Tag Archives: science for toddlers

Gracen Raises Butterflies: Release Day

Well, the big day finally came…  As of yesterday morning, all 8 of our caterpillars had successfully completed the transition to butterflies (yay for a 100% success rate!)  We watched them for one final day, the newbies drying and pumping up their wings and the others slurping up juice from fresh fruit, knowing that if the weather cooperated, today would be release day.  

With the rain clouds gone, the sun shining, and still plenty of time before dark, we decided to set our butterflies free as soon as Gracen woke up from her nap.  Before heading into the backyard, we had a little chat about what releasing the butterflies actually meant.  We talked about how they’d enjoyed their time with us, but they’d also love flying free in nature.  We talked about the things they’d do once released, like fly, drink nectar, and lay eggs…  And we talked about the fact that once they were released, they wouldn’t be coming back to us.  This initially made her a little sad, but she was okay with it after I explained that they had things to do and they’d be alright on their own.

IMG 8192Because there were a couple of butterflies enjoying the orange when we were ready to take them outside, I decided to make the somewhat risky move of taking the orange slice, butterflies perched atop,  outside on its own.  The hut was positioned close to a door, and luckily neither flew off before I safely got outdoors.  In fact, this little one continued to slip up juice from the orange for quite a while, even once completely free to go.

IMG 8243With our two hungry butterflies already outside and the rest of the fruit removed from the bottom of the hut, it was time to take the entire enclosure out.  Though I’ve done it on my own in the past, this truly is a two person job.  I gently shooed the butterflies hanging out near the bottom of the enclosure up to the top, collected the four flaps at the opening, and Brad unpinned it from the ceiling.  Walking very slowly in order to keep the enclosure taut and not squish any butterflies, we brought the whole thing outside, laid it on its side in the grass, and opened up the bottom.

IMG 8255IMG 8208While you might expect them to be in a rush to fly off to their freedom, for the most part, they’re not.  Except for one, I retrieved the butterflies from inside the hut by gently coaxing them to climb onto my finger, then brought them out into the open.

IMG 8250The cool part is that most will hang around a while, giving you a great opportunity to see them up close without mesh intruding on your view.

IMG 8211IMG 8194This is also a great time for little ones to ‘hold’ a butterfly too.  All you have to do gently coax the butterfly {without touching their wings obviously} into climbing onto your finger, then place your finger on the edge of the child’s hand to make a careful transfer.  You can do it lots of different ways, but I personally like putting the butterfly on the topside of the child’s hand as it prevents the gut reaction of closing the fingers around the butterfly when it decides to fly off.

IMG 8268IMG 8239When they decide to go, some will fly off high into the blue sky until you lose sight, while others will land on a nearby plant.  Another possibility is that they’ll fly for a bit and decide to touch down on the grass, so be sure to be mindful of where you’re walking.  

IMG 8222I’m so, so glad that we decided to do raise butterflies with Miss G this year.  As each butterfly eventually made it’s way off, Gracen would call out, “Buh bye, butterfly!  Have a funny day!”  – a happy goodbye.  It’s been an amazing learning experience, and without a doubt, she’s learned a ton.  She uses all kinds of new words now and can tell you all about the butterfly life cycle and butterfly parts.  Best of all, she’s learned this all in a hands-on, meaningful way without actually realizing that she was learning. ☺

To see all of the posts in our Gracen Raises Butterflies series, click here.


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: Hanging Our Chrysalises

IMG 9790With our butterfly enclosure ready and our first chrysalises ready to be hung, Miss G and I had to get a little creative this morning.  When raising butterflies in my classroom, I used to hang the chrysalises from the inside of a wooden block that was open on two sides, but without one of those at our disposal, we decided to try and craft one.  A box, some packaging tape, and a utility knife later, we had this.  As you can see, it certainly ain’t pretty.  Buuuut, it gets the job done.

IMG 9792Once the newly-formed  chrysalises had been left alone for 12 – 24 hours, we very carefully lifted the lids off of the containers, gently loosening the webbing off of the container walls with a paintbrush if needed.  Then we simply created tape rolls using a good strong masking tape, and stuck the lids to the ceiling of our homely box block.  This is where they’ll hang now until the final step of their transformation takes place.

IMG 9799As for our other guys who are still busy eating, they all got a good container cleaning and fresh food.  Let’s hope this is a welcomed change and not something that harms their ability to begin their transformation.

IMG 9799And while I was busy cutting, hanging, and cleaning, Miss G worked on her own project beside me.  When she was done, she brought me her scrap cardboard and explained, “First we have fuzzy yittle caterpillars, and then they build their chrysalises.  You wait for a long, long, loooooong time, and they POP out and be butterflies!  Then the butterflies will fly, fly, fly away.” She never ceases to amaze me.


