Jun 06

Summer Science Projects: Chemistry

by Hannah Holt »


You don’t need a lab to do chemistry. Here are a few simple chemistry experiments designed for curious five to eight year olds.

#1) Pepper Popping

  • bowl with water
  • pepper
  • dish soap
  • tooth pick

Sprinkle the pepper on the water. Dip a tooth pick into dish soap and place the tooth pick with soap in the water. Watch the pepper run away.

Discussion Topic: Surface tension of water

Two sentence explanation: Water molecules like to stick together and will form a thin skin on top of the water (like a filled balloon). Dish soap pops water’s surface tension, sending a ripple effect through the water and pushing back the pepper. (Note: This is NOT a reaction between the pepper and the dish soap.)

Follow up questions: What else could you balance on top of water? Could you “pop” anything else with dish soap?

#2) Growing Balloons

  • An 8 inch balloon filled with water (not filled to busting)
  • A clothe measuring tape (or a string that won’t stretch)
  • A permanent marker
  • A freezer

Using the permanent marker, draw a line around the middle of the balloon (This is to make sure you measure in the same place before and after). Measure around this line, and record the length. Place the balloon in the freezer overnight. Measure around the balloon again and record the difference.

Discussion Topic: Water’s molecular structure

Two sentence explanation: Water molecules fit together more tightly in liquid form than they do as a solid. When you freeze the balloon, water expands inside the balloon and the balloon grows.

Follow up questions: What would happen if you filled a glass jar completely full of water and froze it? Do you think water takes up more or less space as a a vapor (steam)? Why or why not?


#3) Rip Van Winkle Pennies

  • Five shiny pennies
  • a glass jar
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 2 Tbl hydrogen peroxide (found in the first aid section of grocery stores)

Combine the vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in the glass jar. Place the pennies in the vinegar solution, and let them “rest” for 2 hours. (Note: The jar should be placed well out of a child’s reach! The liquid should NOT be swallowed.) The pennies will age 100 years in less than one day.

Discussion Topic: Oxidation

Two sentence explanation: Oxygen likes to steal electrons from other elements, and the process of oxygen stealing electrons makes metals rust, turn black, or otherwise wear out. The combination of vinegar and hydrogen peroxide makes it easier for oxygen to steal the copper penny’s electrons (so it happens faster).

Follow up questions: Can you oxidize anything besides a penny in this solution? What would happen if you added baking powder to the solution?

If you liked this post, you might also like Summer Science Projects: Biology. Stay tuned… Next week is physics.

May 31

Summer Science Projects: Biology

by Hannah Holt »


Here are a handful of low maintenance experiments to puzzle your young puzzlers. (Target age range: 5-8 years old.)

#1) Magic Beans

  • 1-5 dried pinto beans
  • a wet paper towel
  • a Ziploc sandwich bag

Place the beans in the sandwich bag with the wet paper towel and seal the bag. The beans will sprout in 3-4 days. The picture shows growth after one week.

Discussion Topic: Plant life cycles

Two sentence explanation: Most plants start as seeds. A bean is a seed and will grow into a plant when you add water.

Follow up questions: Why do plants make seeds? What does a seed need to grow? If you planted a leaf would it grow? Why or why not?


#2) Vegetable Zombies, (the undead)

  • a leftover green onion bulb (or celery base)
  • a glass dish with a little water in the bottom

Place the onion bulb (or celery base) in the dish with water. Place it in a sunny spot. The onion will show new growth after only one day. The celery will show new growth within 2-3 days. The pictures show one week’s worth of growth.

Discussion Topic: Bulbs

Two sentence explanation: Some plants have bulbs. These plants store the energy needed for life in bulbs and will regrow days, weeks, or sometimes months after being pulled from the ground.

Follow up questions: Can you name other plants with bulbs? What do bulbs look like? What is the difference between a bulb and a seed?


#3) Color Changing Rose

  • a white or yellow rose (fresh cut!)
  • red food coloring
  • water and a vase

Place 5-10 drops of food coloring into a small vase with water. Add the fresh cut rose to the water. The rose will change color within 24 hours. This experiment also works with carnations and daisies. The flowers must be fresh cut or little to no dye will make it to the petals.

Discussion Topic: Plant Circulation

Two sentence explanation: Water enters through the stem of the rose and goes out (evaporates) through the leaves. Anything in the water (like the dye) will be carried into the leaves.

Follow up questions: Would this work with a red rose? Why or why not? What other plants could you dye?


#4) Insect Preservation

  • an insect
  • a mason jar with lid
  • two clear plastic Gerber baby-food lids
  • craft glue

Catch your insect of choice in the mason jar. Place this insect in the freezer for a few days. (This method doesn’t produce the most beautiful specimens, but it’s reliable and doesn’t involve noxious chemicals.) Put a dab of craft glue on the baby food lid, and place the insect in the glue (a toothpick can help with this). Place more glue around the outside edge of the lid and place another lid on top to form a closed container. You can glue more than one insect per container. It may take up to a week for the glue to dry clear, but once it does you’ll have an insect you can study closely for months to come.

