A few weeks ago, we saw a video of a father and his daughter standing in a little tunnel while on one of their walks. She had just discovered her echo and was super thrilled and laughing away and screaming all kinds of sounds to hear it repeated. Of course, she being only 2 years old, this wasnâ€™t an opportunity for him to explain the speed of sound or how sound waves travel. But it was a father-daughter moment that she will probably remember as a loud, strange but fun one; and that she will revisit in a few years to ask questions about.
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In the early years of a childâ€™s life, their little brains are eagerly waiting to see how things are done. It is when they experience almost everything for the first time. The youngest children spend their days keenly observing and studying all that is around them. They constantly experiment and often (much to the exasperation of adults) test for reactions. They are developing their sense of self and forming a sense of their world. Their brains are constantly recording what they see, hear, feel, touch, smell and do.
Children are essentially born scientists.
Because after all, science is in its essence an explanation for nature and how things work. Scientists systematically study the physical and natural world through observation and experiment. They test their hypothesis (often numerous times) to be sure of their findings. They see science as a way to understand why the world is as we see it and how it came to be.Â They remain curious and are motivated by peer recognition and the ability and possibilities to apply their knowledge. See the similarities?
Providing kids the right platform:Â
If children are the original scientists and inventors of todayâ€™s world, we must provide them with a platform to stay curious, observe, learn and grow.Â Children have an amazing capacity for learning and exploration and this innate trait should be nourished in ways that makes them flourish. They are born to question as they discover the world, and the basic premise of science lies in a questioning the way things are â€“ and so engaging children to encourage questions, new thought and providing them a space to test their newfound knowledge is what we as adults should be doing.
At the Papagoya Kindergarten, we follow the Norwegian curriculum that has a specific learning area around science, technology and nature. We appreciate that we get to introduce the children to the positive uses of Technology and that we also get to build their awareness to the natural environment that surrounds them. And we truly enjoy introducing them to Science. We plan and execute our weekly Science Activity in ways that make Science less esoteric and more about real-life. The children look forward to their science experiment days. The youngest (1-3 years) eagerly observe and record all that they see, while the older children (3-6 years) often participate, and most definitely discuss what they experienced.
Here are a few simple science experiments that we use at Papagoya and you could easily try and execute with your child at home. Use everyday objects that you find around your home and make the experiments as tactile as possible, igniting all the senses in your child.
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- Concept of Hot and Cold: Put together an assortment of objects that are cold (ice, frozen peas, ice packs, frozen meat, cold water, etc) and leave it out in a tray under the sun or put it on the stove. Have them watch it melt and heat up, and discuss the difference between heat and cold and the way both feel. The association that they make understanding this in real life is going to be far lasting when compared to a plain “No, don’t touch that!”
- Objects that float and that sink: Gather an assortment of objects with your child and have them place it in a big tub of water. Watch if it floats or sinks. Talk about which objects feel heavier and which lighter. And with the slightly older kids, discuss which objects are denser than water and those that aren’t and if then they float or sink.
- Raisin Dance: In a clear glass of soda water, drop some raisins. Watch them sink to the bottom. Get your child to observe the bubbles that form around the raisins and how these same bubbles act as a bouy to make the raisins rise to the surface until the bubbles burst and the raisins sink once again. This up and down movement of the raisins makes for a fascinating dance for the children to observe.
- Shadows: During the day, introduce your child to their shadow and do fun actions to make it amusing for them. At night, using a torchlight, create shadow shapes and tell stories around them. Talk to the older children about the blocking of light creating a shadow and how this also affects the sun and the moon.
- Taste Test: This is an excellent sensorial experiment. Arrange an assortment of foods that are sweet, salty, sour, bitter in a tray and you and your child pick each up and have a taste. Discuss their reaction and what taste they thought it was. For the youngest (who are anyway inclined to put everything they see in their mouths), this is a great way to make them aware that things taste differently. For slightly older kids, you could also blindfold them while tasting and make it a fun guessing game.
- Carbon Dioxide Experiments: Pour some vinegar in a bottle, and fill some baking powder inside a deflated balloon. Fix the balloon around the mouth of the bottle and watch it inflate. You could also do this with warm water instead of vinegar. It appears like magic to watch a balloon self-inflate and children always love this experiment.
These are just a few experiments that we’ve listed, but there are so many resources available online that provide detailed instructions and ideas to keep children engaged in most interesting ways. While there are a host of digital tools and games available too, do remember that the youngest children benefit most from full-sensorial experiences. While it takes a little time to prepare, often these science experiments are fun for adults to engage in too. They almost always encourage some critical thinking, or lateral thinking and at a very basic level awaken curiosity. Using simple objects, we can support children in understanding concepts and bring their awareness to the wonders of the world that surrounds them.
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