Science with Younger Kids

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Impress your kids with a “Dancing Paper Clip”.
Fill a baby food jar with water and drop a steel paper clip into it. Tell children that you can make the paper clip dance up and down in the water without touching it. Then move a magnet up and down outside the jar to make the clip dance. Let the children try it. Explain that the magnetic force of the magnet passes through the glass and water to make the clip move.

You can put anything in these!

  • RUST BOTTLES: Put various metal objects in a bottle with water and watch them rust. Consider saving a sample bottle to preview to each new group! Or…ask children what they think will happen and watch/discuss results.
  • MAGNET BOTTLES: Put different objects in a bottle, some of which will be attracted to the magnet and some that won’t.
    Place identical items (beads, crayon shavings, small plastic figures, etc.) in bottles of plain water and plain corn syrup.
  • MARBLES: Put a marble in different substances such as shampoo, hair gel, oil, water. Compare how fast the marble moves in each.


  • Take shaving cream, and a few drops of different color paint. You can do this according to your color themes of the week or day.
  • Put cream and paint in a Ziploc baggie. Make sure to let all the air out of the bag and tape the top seal so nothing escapes when the children squeeze the bags.

This is a great way for kids to learn colors and what happens when mix two separate colors together. (Red and yellow make orange, yellow and blue make green; etc.). The science comes in with having children make predictions of what will happen. What color it will make? Then mix and find out.

Give children several objects to drop–feathers, marbles, Styrofoam packaging, small blocks, sponges, cotton, rocks, etc. After individual experimentation, help children draw conclusions based on their observations–which items dropped slowly and which items dropped quickly.

This is a nice visual experience of COLOR CHANGES. Make red, yellow and blue ice cubes using food coloring and water. Place one red and one yellow ice cube in a ziplock baggie, one red and one blue ice cube in a ziplock baggie, and one yellow and one blue ice cube in a ziplock baggie. Place them in the science area. As the colored ice cubes melt they create new colors.

Gather the following:
4 jars with lids, dirt, sand, salt, gravel and a large pitcher of warm water.

  •   Have the kids help pour the warm water into each jar. Add one of the elements to each jar, and cover it tightly.
  •   Have children predict what will happen when you shake each jar. Shake them one at a time. What happens in each instance? Which of the elements dissolve in water and which ones sink to the bottom?
  •   The children may want to bring in other nature items/substances to continue this experiment.


1. Fill a large plastic soft drink bottle about one quarter full with water.
2. Add a few drops of blue food coloring and a very small drop of liquid detergent.
3. Pour in a small amount of clean sand or aquarium gravel. Blow up two small balloons, release most of the air, then tie the ends closed. Push the balloons into the bottle and screw the cap on tightly. When you have finished, you will have a fish tank with two bobbing “fish” inside.
4. The fish will swim in the water by holding the bottle sideways and rocking it back and forth. You may just discover that each child will want one of their own.


  • Encourage the children to tell what they know about air. Introduce a few facts about air. Show two or three deflated balloons. Have the children examine and identify them.
  • With the group, brainstorm why the balloons are flat, how to put air in them and what the air will do to the balloons.
  • Inflate one of the balloons. Guide the group in explaining how to keep the air inside the balloon. Tie the end of the balloon and inflate the others.
  • The children describe what is happening and why. Also have them examine and describe the inflated balloons.

Here is a way for children to experience different textures…
Fill four or five zip-lock bags with different textures, such as: Flour, mud, play dough, sand, dried beans, or salt. Set out the bags and encourage childrento squish the bags and describe how they feel.


Set out a zip-lock bag, some salt and some vinegar.

1. Help children measure out one tablespoon vinegar and one teaspoon salt and place it in the bag.
2. Put out 1-4 dirty pennies and child place the pennies into the bag.
3. Zip up the bag and let your child gently shake the bag.
Children love watching the dirty pennies slowly turn shinny and new.