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: We Have Chrysalises!

IMG 9732It’s day 4 with our caterpillars and look at what we have today!  We woke up to find that three of our fuzzy little caterpillars had build their chrysalises over night.  We were actually cleaning up from breakfast already when Gracen called out, “Some of the caterpillars built their chrysalises, Mama!”

IMG 9726And thank goodness.  If they weren’t pupas today, I was going to go into their containers and do a major clean up.  I know that school kits normally say that once the container is closed, leave it closed, and that handling them as little as possible is best, but it can’t be fun to live in your own poop.  Besides, from what I read, serious butterfly raisers clean out caterpillar frass daily.  For our 5 remaining caterpillars, it’s house cleaning day.  Wish me luck!


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: Preparing Our Butterfly Enclosure

With our fuzzy little friends happily in their new homes eating themselves silly, today Miss G and I went out to the garage to dig up one of the butterfly homes I made years ago when teaching my first ever Kindergarten class.  Of course, there are probably many different butterfly huts available for purchase online, but I’m typically a fan of making things myself if I can.  Such was the case 8 years too…  Instead of purchasing a readymade butterfly home, I opted to purchase several of these inexpensive mesh hanging storage tubes and modify them a wee bit.  

IMG 9717To start out, I carefully made two large perpendicular cuts on the very bottom of the storage unit in order to open it up.  Then, very carefully, I snipped out all of the mesh dividers that created the separate compartments.  

IMG 9718Next, using some picnic table covering plastic (found on large rolls at IKEA and hardware stores), I cut out circles just a hair larger than the circular openings along the sides of the tube.  With a hot glue gun and a hand I was wiling to burn repeatedly for the sake of my students and soon-to-be butterflies (just kidding…um… kinda ☺), I glued the plastic windows to the inside of my tube to cover up the holes (gluing them to the outside would have undoubtedly been easier, but that would have also allowed my hot glue slip-ups to be more obvious, which simply was not acceptable at the time).  

IMG 9719In order to create some homey resting ledges for my winged friends, I glued several brightly coloured faux flowers to the inside of the enclosure too. 

Though very wrinkled from years of storage, our butterfly enclosure is now hung from the ceiling so it rests perfectly on the tiny little table our chrysalises are going to sit on when they’re ready.

IMG 9722In the meantime, since we’re not at the chrysalis stage yet, I pinned up the butterfly enclosure, set our caterpillar containers on the little wooden table, and set up a little reading and observing corner for her to enjoy.  

IMG 9720Now to figure out how we’ll hang our chrysalises…  While teaching, I stuck them (still attached to their container lids) to the ceiling of a large wooden block that was open on two sides, but since we don’t have one of those, I’m going to have to get a little creative. We shall see what we come up with!


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Gracen Raises Butterflies: They’re Here!

IMG 9551IMG 9557IMG 9553When I saw that the awesome teachers’ store in our hometown, Vernon Teach & Learn, was selling butterfly larvae, I jumped on the opportunity and immediately put an order through by phone.  Now while I’m well aware that some people may think raising butterflies in your home is a tad on the crazy side, I actually think it’s pretty awesome.  It’s something I’ve done with my Kindergarten classes in the past and the process is nothing short of amazing.  For a child to be able to witness tiny caterpillars grow, build chrysalises, and emerge as butterflies up close and personal all in a span of a few weeks is pretty special.  I can’t wait to share the experience with Grae.  Ten fuzzy little caterpillars (two of which will be adopted by a friend tomorrow) arrived to our doorstep today and we couldn’t be more excited.

To order butterfly larvae of your own, contact Vernon Teach & Learn.  They are incredibly helpful and kind, and our caterpillars arrived here to Vancouver the day after ordering.  Their larvae packages can be found here.


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Exploring with Magic Potions

Exploring Magic Potions | Mama Papa BubbaThis afternoon the sun was out and I decided to set up something really fun for Grae to explore and experiment with in the backyard.

IMG 9234The set up was pretty simple…  Several differently shaped jars and medicine bottles filled with coloured vinegar (we used gel food colouring), a couple of small jars of baking soda, a couple of spoons, and a few empty mixing containers all on a tray.  Oh, and some safety goggles.  Because in Gracen’s world, science equals goggles. ☺

IMG 9246After helping her with her goggles, Grae set off to work.

IMG 9236As I usually do with this kind of activity, I didn’t give her any instructions.  I simply said, “Do you want to play?”

IMG 9237The answer was an excited ‘yes’, and after a few questions about whether or not she could dump/mix/pour things (of course the answer to all was yes), she got started.

