Reading, Experimenting


 The Elements: A Visual Exploration of Every Known Atom in the Universe, by Theodore Gray, photography by Theodore Gray and Nick Mann

 I have to share one of the best books we’ve ever purchased for our kids. It is, in Milo’s words, “Amazing because it has a fold-out periodic table of elements. It’s awesome!” (he is helping me with this post). What we love about it is the colorful photography and great descriptions of each element, including volatility and common uses and forms. It is the best introduction to chemistry for kids his age and has already inspired quite a few experiments.


Last weekend, when I took Milo on a special coffee (and hot chocolate) date, I marveled at his interest and understanding of several elements, including sodium. He talked about the “building block” structure of salt. We talked about what different forms of salt might look like, and when we got home, decided to take a closer look at three different forms: sea salt, kosher salt, and iodized table salt.


From left to right: sea salt, kosher salt, and table salt

Looking at each form under the microscope was really cool! The shapes were really different, leading to discussion about processed versus natural versions of things (which lead us to a discussion about hot dogs and chicken nuggets — Milo’s connection, not mine! Yuck!). I love where these experiments take us.

Seriously, check out this book, which is half off on Amazon right now – and try the comparison if you have a microscope! I got the book for Milo’s birthday in September along with a geode, amethyst, and a few other different stones and minerals, which has turned to be such a great thing to have in our house… plus, I’ve learned plenty just by browsing this book. Happy reading!

6 thoughts on “Reading, Experimenting”
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  1. This is seriously “awesome”. Jackson is a science lover as well and this would make a perfect Christmas gift. I am considering the microscope too as his big gift from Frank and I. Do you have a suggestion for one? I have no idea where he gets the “science gene” from, but anything I can do to help this budding scientist is fantastic! Milo is so awesome, (as is your whole family) I can’t believe how fast they are growing up. I feel like it was literally just a few months ago that we were visiting you in DC and he was just a little one. How time flies!

  2. I love that book!
    Picked up a copy a few years back, when the author was giving a talk in the city hall here, and doing a signing. I love that it includes examples of “real-life” objects that gain their special physical properties or color due to specific elements. The historical vignettes are always fascinating, too.

  3. Rock candy is a really fun extension of crystal exploration. Also growing “magic crystals,” either from a kit or with your own cardboard and bluing/salt/ammonia solution. Fun!

  4. Kathy, yes! We miss you guys too. I can only imagine how big Jackson is now. We gave the older boys this microscope last year as the big gift and are really pleased with it. Just a warning, though — the slides are glass, and we have had more than one cut from the corners. It’s nothing big, just a discussion about it before using, but still important!

  5. Since the kids and I are studying introductory chemistry this year, we are going to have to check that book out! You and your boys might like this site.
    Just click on the element you want to know more about and a crazy group of British scientists give a quick overview with interesting tidbits and do fancy looking experiments. We watch one every day.

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