Discussion Topic: Insect body shapes (anatomy)

Two sentence explanation: Scientists call insects by different names because they have different body shapes, sizes, and colors. But all insects have six legs, a hard shelled body, three major body parts (head, thorax, and abdomen), and antennae.

Follow up questions: What is the scientific name of the insect you collected? Can you draw a picture of the insect? If you have more than one insect, how are they the same? How are they different?

Stay tuned… Next week I’m posting chemistry and physics experiments for this age range.

May 24

Toddler Finger Foods

by Hannah Holt »


A couple of recipes and a meal plan for stubborn independent eaters.

Recipe #1) Sweet Potato Bites

What you’ll need:

  • sweet potatoes (1-3 medium potatoes)
  • non-stick spray
  • two cups of water
  • a cookie sheet with a one inch lip (a casserole pan works too)

Step 1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step 2) Spray the pan with non-stick and poor the water into the pan.

Step 3) Slice the sweet potatoes in half (the long way) and pierce the skin with a knife 3-4 times. Place them face down on the cookie sheet, and bake for 50 minutes. The potatoes should be tender but not mushy.

Step 4) Let the potatoes cool. Remove the skin and cut into 1/4 inch cubes.

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to five days. These are quite delicious. I snack on them myself sometimes.

Recipe #2) Frozen Yogurt Dots (I first saw this idea here.)

What you’ll need:

  • yogurt (any kind will work as long as it’s not too chunky)
  • a sandwich bag
  • scissors
  • wax paper (I use the linings from inside cereal boxes)
  • a cookie sheet

Step 1) Line the cookie sheet with the wax paper.

Step 2) Fill the sandwich bag with yogurt and snip a 1/4 inch corner off.

Step 3) Squeeze the yogurt onto the wax paper in little rows of dots and freeze.

A tasty snack from Mom and Baby.

Finger Food Meal Plan:

Since I’m feeding two toddlers, I mass produce finger foods. At meal time I follow this formula:

Cereals (pick one)

  • 1/2 a piece of whole wheat bread torn into little pieces
  • 1/2 cup of dry cereal like Cheerios
  • 1/2 cup of bite size cooked pasta
  • 1/2 cup brown rice

Fruits and Veggies (2 Tbl worth, pick one)

  • banana slices
  • grapes (I used to quarter them, but my girls eat them whole now)
  • berries: strawberries, blue, black, rasp…
  • canned fruit is nice and soft (but it’s not as nutrient rich as fresh)
  • peas
  • sweet potato bites
  • cooked carrot circles
  • sugar snap peas
  • lettuce pieces (they still mostly move these around their tray)
  • cooked broccoli

Dairy or Protein (2 oz, pick one)

  • grated cheese or one cheese slice
  • frozen yogurt dots
  • cottage cheese
  • browned hamburger (no chunks)
  • shredded chicken (small pieces)

Of course, I give them other options, too. And they usually have a little of whatever the family is having for dinner. I try to lead with the vegetables. Otherwise they fill up on bread and fruit.

Happy feeding!

Note: I give my sixteen-month-old twins three meals and two snacks every day. This is just a guide. Talk to your pediatrician if you have concerns about your child’s food readiness/nutrition needs.


May 17

Spot The Difference

by Hannah Holt »


This visual exercise helps kids ages 4-7 learn about same and different.

For a similar activity using touch instead of sight, click here.

Essential Vocabulary:

Same, Different, Both

Helpful Vocabulary:

  • Comparative adjectives (smaller, bigger, lighter, darker)
  • Colors (red, blue, yellow…)
  • Shapes (square, rectangle, circle, star…)
  • Counting (1-10)

The Game:

Below you will find 10 pictures. Each picture has two objects. In some ways the objects are the same, and in other ways they are different. Name at least one similarity and one difference for each pictured pair.

Extension Activity:

Have older children name more than one similarity and difference.

The Pictures

And here’s a letter sized printable jpeg of all the pictures (left click once, then right click to save the full sized file).

May 09

Mother’s Day Finger Art

by Hannah Holt »


First, a quick reminder that tomorrow is the last day to enter the Mother’s Day Photo Caption Contest.

Second, here are two finger painting projects with Mom’s special day in mind.

What you’ll need (for both):

  • Paint (we used acrylic)
  • Paper

Project #1: Spell “Mom” with your fingers.

Kirsten over at Creating Curious Kids reminded me last week that “Mom” upside down is “Wow.” You could also do “Wow, Mom!” with this project.

Project #2: Heart Hands

Cover the fronts of both hands with paint. Then touch index fingers together as well as thumbs and press to paper to form this heart.

I added a heart with the word Mom to our project, but what else could you do?

Note: I tried this project with a four-year-old and a fifteen-month-old. While I managed with the toddler, I recommend this project for preschool age children and older. Here’s project #1 by the toddler: