Faces of the Moon

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If you’re looking for the most delicious way under the sun (er, moon!) to teach your kid the names for all the moon’s different phases, this quick lesson plan from Raddish Kids has you covered. Hint: It involves Oreo cookies.

But before I let Travis eat cookies, we focused on a little moon information. I asked Travis what he pictured when he thought about the sky; he came up with ‘blue’ and ‘clouds’. Two great daytime picks! But what about focusing on the nighttime sky, I asked him.

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We watched two quick background videos on moon phases and I also made him a chart (which earned a “thanks Mom!”). This was his first introduction to some great science words, like waxing, waning, and gibbous.

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Now it was time to show him the moon phases with three neat projects.

To make the first, a moon phase viewer, cut a black rectangle from construction paper. Fold the paper in half and open back up again. Cut a white square from white construction paper that fits in the folded black rectangle, leaving a long tab on either end so you can pull the white paper side to side.

Trace a coin on the black paper, pressing firmly so the imprint is visible on the white paper below as well. Cut out both circles.

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Now line up your viewer and slide the white paper to see it change from gibbous to half to crescent to new and back again!

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For the second moon viewer, you’ll need two plastic cups. Glue or tape a yellow circle onto black construction paper and insert into one plastic cup; tape into place.

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On the second cup, label a place for full, waning half, new, and waxing half moons. Now rotate your yellow circle and color over it with black sharpie as appropriate to form each moon phase, leaving the full moon with no sharpie. Travis loved spinning this one!

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The third version is where he had the real fun! I set out eight cookies (we like Newman O’s) on a diagram and it was Travis’s job to scrape the right amount of frosting off each to form the eight phases.

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Needless to say, there was much nibbling along with the scraping!

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I had to help him with some of the trickier ones (gibbous, crescents), but he was a pro at half and new moon.

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We finished off with a read of The Moon Book by Gail Gibbons.

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Consider making craters in a clay moon if your kids want to continue the fun!

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Last summer Travis helped make two DIY versions of a sundial, but he was really too young to understand how we were tracking the sun. This year, he was ready, and our model a bit more precise!

First, he traced a circle on a piece of sturdy poster board.

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Cut out and find the exact center of your poster board by measuring halfway lengthwise and crosswise.

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We used a dowel as our centerpiece, and used clay to hold it in place; Travis pressed down the clay, and then made sure the dowel was nice and secure.

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We headed out the next morning as soon as sunlight hit the patio, and I showed Travis how to trace a straight line along a ruler following the dowel’s shadow.

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I pointed out how looong the shadow was this time of day, too, and challenged him to notice how that would change as the day went on.

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We missed a few morning hours because we were out and about! But by 1 p.m. we were steadily marking on the hour. As we had guessed, the dowel’s shadow was much shorter in the middle of the afternoon, then began to lengthen again.

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After 5, we lost our sunlight on the patio!

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So now it was time to head inside and decorate the sundial. Dot markers were the perfect tool for the job!

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Travis loved the way it looked and now has a neat visual of the sun’s path across the sky each day.

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Snack Math


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Summer is winding to a close and I’m sneaking in a few final math games before the start of (!) Kindergarten. Today Travis did a quick math review  at snack time. Ideal foods for this game are small snacks your child eats a lot of: Annie’s bunny grahams, cereal pieces, pretzel sticks, etc. We played with Earth Balance vegan cheddar squares!

Write out the numbers 1 through 10 on post-its or index cards. Before eating, Travis had to place the correct number of cheddar squares on each post-it.

I had him start with 10 knowing that working up to larger numbers would be more daunting. Instead, it got easier as he went along.

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Unexpectedly, he loved the game! He tried to make each pile into vertical stacks, and thought it was hilarious when they toppled over.

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This was a great way to keep a math lesson light.

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He also thought it was hilarious to eat any broken cheddar squares he found, a quick lesson on fractions and halves even if he didn’t know it!

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And then at the end, he got to knock down all the towers and gobble them up.

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Nature “Size Hunt”

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This mini scavenger hunt will inject some math into your next nature walk. We had a  beautiful family afternoon along a local trail, and I challenged Travis to find a few things of various sizes compared to something else along the way. You can vary your list, but here are a few ideas:

First up, he needed to spot something smaller than his fingernail. I thought he might find a bug, but he surprised me with this little pebble.

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Longer than his arm? A stick!

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A rock was bigger than his hand, and an acorn was smaller than his foot.

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For the last one, he needed to spot something larger than a leaf. The leaf we found was cool all by itself, almost mitten-shaped! 

