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Sunday, July 29, 2007



Kids are born curious. Their young brains are sponges that greedily soak up all the practical knowledge needed to learn to walk and talk. Yet when it comes to the process of formal education, sometimes the sponges loose their thirst for knowledge.

Making Learning Fun

The joy of reading
Making learning fun at home
Fun learning is in the cards
Weird science at home

Kids are born curious. Their young brains are sponges that greedily soak up all the practical knowledge needed to learn to walk and talk. Yet when it comes to the process of formal education, sometimes the sponges loose their thirst for knowledge.

Experts say that children have different learning styles, but regardless of style, they must remain engaged and interested to learn effectively. In other words, the challenge is making learning fun.

A Maryland middle school reading teacher started her Monday morning class by asking who had seen a movie over the weekend. Knowing the students were less than enthused about the book assigned, comparing it to a popular Hollywood blockbuster seemed a great way to engage them in a discussion. It worked!

Just as teachers have their tricks, there are lots of fun ways for parents to help their kids succeed at school. Internet searches reveal sites with free educational games, downloadable worksheets, activities, books and countless other resources.

The joy of reading

Educators advise that reading proficiency is key to academic success, and families who read together create good readers. It's never too young to start making reading fun!

Reading daily to babies and young children can be special time together.
Read a few pages a day of chapter books like "Charlotte's Web" to elementary-school-aged children.
Encourage big brothers and sisters to read to younger siblings.
Subscribe to a children's magazine.
Visit the library regularly and sign up for story hour and summer reading clubs.
Turn off the TV and have "family reading hour."
Kids just not into reading? Maybe they haven't found the right book. Whether joke books, comics, sports, sci-fi or horses, appealing to their interests helps.
Making learning fun at home

Here are some activities for parents and kids just for the fun of learning:

Have kids pay the restaurant bill, including figuring the change and the tip.
Work on the newspaper crossword or word scramble together as a family on Saturday or Sunday morning.
During family television time, check Discovery Channel and PBS options first. Shows like those on Animal Planet are fascinating for all ages.
Pay kids' allowance in different denominations of bills and coins; for instance, use all quarters one week.
Search the Web for "making learning fun" to find loads of free interactive educational games and downloadable options.
Watch a movie that relates to the period of history being studied at school.
Have the kids plan a "virtual vacation" by researching a destination online that relates to a book they're reading or a topic of study in school.
At the dinner table, discuss the fun fact or word of the day using a page-a-day calendar, a Web site, or The World Almanac For Kids Puzzler Decks as a source.
Fun learning is in the cards

One former teacher has applied her tricks of the trade to create a fun new resource for home or the classroom - The World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Decks - packs of mind-bending brain teasers cards. The author, Seattle-based Lynn Brunelle, is an Emmy Award-winning writer and illustrator whose accomplishments range from contributing to The Discovery Channel, to the board game Cranium to PBS's "Bill Nye the Science Guy."

Brunelle has taken the education-rich content of the top-selling kids' almanac and morphed it into a series of entertaining decks of cards packed with all-new brain-engaging games, puzzles, riddles, fascinating facts and more. There are 75 to choose from tailored by age and subjects like reading, math, science and geography. The decks sell for under $10 and are found wherever books are sold. For more information, visit or call (800) 722-6657.

"Vegetables that taste like candy," is how Brunelle describes the new World Almanac for Kids Puzzler Decks. "They're fun and good for you, too," she says. So serve up some tasty tidbits of knowledge that your kids are sure to remember.

Weird science at home

Take a weird science tip from the chem teacher and try one of these wacky recipes for fun:

Egg Float

Put an egg into a glass of water. The egg will sink.
Pour in two heaping teaspoons of salt and stir it around the egg.
Keep stirring in salt, two teaspoons at a time, until the egg starts to rise.
Why does this happen? Salt water is denser than fresh water. When water becomes salty enough, the egg weighs less than the water - so it floats to the top.

Sink or Swim?

Put three parts water and one part vinegar in a clear container.
Slowly add one teaspoon of baking soda. (If you add too much at once it will all bubble over the top.)
When the bubbles settle, slowly add another teaspoon of baking soda.
After the bubbles settle again, add a few drops of food coloring. The liquid will move and quickly mix in the color.
Find various items (rice, raisins, other dried fruit or vegetables, broken bits of spaghetti, fresh grapes cut in half, etc.) to add. Will the items float or sink?
If the movement slows down, add another teaspoon of baking soda.
Usually items will sink to the bottom. A few minutes later they will rise to the surface, then sink again. Rice seems to dance.
What's happening? The chemical reaction of mixing vinegar and baking soda produces carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide bubbles build up on the surface of the object. When enough bubbles attach to the object, it floats to the surface and releases the gas. Then it sinks back to the bottom to start the process again.

Freezing Hot?

Fill one foam cup with cold water and another with the same amount of very hot tap water.
Immediately place both cups in the freezer.
Check the cups every 15 minutes. The hot water freezes first!
Why? Hot water evaporates faster than cold water. During evaporation, a great deal of heat energy is lost. The hot water freezes first because its temperature drops at a faster rate than that of the cold water.



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