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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

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7 STEM Books for Kids

Are you looking for STEM books that encourage and inspire STEM learning and play? My son is *extremely* picky about what books he is willing to read, and I sometimes struggle finding books that we both love. 

The books in this little collection are gold. Hands down. My son is willing (and even excited!) to look at and read them, and I absolutely love them. Every one of them! I have already been recommending them to friends, so I figured I should put them all on one page, and share them with you!

Disclosure: We were provided review copies of many of these books, but I love them so much I decided to write this article too! Like everything else, I only recommend things I absolutely adore!

These books all meet all three of the following criteria:

1- Encourage STEM thinking: My kids want to experiment, tinker, explore, build, and create after we read them.

2- My kids enjoy them. This is incredibly important because if they don't want to read them, it doesn't matter how much they support STEM concepts. On the other hand, since ALL of my kids enjoy them, they are motivated and inspired by them too. My kids are 0-11 years old.

3- I love them. These 7 books are books that I am happy to open up and read to my kids over and over and over and...  Yeah, you know what I mean.  ;)  I have also used these books in community classes I've taught and and preschool co-ops.

So, what are they?! Here you go (in no particular order)...

STEM Books:

(images are Amazon affiliate links)

1- Zoey & Sassafras Unicorns & Germs: 

I adore this book soooo much! It is the first chapter book my son read from cover to cover by himself. It reviews the scientific method in action, teaches science reasoning, and introduces a gigantic unicorn. It also made my kids want to make yogurt from scratch and grow bacteria in petri dishes. Yep. True story! If you're lucky, I'll have time to write up how those projects went! The book's reading level is around 2nd grade, but my preschoolers were happy to listen to it as a read-aloud. My 11-year old read it on her own in about an hour.

2- Genius LEGO Inventions With Bricks You Already Have

This book is incredible. It is a step-by-step guide to making robots, moving toys, gadgets, games, and loads of other really cool LEGO creations (like a fully functional crane or a drummer that actually drums)! My kids followed some of the instructions and then were inspired to come up with their own projects too! I will admit that we did not actually have all the pieces needed for all the projects...but that wasn't hard to fix! The 40 creations are divided into 5 chapters: Marvelous Moving Robots, Terrific Mechanical Toys, Curious Contraptions, Invent and Imagine, and Construct and Compete Buildable Games. This book and a bucket of LEGO keeps my kids busy for more than an hour. Not even exaggerating.

3- The Girl With a Mind for Math: The Story of Raye Montague

This is another book that I am so in love with, mostly because it champions causes that have been dear to me for many years (racism and sexism in science) while simply celebrating someone who dared to defy the status quo of her time. I will admit that it did not make my kids love math, but it did spark a boat and submarine obsession that lasted several weeks. My kids were designing ships out of everything from aluminum foil and paper to clay and water bottle lids!

4- The Most Magnificent Thing

This book is perfect for preschoolers, but it also appeals to older kids who have ideas that don't always work out exactly the way they imagine the first time. I really love the emotions on the main character's face as she works through the design process over and over and over...and still doesn't get it right! I think every child and adult who has wanted to quit because they were getting tired of tweaking their design will relate to the main character and see themselves in her story. 

5- Vroom Vroom Garbage Truck

STEM for preschoolers and toddlers looks a lot different than it does for older kids. This book may not seem like a STEM book at first glance, but it has motivated inquiry-based exploration in my younger kids for three months straight. They are also slightly obsessed with garbage trucks now! Since this book arrived my girls have wanted to learn about garbage trucks, design their own garbage trucks and trash cans, learn about recycling, and find as many ways to make the sounds in the book as possible! (How many ways can you make a "click" sound? Let me tell you...there are a lot!) I also made a garbage truck sensory bin that was a huge hit.  (Did I mention they bring this book to me about 5 times a day??) And, just in case you wonder, my infant also loves this book!

6- Iggy Peck, Architect

This kid loves to build so much, that you will want to stop reading in the middle of it, pull out of a set of craft sticks, and let your own kids get to work! Seriously, though, his love for building is outrageous and contagious! And it makes a wonderful read-aloud for all ages!

7- Awesome Dawson

This is another one that you read with your kids and they immediately want to go build things...this time, with supplies from the recycle bin! (which I am happy to encourage!) My kids also appreciate how he feels about chores and the fact that he is, indeed, a superhero!

Do you have favorite STEM book? I always love new ideas! Feel free to email me or leave a comment!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

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Friday, November 9, 2018

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Thanksgiving Science Experiment: Turkey Toothpaste!

About seven years ago one of my favorite chemistry recipes made "elephant toothpaste" a household phrase. Today, I'm sharing a fun turkey twist you can do with it for a Thanksgiving science experiment: Turkey Toothpaste!

These turkey feathers are seriously the best you have ever seen! They just keep coming and coming and coming!

