Category Archives: Science

Magic Science Kit – Review

On Tuesday afternoon our friends from 3 Kids and a Gluestick came to our house to test the Science kits we had been given at the Junior Scholars event on Saturday.

magic science kit 1

The kit we chose was Magic Science, because the children love pretending to do Magic shows, and any practical Science activities are always popular, so it was the perfect combination.

magic science kit 2

The full price of the kit is £12.99, and it is currently on sale on the Junior Scholars website for £11.99.  The kit includes ten activities, so I think that is very good value for money.

magic science kit 3

The kit contains a detailed and informative leaflet, with advice for supervising adults, safety rules and information, a history of wizards and clear instructions for completing each of the activities.  The history of wizards feels a bit random among the practical information, but it is quite good fun!

magic science kit 4

Once the safety goggles had been thoroughly tested and modelled by several of the children, we got started on making our shimmering purple magic wand!

First we dropped a blue colour tablet into a test tube of water, then we added a red colour tablet to make the water turn purple.

magic science kit 5

Next, we put in a teaspoon of polyacrylamide, and at that point we had to wait for an hour for the crystals to soak up all the purple water.

magic science kit 6

In the meantime, we started on another activity called Fizzing Frenzy.  First we mixed citric acid and bicarbonate of soda in a test tube, and then we poured water in.  As you can see from the video, the children were suitably impressed!

Later, when the purple crystals were ready we played with them for a bit and then used them to fill the wand tube.

magic science kit 7

We have had many Science kits over the years, and I would recommend this one as it is particularly good value for money.  It has plenty of activities, a large number of items included and very clear instructions.  There is also an explanation of the Science behind each activity.  Thank you, Junior Scholars, it’s a great success!

We were given the kit for free by Junior Scholars.  All opinions are our own.

Poo! What IS That Smell? – Review

We’ve been sent another great book to review by Macmillan – Poo! What is that Smell, written by Glenn Murphy and illustrated by Laura Murphy.  In fact, I’ll be honest, we were sent it a little while ago.  We started reading it, then lost it, then found it just as I was starting to panic and think I would have to get on and buy myself another copy.  Anyway, after that false start we are loving it.  The title is perfect for catching children’s attention, and the book doesn’t disappoint.  It is full of really detailed Scientific information, but very readable and entertaining.

Poo! What is that smell

The book has a chapter on each of the five senses, and so far we have been reading the first chapter which is about Sight.  I asked the children to recall one fact that they had found interesting from the chapter and draw a picture.  Owl and Monkey both chose to illustrate the reason why zebras have black-and-white stripes.  “It’s so they can hide among each other.  A herd of stripey zebras presents a confusing optical illusion to lions and hyenas.  The stripes disguise the outline of each animal in the herd, making it hard to tell where one zebra ends and another one begins, or which way they might be facing.  This makes it especially difficult for their predators to select a target, let alone predict which way they might run once the chase begins.”

Animal drawing 1

Don’t ask me why there are rabbits flying overhead, and animals holding up umbrellas to protect themselves from their droppings.  All I can say is that the boys found it very amusing, and I hope it helps them to remember this Science fact!

animal drawing 2

Rabbit was interested in the fact that some animals can see different colours, or types of light, because they have more types of cone cells in their eyes.  “Many birds, for example, can see ultraviolet (UV) light.  This lets them see patterns of light on flowers, trees and grassy hillsides that are invisible to humans.  Snakes, meanwhile, have extra cone cells that can detect invisible, infrared (IR) light given off by warm objects.  With this special, snakey , super-vision, a pit viper can pick out the warm body of a quivering mouse in complete darkness.  Good news for the snake; bad news for mousey…”

animal drawing 3

I am really enjoying reading this book to the children, and I’m learning a lot too!

We were sent the book free of charge for the purpose of this review.

The Big Bang Science Fair

This post is written by Owl.

On Friday 15th March we (mummy, Monkey, Rabbit and I ) went to the Big Bang Science Fair at the Excel Centre in London.  We went on four trains to get there, and waited for our Home Education Group friends to arrive.  Then we went and watched a Strange Science show with lots of good experiments.  These are a few of them:

