Sunday, December 30, 2012

Messy Fingers in Jan

We have a January schedule at the Millbury Public library! The programs will be Jan. 8, 15, 22 and 29.

The programs are on Tuesdays from 10:30 until 11:30am at the Millbury Public Library. This is a parent - child program, please plan to say and participate with your preschool aged child. Younger siblings are welcome, however many of the programs are not appropriate for toddlers.

We are going to explore ice and snow, dinosaurs, and bears in January. Be ready for some goofy science and lots of fun!

Please sign up at the Millbury Public Library - 508 865 1181!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Book Review: The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive

The Magic School Bus Inside a Beehive by Joanna Cole is one of my very favorite bee books. The Magic School bus visits a bee yard and ends up inside the hive where the students learn about the different kinds of bees and how they make honey. The kids turn in to bees and have to navigate the sometimes treacherousness world in the hive.

What I really like about this book, and the whole set of books by Ms. Cole, are the extra facts along the edges of the pages. If you want to know  more about something, there it is.

As a beekeeper, this book covers everything. That's why I recommend it to adults and kids - this is all the background information you need to understand the bees. If you are interested in being a beekeeper, there are other things you need to know about beekeeping, but this covers the bee parts nicely.

While I prefer to have non-fiction books photographed rather than illustrated, this book has a foot in both camps and the illustrations are accurate when drawing the bees.

5 out of 5 stars.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Animal of the Week: Honeybee

Honeybees are wonderful animals. They pollinate many of our food crops and I've heard a few different estimates, but one out of every three or four bites of food you eat was pollinated by bees. I can't believe that I've never had honeybees as my Animal of the Week.

I am a beekeeper and I have Honeybees. Honeybees are one of about 20,000 different species of bee. Some you are probably familiar with like the bumble bee and the carpenter bee. Other bees you will probably hear about in the New England area are Mason bees and Red bees.

Honeybees make honey by drinking the nectar of flowers, putting that in a special honey stomach and then back at the hive, they put the nectar in a cell and evaporate out nearly all of the water. Yum!

One of the most common questions I hear this time of year is what do they do in the winter.  Bees cuddle for the winter!  They use their body heat to keep their mom, the Queen warm and they keep the temperature in the hive just over 60'F. Beekeepers call it a cluster.

When ever the temperature is 50'F or over the bees fly around. They are really enjoying flying today gathering any last remaining pollen and cleaning up the honey I left out for them.

Go bees!!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Halloween III

I love sour flavors. My daughter is right there with me so it was difficult for her to part with sour candy. But part with it she did. We gathered all the sour candy including funny sour french fries. We added a quarter cup of water to each candy and let them sit long enough to dissolve. Only Nerds really dissolved, everything else just started to melt. We predicted the sour patch kids would be the most acidic candy since it tasted the most sour.

Then we added 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda. The more acidic the candy, the greater the fizzing will be. The  smarties gave a nice fizz. It didn't last very long though.
Nerds fizzed a lot and for a very long time.
The french fries fizzed a lot at first but not for long.
The sour grape was a dud. It barely fizzed at all.
The sour patch kids fizzed well and for a long time.
The super sour jaw breaker fizzed a lot but didn't hold it's fizz. Once the outside coating was dissolved, it pretty much stopped fizzing.

In the end, our prediction was not correct. Nerds fizzed the longest and the most. We all talked about why this might be and decided that it was because they were also the smallest candy and was the only one to really dissolve in the water. Next time, we could crush them all or cut them up so they dissolved in the water.

Guess what we are doing next year!!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Giving Tuesday

I love this idea - a day set aside in this crazy shopping, buying, and spending season to remember to give.

If you can today, give to your favorite charity. And if you can't give money, give time.

If you aren't sure what charity to support,  I would be delighted to recommend the Friends of the Millbury Public Library, sponsors of Messy Fingers. You can support them in a number of ways.

1. Give money - they are an IRS designated 501(c) 3 organization. Find them at the library.

2. Give books - recycle your already read books to the Friends for their seasonal book sale. They will be selling seasonal books this weekend at the Chain of Lights in Millbury. The shelves are quite bare at the moment - so clear some space on your book shelves and donate books.

3. Give time - volunteer to be a part of the Friends of the Millbury Public Library. Dues are inexpensive and time commitments are modest.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Float and Sink Halloween Style II

Testing the floating and sinking of candy is a fun way to play with candy.  Your dentist would totally approve.

At the top of the picture you can see all the wrappers from the candy in the tray. We used starburst (strawberry), snickers, butterfingers, a mini jawbreaker and 3musketeers. The 3Musketeers is the only candy that floated (lower left corner).

We ended up trying all kinds of candy and crowding the pan. Eventually the water turned brown with the dissolving chocolate and candy coatings. In the end only 3Musketeers floated.

Science Moment: If you break apart a 3Musketeers bar you will see that it is whipped and frothy inside. The air bubbles help to create buoyancy. The candy is positively buoyant - it is less dense than the amount of water it displaced. Here is a nice blog written for older kids with some experiments on buoyancy.

