The Great Outdoors – Activities to transform your backyard!

It’s coming up to my favorite time of year. For those of you who have been reading this blog a while, you know that almost every time of year is my favorite time. I can’t help when each season has its own charm. This season, it is the joy of stepping foot outside of the house and not freezing into a life-sized ice sculpture. Aah the great joys of being outdoors!

I have been making lists, and you know how much I looove lists, of all the activities I could potentially participate in or host this spring/summer. Some of the activities I found online, they blew my mind. Here are some that I’m mostly definitely going to try or con people into trying. What’s great about these activities is that it is something that people of all age can enjoy without having any bones broken or muscles aching.

In no particular order, here are 10 insanely fun games that make you wish summer was a year-long affair.

Giant Beer Pong

Giant Beer PongIdea from kroqslightning

Glow in the Dark Capture the Flag

Glow in the dark Capture the FlagInstructions at Let’s Get Together

Outdoor Pictionary

Outdoor PictionaryInstructions at Tiny Sidekick

Dunk Bucket

Dunk BucketInstructions at The Happy Housewife

Cup Races

Cup RacesInstructions at All For The Boys

Sponge Launch

Sponge LaunchInstructions at How Does She

Lawn Twister

Lawn TwisterInstructions at One Good Thing by Jillee

Giant Jenga

Giant JengaInstructions at A Beautiful Mess

Water Slides

Water SlidesInstructions at How Does She

Frozen T-Shirt Race

Frozen T-ShirtInstructions at A Girl and a Glue Gun

Would you take any of these up? Do you have your own summer outdoor list? Let me know.

How to Plan Fun Holiday Activities for Kids

While the holidays are a welcome break from the school routine, it does leave kids with a lot of time. Activities for kids during holidays can serve a dual purpose – they can be fun and educational. These activities can also be made more interesting by introducing a holiday theme. Additionally, it helps kids stay in touch with their schoolwork during holidays so that they don’t have trouble getting back into it once they are back at school.

ButterfliesButterflies” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

I prefer using activities over worksheets as they give kids the sense of doing something and having fun. We usually plan our holidays ahead of time and I take the kids’ help in preparing a holiday plan. When we involve kids, they take more interest in the activities as they have helped select them. I try to have a good mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and squeeze in a short trip. The drive and place we head to offer opportunities for learning, whether the kids count the yellow cars en route, trek through a bioluminescent forest or collect shells on the beach.

ChannukahChanukkah Menorah” by atl10trader is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Museums and local cultural centers are a good source of information for child-centric activities. I also find that giving kids the space to do their own thing during the holidays is a good idea instead of filling the calendar with activities. My kids usually use this time to get out and play, bike around the neighborhood, read, or play on their favorite app.

Younger kids will enjoy coloring activities, simple crafts and games like sorting. I usually bring in elements from the holiday so that they can also learn something about the holiday. It could be a snowman in winter, a beach in summer, a menorah during Hanukkah or a shamrock for St. Patrick’s Day.

Treasure BoxTreasure box craft @ Spearwood Library” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Even math and science activities can be presented to kids by adding a holiday spin to them. Ask kids to count the number of gelt during Hanukkah or grow clover as part of a science experiment. Making a paper snowflake during Christmas can be a demonstration in symmetry.

Food and holidays go hand-in-hand. I get my kids to help me make something special like a rainbow colored drink in summer or a little strawberry treat for Valentine’s Day. Kids also learn math skills like measuring and chemical reactions like fermentation when they don their chef’s apron  . I also find that it is easy to cover multiple skills like critical thinking and writing with a round of journaling every day.

Sand PaintingSand painting @ Spearwood Library” by Cockburn Libraries is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

To sum it up, here’s how you can plan fun, learning activities during holidays –

  • Plan ahead.
  • Let kids be part of the planning.
  • Incorporate elements of holidays into the
  • Use a mix of indoor and outdoor
  • Take a look at their curriculum and choose activities that are age-appropriate.
  • Look for opportunities to teach core subjects in creative or leisure activities like art, crafts, games, reading.

My Family’s Fall Bucket List

I love fall – the crisp cold air means you get to snuggle up in a sweater and nurse a hot cocoa but it is not yet cold enough to be miserable. Because we love making lists, every year this time we create a fall bucket list. Here is ours for the year. I would love to hear what would be on yours.

Fall Bucket List

Candy for a Cause – Science Fair Projects for the Sweet-Toothed

Science is a highly competitive field so if you’re aiming for the top, this is a good time to get your science fair project ideas in order and start planning. Avoid last-minute panic, impress the judges and grab top grades with these three delicious and easy candy-based science fair projects. Ready to start?

