Thursday, January 28, 2016

Lego Maze Activity

This activity is such a great and simple way to entertain the children. All you need is Lego and marble. I let the girls created their own maze. We used 64 x 64 bumps Lego base plate. It was a bit harder for Iyra to control the base plate because it's too big. So I'd suggest to use the smaller base plate which is 32 x 32 bumps. We added up Lego people to cheer the marble up "Go Mr Marble go!". To play, we need to hold the base plate and gently tilt it back and forth so that the marble rolls.

We also browsed through some interesting stories on real life mazes. So here are some ah-MAZE-ing facts on real mazes (thanks to mentalfloss). 
  • First, people created labyrinths. Then after that came mazes. They created labyrinth not to confuse, but to send visitors on a spiritual journey.
  • Mazes and labyrinths have slightly different definitions. Mazes have multiple entrances and exits, and dead ends. A labyrinth has only a single path which leads to the center then back out the same way, with only one entry/ exit point. 
  • The first labyrinth was in Egypt built in the 5th century. It made up of thousands of rooms, many of which were underground and held the tombs of Egyptians kings.
  • The earliest maze was built in Europe to entertain royalty around 16th century.
  • The world's largest hedge maze contains almost 2.5 miles of paths. It is The Dole Plantation's giant Pineapple Garden Maze which is made up of 14, 000 tropical plants, and was declared the longest in the world in 2008. Photos here.
  • The new largest maze was declared in 2014. It is Cool Patch Pumpkin in Dixon, California spread to 60 acres of maze. It was so big few visitors getting lost in it!

New words learnt while playing the Lego maze:
  1. Exit
  2. Entrance
  3. Arch
  4. Perimeter
  5. Pathways

 I let my kids created the maze.

So much fun.

 So easy to make, so fun to play!

Iris said this is too easy. She planned of adding up some arched exit.

There is a big real corn maze somewhere in California. They searched for California on the map. 

They found Gila instead.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Which Paper Flower Blooms the Quickest?

Blooming paper flowers is one of my daughters' favorite activities (besides oobleck). This magic flowers would surely mesmerize both children and adults! We already did this activity twice. But this time, we furnished with a little bit of scientific approach. We would like to find out which paper flower blooms the quickest once we popped them into the water. I made five different flower designs, one with small petals with big center, another with long petals and small center, and other designs (you may refer to the template). I then asked my daughters their guesses on which flower will bloom the quickest. They came with different hypotheses and reasoning. When asking them their hypotheses, I also demand their justifications. I didn't simply stop at "Which?", I then continued with "Why?" and "How?".

Do this today. It surely put the widest grin into your children's face. 

Here are a few websites and YouTube videos that you can discuss while waiting for the flowers to bloom. Enjoy!

Read about flowers:
  • What? We got male and female flowers? Yes, read here.
  • Facts on plants here.
  • More kids-friendly info about flowers here.

Videos on flowers:
  • Starts with this simple explanation. (I bet your kids will love this video with "Up" soundtrack at the back. One of my favorite tunes.)
  • Then explain each function of flower parts with the help of this video. 
  • More video here.

Fun facts about flowers (credits to here and here):
  • Broccoli is actually a flower.
  • Several centuries ago in Holland, tulips were more valuable than gold.
  • Some plants such as orchids do not need soil to grow-they get all of their nutrients from the air.
  • Some plants produce toxic substances that kill other plants around them, for e.g., the sunflower.
  • The Bird of Paradise is a beautiful, oddly shaped plant that resembles a colorful tropical bird.
  • Some flowers smell like rotting flesh. The titan arum is also called the corpse flower because of its foul smell. The blossoms of Bradford Pear trees are equally offensive.
  • During Victorian times, flowers were used to communicate feelings or thoughts. For example, a pink carnation meant, "I'll never forget you," while a stripped carnation sent the message, "No, I can't be with you.". A purple hyacinth meant, "I'm sorry," while a yellow one meant, "I'm jealous."
  • Many orchids don't need soil to grow-they can get all the nutrition they need from the air instead!
  • Moonflowers bloom only at night. Their cousins, morning glories, bloom in the morning.

 What you need:
Paper flower template

 1. Carefully cut the flowers template.

 2. Pour water into the saucer.

 3. Fold the petals over one by one. 

 4. Pop the paper flower onto the water and watch them open up, just like a real flower blossoming!

 5. Time the blossoming flowers once you put onto the water and stop the stopwatch when they petals fully untangled.

 6. Document your observation. 

 No, we didn't use any butterflies as our equipment. 

