Thursday, July 25, 2013

Summer Science: Bubbles Exploration and the Scientific Process

Lately, Nina has been fascinated with just how many ways she can explore bubbles.
One recent morning, we had the pleasure of watching a friend's daughter.  It was a hot morning -- one when it was actually cooler outside in the shade than in our non air-conditioned house -- so I decided that some outdoor play and learning were in order.  Thus, unfolded:

Bubble Exploration and the Scientific Process
An easy summer activity that requires inexpensive ingredients you may already have at home.
(Apologies, in advance, for the poor photo quality.  Our family point-and-shoot has broken, so I have been using my daughter's "play camera".)

Measuring out ingredients.
  • a place to display recipes (We used a plastic chalkboard easel.)
  • a tray
  • two bowls
  • water (We put ours in a pitcher for easy pouring)
  • dishwashing detergent (We used Joy.)
  • light corn syrup (You can also use glycerin.)
  • bubble wands, straws, etc.
  • optional empty bubble containers and wands from all-used-up store-bought mixes
  • a table and chairs, if you wish
The Recipes We Tested
  1. Write out and post two homemade bubble recipes and gather supplies for making them.
  2. Chat about what you know about bubbles and what you would like to know.  Together, decide on a question you'll focus on.  (In our case, it was which bubble solutions would make the best bubbles.)
  3. Do some background research.  This can be as easy as having young children discuss things with an expert or someone who knows a little more (which is what we did), or it can involve books, the internet and other research.  The idea is to ignite thinking.
  4. Construct a hypothesis, together or individually by making an edcated guessa tthe answer to a question.  (In our case, Nina, Jack and our friend hypothesized that the second bubble recipe would make the best bubbles and Luke and I hypothesized that the first would.  We noted our hypothesis by putting our first initial next the the recipe on our chalkboard.)
  5. Make the bubble mixes and test your hypothesis, taking extra care to measure and stir well and to be observant of everything that happens.  (In our case, this involved taking turns to slowly measure and mix all of our recipe ingredients and, then, testing the two solutions we created out by blowing bubbles and carefully observing the results.)
  6. Analyze your data and draw conclusions informally through observation and discussion or, more formally, with written notes.  (We opted for the former, although we did jot a few observations down on our chalkboard.  The kids results were that the recipe with less water made better big bubbles and the one with more water made better smaller bubbles.)
  7. Share your results.  (We did this through sharing what we did, how we did and what we discovered with our friend's mom and with Daddy.  )
  8. Enjoy!  Be sure to leave room for lots of exploration and discoveries.  Bubbles are all about science AND fun, after all! (We ended up blowing bubbles with traditional bubble wands, ball and other found materials and straws.  We blew them "normally", onto plates, into our hands, etc.  We wet our fingers and small toys with bubble mix and passed these through bubbles without breaking the bubbles.  We made bubble bowls and snakes... And so much more!)
  9. Make new hypothesis if you wish.  (We have begun discussions about what recipe tweaks may work well for next time.
After Luke tried to make bubbles by dunking a ball in bubble mix and hitting it with a bat, Nina began experimenting with blowing bubbles through the ball with a straw.

  • Scientific Process (asking questions, research/discussion, constructing hypothesis, testing hypothesis/observation, drawing conclusions, sharing conclusions)
  • Science (discussion of properties -- solids, liquids, etc.)
  • Reading (simple Decoding when reading the recipe)
  • Practical Life (measuring, following directions)
  • Sensory (oral-motor, tactile, visual)
  • Math (measuring, counting)
  • Creativity (free exploration of bubbles after hypothesis has been tested, what types of things can we make bubbles with, what can we do with bubbles)

Quick Tips/Extensions
Jack was so proud to make hold bubbles with his hands.
  • Reinforce the "scientific process" concept by using lots of language about "being scientists" and what strong scientisits do.  Keeping things fun, and without overdoing it, pepper the experiment and exploration with articulated science words and concepts.
  • Experiment with different bubble recipes.
  • If you have children who are learning to count still, add a lot of counting in.  How long does it take before a big bubble bursts?  How many bubbles can you pop? Etc.
  • Focus on language skills and concepts by talking about things such as opposites (big/small, wet/dry, etc.), comparisons (more/most, big/bigger/biggest, etc.), etc.
  • Add further literacy and extensions by exploring any of the books shared in our 2010 post Book Nook:  Bubbles!  Bubbles!
  • Extend with bubble-related sensory activities like those shared at 7 Sense-ational Ways to Use Bubbles.

