33 Nerdy Science Gifts for Kids This Easter

Oh, Easter. Little wicker baskets full of chocolate and bunny-and-chick-themed junk. It floats around the house to be thrown away by the end of Spring Break, am I right? Why not science gifts?

After the first Easter basket junk explosion, I vowed to do it differently! Now, my girls get one “large” gift to share and a few small items to enjoy beyond Easter. I try to focus on things that will last the season (let alone the week) and bring continuous fun!

Here’s my list of 33 favorites to stuff your kids’ baskets with this Easter!

Please note that some of the links included are affiliate links. That means that if you follow the link and purchase something, I earn a small commission for my recommendation. This support helps keep my resources free and is much appreciated, so please consider using the link if you decide to purchase something from one of my posts!

The Science Mom’s Favorite Easter Basket Gifts

aCTIVITY Books

The Science Kids are obsessed with stickers and other activity books. I love them too, because they double as educational and fun for my kids. They also travel well, so I can stick one in my purse on our way out the door. And when they’re done, most can be thrown away (I’m Team No-Clutter-If-I-Can-Help-It!).

My favorite sticker books

My Favorite Activity Books

My Favorite Coloring Books

 

Discovery TOOLS & TOYS

I sometimes use holiday gifts as an excuse to buy a “bigger” gift that we’ve been wanting. These all fit that bill perfectly! These are gifts that can continue to be used and enjoyed!

Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set – This set is perfect for your little scientists. I love it so much that I’ve talked about it before in my 5 Science Gifts for Tiny Toddler Scientists post!

It’s the perfect combination of durable and chunky, making it really easy for little hands.

You can also get the Lab Gear to complete the set, or even upgrade to the Deluxe Lab Set!

 

Educational Insights Geosafari Motorized Solar System Kit – I’ve used this in my classroom and it’s stood up to lots of elementary schoolers.

The planets really move (and at different speeds too!) and the sun doubles as a mini planetarium, projecting stars!

Learning Resources Super Magnet Lab Kit – This kit comes with 124 magnets of all kinds, including wands, marbles, chips, and horseshoes.

I love how magnets really encourage discovery and experimentation through play. Even as an adult, I love to play with magnets!

4M Tin Can Robot – I mean, what’s more fun than building your own robot? This kit also allows for some imagination and customization. That means your little scientist can build their very own, unique tin can robot.

This is one of a few different 4M tin can robots, so they can add to their robot army, if they feel so inclined!

4M also makes a bunch of other robotics kits, like the Table Top Robot, the Doodling Robot, and a Solar Robot!

 

We are completely obsessed with this LEGO Women of NASA set. I mean, it doesn’t get any cooler than this! These mini-builds feature the Hubble Space Telescope with Nancy Grace Roman, the Space Shuttle Challenger with Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, and a representation of the Apollo Guidance Computer’s onboard flight source code with Margaret Hamilton!

 

Plush sCIENCE GIFTS

The Science Kids are plush junkies. They expect them at every holiday and Easter is no exception. Here are a few of our favorites!

The Celestial Buddies are snuggly little pieces of space that look like the real celestial bodies they’re meant to represent and feature cute little faces too.

You can collect all eight planets – Mercury, Venus, Earth (and our Sun and Moon), Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune – and dwarf planet Pluto (and its largest moon, Charon), as well as a Black Hole and Comet!

We also love this plush Cuddle Zoo Space Shuttle. It actually features the NASA logo on its wing! Ruby got it as a souvenir on one our last trips to Infinity Science Center at Stennis Space Center!

If biology is more your thing, you have to check out GiantMicrobes! They come in a bunch of different sizes, from tiny to extra large.

