RSS Feed

Childcraft: Science and Industry

Posted on Friday, October 2, 2009 in children's books

Science and IndustryThe first thing we learn from this volume is that all living things come from parents that are like them. Yep, you are like your parents whether you like it or not. You look in the mirror and sometimes you’ll see your mother or father’s face. This is especially true as you age. It’s just science and you can’t fight it. I thought having a raccoon mask would have been kind of fun. I already had the freckles across my nose. It was hard for me as a child to accept that I would never have a monkey tail, so I understand if this concept disturbs you.

I enjoyed learning that six months after an egg hatches, “if it is a hen, it is ready to lay eggs.” But “if it is a male chick, it grows up to be a rooster.” And does nothing other than that. Children who grow up on farms soon learn that males aren’t really all that necessary. They are bigger, badder, and frequently stinkier than females, but if you really need one you can probably just borrow your neighbor’s. My nieces learned that there are three choices to make when you a farm animal has a male baby: keep it for breeding (unlikely), keep it and castrate it (more likely), or eat it (probably inevitable.) Sorry guys.

Where does your telephone reach?Boys and girls learn much more than animal babies can. But not the really cool stuff like how to fly, live under water, bring down an elk with your teeth and nails, or how to be taken care of for life just by making rumbling sounds in your throat.


There are lots of experiments included in this volume, including some of my favorites. I loved growing bread mold. I’d fill several jars and try for different colors by spraying the bread with Lysol or hair spray or Windex. I remember being amazed that Lysol really worked and I didn’t get any color of mold at all for many many days.

After trying the celery and colored water experiment, Mom suggested using peonies instead. I was so proud of those white peonies with pink or blue outlines on their petals. I felt like I was a scientist and an artist.

I wish I had tried the rotten apple experiment that shows how germs can spread. You take a rotten apple and two good ones. One of the good ones gets scratched twice and one of those scratches is treated with iodine or Mercurochrome. We didn’t have either so I would have used Campho-Phenique. I really wonder how this experiment worked for kids back when you could get Mercurochrome. The FDA forbade its sale across state lines in 1998 after determining that it was not generally recognized as safe and effective. Maybe it was the safety using mercury rather than the effectiveness that was the real problem. I hope most kids found that the treated scratch on their apple didn’t rot. And I hope no parents, after seeing their child’s success, then decided to wash all their apples in mercury.

The book suggests the making of an aquarium or terrarium. Terrariums were very popular around 1974. I wanted to create my own and at that time either Frito’s or Chee-tos (correct spelling for that time) had seed samples tucked inside its packaging. I got cactus seeds. Growing cactus from seed is an exercise in patience. Not for a season, but for an annum. At least they were for me. But the suckers eventually came up and grew for a few years until a cat decided to take up extreme litter boxing.

I have to say that the concept of making your own rain is much better than the actual experiment. Watching drops fall from a pitcher filled with ice and held over a pan of steaming water just doesn’t measure up to the idea of ruining your sister’s softball game with a downpour.

Nowhere does the book warn you about doing Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde experiments. I tried to create such a potion with all sorts of liquids, including perfume. Perfume is not meant to be taken orally. Important childhood lesson.

Moms, Dads, and science

Parents are the most important item in science. You’ll need Mom to sew your butterfly catcher and to boil water. You’ll need Dad to tell you how to tell directions with his compass, to light matches, and to sing and talk while you feel his voice box. Sometimes you need both of them for a single experiment. To make a water wheel you need Mom to cut the lid from a large tin can and Dad to cut slits in the lid and twist the edges.

Did they really write that?

Animals do not have minds or souls. They were referring only to the animals you’ve eaten or will eat. I’m sure they weren’t referring to your pet. Your pet will go to heaven and wait for you there. Honestly. Do your trust me or some old author from the 1950s?


Men in spaceThis was boring for me as a child and it’s boring as an adult. Combines are used for reaping wheat, using a claw hammer to remove a nail is easier than using your bare hands, an egg beater shows you how wheels with teeth work, electricity comes from generators, wool grows on sheep, many houses are made of wood, furnaces ares usually put in the basement. These facts just don’t leave a lot of room for imagination. I wanted to see speculation about the future. I thought maybe I’d see a personal jet pack or a space car. But the only prognostications Childcraft editors were willing to make were pretty weak: new medicines to prevent illnesses, faster and safer ways of traveling, cities where everyone can live in comfort. They must have missed seeing AIDS, airport congestion, or homelessness in their crystal ball. Luckily I watched Star Trek as a child so had a clearer version of things like DVDs, cell phones, automatic doors, and the Roomba vacuum.

MORE on the Childcraft collection:
Poems of Early Childhood
Storytelling and Other Poems
Folk and Fairy Tales
Animal Friends and Adventures
Life in Many Lands
Great Men and Famous Deeds
Exploring the World Around Us
Creative Play and Hobbies
Art for Children

Leave a Comment