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I Can Relate To That!
When planning science experiments for young children, plan activities that help young children better explore their world. What science topics are actually meaningful to a younger child? They certainly won't understand the concepts of electricity or atoms. Even the planets might be a little bit difficult for them because they can't see them.
Focus on science concepts that are meaningful and noticeable in a small child's life.
- The weather is a good example of a relatable science topic for little ones. Young children see the clouds and sunshine, feel the rain and wind, and are learning to dress appropriately for it. They relate to weather because it's a big part of their world.
- Another good topic is day/night. Younger children are quite aware of day and night and it directly affects them on a daily basis. They know that bedtime comes at night, and it's time to get up in the morning. Shadows are observed on the playground and are also a good topic. As a teacher, I've gotten many questions at recess about shadows and what causes them.
- Learning about foods and simple nutrition is also a very relatable science concept appropriate for the early learning environment. Children eat and explore their food, and they are eager to learn what is healthy for them.
Young children love science, and will be captivated by the exploration of a concept that affects them in their world.
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Keep It Hands-On
Science experiments for young children should be hands-on activities. Start with a big book to explain a concept, but then make sure the activity or experiment is safe, concrete, and hands on. Kinesthetic exploration is the key to a greater understanding of early science concepts. As a rule, the activity should be able to show "same day results". Growing plants, measuring rainfall, or growing a crystal takes such a long time, the children might lose interest. If you decide to do these kinds of activities, make sure the developing activity is visible in the classroom and that you talk about it each day. Choose fast growing plants, like grass. A picture graph or other visual should accompany the activity to provide a visible show of progression.
Explore the wind with bubbles and child-made windsocks.
Use magnifying glasses to take a closer look at bugs on the playground.
A field trip to the zoo or local farm is an awesome study of early zoology. Many zoos and farms offer petting opportunities for actual interactions with animals.
Winter science fun might include bringing a bowl-full of snow inside and melting it to discover the composition of snow.
Regardless of what activities you choose, making them fun, concrete, and relevant to their world will reinforce the concepts you are teaching in the early learning environment.