I personally love the mini gift boxes for their variety, like the Blood Cells (red blood cell, white blood cell, plasma, platelet, and antibody), Body Cells (bone, fat, nerve, hair, and muscle), and Organ Cells (heart, brain, skin, liver, and pancreas). You can also get them in keychain form, like this DNA one, if your little scientist is in to fluffy keychains on their backpacks like Ruby is. The regular sized GiantMicrobes come in all kinds of fun and/or interesting microbe forms, like Vitamin CMRSA, and the heart. Ruby’s favorite is the XL Penicillin plush though.

Similarly, you can find just about any plush organ you can dream of from I Heart Guts, complete with cute names!

I love their All You Need is Lobe brain, I Lung Rock n Roll lung, and Party Pupil in the House eyeball!

 

What are your kids getting for easter? Leave a comment and share!

 

47 Black Inventors Who Improved Your Daily Life

Black inventors and scientists are everywhere in our daily lives. They have made so many invaluable contributions to science, technology, and the modern world that it’s hard to count. Yet, our science and history books’ pages remain mostly white (and male, but that’s a post for another day). These men and women have overcome incredible barriers, from not being credited with their own work to enslavement to historic inequality in our education system.

You don’t have to look very far to see the inventions of black minds. Just turn on a light! This month, I challenge you to appreciate these inventors and the barriers they overcame, by acknowledging the modern conveniences we all enjoy at their invention and improvement!

Here are just a few of the inventors that you can thank today!

When We Wake Up

Chances are that you start your day by flipping on a light. Most of us know that Thomas Edison is credited as being the inventor of the lightbulb, but what about the parts? Edison struggled with his filament design, until Lewis Latimer took a job at his lab and developed a longer lasting carbon filament. Latimer is also credited with the threaded light socket that we all still use today and worked on the patent for Alexander Graham Bell’s telephone, as well as an early air conditioner.

When We Get Ready for the Day

If your clothes are ironed, think of Sarah Boone, who improved the design of the ironing board. If your clothes didn’t need to be ironed, you might need to thank George T. Sampson, who invented the precursor to the clothes dryer. Or maybe your clothes were dry cleaned. You might think that credit goes solely to Jean Baptiste Jolly, but actually the black inventor Thomas L. Jennings patented a dry cleaning method first. Jennings was also a trailblazer as the first African American to hold a patent in the United States, during the slavery era no less.

When styling your hair, think of Walter Sammons, the black inventor of the hot comb, and Lydia O. Newman, who re-imagined the brush. While you continue to style your hair or put on makeup, think of Annie Malone and Madam C.J. Walker, both millionaires from their hair care and cosmetics companies and generous philanthropists.

If you’re menstruating, think of the sisters Mildred and Mary Davidson, who invented a sanitary belt. These sisters’ keen, problem-solving minds contributed other modern conveniences, without a formal scientific education. Mary went on to invent the walker and toilet paper holder!

Don’t forget about Jan E. Matzelinger as you put on your shoes. He worked in a shoe factory and invented the machine that attaches the uppers to the sole of shoes. His invention drastically changed production and shoe prices, so you can also remember him when you’re buying new shoes for half the price!

When We Leave Our Homes

Many of us use home security systems for peace of mind. You might be surprised to find that it’s the work of a nurse named Marie Van Brittan Brown. Her systems included peepholes, cameras, microphones, monitors, and alarm buttons. Henry Brown invented the first home safe for keeping valuables secured without a trip to the bank. If you live in a multi-floor building or visit one, take the elevator and think of Alexander Miles, who patented the automation of elevator doors.

As you get in your car or onto a bus, think of Richard Spikes, who was not only a musician, public school teacher, and barber in his lifetime, but also held patents for car directional signals, an automatic gear shift, and buses’ safety braking system. You might also think of Ralph Gilles who designed the Chrysler 300C, SRT Viper, Charger, and Magnum. Or maybe Earl Lucas who designed the Ford Taurus among other Ford and Lincoln designs, Crystal Windham who designed the interior of the Chevy Malibu and Impala, or Michael Burton who contributed to many vehicles, including the Ford Mustang, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Chevy Traverse, Cadillac XLR, SRX, and STS.

