With summer just around the corner, science experiments are a wonderful way to get young children moving and learning! Preschool science activities foster children’s curiosity and inquiry skills. Hands-on science for kids allows children to explore this curiosity while absorbing the lessons in a lasting way.
Beth Rosenthal Davis’ book, Hands-On Science and Math: Fun, Fascinating Activities for Young Children, is filled with fun science activities guaranteed to keep your little learner busy this summer.
Here are some exciting science experiments you can try with your preschooler this summer!
Creative Printing with Sunlight
The sun is a powerful energy source. In this activity, the children will see the power of the sun firsthand as they crate images fixed onto paper by sunlight. Reserve this activity for a sunny day for the best effect.
- Sun-sensitive paper, such as Sunprint, or dark blue construction paper
- Various items to arrange on paper, such as nuts, bolts, keys, tiny plastic dinosaurs or insects, buttons, or seashells
- Trays or bowls
- Plastic tub
- Paper towels or cardboard
- Pencils or markers
- Clear contact paper or laminator (optional)
- 2 outdoor thermometers
- Obtain sun-sensitive paper from a school-supply or art store. Alternatively, you can use dark blue construction paper; however, the sun-sensitive paper works best.
- Give each child a piece of sun-sensitive paper, a marker or pencil, and some tiny items on a tray or in a little bowl. Ask the children to write their names on their papers.
- Instruct the children to arrange the small items on the piece of paper in any way they choose. When they are satisfied with their arrangements, they can carefully place the papers in a very sunny place.
- Wait for the sun to make the prints, which will take five to eight minutes. While you wait, ask the children to experience the heat of the sun. Show them how to use their hands cupped over their eyes to shade themselves from the sun. You can also make shadows with the sun while you are waiting.
- After five to eight minutes, let the children check on their papers. Have each child carefully lift one item to see if the image appears on the paper. If not, the child should replace the item in the exact same spot. If the image is clear, the child can remove all of the items.
- Take the prints inside, and keep them out of the sun.
- Have the children submerge their prints in water in a plastic tub, leaving them underwater for one to five minutes. Set the prints on paper towels or cardboard to dry.
- If you like, you can laminate the prints for the children, which will help keep the paper from fading further.
Planting and Harvesting Radishes
Gardening can be another way to encourage scientific discovery and mathematical thinking. The children will experience planting radish seeds and growing them into vegetable plants. Once the radishes are grown and harvested, they can compare sizes, count the radishes, and even cut them and taste how bitter they are. Variations include growing peppers, cabbages, lettuce, herbs, cucumbers, squash, or eggplants.
Each type of plant provides opportunities for observation and measurement.
- Packet of about 100 radish seeds
- Wooden craft sticks
- Cups (optional)
- Rubber balls (optional)
- Balance scale (optional)
- Give each child a wooden craft stick and a cup of soil. Have them use the sticks to poke holes in their cups of soils. Alternatively, you can do this activity outside in a garden.
- Give each child one or two seeds, and let the children plant their seeds in the holes the created in the soil. After the children put the seeds in, they should gently cover them with soil.
- Encourage the children to observe the plants often. Water them as needed to keep the soil moist. Have the children track how many plants are growing and measure how tall they are.
- In addition to taking measurements, invite the children to draw pictures of the things they observe in the garden. Assist in labeling the drawings as needed.
- When you harvest the radishes, perhaps you can use a nonstandard measurement such as a small rubber bouncing ball. Have the children graph whether the radishes are smaller, the same size, or larger than the ball.
- With older children, you can extend the activity using a balance scale for weighing. Have the children pile radishes into a container and put them on one side of the scale. Ask the children to put blocks on the other side until they balance the weight. Have them count how many radishes an dhow many blocks equal the same weight.
- Give the children harvested vegetables to take home. You may find that the children will eat more vegetables! They are apt to try what they have grown, picked, and packed to take home. These activities can improve nutritional awareness and healthy eating.