Next we thought we'd test an urban legend  We had heard legend that the "s" on skittles floated so we tried both skittles and M&Ms to see if the letters floated off.  The yellow and blue are M&Ms and the red and green are skittles. The candy coating melts off quickly.
And the "s" really does come off of skittles and float. 

And so does the "m" on an M&M!

Tomorrow I will tell you all about the other ways we played with candy!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thunder and Lightning!

We explored weather at the library in the latest Messy Fingers program and I thought I would share some of the things we did so you can join us!  All of these are fun, easy activities to introduce weather to your preschooler.

Rain - We put boiling water into a glass jar and then a plate on top. This made a cloud. Then we put ice on the top of the plate and this cooled the cloud and water began to drip down the sides making rain.

Lightning - We tried the old trick of biting wintergreen lifesavers but this time it didn't work. Normally when you bite down hard on anything with sugar it emits light - cool right?  However this light isn't in our visible spectrum, it is ultraviolet. Wintergreen oil changes the frequency of the light making it visible to the human eye. What we found is that most wintergreen flavored candy don't have wintergreen oil or not enough to make the sparks visible.  If anyone has a source for wintergreen life savers in rolls that are not artificially flavored, please let me know.

Thunder - We made our own thunderstorm by rubbing our hands, clapping, stomping and snapping our fingers. This is amazing in a very large group and was a lot of fun in our small group.


Wind - We made classic pinwheels to find the wind. Using 8.5in squares of paper, we folded them twice corner to corner to make an X on the page. The we cut almost to the middle of the paper along the lines we made. Using a hole punch we made one hole on each flap and then threaded the flaps on a push pin. We put the pushpin into nifty color change pencil's erasers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

5 things to do in a blizzard

One of my favorite MF devotees, C., wants to do somethings in the snow falling here in New England. Because Hurricane Sandy wasn't quite exiting enough, now we have a crazy N'or Easter pummeling us! Rather than whine, let's do some fun science.

Sadly, there is no where near enough snow yet to make a decent snowball but here are a few ideas to bring a little science to this snowstorm.

1. Snowflakes.  Put some black construction paper in the freezer, or just leave it out to get cold. Once it is cold you can catch snowflakes on it and look at them with a magnifier.

2. Tracks. The squirrels and birds are leaving lots of little tracks in the snow. What sorts of stories are they telling?  Can you leave a snow story with just tracks?  How do your tracks change as you run or jump?

3. Ice Cubes. Put out two ice cubes in cups or containers. Put one where you think it will stay frozen and the other where you think it will melt. Let them sit for a period of time, an hour or so. Then check your predictions. Did your predictions (guesses) turn out correct?  What do animals do to keep warm in the winter?  They usually add layers of fat and fir to stay warm and they make some sort of den to retain heat. Can you do that for your ice cube?  Did it help it melt faster?

4. Measure it!  Put out a can or cup with straight sides and wait for it to fill with snow. Using a ruler or stick, mark how full the container is by putting one end of the ruler in the container until it touches the bottom and marking how high up the snow went. Now let the snow melt. How much water was really in the snow?

5. What is in snow? Scoop up some snow and put it in a container to melt. Pour it through a coffee filter and see what was in it. Now try again with the cleanest snow you can find. How clean was the snow really?  Snowflakes usually form around some little tiny piece of dirt so no matter how clean the snow looks, the center has a speck of dirt.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Sink and Float - Halloween Style

Tomorrow we are going to start some simple experiments with Halloween candy. We are going to see what floats and what sinks. There are still a few spots open, so call the library if you want to join us.  We will be sinking and floating other things too!

Floating and sinking is a basic experiment and a good place to start.  But don't let me stop you from trying other things such as melting and testing acidity. Here is a link to a list of really cool ways to get started testing candy. In our town since voting is done at a school, they turn it into a teacher work day and a day off for the kids, so I will have my kids home. Do you think they will let me play with their candy?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

5 Things to do in a Hurricane

Here in central Massachusetts we are experiencing the effects of Hurricane Sandy and at my house, we've been without power for a while, so I am a bit late posting this. Living through a hurricane is a windy experience. Rather than grumbling, let's have fun with all the extra wind!

Below are five ways to play with wind and learn a little science at the same time.

1. Make a pinwheel. This is is a fabulous activity for multiple ages. Check out Curious George's pinwheel template here. Sometimes I have trouble with pinwheels not spinning and the addition of a small spacer bead under the push pin can solve that problem.

2. Paint with air. Dilute some craft paint and put a few blobs on paper. Using a straw, blow the paint around the paper. If you blow hard does that change the pattern of paint compared to blowing softly?  Does how close you are to the paint matter to the pattern?

3. What does the wind carry?  Put a couple of holes in a piece of cardboard about the size of a piece of paper (8.5 x 11 in). Thread string through the holes and tie the cardboard to a tree or even hang from your porch so that it floats in the breeze. Smear petroleum jelly on one side to make it sticky. Leave the cardboard for a while and see what the wind carries by seeing what sticks to the cardboard.