You can make them any color you have handy!!

Safety Notes:
1- This is meant to be a demonstration performed by an adult.
2- Even though "toothpaste" is in the name, do NOT actually put it in anyone's mouth!
3- Hydrogen peroxide can irritate skin, especially if you have sensitive skin. You can see that it doesn't bother me in the video, but if you are at all concerned, just wear gloves.
4- Hydrogen peroxide will burn your eyes. Wear protective goggles, and have any children within the splash zone wear goggles also.

And now...

Thanksgiving Science Experiment:

Turkey Toothpaste


for the "turkey" set-up:
2 water bottles
food coloring
sharp scissors or knife
duct tape (actually, I used gorilla tape!)
turkey head & body
pan to catch the mess
optional: parchment paper on the pan

for the flowing feathers:
1 heaping tablespoon yeast
4 tablespoons warm water
12% hydrogen peroxide
liquid dishsoap
food coloring

How To:

1- Set up your turkey: Cut the top of one water bottle off, cut a slit in the other bottle, and tape the top the bottle, as shown in the picture below and the video. Use tape to make a strong seal around your new nozzle. This is super important--you don't want feathers escaping out the nozzle!

Finally, fit as many straws as you can into the bottle's top opening and seal them in with tape.

2- Prepare your yeast by setting it in warm water and letting it grow for about five minutes.

3- Pour 3/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide into the turkey. Add a big squirt of soap and swirl them together.

4- Make sure your lid is handy!

5- Quickly add your growing yeast/water AND put the lid on tightly. See the video for timing! Then step back and enjoy your festive little turkey!!

Are you looking for more Thanksgiving science activities? Check out how we grew Indian Corn, made "turkey" feather slime, and tried a turkey "feathers" STEM project!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

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Friday, November 2, 2018

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Preschool Christmas Sensory Activity & Science Experiment

This preschool Christmas sensory activity is bright, colorful, and full of alluring sounds and textures! It would be a brilliant walk in a sensory room or even adapted as a set of sensory toys for a sensory table!

Did you know that just the sole of one foot can have more than 200,000 nerve endings?!* That is more than 200,000 spots to feel sensory input! A lot of the time we set up sensory activities and toys for the kids to touch with their hands, but their feet need attention too!

I really love sensory-rich activities because they double as science experiments for young kids. In this activity, for example, right before they touch a new texture they predict how it will feel, then they test it with their foot, then they analyze their results, and - often - they retest by wiggling their foot around or running through the entire "walk" again! Watch the video and see how often they wiggle a foot, let it sit, wiggle it again, and then re-test their results before moving on to the next texture. You will also see her set a foot in the bin and then just stand there for a moment while they process what they just experienced.

Our preschoolers have been calling it the Christmas Walk and, to be perfectly honest, the older kids can't help walking along it too! 

I was inspired by a video I saw on Facebook, and I thought, "We could make this into a sensory activity with a Christmas theme!" 

Preschool Christmas Sensory Activity

It was super easy to set up, and you can use any supplies you have on hand...or in your Christmas bins!  If we had the space, I would totally leave it set up for a week as a sensory room floor. 

Here are the bins I started with:

1- Bells

2- Large Plastic "Icicles"

3- Cardboard Snowflakes

4- Christmas Handtowel

5- Large Plastic Christmas Ornament Balls

Later the kids added bins with Christmas colored pompoms, fabric, and fuzzy sticks! They also re-organized my bins several times--they were sorted by type, size, color, and more!

Just be sure to leave enough room in each bin for the kids to get their foot in and have room to play with whatever object is in the bin with their feet!

Also, make sure you use safe items in each bin. I like the large, plastic, shatter-proof ornaments, metal bells, and fabrics the best because they are so safe to touch.

Let them walk through each bin and feel, discover, test, and experience each sensory item with their feet! If they decide to use hands too, that's totally okay!

It is a wonderful combination of a sensory toy, sensory activity, and science experiment all at once! We will be repeating it every time we pull out a new set of Christmas decorations during the next month or two!

Do you have a favorite sensory activity for feet? Or any that are preschool Christmas themed?  I'd looooove to see them! Leave me a picture in the comments or send me an email!

*Source: http://nymag.com/health/features/46213/index2.html 

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

Read More

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

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Reindeer Toothpaste Christmas Science Experiment

This year's first Christmas Science Experiment is a fun new twist on an old favorite: Reindeer Toothpaste!

One of the most popular activities on this blog is Elephant Toothpaste. It was originally a science experiment that I used to do with my high school students, but I started doing it with my preschoolers waaaaay back in 2011! Our readers loved it, and we have done a few variations on it over the years, including a geography lesson and elephant toothpaste in a pumpkin

I was recently talking with my friend Sarah about some of our science projects and plans for Christmas--you can see some of her Christmas Science projects here and some of my Christmas Science activities here! She has the most encouraging attitude and, even though blogging has been frustrating for me recently, she motivated me to share this fantastic Christmas science experiment with you! It has been super popular around our house already, and I hope you love it too!