Get 2 large cups or bowls–put one cup with NO salt, and the other with 4 Tablespoons of salt (adjust salt to container size)…. Ask the children what they think will happen when you put in the first egg? Put the egg in–Repeat with the second egg. Explain that the salt makes the water heavier than the egg, so the egg will float.

PLAIN OLD SINK OR FLOAT …. Gather different items such as a variety of cans, coins, pencil, etc. and a large bowl of water. Small aquariums are good for this. Clear plastic tubs also work.

Have the children make predictions of what they think will happen. Will it sink or will it float? Have the children take turns dropping each individual item and discussing the results…..

Along with the above experiment try a ‘Sink or Float with a Pumpkin or Watermelon!

  • Fill a bin or aquarium or tub half full with water. Place everyday items near the bin. Get the kids to guess which items would sink and which ones would float. Have youth write their guesses in their notebooks. Then do the experiments to determine if they were right or not.
  • Have the watermelon for snack!
  • Be sure to add a watermelon to the guess! (You can eat it afterwards!) Pumpkins are also fun. The pumpkin and watermelon will float because its mass is less than the mass of water it displaces. This is due primarily because the inside of the pumpkin and melon are hollow. It is mostly air, which has a much lower mass than water.

You will need: A Bowl, Water, and an Orange
1.  Fill the bowl with water.
2.  Put in the orange…What happens to the orange?  See if you can get the orange to sink.
3.  Take the orange and peel it.
4.  Place the peeled orange back in the bowl of water. What happens this time?
5.  The orange sinks because the orange peel if full of trapped air pockets, therefore making the orange light for its size (so it floats).
6.  When you remove the peel (including the air pockets) the orange weighs a lot for it.

A favorite with many is exploding milk! (No, milk doesn’t really explode–just the colors…)
Fill a tray with milk (just enough to cover the bottom). Put drops of different colored food coloring in it. Don’t disturb them!

Add a drop of dish soap on some of the colors and watch the colors explode! Children can see how blue and yellow make green–etc.

For some reason children seam to love watching mold grow. Here is a safe way to experiment with mold.

Give children a small zip-lock bag and a piece of bread.
Have them place the bread into the bag and then add a teaspoon of water. Zip up the bag and set out the bag to observe. After a few days, mold will appear on the bread.

Discard bags unopened, when experiment is over.
Variation: You may want to repeat this experiment, but this time make two bags of water and bread and put one in the center and one in the refrigerator. Which one grows mold the fastest?

Materials you will need:
Some tape
Some leftover foods (like bread, oranges, lemons, apples, grapes, red peppers, courgettes, cauliflower, cheese or biscuits)
A Clear Container with a Lid (A big glass jar or a big clear plastic container works best)
*** DO NOT USE: anything with meat or fish in it. After a few days these would start to smell very bad.***

NOTE: This is a great project to keep a log or notebook on your findings each day that you check for changes.
1. Place the jar on its side.
2. Cut around 3 to 5 different pieces of food into small chunks about 1.5cm (1 inch.).
3. Dip all the different pieces of food into the water.
4. Spread the foods out in the jar so that they are not in a pile.
5. Place the lid on the jar and tape around the outside of the lid to seal it
6. Place the jar where it will not get knocked over or thrown away.
7. Put a label with the date on the jar
8. Keep a check on the food in the jar.
You probably will not notice any change in the food for the first few days. However, you should start to see some green, white or blue fuzzy/furry stuff growing there after.

Still keeping a check; after a few more days some of the food may start to rot and look gross. Now you can see how the mold spreads and how the food rots in just two weeks.

NOTE: After the two weeks, DO NOT open the lid. Throw the jar and its contents in the bin and DO NOT reuse the jar.
Molds do not grow from seeds. Molds grow from tiny spores that float in the air. Some of these spores fall onto a piece of damp food and then
grow into mold. Adapted from:

Instructions: Take a plastic zip-loc baggie, put cotton balls in it and saturate cotton balls with water. Put popcorn kernels into the bag, seal it and tape to a window. Add water as needed and watch the plants grow. Transfer to potting soil later. (It doesn’t take much to get a popcorn kernal going! My grandson had a kenal laying on its side on the sink–in just a drop of water. In a couple days it was sprouting a small leaf and stem!)

