Written By: Shefun Jiwani-Ali
My annual weekend visit with my oldest granddaughter Blakely Jayne is one of the highlights of my year. At almost four she is cheerful, smart and highly inquisitive, and delights in learning about the world around her. Each year my son-in-law makes the long journey from Rochester, New York to Sarasota, Florida where I live. As he plays golf with his grandfather Blakely and I enjoy our special time together. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Whenever Blakely comes to visit I invite her to participate in experiences that will both build on our collective memories and stay with her as she grows. She still talks enthusiastically about our trip to the Jungle Gardens, and the parade we had where we were followed by hundreds of flamingos. She looks forward to our visits. Now that she is a bit older a lot of the fun activities we share can be found right in our own kitchen.
It was easy for me to decide what to do with Blakely this year. The Kitchen Science Experiments I chose for our time together were presented to me at the Montessori Foundation’s 16th Annual International Conference last November, right here in Sarasota. Each year hundreds of Montessori guides, teachers, administrators, heads of schools, board members, parents and grandparents gather to experience a weekend of workshops and listen to inspiring keynotes.
One of our regular presenters is Dr. Ann Epstein, the Early Childhood/Middle Childhood Program Coordinator for the University of Wisconsin at La Crosse. As soon as Ann submitted her proposals for this year’s conference I knew that the science experiments she would be discussing would be the perfect thing for my weekend with Blakely. I chose a few age appropriate ones and gathered the necessary ingredients from my kitchen. Most of the items needed were things I already had at home, making these experiments both fun and relatively inexpensive.
I may not have had a dedicated early childhood environment in my house, but I did have a large, covered lanai which acted as the perfect outdoor alternative. In order to set your child up for success you need to make sure that you provide them with a prepared environment, regardless of what activities you have planned for them.
Once Blakely had arrived we took our ingredients to the table and we worked through Dr. Epstein’s suggested questions. These questions are not only designed to encourage your child to think beyond their own personal space, but also help them to engage in conversation while learning new words and ideas. This multifaceted approach helps your child develop multiple skills at once in a fun and easily accessible way. As an aside, make sure you conclude any activity before your child gets too tired. Ending on a high note leaves a positive lasting impression.
I have included some of the activities we did together in this article so you can enjoy them with your own children. Some of the activities required precise measuring, a skill Blakely is still acquiring, so I pre-measured some of the ingredients before we began. I did, however, let her do all of the mixing, pouring and transferring.
We had a wonderful time conducting our experiments, and we hope that you and your children do as well.
Additional Kindergarten-Age Science Activities You Can Do At Home
Blakely and I ended up expanding on the baking soda and vinegar experiment. We took all the mixed ingredients and scooped them onto a plate. Then we patted them down and felt the mixture with our fingers. We observed that it was wet, but did not seem to leave any liquid on our hands. Next we set the flattened mixture in the sun to dry for several hours. Once the vinegar was evaporated by the sun it hardened. This whole extension gave Blakely more things to think about.
Once we had completed our experiments I gave Blakely a pail of warm water and a small sponge so she could clean the table. The cleaning up portion of our time together kept her almost as engaged as the experiments had and let her practice a valuable skill in the process.
Guiding your grandchildren and teaching them how to maintain their environment from start to finish is an extension of the ideas they are learning in their Montessori classrooms. As grandparents it is important for us to try and support, encourage, and foster the same values while we enjoy our time with them.
Margot Garfield-Anderson is the IMC Membership Director and Conference Coordinator for the Montessori Foundation’s Annual Conferences in Sarasota, Florida and San Jose, California. She has three grandchildren, and while Blakely isn’t able to attend a Montessori school she does her best to enrich Blakely’s life with as many Montessori moments as she can. By creating traditions and memorable experiences Margot is able to give Blakely a foundation steeped in Montessori principles and practices, something which is very important to her. We hope that you share these experiments with your children’s grandparents so they too can create special and memorable times with your children.