Science for Kids: Groovy Lab in a Box

Review of Groovy Lab in a Box
Last year Connor’s kindergarten class had library day every Wednesday; they could choose two books to take home for the week and the following week could either bring those back and exchange them for two new ones or keep the books for another week. I think 98% of the books he brought home were science books, and that’s not even an exaggeration. I think we saw a handful of story books or books with TV characters (and for a kid who loves TV that’s remarkable). Everything else was science.

He had books on the planets and books on bugs; dinosaurs made frequent appearances as did books about animals. He just really, really likes science and, I’ve got to admit, I was surprised.

I took biology through grade 11, I think. I know I took Physics 11 and barely passed. Like, barely. I think my teacher may have passed me out of pity, in fact (either that or because she didn’t want to have to deal with me again the next year). The experiment we did with the wave tank still brings back that old feeling of absolute confusion. And I never did understand chemistry.

I think it’s safe to say Connor didn’t get his science gene from me (or his art gene or his LEGO gene or, oh god, I hope he can at least write so there’s some evidence beyond his eyes that I’m his mother).

Despite my lack of knack for science and my perfectly understandable dislike of bugs, I have tried to nurture his interest in science. (Did you know there are 10,000,000,000,000,000 ants in the world? According to his National Geographic bug book, anyway.) When we got a chance to try out Groovy Lab in a Box, I said yes, figuring Connor would love it.

One thing about their approach to science for kids – this is more than just kitschy science experiments. They use a STEM approach (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and with the subscription service kids get a new box every month with a fun, hands-on projects and an engineering design challenge, all focused on that month’s STEM topic. This line from their material really stuck out for me:

Our core belief is that we want to bring this generation back to the NASA Apollo era when children wanted to be scientists and engineers and science was at the forefront of the media.

When we got our box, it came with supplies for several different experiments, an observation notebook, and instructions (thank god). We started with the sun print paper experiment, which was the perfect level of complication to start with (i.e. not very). This one involves using light-sensitive paper to make pictures and designs using only sunlight and water.

We placed the black cardstock on the bottom and the sun paper on top, and both went into a plastic bag (also supplied). Connor chose a simple shape to start with because he wanted to see how it turned into a picture, so we placed that on top of the bag and put it all in the sun.

LEGO picture

After a few minutes, the blue paper turned really light, so we took it inside and rinsed it.

rinsing-picture

It worked!

result-sun-picture-experiment

So then he got really serious and tried a few more times with different shapes and designs.

setting-up-sun-picture-experiment

That one was a hit, but when Connor saw there was an experiment that involved a battery he almost lost his mind. (Okay, that part might have been a slight exaggeration, but he was very excited.) conductivity-experiement-with-battery
This one involved putting together a conductivity sensor to determine the electrical conductivity of salt water. To start, we hooked up the battery to a buzzer and put it in a cup of water. Nothing happened. (For the record, that result matched my hypothesis.) Then we added a salt packet and tried again.

conductivity-sensor-experiment

At this point we weren’t really sure whether anything happened or if we had even done it correctly. The next step was to add more salt, so we did that and got a clear buzz.

My response was, “Yay!” And then my husband piped up from the kitchen. “Did it conduct electricity when there was no salt in the water? What about when you added salt? What did you notice?”

Damn husband. Fine, be all science-teacher-y. At least one of us was watching to see if the child electrocuted himself. (I don’t actually know if that’s a possibility, but that’s totally not the point.)observation-notebook

Despite my lack of science knowledge (I think I’m going to contact my grade 8 chemistry teacher and ask for my parents’ money back) we had fun playing scientist, and we still have a few more experiments to do (which is good, because little brothers like this too).

mini-scientist

I’d definitely recommend this for kids who are interested in science. I’d just suggest a cheat sheet for parents who might need a little help correctly identifying the results.

Want to win a Groovy Lab in a Box of your own to try? Enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Playing with Tobo Tracks (Giveaway)

I’m not a huge fan of playing with cars, but I do love me some tracks. We played with Brio all the time as kids, and when Connor started getting into it my siblings and I were in there just as much as he was.

Connor, of course, has gravitated to Lego, though the Brio still occasionally makes an appearance, especially now that Ethan has discovered it. I think he might be my train buddy.

We’ve got another set of tracks he likes as well – a Tobo Track.

tobo-track3

I won this set on my friend Samantha’s blog just before Christmas and there are so many things about it I think are really cool:

  • Made from wood; designed in Canada and made in the US.
  • Comes with a small wooden car but designed to be used with Matchbox cars, Brio trains, and so on.
  • Any edge connects to any other edge, but you can use the numbers to practice matching, addition, or any other educational game you can think of.
  • Tracks can be put together in all kinds of configurations.

Give me some tracks to build and play on and I can play cars quite happily. Especially if I get to play with my little buddy while he makes a “vroom, vroom” sound.

tobo-track2

The other thing I really like about this toy is that the makers actively solicit feedback. I got an email from Tomas, Tobo Toys founder and designer, to let me know when to expect it, and then he followed up after I received it to ask what my kids think. He honestly cares what people think and wants to know how to make this toy even better. I like the toy, but ultimately it was his approach to customers that made me want to share this with you.

tobo-track1

So who wants to give it a go? I’ve got one Tobo Track set to give away. (And if you want to buy a Tobo Track, they’re on sale until March 31.)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Update: If you want a Tobo Track of your own, Tobo Toys is offering a 15% discount for readers of this blog using the code FARR15TOBO.

 

Stealing Nemo

It’s tough being a younger brother. Especially when your big brother thinks your toys are cool and wants to play with them himself.