4. What can the wind move? After the last couple of days I think most of us would say, there isn't much the wind can't move!  Here let's gather a few objects like a feather, pom pom, a rock, cup, keys, yarn, etc. What do think can be moved by the wind?  Make two piles: things that can be moved and things that can't. Now test them by blowing on them. Can the wind you make with your breath move the objects?  Were you right in your predictions (guesses)?

5. Make a helicopter. While this isn't strictly about the wind, it does take air and a few principles of aerodynamics that are a bit beyond preschoolers. And best of all, it is fun to make and you can do some real science with them. First make a helicopter. The pattern is here. It is a great use for junk mail. Now launch the helicopter from a balcony, the stairs, or even standing on a chair. Safety first!  What changes can you make to help your helicopter fly faster or  straighter.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Glow in the Dark Slime

A while back I posted a recipe for Slime. I first made this with a large group of kids at S's birthday party and  of course it was Glow-In-The-Dark! It is a classic and never goes out of style.

Here's the recipe. Go forth and make slime!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Theme of the Week: Glow in the Dark

As some of you know, I love all things that glow in the dark. What most of you don't know is that I almost went to study the organism that makes the red tide, Gonyaulax polyedra. As an undergraduate and graduate student, I studied circadian rhythms (daily rhythms) and Gonyaulax, a single celled organism, has loads including glowing in the dark. Yep, I almost go my PhD in glow in the dark critters.

So it is no wonder that I still marvel at all things glowing. This week I am going to suggest a few ways to play with the idea and talk about some of the science behind glowing.

To kick things off, I am going to send you to a link with Steve Spangler. Here he shows you how to make your pumpkin glow in the dark.

Unlike just painting them, which might work as well, these pumpkins will look reasonably pumpkin-ish even during the day.

The glow in the dark powder here is phosphorescent. It absorbs light energy during the day and emits  or  gives off, the light for a time after the light sources (the sun) is gone. They won't glow forever, but long enough for some fun to be had.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Animal of the Weekend: Hoary Bat

Image from:

In honor of the possibility of our first frost, I thought it might be a good moment to stop and check out the Hoary Bat. They are one of the nine species of bat that live in New England and are named after a Hoar Frost.

So what is a hoar frost, you ask?  Well it is a bit complicated but essentially when objects, like the ground or grass, get cooler than the air above them frost forms. In the summer you get liquid water condensation on the out side of your frosty beverage and in the winter, you get frozen water condensation or hoar frost.

If you want to celebrate bats, here  are some extra ideas for bat activities.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

October Messy Fingers

It is that time of year again - Messy Fingers starts!  Here are the dates for October:

Oct 2 - pumpkins
Oct 9 - leaves
Oct 16 - air
Oct 23 - spiders

If you sign up once you are in for all four classes. Classes start at 10:30am at the Millbury Public Library and run about 45-60 minutes. 

Class size is limited, so please sign up early.

Call the library to sign up - (508) 865-1181.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A word about safety...

As I was reading my usual science blogs, one really stood out. Here is a word of warning about glow sticks.

I love all things glowing and sparkling - so I always look at the pintrest posts with glow sticks. I do love many of them and have pinned ideas with glow sticks. However, do NOT open up the glow sticks.

Really - they contain chemicals that can be dangerous if swallowed. Yeah, I hear you that you are not going to swallow them, but can you say the same thing about your pets or kids?

If a glow stick cracks, and I've had a few do that, toss it out and wash your hands.

If you really need a glow, and I understand the need, try paint or using a black light. I hear there are many unexpected things that will glow like tonic water.

But if you really want to get your geek on, check this out.This is not a video for preschoolers, but explains how florescent dyes work, the chemical reactions needed to make glow sticks, and why you need certain chemicals for each reaction. It is a cool video to watch where he does some really great science asking questions and then collecting data.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Fun Friday Fact

Fireflies are the state insect of Tennessee and Pennsylvania.

Ok so that is really totally fun, so here's another one:

Female fireflies of the Photuris genus mimic other firefly species flash patterns so that when a male from another species responds, she eats him.

Anybody know what the state insect is of Massachusetts?

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Book Review: The Very Lonely Firefly

The Very Lonely Firefly by Eric Carle is the story of a firefly searching for other fireflies. Along the way he finds other lights like a lantern and a candle. Once he finds other fireflies, he's happy to be flashing right along with them.

I've always loved this book. Mine was a gift from a dear friend so it has special meaning.I would recommend finding a copy that has the lights at the end. They make for a special surprise.

4/5 stars.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Animal of the Week: Lighting Bugs

The look so plain and uninteresting in the daylight, but come dusk, lighting bugs reveal their special magic.

Lighting bugs, or fireflies, are insects with six legs, three body parts, and wings. They are actually beetles.

Male lighting bugs emit flashes and glows to attract females. In some species the female glows as well. The light is greenish-yellow, yellow, blue or in some species even reddish. The pattern is specific to each species. Lighting bugs like to live near marshes or other wetlands and can usually be found flashing within a few hours of dusk.

Ok the wicked cool thing about lighting bugs is that their light is without heat. It is a chemical process using an enzyme called luciferase. This is the same chemical that causes the organisms in a Red Tide to flash.

