Holiday fun ideas inspired by Sam the Christmas Dog

(By Martin Grant, Dean of Science)

Small dog wearing reindeer antlers

As we come out of a long strike by our support staff, like everyone at McGill, I am pretty tired and not in the mood for fun or even a holiday – but boy oh boy do I need one, as does everyone else here.  With that thought in mind, I would like to suggest a few family-fun things for the holiday season, in the spirit of the advice of Sam the Christmas Dog which I suggested last year: see family and friends, relax and have fun, and don’t take yourself too seriously.  So, to get everyone out of their bah-humbug moods, here are some ideas for Holiday fun for kids of all ages!

1. Making food with your family is fun!  Here is a recipe which is a big hit with, especially, little boys and girls.  At our home, we call it Chicken McNuggets.  The kids can help make the batter, and help passing things back and forth for the step where the chicken is cooked. And of course they can help eat the chicken.  Is it good? They are even better than real McNuggets from McDonald’s.

2. Cornstarch is fun!  There you are, you have your cornstarch out already to make the McNuggets, so try this fun science thing: mix the corn starch with a little water in a bowl and you can make a viscoelastic fluid!  Show your kids that if you push around the muck slowly with a spoon, it is like a liquid.  If you move the spoon quickly, it is like a solid.  Now punch the cornstarch muck in the bowl with your fist.  It doesn’t splatter because, on short time scales, it acts like a solid.  Now everyone will want to punch the cornstarch-water mix in the bowl!

3. Shrunken heads are fun! This was my favorite when I was growing up – and it keeps people busy while you are cleaning up all that cornstarch muck.  Take an apple and peel it.  Now, take a knife and carve the peeled apple into a face with a nose and ears, eyes etc.  Attach a string to the stem so it can hang from, for example, a Christmas tree.  Leave it in a corner for a day or two to get a little dehydrated.  Then it looks like a Christmas-sy shrunken head.  This is very very popular with little kids.

4. Brain-twisting puzzles are fun!  Here is a creepy illusion/magic trick.  See if you can figure it out.  You can do it with cards, but it does not work as well.  This has no cleanup time, unlike the apple heads.  By the way, it is only a trick, it doesn’t actually read your mind.

5. Advanced electronics is fun!  Would you like to play guitar in a very loud fuzzy way? It can be a lot of fun!  This fuzz pedal is more work than the other things here; it is intended for doing with older kids – particularly if they play guitar.  This is the schematic and some building hints.  For electronics it is pretty simple, there are two transistors, three capacitors, four resistors, and two potentiometers.  If you prefer maximum volume and maximum fuzz (what else?) you can leave out the potentiometers.  Jimi Hendrix used it, so it must be good.

Best of the season to all from the Faculty of Science!

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