Nature Size (1)What items do you find on your “size hunt”? Please share in the comments!

Kindergarten Summer Math Games

There are so many subtle ways to sneak math into your child’s summer to avoid the “summer slide.” Here are just a few Travis has enjoyed this summer, in the bridge between pre-K and Kindergarten, without even realizing I was helping him with his math skills!

Counting: How Many People?

Every once over the course of a day or a week, stop and ask your child to quickly tell you how many people are in the room. You can do this when the number is small (say, at home in our living room), or large, as when we found ourselves in a playspace. The playspace was fantastic because the number kept changing over the hour or so that we played there, making Travis count as high as 12 at one point.

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Counting: Toy Pick-Up Challenge

Travis has fought me on requests to clean-up lately, but not so on the day I announced a challenge. Could he pick up ten toys exactly? Immediately, he was racing around and counting out loud. One, two, three went into a toy bin.

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A huge battle between action figures and bugs was going on over by the piano. This gave him numbers four, five, six, seven, eight, and nine. He could barely hold them all in his excitement.

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“I need one more!” he exclaimed, realizing all his toys were now put away. I told him he could be a super-helper and clean up one of baby sister’s toys. Ten!

Sorting and Estimating: Laundry Sort

I told Travis I needed his help on a recent big laundry day. As each load came out of the dryer, we made piles. Baby sister things, Travis things, mommy things, and daddy things.

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It soon became a silly joke, since we seemed to have a load that was almost entirely daddy clothes and very few Travis ones.

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“Did you forget to get dressed this week?” I teased him. Well he thought this was just hilarious, and soon was happily tossing clothes into the right piles.

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When we had finished, I asked him who had the least clothes. For this load, it turned out to be baby sister. Who had the most? Daddy!

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He loved the game so much he couldn’t wait for a repeat as loads two and three came out of the dryer. I plan to enlist him as my helper for as long as I can con him into this!

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Money and Coins: Pretend Store

For the occasion, I bought Travis a new toy register (an early birthday gift), which added to his excitement. We grabbed a few real food items from the pantry and added price tags.

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Based on the denominations in this particular register set, clearly our grocery store suffered from inflation, ha.

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As we played, we talked about prices, and learned which bills or coins added up to which totals.

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Realizing that things were a bit strange with the fake coins in the register, we next played using real quarters.

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You can talk about how there are 100 cents in a dollar, and the value of one, two, three, or four quarters. It was a lot of information to send his way, and I knew all this was a bit over his head, but it never hurts to have an intro!

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Shapes: Dinner Quiz

At dinner, do a quick pop quiz. What shape is the plate? A circle!  What shape are the napkins? Rectangles! How about the leftover quesadilla? A crescent!

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You can also take this opportunity for some quick counting, i.e. how many green beans are left on your plate or how many utensils.

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Shapes: Toy Pick Up

As your child cleans up the room, announce that they have to shout out the shape (and color, too!) of each toy they clean up.

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This works particularly well with toys like blocks.

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I turned it into a hunt for Travis, and I’ve never seen this set of blocks get so willingly cleaned.

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It worked well with baby sister’s beads, too… and even alerted us to the fact that a couple were missing!

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Fractions, Measuring and Estimating: Get Cooking!

Get kids measuring, scooping, pouring, and leveling in the kitchen, and they’ll be getting a math lesson without even knowing it. Although fractions are a bit advanced for kids entering kindergarten, just hearing the terms “a third of a cup” or “half a cup” will expose them to the idea of dividing one whole into smaller portions.

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Cooking is also great for learning equivalents (3 teaspoons = 1 tablespoon), relative sizes (a tablespoon is bigger than a teaspoon), and reading larger numbers (350 degree ovens). Here, I asked Travis how long our recipe needed to bake. “20 minutes!” he reported.

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Matching: Sock Match-Up

Another great laundry game: Fold your laundry, but leave the socks in a big pile. When Travis came home one afternoon, I said to him, “Oh no, the socks ran away from me!”

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He thought the idea of the socks having escaped the laundry pile was very silly. In no time at all, he was matching them up.

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A few (similar striped patterns, for example) fooled him but a moment, but then he had things all matched up.

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Temperature: Morning Temp

Invest in a thermometer for outside your home or on your patio, and have your child read it every morning.

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This has become a fun ritual in our house! Because many patio thermometers don’t have all the digits listed, it has become an unintended lesson on skip-counting by twos, with each notch in our dial representing two degrees.

Engineering: Lego Building

Legos help with fine motor skills, problem solving and planning skills, shape recognition, and so much more. There’s a reason so many towns have Lego building clubs these days!

