Ever see those amazing Pinterest perfect science activities and think 'I wish I knew how to do that for my child!'. Well guess what, you can! Luisa is a truly awesome Mama who is a whizz at making science accessible to kids of all ages. Her Instagram page, @tinyn3rds, is a flurry of exciting experiments and other sensational STEAM activities. You have to check out her Halloween STEAM Activities printable pack too! Today she is taking the time to give us some top tips to make science more accessible in our homes.
Want to get your kids excited about science at home but don’t know where to start? Making science accessible to young kids is easier than you might think. In fact, you can do many easy experiments just using items in your pantry. During the early years, science simply starts with peeking curiosity (ex. I wonder what’s happening?), simple hypothesis testing (ex. What happens if…), building critical thinking (ex. What do you think is happening?), and making observations (ex. Describe what just happened). These are the foundations of a good scientist.
For really young kids, start with the basics, they don’t need to know the chemical formulas and names, just knowing that a reaction is taking place is a huge step up from, it’s magic. We like to use the phrase “it’s not magic, it’s science!” When your child is ready, you can start introducing more scientific concepts and terminology. How do I know my child is ready? She asks more probing questions; and if I can’t answer her question, I say, “I’m not sure, let’s look it up.” This is also an important lesson on how to research a topic. Yes I know my five year old isn’t going to get on google and do this all on her own, but you better believe the next time I say, I don’t the answer, she’s going to ask that we look it up.
To help you get started with science at home, especially with toddlers, I have created a list of my top 6 favorite “kitchen chemistry” activities along with a brief “how to” and toddler prompts for each activity.
This activity is a great first introduction to chemical reactions.
Supplies: baking soda, vinegar, tray, secondary container, food coloring (optional)
Prep & Process: For a surprise color reaction add drops of food coloring to the tray and cover with baking soda. This will get messy, so make sure to put everything in a secondary container. Have your child add vinegar to the baking soda for some bubbly reactions. You can also add in some color mixing by using two primary colors (ex. yellow and blue make green).
Toddler Prompts: Add a small amount of water to the baking soda. Describe what you see. Vinegar is acidic unlike water, what do you think will happen if you add vinegar to the baking soda? Describe what you see, feel, smell, and hear.
This activity is a great first introduction to hydrophobic/hydrophilic molecules.
Supplies: whole milk, food coloring, dish soap, toothpick or Q-tip, shallow bowl.
Prep & Process: pour milk into a shallow bowl, add a few drops of food coloring to the milk. To see the molecules move, dip the toothpick into the dish soap then lightly touch the food coloring in the milk. You can also add in some color mixing by using two primary colors.
Toddler Prompts: What do you think will happen when we dip a clean toothpick into the milk? Add soap to the toothpick. What do you think the soap will do to the milk? If I add red and blue food coloring to the milk, what color do you think you will make?
This activity is a great first introduction to exploring physical properties.
Supplies: corn starch, water, bowl, food coloring (optional).
Prep & Process: add corn starch to your bowl then slowly add water until you get a slightly watery paste like consistency. A good guideline is 2 cups of water and 1 cup of cornstarch, with a drop or two of coloring. To test the consistency, squeeze some of the oobleck in your hand, it should be a solid when you squeeze it, but then return to a liquid when you release it.
Toddler Prompts: Describe how the oobleck feels in your hands. What happens when you squeeze it? What happens when you release it? Does this remind you of anything else you’ve played with?
This activity is a great first introduction to exploring the physical properties of water, in particular the liquid and solid phase.
Supplies: ice cube tray or bowl, water, freezer, salt, warm water, food coloring (optional), plastic toys or letters (optional).
Prep & Process: fill the ice cube tray or bowl with plastic toys then cover with water (color the water prior to filling tray/bowl if you plan to use food coloring), then freeze overnight. Once everything is frozen, pop the ice cubes out, set on a tray, then using salt and warm water, work towards melting the ice.
Toddler Prompts: Point out that the frozen water is a solid and ask your child to describe how the ice feels. What happens to the ice when we add salt? Which helps melt the ice faster, the salt or the warm water? Point out that the ice melts when the temperature rises. How can we turn our liquid water back into a solid ice cube?
Sink or Float
This activity is a great for practicing hypothesis testing.
Supplies: deep bucket, water, items that can get wet (rock, feather, balloon, shell, cork, flower, leaf, stick, pom pom, small plastic cup or bowl, plastic toy).
Prep & Process: pour water into the bucket deep enough that your largest item can be submerged. Before testing each item ask your child to make a guess as to what they think might happen. Use the plastic cup or bowl as a boat and try to sink the “boat”.
Toddler Prompts: Do you think that item will sink or float? After a few trials, ask why they picked either sink or float. Do you think the boat will sink with only a feather in it? What about if it has only a rock?
This activity is also great for practicing hypothesis testing.
Supplies: food coloring, water, plastic cups, glitter (optional).
Prep & Process: pour water into several different cups then add food coloring to some of those cups, leaving some water clear. This activity is best done outside and a secondary container (like a large bin) is helpful in containing the water.
Toddler Prompts: What do you think will happen if you pour that color into the clear water? If you add more of the same color, what do you think will happen? What do you think will happen if you pour that color into another color?
If those awesome science ideas don't inspire you then we don't know what will! Thank you so much Luisa for showing us how easy it can be to make science accessible to all kids, even toddlers! Be sure to check out @tinyn3rds and also thetinyn3rds website! And there is still time to purchase her Halloween STEAM Activities pack too.
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