The Magic Key, March 2010


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The Magic Key ( includes references to unique websites, creative activities, home science experiments, books and more.

It forms a collection of personal suggestions and recommendations for a magical world of contemplation, challenge and fun for curious, creative and thinking kids: crafts, tips and ideas for parents who want to preserve their children's enchantment, wonder and gusto toward the world around us.

The Magic Key also includes a weekly post titled "This Week in History for Kids", published each Monday and presenting various events attractively for kids.

This document contains posts that appeared in The Magic Key during March 2010.

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The Magic Key, March 2010

  1. 1. The Magic Key, March 2010 The Magic Key includes references to unique websites, creative activities, home science experiments, books and more. It forms a collection of personal suggestions and recommendations for a magical world of contemplation, challenge and fun for curious, creative and thinking kids: crafts, tips and ideas for parents who want to preserve their children's enchantment, wonder and gusto toward the world around us. Scroll down to the bottom of this page for "This Week in History for Kids" published each Monday - a weekly post presenting various events attractively for kids. You are more than welcome to add your own comments, suggestions and ideas! ©
  2. 2. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 2 of 23 Recommended Video Sites for Kids We want our kids to watch some kinds of videos; for instance, a close-up of the sun. Amazing! Other times, the kids just wish to entertain themselves, we lack the time to monitor, but we really wouldn't want them to start surfing freely amongst videos which may be highly inappropriate for their age (or at all, but that's a different problem). There are several possible great solutions: If you're OK with having the kids "loop-watch" videos (appropriate only) for a while, you can introduce them to Kideos - an excellent site, with age categories and theme channels; Totlol (requires a free sign-up); or Zuitube (turn on TV mode to watch all videos in the page). These three sites are mainly counting on Youtube for content, but each filters the clips to suit young kids, and disables the "related videos" Youtube feature. PBS Kids' videos is another great choice, and so is KidMango, featuring cartoons and various animation episodes, which can be watched continuously. ©
  3. 3. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 3 of 23 If, on the other hand, you are looking for videos of a higher value, rather than a mere entertaining past-time, you will be more than pleased to discover The National Geographic Kids' videos. neoK12 contains "educational videos, lessons and games" (watch, for instance, this fascinating cosmic journey). Finally, BrainPOP is a great resource for animated videos in about any subject you can think of. I linked here to their page of free videos; the rest require purchasing a subscription (very much worth it, in my opinion). What other websites can you recommend? ©
  4. 4. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 4 of 23 Create Your Own Low-Cost Costumes Box A box full of costumes is an important part of a house in which kids live, all year long. Why is it so good? - Because it allows for self expression, it develops the imagination, it lets the kids assume different roles in invented games, and it's sheer fun! How can you fill such a box without spending much money buying costumes (which are bound to bore the kids after a short while anyway)? The box: could be any kind of box, preferably with a lid, prefereably relatively wide and short (to allow for easy searching inside). A cardboard box can easily fit, provided it is strong enough: paste the folded parts to keep them in place, wrap the box nicely from the outside (it would be nice to use a lovely plastic gift-bag, for instance, or a colorful paper sheet covered with transparent cellophane). Clothes: do not throw away any old clothes that have anything special about them. For instance: shiny clothes; metallic clothes; especially big clothes (that can be cut and used for sewing new clothes); leopard-like clothes; clothes with extraordinary designs, etc. Gloves, for instance, can almost always serve for this or that costume. Long skirts, especially wide ones, can turn into gowns (worn over the head, like ponchos). Baby pants (those with feet) are perfect for wearing on the head, as rabbit ears. Some of these clothes can be used just as they are - see for yourselves: put them in the box, and see your kids give them imaginative interpretations. On the other hand, there's a chance they will just take up space in the box. ©
  5. 5. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 5 of 23 Just take up space: In this case, you may start cutting (and not necessarily sew anything anew). For instance, red, black and white fabrics can make excellent pirate bandanas, if you cut out a wide triangle with two equal sides (an isosceles triangle). Sleeves of various colors can become various animals' tales: a grey sleeve, for instance, can be filled with fabric leftovers, well-creased newspaper or cotton wool, and become an elephant's tail (or rather a mouse tail...). For the elephant you might add a black pompom at the end. Attaching the tail to the body is easy if you sew (or glue) a long, narrow strip of fabric to the tail, and tie the strip around the waist. Accessories: hats, kerchiefs, belts, old jewelry bits - anything that triggers the imagination. For instance, a simple old belt became a Bob the Builder belt once we attached to it some plastic tools and a rolled building plan. Crowns: use construction paper, cardboard, or any other easily-manageable material to cut a strip with a zigzag shape at the top, and decorate with bright and shiny colors, glitter glue, shiny objects (such as various sequins). You may want to add pompoms at the crown's tips. Makeup: some toy stores sell cheap lipsticks in various delighting colors. If your children have no allergies, they can use these to color their whole face easily and cheaply. While you're at it, you may want to buy some cheap nail polish, especially glitter shades, and use them for craft: much cheaper than other colors, widely varied, easy to work with (comes with a built-in brush!), and highly durable. What other accessories do you keep in your costumes box? ©