Expanding Balloons with Pop Rocks

pop rocks

Pop Rocks” by Carolina Alves Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

As all candy lovers know, Pop Rocks RULE! And in case you were wondering, there’s an interesting science angle to these fizzing popping little dudes. Here’s how you can explore it.

You will need

  • Pop Rocks
  • Balloon
  • A 12 oz. bottle of soda
  • Funnel

What to do

  • Dump an entire package of Pop Rocks into a balloon. This is easier said than done, so place a small funnel in the mouth of the balloon to avoid spills.
  • Open the soda bottle and carefully stretch the balloon over its mouth. Make sure the candy doesn’t slip into the bottle before you’re ready.
  • Now, quickly dump the candy into the bottle and watch all the interesting things that happen when soda and candy meet for the very first time.
  • Did the balloon inflate without you doing a thing?

How did it happen?

Pop Rocks contain pressurized carbon dioxide gas that makes the famous popping sound when released from its candy shell prison. But the amount of carbon dioxide present in the candy isn’t enough to inflate a balloon on its own. However, soda also contains pressurized carbon dioxide gas that escapes from the fructose-rich corn syrup when you drop Pop Rocks into it. Because the balloon is tightly clamped over the bottle’s mouth, this gas has no place to go except straight up into the balloon.

Finding Acid in Sour Candy

“_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

_MG_7421” by Chris Short licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Sour foods contain acid and acidic foods produce carbon dioxide bubbles when they react with baking soda. Here’s something you can do to demonstrate that sour candy contains acid.

You will need

  • Sour or fruit candy (Nerds, LemonHeads, Pixy Stix, etc.)
  • Baking soda
  • Measuring cup
  • Bowl
  • Spoon
  • Water

What to do

  • Dissolve the candy in half a cup of water. Try crushing hard candies to make the process faster.
  • Add a spoonful of baking soda to this mixture and blend.
  • If you can see bubbles rising up from the mixture, the candy contains acid.

Lighting up with Lifesavers

“100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

100 k wint-o-green” by Windell Oskay licensed under CC BY 2.0

Here’s the how (and the why) of producing magical lights with Lifesavers.

You will need

  • A dark room
  • Mirror
  • Wintergreen Lifesavers

What to do

  • Turn off the lights and stand in the dark facing the mirror.
  • Chew on some wintergreen Lifesavers
  • Can you see those blue flashes of light?

How does it happen?

When you chew on the Lifesavers, you break down the chemical bonds between the molecules of the candy. In certain foods, this produces energy, sometimes light energy as in the case of wintergreen Lifesavers. It is the wintergreen oil present in the candy that is responsible for the blue light produced during chewing.

Sweet or sour, candy is one of the best chemistry teachers you’ll ever learn from!

Freaky Science Games and Activities for Halloween

If your child doesn’t respond too well to conventional science teaching, it’s time to make the subject more fun and relevant. Luckily, All Saints’ Eve is round the corner and it’s time for some science games! Get your little ghouls and ghosties excited about science as they prepare for the Halloween festivities. Here are some fun kids’ activities that double as super freaky science games for Halloween.

“Tonic” by Todd Huffman licensed under CC BY 2.0

Tonic” by Todd Huffman licensed under CC BY 2.0

Make a Glowing Drink

If you think gory is gorgeous, here’s a drinkable beverage you can proudly serve your trick-or-treaters. It’s a cool drink that glows when you shine a black light on it.

You will need

  • Tonic water
  • Drinking glass
  • Sprite OR any light-colored citrus drink

How to make it

  • Pour tonic water into the ice cube tray and freeze.
  • Pour the ice cubes into a glass of Sprite.
  • Shine the black light on it and voila!

How does it happen?

Tonic water contains quinine that glows blue when exposed to the ultraviolet rays emitted by black lights.

Foaming Pumpkin

Give your standard Jack-O-Lantern a miss this year and try these ghastly foaming-at-the-mouth pumpkins. Soooo sick!!

You will need

  • Carved pumpkin
  • Hydrogen peroxide (12%)
  • Food coloring
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Dry yeast
  • Small cup that fits inside the pumpkin
  • Small plastic cup
  • Warm water

How to make it

  • Fill the cup with 30 ml. hydrogen peroxide
  • Squirt some dish washing soap into it.
  • Add some food coloring for extra effect
  • Open the top of the carved pumpkin and lower the cup into it. (Make sure you don’t spill the contents inside!)
  • Now, pour an entire package of dry yeast into the plastic cup and mix it with warm water. Blend it until it reaches an even consistency – one that is neither too thick nor too thin.
  • Pour this yeast and warm water solution into the cup inside the pumpkin and replace the top quickly.
  • Your Jack-O-Lantern will start foaming at the mouth in a few moments!