 Good hypothesis, Iesha.

 So we found out that flower with the smallest center blooms the quickest. 

 Learning about flowers.

 Cut and paste activity for Iyra.

 Simple fill in the blank worksheet for Iesha.

 A more challenging worksheet for Iris.

 Iris fervidly explain about flowers to her sisters. She started the class with "Did you know flowers also got male and female?". She successfully got Iesha jaw dropping, "Really?".

 Free template for you. E-mail me for free Word Version.

Free flowers template

The science behind this experiment (thank you so much to surfing scientist):
The paper flower is powered by a groovy scientific phenomenon called 'capillary action'. Thanks to capillary action, paper absorbs water very rapidly. When paper gets wet, it swells which causes the folded petals of your Magic Flower to open up.

When paper comes into contact with water, the amazing power of capillary action rapidly draws water into all these tiny spaces. It’s because the water is slightly more attracted to the wood fibres than to itself. This helps trees and plants to lift water from their roots up to their leaves. The Sun provides the extra bit of lift required by evaporating water from tiny holes in the leaves called stomata. This process is called transpiration and we wouldn’t be here without it.

But back to your paper flower. When the paper absorbs water (which it does so well thanks to capillary action) it swells. That’s why paper goes wrinkly when it gets wet but it also causes any folds to open back up again. If you folded each neighbouring petal over sequentially, your flower will open very differently than if you folded each opposite pair. Try experimenting with the order and you’ll see what I mean.

Writing Activities with Squishy Bag

Iyra was still struggling with the basic strokes needed to form numbers and letters. I came with this squishy bag ideas to help her mastering it. It is a fun way to teach young children to write without using pens or pencils. The children can also use the squishy bag to draw pictures and shapes or just to squeeze it.

 What you'll need (for one squishy bag):
A cup of flour
6 tablespoons of water
Food coloring
Zip-lock bag

 Add flour, water and a drop of food coloring into a bowl. Mix until well blended.

 Scoop the mixture into the zip-lock bag.

 Place the bag onto a flat surface. Let out any excess air to avoid air bubbles. Trust me these air bubbles make the writing difficult. 

 Press the clip of the bag completely closed. Secure the opening with the tape. 

 The squish bags

I used different books for the writing activity. I used 'Building Spelling Skill' published by Evan Moor for Iris, 'I am a Book' for Iesha as she recently reading this book and 'Read Easy' obviously for Iyra.

 Iyra in action.

 She obviously seemed happy with her 'a'.

 But not for Iris. She was getting bored once she knew the purpose of the squishy bag. She stroked her Chinese pinyin instead. She practiced her new learnt strokes for 'Days in Chinese'.

Writing up her name over and over again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How Strong is a Piece of Paper?

We made a simple experiment using papers and books. This is a great way to explain to my children whenever they asked me "Why the tree trunk is circle in shape?"or "Why aren't they square?". I also prepared them with science report sheet. (Should you interested, you may e-mail me for free Word version.)

In this experiment, we tested the strength of the paper based on it's shape, by piling books on top. They were agitated while piling the books, hoping that the paper can hold more. Once the paper collapsed, they were so thrilled they laughed their brains out. 

Try this easy STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) activity today!Have fun collapsing the paper columns!

What you'll need:
 Regular copy paper (not card stock)

 1. Fold the paper into four shapes: triangle, square, pentagon and circle. Secure with tape.

 2. Slowly pile the books on each shape. 

 3. Count the books while piling.

 4. Report the experiment. 

 Don't forget to treat each child with different method. I taught Iyra to draw the shapes. She's 4 years and 2 months.

 "The peper fol." I like it. What a genuine scientist!

Obviously circle paper column is the strongest!

The report sheet

And they asked why circle paper column is the strongest? These are the best and age appropriate explanation to the girls (thank you creeksidelearning):
  • The circle (the right word is cylinder) can support most books because it's walls don't have any edges.
  • The force of the books cannot become concentrated in a particular area. I explained it in more animated version like "You know these books have weight and force. The weight and the force then transferred into the paper when we pile it on top. Since they were put on the circle, they happily holding hands and running down together to the base (which was the table). Both the weight and the force happily saying to each other 'There are no edges for us to play and gather! This circle is so smooth we can slide easily! Yay!'." Pardon me if this is not right, well, my audiences were so young they aren't ready for velocity and acceleration vectors.
  • The square, triangle and pentagon deform more easily. They shift the weight of the books to their edges and corners, which deforms their walls and leads to a quick collapse. My animated explanation for other shapes was "The weight and the force of this book now going down the pentagon. They were happily holding hands and running together to the base and said to each other, 'Look! They are edges! Five of them! Let's play and gather here!' They were only interested with the edges they forget the faces! Now they were so many of them gathered and concentrated on one place, making them collapsed. (But please be ever ready with the question of "Oh my! What are those weight and force? Do they have eyes like us?")

