Monday, March 21, 2011
Easy Science Experiments for Little People
I was never a big fan of science class in school. When I think science I think long, impossible to remember formulas, beakers, test tubes and the dissection of frogs (barf). Fortunately I haven't had to use the Periodic Table of Elements in my adult life. Not yet anyway. Heaven help me when my boys get older. My ability to help with math and science homework will end long about the 4th or 5th grade I'm sure.
At the Preschool age science is awesome! Little people are natural scientists. Science involves observation of events that occur naturally and experimenting in controlled environments to test a hypothesis (See? I retained some science vocab. from school). That's where Preschool Science begins! Little people are curious by nature and love to ask questions about what goes on around them in their day to day lives. Think about all the questions you answer for your preschooler on a daily basis, you're preschooler might have more science in their world than you would have thought.
Your job in raising a little scientist is to encourage your child to observe and ask questions about what goes on around them and to ask your child questions that will stimulate them to come up with a hypothesis, figure out a solution, summarize and evaluate situations. Adding more science to your child's life doesn't have to be pre-planned or an ordeal.
Recently my 4 year brought me a tissue and asked me to wet it for him so he could wipe off his face. I explained that tissues didn't hold up well when wet and that it would fall apart. Later that night, as he was finishing up his bath, he asked if we could put a tissue in the bathtub to see what happens when a tissue gets really wet. So we did. We also dropped in a paper napkin and a paper towel to see what would happen to them. We compared them to what they looked and felt like when wet and dry and talked about which held up the best when wet. It took 5 minutes. That's preschool science!
Here are some ideas for fun and easy science experiments and activities for you to do with your little people:
Chemical Interactions - You'll need a small cup or bowl, vinegar, baking soda and old, dirty pennies. Your child can measure and pour two tablespoons of vinegar and a half a teaspoon of baking soda into a cup. They can then drop a penny into the cup and stir the solution with a popsicle stick. You and your child can then watch the penny magically become clean. Have your child explain what they just did and what happened. Talk to them about chemical reactions and explain why the penny became clean. Repeat the process again with a new penny. You can then do some more experimenting. Ask your child if they think the penny will become clean by just dropping it in vinegar or plain water. Then test out their theories. You can then have your child draw a picture showing the before and after of the experiment.
Surface Tension - Explain the idea of surface tension to your little scientist, that there are forces of attraction between the molecules of a liquid and how soap and detergents work to break or weaken these forces and help other substances work with them more easily. Talk about how surface tension works with cleaning and washing things like dishes, clothing and their bodies. Then you can experiment and see surface tension in action. You'll need cooking oil (like vegetable oil or olive oil), water and dish washing soap. Pour a teaspoon of cooking oil into your child's hands and have them rub it in all over their as if it were soap and they were going to wash their hands. (You can shake a little cinnamon or another spice into their hands before they rub the oil in. This can make it easier for smaller kids to not only feel it but see it as well.) Have your child rinse and rub their hands in running water in the sink to see if the oil is easily removed. Needless to say, it will not be. Now pour a drop or two of dish washing soap into your child's hands. Have your child rub the soap into their hands and then rinse their hands in the water again. Talk about surface tension and how the soap helps the oil to mix with the water and be removed with more ease.
Light and magnification - Explain to your child how objects look magnified when immersed in water. Have your little scientist place a pencil in a glass of water and observe how it looks like it bends where it enters the water. Talk about why this happens, have your child draw a picture of the pencil before it's placed in the glass of water and a picture of what it looks like after it's in the water. Talk about how light is bent by the lenses of glasses. Experiment with a magnifying glass, binoculars and the zoom function of a camera.
Buoyancy - Explain buoyancy to your child. While they are taking a bath, let them experiment with different objects to see which will sink to the bottom of the tub and which will float on the water. Before they drop the object into the tub ask them for a hypothesis as to whether they think that object will sink or float. You can also talk to your child about "swimmies" or "floaties" and how they help children who can't swim stay afloat in a pool.
Capillary Action in Plants - For this experiment, you'll need a stalk of celery or a daisy, food coloring or ink and a glass bottle. Explain capillary action in plants to your child. Pour a generous amount of food coloring or ink (roughly 1/4 cup) into a glass bottle. Place a stalk of celery or a daisy into the jar and let it sit for 4-5 hours. If you're using celery, cut a slice of the stem. You should see colored dots where the liquid has traveled up the capillaries of the celery. If you're using a daisy, you'll see that the color has traveled up the stem as the flowers sucks up the water. You can have your child draw a picture of the experiment or take before and after photos with a camera.
Leave a comment if you've got a cool experiment for little people and share it with my readers. :)
*Image at top courtesy of: http://teacherweb.craven.k12.nc.us/HJMMS/teacherresources.html*