Catching lighting bugs is a fun summer ritual. Since they like wet areas, lighting bugs are often found with mosquitoes. If you use bug spray be sure to wash your hands before catching lighting bugs. Handle them with care.

Put the lighting bugs in a jar with a lid that has holes for air circulation. Don't keep them long -  no more than overnight - they are busy and won't live long in a jar.

If you want to participate in Citizen Science, consider Firefly Watch from the Museum of Science in Boston, MA. We have done this in our home for years and it is an excellent introduction to Citizen Science for kids.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Slime Recipe

We love slime and all sorts of gooey things like this in our house. At my youngest child's birthday, we made pink glow in the dark slime. That was a big group recipe, but this is adapted for a single serving of slime.

1/2 cup water
1/2 cup white glue
Mix these two well. Slow mixing is best.

1 cup of water
1 tsp of borax- the 20 Mule Team kind
Mix this well.

Add a little bit of the borax mixture to the glue/water solution and stir with a craft stick. Keep adding until slime forms on your stick. 

You can add glow in the dark paint to the glue/water solution but start with just a little paint and add more if you need it. 

How does adding more borax change the slime?

I have found that slime will store for a while in an air tight container. I will develop mold and toss it if it gets dirty. You can always make more!

If you have older children, teach or just a chemistry nerd, here is a good lesson plan on slime that really delves in to the chemistry of polymers- and it has actual chemical formulas!

Friday, June 22, 2012

Fun Friday Fact

Ready for this... Watermelons are vegetables. 


They are in the Curcubitaceae family and are related to cucumbers. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

5 June Science Ideas

Need some quick ideas for fun summer science with the kids? I usually have a few quick ideas for days that are just too hot to be outside or if summer plans fall through.  Here are some good ones for June:

1. Ice - Make some fun ice cubes in whatever containers you can find around the house. Pull them out and put the kids outside with a couple of challenges like build the tallest tower or have ice cube races by pushing them along the deck or driveway. What shape moves the best?

2. Kites - This is such a fun thing to do with kids, making a kite. Here is an excellent kite to make with minimal supplies. I have done with with kids as young as four and as old as teens. It was a hit with everyone. There are no formal experiments, but you will try flying and then altering your kite as you go. Think of this more as an engineering project.

3. Floaters and sinkers - This is a fun activity on a hot day. With very young children, use a small tub, but with bigger kids, consider using a small pool. Gather some objects and make predictions about what will sink or float. Then test your predictions. Were you right?

Here is a longer explanation.

4. Reversible Change - How long does it take for a freeze pop to turn to liquid?  What if it is in the shade? Can you have a race to see who can keep their ice pop frozen the longest. Once they are all defrosted, how long does it take to refreeze?  Check every 15 minutes. You will be surprised on both ends.

5. Mentos geysers - This is a super fun activity and will have everyone amazed from age two to 92. The idea is that if you put Mentos candies into a 2-lr bottle of diet soda, you will get a geyser. I would recommend trying different kinds of diet soda. When we did this we found that different kinds made a difference in the height of the geyser. Get the tube here tho I was able to get mine at Target at Christmas time.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Bread: Part 2

Making bread with kids is loads of fun and a lot easier than you might think. You can buy your the dough premade and work from there. Goretti's  has great dough and are great supporters of the community here in town so I am extra happy to recommend them. 

I you are wanting to make bread from scratch, here is the recipe I use with kids:
3 cups flour
1 cup warm water
1 packet of yeast or 2 1/4 teaspoons yeast
1 tsp salt

Mix everything together until flour is all incorporated. Kneed the dough at least 10 times. Let rise in an oiled bowl until doubled. Put the bread in a warm place and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel. This usually takes about an hour. Punch down and kneed again about 10 times. Put in a loaf pan and let rise again until it is looking like bread. This usually takes less than an hour. Bake at 450' for 30 minutes or until crust is lightly brown. Cool before cutting.

We love making bread in our house and have found a number of great recipes. One of my favorite is from this book. We make bread on a weekly basis. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Activity: Bread, step 1

 Yeast is a interesting organism to explore with preschoolers. It is dormant or not active until you give it water and something to eat like sugar or honey. Here is a simple activity to explore with your favorite young person.  You will need:

A balloon
A water bottle
Warm water

Put the water, sugar, and yeast in the bottle. It really doesn't matter how much you put in. In this case I used about a teaspoon of yeast or half a packet and three little packets of sugar. Use the rest of the yeast to touch and even to taste. I swirled it to mix and put the balloon on.
 In about two minutes, the balloon was firm, but it took about 20 minutes for it to look like this:

What is happening is that the yeast is converting the sugar to carbon dioxide and that blows up the balloon. It is also what makes bread dough rise. Next we will play with bread...yummo!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Messy Fingers TODAY!

Today we are going to explore bread, yeast and practice making predictions. If you have signed up, get to the Millburylibrary today at 10:30am fo

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Ice in the spring!

This week at the library we played with Ice.  We have played with ice before in the winter. Check out those pictures here.

I would highly recommend trying some of the activities when the weather is warmer. I put water in all sorts of containers and froze them to make funny shaped ice cubes. I had ice cube trays that made heart shapes, tubes and long rectangles. We made towers with ice cubes and they were lots of fun to work with - slippery and cold.