Poor Ethan. The older he gets, the cooler his toys, the more Connor steals them. We’ve taught Connor the art of distraction; originally intended to give him a tactic to use when Ethan has stolen something of Connor’s (find something else he’ll like and you can take your toy back), Connor has started using it to take Ethan’s toys so he can check them out. He’s not always terribly smooth, though, and we’re usually alerted to the heist by Ethan’s wail. Man, can that kid wail. I’ll have to try to take a picture at some point, because his facial expression [You stole that from me! How COULD you?!] is priceless.

I’ve started feeling a bit like a bodyguard for baby toys, but we had a bit of a win recently. A new toy for Ethan came in the mail, so he and I opened it while Connor wasn’t home.

I think he likes it.

Photo3

Hey, there’s Nemo! 

Photo1

It’s the Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp, and when Connor got home later that afternoon, he was pretty excited about this new toy too. He scooped Nemo up, rolled him down the ramp to make the starfish sing, and then tucked him behind the open-and-close door. He greeted Bloat and gave him a spin. (The magic of Disney is strong in this house, I tell you.) Ethan watched, enchanted by all the toy could do, but behind the curious eyes I could see the wail building.

Luckily I was able to use the distraction ploy on Connor: the jumbo-sized bubble wrap the toy was packed in was immediately appealing and we avoided any loud complaints from Ethan.

As long as I keep the bubble wrap handy I think Ethan will have Nemo to himself.

morning

*****

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Disney. I received this toy and financial compensation in exchange for sharing it with you. Sharing the information, I mean. Not the toy. Because that’s Ethan’s. Oh, you know what I mean…

About the toy:

The Disney Baby Finding Nemo Amazing Animals Rollin’ Round Ramp is a fun play set for baby that features characters from Disney’s Finding Nemo, plus adorable tunes and SFX. The play set includes a brightly coloured Nemo character, complete with a fun roller-ball on his belly. The lively tunes & SFX are activated as Nemo slides down the ramp or as baby pushes the starfish button. The tote features an open/close door for put-and-take play, a roller-ball Bloat to bat at, and a seahorse slider. The richly detailed handle makes this play set perfect for play at home or on the go!

 

A Subscription to Beauty

I’ve seen a lot of beauty in my city in the couple of weeks since the floods in Calgary. Lots of giving, lots of helping, lots of love. It has reminded me that there is good in the world and that doing something for someone else—no matter what it is—is a beautiful thing.

I’ve been doing more of that with people I know lately. Whether answering a call for help or simply taking an opportunity to make someone’s day easier or nicer or more fun, it feels good to do it. And I’ve had some of that same Just Because stuff come my way too – a bunch of flowers from a friend, being treated to dinner, being taken out for coffee. It’s just nice.

I got something nice in the mail recently too.

Fair-ivy-box

“Can I send you something?” she asked. “I run a surprise-based company…”

Fair-ivy-packaging

I love surprises. Especially the pretty kind.

fair-ivy-gold-hammered-earrings1

Image credit: Fair Ivy

“My goal is to create beautiful things that will make someone smile a little bigger every time they touch it,” said the artist’s note inside.

I love that sentiment, and the concept of gifting surprises.

This week, these earrings are one thing that’s making me smile.

And they go nicely with my cowboy hat, don’t you think?

20130709-215602.jpg

A big thank you to Lucy from Fair Ivy for sending me this gift and introducing me to her service.

Fair Ivy is a surprise-based company that has just started shipping to Canada (hooray!). Their approach: To encourage people to see the value in buying “local” (as in not en masse from China). They send handmade jewelry items out monthly, each of which is a surprise made by an artist from the US or Canada.

I love giving gifts but I hate picking things out. It’s too much pressure. But setting someone up to get a monthly surprise in the mail is something that totally appeals to me. I can see doing this for a mom friend who might need a little beauty in her life.

Fair Ivy gift subscription options include jewelry (which I would totally consider buying for myself) and “original.” Think about this if you want to give someone a gift. Or a smile. Or a Just Because. The world needs more beauty.

Baby Food and Funny Faces

I’m totally turning into one of those moms who think her baby eating solid food is the cutest thing ever. And yes I’m going to share it with you, too. But trust me, it’s cute.

I was so sure Ethan was going to love solids because he was practically taking our forks from us at dinnertime before he started eating. But not so much. The faces he makes just kill me – I can imagine from looking at him what it must be like to taste some of these things for the first time. You’d think we were feeding him lemons or something.

baby making face

He’s got his act down – take a bite, make a face, swallow very carefully, shudder. Makes me laugh every time.

Oh here, you need to see it in action:

Okay, so he didn’t swallow that one. (Yeah, I know. That’s gross. Hey, you’re the one reading a mom blog.)

But seriously. That’s banana. What baby doesn’t like banana?!

The only thing Connor didn’t like at first was carrot. He quite adamantly refused to eat any, but with everything else he was quite happy to gobble it up. Based on Ethan’s reaction to everything else I wasn’t very optimistic that carrot would be especially well-received, but it was actually the first thing we fed him that he loved. He liked carrots better than pear! Weird baby.

Since we started him on carrots he’s been much more enthusiastic about eating in general. See?

baby with mouth open wide

He sits there like a little baby bird with his mouth wide open, and if we don’t spoon it in there fast enough he complains.

Have I mentioned this kid cracks me up? Just wait until we try to get him to eat meat.

***

Disclosure: This delightful post was brought to you by Natrel Baboo. I am part of the Natrel Baboo Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog (and disgusting videos of my kid eating mushed up banana) are my own.

Incidentally, you can get a coupon to try Natrel Baboo through the link below. Baboo is a dairy product made with fresh milk specially designed to ensure a smooth transition from breast milk or infant formula to regular milk for toddlers aged 12-24 months.

 

NatrelBabooSponsorBanner