Teaching My Kid to Light Stuff on Fire

I just got back from Australia, so last night Hank and I were reading about how Koalas don’t drink much water.

Hank: “That’s because the leaves they eat have water. Most animals in dry places get their water from their food.”
Me: “… I did not know that.”
Hank: “Do you know that the human head weighs eight pounds?”

Ah, I kid about that last bit. Speaking of which, the Jerry Maguire little boy went all Anthony Michael Hall, amirite? Also, if you know what I’m talking about, that link will make you feel decrepit. I’ll just go find my movie glasses while you see if Viva Las Vegas is playing on AMC.

Anyway, Hank has been poring over science books and begging to film an experiment “show” since he was about four. Two years later, I finally figured teaching other kids about science would be a good way to remember vocabulary and concepts himself, durr, so we filmed a couple. We read about how everything works beforehand, and I had him explain it back to me, so he could narrate the video.

I know so much about convection now. Gentlemen.

I posted a couple videos on Go Mighty:

Keep it Clean: Hank’s Expanding Soap Experiment

This Earl is on Fire: Hank’s Tea Bag Rocket Experiment

Holy crap. Did you have any idea Ivory soap and tea bags did this stuff? GAH! Particularly the tea bags. If you let me enter your home, I will now demand that you let me light a teabag on fire. I need you to see.

We’re doing three more experiment videos, so if you have any cool ones to recommend using household items, let me know.

And if you already knew about the soap? Why didn’t any of you tell me? I can hardly look at you.

This post is part of the Too Small to Fail initiative sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation, whom I like very much. They’re trying to close the Word Gap by encouraging all of us to take small steps to improve kids’ chances in school — like talking to and making lots of eye contact with pre-verbal babies, and increasing one on one time with kiddos. More info here.

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6 thoughts on “Teaching My Kid to Light Stuff on Fire

  1. Everyone knows about baking soda and vinegar volcanos, but I prefer baking soda and vinegar rockets. You will need a film canister- I know they are getting harder to find, but if you go to a camera shop that develops film, they will often have left over ones they would normally throw in the rubbish. Pour some vinegar into the canister (about a quarter to a half) and place a teaspoon of baking soda on the lid. Next, quickly snap the lid on, and place the canister on the ground, lid side down. Do this quickly, before the reaction has time to expand too much, and the canister will shoot into the air to release the pressure. Best performed outside.

    Another great one is cabbage juice acid/ base indicators. You can find more detailed instructions at Steve Spangler science, but basically, cut a red cabbage finely and cover in water. Boil until the cabbage is soggy. Drain the cabbage, keeping the purple liquid, trash the cabbage. This liquid will change colour when it comes into contact with acids and bases. Acids make it turn pink and red, bases make it turn blue, green and yellow for an extreme reaction, but Hank will probably not see a yellow reaction, as kids should not handle lye and the like. This is easiest when testing liquids, using a eye dropper to add cabbage juice to small containers of “test material”. Acids include lemon juice, vinegar and cream of tartar dissolved in water. Bases include baking soda dissolved in water, laundry or dish soap dissolved in water and antacid tablets dissolved in water. Also fun is to allow children to pick any other liquids they would like to test- science is a about testing, and seeing results. A null result is still a result.

    (I spent summers during university working at science camp, and now I’m a preschool teacher.)


  2. Oh, and liquid layers is fun too! You can learn about density, and layer water, oil and corn syrup in a class, the three liquids stay separate.


  3. Awesome! I did a ton of experiments with my son this summer, just for fun. You have to try standing on a dozen eggs! He will freak out! It’s so cool. Also.. Have you lit dry leaves on fire using the sun and a magnifying glass? My son delights in teaching new neigh kids this tricks. Yay science and moms for the win!


  4. I recall a drunken evening spent with a milk bottle, matches and hard boiled eggs.
    We (multiple drunkards) dropped a lit match into the bottle, put a hard boiled egg on the opening and watched the egg get sucked into the bottle.
    To great hysterics of course.


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