September 28, 2006


Glow: Living Lights at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

"Mommy, why do fireflies light up?" I have heard this question a hundred times over the past few summers. Now, "Glow: Living Lights," the new exhibit at Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum provides some scientific answers.

Visitors enter the darkened gallery to encounter dozens of stations filled with information about bioluminescence, living creatures who give off their own light. The effect of leaving the bright light of the museum to see a dark room with "glowing" displays was pretty cool. The guide at the entrance encouraged us to stop at the entrance and watch the video introduction to the exhibit. Unfortunately, my preschoolers shot into the darkened room to explore at their own pace, which did not include time for even a short video.

As we navigated the room, what I found was a lot of information to read. I was amazed at how many animals actually produce their own light, especially in the world's oceans. But again, because my sons saw the room as a darkened maze instead of a museum exhibit, I spent more time trying to engage them in buttons they could push and hidden creatures they could find, than in actually reading the exhibit's information.

Older kids could probably get into the ways scientists are using chemical light from animals to see inside cells and test pollutants. At different points, information is presented in both written and video format, but my small children were honestly more interested in playing hide-and-seek among the displays than in listening to anything new.

We did check out the firefly information and enjoyed making lights go on and off depending on whether we could all be quiet. And checking out some of the ocean's brightest creatures was "cool." In the end, "Glow" just does not provide enough things for little kids to "do."

"Glow: Living Lights" runs through Jan. 2, 2007 at the Notebaert Nature Museum, 2430 N. Canon Dr., Chicago. Tickets are $3, plus Museum general admission, $2 for Museum members. For information, visit Alena Murguia

Editor's Note: Glow is being installed in sections. Chicago Parent visited the first installment of the exhibit. Look for a revised review in the November issue of Chicago Parent.



Fire Fly Products by Dr. Fresh; $1.99 - $4.99,

My 6-year-old son is excited about anything with little colored, blinking lights. So when we got the Firefly Dental Health for Kids toothbrush, toothpaste and "MouthSwoosh" he was begging to brush his teeth before dinner was even over.

The products are all very attractively packaged with bright red and blue bottles with little bug mascots on them. When you uncap the toothpaste and flip the cap back down, small red, blue, yellow and green lights in the cap blink for 60 seconds, telling your child how long to brush. Ditto for the mouthwash; when the cap is replaced, it lights up.

My son really liked these products. We've tried many ways of timing how long we brush our teeth in the past, including humming "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" with our mouths full of toothpaste, but my son stared devotedly at the light-up lids, brushing and gargling the entire time, mesmerized by the LED technology.

My son loved the bubble gum flavor of the MouthSwoosh, but described the toothpaste as "too spicy." It has a very sharp mint flavor, which might be too strong for smaller children. That said, my son has been using it anyway without complaint for more than a week, so he seems to have gotten used to it.

If you want to add some novelty to toothbrush time, and don't want to stand over your kids counting down the seconds, then the Firefly Dental Health MouthSwoosh and Toothpaste are the products for you.

The toothbrush was another matter. The toothbrush handle is supposed to light up, but we found it incredibly difficult to get it to light. After squeezing and pressing the handle for a few minutes, I got it to light one time - then told my son to just use the toothpaste and his regular toothbrush. I don't know if a child could get enough finger pressure to get it to light up at all.

When I looked at the toothbrush later, I was disturbed to find little tooth marks all over the soft rubber end where the LED battery is contained. Frustrated that it wouldn't light, my son had tried to chew his way through the handle. Although the battery remained attached to the inside and did not come loose, it was exposed by the chewed up rubber tip and with a little more effort could easily have come loose and been swallowed accidentally.

William gives the MouthSwoosh an A, the Toothpaste a C and the toothbrush a D. I would give the MouthSwoosh, $4.99, an A, for taste, 'fun' value and as a tool for good oral health. The toothpaste, $2.99, gets a B because, although he complained about the taste, it can't be that bad since he is using it every night with no prompting. After almost a month, the lights are all still going strong. The toothbrush, $1.99, is the only item I cannot recommend. It has been downgraded to an F, because of the potential safety hazard from the battery. Bronwyn Wright


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