Listen Like a Whale

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Talk about a milestone; my five year old is finally brave enough to tilt his head back in the tub and get his face underwater. This was a big step for Travis!

We celebrated the moment with a fun experiment I’d been telling him about for a while, ever since learning about whales with Kiwi Co’s baleen whale crate.

All you need to do is tap two spoons together in order to experiment with how sound travels both above and below water. First we tapped them out in the open air.

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Next I tapped them underwater while his head was above water. The sound was quite muffled.

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Now he leaned back until his ears were underwater, and he was able to hear the sounds much more clearly. “It also sounds deeper,” he commented, though I can’t say for sure if this was the case since my ears weren’t under there. Either way, he was quite happy to have done the experiment, and I think our little whale spout cover concurred!

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The idea here is to illustrate why whale song can travel for hundreds of miles through ocean water; sound travels farther and faster in water than it does in air!

Shiny Whale

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Poor Travis had a sick day today, which meant lots of extra snuggles and okay, perhaps a little too much extra-special TV watching. But it’s good to still engage your little one, even when they’re under the weather, with quiet activities like puzzles and coloring. This minimal-effort art project was perfect; it helped distract him for just a bit, and he created something pretty to boot!

First, I traced a whale shape onto cardboard and cut out.

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We’ve done several whale projects lately, but this one got to be extra shiny. Wrap the shape in aluminum foil, folding the foil on the backside so the front stays smooth.

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I gave Travis lots of sharpie markers to decorate his whale, for even shinier effect.

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As I said, simple but pretty, and a good way to distract your kid from that runny nose or sore throat – at least for a few minutes!

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Whale Ball Toss

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For a museum exhibit on President’s Day, Travis got to play with old-fashioned toys in honor of George Washington, including wooden favorites like a Jacob’s Ladder and a cup-and-ball toss. So he was eager to craft this whale-tastic take on the latter at home. (Fun fact: the game dates back to the 14th century! Admittedly, this cetacean update from Kiwi Co. is a bit newer).

Ideally, start with blue plastic cups for your whales. We only had paper cups, which got a nice coat of blue paint.

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Travis was so excited once they were dry! Punch a hole in the bottom of each cup, and thread through a three-foot long piece of yarn. Tie it in a loop around the cup.

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Tie a wooden bean onto the other end of the yarn – this is the “krill” for the whale to eat.

Next, we traced the cup onto white paper, and cut out.

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Cut the circle in half, then cut little strips into it to make fringed “baleen.” I was really proud of Travis’s scissor skills here.

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I cut out a tail and fin template for him, which he then traced onto blue paper and cut out. Again, loved watching his fine motor skills.

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Finally, we taped these pieces – tail, fins, and baleen, along with two googly eyes – onto each whale.

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Hold the cup and swing the bead, and see if your whale can eat it. Here goes!

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This was a great game, and since we made two, we could challenge one another to a competition.

Baleen Whale Kiwi Crate

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Travis received his second box from Kiwi Co today, and literally asked to start the moment we got the box inside the house. Kiwi actually terms this one the “mechanical sweeper” crate, but the term was so opaque I found it completely unhelpful as the adult assistant. Rather, the material inside is all about baleen whales, and the way their baleen “sweeps” the ocean; this explanation made Travis quite excited since he’s been learning about whales at school

First up was to Create Watercolor Whales, the crafty component before we moved on to the science of baleen. I sat back and completely let Travis pick colors and dictate how to paint.

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As he worked, he had a game going in his head; it was a humpback whale, but he could change colors and camouflage. Neat!

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He loved the wax-resist element along the whale’s jawline; the beads of water ran away from the waxed parts, leaving stripes of color behind. We wiped these clean with a paper towel, as the instructions suggested, for a streamlined look.

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For the second whale, we used an extra coat of water and then sprinkled on the provided salt.

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After the whales dry, your child can see the difference between the two paintings. Where you shake off the excess salt, you’ll see spotty patterns (more on this idea later).

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Now was the moment he’d been waiting for: to Build a Mechanical Sweeper. The idea is to illustrate how baleen whales “sweep” the sea with their mouths, thus capturing more food than they’d be able to with teeth. (Note: the Explore booklet has a cute story explaining this idea further).

I won’t go step-by-step through the sweeper here, but do note that it’s complicated, and took mom and boy a good twenty minutes of concentration. But wow did I love watching his fine motor skills, trying mostly to sit by and let him do the work. He slipped the foam sweeper tabs into the foam sweeper bars…

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Added tiny rubber bands to hold things in place…

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Slid dowels through the proper holes…

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Used stickers to hold things in place…

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And more.

At last, our sweeper was ready. We sprinkled the provided pom poms on the rug (the krill, of course), and munch munch munch – our “whale” ate them all.

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We then attached our dried watercolor whales to the sides for a finished look.

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Travis was thrilled, and needed to experiment immediately. What else could his whale eat? Was anything too small? After testing out tiny Legos, we decided the answer was no.

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Was anything too big? Only if an item was wider than the distance between sweeper blades, but this hot wheels car got through…

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…as did loads of Playmobil.

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I have a feeling it won’t be a chore the next time I ask him to pick up Lego pieces from all over the rug!

Finally, we made Watercolor & Salt Paintings with the provided extra paper, for a clearer salt-and-water experiment. Because Travis had loved the wax-resist on the original whales, I knew just how to add in this element for him – wax crayons.

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Once he’d painted, we sprinkled on big piles of salt this time.

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This allowed him to see better how the salt sucks some of the water up. You can explain to your kids that the salt and water molecules are attracted to each other, hence why the water gets pulled up, and creates that mottled final look.

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My overall opinion of this crate, aside from the very confusing name, is that it was a really digestible way for kids to understand baleen, to learn about these amazing giants of the sea, and to build a very cool STEM project in the process.