Spring is here and with it comes sunny days for outdoor exploration! Foster children’s natural curiosity into inquisitive engagement with the outdoors with three of our favorite science adventures for spring:
1. Rainbow Sprinkler
Science Objectives: observation, classification, communication.
What to Do:
- Turn on the garden hose and adjust its nozzle so that water comes out in a fine spray.
- Hold the hose nozzle so it shoots straight up in the air. If possible, find a way to attach the hose to a chair or some other stationary object, so you do not need to hold it. (Bathing suits before hand is always a great option!)
- Tell children that they might be able to observe a rainbow as the sun’s rays strike the water droplets in the spray. Suggest that children move around the spray and look for a rainbow. You will have to experiment to find the best angle to see rainbow colors. (This experiment is best on very sunny days!)
- After the children spend some time observing the rainbow, talk about ROY G. BIV, the mnemonic device for remembering the rainbow color order.
- Next, put out a set of crayons whose colors appear in rainbows, and put them in the rainbow order. Once the children do this, invite them to draw a rainbow with the crayons or chalk, or to make a picture that uses rainbow colors.
2. Riding Toys in the Yard
Science Objective: classification, measuring, identifying and controlling variables.
What to Do:
- Bring the children out to an inclined riding area. Encourage children to help you draw a chalk line along the ground part of the way down the incline. Tell children this is the starting line, then using the yardstick, help the children make additional marks going down the hill.
- Talk with children about momentum. Use the example of how a tricycle will continue to roll along after its rider stops pedaling. Tell little ones that by experimenting with this idea, they can learn to determine which riding toys roll the farthest and how certain variables can affect the distances the objects roll.
- Ask your child to pedal a tricycle up to the chalk starting line, then to stop pedaling and coast to a stop. Invite children to use the chalk marks to measure how far the tricycle traveled.
- Ask children to think of ways they might increase the distance the tricycle coasted, such as having another child push the rider from behind, or having the rider pedal harder. Other suggestions include having a smaller or larger child as the rider or oiling the wheels. Record the children’s suggestions, and then help them try each suggestion from the list one at a time and compare the results.
- If other riding toys are available, invite children to compare them to the tricycles, then rate the various riding toys based on how far each coasted.
Want to Do More?
- Invite children to test out their favorite riding toys to expand the variety of objects they compare.
- Bring children to a steeper slope, repeat the activity, and discuss with the children what differences they notice between the two inclines.
- Help children build a simple racetrack, and invite them to measure the differences in time it takes the various vehicles to complete the track.
3. Clear Containers and a Sunny Day
Science Objectives: observing and classifying.
What to Do:
- On a clear day, select a sunny spot and ask children to help you fill a few clear plastic containers or bottles with water, making sure to reattach the lids securely.
- Line up the clear water-filled containers so the sun will hit them all at the same time.
- Point out to children the shapes and colors the sun makes when the light passes through the water-filled containers.
- Encourage the children to pick up the containers and move them to see how the sunlight passing through makes different shapes as they move the container.
- Ask kids to describe what they see when the sunlight hits the containers. Ask them to pick which containers they think generate the best light patterns. Ask, “Do all the containers show shapes and patterns?” Encourage children to describe the different ways the various containers affect the light.
Want to Do More?
- Fill several colored containers and bottles with water and set them out for children to look through. Ask the children to describe the differences between how these containers affect the light, as opposed to the clear containers.
- Provide plastic or glass prisms for the children to use and compare.
Did you enjoy these science experiments for your kids? Find even more outdoor activities in Science Adventures Nature Activities for Young Children!