Stacking the Cat’s Hats

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd, we decided to try some fun STEM activities related to his fabulous books!  This particular activity is based on his beloved character, The Cat in the Hat!  All you need are some red cups and paper and you are set!  It’s a great, simple engineering challenge at any time, actually.  Whenever you do it, this is easy to set up and challenging for all ages!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Red cups  for the “hats” (I used the plastic red shot glasses for little hands but you can use any size)
  • Cut pieces of white paper to make the hat bottoms
  • Scissors

Here are ideas for the challenge:

  • How high can you stack the Cat’s hats?
  • Can you build a house? A farm? A thingamajigger?
  • Can you build a structure as tall as you?

So easy to set up!  Just give your little ones a pile of cups and let them start stacking!

So many different types of structures!

And the best part?  When they fall over!  (Or get knocked over!) So much fun when they come crashing down!

Extension: If you’d like to make them look more like the Cat’s hats, have the kids paint white stripes or stick strips of white paper on the cups the day before the challenge.

Finish off the activity by reading Dr. Seuss’s book, “Cat in the Hat”.

For more Dr. Seuss STEM, try the following:

Science Behind the Activity:

This is a simple STEM activity that encourages creative thinking and problem solving to figure out how to best stack the cups or creative ways to stack the cups.   And early math skills for the youngest tots can be enforced by counting the cups as they are stacked (or fall!)  Best of all, it encourages teamwork and working together.

To see where I got my idea from and for more details, follow the link below:



Blizzard in a Bottle

If you’ve tried my Homemade Lava Lamps, then this activity will seem very familiar, but with a snowy twist, perfect for winter!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Empty water bottle (or any clear bottle)
  • baby oil
  • White paint
  • water
  • funnel
  • Alka Seltzer tablets
  • Glitter (optional, but why not?)img_0331

Add some white paint to some water so that it becomes cloudy.  Mix well.  Fill the bottle a little more than halfway with baby oil.


Add white water to it until it’s about 2-3 inches from the top of the bottle.  Observe the layers.


Add some glitter if you want.


Break one of the Alka Seltzer tablets into 4-5 pieces.  Use caution with young children who might be tempted to put this in their mouths!  It is a cold medication and should not be ingested by children!  IMG_1984

Add one piece to the bottle and watch the magic begin!


Once the Alka Seltzer tablet has completely dissolved, add another one and watch the colored bubbles rise and sink again!  Repeat as many times as you’d like!  You can even try adding some glitter for some extra fun!

This is a twist to my Homemade Lava Lamp activity which is definitely a favorite with my tots and my own kids!

Note: Different “flavors” of Alka Seltzer might create a colored “Blizzard”.  I accidentally used the orange flavored ones and our blizzard turned orange/peach!  The tots still loved it though!

Here are some more fun winter weather related science activities:

The Science behind the Activity:

Water and oil are insoluble, they do not mix.  Water is denser than oil and stays as a separate layer at the bottom of the bottle.  Food coloring is soluble in water so it colors the water but not the oil.  When the Alka Seltzer is added, it forms gas bubbles that rise to the top, “dragging” the colored water along with it.  As the water reaches the top and the gas bubbles pop near the surface of the oil, the denser water falls back down through the oil.  The process keeps repeating itself until the Alka Seltzer has completely dissolved an no longer forms any bubbles.

This activity can be done with adding salt instead of Alka Seltzer (for those of you who are concerned about using medication with kids) but the results are not as good and eventually the salt saturates the water and makes it cloudy.  Let me know if you try it with some other fizzy tablets such as Airborne.  Curious to see if those work just as well.


Corn and Cranberry Investigation Tray

While getting ready for Thanksgiving and putting away Halloween stuff, my kids were asking about the Indian corn we use as decor at this time of year.  They wanted to see if it was different from the corn we use to make popcorn.  That got them interested in popcorn as well.  Since I was making cranberry sauce, my kids took some cranberries to study as well.  Hence, this Corn and Cranberry Investigation Tray was created.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Popcorn kernels
  • Popcorn
  • Indian Corn
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Glass of water

Set up the tray with all the materials.  I also added some cut cranberries for my little ones to see how the inside looks like.

The kids loved the Indian Corn and enjoyed examining the different colors and picking them off the cob!  My middle son is super crafty and used the kernels to make art projects.  I had kernels everywhere!

Next, we compared the popcorn kernel and the popcorn to each other.  We could see the bits of kernel in the popcorn.  Since we have an air popper at home, we talked about how kernels get heated up and turn into popcorn.

We compared the dried cranberries to the fresh cranberries and were also able to see the seeds inside both of them.

Kids love to add things to water so, of course, I brought out some water for them to test what floats and what sinks.  First we started with cranberries.  Here’s a whole cranberry.

Next we added dried cranberries and cut cranberries.