IMG 9249While she’s seen the reaction baking soda and vinegar have while moon painting, this was on a much bigger scale.

IMG 9258And she loved it.  Mixing a little bit of this with a little bit of that in order to cause colour changes and fizzy foam eruptions was right up her alley.

IMG 9252My little scientist made reaction after reaction, delighting each time she caused foam to spew out of the top of her jar.

IMG 9259One thing that was interesting is how the colour of the vinegar seemed to change with the addition of baking soda.  In the case of the orange and the pink, the colours seemed to explode with brightness as the reactions occurred.

IMG 9270With almost all of her baking soda resources used up and her largest  jar of vinegar left, we fetched just a little more baking soda from in the house.

IMG 9274It started off slowly, but the reaction did not disappoint.  After scrounging leftover baking soda from wherever she could, she managed to create enough fizzing foam to have it flow generously out of the top of the jar.  Success!

After she’d depleted her resources, what was left was a beautiful rainbow-y mess.  For a little bit of added fun, we filled up a bin with warm soap water, grabbed a cloth, a scrubber brush, and a couple of towels, and had a little dishwashing station right there in the backyard.


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Weekly Fruit/Veggie Investigation: Dragon Fruit

Weekly Fruit Investigation | Mama Papa BubbaAfter our last fruit investigation, it was amazing to see what Gracen came up with all on her own this week.  She’d picked a dragon fruit (one of my personal favourites) from the store a couple of days back and when she sat down with it today, I simply asked, “What can you tell me about this dragon fruit?”  Her observations about the outside of the fruit included that it was cold, pink and green, both smooth and prickly, and squishy when poked.  She also told me that it smelled like strawberries (hah!)

IMG 7838Once we cut it in half, she told me that it was ‘veeeeeeery’ seedy, that the seeds could be eaten just like those of the kiwi, and that it felt wet.  

IMG 7841We peeled the skin off and Miss G got straight to the taste test portion of her investigation.  The conclusion?  It tasted like strawberries (though I think she often uses “strawberries” because she associates them with tasting and smelling good…she also tells me that her toes smell like strawberries!)

IMG 7842It’s amazing how quickly kids pick things up, isn’t it?  We’ve only done this once before and she is already using her sense of sight, smell, taste, and touch to make conclusions about a new fruit.  I love this little weekly tradition we have going on and I’m excited to see what she chooses next week.

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Weekly Fruit Investigation

Weekly Fruit InvestigationYesterday, while shopping for fresh produce, Miss G asked if we could take home a starfruit. It got me thinking.  I didn’t know if Grae had ever even seen a starfruit, let alone tasted one.  I said sure, let her select the one she wanted, and carry it throughout the store for the remainder of our trip.

IMG 6351Today, after nap time, we pulled it out to investigate.  We started by smelling it…

IMG 6355Then moved on to running our fingers over it to feel its texture…

IMG 6356And then to gently pinching it to see how soft or hard it was.

IMG 6357When we were done investigating the outside of the fruit, we decided to cut it open.

IMG 6365Of course the first thing Miss G wanted to do was taste it.  This particular starfruit was still a little too green, but you can’t investigate a fun new fruit without tasting it!

IMG 6370Starfruit got her seal of approval, and while munching away, Grae was pleased to discover seeds inside the fruit.

IMG 6369This was such a fun and easy little activity that I think I’m going to let Grae choose one new item during our produce shopping trip each week.  While we eat a TON of produce, there are still many fruits and veggies we haven’t tried (especially in our local market’s extensive Asian section).  It’ll be fun to branch out a little bit and try new things, and I truly believe that when kids are involved in the shopping and cooking aspects of food, they’re much more open-minded about tasting their selections and creations.

Yay!  A new shopping tradition for us.

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A {Kiwi Crate} Window Garden {& a Giveaway!}

A couple of weeks ago, Gracen and I attended an awesome Halloween-themed story time at Pottery Barn Kids.  (Who knew, right?  It happens every Tuesday at 11 a.m. for those of you who are in Vancouver.)  Afterwards, the kids got their Book Club passports stamped and were each {very generously} gifted a Kiwi Crate to take home.  

IMG 1857I’ve seen Kiwi Crates on a few of the blogs I read and I’ve always thought they were very neat, so I’m not sure who was more excited about the gift…Gracen or I.   (If you’ve never heard of them before, they’re basically little boxes that arrive to your door each month and are filled with all of the materials/instructions/inspiration needed for hands-on projects.  Some are science activities, some are arts and crafts, and some are geared towards imaginative play.) 

