Adventures of the Non-Creative Mom

January 27, 2013

Spelling Practice in Baking Soda & Then Some Fun

My daughter has been struggling a bit with her spelling tests at school lately and she always lets out a huge groan when I tell her it’s time to practice.  Homework and studying is a constant struggle with her and I don’t want to turn her off of learning so I have been wracking my brain to come up with a fun way to study.

One of her favorite experiments that she constantly asks for is the baking soda and vinegar volcano so I decided to try and combine that with studying.  So I replaced the old baking soda that I was using to freshen up the refrigerator and split the box across two cookie trays (my 2 year old always wants to do “homework” too so I had to have one for him as well).  I then would give my daughter one of her spelling words to “write” in the baking soda.



I won’t say we had a complaint free study session but it was a 100% times better than straight studying and after we went through all of her words we moved on to the play time.

I pulled out the food coloring and learned that you don’t want to take your eyes off a 2 year old for even a second because next thing you know he will have used half a bottle of food coloring before you know it!  But I digress…I had them drop different food coloring all over their trays.



I don’t know if you can see but my son’s tray of baking soda was pretty evenly spread out and my daughter tried making mountains.  Once we moved onto the vinegar step we found having the smoother surface worked better.

I poured vinegar into two cups and gave the kids eye droppers to drop vinegar onto their trays.



The kids loved their colored mini-volcanoes as the baking soda and vinegar reacted to bubble up and ooze.

Once they had used up all their vinegar the kids immediately set in to squish, smash and draw in their trays.  My 5 year old and I talked about the difference in texture of the baking soda before the vinegar and after the vinegar.



When we were done and had washed hands I thought they would be walking around with purple hands as we just couldn’t get the color all off.  Fortunately after bath and play time in the water the color finally came out and their hands were back to normal. 🙂

So while we won’t be doing this all the time since we used up the entire box of old baking soda at least my daughter saw studying doesn’t have to be a drag.

August 24, 2012

Dancing Raisins (Bobbing bouncing raisins)

Filed under: Books,Learning,Science Activities — by dsuzuki @ 6:51 pm
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If you saw my post yesterday about the layered liquids experiment then you know I found it in a book we got recently.  Well on the opposite page was the bobbing bouncing raisin (or as I’ve seen it called elsewhere the dancing raisin) experiment and just so happens we had a container of raisins handy.

First we started off with this small spice container and 7-Up but not much luck. I figured we needed more soda and more fizz.

Dancing Raisins

Unfortunately our only bigger glass wasn’t totally clear but we still had fun watching what happened.  I wasn’t sure what to really expect and dropping the raisins in was like dropping those alka-seltzer tablets into water.  Instant fizz.


And then the cool reaction started as the raisins which had sank to the bottom slowly started getting covered in bubbles and next thing you know they were rising to the top and then falling back down.  The book we were using explained how the bubbles stick onto the raisin so when they rise they take the raisin with them and as the bubbles pop at the top the raisin sinks again.


Soon the experiment turned into a game of whether or not my daughter could catch the raisin before it sank back down.  It was surprisingly hard to do it since as she stuck her fingers in the bubbles would pop and the raisins sank like a rock.  That kept my daughter amused for awhile until the soda started to lose its carbonation.

Game Play

This is the book we used and you can purchase it through my store if interested.

Big book of science things to make and do

The Usborne Big book of Science things to make and do

August 23, 2012

Layered Liquids

Filed under: Books,Learning,Science Activities — by dsuzuki @ 10:44 pm
Tags: , ,

Have I mentioned how much I love being an Usborne Books & More consultant?  One reason is that I get to try out some amazing books because I really don’t like to sell books I haven’t read and enjoy myself.  Today my soon to be 5 year old and I busted out our new book, Big book of Science things to make and do, for our afternoon activity.  She picked out the Layered Liquids experiment.

First we had a cup full of cold water and food coloring. Note that I didn’t realize we should have been doing this in a separate cup and not the container we were going to be making layers in so after coloring the water we poured it back into the measuring cup.

Layered Liquid Water

Next came the cooking oil.  The directions just say to add 4 TBSP to the jar but I thought it would be fun for my daughter to see what would happen if you add food coloring.  It was neat seeing how it stayed in a little blob like in a lava lamp instead of mixing with the oil.  Even stirring wouldn’t get the food coloring to mix and I had her explain her observations about the difference in behavior of the food coloring in the water and oil.