We discussed why the fresh cranberry floated and why the dried ones didn’t.  My older kids were able to figure out that the air pockets kept the fresh cranberry afloat.

Next we tested the popcorn and kernels.

We used similar reasoning for why the popcorn floated but the kernel sunk.

Lastly, they just started dumping everything into the cup because, well, it’s fun!

This was perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  You don’t need much to keep the little ones entertained.  But my older sons (ages 6 and 8) were interested in it too.

Extension: If you have some carbonated beverages that are clear, such as Ginger Ale, Sprite, 7up, etc… you can test how the fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, popcorn and corn kernels behave with bubbles!  Visit my post Hopping Corn and Cranberries for the bubbly details!

Another idea, which I have not tried, might be to leave a fresh cranberry out and see how it shrivels up and compare it to a dried cranberry.  If you try this, let me know in the comments!

The Science Behind the Activity:

Investigating different textures and seeing changes in objects are a great way to discuss cause and effect with little ones.  Most of them have eaten dried cranberries and popcorn but have no idea where they come from.

By adding the objects to water, they can learn to make predictions about which objects float and sink in water.  For older children, they can investigate how air pockets in cranberries (and other fruits) allow them to float even though they “feel heavy”.  For even older kids, you can bring up the concept of density.

Thanksgiving STEAM Teepee building

Often I feel as though Thanksgiving activities get lost in the middle of Halloween and Christmas.  Here’s a simple STEAM activity that can be tailored for the littlest ones as well as for older ones.  The method I have in this post is just ONE of many ways that you could present this activity to your superheroes.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Brown construction paper (great for little ones)
  • Sticks (real ones or craft sticks, depending on the age of your kiddos)
  • Thanksgiving stickers (we used leaves)
  • Pilgrim and Native American figures (We found a fun kit at Michael’s)
  • Glue
  • Scissors

Since the tots in my class are pretty young (ages 2-3), I provided them with brown construction paper and helped them to roll into a cone.

I left a box of craft sticks out for them in case they wanted to try to use them instead.  Some taped them on to the outside of their Teepees.

Some looked like tents.

The tots then added stickers and craft sticks to the cone to make it look like a Teepee.

All of them looked great!

Using the kit, each child selected either a Pilgrim or Native American and added it to their Teepee or used them to play with.

Pretend Play with their Teepees further extends this activity!

The Science behind the Activity:

This is a simple open-ended STEAM activity that allows children to build a structure using basic supplies.  The challenge is getting it to stand on its own.  Add some specifications to the structures for older kids, such as a height, width, number of sticks, etc…  Adding the Pilgrims and Native American figures also encourages pretend play.  Read a book about Thanksgiving to round out the lesson with a bit of history.

This activity can be modified for any holiday, such as Santa’s Toy Factory, Witch’s Hut, Leprechaun Trap, etc…


Pinhole Viewer

The Great American Eclipse is almost here and this pinhole viewer is a super easy way to watch the moon travel in front of the sun.  Here in California, we will only get about 75% totality but we will get to experience the crescent shapes that the sun will make.  So how do we make this pinhole viewer?  Grab a shoebox and read on!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • shoebox
  • scissors
  • box cutter
  • aluminum foil
  • white and black paper
  • tape
  • nail

To Make the pinhole viewer:

You will need to cut two holes on the small side of your shoebox.  One will be a small viewing hole and the other is a larger hole where the pinhole will be.  I used a box cutter for this step and let the kids finish off with the scissors.

Large hole for pinhole

Left hole = pinhole, right hole = viewing hole

Next, open the box and tape white paper opposite from the side the viewing holes were cut.  This is where you will see the light from the sun and the change in shape as the moon passes in front.

Cut a square piece of foil that will cover the larger hole that you made.  Tape it over the hole.

Using a nail, poke a hole in the center of the foil.

Our box had some extra holes in it that might allow extra light.  These need to be covered up.

Tape black paper over any holes in the box that might allow extra light in.

That’s it!  You’re done.

How to use it:

Test it out by standing with your back to the sun and look into the viewing hole.  Angle the box until you see a bright white circle inside.  That’s the image of the sun.  During the eclipse, you will see the circle change in shape to a crescent.

Other ways to experience the eclipse:

Use a strainer or criss cross your hands together so there are holes in between your fingers that allow light through.  During the eclipse, you will watch these circle of light change shape.

REMEMBER: NEVER look directly at the sun!  It can permanently damage your eyes and your eyesight.

Science Behind the Activity:

A total solar eclipse is a rare event where the sun and the moon and the Earth line up just perfectly so that the moon’s shadow completely covers the sun and only the halo of light around the sun (the corona) is visible.  A solar eclipse can only occur when we have a “new moon”.  By contrast, a lunar eclipse occurs only during a full moon and that occurs when the Earth’s shadow comes in between the moon and the sun to block sunlight from hitting the moon.

