Thursday, April 24, 2014

Fun history for kids

I am a fan.

Horrible Histories, the children’s book and television series is a great resource for both homework and general knowledge. Although a little quirky, the format and pace of these explanations and animations is perfect.  This series makes history accessible, fun and above all interesting. They are very informative and make you want to flick to a different period in history.

Another great history resource is The Crash Course channel on Youtube. Amongst other things, it has 'World History' explained in 42 episodes, so there's something to interest everyone!

After recently finishing a Conn Iggulden series called Conqueror about the rise of Ghengis Khan and the Mongol nation, I had no idea how much he actually affected history and how close the whole world came to becoming Mongolian or Chinese.  Back in 1200 only the death of the Khan stopped total conquest by the marauding Mongols in an era just before gunpowder changed warfare forever.
The Crash Course resource video  introduces us to this period of history with some great facts and a great pace.  Not a boring list of dates and events.

Have a look, whether you are a parent or kid, I think there is something for everyone.

It is not often I get so excited about something on Youtube, for me, these resources are winners.


Monday, March 3, 2014

Cake smashing

What a waste, how could you waste a perfectly good cake?

Wow, cake smashing - AWESOME!!!!

In the days where we are so overly protective of kids and the idea of them getting messy is such a taboo, I think (although not everyone in the household agrees) the idea of a kid jumping head first into a birthday cake is fantastic.

There has been an increasing trend of parents allowing the celebration of their kid's 1st birthday with a super messy cake dive in a professional setting - Safety first!!
Parents are paying anything from a few dollars to $1500 for a fully catered and recorded birthday experience.  Particularly first birthdays are on the menu, the idea of capturing the moment that your child realises that they don't have to wait patiently, be polite and share with everyone is the main reason parents choose to have the occasion recorded in time.  In individual frames the moment the kid sees the cake, gets closer to it, saliva begins to pool and drool, and then the smile breaks on their face until they leap, leave the ground and dive, head first into the icing ooziness of a cake- solely for them.

I think this may be a boy thing, I would be interested to hear whether this is a girl thing or just a boy thing!  I also think that if the cake was big enough, there may be a market opening for adult males!!

It is interesting that Jill's first reaction was, "What a waste of food!"  Perhaps it is the old English upbringing, a hangover from the post war upbringing by parents who brought her up with the mantra, don't waste it and clear your plate, in any case, I couldn't convince her that this would be awesome.

For me it is the pure freedom and abandonment of pure gluttony, fun and freedom to dive tongue first into one of the highlights of a kid's life.  I can barely imagine more fun...

What are your thoughts?  Would you allow it in your house, does it appeal or irk you?
Let us know



Photo Credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via Compfight cc

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

How to make a mini pom pom using a fork

Did you ever make pom poms as a kid?

I did, and I remember cutting circles of cardboard from cereal boxes and wrapping wool around and around them.  

It was only recently, I learned that there is another way to make a pom pom. 

A mini pom pom that is!

I checked it out and showed my girls, who then went crazy making lots and lots of them, which they then tied to their pencil cases!

In case you're wondering how to make these cute mini pom poms, we made a short video to show you!

Hope you have fun making some cute little pom poms!


Monday, February 3, 2014

Can we do a challenge?

Over the recent long summer holidays here in Cairns, our girls wanted to spend time playing on their Samsung Tablets.  Now we've always had the rule that they have to do useful and educational things on their tablet first, to 'earn' time to play. So 15 minutes of educational games can then be followed by 15 minutes of things like Minecraft and other games of their choice!

They were getting a bit bored with the educational apps they had, and we wanted to do something different so we created challenges for them to complete on their tablets before they could play their games.  These challenges involved finding out about a place or person, making notes and then telling us what they'd found out at dinner time that evening.

Most challenges were geographical, as their knowledge of other
countries in the world is quite limited, so this was a great opportunity for them to learn!

So mostly we would just give them the name of a country and they would go and find out where it is, how big it is, the population, some interesting facts and things to see there.  

They really enjoyed these little challenges, and learned a lot about the world, countries, rivers, mountains, landmarks, flags and languages. They particularly enjoyed finding some 'interesting facts' to tell us!

To the girls, these challenges were fun, but they were indirectly practising Geography (looking at locations and countries around the world), Maths (population and land sizes then comparisions) and English (research, note taking and presentation skills).

This is definitely something we will continue to use with our girls, and something that can be adapted to any topic.

What educational things do your kids use their computers or tablets for?


Thursday, January 23, 2014

365 Things to Know

This is a book I've had since I was at primary school.

My parents saved it and brought it out to Australia from the UK a few years ago, so that I could share it with our girls.

When they brought it out a few years ago, I tried to read it with our girls, but I think they were a little young and it didn't hold their interest.

At the beginning of this year, I decided to get it out again, and found that they are now the perfect age for it. (They are currently 8 and 10 years old)

The facts in the book are about all sorts of subject and topics, and
they are split up into one fact for each day of the year, and dated as such.

Some facts are more interesting than others, some provoke more discussion and research, others get read and forgotten.

Both our girls are enjoying reading this book, and we have to take turns reading the facts.  Some days we forget - but just catch up the next day, or the day after.