How does it happen?

Hydrogen peroxide contains oxygen molecules that are released when you add the yeast solution to it. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down into water (H2O) and oxygen (O2) and the oxygen turns into tiny bubbles as it passes through the liquid soap.

DIY Slime

Disgusting but fun, slime is easy to make and easy to wash off once you’re done playing. Now it’s time to make your own!

Ingredients

  • Elmer’s glue
  • Food coloring (any color)
  • 2 disposable plastic cups
  • Borax powder
  • Water
  • Plastic spoon
  • Tablespoon

How to make it

  • Fill one of the disposable cups with water, add a tablespoon of Borax powder to it and mix well.
  • Fill the other cup with an inch of Elmer’s glue, add 3 tablespoons of water and a few drops of food coloring to it and mix well.
  • Take one tablespoon of the Borax solution and pour it into the glue solution.
  • Your slime is ready for the fun!

What’s happening?

When you mix Borax with Elmer’s glue and water, you produce a putty-like substance that is known as a polymer. But unlike other polymers, this has the qualities of both a liquid and a solid – you can hold it in your hand like a solid but it can take the shape of its container like a liquid.

Freaky science can add a unique touch to your Halloween. Hope you have fun playing your science games!

Coming Up with a Winning Science Fair Project Idea

So your child is participating in the school science fair, and you’re now trying to help come up with science fair project ideas. Irrespective of whether your child was forced to take part in the science fair or even if science is a much-disliked subject, you can turn the situation around with a winning science fair project idea. Here are six tips to share with your child to ensure (s)he enjoys working on the project, learns a lot in the process and maybe even ends up with a prize!

"Science Fair, 09" by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Science Fair, 09” by Rich Bowen is licensed under CC BY 2.0

1. Begin Early

The science fair is a long way away, and you figure you have more than enough time to come up with a good science fair project idea and see it through to the end. Great! That’s no reason to put off starting on the project. You never know what complications may arise once you actually begin. Even the seemingly simple task of coming up with a good idea may take a lot more time than expected. The last thing you want is to find out that you have only one week left for the project, and an understandably limited choice of ideas to choose from. With more time in hand, you have the liberty of choosing a topic that truly interests you, spending enough time to do research and understand the topic in detail, and collecting the necessary information in a well thought-out and organized manner. And if you’ve got your eyes on the prize, each of these factors will help differentiate your project from the other good ones on display. Believe me, the judges can tell.

2. Choose a topic that really interests you

The right way to go about finding a good science fair project idea is to begin with your interests. Don’t read through a list of ideas and see whether any of them appeal to you. Rather, take some time to think about what kind of topics get you excited. It doesn’t even have to have a direct link to science. What things make you sit up and pay attention? Sports? Cats? Building things with your own hands? Narrow your list down to a few of your favorite topics and spend some time thinking about them. Most probably you will have to do some additional reading on the topic to come up with a question that interests you. The Google Idea Springboard is a great tool to help you out in this area. You’re likely to spend a few weeks if not months working on your project, so having a topic that you love will keep you interested till the end.

3. Come up with a good question that you can work with

A good science fair project idea begins with a good question. How do you define a good question? Firstly, it should not be a question that has already been answered by someone else. If you design a science fair project around the question ‘Which color light do plants grow best in?’, it is unlikely that you or anyone else will learn anything new from it. The experimental procedure and results for such a project can easily be found on the internet. Even if you do decide to do a project based on a science fair project idea you found online, make sure to change the question and ask something new so that you are experimenting and doing research on a slightly different area. Secondly, the question should truly interest you. Don’t adopt a question that someone else finds interesting or exciting. Use your ‘favorite topics’ list, spend time playing with different ideas in your head and only settle for a question that you would genuinely like to know the answer to. This interest will completely change the way you approach the project.

4. Consider the experimental procedure involved

Remember, while trying to settle on your science fair project idea, that you have to come up with a fool proof method for collecting data to answer your question. Consider the kind of time, energy and resources required to set up your experiment, and realistically evaluate whether it can be accomplished with what is available to you. Also check your experiment for any flaws. Is the data that you are collecting quantifiable? Is there any subjectivity involved? Have you considered and taken care of external factors that may affect your results? If you do not know the right answers to these questions, or how to design your experiment accordingly, you will need to spend some time understanding how to set up a scientific experiment.

5. Feel free to change your question based on your background research

It is entirely possible that as you go about collecting the information you need for your project, you realize that your question isn’t a very good one, or that you think of a better and more interesting one. Feel free to change your question according to your findings. This is where point #1 becomes even more important.

