Shadow Science for Groundhog Day!

groundhogI am all about teachable moments.  I’d like to think when Allie asks me questions, I somehow incorporate science into my answer.  But then I have these moments of inspiration – especially around the holidays!  And what better holiday to teach my kids about shadows but Groundhog’s Day?!  This was also the perfect activity to start with the kids while I was making dinner (frozen pizza).  Hey, you do what you’ve got to do at 6:00pm!

008  025

I made a quick shadow box using an old Amazon box and a flashlight.  I cut a hole big enough for a flashlight which made a “stage” for her plastic animals.  I love that Allie put a lamb and dinosaur standing under a giant heart together.  I’m so glad they can put away their “Jurassic Park” differences to play shadows.


Of course, Allie got very excited about the flashlights in the dark so she decided to put on a fairy show.  She thought her fairy shadow was pretty neat.


Andrew wanted to share in all the fun which meant sitting on the shadow box.


Then we decided to put some white paper up as a screen so she could trace the shadows.  This time she made a scene with a lion, a lamb, and a cupcake.  Classic.

The Science:  Here are the things we discussed:

  • Shadows are made when an object blocks out light.
  • When the animals were close to the flashlight their shadows got bigger.
  • When the animals got farther away from the light, their shadows got smaller.
  • Then we talked about different ways shadows are made by the sun, like her shadow outside was when her body blocks the sunlight.
  • Finally, we talked about how a tree’s shadow makes shade when the tree blocks the sunlight.

The pizza was almost done cooking so I showed the kids this great video about Groundhog’s Day.  It’s super cute and I learned that woodchucks are groundhogs!  I had no idea, did you?  Happy Groundhog Day everyone!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments Tags: , ,
Why do we wear a seatbelt in the car?


This is how the conversation went:

Allie: “Mommy, do you know why we wear a seatbelt in the car?”

Me: “Why is that Allie?”

Allie: “So we don’t get hurt in the car if we crash.”

Me: “Very good , How did you know that?”

Allie: “Doc McStuffins had a toy alien that didn’t wear a seatbelt in his rocket!”




Leave it to Doc McStuffins to cover that important topic! I thought the conversation would end there, but I didn’t want it to. I wanted to show her in real life. Later that day we were playing outside, and I decided to do a little experiment to drive the point across with a little science. I love these kinds of experiments – they are not messy, and they don’t require much effort.

Question: Why do we wear a seatbelt in the car?

Plan: I wanted to simulate what it would look like by not wearing a seatbelt without injuring ourselves. So, we decided the test subject was going to be one of her favorite stuffed lambs, Santa Lamb.

We used her old tricycle and a jump rope as a seatbelt. We would simulate a crash by gently rolling the tricycle in the garage door. The first test was with a “seatbelt.” The second test was without a “seatbelt.”

Mommy Disclaimer: I told Allie, “Do not perform this test on her little brother, just on Santa lamb.”

Her guess: (This is when I asked Allie what she thought would happen.) Her guess of course was that Santa Lamb would fall off without a seatbelt.

With Seatbelt:

Without a seatbelt:


Why did that happen?: (This is when I attempt to use science to explain the result to her – in her terms.) Santa lamb rolling along on the tricycle has inertia. That’s a big word meaning Santa lamb wants to keep moving with the tricycle, even though the tricycle has “crashed” into the door. When he is wearing a seatbelt, he stays on the tricycle and stops with the tricycle. When he isn’t wearing a seatbelt, his inertia causes him to keep moving, fall off, and bonk his head. A lamb in motion tends to stay in motion.

Follow up: A few weeks later we were discussing Santa lamb and how he should have been wearing a helmet to protect his head. So we performed the test again, but this time Santa Lamb had a custom made helmet, courtesy of Tupperware and some tape.

Helmet with seatbelt:


Helmet without seatbelt:


Categories: 5 minute experiments, lovely conversations, STEM Tags: , , ,