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You don’t need to join a club; just get building at home. Need I say more?

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Telling Time: Model Clock Book

Telling the time is a great skill to work on over the summer. Invest in a good analog clock or a great book about one featuring a clock with hands that your child can manipulate. We love How To… Tell the Time from Cottage Door Press because not only does it give a nice run-down of telling the hour and half hour, but there is a fun section for kids to move the hands based on their activities each day (brush teeth, go to bed etc.).

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This gave a real-life scenario way for Travis to think about the time and understand it better. There’s even a model clock to punch out.

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(Note: I have yet to find a good book featuring the minutes; many focus on hours and half hours, so I added the minutes in tape to our model clock).

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Volume: Measuring Cup Play

Measuring cups are the perfect tool for teaching about volume (and fractions, too!), and if you add colored water, your child will simply think they’re playing and having fun!

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We took clear plastic cups, measuring cups, and food coloring outside one morning. I taught Travis to read the number after the slash on each measuring cup to know how many times he’d need to fill it for one full cup. So two 1/2 cups, three 1/3 cups, and four 1/4 cups. For extra fun, we used food coloring to differentiate between each version.

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Soon he was just happily pouring and mixing and having a blast in the sunshine – vitamin d as an added bonus to math time!

Weight: Fruit and Veggie Weigh

At the grocery store, Travis loves to help weigh our fruits and veggies on the scale. Give a quick lesson on how there are 16 ounces to 1 pound, and let your child read off the weight of each item you place on the scale. It’s a great intro to gently introduce the topic.

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Amazing Astronauts

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Travis and I will be cooking up some cosmic cuisine in the days ahead, thanks to his latest Raddish Kids crate. But even before the cooking began, we had to try out the lesson plan on astronauts, one of his favorite topics in the world.

To set the stage, ask your child what it would be like to be an astronaut, and what he or she would most want to do. Travis wants to fly a spaceship to another planet!

We watched a few informative videos from Chris Hadfield (familiar to us from one of Travis’s favorite books, The Darkest Dark). Hadfield, an astronaut from the ISS, has fantastic videos featuring everything from eating dessert in space to sleeping in space.

I read Travis some of the facts about what it takes to become an astronaut at NASA and then it was time to simulate being an astronaut with three cool projects.

For the first, we made space boots to walk on the moon! Travis drew a “terrain” on a long strip of butcher paper.

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He drew astronauts and craters, and then we spread the paper outdoors on our patio.

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Meanwhile, I made the boots: poke holes in two buckets, and thread rope or twine through. Gather the rope up above the buckets and knot into a loop.

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Very carefully, have your child step up onto the buckets and hold the ropes taut. Travis got the hang of lifting his arms to lift the rope as he took each step.

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“This is what it felt like for Neil Armstrong to walk on the moon!” he marveled. He gave a proud astronaut cheer at the end of his moon walk.

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Next up, we created a space meal! Watch Chris Hadfield again, and then set out a menu. Travis had a juice box, one of baby sister’s pouches, and a tortilla!

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For added fun, make sure to suit up first: snow pants make for a big bulky astronaut suit; Travis insisted on adding his jacket, too!

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Dining in space is fun!

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Finally, we made a Glove Box, which is how astronauts study potentially harmful materials. Trim the top pieces from a cardboard box and cut two arm holes in one side.

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Fill with fun items. Rocks from Travis’s collection made natural “moon rocks” of course, and I added a few other odds and ends.

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Travis slipped on garden gloves (cleaning gloves would work, too). Cover the top with saran wrap, and have your child insert their hands through the holes; now it was like he was manipulating the items from within an astronaut’s glove box!

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He loved peering at the rocks through the magnifying glass.

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For added authenticity, you can duct tape the wrists of the gloves to the holes, but we skipped that step. What fun to be an astronaut for the day!

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Tricky Triangles

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These fun foam triangles are a homemade version of a tangram puzzle! We followed a template from Highlights magazine, which made for great puzzling on a Saturday morning.

First, follow the lines provided to divide a large sheet of craft foam into 8 triangles. Big kids can help with the lines and the cutting, but this was more of a craft that I set up for Travis than one we prepared together.

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Soon I had 3 sets of triangles for him, in orange, green, and yellow foam.

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We looked at the shapes in the magazine and he wanted to make the fish first: green triangles! Tangrams are wonderful for helping children think spatially and translate what they see on the page to a real model.

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Travis needed help with the orientation of a few triangles, but mostly could see how the fish came together.

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Next up was an orange fox! I had Travis point out where the biggest triangle went first as a starting point, and we worked our way outward from there.

