- Family and Parenting»
Preschool Science Activity: Science Fun for Kids
Playing in Sand
Young Children Exploring the World
Looking for Some Fun Kid-Friendly Activities?
Designing a preschool science activity is simple and fun. Preschool science is really about exploring the world, so finding a science activity that is fun for kids is easy to do. The main points to remember are:
1. Keep it fun;
2. Keep it simple; and
3. Keep it a time for play.
Young children are naturally curious. Everything is new. The whole world becomes a never-ending source of awe. One benefit of being a parent is that you get to re-experience the pure delight of existence along with them. What could be better than that?
This hub aims to share some preschool activities that you and your children may enjoy. Keep in mind that with preschoolers, simpler is better. Many of the ideas come from my book Tot's Agenda: A Toddler Through Kindergarten Activity Calendar and Record Book, which I wrote and illustrated when my children were young, way back in the '80's. Others come from my years as an elementary and preschool teacher. Still others I've used more recently while working as a home visitor and parent educator with Parents As Teachers.
These preschool activities, of course, are only suggestions. You may enjoy exploring so much that you delight in extending these ideas further and making up your own activities. You can add your comments in our suggestion box below.
Science, Math, and Nutrition for Toddlers: Setting the Stage for Serendipity - by Rita Schrank
Sweet ideas for toddlers.
Preschool Science: Activity in the Kitchen
Food Fun for Kids
Sprouting Alfalfa Seeds
What could be more fun than having your experiment and eating it, too?
Alfalfa seeds or mung beans
Soak beans or seeds overnight in the jar. In the morning, cover the mouth of the jar with a piece of cheesecloth and fasten it with the elastic band. Drain the water out of the jar through the cheesecloth. Put the jar on its side in a safe place and check it every day to see if the seeds sprout. Rinse the seeds regularly by pouring water through the cheesecloth, swishing it around and then draining it out. Don't let the seeds dry out or become too soggy. When the sprouts look ready, add them as hair to your funny face sandwiches.
Preschool Science Activity: Fun with Goop?
Simple and Easy Experiment for Little Hands
Amazing Corn Starch and Water Experiment
This mixture looks like a liquid. No, wait a minute! It's a solid! But look, it pours! This is crazy!
Water with a few drops of food coloring
Container for mixing
Once you have gotten the ingredients together, have the child mix them. The proper combination will result in a shiny looking solid that will start to pour and ooze like a liquid when you tip your container. Weird. Your child may enjoy fooling around with the goop by sticking in her fingers. Fascinating stuff. You may get hooked, too.
Making Oobleck, Otherwise Known as Goop - A Little Cornstarch and Water Experiment
I have done this project with lots of kids. Here's a video with an adult making what he calls "Oobleck." If you watch this video before involving the kids, you'll have a better idea how to proceed.
The second video, by Scientific American, gives a few tidbits of science information to go along with the experience.
The third video features a boy of about nine mixing and playing with the oobleck.
I hope you enjoy watching the videos. As you can see, because of the scientific qualities of this stuff, kids of many ages may enjoy playing with it. The preschooler will just like the feel of it while the older child, while enjoying that, may also benefit from thinking about why it behaves the way it does.
Using Things You'll Find at Home
A Kid Leads Us Through It
If You Want to Include Older Brothers and Sisters, Take a Look at This Video!
Science Project for the Science Fair, Anyone?
Explanations of why scientists think cornstarch and water behave the way they do and some fun things to try. You can combine a basic water and cornstarch experiment with music to make the dancing fingers. Even scientists can't explain everything about the qualities of this liquid/solid combo, but can you? Hear the parts that physicists can explain and play with the parts they can't!
Sand play offers a child lots of tactile experiences that are open ended yet full of learning opportunities. Digging and filling cups and pails is lots of fun. Add an old set of measuring cups and you have play that he can refer to later when he is building his understanding of volume and fractions. You don't have to do a lot of talking about it now, but repeated play with filling up a 1/2 cup measure and dumping it into a 1 cup measure sets the stage for realizing that two 1/2 cups is the same thing as 1 cup.
When I taught fractions in grade four, it amazed me how some children seemed to get the concepts quickly while others seemed to have a block. One child couldn't get beyond the thought that because 2 is more than 1, the 2 in 1/2 automatically made 1/2 more than 1!