Place small metal objects like screws, nuts, paper clips, metal chips, and small non-metal objects like plastic toys and chalk in a baking pan. Pour cornmeal over the objects to cover them.

Move a magnet slowly over the surface until one object moves. Have the children find the other metal objects that are attracted to the magnet. Discuss a magnet and why things are attracted to it. Place different items under the cornmeal and have the children guess whether the objects will move or not. Variations: oatmeal, rice, or barley could also be used to cover the objects.


You need–
A selection of fruit, such as Kiwi, Peach, Pineapple, etc., A bowl,
Sharp knife, Cutting board…For safety the fruit should be cut be an adult

1.  Before cutting the fruit, pass the different fruits around and let the children feel and smell them.
2.  Ask the children if they know the names of the fruit.
3.  Talk about shape, size, smell and texture.
4.  Put the fruit into groups– such as smooth skinned or those that are round in shape.
5.  Ask the children to guess what color the fruit is inside.
6.  Peel and cut open the fruit, and talk about what they can see.
7.  Are there any seeds?
8.  If you cut the fruit in a different way, does it look different inside? Apples are great for this.
9.  Make the fruit into a fruit salad and let the children taste the fruit.
10. Discuss which fruit the children prefer.


Children will learn to compare the tastes of blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries… You will need fresh or frozen blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and raspberries, a large bowl and serving bowls and spoons. If you use frozen berries, select those, which do not have sugar added.

1. Have several children assist you in washing the berries and preparing them for the snack table.
2. At snack time, have the children serve themselves a few of each berry.

Taste the berries and compare the tastes. Discuss some of the foods we prepare with berries such as jams, pies, cobblers and fillings for pastries. (also used in fruit kabobs, salads and just served with whipped cream!)


Put a selection of fruits and vegetables out. Ask the children to tell you which items have seeds inside them. Next have  children sort them into seed and no seed piles. Open them up to see what you find out. Keep the seeds for other activities.
Slice the fruits and vegetables and enjoy!


Fill two jars with the same amount of water and mark the level of the water on the outside of the jars. Put a lid on one of the jars. Put the jars in a sunny place for a few days. Discuss with children what happened. Have children note that there is more water gone from the jar without lid and that inside the jar with the lid they can see tiny drops of water.

Ask questions like:
What happened to the water in the jar with no lid? (The water went into the air. It evaporated.)
What happened to the water in the jar with a lid? (The water stayed in the jar, Because of the lid, the water wasn’t able to escape or evaporate.)

Materials: glass mayonnaise or canning jar, plate, hot water, ice cubes,

  •  Pour about two inches of very hot water into the glass jar.
  • Cover the jar with the plate and wait a few minutes before you start the next step.
  • Put the ice cubes on the plate.

What happens? The cold plate causes the moisture in the warm air, which is inside the jar to condense and form water droplets. This is the same thing that happens in the atmosphere. Warm, moist air rises and meets colder air high in the atmosphere. The water vapor condenses and forms precipitation that falls to the ground.


This is science, art, and outside winter play!


Younger children can observe how salt melts ice while creating colorful designs in large blocks of ice.
Need: Large blocks of ice, Coarse salt, Food coloring, Eye droppers

Freeze water in empty one gallon milk containers. Remove the cardboard when water is frozen.

  • Place ice blocks on trays covered with several layers of newspaper.
  • Sprinkle coarse salt on top of the ice blocks.
  • Drip various colors of food coloring on top of the ice block–tunnels of color are created as the salt melts through the ice block.
  • Put the colorful ice blocks outside. If cold enough- they should stay frozen for several days.
  • Children can continue to examine the melting process during outdoor play. If possible-(and if they are interested) give kids their own block of ice.
  • If you have a large group do this activity over a few days. Children will enjoy watching the changes that occur as the blocks melt away!(Image by

Idea dapted from Marjorie E. in

NOTE: When salt goes over the side of the ice block-it will quickly melt grooves into the sides. The color will travel down the grooves. KA placed the ice block in a tin pie pan with lots of paper to soak up excess colored water. The ice stayed solid (outdoors) for about a week. (It melted when we had a freakish 65 degree Michigan winter day in January!)


