Playdough Symmetry Activity

This simple activity has become an after school staple for us ever since I saw it on @themakermum on Instagram. It’s a nice mental exercise that also includes a level of focus that is calming and almost meditative for my daughter after a crazy day at school. All you do is shape half an image made out of playdough, then have your child finish the other half. Sometimes before I pick up my daughter from school, I’ll set this up and lay a damp paper towel over the top so it doesn’t dry out before she gets to it.

The possibilities are really limitless and you can make whatever image your child is interested in, or stick with seasonal ones, like for Christmas or Halloween.

New Book Alert! Baby Medical School: My Doctor’s Visit

We are so happy to share with you our newest book, Baby Medical School: My Doctor’s Visit, now available in stores!

Click here to buy!

My husband and I wrote it to prepare our daughter for her doctor’s appointments through meaningful conversation. In addition to making the experience fun and lighthearted, we also wanted her to know WHY the doctor pokes and prods her. We feel that knowledge is power and that little ones are more capable and intelligent than we have been giving them credit for in traditional doctor’s visit books.

In this book you’ll find the basics, like eating healthy and getting your height measured, but you will also find how your heart works, what your lungs do, why the doctor presses on your belly, and more!

We hope that you love the newest addition to the Baby University universe as much as we do! 

Click here to buy the book on Amazon! (affiliate links)

Star Anise, Shikimic Acid, and The Flu

This is shikimic acid. It is needed to make Tamiflu (oseltamivir), a common flu medication. Also in the picture is Chinese star anise, which is currently the source of the overwhelming majority of shikimic acid on the market.

Due to shortages of star anise and fear of pandemic flu, scientists are searching for alternative sources of shikimic acid. One possibility is genetically modified bacteria. Shikimic acid is a natural product, which means there are enzymes in the star anise plant that synthesize the shikimic acid from scratch. Scientists can take the DNA that codes for those enzymes and put it in a type of bacteria. That bacteria would then be able to make shikimic acid for us! It would be the same exact molecule, just made through fermentation.

Despite the relation to oseltamivir (see below), shikimic acid cannot be used to fight the flu. Oseltamivir sticks to a protein on the outside of the flu virus and prevents new baby flu viruses from bursting out of your cells to infect more cells. Shikimic acid doesn’t stick to this protein (which is why scientists go through so much trouble to make oseltamivir). If some wellness nut tells you to brew some star anise to cure the flu, know that it is 🐎💩. 😉 💕


Sources:
(Ghosh et al 2012) https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biotechadv.2012.03.001

(Rawat et al 2013) https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00253-013-4840-y

Taste-Safe Sensory Foam

Sensory play has been a boon to me with a three year age difference between my kids. It’s something they can both have fun with and play in their own way, but they are playing together in the same space, which makes my life immensely easier. I also love for them to experience different sensations, especially my youngest. We play with slimy, messy, gritty, powdery, crunchy, you name it, and I’m always looking for more things to introduce them to and to hold their interest.

I was just about to empty out the liquid in a can of chickpeas (called aquafaba), and I thought about this vegan meringue recipe I wanted to make for my aunt last time she was over, but then it hit me. We could use the chickpea foam for a sensory base! So here is the recipe, which has taken the sensory world by storm!

  • Liquid from a can of chickpeas
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Whip it at high speed with a hand mixer or stand mixer for 5-7 minutes until stiff peaks.

That’s it! It couldn’t be easier and I love that it uses something you would normally throw away. I’ve seen some beautiful, messy play with this after I shared it on Instagram, and I’m so excited to share it with you all here! Let me know how it goes!

Notes:

  • If you don’t have cream of tartar, you can try a splash of vinegar or lemon. I haven’t tried the foam without it, but it serves to form and stabilize the foam through its acidity.
    A blender will not get the thick, stable foam like a hand or stand mixer, but if it’s the only thing you have, give it a shot!

DIY Patterned Playdough Roller

It really can’t get easier than this. It’s just hot glue on a toilet paper roll. Yeeeeep. Use your fingers to support the roll as you imprint it into playdough, or stick it around a rolling pin if it fits! We’ve made so many variations of this so far, including these mermaid scales and a honeycomb print!

Original idea from @playtime.messy.madness on Instagram!

Capsaicin Receptors and Labor Pain

Capsaicin and its various sources

This little bugger is capsaicin. My search through the literature for something interesting to say about this molecule was quite fruitful, but considering I have a lot of mama followers out there, I thought I would veer towards how its receptor is thought to be responsible for that motherf&$@er we call labor pain.

Capsaicin snuggles up with a protein called TRPV1, which is found on many nerves throughout our body. When the right stimulus activates TRPV1, we feel an intense burning pain. It is a nociceptor, which is fancy science speak for something that warns us when something bad is happening to our body, like getting burnt, frozen, cut, or hit. In addition to heat above 109F/43C, some chemicals like capsaicin can also stimulate TRPV1.

Though when in labor, your body doesn’t flood your baby maker with ghost peppers, a study found that TRPV1 and associated nerves are what may be responsible for cervical ripening and the feeling of a burning pitchfork being inserted into your abdomen and rotated during every contraction.😂(they did not describe labor pain that way, I took some artistic license based on my experience)😂💪🤱. Though normally TRPV1 is found all over your body, in late pregnancy and labor it essentially disappears from the body and is only found around the cervix. It is fascinating that our bodies transform so much during pregnancy, and it is exciting that one day we may discover why the f$&@ labor decided it needed to hurt so bad.

Sources:
Tingaker, et al. Influence of pregnancy and labor on the occurrence of nerve fibers expressing the capsaicin receptor TRPV1 in human corpus and cervix uteri. Reproductive Bio and Endocrinology 6:(8) 2008

Frias and Merighi. Capsaicin, Nociception and Pain. Molecules. 21(6), 797. 2016

Bubble Writing with Happi Crafts’ Resin Sprinkle Letters

Practice letter writing with bubbles and sprinkles! This fun activity not only works out little hands by engaging their fine-motor skills, but it also helps with coordination AND encourages ingenuity as use they everyday items in new and interesting ways. This project was inspired by the amazing blog Teach Beside Me and utilizes the wildly popular resin sprinkle letters from Happi Crafts that range from $7 to $80 with lots of design options!

Recommended age is 4+ because it requires a good amount of coordination to pinch and release the balloon to write properly.

Materials

  • Large bowl, plastic bin, or casserole dish
  • Dish Soap
  • Water
  • Balloon
  • Pen or marker with no ink left
  • Duct tape
  • Waterproof letter prompts (can also use any type of letter prompt here, just lay them next to the bowl instead of submerging them if they’re not waterproof.)

Method

  1. Remove the ink chamber in the pen or marker till just the casing is left. Wash all the residual ink away, if any. Leave the casing open at both ends.
  2. Secure the balloon onto the non-writing end of the casing with duct tape.
  3. Add a squirt of dish soap to the bowl and fill with water so bubble form.
  4. If you’re using waterproof letter prompts, put them in the water.
  5. Scoop away excess bubbles if you have too many, then blow up the balloon through the casing.
  6. Instruct or show your child how to pinch and release the opening of the balloon to control the flow of air.
  7. Have them fetch a letter from the bowl, submerge just the tip of the casing, and release some air while drawing the letter!

Discussion

Though this is a very fun activity because every kid would love bubble writing, it also sneaks in a lot of different types of learning. Not only does it support letter forming and recognition, but it also engages fine motor muscles and encourages coordination skills. Since blowing up the balloon is easier with the casing mouthpiece than without, it encourages independence and confidence. Setting up these types of unique activities encourage creative thinking, ingenuity, and resourcefulness.