  6. 6. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 6 of 23 Home Science Experiment: Candles and Oxygen Take a candle, two fireproof bowls of the same size (or at least the same top surface perimeter), and a curious child. Secure the candle to the bottom of one of the bowls and light it up. Now, carefully place the second bowl precisely on top of the first one (face down), so that the candle's oxygen supply is stopped. What happens? Do you get the expression seen in this photo?... :-) ©
  7. 7. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 7 of 23 "This Week in History for Kids", published Mondays: This Week in History for Kids - Slavery, Freedom and Equality (Mar 1-7) This week’s post does not include references and ideas for kids’ activities, as usual; rather, I wish to activate you - the parents - into thinking about the attitude you develop in your kids towards ideas of freedom, equality, racism and prejudice, without even sensing it. Several events occured in the history of this week: In March 1st, 1692, the first three women were accused of practicing witchcraft in Salem. On the same date in 1780, on the other hand, Pennsilvania was the first US state to pass a legislative act against slavery (though “gradual” and pertaining to newborns only). Again on the same date, in 1912 this time, Isabella Goodwin was the first US woman detective appointed. How are all these incidents - and many others - connected? They all reflect some of the thinking, in their time and place, about equal rights, freedom and prejudice. ©
  8. 8. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 8 of 23 What does “equality” really mean? Does it mean we are all the same? Obviously not, since it is quite clear that we are not all the same. But, isn’t it true that some of us are exactly similar to one another, while others are different, and yet similar among them? Think about these statements, for instance: * Girls (or women) are empathic. * Boys (or men) are decisive. * Jews are intelligent. * African-Americans are athletic. Aren’t these compliments? Aren’t they good things to say or think? ©
  9. 9. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 9 of 23 Well, no. And they cannot be said to be true, either. Why aren’t they good? Because they are born from the same stereotypic thinking as these following sentences: * Girls (or women) are whiny. * Boys (or men) are infantile. * Jews are greedy. * African-Americans are violent. Whether the generalization refers to a “good” or “bad” characteristic, it is the same in its nature. But, couldn’t it be true? Why aren’t they true? This is a huge question, which cannot be answered in a few sentences, but here are some points to consider while raising your kids: * It is not accepted nowadays to conduct research on the biological differences between races, for obvious reasons. However, it is very acceptable to conduct research on such differences between the sexes, although ethically, it is fundamentally the same. ©
  10. 10. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 10 of 23 * The existing research regarding differences between the sexes has not managed to prove innate differences, since babies and young children exhibit no specific gender differences. * Studies do suggest that internal gender differences - those among men and among women - are larger than those that seem to exist between the two sexes. I am aiming at the conclusion that any individual is different, and is wrongly judged when treated mainly as a member of some population group instead of mainly as an individual. What can we, as parents, do? Consider these situations: * Your little girl declares she wants to grow up to be a mathematician. You smile, and say: “sweetheart, wouldn’t you rather do something nicer, work with people rather than numbers?” - You cannot even imagine what kind of influence your words have on her. She might have made a great - and happy! - mathematician. Instead, she will probably remember her whole life that you didn’t say the same thing to her brother. * Your baby boy picks up a doll, looks up to you and smiles. You hand him a truck, and say, “here’s a truck, sweetie!” - Studies show that parents do not react in the same ways to baby boys and baby girls playing with the same toys, though the babies’ preference is identical. But hey, it’ll only influence them for the next 80-90 years or so! * Your tone of voice is just a little bit too high when you say “sweetheart, meet our new neighbours”, who are of different color/origin/religion/…/. Kids notice everything. We sometimes tend to think that hatred, fear, racism, male chauvinism are easy to notice and arise in extreme circumstances. The truth is quite different. It is often the very subtle feelings and behaviours that are the most dangerous to freedom and equality. Simply being more aware of these critical issues can help in making this a better world for our children, no less! Have a thoughtful week! ©