As you drive through your town, make sure you thank Garrett Morgan, the black inventor who dreamed up the concept of an automated traffic light to tell cars when to stop and go, after witnessing a car accident on his street. If your streets are clean of debris, that’s due in part to the design of a self-propelled street sweeping vehicle by Charles Brooks. If you cross a train track safely, think of Granville T. Woods, known as the “Black Edison”, who invented the induction telegraph system that helped trains communicate with each other and dispatchers. He also invented the third rail and the automatic air brake that many trains still use today.

When We Cook and Eat a Meal

Refrigeration is a modern day convenience we take for granted. Our refrigerators were improved by John Standard. And all of that food inside? It arrived at your local grocery store in a refrigerated truck invented by Frederick McKinley Jones. This invention radically changed food accessibility. If you’ve reached for your butter, instead of hand churning it, remember Albert Richardson, who invented amechanical butter churn.

We wouldn’t have peanuts, pecans, soybeans, or sweet potatoes without George Washington Carver and his revolutionary crop rotation method. His work with peanuts extends beyond the kitchen too – he developed over 300 uses for the peanut, including laundry soap and lotion!

If you’re snacking on potato chips, remember George Crum, who invented them after a customer complaint at the restaurant where he served as head chef. If you’re getting your starch in bread form, that may be thanks to Joseph Lee who invented a breadcrumb machine and automatic bread making machine.

Ice cream wouldn’t be the same without Augustus Jackson. Although he’s didn’t invent ice cream, he did improve the ice cream making method and created many delicious recipes, which is why he’s known as the “Father of Ice Cream”. And don’t forget about Alfred L. Cralle, who invented the ice cream scoop!

When We Clean Our Homes

As you mop your floors, thank Thomas Stewart, who saved you some trouble with his self-wringing design. As you sweep your dust into a dustpan without bending over, you should also thank its inventor Lloyd Ray.

Outside of your home, a black inventor named John Albert Burr improved the rotary blade on lawnmowers, so they wouldn’t be clogged with clippings. Elijah McCoy (the root of the expression “the Real McCoy”) created the lawn sprinkler, one of many groundbreaking inventions.

When We Work or Go to School

As you write with your freshly sharpened pencil, remember John Lee Love, the inventor of the portable pencil sharpener. If you’re more of a pen person, you still have a black inventor to thank. William Purvis designed an improved fountain pen, among many other important inventions.

If you step outside to mail a letter, thank Philip Downing for saving you a trip to the post office. He invented the predecessor to the modern day mailbox, along with railroad technology. William Barry also made several mail-based innovations.

And don’t forget to thank Dr. Shirley Jackson when you use your phone. Her work in theoretical physics laid the foundation for many communication technologies we use today, among them fiber optic cables, caller ID, and the touch tone telephone. Benjamin Thornton invented the first answering machine.

Black inventors’ hands are all over computer technology. Philip Emeagwali is an African computer scientist who created the world’s first supercomputer. Mark E. Dean worked for IBM, where he led the technological development that allows us to plug multiple devices into our computers. He also helped develop the gigahertz chip and first color monitor. Otis Boykin developed a wire precision resistor that allowed specific amounts of electricity to flow to devices. He went on to improve his design to be more temperature and pressure resistant too.

When We Relax and Play

While enjoying a gif or Facebook video, thank Lisa Gelobter, who played an integral role in the birth of online video. And don’t forget James E. West who developed the microphone we use on devices like our laptops and cell phones, and even baby monitors. If you’re using fiber optic based internet service, you might also want to thank Thomas Mensah, who was a major innovator of the technology. He’s also the chairman of the first video game development company owned by an African American.

If you’ve ever had a fun water battle with a Super Soaker, that was thanks to NASA scientist Lonnie G. Johnson. Although he made many important contributions to space exploration and control systems, we can remember him in our daily lives for his creativity during a failed experiment that birthed the water gun!