I used the following models to help my young kids understand what is happening.  Note that these are not scientifically accurate with respect to size and distance but for very young kids, this is about all they can process.

Partial Solar Eclipse (Idea from: TeachersPayTeachers)

Total Solar Eclipse (Idea from: TeachersPayTeachers)

This shows how the Earth moves around the sun and the moon moves around the Earth

If you are lucky enough to see a total solar eclipse, you will be able to view the sun with your eyes only during the 2-3 minutes of totality (the moon’s shadow covering the sun completely).  Otherwise, during a partial solar eclipse, you can not view it any time without special solar glasses or else you can permanently damage your eyes.

For more Information:

Ocean/Beach Discovery Sensory Bin

While I’ve always been a fan of sensory bins, I haven’t used them too often in my classes with the tots.  That is starting to change as I’m seeing how popular they are with the littles… and their parents!  This ocean sensory bin is so fun and my own children have enjoyed it many times and now, so have the tots in my class.  Super easy to set up and encourages so much learning through play.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Large bin (We’ve also used our water table)
  • Mixed blue beads (I grabbed a bag from the dollar store)
  • Bag of decorative river rocks (or collect some in your neighborhood)
  • Sea shells
  • Plastic sea animals (I really like these Terra by Battat Sea Animals from Target)
  • Water

Set up the river rocks on one side of the bin for the “shore” and the blue beads on the other side of the bin to represent the ocean.

Place some shells along the beach

Place some of the sea animals on the shore (such as the sea lion, turtle, crab).

Place some of the sea animals in the ocean (such as the octopus, sea star, sharks, eels, etc..)

Add water and your bin is ready for play!


Hand the bin over to your little superheroes and let them play!

My little guys had a blast!

The Science Behind the Activity:

This sensory bin allows children to have a sensory experience with different textures of rocks, shells, beads, toy animals as well as encourages them to get wet.  While playing with your child, ask them which ones like the water and which ones prefer the shore.  Do any of the animals like to eat other animals  For older children, you can bring up the topic of predator and prey and habitats.


Follow up this activity with a book about sea animals, oceans, beaches.  Visit an aquarium or tidepools.  Or collect sea shells and rocks and sand from a trip to the beach and make a sensory bin when you come home to “re-live” your fun memories at the beach.

Or try some more of my Ocean learning activities:


Earth Day Absorption Science

Water is a fantastic “chemical” to do science experiments and investigations with.  I love this easy water absorption activity, especially for the littlest tots.   Easy to set up with cotton make-up pads, some water and droppers.  Using blue and green water, this makes a perfect Earth Day STEAM activity.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Small tray/plate or cookie sheet
  • cup of blue water
  • cup of green water
  • dropper
  • Round cotton pads

Show your little one a picture of the Earth.  We spent some time talking about our planet and where we live on the planet, that the blue was oceans, the green and brown was the land and the white were the clouds.

Next, I gave them a cup of green water, blue water, dropper and a cotton pad and told them to drip the colored water onto the pad to create their own Earth.

The tots LOVE droppers!

The youngest ones dipped their pads in the water or dumped the water onto their pads.

The older ones were particular about where to place the green and blue drops.

They were so proud of their Earths!

The Science Behind the Activity:

I love using droppers whenever possible as it is a great way to strengthen muscles in preparation for learning to write AND it develops fine motor skills, both of which are vital as pre-writing skills begin emerging.  It’s also a great way to watch how water gets “sucked up” by the cotton pad and to introduce big words such as “absorb” and absorption” to their expanding vocabulary.

Visit this link to see where I got my “wet” idea from:

For more Earth Day activities, try the following:

Also, if you like this activity, you will LOVE the Water Absorption Tray!  Another easy water science activity that you can put together with whatever you have at home!

Ten Apples Up On Top

In honor of Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2nd, we decided to try some fun STEM activities related to his fabulous books!  This particular activity is based on his book, “Ten Apples Up On Top”.  This activity would also be fun during the fall when doing a unit on Apples.  Whenever you do it, this is easy to set up and challenging for all ages!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Decorative small apples (I got mine from Hobby Lobby)
  • Playdoh or soft clay


Here’s the challenge:  How many apples can YOU stack on top of each other?  For the littles the challenge was 3 apples.  For my older kids, it was 6.  For the parents in my class, it was 10.

So easy to set up!  Just give your little ones a box of decorative apples and some playdoh and let them start stacking.


We removed the stems from the apples to make stacking easier.


We tried putting apples upside down.


We tried putting playdoh under the apples for stability.


My older sons were able to get 5 apples stacked on top.  They had to work together, which was a WIN for this mama!


A parent in my tot class was so engrossed in this activity and got 7 apples stacked.


And the best part?  When they fall over!  (Or get knocked over!)

