare a minute to click the “Like” button, and if you leave us a message about it, we will be delighted!

How Many Bones in a Human Body?

Would you expect a 4 year old to know how many bones are present in a human body? If you said “no”, it’s perfectly fine, because children at that small an age are not expected to understand and remember facts about bones. But that does not mean, they cannot remember or retain such information if it is given to them.

Here’s a fun activity, I did when big A was 4 years old, and till date, if you were to ask her how many bones are present in the human body, she will promptly tell you – 206! And here’s how she knows.

We glued together two sheets of chart paper, and asked her to lie straight on it. We drew her body outline on the paper. Then, I pulled out a book about bones, I showed her the different bones and told her their names. Then, we drew the outlines of each bone on a newspaper, cut them out and pasted them on the chart paper. She was thrilled to what her skeleton looks like, and is not frightened of a skeleton picture.

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We’ve pasted the chart paper in her room, with the date on it. We did this activity a while back, but she can easily recall names of some bones (skull, rib cage, pelvic) and can also tell you that the human body has 206 bones.

Glitter Jar

Do you like snow globes? I love them, and always have one sitting on my desk. When my mind goes in the idle state, then I tend to play with the globe. Shaking it vigorously, and watching the snow bits settle down bit by bit, has a calming effect.

Now, snow globes aren’t easy to find in India; and are often expensive. So I found an alternate version of it called the “glitter jar”. It’s super simple to make, with stuff that’s quite easily available at home and it is super fun!

Glitter Jar Recipe:

  • Clear plastic jar
  • A tiny toy (optional)
  • Super glue
  • Water
  • Glitter powder
  • Glycerin
  • Sealing tape

First open the bottle and stick the tiny toy to the inside base of the bottle lid. Next, fill 3/4 of the bottle with water. Sprinkle few pinches of glitter powder in the water, and then add 2-3 drops of glycerin. The toy should be stuck firmly by now, so close the lid of the bottle tightly. Shake the bottle to check if the glitter settles slowly. If not, then add a few more drops of glycerin and recheck the result. Once you’re happy with the flow of glitter, seal the lid with a tape; this is so that it does not open by mistake when kids play with it.

And then, enjoy hours of calming moments with your very own glitter jar!

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I used glass jars when I did the activity with A & A; but one of the jar’s slipped from little A’s hands and broke the very next day. So I made new one’s with plastic bottles and they are still around the house.

If your children are older, then you could make this into a science activity. Have them fill the jar with water, sprinkle glitter, close the jar and shake it. Ask them to observe how the glitter settles in the water. The glitter will settle down quickly. Next, ask them to feel glycerin on their fingertips and describe it – is it light like water or does it feel thick or heavy? Ask them to pour a few drops in the glitter water, and then ask them to seal the jar and shake it and observe the effect.

Discuss why the glitter takes longer to settle when glycerin is put in the water.

Check out the following sites for scientific concepts that can be taught using glitter jars:

The Thirsty Crow Story (in Marathi)

We love the fact that today many publishers are working actively towards promoting children’s books in regional languages. At The Story Palce, we are keenly working at incorporating Hindi and Marathi books (Tulika and Pratham Books) in our storytelling sessions, and building lesson plans around them.

As part of our research, I picked up a Marathi story today, and tried it out with big A. Since we live in Mumbai, Maharashtra, she has been exposed to a fair share of Marathi through the house help at home. The help has been speaking Marathi to my daughter since three years now, so big A has a good understanding of the language and can speak Marathi well (better than me).

This morning’s story was “The Thirsty Crow” in Marathi, a story that we have all heard as children. I read the story slowly, explaining each part as I read it. The illustrations in the book were very simple and helped a great deal in understanding the sequence of events in the story.

After the story was over, I asked her, if it was really possible to bring up water in a pot by putting stones in it. She just shrugged her shoulders. It made me think, that as a child I too had heard this story, but I never ever thought of finding out if the pebble thing worked. So, here was a chance to satisfy my curiosity and my daughter’s too.

We went to the kitchen, and filled little water in a glass. I told her to pretend that she was a crow, and to try drinking the water by putting her mouth in the glass. Since the water level was low, she couldn’t reach the water. So, we decided to do what the crow did. We collected some stones and put them in the glass. Slowly, slowly, the water rose up in the glass, and eventually it reached the top. The little pretend crow could drink it and satisfy her thirst!

