Candles and clever girls

by Deb on February 25, 2010

OK, with all the getting ready for tomorrow I sort of forgot I should post something this week!  So here’s a quick one you can do in 5 minutes.

We’ve been eating by candlelight the last couple of days, just because the girls asked to and why not? It’s fun to do something different.  Actually they asked to eat in the dark, the candles are a compromise.  They mostly come in glass holders with dire threats of what will happen if they touch the glass but they had a great time blowing them out the first night.  The last one my husband put a plate over it to close it and we watched as the flame slowly died.

Of course they wanted to know why, so we said that candles need to breathe like we do and the plate stopped the air getting in so they couldn’t breathe.

The next night they wanted to use a plate on all of them.  One candle was fairly new and very full, another very old with only a little bit at the bottom.  We’ll pause for a second while you predict what happened.

….

So what do you think?

That’s right, the old one had lots of space and air, so it took a long time to go out.  The new one only had a bit of air up the top, so it went out straight away.

Now the clever girl bit – getting in before the chorus of whys, we asked the big girl why she thought it happened 🙂  And her answer was right – because the wax is high in that one and it only has a little gap, but the old one has a big gap.  Before I start celebrating, she didn’t have any other rationale and got the next prediction wrong.  She thought the candle in the big holder would go out quickly, but of course it took ages.  While I’m writing this I just asked her why the candles go out with the plates on them and she said it was because they couldn’t breathe.

So what do we have?  She obviously remembers the explanation I gave her.  She may be applying it, or it may have been a good guess!  But the interesting thing is that she came up with her own explanation (the amount of wax and air) that was completely independent – if she was extrapolating from the rule she’d been given about breathing, that’s amazing, but the fact that she noticed the different sizes and thought it was important is also pretty amazing.

And the moral of the story: Don’t explain everything to your kids! See what they can explain to you too.

Important safety note: Don’t use a plastic plate.  And don’t pick up the plate after it’s been on a big candle for a while.  Ask my husband.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Annie March 5, 2010 at 5:15 am

I try to ask the kids ‘why/what do you think’ before I answer their ‘why’ questions and I am really amazed sometimes at what they come up with. Even if its not right it shows me where their thinking is at and where we can go from there

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Deb March 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm

I have to make myself slow down – I tend to go into teacher mode far too easily! When I do stop you’re right – it’s fascinating to hear the way they think.

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Alyson Kelvin via Facebook May 22, 2011 at 12:43 am

Too cute! These really look like my kids!

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