Elf-periment: Science Fun with an Elf

Tis the Season for family and holiday traditions. It’s also the time when Santa sends his little helpers out to watch for good little boys and girls. If you are one of the many families that participate in Elf of the Shelf tradition then you know how much mischief those things can create and how stressful it can be to remember to move your Elf and pose them in a different way. Why not use your Elf as a teaching tool? In my home I use the Elf not only to reinforce positive behavior, but also to teach science to my little one. 

So what is science exactly? One way that Merriam-Webster defines science is “the state of knowing: knowledge as distinguished from ignorance or misunderstanding”. Science is simply studying and understanding certain things whether it be the way plants grow and absorb nutrients or how substances change their state from solid to liquid or gas. Science is often intimidating to children so try to take a fun by using a hands on approach.

That’s where Alakazam comes in. Alakazam is the name that my son gave to our Elf. But unlike other Elves, Alakazam is a master professor. Alakazam does his usual moving about the house in random places, but once a week if my child has behaved (and he does) Alakazam has a cool science experiment for my son to do. These experiments are quick, easy, and inexpensive. My son is in kindergarten so I use experiments that are age appropriate and reinforce what he is learning in school.

Recently my son has been learning about various states of matter. I decided that Alakazam needed to teach a lesson that would require my son to identify the states of matter of the ingredients that we were using along with the state of the final product. So we built a snowman! Not a real snowman of course as we live in south Florida. We made faux snow and then built a snowman with our successful experiment. It’s important to talk with your child during and after the experiment. Have them tell you what is happening, explain the textures, and temperature of what they are feeling. If you want to take it a step further, you can make your snow using other recipes and compare and contrast the each final product. See below for the instructions for making your own faux snow.

Faux Snow: Pour one box of 1 pound Baking Soda into a large bowl.  Combine 11-16.5 ounces of white conditioner until you achieve your desired consistency. Allow snow to air-dry overnight.  

Foam Snow: Pour two 16 ounce boxes of cornstarch into a large bowl. Slowly add and mix in white shaving cream until you achieve your desired consistency. 

Soap Snow: Take one bar of creamy white soap and cut into four pieces. Place each piece in a microwavable safe container. Microwave each piece separately for about one minute. If you are watching the soap you will be able to see it expand in the microwave as it heats up. Remove the soap from the microwave and allow to cool. Repeat steps with each piece. Once soap has completely cooled, begin crumble the pieces up into little flakes of snow.

There are tons of activities and experiments found online and in 4-H project books. Check out the links below for additional ideas:  

Curriculum

https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/4H/4H31700.pdf

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