Check back over the week to hear about other season mix ups.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Book of the week: Pop! A book about bubbles

Pop! A book about bubbles by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a fantastic book for preschoolers. This has lots of pictures of bubbles and kids blowing bubbles. The text is short and simple. And the best part is at the end, there are recipes for bubbles and some science challenges. How cool!

Totally worth getting from the library for your summer reading.
5/5 stars.

June Schedule!

We have two classes in June:

Ice - June 5
Bread - June 12

Sign up at the library (call today!!) 508 865 1181.

I will be leading two classes over the summer as part of the summer reading program so stay tuned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Experiment of the week: Bubbles

Here is a challenge perfect for summer - which solution makes the best bubbles: Homemade or Store-bought?  It is an age old question on so many fronts. Here you need:

Your favorite store purchased bubbles
Bubble wands or pipe cleaners made into wands
Homemade bubbles (my recipe to follow)

So, what makes a good bubble? Does it last the longest? Is it the biggest? or the most?  Decide a head of time and make a prediction (guess) about what solution makes for the best bubbles.  Now test! Remember to use the same bubble wands for the testing and go for it!

My favorite bubble recipe:
1 gallon of water
1 9oz bottle of Dawn (any color)
2 oz glycerin
24 hours

Mix the water, Dawn and glycerin together very slowly and set aside for a day. Makes gobs of bubble solution that can last for months. If it is possible not to use it all up in a day!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fun Friday Fact

Could dinosaurs spit?

In the movie Jurassic Park, a Dilophosaurs spits venom in a man's face. Alas, there is no physical evidence that dinosaurs could spit. It takes a lot of muscle to spit and that probably would have left marks on the skeletons of dinosaurs.

There are snakes such as the Spitting Cobra that appear to spit venom, but they really just spray their venom. The have large muscles that allow them to eject venom quite accurately.

Check out this video of a spitting cobra, well spitting. It is under two minutes and very well done.


Here are some fun ideas for dirt explorations...

Make Mud Bricks: Add a small amount of water to different kinds of dirt and dirt with sticks or leaves. Pack in to a brick mold or some sand toys. Let them dry in the sun for a day or two. Make some predictions about which bricks will be the strongest?  How could you test your idea? Unmold them and test your ideas.

What is in the dirt? Put dirt in a kitchen strainer and pour water thru it. What happens?  What stays and what goes thru?  Now put a coffee filter in the strainer and do the same thing. What is left behind now?

Erosion: Make a mountain of dirt and slowly pour water over it. What happens?  Make your mountain again. What would happen if you poured water quickly or in a different place?

Growing: Do a dirt scavenger hunt in your yard. Gather up some pots and put different kinds of dirt in to each pot. Then put in a seed or plant and see which soil is best for growing plants.

Eat Dirt: Make chocolate pudding and sprinkle the top with crushed chocolate cookies or chocolate graham crackers. Add some gummy worms and you have dirt for lunch!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Experiment: Water Tension

I have a challenge for you. Fill a glass of water right up to the top. Guess how many paper clips can you put into the glass before the water spills over. Will it be 5 or 10?  Does it matter if you slide them in or if plop them in?  Keep filling the glass with paper clips - the girls scouts just did this and were able to add a whole lot.

Refill the glass and see you can float a paper clip on the top of the water.  It is far trickier than you'd think.  If you really get stuck, use a fork to lower it down onto the surface.

Check out the pictures here.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


Messy Fingers starts again next week!
May  8 - seeds
May 15 - dirt
May 22 - bubbles
May 29 - butterflies

Sign up at the Millbury Public Library. Class starts at 10:30 and lasts about an hour. For preschoolers 3-5 and their parents.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Museum Review: Dinosaur State Park, CT

Dinosaur State Park in Connecticut needs to be on your list of places to go with kids. Go, right now, and put in on your list.

I'll wait.

This is just over an hour from our house and we left very early in the day to be there for their 9am opening. We arrived before the gift shop opened. As you enter the big silver dome, be prepared, you go through the gift shop that has lots of cool goodies low to the ground.

The exhibits are very well thought out and combine interactive button pushing and lever lifting with a compelling story of how the foot prints were discovered and protected. There are plenty of things to touch and some great explanations of different rock patterns. This is followed by some great short films about how the tracks were made and preserved. I especially enjoyed the interactive exhibit on the patterns of the tracks.

Then you finally get to see the actual tracks. It was quite impressive.

A small room at the end contains some of the best stuff. This room is devoted to kids with magnetic dinos on posters, puppets, stencils, fossils with guides, books, CTs of dino eggs, coloring, stamping, and live animals. They do have live animal talks from time to time but we didn't stay to see them.

They had a film about dinosaurs in claymation. I found it deeply irritating because they gave human emotion and motivations to the dinosaurs. Really?!  Don't bother with that film. There were other films later in the day. Hopefully they are better.

Be sure to ask for a Bingo sheet and walk around the grounds. There are plenty of picnic tables and gorgeous trails. There is a place to make your own casts too but it wasn't open - perhaps the crack of dawn was too early! or it was too chilly.  A small open air theater, butterfly garden and herb garden will be good spots to visit later in the season.