Layered Liquid Oil

Then we slowly added the water to the jar (pouring it down the side of the jar) and watched as the water sank below the oil.  How cool right?  Thankfully since I’m rusty on all my science knowledge the book had a blurb explaining about the difference in density between oil and water caused the water to sink.  I did have to simplify saying that the water was just heavier even though I know it’s not the most accurate description but oh well.  You can’t really see it too well in the picture but it was also neat to see how the green food coloring we had put in the oil got sucked down into the water layer as well.

Layered Liquid mix

Finally we added some corn syrup to the bottle and watched that sink below the water and created three distinct layers. The green is the corn syrup, the black (it was supposed to be purple) is the water and the yellow is the oil.

layered liquid

After that we just played around with the mixture like stirring it up and watching them separate again.  We also tried adding more food coloring and watched as it slowly sank through the oil into the water layer.

Layered Liquid Play

Not long after this my 2 year old woke up and wanted to play as well.  It didn’t take long for the concoction to be spilled and that was that for this experiment but we had a blast.  Even when daddy came home he was watching the experiment and making suggestions on things to try out.

This is the book we used and you can purchase it through my store if interested.

Big book of science things to make and do

The Usborne Big book of Science things to make and do

May 18, 2012

Summer 2012 Bucket List

Little Wonders' Days

I stumbled across this post on Pinterest and thought having a summer bucket list broken down by amount of time needed would be great.  That way when we do have a free day, morning or after I can just go down our list and see what fits.  I have a ton of things pinned on Pinterest but I tried to choose the ones where I already have the materials at home so setting up wouldn’t be too hard.

So here is what is on our bucket list so far:

Full Day Activities

Half Day Activities

  • Host a summer book exchange party
  • Go to the park
  • Go to the aquatic center
  • Cherry picking

Two Hour or Less Activities

January 22, 2012

Raining Rainbows

Filed under: Science Activities — by dsuzuki @ 10:55 pm
Tags: ,

I came across this experiment on Pinterest as usual and since my husband had some cheap shaving cream we decided to give it a whirl.  We used an empty plastic candy jar, filled it with water and then the shaving cream.

Initially I put the food coloring in measuring spoons since my four year old daughter tends to get food color happy when squeezing the bottle but I finally caved and just let her add it as she wished.

It was very cool watching the food coloring slowly make it’s way through the shaving cream and “rain” down into the water.  (I have to admit I probably was more excited than she was though) lol. Though she did have fun trying to predict which color was going to seep through next.

While my husband and I were busy watching the colors rained down she was raring to go and start mixing things up and it was pretty neat watching the swirling, cloudy look at the shaving cream started to mix with the water.  On a side note-I found it funny that as her grandpa walked by he asked very warily what were we making and if that was dinner.  Heehee.

My 18 month old wanted to get in on the action as well.

Once that was all said and done it seemed like such a waste to toss it out right away.  So I pulled out a cookie sheet and let the kids finger/hand paint on it using the colored shaving cream.  Little did I know how messy it would get because my son got so excited and started clapping his hands which sprayed the shaving cream all over the kitchen.

We ended up doing it twice mostly because I think they kiddos enjoyed the playing with the cream with their hands more so than watching the rainy rainbows.  But hey, as long as they have fun right?

December 31, 2011

More Space Exploration

If you have been following us for awhile you know that my four year old has been on a space kick lately so since I had two weeks off from work over the holidays we went to the Chabot Space and Science Museum.  Unfortunately we weren’t able to actually use a telescope since their viewing times were at 7:30pm on Friday and Saturdays so it runs into her bed time but she still had a great time.  I was actually surprised how often she has asked to go back since then.

There were a bunch of interactive displays that she loved playing with.

And she finally got to see the footsteps on the moon.

She also totally shamed me by landing on the moon on her first try with daddy while I crashed.

Her first experience in the Planetarium.  We saw two shows.  The first one about astronauts was actually kind of creepy and after that she didn’t want to go to the second show until it was almost time to leave.  We saw one about the history of the telescope which was actually really good.

She got to see herself on the moon’s surface.

Since she didn’t get to use the telescope at the museum Santa brought her a special Christmas gift:

We weren’t able to find anything good that first night and it’s been cloudy since but hopefully we’ll be able to see something soon.  If you are ever in the Oakland, Ca area I would suggest stopping by this museum.  I think 4 is a little young unless your child is really a space buff but definitely fun for the 6+ boys and girls.