This recipe is a little bit different than my original elephant toothpaste recipe because the shop I went to for hydrogen peroxide didn't have any 6%. Don't worry--12% works just beautifully too!

So gather your reindeer lovers (Rudolph, friends, and everyone else!) and let's make some "toothpaste!"

Safety Notes:
* Adult supervision required!
* Goggles protect eyes from splashes!
* Keep all ingredients and products out of mouths! Despite the fun name, it is not meant to go in any reindeer or people mouths!
* Some kids may have skin sensitive to hydrogen peroxide.
* The bubbles that come out are just soap, water, and oxygen. Again, some kids may have soap sensitivities.

Reindeer Toothpaste


* 1/2 cup 12% hydrogen peroxide
(you can get this on Amazon or at beauty supply shops--it is the same thing as 
40 volume CLEAR developer...I will share some Amazon affiliate links at the bottom of this article too)
* a few big squirts of dish soap 
(check out the video--I probably use about 1-3 tablespoons)
* 1/4 cup warm water
* 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
* food coloring
* large water bottle
* safety goggles
* optional: a pan and/or tablecloth to catch the mess  ;)

Easy How To:

1- Mix the warm water and yeast and set it aside so the yeast have time to activate.

2- Mix the hydrogen peroxide and soap together in the water bottle.

3- Add food coloring. I like to drizzle it down one side so it makes a streak in the "toothpaste."

4- Once the yeast has had time to start growing, pour it into the water bottle too!

And watch the fun!!

Are you going to make "reindeer toothpaste?" What about other Christmas science experiments? Do you have a favorite? I'd love to know!!

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

Read More

Thursday, October 25, 2018

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Christmas Science Experiment: Grinch-Inspired Slime

It's no secret that we love Christmas science and science experiments that go with books, so I am delighted to have Amanda visiting today sharing a book-based science project she did with her preschoolers! 

Nothing beats the autumn season. I love all the learning that can happen with materials found out in nature during the fall season...counting acorns, sorting leaves, and just being outside without sweating your tush off. But Christmas comes in as a close second. We love reading How the Grinch Stole Christmas. (Image is an Amazon affiliate link.)


It has been one of our favorite holiday books since Sicily was a little bitty thing. One way I incorporate learning into our home is by planning super simple child-led activities around books. Related: Preschool Book Themes: How to Choose and Develop One For this book, we loved making a Grinch inspired slime. It is an easy way for the kids to get involved in some Christmas science. Sicily and Kade both helped pour in the ingredients and mix it together.

   Then we took it to the table to stretch, squish, and according to Sicily's imagination make HUGE noses. Kade noticed the hearts immediately and spent about 45 minutes trying to pick each one of them out of the slime. Fine motor win!!!!


Grinch Inspired Slime

Use close adult supervision!

6 oz bottle of green glue (or clear glue with green food coloring) 
 1.5 TBSP Contact Solution 
0.5 TBSP Baking Soda Bowl 
 Spoon Heart Buttons (or sequins)


1. Invite your child to pour the glue into a bowl.

2. Add the baking soda and mix well.

3. Dump the heart buttons into the glue.

4. Last add the contact solution and mix. The glue will start to harden and turn into slime.

5. Play! Squish! Pull! Squeeze!

Let me know how your kids love it the most! What other Christmas science experiments will you do this year? Do your kids have a favorite Christmas picture book?

If you'd rather try a liquid starch slime recipe, check out Sarah's Grinch-inspired slime here!

Click below to grab our 12 Days of Christmas Calendar for more fun and simple Christmas activities.  

  For a more in-depth look at how we do child-led learning in our home without spending hours planning & prepping, take a peek at my Ultimate Guide to Creating an Engaging Homeschool Preschool in Less Time.

About the Author: Amanda is the owner of Sicily’s Heart & Home where she helps beautiful mama’s homeschool their littles using a child-led approach without spending a lot of time planning & prepping. She is a former elementary and preschool teacher with over 11 years experience. Amanda has 2 littles of her own, Sicily & Kade, who follow this exact child-led approach that she advocates. Amanda is the creator of Learning Through Experiences: A Child-Led Curriculum which currently has a full toddler and preschool curriculum with plans to expand up to sixth grade. In her spare time, she likes to read, garden, and relax in a bubble bath. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. Or better yet, go join her Learning Their Way Facebook Group.

Happy Educating,

Have you seen HEEP? It is a preschool homeschool curriculum! Learn more here!

I may share at any of these parties!

Never miss another post again!  Sign up for our weekly updates newsletter and get links to all our posts once a week in your inbox!  Sign up here!!

Read More