Although I could understand her logic, I realized that what she lacked was experience playing with measuring cups and measuring spoons. In other words, she needed to see for herself how the idea worked in the real world. Abstract ideas, especially for children, are meaningless unless they can pin them to some real experience. The kind of play experiences children have before they go to school really matter and influence their learning success.
Sand Play: Making Rivers
A fun activity you can try with sand is to make rivers.
a piece of plywood -- the larger the better
a board to prop it up with
Prop up the board to make a slight incline. Don't overdo it -- a slight rise on one end is all you need. Cover the plywood with sand and smooth it out. Let water trickle from the hose at the high end of the board. The water will find its way to the lower end of the plywood. Watch the way it meanders. Watch it carve out banks in the sand. The steeper the incline, the straighter and quicker your river will be, but the most interesting effects are with a slower river. You can have fun by placing a small stick (fallen "tree") at the top of your river and watch how it travels to the end.
Sharing Nature with Children, 20th Anniversary Edition
This is the classic text on sharing nature with children. Filled with great ideas and wisdom.
Something as Simple as a Nature Walk Can Become a Preschool Science Activity - Outdoor Play
When you are walking outdoors with young children, it can be a challenge to make headway. Everything you come upon is reason to stop and wonder. If you can, slow down so that your little one can take in the natural world the way he or she was meant to.
Even if you live in a city, there are often dandelions poking up through cracks in the pavement or ants crawling along the cement. Look anew at such wonders with your child. We are not meant to be separated in our own bubble from other living things. If you see how delighted your child can be chasing pigeons in the park, you can appreciate and reawaken your own wonder.
Here are some things you can take along with you on your walks that can make it more fun and a learning experience for everyone:
* a magnifying glass
* a plant and/or bird identification book
Melissa and Doug Magnifying Glass - Great Fun to Take on a Nature Walk!
Comes in flower shape or snake shape. Choose your favorite version.
When your child carries this magnifying glass along, an ordinary walk can become a time to explore. Look closely at the bark of a tree or at a tiny ant making its way along the sidewalk. What does a grain of sand or a blade of grass look like close up?
John Muir: My Life with Nature - Sharing Nature with Children Book
Early pioneer in nature education.
Categorizing Objects -- A Preschool Science and Math Activity
Putting Things in Order
Almost any collection of items can be used to categorize: shells, stones, small cars, stickers, stuffed animals, etc. You can put them in rows according to color, size, or shape. Well washed styrofoam egg cartons can be reused to hold small items.
Matching socks according to size and color or the person they belong to is a laundry day categorizing activity. Organizing cutlery in the draw is another helping chore that uses categorizing skills.
Preschool Science Activity: Magnet Fun
For Children Who No Longer Stick Things in Their Mouths -- Supervise!
Playing with Magnets
If you can gather together a few supplies to put into a special cookie tin (oh, okay, a regular box will do, but a cookie tin makes it all the more fun), then you can pull it out at a moment's notice and have a ready-to-go science experiment that will be fun to explore. If you are traveling, this is also something that can be packed up easily to bring along. The cookie tin can serve as a little tray that your child can use to lean a paper on for drawing.
Stock your tin with a variety of magnets and objects that the magnets may or may not attract. It's fun to include a couple of bar magnets so you can experiment with attraction and repulsion. You may want to include a horseshoe magnet and a wand magnet, too.
Other fun additions: funny face toy with filings for making hairdos and beards; magnetic balls, paper clips, washers, jar lids, etc. Again, children under three or who tend to put things in their mouths should not be given tiny objects that could be choking hazards. However, if you have a child who mouths things, jar lids and a larger magnet designed for preschoolers may work for you.
A fun activity that will keep your child fascinated: Make a small flat car out of cardboard and glue a piece of magnetic tape to the back. (You can find this tape at craft stores or online -- see below.) A large paper clip attached to the cardboard will work, too, but not as well. Let your child help you draw a racetrack or a winding country road on another sheet of cardboard. After you have decorated it, place the car, magnet-side down, on the cardboard and pull the wand magnet along underneath.
If you want you can have a race with two or more cars. Add other items and people to the scene. Just be sure to glue more magnet tape to the undersides of your additions so you can move them around like magic, too.
