Science, Delicious Science

My youngest son, Kellen, is on a Cars kick.  We run races every day, pretending we are Lightning McQueen and The King.  We read Cars books.  We listen to the soundtrack.  We play with the toys.  We live Cars.

Kellen asked if he could have a drink that was colored like The King.  It reminded me of a density experiment from Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments by Mike Adamick.

http://mikeadamick.com/

The experiment is titled “Rainbow Water Stacks” and Adamick shows it three different ways, one of which is a red, blue, and clear layered drink- perfect for both Lightning McQueen and King fans.

Before we moved on to the delicious part, we did a more traditional rainbow stack.  You’ve probably seen these a hundred different ways.  The key is to pour each layer SLOWLY and layer the liquids according to density.  If you need help explaining density (I did) and ideas for liquids and the order to stack them in, check out this post from Steve Spangler (of course).

http://www.mykidsadventures.com/how-to-stack-liquids/

We opted to stack corn syrup, dish soap, water, rubbing alcohol and vegetable oil.

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A turkey baster was suggested to help pour the liquids, but I didn’t have one.  We put our ingredients in squeeze bottles.  I advised Kellen to squeeze the liquids SLOWLY and against the side of the glass, but Kellen is not quite there as far as impulse control.  A few of our colors got a bit mixed together, but we were able to create levels and display the property of density.

The part Kellen liked the best was dropping things into the completed stack to see where they would end up- some floated on top, some fell to the bottom, others got trapped in the middle.

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All that science built up a thirst.  Time to make drinks!

We talked some more about density as we prepared our beverages.  We filled glasses with lots of ice- this helps slow the liquids down.  We put cranberry juice cocktail on the bottom, blue Gatorade in the middle, and sparkling water on the top (although the sparkling water sort of blended with the Gatorade).

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It was time to taste our Cars themed concoction, and boy, was it a hit!

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It’s still hot here in Arizona.  Cool off with some science.  Happy experimenting!

Saturday Morning Science

A leisurely breakfast and a cool experiment.  Sounds like a pretty great Saturday morning if you ask me.  Thanks to the folks over at tinkerlab we were able to have both.

http://tinkerlab.com/experiment-egg-geodes/

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I love the ease of this experiment. Don’t let the presentation photo fool you- It’s really just measuring and mixing. All items used I had on hand. I also felt like we got a big payoff.  We were able to watch the geodes grow over a few days, and then end results were gorgeous.

First step is to use a knife to knock the very top off the egg shells.  The number of eggs depends on how many solutions you are going to try.  Each solution will fill two eggs.  Empty the yolks into a bowl and mix up your favorite omelette (that’s where the breakfast comes in).  Rinse out the egg shells and peel the membrane from the inside.

You can look at the full experiment on the link at the start of this post, but we basically mixed a 1/4 each of the following materials with a 1/2 cup of very warm water.

Kosher Salt

Epsom Salt

Borax (pay attention when kids are handling borax.  You do not want this ingested)

Sugar (we did not get sugar crystals to grow)

They also recommended trying sea salt, cream of tartar, or baking soda.  Add food coloring or liquid water colors so that each solution is a different color.  Make a sheet to track the color of each solution.

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The boys were not very patient about getting each substance to dissolve in the water.  We had undissolved salt and sugar in the bottoms of our eggs.  This did not seem to impede growth.

The geodes will start to grow in 1-2days as the liquid evaporates.  We dumped the remaining liquid out after about four days so we could examine our crystals.  I’m sure you could let them keep going until all liquid evaporated.

This is the basic experiment.  There are many ways to extend learning.

One thing we did was to examine the materials beforehand, so we could see if the crystals that grew were similar to the original shape of the substance.  For instance, the Borax looked like small flakes, and the crystals it grew looked a bit like snowflakes.  We tracked this on our sheet by drawing pictures of what each substance looked like prior to mixing with water.

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We also looked through a microscope to see what our substances looked like up close.  The addition of a microscope need not be expensive or complex.  We purchased a simple microscope at the thrift store for around $6.  So far, it has been sufficient for experiments, and adds a fun dimension.

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This can also be a great opportunity to build vocabulary.  Explain what a solution is as you mix the ingredients.  Ask them what their hypothesis is.  Talk about what results were yielded. Define crystallization.  If you have crystals that grow on the outside of the shell, talk about osmosis.

The best part is that if all goes according to plan, in a couple of days you will have amazing crystals like these! Happy experimenting!

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Play With Your Food- Reducing Sugar and Adding Nutrition to Breakfast Muffins

When I was pregnant with Kellen, my cravings manifested in the forms of cupcakes and steak.  I have heard that your child’s taste profile begins in the womb.  In Kellen’s case, I believe it.  The kid is equal parts sweet tooth and carnivore.

Kellen is a picky eater.  One of the things I can count on him to consume is muffins.  Unfortunately, muffins don’t always have the greatest nutritional content- white flour and processed sugar.  I wanted a recipe to give him the food he likes, but also squeeze in a bit more of the good stuff he needs.

I started with this recipe for easy blueberry muffins.  I’ve always liked this recipe because it uses ingredients I have on hand, and can be done in a single bowl.

http://www.inspiredtaste.net/18982/our-favorite-easy-blueberry-muffin-recipe/

I began to play with the flour and sugar contents by substituting oats, whole wheat flour, mashed banana, and applesauce.  A family member suggested looking for a specific healthy recipe, but I already knew this recipe by heart.  It was easy to make substitutions and still get them baked quickly.

The flour substitution is pretty easy.  Instead of using 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour, I opt for half flour, half quick oats.  I have also done them with half whole wheat flour/ half quick oats, but that can be a little dense for some tastes.

I found this article on substituting applesauce for sugar.

http://www.ehow.com/how_5162415_substitute-applesauce-sugar.html

In the muffin recipe, the sugar serves to aerate the bread and to brown.  For those reasons, I didn’t want to get rid of it completely.  I opted to reduce the sugar to 1/4 cup, and add 1/2 cup applesauce.  I reduced the milk to 1/3 cup to account for the extra liquid in the applesauce.  To make banana muffins, I used banana instead of applesauce and eliminated the blueberries.

I’ve made two batches of these muffins in a week, so I would say the boys haven’t noticed the difference in the recipe.  Or if they have, the results are acceptable.

What are your tips for increasing the health quotient in kid-friendly foods?

Recipe:

  • 3/4 cup (195 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup quick oats
  • 1/4 cup (150 grams) sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce or mashed ripe banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup (79 ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 (79 ml – 118 ml) reduced fat (2 %) milk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (170 grams or 6 ounces) fresh blueberries

Mix dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and mix together.  Fill cups in muffin pan.  Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

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