  • In the winter gather snow in a LARGE shallow baking pan. Make a smaller version of a snowman–decorate it just as you would an outdoor snowman…eyes, arms, nose, and scarf.
  • Place the snowman in something similar to a large foil baking sheet and on a table where the children can watch it melt through out the day. A nice hands-on sensory-science project.


1. Fill a bucket with ice water and have the children stick their hands in it. They’ll see that it is cold.
2. Put shortening (Like Crisco) in a plastic bag.
3. Place the shortening bag into another bag so that the children’s hands don’t actually touch the Crisco.
4. Have the children put their hand in the bag and stick it back in the ice water. It won’t be cold because the Crisco serves as a layer of fat.
5. Talk about how the fat layer keeps animals -such as polar bears warm.


  • Winter is the time of ice and snow. We also talk about water and ice –in that water is a liquid and ice is a solid.
  • To demonstrate this, give each child a 1 gallon ziploc bag with crushed ice in it. Add ice cream salt..and place a smaller bag filled with kool-aid, lemonade or juice in the larger bag. Instruct the children to shake the bag.
  • If you play music while the children shake their bags, the drink mix will usually become ice-by the end of the song. (Our younger kids like to do this to Greg and Steve’s “the Freeze”.) Submitted by gogreen/Oregon



  • Why do we wear light-colored clothing in the summertime? Some of us do because the fashion experts tell us to, but there’s a good scientific reason as well.
  • Light colors absorb less heat from the sun than do dark colors. There’s a simple way of demonstrating this fact. Expose two sheets of paper–one white and the other black–to strong sunlight. The black paper will feel distinctly hotter than the white after several minutes of exposure.

To compare the sun to the shade, try this science activity. Take six bowls made of the same material. Place a cube of butter in each of the first two, a few ice cubes in the next two, and some old crayons in the last two. Set one bowl with each item in hot sun. Set the other three bowls in the shade.



1.  When children find a frog, roly-poly bugs, moths, or an anthill, offer a magnifying glass or microscope for looking very closely.
2.  If they notice birds building a nest, provide binoculars and help them make regular observations to record what they see.
3.  Compare observations over time. Ask children to predict what might happen next (baby birds?)

GROW THINGS (Horticulture)

  • Grow different types of beans in wet cotton and plastic bags; tape the baggies to a window and some in a closet.
  • Observe and photograph (or draw) sprouting once a week.
  • Discuss differences in growth patterns and what plants need to grow. Measure and graph plant heights.
  • Plant a garden and eat harvested vegetables.
  • Discuss what animals and plants need for growing well.


Offer measuring tapes, rulers, thermometers, balance scales, measuring cups, clocks, hour-glasses.

  • Stand-on scales and help children weigh and measure everything…shoes, feet, living plants, table heights, how many minutes it takes to eat lunch, how long each child naps, etc.
  • Record measurements, repeat often, and discuss what changes and what stays the same.


  • Observe frozen and boiling water and steam. Discuss what happens when water changes state.
  • Help children make Jell-O or ice cream. (Remember cooking and making play dough, goop, gak and slime is also science! Anything that turns liquid into a solid is science!)
  • Ask them to predict the effects of mixing cinnamon, salt, sugar, clean sand, and dirt into water.
  • Experiment and draw results.


  • Ask open-ended questions like “I wonder what might happen if…” or “If we change the temperature (or size, or shape,  or location), what do you think will happen?”
  • Answer their questions by asking, “How might we find out?” Encourage predictions.
  • Offer materials for experiments. Test out ideas. Discuss results. Ask more open-ended questions.

Teachers do not need to have all the answers. What you need is curiosity, a little planning, some interesting “stuff,” and pleasure in watching young scientists develop. For all Science Category Sections: click here

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