As an educator, there are so many items on our agenda to “get done” that having time allotted for preschool science experiments tends to be far and few between. You may be thinking, “that would be fun to do but I don’t have the materials,” or “if only I had more time to devote to preparing and completing that.” If we all truly understood why science inquiry and exploration was so important, it wouldn’t be glossed over and we would be doing it WAY more!
So, how can you make science more meaningful? As you are listening to your young scientists talk with each other in class, pay close attention to what they are discussing. What recurring topics keep coming up? Are they really into trains? Are they really into animals? Keeping inventory of their interests will really help you to know what aspects of science to explore. When children have the option to pick what they want to learn more about, they take ownership of it and tend to get even more excited than if you as the teacher presented it.
Here are a few preschool science experiments that I love to do with my students throughout the year that come from their genuine interests and turn into fun projects! These won’t break the bank, and they will be so fun that students will beg for more!
My students wanted to know why they had to wear sunscreen at the beach and when we go outside (they were complaining of the smell and the amount of time it took to apply). So, we explored how sunscreen works! Here’s an easy science activity we did that also integrated art. This will help kids to know why sunscreen is so important to keep us safe!
Another topic that came up with the summer/sunscreen experiment was why some things melt and some things do not in the sun. So, we collected a bunch of different objects to see what would melt and what wouldn’t. The students LOVED this!
Another way to learn about melting and cooling in the summer is to make ice cream, using salt to help melt ice and get the ice cream to form. This will cause all kinds of questions and students can enjoy the yummy cold treat while discussing!
Once you wrap up this project on learning more about the hot sun and how it provides so much more than just warmth, one direction you can go with your next area of study is water. There are SO many ways to explore water, and what better time to learn about it than in the summer and fall! Something that we did here at my center was ask our preK students what they knew about water and what they wanted to learn. Many of the students were confused about how boats could float and carry so much weight yet we sink when we are in the pool or ocean. Here are some great activities that we explored to learn more about water, buoyancy, and density. Even preschoolers can really create a great base of knowledge with these fun activities!
In order to gain an understanding of why some things sink and some things float, it’s always best to do something fun and simple like this comparison activity. Set up your science center or your sand/water table with a variety of objects to try. Make sure a variety of items will sink and float. This can be done in small groups during center rotations or something you can do with a few students at a time with you. Children LOVE playing in the water, so I’m sure it will be a popular activity! To enhance the lesson, students can graph their findings by drawing a picture of the item that floats or sinks. Another option is to have a laminated bar graph on the wall with photos of the items that can be placed in the correct column of “sink” or “float.”
Once students understand that certain objects sink or float due to what they are made of, it is time to learn how different types of liquid can also affect whether they sink or float better. This is when we introduce the concept of “density.” Using salt and a variety of objects, the students will learn about how items are more or less dense. This can also be set up as an independent center or something done with the teacher in small groups. Having the students draw what happens in their science journal is a great way to integrate some writing as well. Be sure to document any questions that come out of this activity so that you can explore it further as a class.
Once the students have created a base of learning with floating objects and what helps them to float, it is time for a fun, culminating activity! When my students were learning about water, we did this boat activity! To make it even more personal for each student, they got to choose one special toy from home that they love (parents were given clear instructions for size), and the students got to design a boat that would help their favorite toy float! All materials were discussed from what they learned throughout the unit, and they created their own boats with the materials provided. After all boats were made, the parents got to join a big Zoom meeting to watch the students test their boats in the big blow up pool in the lobby of our school. It was such a fun way to end our unit, and the students were SO proud.
Helping children foster a love for deeper learning and answering their open-ended questions with hands-on experiments is such a great way to keep them growing! Remember – having your little ones (even as young as 3!) help choose what they want to learn more about will help build their confidence and excitement for learning!
Children learn best by doing, and through science experiments, they can explore through their senses, and so many skills will be enhanced such as critical thinking, social and verbal, and processing and organization. We all want to help children be confident and grow in skills that will last a lifetime. If you are allowing for science inquiry and exploration, you are doing just that!
For these and other fun and educational early childhood activities, check out HiMama’s activities database!