  1. The man presenting the show placed a glass funnel in a large jug of oil, and put his finger in the narrow end of the funnel to keep the air inside.  We could see the funnel clearly.  Then he took his finger out and the funnel became invisible.  It was still there but we couldn’t see it because there was no air trapped inside and it filled up with oil.  The reason we couldn’t see it was that oil and glass have the same refractive index, while air is different, so the path of the light going through the oil does not change when it hits the glass, but it changes when it reaches the trapped air.  The man demonstrated this by shining a laser on it, to show how the path of the light bends when there is air in the funnel, but it is straight when there is no air.
  2. The man passed a low level of electricity through three volunteers from the audience.  It didn’t hurt them but was enough to play some music.  One person on the end of the line held a wire connected to a laptop which was playing music, another stood in the middle of the line, and the one at the other end held a wire connected to a speaker.  When their fingers were touching the music played, and when they separated it stopped.
  3. Finally the man touched two plasma balls at once with one hand and held a fluorescent tube light with the other.  The electricity passed through his body and the bulb lit up.  He said it hurt a bit so he didn’t ask for volunteers this time.

After the show, we had lunch and met up with some of our friends.  Then we explored the exhibition, which had so many stands but we could only look at a few.  These were some of the best ones:

  1. There was a stand about drugs, and I helped to do an experiment about caffeine.  I had to use a dropper to pick some daphnia out of a jar of water and place them on a slide under a video microscope.  We could see a heart beating on the screen and I had to count the number of heartbeats in 15 seconds and then multiply by 4 to calculate the number of beats per minute.  We then added some caffeine and counted again, and the heart rate was higher.
  2. On another stand there was a presentation about what happens when someone is in a car accident.  There was a dummy the size of a man, and some air was pumped into his chest to make it look like he was breathing.  There was lots of fake blood.  Some volunteers put bandages on him, and we discussed ways of making him comfortable.  I helped to put a mask on his face so he could have gas and air.  They said he would have to go the hospital for further treatment.
  3. Then I talked to a man about the landscape of Mars and he showed me some pictures of features of Mars to compare with similar features on Earth.  There were craters, volcanoes, plains and river beds that would once have been filled with water.

After that the little ones were tired so we went home.  I hope we can go again next year.

Snow and Ice

Yes, I know it was a long time ago… I was hoping to get away with it by waiting for it to snow again, and then sneaking this blogpost in so it wouldn’t look out of place, but that doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.  So, I’m just going to publish it now anyway.  This is what we did when it snowed!

We found ice in the garden, brought it into the house and investigated it.  We discovered a beetle frozen in a block of ice, and melted the ice to get the beetle out.

Ice 1 Ice 2

We touched the ice to see what it felt like and looked at the different shaped pieces.  The circle of ice came from inside a bucket.  We found different ways to melt the ice, leaving it at room temperature, using the heat of our hands, placing it in cold, warm or hot water, and putting salt on it.  Salt was really good for breaking a thick piece of ice quickly.  We put a line of salt across the middle and that weakened it enough so we could break it with our hands.

Ice 3 Ice 4

We experimented with a variety of tools to break the ice.  The hammer was the most fun!

Ice 5 Ice 6

We played in the garden.  We made snow angels, threw snowballs, made a snowman and pulled each other on the sledge.

Snow 1 Snowman

Some of us couldn’t resist eating the ice and snow from the garden, so we made some Lego ice cubes with clean water to play with and eat!

Ice cubes 1 Ice cubes 2

Stargazing Live

Stargazing 2 Stargazing 3

This post is written by Owl.

On Saturday 12th January, we went to Oxford.  We had lunch in Cafe Rouge, and then we went to Stargazing Live in the Physics Department of Oxford University.  When we went in, we were given a card with a picture and some information on it, and there were 19 cards to collect at the different sections of the exhibition.  Then we went to the Hands-On room and daddy pointed out a robot which was on a wooden table with a galaxy projected onto it.  When I looked more closely, I realised it was a Lego Mindstorms robot, controlled by a computer.  I had to use the arrow keys to move the robot over the galaxy, and when it was in the right position it projected a star into one of the holes in the raised edge of the table.  Next we tried an activity where you had to move coins around on a piece of paper, and they showed up on a computer screen which was divided into two parts.  On one half you could see your coins, and on the other half a picture of a galaxy based on the position of the coins.

Then we went to the Science cafe to build a virtual Lego universe, which was our favourite activity last year.  You use different coloured bricks to represent quarks.  Yellow bricks are up quarks and red bricks are down quarks.  I put some red and yellow bricks together to make neutrons and protons.  Then I put two neutrons and two protons together in a square shape to make Helium 4.  Monkey and I built towers which were stacks of Helium 4.