  11. 11. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 11 of 23 This Week in History for Kids - Telephones, Microphones and Lengthy Trials (Mar 8-14) In march 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell first presented a working telephone. The first sentence spoken on telephone was: “Mr. Watson, come here; I want to see you”, to which Mr. (Thomas) Watson, listening in the adjacent room, responded by coming over. Shall we say, small words (and steps) for two men, a great step for human technology? However, Bell wasn’t the first - or at least, not the only one - to invent a telephone. Elisha Gray had a similar invention at the same time, and both inventors filed for a patent on the very same day - but Bell managed to precede by a few hours. ©
  12. 12. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 12 of 23 Why not let the kids experience with their own “telephone”? This old trick still works (behold, physics hasn’t changed!): Take two small plastic containers, make a small hole at the bottom of each, and thread a string between the two containers. Two people can use one such instrument, but it’s best to have two - thus, each can hold one container as a mouthpiece and another as an earpiece. Either way, try to see what this telephone requires in order to work. Does it always work? If not, try stepping a bit further away from each other. Hmmm… Why does it only work when the string is fully stretched? You can try this with different kinds of strings, and begin to sense the explanation: when the string is streched, the sound makes it vibrate. This vibration carries the sound waves to the other side, allowing the participants to hear and be heard. Some strings will work better than others. Why don’t you experiment with it for awhile? ©
  13. 13. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 13 of 23 While we’re at it, why not try to make your own microphone? Lets’ go back to Bell and his patent-war: surprisingly, winning the race to file the patent was not the last move in this saga. two centuries (!) later - in 2002 - the U.S. congress proclaimed the Italian Antonio Meucci - long dead, of course - inventor of the telephone. Meucci himself sued Bell at the time, but died during the legal procedure. The wheels of justice grind slow, it has already been said. ©
  14. 14. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 14 of 23 This Week in History for Kids - Dot-com and Lemonade Stands (Mar 15- 21) publishes this post in and exports it also to It also has accounts in,,, and Feeling dizzy? I sure do. But here’s the real culprit who started all this:, the first registered internet domain, registered exactly 25 years ago, in March 15, 1985. What has dot-com - bubble or no bubble - to do with kids? Obviously, very much. Most parents are concerned about issues such as how much time their kids spend in front of the computer in general, and specifically on the internet; how safe they are while surfing, or how safe their own credit card is. However, there are other issues that should trouble parents no less. How computer-savvy are our kids? They seem to be more so than ourselves, But do they really know useful things? And do they know how to take advantage of that? Here’s a suggestion to make the hours they spend in front of the computer more productive: teach them something that is actually useful! Instead of just playing, they can make their first steps - while playing! - towards the fascinating - and nowadays, almost necessary - world of entrepreneurship. How so? ©
  15. 15. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 15 of 23 First, let them learn some useful programs. Anything might turn out to be useful, even games, obviously (they may want to become game-developers, and need to understand much about games); but some things are more likely to be so than others. See if they are interested in learning basic skills: word-processing for kids who just learned how to read and write; Excel for the arithmetic-savvy, graphics softwares, movie-making programs - anything. Try to make it interesting: don’t just type in words - make up stories, or design a family newspaper; don’t just fill in numbers - calculate how many party favors are needed for a birthday; don’t just draw - create an invitation, and so on. Next, of course, they should (if they want - but you should offer!) blog. Why? - to allow them to self-express; to allow them to learn what is advisable and what isn’t when writing to a public; to allow them to find their niche, to accept feedback, to respond… However, it is crucial that you monitor your kids’ blogs. Be on the watch for undesirable responses, publication of personal details, etc. But this only regards older kids, mainly teens; not because you shouldn’t supervise blogs of younger children - quite the opposite: you should be the moderators of these blogs. Would you take the risk of someone undesirable reaching your child, through a message or a comment? - Absolutely not: have all messages and comments go through you first. What next? - another facet of the dot-com phenomenon: an entrepreneurial initiative. Did your kids ever earn their own money? There are various ways in which they can do so, some more conservative, others more innovative. However, the good old ways - babysitting, car-washing, selling lemonade and cookies and so forth - are just as useful as any other in teaching basic, very needed skills: find your market, see what they want, decide on pricing, smile and be nice… if your kids see this as annoying, perhaps it’s best if they wait a few more years. However, most kids will be thrilled to be able to earn their own money, and this is where creativity comes into place - yours and theirs together: can they craft any objects they can later sell? Can they read stories to younger kids, or otherwise ©
