Every once in a while, I sit in front of the computer with the boys, and surf Youtube for things that they are interested in.
Athos was reading a book about carnivorous plants so we found a clip showing a Venus Flytrap eating a bug (dastardly deed happens around 1:20). Both Athos and Porthos like using Jenga blocks to build a domino rally so we found some great clips of those, including one fantastic clip of three Japanese guys who use everything from CDs and videocassettes, to books and soap!
But by far the boys’ favourite is The Incredible Machine, a compilation of Rube Goldberg-inspired contraptions which are utterly useless and thoroughly creative
I’ve lost count of the number of times they’ve watched this (sometimes two or three times in a row). And each time leaves them wanting to try building one. So we’ve used marbles and ping pong balls, books, Jenga blocks, toilet rolls and every conceivable household object we can get our hands on. It makes a great mess in the living room and we don’t always get great results, but it’s a whole lot of fun!
On Sunday, while Athos was absorbed in NLB’s Tumblebooks and Aramis was having a nap, I had some rare one-on-one time with Porthos. I asked him what he wanted to do, and he said, “Let’s make a volcano.”
This is another inexpensive activity that the kids enjoy very much, though admittedly a little wasteful. Many websites explain how to build a volcano out of clay/soil/papier mache, then concoct a vinegar solution before adding in the powder. Given how quickly the experiment goes, I don’t find this a particularly good use of time, especially with impatient younger kids, so the process I describe is a whole lot simpler.
I use a large bowl, and put a small glass bottle in it – we have a saltshaker that works well. The smaller the better so you don’t use up too much vinegar at a go.
- Fill the bottle with vinegar. The cheapest option is artificial vinegar – Tai Hua brand costs $1.20 a bottle at NTUC.
- Add a few drops of food colouring for effect. Red or orange work best.
- Spoon in a bit of bicarbonate of soda, also available at NTUC for about $1.
Beyond the cool visual effect, you can also explain a couple of scientific points simply. First, mixing the two compounds releases carbon dioxide. That is what causes the ‘eruption’ and the bubbling over. Second, you can let the kids put their finger in the vinegar before and after the experiment. The vinegar will feel much cooler to the touch. That’s because the reaction needs energy to happen, and it take up heat from the vinegar. Also known as an endothermic reaction.
Speaking of endothermic, I’m finding that both Athos and Porthos love long words (current favourites include “momentum” and “paleontologist”). They may not be able to say it right nor understand precisely what the words means. But I think they just find it cool, the same way anything that is Really Big or Very Gross is cool.
One of my favourite recent discoveries is this website – online Boggle played against people from all over the world. I love word games of all kinds, including Boggle. But this just takes it to a whole new level. First, you can play Boggle just as you would in your living room. But there is the added thrill after the round ends of seeing how well you scored against other players, what words you missed, and even links to what these words mean! All done automatically without having to shake a Boggle box, turn an hourglass, or tally up scores manually. You can play as a team, or even create several teams and play against each other.
The game is loads of fun, but hugely addictive. Just as well the boys are still too young for this game! In the meantime, Pilgrim Mom is practicing. (And practicing, and practicing, and practicing….)
I just received an email alert from the Singapore Science Centre – Prof Bob Friedhoffer the “Science Magician” from the USA will be entertaining kids with science- and math-based magic tricks. Details as follows:
Event: The Professor and His Sensational Science Magic Show
Date: 29 Nov – 3 Dec
Time: 12pm, 3pm, 4:30pm
Venue: Maxwell Auditorium, Singapore Science Centre
Age: 6 and above
It looks like the usual admission charges apply. Check it out!
A few weeks ago, Athos was singing a song from Veggie Tales about God being bigger than the bogeyman. Porthos says, “No He’s not.”
Pilgrim Mom: Yes He is.
Porthos: No He’s not.
Pilgrim Mom: Yes He is. He’s bigger than you and Kor Kor and me and everybody.
Porthos: No He’s not. Because He lives in my heart. Right?
Now how does one respond to that!!
Today I was listening to someone talk about creativity, and I was reminded of something Athos said when he was a mere tike of three. We were having lunch somewhere, and he was served a plate of chicken rice. The rice came in a perfect bowl-shaped mound, and Athos took one look at it and said, “Esplanade!”
I was so tickled I couldn’t stop telling people for days….
I was thinking today about some of the things that Athos has said (or came near to saying) that very nearly gave me a heart attack:
- Getting in the lift with a very large Caucasian gentleman, Athos asks, “Mummy, why is this man so fat?”
- Pilgrim Dad is talking to his Indian friend. Athos strides in, looks at the friend and wonders out loud, “Why is he so black?”
- At a mall, we are served by a sales staff with a severe case of acne. Athos’ eyes widen, he points, and is just about to say something when I catch his eye and give him a stern look. He gets the message and comes close to me and whispers, “That boy has measles!”
Three episodes, one dilemma. Part of me needs to teach him to communicate according to social norms. But another part of me just wants to hug him and savour every moment of that sweet childlike innocence, when political correctness is alien, and a question is simply a question.