Finish off the activity by reading Dr. Seuss’s book, “Ten Apples Up On Top”.

For more fun Apple science activities, try the following:

For more Dr. Seuss STEM, try the following:

Science Behind the Activity:

This is a simple STEM activity that encourages creative thinking and problem solving to figure out how to best stack the apples.  Upside down or right side up apples?  Playdoh on top or on the bottom or none at all?  And early math skills for the youngest tots can be enforced by counting the apples as they are stacked (or fall!)  Best of all, it encourages teamwork and working together.

To see where I got my idea from and for more details, follow the link below:



Dancing Candy Hearts

Around Valentine’s Day, my kids get lots of those candy conversation hearts.  I remember as a kid, I loved reading the messages on them.  The messages are a bit different these days (“Text me”?)  Save a few of those hearts to do this quick 5 minute science experiment.  Use up some candy, do a little science, watch a little dance.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Candy Conversation Hearts
  • Tall clear glass (we used a tall glass and a test tube)
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Measuring spoon


Add 1 cup of water to a clear tall glass or tall test tube.  You can color yours purple or red for Valentine’s Day but that is totally optional.


Add in 2 teaspoons of baking soda and mix well.


Add a few candy hearts to the glass.


We used one of each color.img_0620Watch the hearts sink to the bottom of the glass.

Add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the glass slowly (or else it will will overflow!)


Watch the candy hearts dance… or in our case, only the pink and orange hearts danced.  The rest stayed happily at the bottom of the glass.img_0627

It really looked so cool watching the hearts float up and then sink down.

img_5086 img_5087

We will definitely be trying this again by testing the different colored hearts separately, testing different brands and testing different fizzy liquids to see if any of those change how the hearts behave.

For more Valentine’s Science Activities, try these:

For more floating and sinking activities, try these:

The Science Behind the Activity:

This is a great experiment demonstrating sinking and floating.  The hearts are denser than the liquid so they initially sink when you put them in.  When the vinegar is added, the reaction creates carbon dioxide gas.  As the carbon dioxide gas bubbles attach to the surface of the hearts, they decrease the density of the hearts and the hearts float to the top.  At the surface of the liquid, the gas bubbles pop and the hearts sink back down.  The process keeps repeating until there isn’t enough carbon dioxide left to raise the hearts.

To see where I got the idea from and more details, follow the link below:


Valentine’s Heart Crystals

We’ve made crystals using Borax so many times and it never fails to work.  This time we decided to make them for Valentine’s Day.  These are a great gift to make for friends and family and especially teachers!  They are so pretty and super easy too!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Borax (Found in the laundry detergent aisle)
  • Hot water (Obviously an adult will be needed to do this part)
  • pyrex measuring cup (one that can withstand hot water)
  • measuring spoons
  • pipecleaners
  • string
  • wide mouth glass jar
  • stick or pencil (we used craft sticks)


Give each superhero a pipecleaner (we used red, pink and white for Valentine’s day) and have them shape it into a heart.


Tie a string to the pipe cleaner and then attach to a pencil or craft stick so that the stick can rest on the top of the jar.


Be sure the string is the right length so that the pipe cleaner shape can be fully immersed in the jar’s liquid and will not touch the bottom. (We just rolled our string on the craft stick until we got the right height.  As the crystals form, there will be a layer of crystals at the bottom of the jar and you do not want your candy cane to get stuck to it or else it will break when you try to remove it from the jar.

Add 3 tablespoons of Borax (found in the laundry detergent aisle) to the jar.


Measure 1 cup of hot water.  Add to the jar with borax (An adult should do this part)


Stir until the borax dissolves completely. Each one of our jars held 1 cup of water.


Place the heart into the jar with the hot borax mixture so that the craft stick rests on top.  Make sure the pipe cleaner shapes do not touch the sides of the jar or the bottom of the jar. Once the crystals form, they will be hard, stiff and brittle.


Within a few hours we saw the crystals forming but the next morning the superheroes saw their sparkly hearts!


Take them out carefully from the jars and let them dry.


The crystals are strong and heavy.  What a pretty gift to make!


*Note of Caution: Borax is toxic if ingested and can irritate eyes.  If you have young children or pets who might ingest a broken particle, you might want to think twice about making these.

For more Valentine’s Science Activities, try:

The Science behind the Activity:

When dissolving the borax in hot water, you are creating a supersaturated solution which means you are using heat to get more borax to dissolve than you would with water at room temperature.  As the water cools, the borax “falls out of solution” and solidifies (recrystallizes) on the pipecleaner and on the bottom of the jar.

To clean the crystals off the bottom of the jar, just add more hot water and redissolve the borax and then you can pour it out easily.


Read my original post on Borax Crystals and to see where I got my idea from.  Also, try making Candy Cane Crystals during the holidays for a perfectly sparkly tree ornament!