December 20, 2011

Latest Space Reads

My daughter’s interest in the Solar System is still going strong and we made another trip to the library this past weekend.  Our latest bed time reads have been:

There’s No Place Like Space by Tish Rabe

I’ve been on the wait list at the library for the longest time and was excited when I found this at the latest Scholastic Warehouse sale.  It was one of the books I gave my daughter as a gift this morning and she couldn’t wait to read it at bed time tonight.  She loved all the other Cat in the Hat books we have read so far so I had a feeling she would enjoy this one.  For the most part it was the same old information about each planet as the rest of the books we have read but the rhyming was nicely done and made it fun to read.  The greatest part of the book was that it just fueled my daughter’s dreams about going into space one day.  If you are looking for a beginning book about the solar system for your preschooler this is a great pick!

The following books were all ones she picked out at the library.

Saturn by Christine Taylor-Butler

This is the third book we have read from Taylor-Butler and we have enjoyed them all.  They are the perfect level for preschoolers who are just beginning to show an interest in the solar system.  Each page has some basic information with wonderful images.  There is also a word hunt list at the beginning of the book for things like “orbit”, “solar system”, etc and I love that the book provides a simple explanation of what each term means.  When we read these books my daughter constantly asks “what do that mean?” when we come across a new term.  Sometimes I admit to being stumped to come up with a simple enough explanation.  The books ends with a short chart comparing things like the length of a year, day, size and number of moons between Earth and Saturn.  It always amazes my daughter when she reads about how many more moons the other planets have compared to Earth.  This is a great series I suggest for the preschool level.

Jupiter by Elaine Landau

My daughter’s latest favorite planet is Jupiter because it is the largest planet.  We have read the Taylor-Butler book about Jupiter as well but what I liked about this one was that there were a few new gems of information.  Like, in addition to the Great Red Spot every other book mentions Landau’s book also mentions the smaller storm, the Little Red Spot, that has changed color from white to red from 2004 to 2006.  I don’t recall reading about this storm in any of the other books so it was something that caught both my daughter’s and my attention.  My daughter loved all the pictures and hearing about Galileo building his own telescope.  She’s been begging me for a telescope to that maybe she can make her own discoveries in space.

While an interesting book it is a little longer and has more words that the Taylor-Butler books so my daughter’s attention did wander at times.  I would suggest this for kids a little older (my daughter’s 4).

Activities to Try

Family of the Sun song: I stumbled across this song that is posted on the Smithsonian site and is sang to the tune of the Farmer in the Dell. It sounds like a catchy tune so I want to try it out with my daughter.  Here’s how it starts off and the chorus:

The Family of the Sun,
Its planets number eight,
Plus other rocky, icy worlds
That we appreciate.

Mercury is hot
and Mercury is small.
Mercury has no atmosphere;
It’s just a rocky ball.

The Family of the Sun,
Its planets number eight,
Plus other rocky, icy worlds
That we appreciate…


December 5, 2011

Moon, craters and getting down and dirty

Ever since my daughter got the book Eight Spinning Planets by Brian James & Russel Benfanti she has been asking me lots of questions about space, the planets, moon, etc that I just can’t remember the answers to.  So where do I turn when I need help?  The library!  We took and trip and browsed through their  astronomy books and she picked out a few along with a couple about the Earth in particular.  Then of course she started begging for some “observation” activities.  Just as a warning this one means letting the kids get down right and dirty.

Here were our favorite books we picked up:

Atlas of the Universe by Mark Garlick: Believe it or not she picked this one out herself. I tried to tell her it was more for adults (she’s 4) but she insisted and we picked it up about 3 weeks ago we have been reading a few pages every night at bed time and she loves it.  I don’t think she understands it all but everything in it just amazes her.

The Planets in Our Solar System by Franklyn Mansfield Branley: This one talks about the planets and is much more kid friendly.  The only word of warning is that it’s on the older side and still talks about Pluto being a planet.  My daughter and I have already talked about how Pluto is no longer a planet so it didn’t really confuse her although she does feel bad that it’s no longer a planet.

What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn Mansfield Branley: After talking about the planets, orbits and rotation she wanted to know more about why we have night and day and this was a nice book to go through.  Of course since it mentions the moon so often she started asking about craters, visiting the moon, etc.

Earth by Christine Taylor-Butler: This one talks about what the Earth is made of, the continents, volcanos, etc.