The Lego activity took quite a long time and the little ones were getting restless, so we took a break.  We went down to the Astro Crafts room and made spectrometers out of cereal boxes and CDs, and a model of a planetarium which showed the distance of each planet from the sun.  After that, we returned to the Science cafe to finish the Lego towers.  We also watched a demonstration of how to make a meteor, and I crushed some dry ice (made from Carbon Dioxide) with a hammer.  We ended the afternoon with some sandwiches, chocolate cake and juice for supper, before setting off on the journey home.

Autumn art, volcanoes and more Fimo

I took Owl out for a hot chocolate at the deli yesterday morning, and then to his favourite local shop which sells stationery and toys.  (He used to call it the teeny tiny toy shop until he found out it already had a name!)  He enjoyed telling me all about Lego Ninjago while we were in the deli, and said he might write a book about it, explaining all the characters and themes.  In the shop he then showed me all the Lego kits he and Monkey might possibly like for Christmas, but I was pleased he didn’t asked me to buy any.  He did ask for the Horrible Science Violent Volcano kit, and I bought it mainly because we are learning about Rocks and Volcanoes, and I was intending to make a volcano this week.  I could have done it without the kit, but it would have taken longer!

In the afternoon, we went to our friends’ house for home education group.  The children had fun playing indoors and out, with cars, Lego and a football, and a little bit of pond dipping as well.  They were also offered two lovely Autumn art activities, which Rabbit and Tiddler decided to do.  Rabbit made a tree collage, and then made another one for Tiddler when he changed his mind about doing it, and they both made handprint hedgehogs.

In the evening, Monkey went to Beavers and made a candle holder out of clay.  Owl and I went to collect him and they spent 20p on some random bits of Lego at a fundraising stall which made them both very happy.

Last night, Tiddler woke several times in the night crying, and it seems that his cold has now got worse again.  So we gave his swimming lesson a miss this morning, and had a quiet time at home.  He played quite happily, after a dose of Calpol, and the others did some Maths and English.  I took Rabbit out for a hot chocolate, and to buy some magazines and sweets in the newsagent (the most exciting thing she could think of to do) and then to her swimming lesson.  In the afternoon, after some music practice, we got out the volcano kit.  It was a great success, but Tiddler wandered off and missed it the first time so we did it twice.


After that we had another go at Fimo, this time the Create Your Own Space Set.

Following some expert advice involving cocktail sticks and cardboard tubes, the boys managed to produce a rocket that didn’t flop, and Rabbit made a rather lovely star.


After that, we did some Bible Reading snuggled up on the sofa. Later on, all the big three did Conquer Maths, and then Rabbit did a bit of her knitting while Owl went off for a treasure hunt in the park with Cubs.  Looking back over the last two days, it is very clear to see the benefits of having Supergirl here with us.  We have done so much with so little stress and it has all been lovely and calm.  I am feeling very lucky and thankful!

More pond dipping…can’t get enough of it

Today we went pond dipping again, this time as part of a larger group of home educators.  It was a 40 minute journey which I found quite stressful as I was tired after a sleepless night, but it was a very successful day and well worth the effort.  To call it pond dipping is an understatement, as it was not a pond but a large lake in a beautiful park which I would love to explore more of in the future – especially when I am not on my own with all four children!  I was a little on edge to start with as I arrived to find the buggy was not in fact in the back of the car, and after Tiddler’s interpretation of pond dipping last time being “dip yourself in the pond” I would have preferred not to have him on the loose all the time.  However, he was very sensible this time and did pretty much what he was told, so he had a good opportunity to catch a few “wiggly fings” (as he joyfully shouted at regular intervals!)

The other three enjoyed having a lot of independence as I couldn’t leave Tiddler for a second, and they all caught some interesting creatures.  At the very last minute, Owl caught a dragonfly nymph skin which is causing great excitement as he has been allowed to bring it home.  I’m not sure I can remember everything but among other things we found water boatmen, leeches, bloodworms, pond snails, water scorpions, newt tadpoles, water hog lice, water spiders, some tiny fish, and larvae of various insects (mosquito and mayfly among others.)  We also saw some damselflies and heard a very noisy marsh frog

We were able to examine our finds more closely back in the classroom, and we looked at a couple of tiny ones using a video microscope which was a wonderful experience.  The children were amazed to see so much detail on the screen and then to look at the creatures themselves which were just tiny dots you could barely see.  We looked at a ramshorn snail and a water flea, and could see their hearts beating.  Then we looked at the dragonfly nymph skin and could even see tiny creatures crawling over its eye.

After the session finished we had our lunch in the outdoor picnic area and the children played for a while, and then we headed back to the carpark, seeing some rabbits on the way.  It started to rain just as we were leaving, and the journey back took much longer than it should as I got lost, mainly because I was so tired.  I feel thoroughly exhausted now but also that good feeling of having learnt stuff, had lots of fresh air and a successful day out with the children.


