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Do you have a little scientist? How about some science experiments to do at home with your preschoolers and toddlers? Every child has that little scientist inside and you as a parent don’t have to be a scientist or intimidated by science concepts to help them discover new scientific processes and create their own theories. It’s as easy as learning to ask questions. That’s it!
What is science with young children?
You can see your child’s interest in science during bath time, playing in mud, experimenting with kitchen ingredients, or combining foods together to see what happens. This is all coming from an intrinsic motivation to learn more about the world around them. It’s science innovation at its purest. As a parent, all you have to do is encourage it. You can do easy science experiments with your 3 year old at home and experience the discovery together.
When young children understand simple science concepts through inquiry, they get to be part of changing the world for the better. That’s right, you doing kitchen science experiments at home with your toddler can help him be a positive influence on society. Young children who understand science become solution providers, confident in socialization, can accept failure, and work towards success. Science helps with early literacy, math, and processing skills.
How do we do that?
First, let’s talk about your role and what easy science activities for preschoolers can look like. You as the parent can become the facilitator of your own child’s inquiry learning. Young children can learn scientific concepts such as the scientific method. Your job is to help them through their inquiry and have fun doing it!
It’s all about you asking questions and learning to say, “Wow!” Your own fascination will encourage that little scientist to not be intimidated by asking his own questions and enjoy the scientific process of learning.
What is the scientific method?
Below are simple steps to the scientific method and then we can put that concept to work using some science experiments with household items:
- Find something that is interesting: This is an initial observation.
- Encourage your child to make a hypothesis about what they observe: Ask her, “Why do you think that happens?” “How do you think that works?” “What do you think will happen if…?”
- Now it’s time to test the hypothesis with the experiment and observation: The hypothesis is her answer to your Why, How, or What questions. “I think this will happen…”
- Collect your data by observing.
- Report your conclusions.
Easy science experiments with preschoolers
Here’s an example of using the scientific method with an easy science project to do with toddlers.
Absorb and repel
I love this one because it is a great opportunity for your little one (or ones) to do some real science while touching on so many other learning activities. You will need:
- A clipboard if you have one
- A pen, pencil, or large crayon
- A piece of paper that fits on the clipboard. Draw a line lengthwise down the center so you have 2 columns on the front of your paper. Write the word Absorb in one column and Repel on the other.
- A sponge and a rock
- A cup of water with a bowl
- Optional: Two old, oversized button shirts “lab coats,” preferably white
First things first. Both of you put on your lab coats. Explain that you are now scientists and you are going to do some kitchen science experiments at home.
- Pour some water into the bowl. Ask your child what she thinks will happen to the water when you put the sponge into the bowl. Where does she think the water will go?
- Explain to your toddler that when the water goes into the sponge that is called “absorb.” Point to the word, say it again, and say it together.
- Now squeeze the water from the sponge back into the bowl and try the rock. Ask your child what she thinks will happen to the water when you put the rock in. Explain that this is called “repel.” Point to the word, say it again together.
- Now comes the fun part. Explain that now you will go throughout the house and find small things to discover what absorbs and what repels.
- Find your items. Practice the scientific method.
Details in the steps
Help your child with questions, “What do you think will happen when we put the rock in the water? “Do you think the rock will absorb like the sponge?” When your child answers, that is her hypothesis. Now let’s test it. Put the rock in the water. Ask your child what she observes. Did the rock absorb like the sponge? This is the experiment with your observations.
Take your clipboard and paper and write “sponge” under the word “absorb” and the word “rock” under “repel.” Repeat the steps with other household items making a list of what repels and what absorbs. Encourage your child no matter if her hypothesis was correct or incorrect. This is how scientists learn and change the world.
Your final step in the scientific hypothesis is to discuss your data and report your findings. Count how many items are under each list. How many are there? Are there more items that absorb or more that repel? Tell someone about your findings at the dinner table, call a relative, or draw a picture of your favorite item and what it did. You are now scientists and you have completed the scientific method!
Where is the learning?
You have just done early math through classification, early reading, socialization, and problem solving with your preschooler just by facilitating her own discovery through inquiry and the scientific method.
You can take this further and create another easy science experiment at home with the concepts of Sink and Float. Just get yourself another piece of paper, write the words in the columns at the top and have fun!
Color mixing and marble rolling
Mixing colors is always great fun! For your younger ones, this is a terrific way to introduce primary colors and shows what happens when you mix those primary colors to get new ones.
How about some reading before your experiment? Leo Lionni’s Little blue and little yellow or Lois Ehlert’s Mouse paint are wonderful stories about colors and lead into your science experiment. Little blue and little yellow are little circles that accidentally bump into each other and make green. Mouse paint is the story of 3 mice who get into jars of primary color paint and mix it up.
Here’s what you need
- Washable primary color paint, yellow, blue, and red
- 3 cups, a pie plate, or cookie sheet
- Some pieces of paper
- Your lab coats
Here’s what to do
Place the paint in the 3 cups. Place the paper on the cookie sheet or pie plate. Ask your preschooler, “What do you think will happen if we put a marble in the yellow paint and then roll it around on the sheet of paper on the cookie sheet?” Wait for his hypothesis. Test the hypothesis. Make sure you have plenty of paint on the marble and roll it a few times just to get enough on the paper.
Then discuss what happened. Now ask your little one, “What do you think will happen if we roll a blue paint marble on the yellow painted paper?” Repeat the process with the blue paint and a marble. Discuss your findings. Try it again with the blue and red, red and yellow, and clean pieces of paper.
If you have a slide in your backyard, ditch the cookie sheet or pie plate and try the same experiment rolling marbles through your paint down a slide. Experiment, collect your data, report your findings, and then take a bath!
Classic rainbow milk
Pour just enough milk into a shallow bowl or plate so it covers the bottom. Place about 5 drops of food coloring into the milk but don’t let the drops touch. Put some dish soap on the tip of a cotton swab and dip it into the milk and food coloring. Try dipping into different areas to observe what happens. Use the scientific method and experiment with new colors. Facilitate, discover, and have fun saying “Wow!”
Done for the day?
Don’t forget to save your scientist coats in a very special place for the next time you do science experiments with your preschooler. Now get out there and change the world with science!