These are just some of the black inventors and scientists who’ve improved the human condition. You can read more at blackinventor.com and african-americaninventors.org or in our upcoming book list! Leave us a comment with which black invention surprised you the most!

Our Wild Backyard {Learning About Herpetology}

IMG_0600Our house has lovingly been nicknamed “the zoo”, because along with our more traditional pet dogs, we also have four tortoises: two sulcatas and two Hermann’s. Everyone knows my husband as the “crazy animal lover guy”, so it’s not uncommon for us to get a phone call about a stray/homeless pet or a wildlife rescue question. Our number of pets may wax or wane at any moment.

Well, because of this reputation, our tortoise family just grew by one more sulcata! Ruby (our human toddler) has grown up with our existing tortoises, who my students named before she was even born. We were excited to let her name this one, while we continued the search for her owners. Ruby has settled on “Happy Thank You”, or just “Happy” for short.

Today, I wasn’t sure what our experiment would be and was pondering as I arrived home… to find an alligator in our yard! That’s right. A real, live alligator, just passing through. So, with that, I decided to forgo the traditional “experiment” and instead, share a little bit about our tortoises, reptiles and amphibians, and the field of herpetology.

 

Our Tortoise Family

IMG_0602Our sulcata tortoises are named Argus, Dumbledore, and Happy. Argus and Dumbledore are both 4-year-old males and Happy is a female (who we estimate is 5 or 6 years old). Sulcata tortoises are the third largest tortoises in the world. The biggest is the Galapagos tortoise, followed by the aldabra tortoise. Sulcata tortoises are also known as the African spurred tortoise because of the spurs on their thighs.

Sulcata tortoises are naturally found in North Africa, along the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, down through the more arid countries (like Mali and Ethiopia) and along the coast of the Red Sea.

IMG_0603Although these little hatchlings start out less than 2 inches small, they quickly grow and can end up weighing more than 100 pounds and even live to be older than 100 years. They like warm and dry climates, like their natural habitat, so they’re best kept in Southern areas where temperatures are mild in the winter. Obviously, with a tortoise this size, they must be housed outside, so they can enjoy roaming and grazing on fresh grasses. Because of their size, life span, and habitat requirements, sulcata tortoises are a major commitment for their owners. After all, many sulcatas will outlive them. We actually have included accommodations for our tortoises in our wills!

Our Hermann’s tortoises are named Turbo and George. They are both seven-year-old males. They originally lived in my classroom, before I became a full-time mom.

Hermann’s tortoises are named after French physician and naturalist, Johann Hermann. This species originated from the Mediterranean region in southern Europe, which is a fairly moderate habitat in terms of temperatures and moisture.

These tortoises stay fairly small, only growing to 5-10 inches, so they’re better suited for families with smaller yards and less space to be shared. They still enjoy being outside, roaming, and eating fresh grasses, so they’re not the best suited pets to be kept indoors all the time. In fact, they’re quite feisty, with lots of personality and are excellent climbers. They still require a lot more space than you’d think a little 10 inch tortoise would need! And even though they’re smaller, they can still live to be about 75 years old, so they’re a lifelong commitment for their owners!

 

Tortoises vs. Turtles vs. Terrapins: It’s all chelonian to me!

All tortoises, turtles, and terrapins can be grouped together not only as reptiles, but also as “chelonians”, because they’re all part of the taxonomic order Chelonia, which actually stems from the Greek word for tortoise.

So, if they’re all chelonians, why do we call them different names? Good question. The differences mostly pertain to their habitats. A habitat is where a certain plant or animal naturally lives.

A tortoise lives on land and eats lots of different plants (weeds, grasses, shrubs, even cactus). Their feet are designed for life on land, so they’re short and stumpy. Some people say that tortoise feet remind them of elephant feet! Many tortoises will dig burrows to escape their hot, arid natural climates. The burrows fill up with water when it rains, creating a cool and damp place for them to escape the heat and sun!

