Science Activities

Child’s Play Helps Discover New Planets

Child’s play helps discover new planets? Well, that’s a bit of a stretch but what we do as adults often grows from how we loved to play as kids. Many of the scientists at NASA were fascinated by space as children and on a radio show, one of them was quoted as saying she has been intrigued with searching for new planets since an early age.

planets child art play

February is friends and heart month. Following a passion is following your heart. Did you have an interest or a favorite way to play as a child that gave clues about what you are doing today? Of course, child’s play has been a lifelong interest of mine. Being a kindergarten teacher means being able to play at work. On the blog, I’ve included many posts about careers adults choose and the clues we find when we look at their play. This excerpt is from the post Child’s PlayReaches to Outer Space from a couple of years back:

Astronaut Chris Hadfield adventured far beyond Earth to the International Space Station Endeavour. He played the guitar and sang the first song ever recorded in space. He was inspired at the age of nine as he watched Apollo landing on the Moon, but his interest in flying began much earlier than that. Along with others written about in this series, an artist that drew on the wall about the age of 2, a nurse that played with Dr. Barbie, a mathematician that enjoyed numbers, a designer that always liked to draw, a scientist that took apart her toys and dolls, a crafter who created and sold products to her childhood friends, and a chef who wanted an Easy-Bake oven as a young boy, Chris Hadfield extended his play to a career. How can we so trivialize children’s play when time and time again, we hear stories like these?

Lego space playThe question is even more relevant with the discovery of these seven exoplanets. In a way, the curiosity to explore and the drive to discover are the fuel of play. We see from the time they are wee babies,  the immense hunger young children have to find out all they can about the world. They do this each and every time they play. That’s how we can say child’s play helps discover new planets.star wars science fun for kids

Although we mean well, we cannot fill our children’s days with activities that we plan and organize for them. We must give kids time and space for unstructured play and trust them to direct it. When we do, could we say the results are out of this world?

February Friendship #8: Kids Can Be Friends with Science

Instead of kids can be friends with science, maybe this should be adults can be. Kids are always exploring and trying things out to see what happens. For us, kids’ science play isn’t such fun when we answer 300 questions a day or wait while a child throws double that number of rocks in the lake. But, science play is full of wonder for kids and it can easily be part of your child’s day.

science activities with rocks

Science play can happen in a sink or container with water. Young toddlers to older preschoolers enjoy pouring, scooping, and swishing water. Add a few small containers and spoons, with and without holes for them to play with. Some things will float and some sink. Let your child try other objects like a jar lid, an old toothbrush, a small stone, a popsicle stick, a straw and other bits to check and see what floats and sinks. A word of caution—make sure the object is too big to go down the drain when you pull the plug.

science fun float sink

Cooking includes science too. What happens when food is mixed together? Stirring changes flour and butter into a batter, but it doesn’t change apples, oranges, and berries when they are mixed in a fruit salad. When cookie batter is baked in the oven, it changes even more.

science fun cookies

A simple walk around the block can connect a child to science too. What’s the weather doing? Each day the sky will change and, on the ground, there will be some new things to see and some the same as the day before.

children and nature wonder

Ordinary ingredients we have on hand, like baking soda and vinegar, are science experiments just waiting to fizz. Soap and water make bubbles, hands and a flashlight create shadows. Our own bodies and five senses are science marvels. Discovering all the things a body can do is pretty exciting. Kids are highly sensory and love to play with a batch of slime or goop or even soap.science fun with water play

Supporting children’s curiosity will sometimes give us gray hairs but we need to make sure science is part of each child’s world. As parents and caregivers, you have both experiences and experiments to share. What are some other ways kids can be friends with science?

 

Dragon Vinegar Baking Soda Science Experiment – Foam Instead of Fire

No matter how many times we’ve combined these two ingredients, this dragon vinegar baking soda science experiment was still exciting. Be prepared though, once isn’t enough!

dragon-vinegar-soda-science-experiment

The kids wanted to do some dragon science, but what to do? We needed an idea. The thinking process for some dragon science fun was long and winding. There were big jumps of imagination instead of logic but that’s part of thinking too. Kids know dragons breathe fire but we didn’t want to use real fire for science. Hmmm. The kids said dragons are like dinosaurs, right? Maybe we could do dinosaur science. Dinosaurs aren’t alive anymore and some scientists think it’s because of volcanoes not meteorites. A volcano has fire like a  dragon, so maybe we could do that? A dragon vinegar baking soda science experiment?

