What do reindeer really like to eat (and other random facts)?

What do reindeer really like to eat (and other random facts)?

Christmas is finally here, or almost. We have made it to the final day and the excitement is mounting by the hour. Businesses close, friends and family arrive and last minute shopping is performed with lightning speed. Adults tally gifts, count the seats around the table and check that there are enough brussel sprouts for all. Children meanwhile think only of Santa and his all-important cargo that will be dispensed this very night. If their minds wonder to food at all it is usually just to consider what treats they will leave out for the big man and his furry friends. In this house the current dilemma is whether Santa would prefer a mince pie or some Christmas cake. There is no debate in the Science Wows HQ about what to leave out for the reindeer though, that was sourced in yesterday’s adventure. The children ventured out in the wind and rain, up the lane, through the fairy field and into the little wood with the plentiful supply of LICHEN; Rudolph and his friends will be well fed tonight!

In the spirit of this festive season, I thought it might be nice to share a few facts you may not know about our red nosed friend and her buddies.


Lichen is the staple food of Reindeer (or Caribou); there is even a type of lichen named after them, called “reindeer moss”. Most species of reindeer  also eat grasses, mushrooms and mosses; Just like cows, reindeer “chew the cud” first digesting half chewed food into one stomach, only to regurgitate it, chew it some more and swallow it into another stomach.


Unlike other deer species both male and female reindeer usually have antlers. The males lose theirs in Winter, (usually at the end of the mating season in early December) but the females keep theirs until after they give birth, in the spring; that is why all Santa’s reindeer must be female as they still have their antlers on 25th December!

Reindeer antlers are a bit like human fingerprints, no two are exactly alike! They are made of bone with a rich supply of blood and can regenerate fairly quickly. Reindeer antler growth and regeneration has been much studied in the areas of science and medicine in particular. Deer antler velvet be given in the treatment of such conditions as rheumatism, sports injuries and weakened immune system and is being studies for possible application of certain cancer treatment.


Reindeer are very well adapted to their cold habitats. In winter months their fur grows longer and the hairs of their winter coat are hollow, helping to trap air and insulate from the extreme weather conditions. The fur around their muzzles grows also protecting their airways from the bitter cold air. They can also alter their blood circulation allowing a higher core temperature to be maintained in their upper body.

Reindeer have an acute sense of smell, allowing them to detect lichen under the very deep snow. Their hooves are well adapted to digging in the snow, changing in structure during the colder months to assist in shovelling through the snow, as well as improving their traction on the frozen ground.

photo credit: Paradasos via photopin cc
photo credit: Paradasos via photopin cc

During the colder months reindeer migrate south. In fact some reindeer species migrate further than any other terrestrial animal, clocking up more than 900 kilometres in one year.

Reindeer are the only mammals that can see UV light which helps them detect a number of facts in their “winter wonderland” environment, from food to predators.

Whatever you leave out for the reindeer this year, or at what angle Santa lands on your roof,  I hope that you all have a very happy and healthy Christmas (or with a new phrase I learned “Happy Elbow”).


Our five favourite Easter experiments (or should that be eggsperiments)

Our five favourite Easter experiments (or should that be eggsperiments)

Are your children just starting their mid term break? Looking for some exciting activities to entertain them over the next two weeks? How about some Eggsellent Eggsperiments to keep everyone happy?

Here are five of our favourite experiments for Easter… or any other time of the year.

Easter Experiments



Take the floating egg experiment one step further!
Take the floating egg experiment one step further!


Take this one step further….

We mentioned in the video that you can take this experiment a step further.

Float the egg in the salty water as before.

Add a few drops of food colouring to a jug of unsalted water.

Carefully pour this coloured water down the side of the glass so that it sits on top of the salty water.

The egg will sit between the two layers… can you see it in this picture?