What are your favorite bubble recipes and activities?  And what simple summer science activities have you been enjoying?  

Monday, July 22, 2013

Fall Planning: Daily Flow Framework (with ADHD in Mind)

Going with the flow after dinner one night.  The children decided to design and test boats during family time.
In early summer, I bumped into an informative article called Planning Summer Days: Rhythm and Routine.  This piece illuminated typical patterns of alertness and ability to focus in children with ADHD – suggesting what types of activities to plan for which part of a child’s day.  As I have been looking ahead to the fall and considering how to tweak our daily rhythm, I have found myself consulting the article again.

After prayer, thought, discussions with my husband and chatting in an age-appropriate way with my kiddoes, I have come up with a daily flow framework that I think will work best for us for the fall. 

The framework takes into consideration our children’s learning styles, our family's regular commitments and my take on tips from the aforementioned article.  Whether the flow will translate from planning to practice well for our family has yet to be seen.  However, I have already begun to transition us into it and can, with a smile, say, "so far, so good."

Here it is:

Daily Fall Flow

Wake Up Time
o        Five Before Breakfast
o        Tray or Play Table Time: Games, Puzzles, Quiet Play, Books

Breakfast Time
o        Tidy
o        Family Meal
o        Faith Circle/Stories, Etc.

Morning Experiences
o        Personal Hygiene
o        Family Work Time/Home Jobs
o        Any combination of the following with the “less-appealing-to-kids” activities coming before the “more-appealing” ones, whenever possible, and with either sustained physical activity or a 10-15 minute spurt of “heavy work” thrown in around mid-morning.
-                Focused Learning Activities
-                Practice on Goals
-                Physical and Sensory Activities
-                Tidy, then Snack
-                Get Togethers / Field Trips / Errands /Learning Groups and Co-ops

Lunch and Quiet Time
o        Tidy
o        Family Meal
o        Read Alouds
o        Self-Directed Quiet Activities, including Reading

Afternoon Experiences
o        Any combination of “minimal persistence/high-interest activities” (i.e. ones the kids like and stay engaged in) with necesary “less-appealing-to-kids” activities (such as tidy time) coming before the “more-appealing” ones (like snack time or online time).  Activities that might be included:
-                Focused Family Studies and Projects
-                Physical and Sensory Activities
-                Online Time
-                Get Togethers / Field Trips / Errands /Learning Groups and Co-ops
o        Tidy, then Snack

Dinner and Intentional Family (or Parent-Children Time when Mom is Working)
o        Tidy
o        Family Meal
o        Getting Crazy with Daddy, Creative / Physical / Chill-Time Activities

Wind Down and Bedtime
o        Tidy
o        Screen-Free Activities (beginning at least one hour before bedtime)

o        Five T’s

How does your day flow?  Do you intentionally structure it to meet certain goals or to accommodate certain learning / personality / neurology styles?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Health over Budget: Chick Peas with Disodium EDTA

Canned chick peas have become a staple food in our home.  I know they are not the healthiest of food options. (No canned food is).  However, they are a convenient, on-the-go, GFCF food that packs at least some nutritional punch into our picnic times.  So we tend to eat a lot of them during the summer.

Unfortunately, I just discovered that the chick peas the kids and I have been consuming copious amounts of during the past several weeks may be doing us harm.

