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Download your free copy of the Atlas Mission – the ultimate learning game for kids.
What do you get when magic is explained?
And how do you get preschool children to appreciate science?
By making it fun!
Growing up, we very rarely had science lessons in school and by the time I got into senior school and university, science was not as fun (or colourful) as I had expected.
So one of the many items on my “how to be a good mummy list” (which is very very long) was to create fun, simple and tangible science experiments for my little Einstein.
These preschool science activities will take your children on a whirlwind adventure while at the same time teaching them valuable lessons they can use later on in life.
You never know, maybe the next Einstein, Curie or Pasteur is currently sitting in your lap waiting for you to unleash those neurons.
So here are my top 10 preschool science activities to blow those little minds away.
Colours, colours, colours.
And they are all walking around.
All children love colours and this is a fun way to teach little ones what happens when colours mix together.
So get 6 small clear jars or plastic cups. It’s important that they are clear (for obvious reasons). Fill three of the jars with water and add food colouring to each one. Put red in the first one, yellow in the second and blue in the third.
Now place them in a line alternating between a coloured jar and an empty jar (in a circle). Next you will need some paper towels. Roll the paper towels and create a ‘bridge’ from one jar to the next.
The paper towels should quickly start to absorb the water in the full jars and transfer them into the empty jars, mixing the colours in the process. And there you go – instant rainbow satisfaction!
To make this activity more sciency, you can ask your preschooler to document the colour combinations.
Before throwing away all the coloured water from the previous activity (reduce, re-use, recycle), you can use it for the next activity.
This is a great opportunity to talk about plant biology and osmosis.
Keeping the jars of coloured water, pick six white flowers and cut them to fit in the jars. Now comes the waiting game. After a few days you should start seeing colour in the white petals.
You can then experiment with different colours and different flowers.
So you bought food colouring for the previous two experiments and now you need to use the last few drops. Grab some milk, dish soap and cotton buds, and your little one, and prepare to be amazed.
Fill a bowl with milk and place a few food colouring dots here and there. Try to be gentle so that the colour is floating on top of the milk.
Next dip the cotton buds into the soap and then into the milk.
Voila! Magic! The milk and the colour should “magically” start mixing and swirling together.
OK – now for the adult explanation (just in case you thought it was magic)! Basically the soap reacts with the fat in the milk and causes the milk to swirl and the colours to burst.
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Science is the study of physical attributes and kids need to see and touch and experience physical phenomena around them.
For this activity, you will need a big basin or bowl full of water and several household items (water friendly ones!) to experiment with. From here on it’s very easy peasy!
Pick an item at a time and drop it in the water.
Does it sink or does it float?
You can then delve deeper into why it floats or not. This would be a very good game for bath time.
Keeping to the theme of physical attributes, let’s move on to magnetic and non-magnetic objects.
Basically things that stick and things that don’t. Cupcakes sticking onto my hips and thighs do not count because sadly I am not magnetic.
OK – back on track. (Because my diet is always on my mind!)
Get a magnet and a whole bunch of household items (some of which are magnetic, of course). Place them randomly on the table and ask your child to pass the magnet on top.
They can later sort out the items according to whether they stick or fall. You can also explain that some metals are magnetic and some are not.
Most of you are expert cleaners. That’s one of the skills you acquire when you become a parent.
So obviously you are aware of what cleans different materials the best. So now it is time to pass that knowledge on to your little ones and turn it into a fun experiment.
All you need is a few old pennies (the dirtier the better), vinegar, water, soda and lemonade. Place a few pennies in four different containers and pour in the different liquids.
Ask your children to guess which liquid will clean the best and let them explain why they think so.
Leave the containers with the liquid overnight and the next day check whether your predictions match the results. (Spoiler alert: the vinegar cleans the best. But you knew that already, didn’t you?).
Electricity is one of the most fascinating things for children (and adults).
You are obviously not going to let your children play with electrical switches and appliances. However, you can experiment with static electricity.
Make a butterfly out of cardboard (for the ‘worm’ part of butterfly) and light, coloured tissue paper (for the wings of the butterfly). You also need a balloon (blown up).
Rub the balloon against a cloth (curtain, trousers, etc.) several times and place it on top of the wings. The wings should float upwards towards the balloon.
Further to this experiment, you can also place the balloon on top of your child’s head and watch all the hairs float towards the balloon. It’s fun I promise!
This next experiment is also done using a balloon. But this time it will be deflated.
You will also need baking soda and vinegar and an empty plastic bottle (reduce, reuse, recycle).
Put a few teaspoons (2-3, not too many!) of baking soda inside the deflated balloon. Then pour 2-3 teaspoons of vinegar in the plastic bottle.
Make sure the two components do not mix.
Gently attach the balloon to the top of the water bottle without spilling any of the baking soda into the bottle. Then, the magic happens!
Empty the balloon’s contents into the vinegar and watch the balloon inflate.
When the baking soda and the vinegar react with each other, the gas produced will rise and inflate the balloon.
Yum yum yum!
I have a crazy crazy sweet tooth which no amount of will power can overcome and that is why my diets starting on Mondays (almost every Monday) only last till Tuesday morning!
There are always gummy bears around the house (hidden in various cupboards and drawers), so this experiment was very welcomed in our household.
Here is the list of items needed: water, salt and gummy bears (of course).
In a bowl of warm water dissolve, salt until the solution is saturated. Let the water cool down (so that the gummy bears don’t dissolve with the heat) and then add one or two gummy bears to the bowl.
In a separate bowl, place a couple of gummy bears and add plain, cold water. Leave both bowls overnight and ask your little one to guess what will happen the next day.
When the wait is over, look at your results.
The gummy bear placed in the plain water should be the biggest because it absorbs the most water. The gummy bears in the salt water should have also increased in size but not as much as those in the first bowl.
You can follow this experiment up with an explanation of osmosis and some gummy bear treats.
And last but not least, my favourite science experiment.
Now I have a horrible green thumb (and have been told so many many times by my loving husband). So if and when I do manage to make something grow, I make a big fuss of it (until I forget to water them).
One of the very first science lessons children are taught in school is the plant life cycle, so this is your chance to give them that edge before school starts.
All you need is a flower pot with soil, water, sunshine and seeds. I usually use basil or mint since they grow very very fast (instant gratification).
Basically just put a few seeds in a pot full of soil, add water, put in the sun and wait for a couple of days.
You can get your child to draw the seeds and the process of planting them and they can also document how long it takes for the first little bit of green stalk to appear.
If you manage to grow your plants until they are able to grow leaves, you can also use them for a cooking session… reaping what you sow!
And there you go! Easy, fun and interesting preschool science activities that will definitely give a spark to that fire within. Move over Einstein, here come the new geniuses.
P.S. Did you know that the Atlas Mission is the only educational game that teaches your child ALL the skills they need to succeed in the 21st century?
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Atlas Mission – the new educational game for 3-7 year old children that increases their awareness of other countries and cultures.
Kristjana Borg creates educational content for the Atlas Mission. A speech therapist, wife and an exhausted mother, she is the founder of "The Speech Bubble" - a forum that gives parents information, tips and ideas on how to improve their children's speech and language.