Amaze your friends with this egg balancing trick
Amaze your friends with this egg balancing trick



The junior science team were a little enthusiastic

with their salt levels in this video

but you can get this to work with A LOT less salt.








Not only did we make a bouncy egg, but we also made a fluorescent one…. check out these experiments here.


There will be plenty of great Easter blog posts by fellow Irish Parenting Bloggers over the next week or two…. here are a few already posted and if you check back I will keep this list updated as new posts are available.

You may also like…

Easter gift tag printables over at My Country Girl Ramblings

Check out these great dairy free treat ideas over at Dairy Free Kids

Easter Hama bead activity and Things I love (and hate) about school holidays over at Learner Mama

Easy Easter bonnets at Where wishes come from

Office Mum wonders “Is the Easter Bunny a thing?”

There is an Easter trip involving “Hot cross buns and Vikings in the Park” over at The Busy Mama

Tyler Lee’s Easter basket over at Dolly Dowsie

or check out what Bumbles of Rice has planned for Easter with this lovely Easter Ideas post


Happy Easter!






Anything that glows…

Anything that glows…

Halloween season is a bit mad in this science filled house as you may have guessed by now.  There have been more experiments than dinners in the kitchen the past week… we have been repeating old favourites, modifying others and trying out new ones.. and all because it is Halloween.

We love things that glitter and glow and this time of years allows us to really indulge this side of science.  I thought I would share some new favourites with you here, in case anyone wants to add some glowing fun to their Halloween parties or games!

Glowing lava lamps:

We love making lava lamps but made a few modifications to add a bit more glow to this favourite!

You will need:

An empty plastic bottle or a clear plastic cup
Vegetable oil
A funnel
Florescent paint (or glow in the dark paint*)
Alka Seltzer (or similar antacid tablets)
A UV light (also called a black light) if possible

What to do:

  1. Put a small amount of water (about an inch or two) in the bottom of the plastic bottle or cup.
  2. Add some fluorescent paint to the water and mix.
  3. Using the funnel pour the vegetable oil into the bottle, filling almost to the top.
  4. You will see that the water and oil settle into two layers, with the water at the bottom.
  5. Break up the Alka Seltzer tablets into smaller piece, and, if you have a UV light, turn it on and turn off the regular light.
  6. Add some pieces of the Alka Selzer tablet to the bottle to start off your lava lamp.
  7. Once the bubbles stop rising you can add more tablets to keep the lava lamp going.
This is what we did:
We had lots of different colours and types of fluorescent paint so, of course, we had to try them all!
We added fluorescent paint to water in each cup and then we mixed it in
Then we added a layer of vegetable oil to each
Then we turned on our UV light…
…And turned off all other lights. We added the Alka Seltzer and watched in delight!

You get a better idea from our videos…

So what is happening?

The Alka Seltzer tablets drop to the bottom of the bottle and dissolve in the water.  These tablets contain an acid (citric acid) and a base/alkali (Sodium hydrogen coarbonate) in powder form.  When these dissolve in water the acid and the alkai start to react together and form carbon dioxide gas.  This gas forms bubbles with the water.  The bubbles are lighter than the water and oil so they travel up the bottle to the top.  Once they reach the air they burst and the water droplet is now heavier than the oil and drops back down to the bottom of the bottle again.


We tried both flourescent and glow in the dark paints for this experiment.  We found the flourescent paint worked best, but if you have a good glow in the dark paint feel free to try this out with the lights off!

This is our fluorescent lava lamp in daylight…
still pretty cool we think!

If you do not have a UV light then try this experiment in the daytime with plenty of sunlight. 

The fluorescent paint is still very bright and gives a pretty cool effect.

More glow in the dark experiments tomorrow so remember to check back! 
What’s your favourite colour?

What’s your favourite colour?

With three children in my house I get asked a lot of questions.  “Whys?” “What ifs?” “How comes?” are all part of the household daily dialogue.  Apparently, the average three year old asks at least 50 questions a day, although I reckon our resident three year old easily doubles this number!  I have noticed, of all the many questions my youngest asks, the most frequent one is….