IMG 1861This afternoon we took out our crate, opened it up, and found all of the materials needed to put together a window garden.  Needless to say, my little gardening enthusiast was thrilled.

IMG 1865IMG 1903Included was a  clearly laid out instruction card complete with diagrams, and a sweet little observation booklet for Miss G to draw in. 

IMG 1868IMG 1871IMG 1878IMG 1877IMG 1885IMG 1888We carefully set up the garden, referring back to the instruction card after each step.  Gracen, Miss ‘Let’s Do a Project!’, loved it and took her work very seriously.

IMG 1892IMG 1896IMG 1897With the exception of really making sure the suction cups were stuck to the window and printing the words “mint” and “basil”, Grae was able to do everything on her own, which was lovely.

IMG 1898IMG 1900We now have a sweet little garden set up right in our living room and I can’t wait to help Grae water it each day and watch as our fresh herbs grow.  ☺

Because we enjoyed our Kiwi Crate so much, and I sincerely think they are a great way for parents and children to try new things together, I contacted Kiwi Crate and asked if they’d like to share the love with one of our readers.  And guess what? They do!  One Mama.Papa.Bubba. reader will receive a complimentary crate of their own, and will have the option of selecting a regular crate or one of the new holiday-themed crates.  

The contest is open until Monday, November 26th and there are multiple ways to win (be sure to leave a separate comment for each).


To enter to win a complimentary Kiwi Crate:

Leave a comment below telling me something you love to do with your kid(s).


For additional chances to win:

–> ‘Like’ Mama.Papa.Bubba. on Facebook, then come back and leave a second separate comment saying you did so (or that you had previously).

–> ‘Like’ Kiwi Crate on Facebook, then come back and leave an additional separate comment saying you did so (or that you had previously).

–> Sign up for Kiwi Crate’s fun-filled newsletter, then come back and leave an additional separate comment saying you did so.

–> Follow @jkossowanon Twitter, then come back and leave a separate comment saying you did so.

–> Tweet about the giveaway and leave an additional separate comment saying you did so.


Don’t forget to leave your email address!  The winner will be announced on November 27th and contacted via email.  Good luck!!

Kiwi crate did not ask me to write this post, nor did they compensate me to do so, but in the interest of full disclosure, I did sign up to be a part of their affiliate program.  This means that when Kiwi Crate products are purchased through the links i’ve provided, I get a small kickback from the company.

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Playing with Oobleck

Playing with OobleckToday Miss G and I tried making and playing with the ridiculously fun {and equally messy} substance called Oobleck.  It’s made out of only 2 ingredients (or 3 if you want to add a little colour), and it isn’t quite a liquid and it isn’t really a solid…  In fact, it behaves like both. 

While teaching in Kuwait, my team members and I always made Oobleck with our first grade classes during our solids, liquids, and gasses unit and it was definitely one of the favourite lessons.  Today, Grae enjoyed it just as much as my 6 and 7 year old students did, so this is definitely something that can be done with children of all ages.

IMG 2043All you need in order to make Oobleck is water and cornstarch, plus food colouring if you wish.

IMG 2047I like to start by adding the colouring to the water first because it’s a lot easier to stir colouring into water than into the finished Oobleck.

IMG 2050Plus, this way you get to watch the colouring disperse into the water, which is always kind of neat.

IMG 2052Start by giving your water a little stir to make sure the colouring is evenly dispersed.

IMG 2055Then add your cornstarch a cup at a time, stirring it into the water as you go.

IMG 2058When the mixture is nice and thick and you’re not able to pour off any excess water, your Oobleck is ready.

Now go ahead and play!  Watch what happens when you touch the Oobleck quickly with a lot of pressure, versus when you touch it slowly and gently.  

IMG 2060IMG 2062IMG 2064IMG 2067

Be prepared to get messy – it’s more fun that way!  Putting a towel or tray under the bowl of Oobleck should catch most of the spills, and since Oobleck is best played with with hands, you won’t be left with a sink full of dishes afterwards.  ☺

Here are a couple of quick iPhone videos I managed to take of us playing with our Oobleck…


  • 1 cup of water
  • 3 cups of cornstarch
  • 1 or 2 drops of food colouring

Start by colouring the water with food colouring.  Add the cornstarch a cup at a time, stirring in between additions.  The Oobleck is ready when the mixture is thick and excess water cannot by poured off.

(Many recipes on the internet will say that for 1 cup of water you should only need between 1 and 2 cups of cornstarch, but my experience has been that the 1:3 ratio works out perfectly every time.  My suggestion is to add slowly after the second cup and see what works best for you.)


To learn more about Oobleck, click here.  To see where Oobleck got its silly-sounding name, click here.

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