Big Science for Little People – Book Review

Today’s review is Big Science for Little People: 52 Activities to Help You and Your Child Discover the Wonders of Science (An Official Geek Mama Guide) by Lynn Brunelle, who has been a writer for Bill Nye, has taught science, English and art K-12, written for Nat’l Geo, Random House, ABC, NBC, PBS…

A condensed version of the description on Amazon: “Make your child’s first forays into science fun! 52 clever and easy experiments for things that will zip, zoom, and fly, and fizz, bubble, and burst.  Introduce future engineers, inventors, naturalists, and artists to the physics and chemistry, biology and ecology behind everyday play. Create chemical reactions, explore gravity and friction, transform states of matter, play with air pressure, and much more through 52 simple experiments that zip and zoom, fly and fizz, bubble and burst.”

Audience: Parents of kids age 4 – 8.

Reviews: 22 reviews on Amazon. All 5 stars. Reviewers like that it’s simple, nicely organized, smart, fun, funny, clear, and “make me feel like a scientist” with the clear descriptions of “what’s going on” behind each experiment.

Contents: Intro that talks about why doing science with kids is cool; chapter on creating a home science lab, which includes a supply list and tool list. 52 experiments divided into “indoor” and “outdoor.” I really like this book, and the fact that it has some projects that aren’t in all the other books

Format of activities:  title, 3 sentence intro. “stuff you need”, “things you do” – step by step instructions; “what’s going on” – the science, “take it further” – suggested variations, suggestions for other experiments in the book to try; geek mama fun facts.

Here are some sample pages:

  

Clarity of instructions:  The author has written for Bill Nye’s science shows and several other outlets, and has a strong ability for writing science explanations that are easy to understand and presented in an accessible tone that would allow adults to feel confident about presenting the information. Step-by-step instructions are clear and simple, and the “take it further” sections offer variations and extensions to increase the learning. Includes a helpful list of supplies and science tools. The book is geared toward making science activities with your child seem do-able to parents.

Downsides: the lack of photos is a huge deficit for visualizing the process and the product. (For project 42 – borax crystal snowflakes, I just really wanted to see what it looked like, so had to search online for similar projects.) There are a few diagrams, but it would be helpful to have more. And the diagrams that exist are sometimes misleading or confusing (e.g. activity #19 Dancing paper snake. The instructions say to draw the snake’s head in the center of the plate by drawing a triangle. The illustration shows a snake whose head is on the outer edge of the spiral and is not a triangle.) Although it’s generally great, the instructions are not always clear or complete, such as activity #15 – tornado in a bottle – where you balance the mouth of an empty bottle on the mouth of a bottle of water, with a washer between them and tape it all into place. Then it just says “watch your environment. Notice the changes that happen.” I’m pretty sure it should tell you to flip it over so the bottle of water is on the top. For #3 – Exploding Lunch Bag – it tells you to roll the baking soda up in a tissue like a burrito, but it doesn’t say why. In activity #33, it explains the reason. Mostly I can figure things out, but other books have much clearer instructions.

Separating the book into just two sections was not helpful, especially when the at home section included lots of messy projects, and the outdoors section included zero mess activities that were only there because they were loud. The mess meter from 101 book is more effective, and a noise meter could be included if needed.

Overall, this is a really good book, and I really like it! But, I wish it was perfect, and it’s not quite.

This post is part of a series where I will review STEM activity guidebooks that are written for parents or teachers who want to teach science and engineering concepts to kids age 3 – 7 or so. For a full list of resources I recommend, including books for adults, books for kids, websites, curricula, toys, apps, videos, podcasts and subscription kits, see my resource page: https://inventorsoftomorrow.com/resources/.

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