Most parents hear the words “preschool” and “science” together and immediately cringe – whether it’s from feeling unable to “do science” or imagining the mess. People jump right into thinking about all these elaborate experiments which can be scary. There are lots of things that you can do with your preschooler that are fun, easy and clean-ish.
The important thing to do is to engage your child. Two traits that should be nurtured are the desire to ask questions – to figure out how things are done, are put together, or are the same/different and why – and the ability to observe. Go outside with your kids and prompt them with questions. What do you see that is different? Do you see anything that is new today? What different colors do you see? Why do you think this happened? If you have an older child or an artistic child, get a journal and have them draw and label what they see.
One of my favorite “field trips” at TPK was taking the children out to the back property. I had lunch bags with different colors on them. The kids had clipboards, paper, pencils and magnifying glasses. They had to draw what they saw. Then they had to find different items to match the colors on the bags. When we came back into the classroom, we looked at all the cool stuff they had found, then they glued their findings into a collage. It was fun. It was different. AND the children were scientists for the day.
Children learn by doing. Allowing children to actually do things, to get into science, gives them the chance to make discoveries and connections on their own. Critical thinking skills begin to develop. Children learn lots more vocabulary and get the chance to express themselves. The following is the child version of the scientific method that I use in my classroom:
- Investigate. Ask questions. What will happen if I…?
- Predict. Look at the things we know and guess what will happen. I think….because…
- Experiment. Do the experiment.
- Observe. Use your 5 senses to observe what happened.
- Conclude. Think about what happened.
You can start experiments pretty young. The first “true” experiment I did with the 2½ year old class was “Does Ice Sink or Float?” We had a clear container of water and a container full of ice. Everyone had to predict whether or not it would float, then we all threw our ice in. Truthfully – the kids kept throwing it in and being amazed that (spoiler alert) it floated until we ran out of ice.
I have a couple of favorite experiments that are pretty easy as well as pretty clean.
- Cleaning Pennies. Put dirty pennies into several cups. Pour different things on them to see which cleans the penny better – milk, salsa, coke, peanut butter, water.
- Exploding Colors. Pour a layer of whole milk or evaporated milk into a shallow dish. Drip a few drops of food coloring into the milk. Dip a toothpick into Dawn dish soap. Touch the toothpick into the center of the drop of color.
- Lava Lamp. Fill a clear, plastic container ¾ full with vegetable or baby oil. Fill the rest of the container with water. Add about 10 drops of coloring. Divide an Alka-Seltzer tablet into 8 pieces. Drop the pieces in one at a time.
If you look up preschool science on the internet, there are tons of links you can search through to find the perfect experiment for you and your little learner. Here’s a link to get you started. https://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/30-preschool-science-experiments-for-the-young-scientist/