Family Activities

Parenting, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Christmas, and The Traditional Proclamation of Shenanigans

Here’s one one that may file me firmly in the nerd/geek category as a dad:

Tonight, Christmas eve, with the tots all tucked in, my wife and I were wrapping some final gifts for the kids. As I grabbed the last one for my 4 year old son, I examined the packaging. 

It is a “Code-a-Pillar”, a popular new STEM toy that helps kids learn the basic concept behind computer programming code. It is a caterpillar with different segments you can attach behind the head, and depending on the order you put the segments in, it will wiggle across the floor differently. For example, you may start with a straight segment and then a right turn segment, so it would drive first straight then right. If you started with the left turn segment he would turn left first instead. So by the order you build him in you “code” his actions and solve problems (like getting around an obstacle).

As I read the packaging, it rightly advertised “learn and play”, “problem solving” and “think critically”. But then the nerd-siren began to sound. I read “8 different segments, unlimited combinations”. I immediately grabbed my green broom and headed to the village square to begin the customary proceedings of declaring a right and proper shenanigans.

I (smuggly) announced to my wife that at most it would be 8 factorial combinations, and even though it was 2 am and I had just driven for over 3 hours on pure ice after a long day of Christmas celebrations, I began to do the math in my rapidly fading mind. After missing the 40,320 answer by about 2000 ( in multipling 1680 by 4, I forgot that last pesky 30 x 4 and hit 6600…duh), I realized that I had wrapped it before even checking for duplicate segments which would have reduced the possible combinations even further.

That didn’t stop me from explaining to my wife (poor, patient woman) that 38k (wrong 40k) was not the same as “endless”. She rightly pointed out to me that to a 4 year old, with the attention span of a hummingbird’s heartbeat, it might as well be endless. 

I began to complain about a STEM toy claiming to teach math and the like, and was about to righteously be disappointed that I would miss out on teaching my son what the fun “8!” on the box meant. Then I remembered how difficult it was yesterday explaining 6/2 and 1-4 even using blocks to count. I started to imagine explaining combinatorics and the concept of multiplication, let alone factorial…we don’t have quite that many blocks.

As a last resort for being right, I noted the 3 to 6 age range of the toy and started to figure whether a very advanced 6 year old could understand my complaint, and well, let’s hope this Code-a-Pillar is REALLY effective at teaching some math.

[Recipe] Quick Snack for Family Fun Night – Fruit and Yogurt Smoothie

This is the simplest recipe ever, but there are a couple things you can do to always have a quick, easy, healthy snack around for the family to share.
Prep

  1. Always have a few bags of frozen fruit in the freezer – best advice ever! You can use them in so many healthy quick snacks, they keep forever, and they are already cut up and easy!
  2. Invest in a good blender (Ninja!) – smoothies are easy and you can just sorta throw whatever healthy things you have around into one quickly for a snack, and sneak a serving of veggies in for the kids!

20160320_204357Recipe

Seriously don’t get hung up on a recipe for smoothies, just keep it healthy, include at least one fruit that is pretty sweet, and think about thinks that usually go together for the most part. See below for a second bonus smoothie recipe, but for this family snack we used:

  • 1.5 cups frozen strawberries
  • 1.5 cups frozen mangos
  • 1.5 cups plain (unsweetened) Greek yogurt

Blend. Yup, its that easy! The juice from the fruits makes it liquid enough (it may help to slightly defrost), and you can add ice if you want a more frozen drink, but it really doesn’t have to be complex!

20160320_204341Add it all to a big family-size cup and some colorful straws (add them to the things to keep on hand – kids love picking them out!), and you have a delicious snack that is quick enough not to disrupt family time but full of vitamins and energy.

Bonus Recipe

Nick sometimes goes all out and mixes all kinds of crazy things to make a whole meal in a smoothie, so just to give you the idea of the types of things you can throw in for a quick meal:

  • 1 Whole Apple (just take off stem, wash, and quarter. Seeds will blend)
  • 1 Banana
  • 1 Carrot (after everything you won’t even taste it. Peel and wash and throw in whole!)
  • 1 “squirt” honey
  • 1 “handful” Oatmeal
  • 1 “sploosh” Yogurt
  • 1 Cup Milk
  • 1 Protein – either a couple Tbs nuts or Peanut butter, or for a much more healthy and tasty route: Plexus 96

Blend for a huge amount of vitamins, a full meal, and a boost of energy and head out the door in just a few minutes.

Snowmen: Never Miss This Sneaky Family Exercise

This one is so obvious! Don’t ever be too lazy to get out and roll some snow!

  • Of course it is a family-time activity. Kids love it, and everyone is involved!
  • It is suprisingly hard work! Guaranteed you will work up a healthy sweat.
  • It is fun and distracting, alot easier than many work outs and more fun than some family activities.
  • Educational – teach them about snow, states of matter, trial and error, etc. Don’t shy from looking up answers to any tough questions they may ask!