This is a 5/5 star location. The trails were either dry or had board walks so it is easy walking. Strollers would be tricky. Everything is well labeled and the Bingo was a huge hit. Be sure to return it for prizes.

If you aren't sure about what to purchase in the gift shop I recommend the grab bag. It is $2 and has magnetic stones, misc gems, stickers, a pencil and a pencil topper along with a book mark. The gift shop can be overwhelming for its sheer coolness for nerds like me and my kids - so be prepared with a budget.

Bring lunch it is worth staying a while.

And if you geocache, there is a great cache on site.  Is there a letter box??

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

OT: Slightly

I tried something rather silly and thought that you all might enjoy it. I mailed some spring time goodies to my niece, nephews and my husband's grandmother today. 

Yes, those are plastic eggs. If you grab the large ones - the bigger the better - and fill them with goodies, you can mail them. I filled them with stickers, silly bands, candy and toys. You can fit a whole lot of stuff in those eggs.

I mailed them as small parcels and it took $1.95 in stamps. The meter sticker doesn't fit so I used three pretty butterfly stamps on each one. (No, these weren't the strangest thing my PO has ever mailed - I am so going to have to up my game!)

There are loads of other Messy Fingers-like uses for plastic eggs. Here are a few favorites from our house:

  • Noise makers - add beads, buttons, beans etc. and tape really well
  • Color sorting - can you match the color of the egg to legos, beads, balls, blocks, etc.
  • Play-dough holders - this is a fun container for home made playdough
  • Bath toys - they are great for holding various amounts of water
  • Bath toys II - put a bath tub dye tab in one with a hole (lots have a hole) and toss in the tub
How do you like to re-use your plastic eggs?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Animal of the Week: Frogs and Toads

Frog and Toad adventures are a common part of most school's reading curriculum and often get lumped together. Yet there are come pretty cool differences.

Here in New England we have three groups of amphibians:
Tree Frogs and

Frogs live in or near ponds as adults, have smooth skin and no suction cups on their toes.

Tree frogs may live in a wetland or just near one, have smooth skin and use the suction cups on their feet to hold on to trees.

Toads only need to be in water as tadpoles, have bumpy skin and no suction cups on their toes.

So the next time you find an adult amphibian in your back yard, check out its toes! Be careful that your hands are wet if you pick one up, amphibians breath through their skin and will absorb what is on your skin. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Experiment - Floating Candy

Some candy will sink and others will float. Did you know that?  I figured it would all float, but no. 

Not surprisingly, a Three Musketeers bar will float because of the air trapped in the candy making it less dense than water. 

What else will float or sink?

Toss a few of those lingering Valentine's Day candies (or those Halloween treats lingering in the back of the drawer) in water and let us know what happened.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Book Review: Sid the Science Kid: Why Did My Ice Pop Melt?

This is a simple retelling of a time when Sid had his ice pop melt and how he figured out that sometimes solids can change state in become liquids again. Along with his friends and family, he also discovers that this is a reversible change and he makes ice pops again.

I always like Sid the Science Kid shows - they reinforce real science at a preschooler's level without babying them. If you like the show, this book will appeal to you. It looks just like the show but without the singing and silly jokes.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tools: droppers

Using a dropper can be quite tricky at first but, once master, will lead to lots of fun science. Using a dropper requires not just finger strength and dexterity. It also requires a certain amount of patience - not something most preschoolers are known for.

Scientists use droppers but call them pipettes. Pipettes come in many different sizes and styles but they all do the exact same thing: suck up a liquid and release it on command.

To use a dropper you have to pinch the bulb, put the tip in the liquid, release the bulb so it can draw in the fluid and then remove the tip and squeeze the bulb again. That is a lot of steps. With practice kids can get pretty good at it.

So now your child has mastered the dropper. What can they do now?
Try dropping paint from different heights to see the splatter pattern
Try dropping water with food coloring into a clear cup of oil (from above and below the surface)
Try putting different drops of colored water into a single cup to see them mix
Try putting chocolate syrup into your milk (this might need to be thinned a bit, test first)
Try putting syrup into squares on your waffles

Share your experiences with droppers below!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Book Review: It's Science Solid, Liquid, or Gas?

There are dozens of books titled Solid, Liquid, and Gas or some variation of that. This one, Solid, Liquid, or Gas by by Sally Hewitt is available at the Millbury Public Library.

There are some really nifty parts of this book and some spots that miss their mark. First I really like the discussion of materials and their origin - man-made or natural. There are also accessible discussions of the properties of  various materials.

Where the book misses is the discussion of gases. For being a third of the title, the book spends a mere two pages on them. I think for preschoolers there are some pretty nifty things they can discover about gases and Ms. Hewitt didn't include them.

I would give it 3/5 starts.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Solids, strangely, are sometime difficult to describe without comparing them to some other state of matter. Essentially solids hold their shape regardless of what sort of container they are in. Their molecules are tightly packed so they don't really move around a whole lot.

