Budster and I have both been congratulating ourselves on our recent acquisitions. I have a new car, and he has a new skill – cranking! Unfortunately, Daddy’s “new” car has crank-operated windows, and Budster’s enthusiasm for slyly operating them has resulted in a car full of maple pollen and detritus several times this season. I thought it wouldn’t hurt for him to get a little cranking practice in somewhere else. I have heard his jack-in-the-box enough recently to make my eye start twitching at the first note of it, but there are surprisingly few alternatives around the house. Buttons, knobs and switches abound (what on Earth was I welding with THESE settings?), but cranks are hard to come by. So, when I found a manual apple peeler at a thrift shop, I didn’t hesitate to grab it.
It is just the thing for a crank-happy kid and a very interesting mechanism as well. The crank is attached to a shaft that has a shallow spiral groove, and turning it feeds the apple forward and around, pealing, slicing and coring in one pass. So, all Budster has to do is turn it the right direction for it to work, and it is pretty obvious when it is going the wrong way, which is great for introducing the concept of clockwise/counter-clockwise rotation. All the steps in the operational cycle are within his capabilities, but require considerable concentration for him to keep in order.
I also get the impression from how he puts his whole body into the effort by the end of an apple, that he is getting a bit of a workout from it.
But he loves it, and we often eat freshly peeled/sliced apples, because there just isn’t enough drying room to keep up with his enthusiasm for cranking them out. Budster also enjoys eating the long slender peel which he lovingly calls a “super-duper apple snake”! This unsuspecting snake is headed down the hatch.
Once the apples are cut, we put them on wire cooling racks and leave them there for a couple of days. Depending on the level of humidity, it will take a few days for the apples to shrink and become chewy and dry – usually around five days for us.
The process of drying has been a great home science experiment, too, and might be a better draw to the same activity for an older kid (for whom cranks are old hat). Here are some things to try if you decide to hold an apple science experiment:
1. Calculate the number of days it takes to dry the apples. The amount they shrink each day can be observed and even recorded.
2. Apples that have been dipped in a citric acid or lemon juice bath can be compared to undipped apples for final colouration and flavour.
3. Certain math lessons could also be illustrated by comparing the initial weight of an apple to its peeled and cored weight and then its dried weight.
4. The relation of circumference to diameter could be explored by observing the length of peel that comes off at every rotation of the crank, and how it varies with the girth of the apple.
For toddlers, though, it is enough to witness the long laces of apple peel spilling out of the machine, and feel the satisfaction of having done it by themselves. And then gobble up the mess!