After reading all these books she really wanted to do some sort of experiment or observation.  Luckily I stumbled across this activity about recreating craters on the moon’s surface on I think it was Pinterest.  It coincided nicely with my daughter’s latest request to experiment to see what flour mixed with flour would feel like.

First I filled up one of our bins with a couple cups of flour:

Then added a layer of cocoa for some contrast (note for future reference: I left the cocoa kind fo pebbly but I think it might be better to smooth it out before starting the comet portion):

Next we found balls of different sizes and weights to try to see what different size craters they would make when they “impacted our moon”.

We observed how when they hit the “surface” it kicked up a cloud of dust into the air and talked about how this could stay in the air for a really long time.  We also looked at the different size dents and how deep the dents were when we dropped the different size balls.  She dropped them over and over to see how the craters would start to overlap and how it started to look like the surface of the moon.

Then we moved on to the seeing what water and flour mixed together felt like so I thought it prudent to move it outside.  Thank goodness I did.  First off it was great weather and we actually had a great view of the moon and talked about how the different colors were actually craters on the moon.

Then came the dirty phase of fun. Even my 16 month old had a blast.  I gave them a few things out of the kitchen: funnels, measuring cups, bowls, a strainer, etc.

My daughter really enjoyed feeling how gooey the mixture was and talked about how it was a “chocolate lake” (for those with kids who love Dora I’m sure you know what she was referring to.)

Once everything was nice and wet and gooey my daughter decided to see what would happen when our “comets” and “meteors” landed in water.  My son loved helping with this part as you can see.

All in all they both had a lot of fun and I think my daughter is finally satisfied with how all those craters on the moon were created.

November 20, 2011

Eye droppers, colors & snow flakes

Kaitlyn enjoyed this color mixing experiment so much she’s been begging to do more color activities.   So this time I decided to try out using an ice cube tray and threw in an eye dropper to help with her motor skills.  I added food coloring to come of the cubes and clear water in others and then let her go at the mixing.

It took a few tries to get the hang of the eye dropper but she eventually got it and had a ton of fun mixing up colors.

She made such beautiful colors it seemed a shame to waste them so I tore apart a piece of paper towel and let her drop the different colors on the paper towel and watch how they spread and mixed with each other.

Then I cut up a few snow flakes for her (yes, it’s been awhile since I’ve had to cut snow flakes so they aren’t the prettiest but she was satisfied) 🙂 and she colored those and wanted to hang them up in our play room.

October 26, 2011

Magnetic or Not?

I’ve been eagerly building up my Swagbucks(if you don’t know about Swagbucks it’s very cool! Check out more here) so I could order this magnetic set for Kaitlyn and it finally arrived!  She was begging for an experiment so I just threw a bunch of stuff I found around the house into an empty container, drew up a piece of paper with circles for her to separate items that were magnetic from items that weren’t and handed her the magnet wands.  I wish I caught a picture of the look on her face when she picked up the first magnetic item with the wand.  She thought it was so cool.

I threw a bunch of cotton balls in the box too to make it more interesting for her to hunt for the items.  It made for an interesting discussion as well over why the cotton balls stayed on top while the heavier items fell to the bottom.  Once she figured out cotton balls weren’t magnetic she quickly figured out that her stuffed animals probably weren’t magnetic either because they were also “fluffy” in her words.

We went through all the items she found and talked about why she thought something was magnetic and other things weren’t.  She decided that plastic things are not magnetic where as metal things are.

After she sorted everything out we started doing some other experiments.  She found that the plastic ball container wasn’t magnetic but I asked her if she put one one of those metal discs in it did she think the disc would still be magnetic?  She guessed yes and voila!

We also tried to see what happens if she put the discs in the container and on the cover and waved the wand under them.  She had a lot of fun watching the discs move apparently by themselves and jump around the cover and box.

We talked a little about how magnets can repel each other if you try to push two “north” sides or two “south” sides together.  Then we went on a magnetic hunt through out the house.  She tested different things to see what was magnetic and what wasn’t.  She was right on most things although a few things were tricky.  We guessed our door knobs were magnetic but no luck there.  We also found the front of the washing machine was much more magnetic than the top.  I finally had to call stop to the hunt for bed time but even in bed she was guessing what else would be magnetic in the house and what wouldn’t be.  Definitely will be trying more magnetic experiments in the future.  Now I’m curious to see if I can find any good picture books about magnets.  Any suggestions?

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