Talking about solids with a preschooler is really kind of boring - they get it. Totally and intuitively understand that the block, ball, or lego just isn't going to flow into the container no matter what container you put it into.

That's were oobleck comes in. And this is where the mess comes in.

Oobleck is a substance that isn't really a liquid and isn't always a solid. It is called a Non-Newtonian Substance. And if you want to really get your geek on, check this out. It is a good explanation of how this sometimes fluid works and does so in an accessible way.

But, wait, there's more!

This is the COOLEST THING EVER - and I don't say that lightly. I am so jaded when it comes to cool science tricks and this one totally rocks. The fact that I love the blog and kids do the experiment doesn't hurt. What they did was put oobleck over a subwoofer and watched it dance.

Why is this cool?
This was a great demo of the fluid characteristics of oobleck.
You can visualize the sound waves.
And they mixed color.

Coolest thing ever.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

March Dates

Messy Fingers is moving to a new format. Preschoolers (age 3-5) and their parents will sign up for a set of classes for a month. Preschoolers and their parents will only need to sign up once and attend each session. All sessions will be at the Millbury Public Library from 10:30 until approximately 11:30am.  Parents will need to participate.

The dates are: 
March 6 - states of matter (solid, liquid, gas)
March 13 - rainbows
March 20 - sink and float
March 27 - frogs 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Five Senses

Our five senses are the tools we carry around with us all the time. Taking time to make those tools sharper and providing a vocabulary for different observations will help children express their discoveries clearly.

Sense of Touch: Try finger painting with food. Finger paint has a lovely squashy texture and so do some foods. Try using pudding to paint with.  Or try using finger paints with your feet! Make footprints with finger paint. How does it feel on your feet?

Another fun texture to play with is shaving cream. You can pull it out in the tub if for less mess but watch out for sensitive skin. Try floating things in the shaving cream.  What happens if you put food coloring in shaving cream?

Sense of Taste: Try the old fashion test of holding your nose and try biting into a small cube of apple or potato. Without your sense of smell, can you tell the difference?

Sense of Touch:  Go on a texture hunt in the house.  Can you group items into textures such as smooth, hard, rough, or bumpy?  What else can you find that fits in these groups?

Sense of Smell: What are your favorite smells?  Most smells also have a deep emotional connection and can create lasting memories faster than most other senses. Close your eyes at dinner and take turns trying to identify parts of your meal with just you sense of smell. It can be harder than you realize to put words to smells. Is it spicy or sweet or savory or buttery…?

Sense of Hearing: Play Marco – Polo without the water. One person is Marco and closes their eyes. When they say “Marco” everyone else says “Polo” and stands still for a few seconds. The idea is to make yourself hard to find. Can you say “Polo” and duck or turn around so you sound far away?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Five Fun things to do with Feathers

I was going to post this earlier in the week but with Valentine's Day, I thought I'd better wait!

1. Check out the barbs and barbules - the tiny feathers that come from the shaft or stem of the feather are called barbs. Off the barbs are barbules which have hooks like velcro. If you smooth a feather the wrong way (top down) they get all scraggly. Then clean them up by can pretending to preen  and smooth your feathers the right way. The barbules will re-hook and the feather will be smooth again.

2. Dip them in water.  What might happen?  Older feathers, or those that are dyed, might just get wet, but on fresher feathers the water will bead up. Birds have oil glands that they use to keep their feathers water resistant.

3. Paint - paint with the feathers using slightly runny paint or water color paint. Different feathers will make different patterns.

4. Make a game. Tie up a bundle of feathers to make a shuttle cock game played by native American children. Here is a description.

5. See how long you can keep a feather in the air with your breath. Blow the feather up in the air and you can count or use a stop watch to see who can keep a feather in the air the longest.

I collected these feathers just from my backyard. I can remember as a kid hearing that I shouldn't pick up feathers in case they had germs. Well "germs" that affect birds don't usually affect humans. Yes, there is an avian flu but it isn't going to be carried by your average backyard bird or their dropped feathers.

One thing to note is that you cannot pick up feathers from migratory or endangered birds. Just don't even think about it. What you see above are Turkey, Blue Jay and Mourning Dove feathers.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tools: Magnifying Glasses

Magnifying glasses are tricky tools to use at first. Where do you hold it? How much should it magnify something?  These are some of the questions you can help your child answer as they learn to use this valuable and fun tool.

Try holding the magnifying glass just above an object. This is a good place to keep a magnifying glass but it can be quite tricky for little kids.

Put the magnifying glass close to their eye and have them move close to the object. Often this is an easier place to begin using magnifying glasses.

Try looking a some familar objects first then move to even more fun things like leaves, bugs, and your body.  Hair up close is wild!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Starting tomorrow...

we will start the new session of Messy Fingers!

Sign up at the Millbury Public Library - (508) 865-1181.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Sign Ups are Open!

Messy Fingers is moving to a new format. Preschoolers (age 3-5) and their parents will sign up for a set of classes – usually four – around a topic or theme. Preschoolers and their parents will only need to sign up once and attend each session. All sessions will be at the Millbury Public Library from 10:30 until approximately 11:30am.  Parents will need to participate.