IMG_0601A turtle lives mostly in the water, although it can sometimes leave the water to bask in the sun. Turtle feet are different than tortoise feet – they’re usually webbed and better designed for swimming in water than for walking on land. Some turtles live in the ocean (like sea turtles), while others will live in fresh water. When it gets cold outside, some turtles will burrow into the mud until spring brings warmer weather (and water) back.

A terrapin lives both on land and in water and usually lives along the banks or shores of a body of water. They’re often found in swampy areas like the one my family lives in, here in Southeastern Louisiana. The term “terrapin” is for some reason not a very popular one, so most people stick to “tortoise” or “turtle” when classifying these types of reptiles.

You may notice that all of these cold-blooded animals (also called ectothermic animals) have a mention about what they do to cool down or warm up. That’s because cold-blooded animals react to the temperature of their surroundings and can’t regulate their own body temperatures. So, if they need to warm up or cool down, they must change their surroundings and go somewhere else!

 

About Herpetology

Herpetology is a branch of biology/zoology that studies reptiles and amphibians. The word stems from the Greek word “herpeton” which means “creeping creature” and “herpien” which means “to creep”. Pretty appropriate, right?

Reptiles are cold-blooded vertebrates like snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and turtles. They usually have dry, scaly skin and breathe air. They also lay their soft-shelled eggs on land, instead of in the water.

Amphibians are also cold-blooded vertebrates, but they have gills to breathe and live in water as larvae, before developing lungs to breathe air as they grow older. They have moist, slimy skin without scales, like frogs, toads, and salamanders. Another fun amphibian fact? Their skin also helps them breathe through a gas exchange. They actually can absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide gas right through their skin!

IMG_0604Like many scientific fields, herpetology can be a tricky one to enter professionally. So, if you really love reptiles and amphibians, expect a harder road to finding a job working with and studying them. If you succeed, you’ll be called a herpetologist, a person who studies, you guessed it, reptiles and amphibians. You’ll likely work in a research lab, zoo, or university. There aren’t really college programs designed to study herpetology exclusively, so you’ll likely find a related major and build expertise through specialized projects and independent studies with qualified faculty.

If you choose not to study reptiles and amphibians, you still might end up a herper (a person who catches reptiles and amphibians in the wild as a hobby) or a herpetoculturist (a person who breeds and/or keeps reptiles and amphibians as a hobby or to sell them).

 

Are you a reptile and amphibian fan… a herper maybe? I’d love to hear from you!

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The Science Mom’s New Obsession {Project Mc2}

IMG_0430I spent the morning doing my favorite thing – aimlessly wandering the aisles at Target. That’s where I stumbled upon my new obsession and that obsession is Project Mc2. I had NO idea that this show or toy collection existed! Cool STEAM girls? This was made for my family.

And before you ask, NO. This is NOT a sponsored post in any way. Project Mc2 doesn’t even know the Science Mom Blog exists, as far as I know!

We are streaming our first episode on Netflix, as I type. The first season is airing now, with the second set to debut in August. The show follows teenage spy McKeyla and her brainiac friends as they use their STEAM skills to save the day. They’re stylish, witty, and super smart, which are all qualities that I want for my girls as they grow up! While other girls are cooing over a space traveling prince coming to town and wanting to be his “space princess”, the Project Mc2 girls are wanting to “pick his brain about his spacecraft’s orbital velocity”.

IMG_0431As for the toys, well, my daughter was just excited to see a Barbie-esque doll with a dinosaur shirt on. In fact, I’m not sure that she’s ever seen another little girl with a dinosaur shirt on, in real life or toy life. The Project Mc2 dolls are sold separately or with exciting experiments. You can also check out their separate branded kits (sans dolls) to make soda can robots, rock sugar jewelry, lip balm labs, and more! You can check them all out on their website here.

