Magic Snowflakes for Frozen 2!

We made these magic snowflakes to get ready for Frozen 2 this week and my daughter couldn’t get enough of them! They utilize differing solubilities of markers to make it look like color is coming out of nowhere!

Materials

  • Coffee filters
  • Black indelible marker
  • Washable markers (any color)
  • Eye dropper
  • Water

Method

  1. Draw the snowflake with the black indelible marker.
  1. Color over it with the washable color markers, being careful to stay only on the black lines.
  1. Give it to your kids and have them drop water on to the snowflake to see the colors evolve and dance about!

Discussion

The black marker is not soluble in water so it does not run when you drop the water on it. The washable markers are colored by molecules that are soluble water, however, so they are lifted from the coffee filter and carried around the plate. It is a beautiful, surprising effect and one that can be modified for many other themes besides Frozen!

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