Dragonfly nymph skin

Ecology Centre visit

On Wednesday afternoon we went to the local Ecology Centre with our Home Ed group.  Owl was in London with Granny and Grandpa, so I only had the younger three children with me.  However many children you have, it always feels a little easier with one less person to organise to get out of the house, although there were moments when I could have done with my biggest helper.  Anyway, we gathered an assortment of fishing nets, buckets, pond life and butterfly identification books, raincoats… and suncream as an afterthought.  We also took our butterflies as we had decided to show them to the group before releasing them in the grounds of the Ecology Centre, which is a perfect butterfly habitat.

We took about 25 minutes to walk there and we met up with the others at the pond.  All the children were very keen to start fishing, and were generally good about sharing nets and were being quite sensible.  To begin with Tiddler was in his buggy, but of course that didn’t last as he was determined to get out and join in.  So I let him, and the consequence was that within 5 minutes, he had fallen in the pond!  Luckily I was holding on to the handle on the back of his Little Life backpack (highly recommended) so I was able to haul him out straight away.  No harm done, but even though he had been in the water for barely a second he was of course thoroughly soaked from head to toe (vest, nappy, trousers, socks and boots completely unusable for the rest of the afternoon) and covered in pond weed.  He was a little bewildered but not too upset.  Now, if this had happened to my first baby, I would of course have had an enormous change bag full of alternative outfits, but he is my fourth.  So he was carrying his own spare nappies in the aforementioned backpack, and that was it.  Luckily the nappies hadn’t got wet, and the sun came out so we made do with a quick clean up, an application of suncream which I hadn’t expected to need and a clean dry nappy.  He ran around very happily in the sunshine for the rest of the afternoon, although his feet did get a bit scratched.

The children had a lovely time fishing, exploring and bug hunting.  We had some amazing close encounters with pond skaters, sticklebacks, pond snails, a leech, newts, frogs, toads, a slow worm, a moorhen and chick, dragonflies and damselflies… and we released our butterflies, who were not at all in a hurry to leave us, so we got a really close look at them. My highlight of the afternoon was watching one of the butterflies sipping nectar from clover, seeing the proboscis uncurled so close up was amazing. I have to admit that the sight of Tiddler covered in pond weed came a close second (bad mummy!)


I am too tired to write a lot tonight, but I just wanted to share one of the most wonderful projects we have done for a while.  I am very grateful to the kind aunt and uncle who gave us an Insect Lore Butterfly Garden for Christmas (the one before last) and just sorry it took us so long to get round to redeeming the voucher.  We are now hooked and will have to do this every year!

The caterpillars were tiny when they arrived, but grew amazingly quickly.  Then they attached themselves to the top of the cup, formed a J shape and transformed into cocoons.  We nervously transferred them to the pop-up habitat (well alright, Suburban dad had the honour…) and worried over the cocoon that fell down during the process.  But nature is amazing, and after the trailblazer butterfly emerged on Sunday, within 24 hours the remaining four butterflies made it as well.  The children have loved watching them and the big three have drawn them.  Tiddler has been taking it all in too, and if he sees a picture of a butterfly he says “Tatdillar cocoon butter-ly!”

Science and milkshakes

Today Monkey decided he wanted to learn about how bees make honey, so we read together quite a lot of the information about it from The Usborne Pocket Scientist – the Blue Book.  There’s more to read, but so far we have found out about different types of bees, the anatomy of a honeybee, beehives and beekeepers, pollination, how bees make honey and different kinds of honey.

After reading the book, Monkey wanted to try out one of the suggested activities which was making honey milkshake.  So he and Owl and Rabbit made it together and it was a great success.  Even Tiddler sliced his own banana.  It’s a nice simple activity, suitable for all ages – with or without the scientific learning about honey!

Honey milkshake

Blend together a cupful of milk, a scoop of ice-cream and two teaspoons of honey.  Pour into a glass and top with banana slices (though as Owl pointed out, the banana slices sink so it’s not exactly a topping.  Leads neatly on to the next science lesson…)

Thanks to Usborne Books for the idea.  Obviously it’s a pretty simple “recipe” and there could be endless variations.  Anyway, it was a fun activity to go with the topic, and I’m sure we will be making it again soon.  Whether our hands-on learning will go as far as keeping bees in the back garden, I don’t know.  I think the idea appeals to Suburban Dad but I’m not so sure!