Our Slipper Slope: “The Blue Can” Chick Peas

Some months ago, I spied a well-known brand of chick peas on deep sale at the grocery store.  When I glanced quickly at the ingredients there were only four: chick peas, water, salt and one thing I did not recognize.  Thinking about the fact that the chickpeas cost less than half of what our usual organic brand did, I decided that ingredient won’t kill us with a few servings.  I’ll just look it up when I get home to see what it is before feeding the chick peas to the kids. 

Can you note the beginning of our slip?  I placed budget over common sense guidelines for health.  (Never purchase anything with multiple ingredients unless you can read each ingredient's name and you know what it is.)  Further, I was disillusioned about what I could and would do. (Did I really think that my three young children would be calm enough after a grocery store trip for me to quickly put away groceries and, then, look up an ingredient online before I forgot to do so altogether?)

The slip got worse.

On a subsequent grocery store trip, when I went to replenish our canned chick pea stock with our usual organic brand, the children stopped me.  “Buy the ones in the blue can”, they begged.  “We like them better.” 

I, personally, had tasted little difference between the two kinds of beans.  However, I did notice the price difference between them.  Plus, I liked the handy pull top on the blue cans, which makes eating the beans on picnics a breeze.  So it was, we slid further and further away from sensible eating, the “blue can” beans our “usual” brand.

Questioning What Disodium EDTA Is and How It Affects Us

Fast forward a number of weeks.  (Or has it been months?)  We have been mindlessly pulling the tops of chick pea cans at least a couple times a week and popping the beans into our mouth with smiles, knowing we like the beans and thinking are "good for us."

Then, this week, as I pulled to top off another can at lunch picnic the other day, I noticed the ingredients again.  Disodium EDTA.  What is that? I wondered.

This morning, I Googling for an answer.


On Fat Guy Slimming, a random site that I bumped into, I read that “Calcium Disodium a nasty little chemical made from formaldehyde, sodium cayanide, and Ethylenediamine.”  Ewww.

But is Calcium Disodium EDTA different than plain Disodium EDTA?  I did not find much on this, but I did read on one site that “disodium EDTA is a sequestering agent (that) does bad things to blood calcium levels.”  Considering calcium levels already border on low around here due in part to the fact that we are casein-free, that fact made me cringe.
As I read on another site, that Disodium EDTA robs your body of “Vitamin C, magnesium, iron, calcium, zinc, potassium,” I cringed even further.  Pangs of guilt for allowing such a vitamin and mineral thief entry into our home overcame me.

I was then placated for a minute when I discovered that some feel disodium EDTA has benefits, since it combines with metals and pulls them out of our systems – such as when it is used in chelation therapy.  Chelation therapy is not something we have ever tried here, but I have considered it, especially since I have heard if can have positive effects for children “on the spectrum”.  So maybe this disodium EDTA stuff isn’t that bad, I hoped.

I wanted to cling to that hope, but, honestly, in the end, I came to agree with the person whose thoughts I read here that disodium EDTA “clings to minerals in your digestive tract and pulls them out, leaving them to be disposed through your feces” and “just as in relationships, clinginess is a bad thing for healthy people because when you eat foods with the preservative, it pulls out both bad and crucial minerals and disturbs gut bacteria.”  I think I have the guts in our home fairly healthy and I don’t want to be messing with them by subjecting them to undo clinginess through our diets several days a week.  The disodium EDTA has to go.

Back on Top of Healthy Choices

So here I am with my kids at the bottom of a slippery slope.  And, here I go to brush the yuck aside and climb back to the top for making healthy dietary choices for my family.

To that end, today, I have decided :

  • I will not soon place budget over common sense again.
  •  If there’s an ingredient in a food item that I am considering making “regular” for our family, I will look it up before buying the item.
  • Perhaps I need to build a habit of pre-preparing chick peas from scratch more often.

Do you have further information on Disodium EDTA?  Do you have a favorite “healthy” canned bean brand?  Do you have an easy way you prepare, cook and store beans from scratch for later on-the-go eating?  Please share!


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