Archive for the ‘3 year old’ Category

On Raspberries and “Failure”

I have a black thumb. Although I like planting things, maintaining the order in the garden, and harvesting the strawberries the squirrels haven’t eaten, I’m just not very good at remembering which things need pruning (and when), the types of soil and light that are best, and the over-wintering care, despite a large 3-ring binder of notes.

The over-zealous raspberry bush, which was only a 2-leaf stick last fall, is now a massive, creeping bundle of canes. So, when I pulled out some of the running shoots, I figured we could try to grow them indoors in a cup of water. Z (age 3.5) was pretty stoked to try an experiment with plants! I poked about 7 shoots through some plastic wrap (for vertical support), and left a hole open for watering.

The cup sat undisturbed on the window ledge. I figured that a couple shoots would sprout roots, and then Z and I could then plant them somewhere else in the garden. He was pretty excited for the first couple of days, but then quickly lost interest as the plants did virtually nothing. Imagine our surprise when about three weeks later, they looked like this:

Apparently, growing raspberry plants in this manner doesn’t work. Z said that our experiment failed. Also, he thought the filmy, moldy stems were pretty gross (okay, he’s right on that part).

But failure is a tricky word. For both Z and my students, I try to instill the idea that the experiment may not have worked in the way expected, but that’s not where to stop: there is still some kind of result to learn from. Clearly, raspberry plants aren’t propagated in the manner I used. Instead, I’d probably do much better by reading any outside information before trying again. Similarly, unexpected lab results in school shouldn’t be regarded as failures, but a need to explain how the results came to be. Clearly, from skimming those links about growing plant cuttings, I did just about everything wrong, starting with not-cutting the stalks.

It was strangely difficult to talk to a 3-year-old about something that he didn’t expect. The growing raspberry plants of his visions didn’t appear, and he dismissed my attempts to change his words of “failure” to “yay growing mold”. I guess mold isn’t on his success list.

Sick Day (With Yeast!)

What do you do while stuck at home with a sick three-year-old? Bake bread! Well, okay, I did the baking, but Z requested a science experiment. Who am I to pass that by?

Because he so loved the baking soda and vinegar stuff, I gave Z some yeast, water, sugar, a funnel, cups, and balloons. First, we took a look at what yeast does with cold, warm, and hot water. IMG_0833

Then, he (mostly carefully) scooped some yeast and sugar into balloons, and added different temperatures of water to each. Check this out! The green balloon is cold, pink is warm, red is hot. In Z’s words, pink wins! Yeast must like warm water. (The blue balloon is a whole bunch of everything.)

This was more interesting to me. About two hours later:
Green and pink are now basically the same size. The red (hot water) balloon must have killed a lot of the yeast.

Baby’s First Experiment

This is the first time I’ve tried an “organized” experiment with Z, rather than noticing some happenstance thing. Z is 3 years old (hence the quotes around “organized”), and received this little “experiment set” for his birthday, so what better to do with it than to mix some vinegar and baking soda.

The initial bubbles were pretty fun, but afterward was more interesting for me.


Me: It stopped bubbling! How can you make it bubble again?
Z: More vinegar!
experiment bubbles
Me: It stopped again. How can you make it bubble again?
Z: More vinegar!!
nothing happens
Me: Huh. That didn’t do much. What else can you do?
Z: More baking soda!
bubbles over the top

Then, it kinda turned into a free-for-all (a.k.a., what any three-year-old does, as well as good experimenters). He started pouring everything together.



Z: I need more baking soda!
Me: How do you know?
Z: It stopped again.
nothing happens
Me: Now what?
Z: More vinegar!

The test tubes are full of water, post-iterations.
Me: Let me pour some liquid off. This is called “decanting”.
Z: Decanting? Okay.
Me: See all of the stuff at the bottom? Does it look more like vinegar or more like baking soda?
Z: Baking soda!
Me: So what should you add to it?
Z: Vinegar!
Me: Why?
Z: I dunno!
bubble bubble

Why this is cool: Z is trying (a very limited number of) reactions on his own. He knows that both baking soda and vinegar are needed to make, but couldn’t (or wouldn’t) verbalize it for me. The next day, I brought out baking soda and baking powder (and vinegar and water), but he really just wanted to pour everything together again rather than stop and compare. He did, however, leave the baking powder alone, once he saw that it made fewer bubbles than baking soda, meaning he’s taking some mental notes about getting more of what he wants.

I did, however, forget to have him say, “sodium bicarbonate” and “acetic acid”. What kind of a chemist am I?


My son (Z, who is 3 years old), got a little flashlight as a birthday party favor. “Look, Mama! Little!”

“Cool! Can you make the light big?”

“Neat! Can you make it little again?” Z repeated this a few times before getting bored. The next day, he asked for the flashlight again. I suggested something new. “Can you make a small light on the wall?”

“Yup, that works. Can you make a big light on the ceiling?” He was pretty good about appeasing me. I tried to get him to say what exactly he was doing along with his actions, but wasn’t successful. Producing a small light on the ceiling just made him giggle.

Doing science doesn’t have to be complicated, with the whole scientific method and so on. Try something, and try something else. And then try a variation or two. Adam Savage says:

Guess I’ll do the writing for Z for a little while.