Applications in real life:
  • Electric poles. What happens if they are square? The strong wind will easily make them collapse.
  • Building structures, like Nek Ma's neighbor. He used cylindrical pillars to hold his super big garage! 
  • Water dispenser. 
  • Earth. (Iris came with this application. She then said "The world is gonna end real real real real soon if Allah created a square (cubic) Earth. We are the books!")
Till then.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Face Painting

There is over a million fish in the sea, but all I want is you! 

Until you spread your wings, you'll never know how far you can fly.

Our Feathered Friend

Birds fly. Birds have feathers. Birds live in nests. That's all we know about birds. 

With that in minds, we wanted to know more about birds. We want them to come to our house as our guests. So we made this bird feeder to attract them. Fewer than 10 minutes, came the first chirping bird to have his delicious food. After awhile, he chirped louder inviting his other friends, and within minutes we counted 15 birds circling the seeds. 

So moms, start making your own bird feeders! While making it, you can share info on birds. Thanks to duckterssandiegozoosciencekids and randomhistory.

What makes an animal a bird?
The feathers! No other animal has feathers. Other important features for birds are wings and hollow bones. Birds also lay eggs, like reptiles, however are warm-blooded, like mammals. What is bird? Click here. Laugh out your feather here.

What are feathers?
feathers are made of keratin. This is the same stuff that fingernails are made of. A bird's wings have the same bones as a human arm, but they are arranged differently. Some of the bones in a bird's skeleton are hollow. This makes the bird light enough to fly. Video on bird feathers here.

How do birds fly?
Birds fly by flapping their wings and using air pressure to create lift under their wings. Just like airplanes do. The peregrine falcon is one of the fastest birds. It can reach speeds of well over 100 miles per hour when diving. Videos on how do birds fly: here and here.

Fun facts about birds
  • An ostrich can run as fast as 43 miles per hour and grow as tall as 9 feet.
  • Blue birds can't see the color blue.
  • The hummingbird can fly backwards, but it can't walk. 
  • Condor shells are so thick, it can take a chick a week to break out from its shell.
  • The egg of a kiwi can weigh as much as 20% of the mother's body weight.
  • Sometimes vultures eat so much they can't fly.
  • Scientists believe that birds evolved from theropod dinosaurs. 
  • Some birds are intelligent enough to create and use tools.
  • The chicken is the most common species of bird found in the world. 
  • Owls cannot swivel their eyes. Instead they move their heads completely around to see straight behind them. 
  • The most talkative bird in the world is the African gray parrot. One parrot could say over 800 words. Most species of parrots can learn only 50.
  • Many birds, such as starlings, sing notes too high for humans to hear.
  • Flamingos pair for a lifetime. Some stay with their mates for 50 years or more. 

More vocabularies about birds here!!!

What you'll need:
1 small envelope of gelatin
Cookie cutters
Pencils/ pens/ sturdy plastic straw

 1. Pour the birdseed into the bowl.

 2. Mix the gelatin and water and bring to simmer while stirring. Continue stirring until the gelatin is dissolved.

 3. Remove from heat and let cool. If there were any undissolved gelatin, let it go through the sieve. (You may notice that the girls did this activity with their Bapak, so impatient rules.)

 4. Mix the gelatin with the birdseed. Stir. 

 5. Fill the cookie cutter with the mixture. 

 6. Fill in various cookie cutters.

 7. Put through the pencils/ pens/ straw into the mixture to make hole. Let them dry for awhile. Drying overnight gives better result. 

 8. Take out the pencils/ pens/ straw and put string through the hole. Knot the end.

 To birds from us, with lotsa loves!

Hang them in the trees.

 Wait and listen for that chirping sounds! Let the children take a video of their feathered guests. Can you spot one bird on the tree?

We're so honored to have our special guest to fully participate in this activity. So Mummy can face masking!