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Understanding the World with Imaginary Nature Facts

By Katy Killilea

Dandelion Seeds Being Blown: Kid o infoButtercup: Kid o info

Children love nature and love figuring out how the world works. Little sponge-brain scientists that they are, they study nonfiction books and can often demonstrate perfect recall of the facts they learn. I do not know why my kids turn to me for information on the natural world; I mean, I get it–I’m their mom–but I’m completely unreliable. My sons like to pump me for facts, and this is a list of what I have shared with them, from what little I can remember about my own days as a junior scientist.

1. How to tell if someone likes butter: This can be determined by holding a yellow flower–technically, it should be a buttercup, but in an emergency, any yellow flower will do–near the underside of the chin of the butter-eater in question. A butter lover’s chin will reflect the yellow color. This is completely accurate unless you try it on someone who does not like butter.

2. How lucky you will be: ladybug way. When a ladybug lands on you, count its spots. That figure is the number of days you’ll have extra good luck. Some might assume that finding a dead ladybug means bad luck. We have not found this to be the case.

3. How lucky you will be: bird poo method. This is a nice consolation, should you be pooped upon. If it lands on your hat or clothing, that means one week of good luck. Bare arm: one month of good luck. In the hair: one year. On the face, especially in the vicinity of the mouth: ten years of good luck!

4. How to tell time with a dandelion that has gone to seed. Pick the dandelion and blow on it. The number of blows it takes to get every last seed off is the time, in hours. This works best if you know the time before you start huffing and puffing, so you can adjust the force of your breath accordingly. And if you know military time, and also consider Greenwich Mean Time a possible correct answer, you’re almost guaranteed accuracy.

5. Which Disney princess/comic book superhero you are. If you are on a wooded path, birds often come flitting by. Instead of feeling pressure to identify the birds by name, some scientists call them “a yellow bird” or “a red bird,” and if it is sort of dark taupe, “a chickadee.” To help your kids determine his or her personality type, have them note which bird they spot first on a nature walk.

To decode the meaning of the birds you see, use this chart: red bird: you are Snow White/Spiderman, yellow bird: Cinderella/Flash, blue bird: Belle/Superman. If you think your kids can handle it, make seeing a duck or goose mean they are a character they loathe, such as Doctor Octopus, the Wicked Stepmother, or Caillou. (They can always pretend they didn’t notice that particular bird and wait for their favorite.)

6. He loves me, he loves me not, or: Will I Ever Get a Playstation PSP? Using a daisy or other flower with numerous petals, you can determine your fate. This works as a useful prognostication tool for any sort of question (for example, “Will the Del’s truck come by my house after dinner?”).. Pluck one petal off at a time, alternating the two possible outcomes as you go along. “It will come.” (pluck.) “It won’t come.” (pluck.)

There are two schools of thought if you don’t like the outcome. One is that it is only a diagnostic tool; it doesn’t change the outcome. The other is that you can keep trying to get the answer you want until you run out of flowers.

7. How to determine the temperature from crickets. Using a watch with a second hand, count the number of cricket chirps you can hear in a ten-second span. Multiply that by ten to get the temperature. Adjust your counting style as needed.

Does your family have any favorite quasi-scientific methods? Please feel welcome to share them with the Kidoinfo community.

Photo Credit: Katy Killilea

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  • That poop stuff is really accurate! I might add the following for deposits on boats, which are among the favorite targets of seagulls and sea ducks.-Bow area surrounding anchor locker-fairly good luck-anywhere on the deck-only average luck-motor shroud(cover)-the jackpot for good luck. As hopeful as all this might sound, the good luck in boat poop cases is limited to the subsequent fishing trip.

  • there’s also something going around about lobsters turning blue after they cannibalize one of their cohorts. i don’t want to ask the experts at audubon since it could hurt their feelings–what with the blue lobster being a source of pride and all.

  • I read this post out loud to Stretch last night—she tried to blow me off and be way too hip for whatever dreck I was telling her, but she couldn’t help herself—-she loved it.

    Especially the bird poo.

  • What an ingenious column! And how fortunate for our family that my husband came home from fishing with seagull poop on his favoriet shirt. Can’t wait to tell him we’ve got a whole week of good luck ahead! Keep up the good work.

  • “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight/ red sky at morn, sailors be warned”–my neighbor says this to our kids. It is cryptic enough to mean almost anything.

  • We can tell how big the surf is all the way from our house….we just put our ear to our handy conch shell!

  • “If we’re driving and our car gets hit by lightning, will we live?”

    I had to field this question this week (I don’t think we were in the car yet). I mumbled some gibberish about rubber and insulating. Anyone know the real deal? Just my morbid curiosity.

  • Oh, that thunderclaps thing is not legend—it’s totally true. Or is it the number of seconds times FIVE equals the number of miles away the storm is?

    The watermelon thing is where you stick three watermelon seeds on your forehead and give each one of them the name of a Boy whom you Like. Then you walk around like this until the seeds naturally fall off. The one who lasts the longest is the Boy You’ll Marry. (the source=possibly a Judy Blume book, but I spent a couple of upper elementary summers doing this w/my friends)

  • I LOVE this!

    Isn’t the time between thunderclaps supposed to equal the distance (in miles, of course, since we are egocentric Americans:) that the storm is from you? Or something like that?
    Wicked scientific here.

  • Don’t forget the Who Will I Marry/Watermelon Seeds Stuck to Forehead!

    These are fun—-thanks for reminding. Had no idea about the bird poo—-will have to share that w/my kids, the amateur scatologists.