Your favourite colour seems to be one of the most defining aspect of your character when you are three years old!  Apart from your food preferences, I think it is the first main expression of personal preference.  The answer to this question can change at any given moment, but my three year old has been consistent with his favourite colour of yellow and I have to admit it really fits with his personality – but why do different things appear different colours?  I thought this week I could share a bit about the science of colour!

To understand the science behind colour we need to consider a bit about the science of light.  Light, either from the sun or a light bulb, may appear white to us, but it is actually made up of seven different coloursmixed together; these colours are red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet.

Light is a type of energy called electromagnetic (EM) energy.  EM energy actually travels in waves, even though we see light as straight lines.  Light is the only type of EM energy that humans can see.  The wavelength of light determines it’s colour.  Light with the longest wavelength is red.  Light with the shortest wavelength is violet.


When we look at a red flower, what are we really seeing?  When light shines on an object, some of that light gets bounced back (reflected) off the object. The rest of the light gets absorbed by the object.  We see the object as the colour that it reflects.  So, when we are looking at a red flower we are looking at a flower that has absorbed all the light that is shining on it EXCEPT red light.  It is reflecting red light so that is the colour it appears to the human eye.  When an object appears white it is reflecting all the light shining on it and when an object appears black it is absorbing all the light and not reflecting any of it.


photo credit: -Reji via photopin cc
photo credit: -Reji via photopin cc

Scientist and artists sometimes look at colour in two very different ways; a scientist, observing light, will say that when you combine all the colours you end up with white (as discussed above).  An artist may see it all very differently, when we mix paints, for example, if we mix all the colours together we will end up with black!MIXING COLOURS

Image credit: www.gelighting.com


You can try this yourself at home: use torches to create the coloured light…fix two different coloured pieces of cellophane (say red and green) over the end of two torches (one colour on each torch).  Shine the torches on a white wall or piece of paper.  When you overlap the red and green colours you should get yellow!  Now repeat with paint – mix red and green paint and what do you get?  Not yellow this time but brown!


When light travels through water it slows down and the light bends.  Different wavelengths of light bend to different degrees so the light gets split up into its component colours.  This is how rainbows are made…
when sunlight travels through drops of rain each colour of light bends to a different angle and the white light is separated out into it’s seven colours.

Photo credit: Eric Rolph

Did you ever notice that usually when you see a rainbow there is a second, more faint rainbow around the first one?  This second rainbow forms because some of the light is reflected off the back of the raindrop and bent a second time!  These secondary rainbows appear more dark as the light has been bent twice and the colours appear in reverse.  Check it out next time you see a rainbow!


Some animals, such as cats and dogs, rely more on what they can hear or smell, than on the colours they see.  Their colour vision  would not be as good as humans.  Like Humans, many primates and marsupials have good colour vision that they may use to allow them to recognise prey or food.  Good colour vision is common among fruit eating animals as it allows them determine ripe from un-ripe fruit.
Many species of birds and fish have better colour vision than humans.  If you consider how elaborately colourful these animals often are then it is not too surprising to accept that they must be able to see these lovely displays of colour among their own species. Pigeons, for example are thought to be among the best animals at detecting colour and can see millions of different hues.
Reptiles and amphibians are thought to have colour vision equal to, or better than, that of humans.
Many insects can see light (colour) that is not visible to humans.  Bees, for example, can see Ultra Violet (UV) light.  This allows them to see UV patterns on flowers, leading them to the source of nectar.
Finally, a myth buster…do bulls really “seeing red”? Infact, no they don’t – they are colour blind.  The only reason that they charge the red cape is because it is fluttering in front of them!


Image credit www.valencia-property.com

Further Reading:

About Rainbows
Colour vision: One of nature’s wonders
Colour vision 
Reptile vision.