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He was quite proud when he saw the fox take shape.

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Finally, he made the yellow cat. Add big googly eyes to any or all of these, if you have them!

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As your child becomes skilled at copying the provided designs, branch out and make up your own! Next time I’m going to cut up a smaller version since these would be perfect to slip in a zip-top bag and turn into a take-along toy for car rides or waiting rooms.

Bugs vs. Birds

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To slip some subtle math and science into your child’s next summer nature walk, turn it into a tally hunt for bugs and birds. I told Travis we’d be counting both, and asked him whether he thought he would find more birds or bugs. He quickly replied birds, but then thought about it for a moment; we passed a bunch of flowers, already teeming with five bees. “Bugs!” he guessed.

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To prepare a little scientific notebook, print out a picture of a bug and a bird, and tape or glue down to notebook paper. Now you can tally as you walk.

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This will also be a great lesson on tallying and making marks in groupings of 5 (good for skip-counting!).

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As we walked, Travis sometimes forgot to count, since there was so much else to see. Eventually we decided he would look out for bugs, and I was in charge of birds.

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It quickly became apparent that bugs were far more abundant…so much so we eventually stopped our tally at around 35. Although hard to see, the picture above shows two beautiful dragonflies perched on a limb.

In short, this game is a great way to get your little one noticing nature on a closer scale, as well as to think about the differing populations of species within an area.


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Tessellations are geometric patterns that perfectly fill an area with no overlaps. I remember making them using a computer program back in middle school, and marveling at the way the patterns could rotate or connect. Here is a highly simplified version that even a kindergartner can grasp, which can gently introduce your child to the concept.

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To make your tessellation, draw a line along one edge of a post-it with marker, in any shape, as long as the line extends from corner to corner.

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I had to help Travis a bit with this slightly odd instruction.

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Cut out along the marker line, then tape that piece onto the front of the post-it. Your tessellation is ready to go!

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Now trace this in a line across a piece of paper.

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Once you’ve filled in the paper, color each portion, ideally in a pattern.

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Travis did great careful work to color within the lines, and thought the final result looked a bit like the scoots on a turtle shell!

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Osmosis vs. Diffusion

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The final lesson plan to go with Travis’s Backyard BBQ Raddish Kids kit was quite scientific and a little over a five-year-old’s head. But thanks to two yummy experiments, even my kindergartner could keep up with the concepts involved.

First, I came to the table with a cup of clear hot water and a tea bag. I put the tea in the cup and asked Travis what he observed happening. “It’s turning golden,” he noticed.

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I agreed, and more specifically told him he was seeing diffusion: molecules moving from an area of high concentration (close together) to low concentration (further apart). This actually wasn’t too foreign an idea for him, since he loves a book about Albert Einstein pondering molecules.

Explain to your child that osmosis is a specific case of diffusion, having to do with the movement of water molecules. Two suggested clips on diffusion and osmosis helped Travis understand a bit better, though to be honest, this part was over his head. To make it more accessible, you can give examples of each. Diffusion might mean:

the aroma you smell from a cake baking

food coloring dispersing in water

Osmosis might be:

wrinkled fingers in a bathtub

rehydrated dried fruit

Now it was time to experiment! For diffusion, I asked him what he thought would happen to a scent if we trapped it inside a balloon. Would we be able to smell it? His hypothesis was yes! We carefully added a few drops of vanilla extract to a balloon.

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Inflate the balloon and tie the end into a knot. Place it in a closed box and let rest for 10 minutes or so.

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When we lifted it out, the box smelled a bit like vanilla; in other words, the scent had diffused. The result was subtle, which I think underwhelmed Travis.

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You may want to leave your balloon inside longer, or put more vanilla in it, to wow your kids with the results.

Next up: osmosis! For this one, we tested out the affect on gummy bears of being in plain water, salt water, and no water.

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We filled out the provided chart with his guess for the results. After some prompting about those plump rehydrated raisins, he was able to surmise what might happen.

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Big kids can really get scientific with this, filling in measurements before and after for color, length, width, thickness, and mass.

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For the set up, you’ll need three clear jars. The first simply received a gummy bear. The second had the bear plus 1/2 cup plain water. The third had the gummy in a saturated salt solution; add 1 teaspoon salt at a time to 1/2 cup water until no more will dissolve.

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We left them overnight, then checked in on the bears the next morning! Again, the results were a bit underwhelming, which may have been the vegan gummy bears we were using. But our plain water one looked a bit more plump, and our salt one looked a bit scrunched.

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Well, if all else fails, you can watch this osmosis rap video!