# Adventures

Orange County Fair Imaginology – Full S.T.E.A.M Ahead

OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Shhhh, a few weeks ago, I pulled Finn out of school a bit early on day to attend the Orange County Fair Imaginology. They made a fuss about it in the school office too. School administrators, sheesh.

Imaginology takes place at the Orange County fairgrounds, and involves activities and booths set up by schools, organizations and companies to teach kids about STEAM topics. The kids had so much fun, were asking some really intelligent questions, and were learning a lot.

I wanted to share some of the fun toys we got to play with, and some other fun things they had there.

LEGO robots at OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

We got to play with some robots built with LEGO robotics parts. The robot shown above was a golfing robot and we got to control it to hit the ball into a hole.

LEGO robots, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Another robot could pick up a cup and set it down in another location.

Snap Circuits, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids Build your own circuit with Snap Circuits at OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Finn spent some time building with Snap Circuits, which he has at home, but there more parts there. Snap Circuits are electrical components that snap onto a board and to each other to create fun little circuits. It comes with an instruction book with a whole bunch of projects. My favorite is one where you run a little motor in reverse. The motor powers a fan, so when it is in reverse the wind generated by the fan is blowing downward. If you give the fan a little touch upward it flies up into the air a few feet.

EyeClops handheld microscope, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Meanwhile, Jules, Malena and Leto could not be pried away from this awesome kid microscope. It was called an EyeClops. You put the hand-held piece up to your specimen, and it will magnify it 200 times and display the image on any TV, using A/V jacks (RCA cable). I was searching online to see if they had one with a USB or something for a computer screen, but sadly I couldn’t find one. They do have some other fun stuff, though. Night vision goggles, anyone?

Image displayed on your TV from EyeClops handheld microscope, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Leto was entranced by magnifying a cockroach. Jules and Malena liked seeing all the details of a piece of wood.

Little Bits, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

We got see some displays of LittleBits, which after reading this review, I really want to try. They seem one step more advanced than snap circuits.

Imagination Playground blocks, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Leto got some little boy wiggles out with some Imagination Playground blocks. (Okay, the bigger kids really like these too.) An apartment we once lived in had these in a common play room. They were fabulous to play with during the winter when we couldn’t go outside.

There were some local entrepreneurs and their fun products too.

Fine motor skills development for kids on the autism spectrum, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids
One guy built this toy (called Z Occupational Therapy ToolZ or ZOTTZ) for his autistic son to encourage him in his fine motor skills. When you use the scissors, mini clamp, button, or key a song would play (different one for each object). My kids played for a half an hour, and really I had to pry them away from it to go see more stuff.

Another guy sold kits that he put together himself from electronic components. On display was a robot car that would drive 20-or-so feet, make a U-turn and come back.

Keep them learning at mealtime with a Math Tablecloth, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

One local teacher created a tablecloth full of math problems. You could write on it with washable marker and it would wipe right off with water. My kids wanted to stay and solve all the math problems on the whole thing. I dragged them away, and later regretted not buying one.

Digging for fossils, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids
Finally, we found a few other fun things to play with.

We dug fossil shark teeth out of a rock similar to GeoCentral fossil or Dr. Cool ocean fossil. The group that bought them actually made the little fossil-containing rocks themselves. I think they must have bought a bag of shark teeth (did you know you can buy a bag of shark teeth?) and plaster of paris, and used plastic cups as molds…or maybe cupcake pans. It’d probably pop out of the silicone ones link, right?

clay teapot - TheEngineersKids
We played with clay and made some cute figurines.

clay seal - TheEngineersKids

It was me that really made Malena’s seal. She sometimes prefers to manage the projects rather than do them herself, so she gave me step-by-step instructions. I used to get annoyed when she refused to do the work herself, but then I realized that she has the vision and is using the resourses available (not always me, she gets the other kids to work for her) to accomplish that vision. Although, I do think she does it because she is also a little scared to mess up.

clay elephant - TheEngineersKids

Jules made this elephant all by herself, and frankly I think it is a lot better than my seal. It has more personality.

Carrot music, OC Imaginology - TheEngineersKids

Finally, there was this really fun circuit and display that you could play music on a computer by touching carrots. Each carrot completed a different circuit, so a different note would play. The electricity (of which there was obviously a very small amount) would travel through your body. You could even hold hands with a few kids and still complete the circuits. I don’t have any links for you on this one, so you’re on your own to google electronic carrot music and buy the parts yourself. Update: I tried this and learned all about people who make musical instruments out of carrots and other vegetables. People come up with the craziest ideas, I tell you.