Once you’re browsing their website, you can play games, take fun quizzes, ask the girls questions, and find videos on cool experiments, ideas, and Q&As.

Anyway, the Science Family is officially obsessed! Let us know if you are too!

 

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5 Fun Kids’ Science Experiment Books

As much as I love Pinterest, it can be time consuming to sort through all of the boards and pins and blog posts to find experiments to try. By the time I find them, I’m done! I don’t want to experiment anymore!

So, that’s when I turn to my trusty collection of books to look for experiments.

Here are my five favorite books on my shelf!

1. 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials

61d0SZTwUWL._SX436_BO1,204,203,200_This book is chocked full of truly simple science experiments, most of which only require basic supplies already floating around your house (like a bottle and wad of paper, for instance). It’s the perfect book to grab when you’re faced with a chorus of “I’M BORED!” this summer.

Bonus: Grab “365 MORE Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials” when you work your way through the first 365!

2. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids

61nYRSXSiPL._SX496_BO1,204,203,200_No, this isn’t a cookbook, exactly. But it is full of exciting projects that will entertain the youngest and oldest scientists at your house with “ingredients” found in your kitchen. The safety moms among us will enjoy her safety tips and attention to detail throughout the book.

Can’t Miss Experiments:
Frankenworms
Rock Candy
Pizza Box Solar Oven
Vegetable Vampires

 

3. The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science: 64 Daring Experiments for Young Scientists

61slzmdLAxL._SX294_BO1,204,203,200_Who could resist a title like that, right? If there’s anything that can engage an uninterested young scientist, it’s promise of irresponsibility and daring adventure. This book delivers with a lot of fun explosions and messes, best intended for an outdoor setting. It’s definitely not for the faint-hearted experimenters (potato guns, Frankenstein hands, homemade lightning, and more)… which is precisely what we love about this book!

On a side note, the book is really aesthetically pleasing too. It doesn’t look or feel like a science book, which makes it all the more appealing for your hesitant scientists.

 

4. Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments

518O7IuSl-L._SX403_BO1,204,203,200_Admittedly, I am the science experiment nerd of this household, with my husband being the nature/conservation nerd, so I wasn’t sold when I looked at the title of this book. However, it is really well written to engage a wide range of ages, not insulting anyone’s intelligence, but still presenting the science in understandable terms for kids.

This book will have your scientists doing everything from polishing pennies to making straw balloon rocket blasters. With only 30 experiments in the book, they’re all well detailed, with color photos to help guide you through the process.

5. Kids’ Book of Simple Machines

61Augt7G+uL._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_I love this book on simple machines for many reasons, but especially because it’s a topic usually ignored for the more glamorous chemistry-based reactions. Just like in the movies, the explosions get all the attention!

The six simple machines are made equally thrilling here, with fun projects and detailed explanations to really show their worth!

 

Have you used any of these books with your families? Have other favorites? Let me know in the comments! I always love book suggestions.

Now, go forward, read, and experiment!

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Experiment Your Way Through the Summer

It’s summer time, which means many afternoons spent soaking in the sun in our backyard. It just so happens that the backyard is the perfect science lab for young scientists!

IMG_0127We’ll be working our way through some of my favorite toddler-friendly science experiments this summer and sharing our successes (and failures) on the blog. Hopefully, we’ll inspire you to join in and share your favorites with us on social media or in the comment sections here on the blog!

Not sure where to start? Have no fear. Check out The Science Mom’s Pinterest boards for age-appropriate experiments or head to your local bookstore for fun books of science experiments. You can find a lot of your supplies at the local dollar store! I stopped into ours this morning and got approximately 10 experiments’ worth of supplies for less than $20. Many of the items will be things you have (or will use) around the house anyway. Want something with less room for error? Head to Amazon or your local toy store for a prepackaged “science kit” with directions and supplies ready to go.

Stay tuned for posts with our experiment schedule, book recommendations, and kit suggestions to get you started!

 

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