In February we will explore How things change, Birds and our Senses. 

·         Feb 7, we will explore how things change as they age. Please bring a baby picture of your child.

·         Feb 14, we will try and build bird’s nests and make bird feeders.

·         Feb 28, we will have a fun time exploring our five senses. 
Please sign up so there is a space for you and we have enough materials.

Fun Friday Fact

Squirrels can swim.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Squirrels make two types of homes over the course of the year. Wouldn't it be nice to have a summer and winter home?

In the winter they make a den. Using a cavity made by another animal such as a bird. This is where they spend the winter and may have a food stash.

Summer homes are called a drey and is made of sticks and leaves at the intersection of two large branches. They usually have two doors. Can you make one?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Fun Friday Bubble Factoids

Bubbles are round. Molecules are lazy and round is the least energetic form for them to be in.

Ok, now I am pretty sure I've told you that before but I want to share some of my very favorite bubbly websites. There are many places on the web to find other bubble fans - most are way beyond the average preschooler and a few are even beyond the most avid lay science geek {blush}. I love, LOVE that super smart physicists love bubbles too.

For your reading and bubble blowing pleasure, click away...
Learning Express - basic bubble info that you know if you hang out with me
Soap Bubbles - for the lay science geeks, check out the When Bubble Meets Bubble photos - some alternative recipes for bouncy bubbles, {sigh} few pictures but good content
Steve Spangler - he is my new science crush - not much on the page but links - follow them to bubbly goodness and fun - I want to make the swimming pool bubbles this summer.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Pop!: A Book about Bubbles 
  • Kimberly Brubaker Bradley is a fun book with great photos of bubbles, ideas for playing with the science of bubble and includes a recipe for homemade bubbles. 

  • I do like my non fiction books to have photos and these are really pretty. Ok, now that is exactly the most scientific description but honestly bubbles fascinate scientists for many of the same reasons they fascinate preschoolers - the are fun and cool to play with - so please forgive my rather casual, and totally preschoolish, love of bubbles!

    This book was good and solid but didn't transport me into joyful dancing or leave me breathless so 4 out of 5 stars. 

    Go visit your library to check this book out!

    Tuesday, January 17, 2012


    This week's topic is Bubbles. Now I am betting you are wondering why bubbles in the middle of winter. Wonder no longer - bubbles are great fun in any weather - and they are a really accessible way to introduce kids to science.

    Grab some of your favorite bubble solution and small tray. Thread yarn through two straws (or even one straw cut in half), tie it and you have a great bubble wand. Pour bubble solution in to the tray and dip the straw and string in. Let the string or yarn absorb the liquid for a moment then carefully pull out. If you grasp the straw and slowly pull them apart you will have a great bubble ready for a soft breath to blow it.

    What else can make bubbles in your house?  You can blow bubble through whisks, fly swatters, spools, and whatever your imagination can think of. Pipe cleaners can be bent into all sorts of fun shapes that make cool bubbles.

    Here is a fun way to capture bubbles with paint.
    Here is a fun challenge to do in the winter - IF it ever gets cold enough. Really you need temperatures below 20'F. This is what happened when I did it.

    Friday, January 13, 2012

    Messy Fingers Schedule

    Messy Fingers will start up again in February and March.

    Stay tuned for topics and details. Sign ups will start on Tuesday January 17, 2012.

    Fun Friday Fact

    Footprints on the moon will last forever - well at least as long as the moon since there is no erosion. No atmosphere means that there will be no wind or rain to destroy them.

    Tuesday, January 10, 2012

    Experiment: Shadows

    Shadows are a great topic to play with during a study of the moon. The moon doesn't generate it's own light but reflects that of the sun. An eclipse is nothing more than a shadow, but unless you are witnessing an eclipse with a preschooler, I'd suggest waiting on discussing eclipses.

    Shadows on the other are great fun at this age. Since the sun is still setting early, shadow play can easily take place even before supper!

    Grab some construction paper and copier paper and cut out shapes. Glue or tape them on to craft sticks or straws. Using a flash light, cast shadows on the wall by putting the paper shapes between the wall and the flashlight.

    Do the two kinds of paper cast the same kind of shadow? The copier paper is translucent - which is a fancy science word for letting a bit of light through. The construction paper is opaque - which is a fancy science work for not letting any light through.

    How do you make the shadows bigger or smaller? What other objects can you cast shadows with? Can you make shapes with your hands or bodies?

    Monday, January 9, 2012

    Topic of the Week: Preschool Astronomy

    I couldn't think of an animal that would go well with the topic this week unless I did werewolves! This week is all about Astronomy for Preschoolers. Now these are not words normally associated together, but this time of year, Astronomy is quite accessible to kids of all ages.

    Here in New England, sunset is around 4:30 pm and moon rise is not far off. In January, moon rise will be around 7:15pm and getting earlier for the rest of the month. Check out your moon rise times here.

    The moon is full now and easily observable. Check out how the moon changes over the week and come back over the next few days as I give you some tools to explore the moon with your preschoolers.

    Friday, January 6, 2012

    Fun Friday Fact

    Elephants can't jump.

    Thought you'd need to know that today!