If you have neither the time nor the inclination to make your own cars, animals, and people, you can find some great ones commercially.
You can vary this activity by drawing a maze together. Tape it to a cookie sheet and use magnetic balls that you can manouever along the track with a magnetic wand underneath. This can keep your child occupied for some time.
Supplies for Magnet Fun and Ramps - If You Have the Supplies on Hand, You Can Make Up Lots of Kids' Projects on the Spot
Preschool Science Activity: Fun with Ramps and Balls - Young Children Learn About Gravity and Momentum
Balls and Ramps
You can make this activity quite simply with some boards propped on some blocks and a few balls and matchbox cars.
You can also make a really exciting version with some vinyl moulding you can find in a hardware or building supply store. "Cove" (for ceiling trim) or "inside corner" about an inch and a half wide are what you need. Golf balls work great with the mouldings, but again you have to think of safety and judge whether they would be appropriate for your child. You can also use ping pong type balls or small rubber balls. (These "raceways" were suggested by a flyer from The Children's Museum in Boston.They suggest using the ping pong balls or rubber balls.)
You can bend these mouldings and make loop-de-loops or otherwise manipulate them for exciting runs. Duct tape one end to the back of a chair or to a low table and use blocks beneath the bottom end to make the balls fly. Experiment with different variations.
Your children may enjoy using balls (or small cars) of different weights and sizes and testing them to see which goes down the ramp the fastest. You could contrast this with a test as to which one goes the furthest once it leaves the ramp. Is there a difference and if so why do you think?
Homemade Volcano: Science Fun with Your Preschool Child
This Kid's Science Project Is an Old Favorite
Who doesn't enjoy the thrill of making a volcanic explosion in a cup?
an empty cup
some baking soda
a cup of vinegar
Do this activity on an outdoor table or have towels on hand to mop up the spills if you choose to do it inside.
Put a spoonful or two of baking soda into the empty cup. Carefully pour in the vinegar. What happens? Try adding more baking soda, then more vinegar. As parent, you decide ahead of time how much baking soda and vinegar to put out, but then the child gets to decide how much to put into the cup. Ask questions such as, "What do you think would happen if we . . .?" "Where did those bubbles come from?"
Things to notice: If you keep adding more baking soda without adding vinegar, at what point do the bubbles stop? What happens if you add more vinegar? Can you make the cup overflow?
You can vary the activity by adding red food coloring to the vinegar, but you may end up with stains. If you do the activity outside and the children are wearing old clothes, that may not be a problem.
You have created a chemical reaction between the baking soda (a base) and the vinegar (an acid). The bubbles are carbon dioxide trying to escape. This works similarly to a can of soda, especially if you shake it up before opening.
Reading about an activity and actually doing it with kids can be two different experiences. If you have done a couple of these activities, which one did you like best? If an activity didn't work with your kids, why do you think that was so? Tell us what happened!
Preschool Science: Volcano Experiment - Have Fun with Your Child Doing This Fun Experiment!
Here's a more elaborate version of the same reaction that you can make in your sandbox. Be sure to let your little one add the vinegar and make the volcano erupt!
Preschool Science Activity: Bubbles!
Experience with color, surface tension, spheres, and more!
So Much to Learn by Playing with Bubbles!
Bubbles are just plain fun for children of all ages! Always supervise children playing with water.
Mix 1/4 cup of liquid dish soap (Joy works best, but others will do) with 1 quart warm water. To strengthen bubbles so they don't break as easily, add a few drops glycerine. (If you don't have glycerine, you can use some cooking oil, but it isn't as effective.)
Slip a piece of string through two plastic straws and tie. Dip into a pan of the soapy water. Hold a straw in each hand and lift from the water. Blow for giant-sized bubbles. The size of the bubbles will depend on the length of the piece of string you have used.
Try dipping plastic berry baskets in the water and swishing them through the air. You can also use cans with the ends removed. (Be sure there are no sharp edges.) Other possibilities to try are canning rings, wire coat hangers, and funnels. You may have something else in your kitchen or basement that could work, too.
Use a straw to blow bubble sculptures in a shallow tray of soapy water. Depending on the children's age, you may have to remind them to blow, not suck in, through the straw!
Okay, folks, this is your chance. Do you have some fun activity that you have discovered with your little one that you'd like to share?