My copy of this book was published in 1984, 30 years ago!  So I wonder as we read through it, what facts we'll find that have since been 'updated' to reflect new discoveries! As far as I can find from searching, this book is no longer published.

It's a neat book to read as a family - just a snippet each day, and a way of getting our girls to read something other than the endless story books they love so much!

What do your kids read? Just story books? How to you encourage them to read other texts and topics?


Monday, January 20, 2014

Purple Cabbage pH Science Experiment

I've read about this experiment in several places and really wanted to try it with my girls. A few days ago, we finally did it and had lots of fun!

What is the Purple Cabbage Experiment?

The basic idea is that purple cabbage juice can be used as a pH indicator. The girls are aware of the pH scale from their weekly testing of the fish tank water, so at least that made the concept easy for them to understand. It's always good to have something in their day to day life to relate things to - it makes things more easily understandable.

How to make purple cabbage pH indicator

The experiment involved first of all extracting the juice from the cabbage.  We found 3 different recommendations on how to do this

1. Put cabbage leaves in cold water, bring to the boil and boil for 10 minutes then strain off the juice.
2. Chop cabbage, pour over boiling water and leave to soak for 10 minutes, then strain off the juice.
3. Put chopped cabbage and water into a blender and whizz up!  Then strain off the juice.

We decided on what I thought was the simplest method - number 2.

We checked a colour chart we found online as to what colour the purple juice should turn to indicate acid or alkali:

Then we collected some medicine cups and a dropper and chose what substances to test the pH of.

What did we test?

First we tested our own saliva, which should be a healthy alkali.
Both my daughters ones were alkali, mine was neutral. From what I found when researching this online - that would be about right. Kids saliva tends to be more alkaline and adults neutral to acidic.

So success for our first test!

We then went on to test several other things:

Here's the colours after adding the purple cabbage juice indicator..

And some more..

Once again - after adding the purple cabbage juice:
The girls were learning that citrus fruits - like lemon and orange are acidic, and bicarb of soda was a good example of an alkali.

And finally:

It was good to include the fish tank water in there - and for it to come out as a neutral, just as it had when the girls had tested it with the bought pH test kit earlier that day! Demonstrating again that our experiment did work!

This was a fun and simple experiment to do with the girls.
I think the colours you get do depend somewhat on the concentration of your cabbage juice. 
You could spend a little more time to do a more accurate experiment perhaps with older kids - making your own colour scale, and recording the results in a table.

However for my girls - aged 8 and 10, this was just a quick, fun experiment to do in the holidays.

Have you ever tried this?
Do you have any other simple and fun science experiments to recommend?


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Kids Fishing

After a few years of thought and another few of growing up and getting taller and more mature, we took the punt.

I enjoyed fly fishing for trout as a kid back in Scotland, and have fond members of early morning starts and driving up to a dam. We waited patiently for a bite.

In contrast, here in Cairns, people usually go out to sea fishing or head up to lake Tinaroo in the Tablelands for Barramundi fishing.  We heard of Tarzali Lakes and thought we could camp and try our luck fishing.  A great chance to share the love of fishing with the girls.

When we arrived it was a very hot, 30 degree plus afternoon but still people were fishing.  I thought it was odd to be fishing in the middle of the day but, who knows?  We were greeted by the owner and founder of Tarzali lakes, Peter who was friendly and fun.  He asked us if we knew what we were doing and I kinda bluffed my way through. The theory is fine, the knots another!  Peter asked us if we thought we could beat the record of 16 fish caught in one session?  Crazy I thought, I remember as a kid, sitting for hours waiting for a bite.

Then I realised just how stocked the lake was.  Jade Perch was the fish and the pool was teeming with them!  When we started fishing, I realised this would be a fun and great experience for the girls, and they would certainly be catching fish.

Once we got set up and threw some burley in, the fish were chomping it.  We were ready to go and after getting the routine sorted, bait on, up to the bank, hold the line, flip the spinner, cast out, flip the spinner back and reel in.  Within a second or two, either you had a bite or you lost the bait!!

When the perch struck, you usually kept it on the line, it would fight a little and then quit, the girls could land them fine.  The look on the girls faces as each of them when they caught their first fish was priceless.  Shock, exuberation and excitement as well as the thrill of the fight all kicked in.  The girls just kept reeling them in.
Their faces were a picture when they caught one and they went from no knowledge into great little fisher girls in no time.  It was all catch and release so as long as the hooks could effortlessly be removed from the mouths of the fish, all was good.
Easier said than done.

Between Jill and I we unhooked about 40 or 50 of the fish over the two days.  We all got an understanding on how important it is not to hurt the fish and we learned how to take the hook out of the mouth without hurting the fish.  Some of the fish were caught nicely through the mouth, others were hooked in all sorts of places, and it was an effort to quickly remove the hook and return them to the pond.

We caught so many, my hands were raw with moving hooks, and the girls had definitely got the fishing bug.
In retrospect, I need to thank my dad for getting me in the fishing game and unhooking my fish!
It was not my memory of fishing with the hour long waits for a bite, this was all action!

Going home with some smoked fish was an unexpected bonus and a great thank you has to go out to Peter, Dylan and the Tarzali Lakes team.

What a trip!


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