Whew, that was a long post. Kudos to you if you made it through. It was a really fun day though, and so worth missing a few hours of school. We didn’t even get to see everything. Next year, anyone local to Orange County should check out the awesome OC Fair Imaginology. We will be there for sure!

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# 0-3 Years, 4-7 Years, 8-12 Years, Gravity, Outdoors

Best Summer Toy for Small Yards or No Yard

Best Summer Toy for Small Yards or No Yards - TheEngineersKids

Happy First Day of Summer! I am so excited. I know everyone else has been out of school for a month, but we just got done last week! It seems so sad, I know, but usually we don’t go back to school until mid September (this year we go back in August, because they are switching us to a more “normal” schedule all because of all the testing the kids have to do in school…lame). And September is a much better month to be out of school in California.

Why you ask? Because all the touristy types have left, so it’s not crowded, and it’s way hotter than it was in May and June. So we are still partying, and picnicking, and surfing, and swimming, and Disneyland-ing, etc. Then San Diego does the whole month of October when kids get into everything free, so we just keep on partying. Which is why we all live here, even though it is so dang expensive, and our houses and yards are much smaller than in other areas.

We live in a condo. It’s small for seven people. And the backyard is only twenty feet by twenty feet, which leaves little room for slip-n-slides, pools of any sort, elaborate sprinkler systems (awwwe, I want one of these for Eva), or especially this monster that my kids are in awe of.

We beat the heat with our good old garden hose, some buckets, and our favorite hot weather toy. The kids call it a chemistry set.

Best summer toy for no yard - Water play - TheEngineersKids

The weather really warmed up here for a few days this week. The kids played chemistry on their picnic table for hours and hours. The set we used came from our local toy library, which normally I love, but this time it kind of hampered their play a bit. I felt protective of the toys, since they weren’t ours and there was mud and soap involved. The set came with a couple of small pitchers with pour-spouts, a few pipettes (like turkey basters), measuring cups and spoons, and some plastic hoses.

Best summer toy for small apartments - Water play - TheEngineersKids

Since the kids were getting the toy library toys muddy, I made them put them all away after that. We never really got them back out again, and then it was time to return them. It made me feel like a mean mom for not letting them play more when they were having so much fun with it.

Best summer toy when you have no yard - Water play - TheEngineersKids

I decided to get out some of our own tools and look into making our own “chemistry” set a little cooler. Maybe I’ll run to the dollar store to see what they have.

Here’s my shopping list:

  • bucket (ours are all cracked, and really all the play buckets at Target and Wal-Mart are just not very sturdy)
  • turkey baster
  • measuring cups and spoons
  • large and small funnels
  • plastic tubing if they’ve got it
  • a colander (so the kids can make an outdoor shower of course)

Or maybe I’ll save myself the trip and just buy this same one, since it really was pretty all-inclusive.

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# Around the House

Own The Mess

Own The Mess -sometimes I'm just happier if I clean it up myself TheEngineersKids

Since we have Saturday chores as a family, the house looks pretty good for the first half of the week. By Wednesday though, the clutter, especially the toys, is getting back to insane mode. Not being able to walk safely through my living room makes me a bit grouchy.

A little back story: My husband and I are extremely organized people. (Didn’t I get lucky to get a clean and organized guy, or what!) Sometimes I long for our first apartment together, where everything was in its place, and the dishes were always done, and one could walk across the room without stepping on a frisbee and sliding into the splits. Ahhh, my brain is relaxing just thinking about those days.

Welcome back to now, when the house is alway full of clutter despite our best efforts to be minimalist in our possessions and clean up after the kids. A second issue I have is that I don’t like cleaning messes that other people make…I mean, who does really. So, I spend a lot of the time trying to get the kids to clean up their own toys, which involves mucho nagging.

Many a Wednesday though, we didn’t get everything done that I wanted, but I just can’t take the clutter anymore. So after the kids are sleeping snuggly in their beds talking and laughing in their rooms after bedtime, I just pile up all the toys in a big pile, set out all the toy baskets and bins, and start sorting…and you know what? My brain sighs a deep sigh of relaxation. Turns out, I actually like organizing the toys, once I do it myself. I still balk a little at doing a chore that should be the kids’, but having all the toys in their nice neat little baskets makes me happy again. (Also, I just ordered a bunch of new bins to help organize our toys, which I am so excited about! I’ll write a post about our new organization system, once I get it up and running.)

I would really like to have the kids be more responsible for picking up their things after they play, and we are working on that, but in the meantime, at least I can recognize that Mommy is the one who really benefits from the house being clean, so I can just own the mess and clean it myself.