6. Make sure you understand all the concepts involved

Don’t worry about finding a topic that sounds highly complicated or scientific. In fact, the more simple your topic, the better you will be able to work with it. Nobody is expecting Ph.D. level research from you. More importantly, you will find the research and data collection far more difficult if you haven’t fully understood the topic yourself. Feel free to ask for help from an adult or the internet in order to learn more about the topic, but when it comes to the project, do all the thinking and analysis yourself. This will help you immensely when it comes to answering the judges’ questions about your project, and your in-depth understanding will show.

As long as you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure to come up with a science fair project idea that will win you over, impress your audience and maybe even tip the judges’ scales in your favor.

Understanding dry ice with science experiments

Many science experiments explain in detail how dry ice can be made but very few list its usage and application. Here is a detailed study of dry ice with possible science experiments, usages, and applications of dry ice in our daily lives.

What is dry ice?

The cold dense white mist produced by solid carbon dioxide in air is commonly known as dry ice. In chemical terms, dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide, a normal part of our earth’s atmosphere. Dry Ice is particularly useful for freezing, and keeping things frozen because of its very cold temperature: -109.3°F or -78.5°C. The coolest thing about dry ice is that it changes from a solid directly to gas without changing into liquid. Wearing insulated gloves is a must while handling dry ice.

Making dry ice –

Follow these easy steps to make dry ice easily.

Supplies

  1. CO2 fire extinguisher or carbon dioxide tank
  2. Cloth bag
  3. Insulated gloves

Directions

  1. Put on your insulated gloves first.
  2. Carefully insert the nozzle of the fire extinguisher into the cloth bag.
  3. Clamp your hand around the mouth of your bag and discharge the fire extinguisher.
  4. Turn off the extinguisher and seal the bag.
  5. You will soon see dry ice in the bag. Store it in the freezer for longevity. 

Science experiments with dry ice

Blowing up balloons –

Supplies:

  1. Balloons
  2. Empty plastic bottle with a narrow mouth
  3. Pellets of dry ice
  4. Insulated gloves

Directions:

  1. Blow up a balloon with your breath and keep it aside.
  2. Put a few pellets of dry ice in a bottle.
  3. Hold a balloon over its mouth and see it getting inflated with the carbon dioxide that releases when the dry ice sublimes.
  4. Once it inflates, tie it up with thread.
  5. Toss up both the balloons in the air and notice their flights.

Observations and questions – Which balloon comes down sooner? Can you explain why?

Explanation – Carbon dioxide is heavier than air which is why the balloon that contains dry ice falls down faster!

Hot pot –

Supplies:

  1. Dry ice
  2. A large pot
  3. Hot water

Directions:

  1. Place a few pellets of dry ice in the pot.
  2. Pour hot water in the pot and watch the cool cloud forming almost immediately.

Observations and questions – How soon does the cloud stop forming? Don’t add any more water till all the cloud is over. How does it happen?

Explanation – Over time, the dry ice will make the water cold and the “smoking” will slow down. Dry ice will blend only with hot water to produce carbon dioxide and smoke.

Aren’t the science experiments cool? They can be easily tried and tested at home with adult supervision and by wearing proper safety gear, especially insulated gloves. Dry ice will get you cold blisters if you don’t use gloves. Have fun with science!

Easter – The Aftermath

Don’t you sometimes feel like you need a break to recover from a long holiday? Easter has it’s share of fun and family and rituals and I wouldn’t trade it for the world but the lure of a bed and uninterrupted sleep – there is nothing quite like it. Meanwhile, our house looks like it’s being taken over my ninja plastic Easter Egg shells that pop up at you at odd times, especially when you’re sleep walking to the kitchen to get water in the middle of the night.

What to do? What to do?

The internet really is an amazing place for 5 reasons I’ve listed below!

1. Plastic Egg Tea Lights

Genius. Genius. More Genius. Idea from Pinterest

Genius. Genius. More Genius. Idea from Pinterest

2. Easter Egg Russian Nesting Dolls

 

Idea from Dollar Store Crafts

How adorable are these? How Idea from Dollar Store Crafts

3. Halloween Treat Box

Definitely doing this come October! Idea from Pinterest

Definitely doing this come October! Idea from Pinterest

4. Tea Cups for Tiny Tots

Pretend Tea Parties could never get better. This could also be an amazing DIY present for your kid. Idea from Creativity in Progress

Pretend Tea Parties could never get better. This could also be an amazing DIY present for your kid. Idea from Creativity in Progress

5. Mini Terrariums – Earth Day Special

Give your green thumb a bit of a workout. Idea from The House That Lars Built

Give your green thumb a bit of a workout. Idea from The House That Lars Built

Problem Solved!

Hope you’ve had a great Easter Weekend! I’m looking forward to catching up with your blogs!