I explained that the stones occupied space at the bottom of the glass, and pushed the water up. Later, we discussed what we (humans) would do in such a situation, one option was to lift the glass with our hands and drink water, and the other was to use a straw and suck up the water. 

Who ever thought that a simple story could be so so so much fun!

If you have read children’s stories in regional languages, then do share your recommendation list with us. 

Night Garden

The rains have arrived in Mumbai, and with them, they bring insects. A & A have been spotting many moths crowd around the light during nighttime. Needless to say they wanted to know who these tiny little creatures were.

I was only thrilled at their question, and quickly pulled out a book on insects. We browsed through the pages and they were fascinated by the pictures of insects. They recognized some that we see around the house and on the ground and thought that the stinky bug was the coolest of all.

After they were done with the book, I decided to extend their learning into something tangible. So we made a candle jar and called it “Night Garden”.

 

To make the candle jar, you need:

  • A glass bottle
  • Coloured tissue paper
  • Sketch pens
  • A book with insect pictures
  • Glue
  • Glitter (optional)

I gave big A a tissue paper and showed her how to place it over the book. I demonstrated tracing an insect on the paper, and asked her to repeat the process with the other insects in the book.

Little A was feeling left out, so I gave him a green tissue paper and asked him to tear it to bits. Then, we put glue over the entire bottle and stuck the green paper bits on it to represent a garden. When big A was done with her drawings, I cut them out for her and then she glued them onto the jar. We spread glue over the empty spots and sprinkled glitter over the jar.

Finally, I put a tea light candle in the jar and lit it. And the reaction was “WOW”!

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We’ve placed the jar on the table, and once in a while, I point out to the insects and ask them to name it or recall a fun fact that we read in the book.

Water Cycle – Making Rain

My 5 year old has just begun her Senior KG term. Since it’s the rainy season, the concepts being covered in her class are about water and rain. On Monday she came home singing a cute water cycle song with actions and expressions :).

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I love the water cycle song, because the lyrics explain very simply how the sun heats the water in the sea, then the water vapor rises high and forms big dark clouds, the clouds go bang bang bang and  pitter patter down comes the rain. She sings the song all day long without being conscious that she has learnt about an important science concept.

Last night she asked me how rain is made. I explained to her the concept verbally, but her blank expressions made me realize that very little of what I said registered in her head. Listening to words is a very abstract process for her, because she still hasn’t developed the capability to visualize what is being said. Children at this age learn best by observing, doing and exploring. So my next step was to find an activity to show her how rain is formed.

From my search, I shortlisted these posts.

We tried the Cloud in a Jar experiment and were happy with the results. Here are the pictures.

A raindrop Cloud in a jar_2

And to wind up the experiment, I had the children make a water cycle – this allowed them to reflect on the concept and articulate their understanding through a drawing.

Water cycle

What Makes a Green Tree go Pink?

On a sunny day in March, I took a nature walk in our locality. The little one noticed that the tree outside our apartment building was beginning to turn pink. Small pink flowers have sprung up and have given the otherwise green tree, a pink glow. While we walked, we observed other changes in the trees around us. And she had questions about why the trees were changing at this time of the year. I realized that this was a good time to introduce the concept of seasons. When we came home, I quickly browsed through the book cupboard and picked out story books related to seasons.

First we read The Seasons of Arnold’s Apple Tree, a short story about a boy Arnold and his apple tree. Through the story, children observe how the Apple Tree changes throughout the year and how Arnold comes up with new play activities for each season. Then, we drew four empty blocks on a sheet of paper, one for each season (spring, summer, fall and winter). In each block we drew a picture of how the tree looks at that time of the year. Finally, we drew another picture of the apple tree and named its basic parts (roots, trunk, branch, leaf and fruits).

 Then, we read another book, Spring Is Here!, a cute story about a Mole and a Bear. The story takes us through the Mole’s journey of discovering that spring has arrived, and his efforts to wake up his friend Bear. The book has wonderful illustrations and sound words that make it a complete entertaining read for children.

The little one now has some understanding of seasons and spring is her favorite season (as of now). Do your little ones know about seasons? 

 Check out these fun titles that introduce the science behind seasons.

  • Tell Me a Season by Mary McKenna Siddals
  • The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons
  • Sunshine Makes the Seasons by Franklyn M. Branley
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