Here are some easy activities for young children to encourage science learning at home.
Hear: Choose a few items ahead of time from the cupboard and refrigerator. (Some items might be spaghetti noodles, container of milk, box of cereal, etc.) Ask the child to cover his/her eyes. Shake the item and ask the child to listen carefully and guess the item. You could advance this by making sounds of cutting an apple, pulling apart a head of lettuce, cracking a walnut, etc. Alternatively, you can pour different things into a pan like rice, water, egg,
Touch: This can be messy fun! Fill a few bowls ahead of time with things like Jello, ice cream, cooked noodles, peanut butter, etc. The child covers his/her eyes, puts hands in a bowl and tries to guess what is in it. Another way is to put kitchen items (spatula, wooden spoon, canned good, etc.) one at a time in an empty box. Without looking inside the child puts both hands in the box and tries to guess what is.
Smell: Cut up some items such as apples, onions, cheese, banana, hot dog, etc. Again, ask the child to cover the eyes and guess the item by the smell.
Taste: With eyes covered, see if your child can guess the tastes. Some ideas might be pudding, mustard, cracker, beans, etc.
Sight: Choose some items from your kitchen and wrap each item in aluminum foil tightly to show the shape. The child sees the shape but can he guess what it is? Can he tell the color?
What Happens If…
Use some uncooked macaroni. Observe the size and feel the texture. Then place some in a bowl of cold water and some in a bowl of hot water. What happens to the macaroni? Does it happen faster in the hot water or the cold water? *Take precautions when your child is close to the hot water.
Use a measuring cup full of uncooked popcorn. Point out to your child the amount and remind them to remember it was only one cup full. Then pop the corn. Does it all fit into the same cup? How many cups did it make?
Provide unused coffee filters and washable markers. Ask your child to color the filters using several different colors. Use a spray bottle filled with water and ask your child to spray the filter ONLY one time aiming for the center. Watch how the colors blend to make something beautiful. When dry you can glue them to construction paper, add stems and leaves to make flowers.
Take two clear glasses. Fill one with plain water and the other with carbonated water or clear soda (like 7-Up). First, ask your child to drop a few raisins in the glass with plain water. What happens? Next, drop some raisins in the carbonated water. You will get a different and fun result. You may want to add a little music!
Do Flowers Drink?
Young children usually know that plants need water to grow. But how does the plant “drink” the water? Create a simple demonstration by using food coloring and cabbage leaves. Provide three or four clear glasses or jars and a selection of food coloring. Partially fill the glasses with water. Slowly add a choice of coloring.
You could use this time to mix two colors to make a new color. Next place the bottom of a cabbage leaf into each glass. Gradually you will begin to notice the color travel up the leaf. It’s amazing! You could also use fresh cut white flowers. The petals will change as the coloring travels through the flower. Make a rainbow bouquet!
Provide a bowl of water, some mini marshmallows and regular size marshmallows. Start with the minis and drop one or two in the bowl. What happens? They float because a marshmallow is full of air bubbles, which help it to float. Brainstorm with your child what you could do to make it sink. The answer would be to try to remove the air bubbles by squashing or flattening the marshmallow. Try it. Then try the same thing with the regular sized marshmallow. What are some other ways you could sink it? Could something be added to make it heavier?
- Falk, John and Rosenberg, Kristi. Bite-Sized Science. Chicago Review Press, 1999.
- Mills, J.Elizabeth. The Everything Kids Easy Science Experiments Book. Adams Media, 2010.