The other day I was noodling around in the pool chatting with a girlfriend. Wait, wait, wait…that sounded way too relaxing. Let me try again.
The other day, my friend and I were at a local pool with six kids age 7 and under, with at least one child hanging on each of us — and our collection of 12 noodles — at all times. We even got a few words in here and there between splashes, dunks, and spins. Our conversation went a little something like this.
Friend: “So, what amazingly creative thing do you have planned for your kids this afternoon?”
Me: (Looking around to see what other friend she was talking to.) “Who? Me?!”
Friend: “Yes, you’re always doing something.”
Me: “Yeah, yelling. I do that a lot. But that’s not so creative.”
Friend: “Are you kidding? I’ve gotten some great ideas from you.” (See why she’s my friend?)
Me: “You have? Well, yeah, we do stuff sometimes. But we have our go-to ideas and tend to stick to those. They each entertain my kids for about 4-5 minutes. So, yeah, we’ll probably be out front playing baseball. Again.”
I could have left it at that, but a compliment like that gets me all worked up. It’s like I had to prove her right or something.
Me: “Well, now that you mention it…”
So, yeah, I remembered a project we’d done last summer — thanks to a teacher friend sharing her wisdom — that I’d meant to write about, but never did. And somehow my inflated ego got the best of me — I let my kids overhear the conversation. So for the next 36 hours, they begged and pleaded. Until I gave in and we hit the local hardware shop for $19 worth of swim noodles. That would never see a pool.
Now, two days later, they’re still spending hours a day playing with our creations. Yes, really! So, as a mom of short-attention-spanned boys, I can fully endorse this project in the name of saying goodbye to summer on a happy note.
Grab your retired swimming noodles and some
choking hazards marbles and get in on the dryland fun. Here’s how.
But before we get started, please note: Yes, I was in my pajamas. Yes, my house was a mess. And, no, I’m not a photography blogger. Or interior designer. But I’m totally pinning this anyway. Because it happened. And in my house, that’s more than enough.
Get started: Cut the noodle (or multiple noodles of varying widths, as we did) in half lengthwise with a bread knife. Try to ignore the know-it-all kid saying, “Last year you cut them way better. What? You did!” Give the kids a broom and dustpan and let them sweep up the shavings as you cut. (“It’s part of the fun, kids!”)
ACTIVITY #1A: Marble Races by Noodle Height
In this activity, you can race against another noodler, or the clock. Start with the noodle(s) at a very slight angle. Let go of the marble at the top and see how quickly it goes down. Raise the noodle a bit and try again. Continue raising it and discuss your observations. If you’re timing it, is it getting faster? Or slower? By how much? Why? If you’re racing side by side, is the marble that begins at the lower or higher height winning? By how much? Why? Feel free to throw out words like “gravity” and “physics”. (Big vocabulary makes your kids think you’re super smart.) Compare what’s happening to the marbles with what happens to them on different slides at the park.
ACTIVITY #1B: Marble Races by Noodle Size
If you happen to have different sized noodles, you may notice one is more firm, one is more limp. See what happens when there’s a bit of slack in the limp slide. Does that make it faster or slower? Why? You can also cut them into different lengths to see if the shorter or longer slides are faster/slower. (Please refrain from the easy jokes here, my friends. This blog is PG.)
ACTIVITY #2: Marble Tracks
After you’ve done lots of simple slide experiments, get out your awesome 3M Expressions duct tape and start taping the noodles together. (We also tried painters tape, but the noodles came apart too easily.) It actually works best with noodles all the same size, but we only know that because we experimented. Get the tape to lie as flat as possible in the track. You may need to press it every now and then to be sure it remains flat and doesn’t cause marbles to jump.
Prepare to catch the marbles with a berry container or big plastic cup taped to or tucked on the end of your track.
Do a loop-de-loop and see how fast the marble has to be going to make it all the way around the loop.
Stand on furniture (and knock down picture frames) to see how fast the marble has to be going to stay on the track when it’s sideways.
Use toys or Magnatiles to create uphills, downhills, twists, jumps, and turns.
Put a marble in the middle of the track and see what happens when a speedy one hits it.
As you try different tracks, discuss why it is or isn’t working. If you tried to get on a slide at a park with a straight downhill or an upside down slant, would you slide or fall to the ground?
ACTIVITY #3: Whatever
As usual, Pink was tossed to the side, but even she was making up her own games and quiet. For. A. Really. Long. Time.
And when she wasn’t playing, she was dancing on the table. And I was totally ok with that.
Whatever you do, cheer for each other. Come up with silly names for successful tracks (e.g. The Frame Braker), jumping marbles, and any other funny moments that come out of your play.
And then, stop. Not them. You. Once you’ve given them the tools to think about why things work, let them go in a different room and figure out a new one for themselves. If they come in and ask for help, say no. Nicely, if you must. Because when they come back in 20 minutes later jumping up and down that they figured out a cool one All. By. Themselves., you’ll both be glad you did.
If you ask one very surprised me — or my kids for that matter — this is a pretty great way to transition your kids out of the pool and into getting excited about learning again.