Saturday, March 15, 2014

Experiments for 4-year-olds

Ryan often asks if we can do an "experiment" which usually involves something messy. But, it's nice to have a few ideas to pull out for kids this age, so I thought I'd share a few that we've done with our almost-4.5-year old.

Giant Frozen Marbles
I had pinned this idea from Pinterest and when we had a few days of way-below-freezing temps, decided to try it out.  My tips are to put a few drops of food coloring in the balloon first, then put it over the faucet and SECURELY hold it on the faucet while you fill it (um....we may have sprayed water all over each other and the kitchen the first time we filled a balloon. Thankfully, we hadn't thought of putting the food coloring in first yet). We just tied the balloons and put them in a box in the backyard for a few days to freeze. Once we cut the balloons off, we did things like poar warm water in the middle to make a dent or a hole and shone a flashlight setting right on them to make them glow. Then, despite it still being below-freezing, Ryan wanted to go outside and "bowl" with them, so we rolled/raced them down the driveway a few times. I wanted to set them out and watch them melt on the snow in the warmer days to come, but Ryan insisted on burying them. The snow melted faster than the ice balls, so we did see them a few days later.

Sink or Float
We gathered objects from around the house, then talked about "prediction" and sorted the objects into piles for what he thought would sink or float.

He only got 2 wrong! (the rubber band and swirly eraser sunk). Then I asked him for ideas on why some things sunk or float. He had some good observations that large-area things floated even if they were heavier than smaller things.

Next, we predicted how many marbles it would take to make an easter egg or a yogurt container sink to the bottom. Eventually, he just liked throwing the marbles in the water and retrieving them with a spoon.

The Crow and the Pebble
I told Ryan the Aesop's fable of the Crow and the Pebble as we did this one. First, we filled a baby food jar half-full of water and marked with a Sharpie the level of the water.
A Crow, half-dead with thirst, came upon a Pitcher which had
once been full of water; but when the Crow put its beak into the
mouth of the Pitcher he found that only very little water was left
in it, and that he could not reach far enough down to get at it.
He tried, and he tried, but at last had to give up in despair.
Then a thought came to him, and he took a pebble and dropped it
into the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped it into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher. Then he took another pebble and dropped that into
the Pitcher.
I asked Ryan to put marbles into the jar one by one and see what happened to the water.  We put in 30 marbles and then marked how high the water was.
At last, at last, he saw the water mount up near
him, and after casting in a few more pebbles he was able to quench
his thirst and save his life. 
Little by little does the trick.
We talked a little about why this worked, but I think water displacement theory is a little above him :).

Splashing Parade
This was less of an experiment and more of a "let loose and just let him have fun!"  With the suddenly warm temperatures, all the snow melted at once and there was lots of standing/running water. So, we got out the rainboots purchased as part of his Jake and the Neverland Pirates Halloween costume, and let him go to town! Not only did stomping through the slush and water in the yard entertain him, but we also went for a walk with his boots on. He loved stomping off the snowy overhangs on the curbs and watching the chunks fall off into the stream of water all the way down to the storm sewer. Some places, he was wading through water almost as tall as his boots! Everything went straight into the wash when we got home, but we were so happy to finally get a hint of spring! It was a good reminder to me to not automatically say "no" to something that seemed messy/unnecessary. Boys just need to get dirty sometimes!

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