Making a volcano with baking soda and vinegar is pretty standard but we didn’t know how to make a dragon volcano. After some google searching, we discovered a foaming dragon science experiment on The Joys of Boys. We all agreed this was a great idea and could hardly wait to make our own.

dragon-vinegar-soda-science-experiment

To make a dragon volcano is simple. Start with an empty water bottle. Cut a tail and 4 paws out of a foam sheet or something else green and plastic. In the sewing drawer, we had some vinyl left-overs from a patio cushion that would do and a tube of googly eyes. Tape the tail, eyes, and paws to the bottle. A big bottle will need more vinegar than a small bottle. Fill the bottle about half full of vinegar and place on a pan to catch drips. Squirt in some liquid dish soap. Add a couple drops of food coloring. We used red and yellow to make orange. Since we hadn’t mixed in the dish soap, the food colors made swirls in the bottle. It was really interesting to watch the red spread out in the vinegar solution. *At this point, the kids reminded me I’d forgot to tape on the dragon’s tail and paws. We had to pause for that.

Now, for the fun and exciting part. With the vinegar, soap, and color in the bottle, what do you think will happen when we add some baking soda? Will it bubble right out of the bottle? The reaction starts as soon as a little bit of soda hits the vinegar. It only needed a small scoop of baking soda for orange foam to start bubbling up, out, over, and all down the side of our dragon. This dragon was breathing hard and it was orange like fire. It even worked again with a second scoop of baking soda.

Good oldstand-bys. This dragon vinegar baking soda science experiment was so much fun. The kids proved it works once again, were engaged, had lots to talk about and certainly lots to think about. Could this be a play-of-the-day for your child?

Autumn Activities #6: Apple Science Fall Fun Experiment

You may have done this apple science fall fun experiment before but kids like to ask and do the same thing over and over again. Have you noticed? Get out an apple, fun some water in the sink or a bowl, and here we go. Science experiments start with wanting to know. In this case, … Continue reading Autumn Activities #6: Apple Science Fall Fun Experiment

Space Activities #21: Baking Soda Vinegar Rockets and Water Rocket Fun

Two of the most ordinary ingredients and a small plastic container combine for some science fun. Have you tried baking soda vinegar rockets? This activity is best done outside. Once the rocket is fueled up, stand out of the way. It shoots off with quite a pop and can hurt if it hits a body … Continue reading Space Activities #21: Baking Soda Vinegar Rockets and Water Rocket Fun

Space Activities #2: Juno Straw Rockets

Today’s play-of-the-day, Juno straw rockets, is a space activity from earlier this year but worth doing again. Have you checked out any of the images–and sounds, from Juno? They are amazing but the story of how it got there is pretty amazing too. Not being a rocket scientist, it’s hard for us to wrap our minds around … Continue reading Space Activities #2: Juno Straw Rockets

Transportation Activities #16: Simple Ramp Science

Cars, trucks, train cars, and other toys get to be part of some science fun and learning with this play-of-the-day. All aboard for some simple ramp science. While grownup engineers want to know how to construct the safest, most efficient roads, kid engineers only want to know how to make toy cars go faster. The … Continue reading Transportation Activities #16: Simple Ramp Science

Transportation Activities #14: Father’s Day Paper Airplane

Kids love to make something for their dads. This Father’s Day paper airplane combines a simple gift with an invitation to spend time together and play. (The following instructions are from an earlier blog post.) 1. Fold an ordinary piece of printer paper in half, the long way or hotdog fold. Open it back up. … Continue reading Transportation Activities #14: Father’s Day Paper Airplane

Transportation Play Activities #7: Boat Float or Sink

This boat float or sink play-of-the-day is brought to you by World Ocean’s Day. The kitchen sink or a container of water will be your child’s ocean. Kids are natural scientists, exploring constantly. This boat float or sink play is a voyage of discovery, fun, and learning that happens right at home, at the kitchen … Continue reading Transportation Play Activities #7: Boat Float or Sink

Transportation Play Activities #5: Simple Straw Rockets

Science can be easy and still amazing. These simple straw rockets are super fun and use the most ordinary of materials. The results are exciting. To make a straw rocket, you will need paper, scissors, tape, and a straw. Cut a sheet of regular, photocopy paper in any color. Fold it in half the short, … Continue reading Transportation Play Activities #5: Simple Straw Rockets