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 few and far 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 were so important for the cognitive development of preschoolers, it wouldn’t be glossed over and we would be doing it WAY more!
So, how can you make preschool science activities more meaningful for young kids? 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 an inventory of their interests will really help you to know what aspects of science to explore. When young kids 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 presented it.
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Here are a few fun and simple science experiments that I love to do throughout the year that come from children’s genuine interests and turn into fun projects! These won’t break the bank, and they will be so fun that kids will beg for more!
My kids wanted to know why they had to wear sunscreen at the beach and when we go outside (they were complaining about the smell and the amount of time it took to apply). So, we explored how sunscreen works! This is an easy preschool science activity that also integrates art. This will help kids learn why sunscreen is so important to keep us safe!
What melts in the sun?
Another topic to wow kids 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 for a hands on fun science experiment to teach kids science concepts. The kids LOVED this!
Ice cream in a bag
Another fun experiment to introduce kids to the concepts of 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 classic science activity will encourage kids to ask all kinds of questions and help kids learn about super cool science concepts. Kids can enjoy the yummy cold treat while discussing the learning outcomes!
Once you wrap up this project on learning more about the hot sun, 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!
Something that we did at my center was ask our PreK children what they knew about water and what they wanted to learn. Many of them 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 create a great base of knowledge with these fun activities!
Sink or float
In order to gain an understanding of why some things sink and some things float and encourage curiosity, it’s always best to do a fun and simple experiment like this comparison science 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 be something you can do with a few kids at a time. Children LOVE playing in the water, so I’m sure it will be a fun and popular science activity!
To enhance the lesson, kids 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.”
Salt water density experiment
Once young children 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 objects sink or float. This is when we introduce the concept of “density.”
Using salt and a variety of objects, kids will learn about how items are more or less dense. This can also be set up as an independent center or something done with an educator in small groups.
Having kids draw what happens in their science journals 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 in the classroom!
Milk carton propelled boats
Once children have created a base of learning about objects and what helps them to float, it is time for a fun, culminating activity! When my kids were learning about water, we did this boat activity!
To make it more personal for each child, they got to choose one special toy from home that they love (parents were given clear instructions for size), and they got to design a boat that would help their favorite toy float! All resources were discussed from what they learned throughout the unit, and they created their own boats with the simple ingredients provided.
Helping young kids foster a love for deeper learning and answering their open-ended questions with hands-on preschool science 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 simple science experiments, they can explore their senses and enhance soft skills such as critical thinking, social and verbal, and processing and organization.
We all want to help children be confident and teach kids skills that will last a lifetime through fun preschool science experiments. If you are allowing for science inquiry and exploration through these experiments, you are doing just that!
For these preschool science experiments and other fun and educational early childhood activities, check out HiMama’s activities database!