When you are teaching your child at home, it is crucial that you teach them all subjects. However, when teaching toddlers, parents can often feel that science is too advanced for them. Toddlers may not understand all areas of science, but they can understand the foundations of scientific investigations and build their understanding over time. Like math, reading, and other core subjects, children need to build a foundation of knowledge. Experimenting and kinesthetic learning are great tools for children to learn science concepts.
Many children have done this experiment for decades. Grab three clear glasses or jars and paper towels. Fill the jars about ½ way with water and add food coloring. Use primary colors to color the three jars of water. Fold the paper towels so that they fit into the jars—walk them between the three jars. Your child can watch the colors follow the paper towels, but as they begin to “merge,” the colors of the rainbow will emerge. You can talk to them about color blending or secondary colors like green, purple, and orange.
Don’t throw out that water yet! You can also use the dyed water to color the tips of carnations. Place white carnations into the jars and watch. If your child is too little to write, you could ask them to tell you what they see every hour or so. They can mark the changes in the flowers. This experiment can open a great conversation about plants and how they drink and get nutrients.
A great way to teach children that oil and water do not mix is through sensory bottles. Some people call them homemade lava lamps, and whatever you call them, they are sure to be fun. Combine water, oil, and food coloring. Happy Hooligans has some fantastic ratios. If you want, you can also add small toys, beads, or other trinkets to the bottle that will float. Fish-shaped beads would make a fantastic beach or ocean themed bottle. Children sometimes find they can even calm down watching these bottles. The shaking and watching the bubbles sometimes help children feel calmer.
An excellent activity for children can also be making their own butter. You can talk about states of matter like solids and liquids when making butter. While butter is not exactly firmly solid, it does change its state quite a bit. You can also talk to children about the difference between butterfat and buttermilk. All you need are strong arms, a whisk, a bowl, and heavy cream to make butter. Help your child whip the cream until it separates the fat from the buttermilk. Be sure to have them wash the butter. You can save the buttermilk and make delicious biscuits. Then they can put butter on their fresh-baked biscuits.
Make Ice Cream
If you are not interested in making butter, what about an experiment with sweet ice cream? Mommy Poppins has a fantastic recipe. Use plastic zip-top bags in two sizes, ice, salt, half and half, toppings, sugar, and vanilla. Put the ice and salt in the larger bag and the rest of the ingredients into the smaller one. Zip the smaller bag so that nothing leaks. Drop it into the bag with the ice and salt. Start shaking. Before long, the cream will begin to freeze and make ice cream. Any toppings would be mixed in. You can then top it with chocolate or whipped cream for a delicious dessert. If you make the biscuits and butter from above, you can even hang out in the kitchen to make a whole meal.
Plant a Garden
One of the easiest and most productive science experiments might be creating a garden. You can test different soils, sunlight, weather conditions, and other variables. Even small children can understand using certain variables. You can talk about what plants need and how to help them grow. If you want to plant vegetables, you could even talk about diet and nutrition for people. This discussion can be as simple as squash is good for us, and candy has fewer nutrients. You can teach your children to eat the treats rarely, but you do not have to teach them that anything is “bad” for them.
Leaf Collages or Rubbings
One activity that seems to be used less frequently these days is leaf rubbings. Many children enjoy placing a leaf under their paper and rubbing a crayon or pencil over it to make a drawing. You can also make a collage out of regular leaves you find in your yard. A few things to point out to children are the size, shape, texture, pliability, and moisture in a leaf. With rubbings, you can compare shapes, textures, and veins.
You can find a million experiments to do with children. Keep in mind that toddlers do not have to understand every chemical reaction. Just creating some of these experiments can help them with their observation skills. While they may not be able to write, drawings and voice recordings can also be used. You can be their scribe and write down the things they see, hear, feel, and smell. Teach them that science can often use all five senses. Whatever you do, make science fun for your little ones.