  16. 16. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 16 of 23 help in the local library? Can they take care of pets? Maybe plant seeds to grow plants and sell them? A good lesson might be very enjoyably learned playing this game: start your own lemonade stand, calculate your costs, gains and losses, set your prices an take various variables into account - the wheather, the ingredients’ durability, the target-audience’s taste… Of course, the good old Monopoly can still teach kids much about money (credit card versions are less recommended); either traditionally or online. Bizkids also offers several business-related online games for kids. Have a busy week, and don’t forget to share business-ideas your kids have! ©
  17. 17. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 17 of 23 This Week in History for Kids - Cinema, Movies and Reality (Mar 22-28) Ever heard the story of the first movie ever made, which showed a train coming into station, and scared the audience into running out of the theatre? Meet Auguste & Louis Lumière, the French brothers who created it. They were the sons of Claude-Antoine Lumière, who had a factory manufacturing photographic plates, and both of them worked for their father in the Lumière factory - Louis as a physicist and Auguste as a manager. Watch the "Arrival of a Train" ©
  18. 18. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 18 of 23 The Lumière brothers indeed created this movie - so far, the story is true. However, apparently this was not the first movie they presented. The exact date of this first presentation is itself debated - either March 22nd, 1895 (exactly 115 years ago), or March 19th of the same year. Either way, the program probably didn’t include “Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat”, but it did include several other short movies, of 40-50 seconds each. For instance, it featured the true first movie ever: “Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory”. You can watch it above, along with some other movies, including the first ever slapstick scene. ©
  19. 19. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 19 of 23 As for the train-movie myth, there is no real evidence of this happening (although it is admittedly a nice story). However, the Lumière brothers have also experienced with 3D photography, and showed, at another occasion, a movie of a train coming into station - in 3D. It is quite possible that the shocked audience, seeing the train actually coming out of the screen towards them, fled screaming outside. What kind of film-making have your kids experience with as yet? None?! Well, it’s about time. Here are several suggestions: Create a flipbook: Create a zoetrope – watch the video: ©
  20. 20. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 20 of 23 Or settle for a much easier version: You can also help the kids shoot an animated film: you don’t have to draw each frame to the full; instead, use transparencies for unchanged backgrounds, and move the transparencies for each shot as needed. Remember, we learned that in the Walt Disney video in the Brothers Grimm post! And finally, of course, it is great to simply stage a scene and film it, or film a “documentary”; experience with the distance of the camera, the speed of its moves, close- ups, cuts… Have an imaginative week! ©
  21. 21. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 21 of 23 This Week in History for Kids - Holidays, Rites and Spring (Mar 29-Apr 4) This week begins with Passover Eve (this evening, March 29th), and ends with Easter Sunday (April 4th). Moreover, this is one of the few years in which Easter is celebrated on the same date by all Christian branches. Basically, both the stories of Passover and of Easter are those of wars or hatred. But at the same time, they both have origins back in the ancient pagan spring rites, celebrating regeneration and fertility. I find this a soothing irony: wars and differences aside, we are all the descendants of the same humble creatures who were afraid of the dark (imaginary demons) and were thrilled about new beginnings. ©
  22. 22. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 22 of 23 Sandro Botticelli captured “La primavera” - spring - quite lively in this painting. Music, too, has its unique way of grasping things. Igor Stravinsky, for one, was much impressed by primitive rites of spring, and left us much impressed by his impression. You can listen to it accompanied by Walt Disney’s animation (from “Fantasia”), depicting the evolution of life. Stravinsky was not happy with this - he said Disney failed to understand his music; however, Disney kept his liberty to understand the music as he pleased, and how lucky are we for this! Not only is this piece of animation splendid, it also leaves the liberty of interpretation intact - a crucial facet of art. Watch and Listen to Stravinsky's "The Rite of Spring" All this blooming around, and kids are in vacation - here are some great ideas to enjoy spring actively with your kids: ©
  23. 23. The Magic Key, March 2010  page 23 of 23 - First of all, go out to nature. It’s a good idea to take with you some guide to plants, insects or birds; a magnifying glass and/or binoculars, and a notebook, to write down and describe your findings. - If you have an easel, put it in the car with you, along with some paper and paint. Very few things feel more inspiring than painting nature out in the open… - Have you ever tried field cooking? Here’s a brilliant, original idea by “April-May” - making Solar Ovens (third idea in the page): “We each took a shoe box and lined the inside with foil (shiny side showing). Then we took a kabob skewer and put it through long ways. Put plastic wrap over the top and you have an oven. The most successful things we found to cook were marshmallows and hot dogs. Just set outside on a sunny afternoon. The kids were amazed! Plus, you get a science and snack all in one.” Happy holidays, and have a blooming week! Keep in Tune with "The Magic Key": The Kessem Magic Key This Week in History Subscribe Facebook Twitter Homepage for Kids to news ©