Sink or Float Experiment

sink or float

One of the easiest science experiments is “Sink or Float.”  Just gather up some stuff on your living room floor and toss it in a bowl of water.  Done.  Science.

Okay, you could probably make it a little more educational.

First, make some predictions (hypotheses) about the objects.  An easy way to do this is group them into “sink” and “float” piles.  For older kids, make a chart of the objects, hypotheses, and actual results.  You can make your own or print one from the handy internet.

Next, the fun part.  Test the objects in water.  This is a hit with all ages.  Who doesn’t love dropping things in water?

Then, discuss the results and draw conclusions.  Ah, the learning part.  Were your hypotheses correct?  What do the sinking objects have in common?  What makes an object float?

simple sink or float

I always like to follow up an experiment with a good book.  Check out library books with a 532 call number or try some of my favorites:

  • Magic School Bus Ups and Downs: A Book about Floating and Sinking  by Joanna Cole
  • What Floats?  What Sinks?  A Look at Density by Jennifer Boothroyd
  • Will it Float or Sink? (Rookie Read-About Science) by Melissa Stewart

And if your library seems oh-so-far-away, try this equally educational online video.  Plus it’s interactive!!

 

Yarn Art

The girls decided it would be a fun game to cut up yarn.  I’m not sure how the came up with idea or how they stayed interested in it for so long.  It kept them occupied and it was great cutting practice for my three-year-old, so I was happy.  I was slightly less enthusiastic when my living room was covered in bits of yarn.  Hmmm…  What to do?  Well for starters we played my fun game of “Who can pick up the most yarn in her baggie?”  Then we made some art.

Big Sis used some steady hands to make lines and shapes with the Elmer’s glue.  Then she carefully found pieces of yarn to place on her glue lines.

yarn lines

Little Sis also had a great time plopping glue on a paper and then sticking yarn on.  She wasn’t as concerned about getting it on the lines….

yarn art

We also practiced some sight words.  First I wrote the word with glue and Big Sis placed the yarn on the lines.  Then we switched and she got to write with glue.  You could do the same with letters, numbers, or shapes.

yarn sight words

Ten Ways to Learn with Cardboard Boxes

building with boxes

If you can learn with cans, why not boxes?  We collected empty cardboard boxes for a few weeks to make “box blocks.”  For boxes that didn’t close on their own, I taped them shut.  The kids really got excited about adding to our box collection.  And we were able to see just how many boxes our family uses…and have a talk about the importance of recycling!  That is a learning experience in itself, but here are some other things you can teach with boxes…

learning with boxes

Common Core Standards appear in italics.  They correlate with specific standards in different grade levels.  These standards are used in almost every school in the country.  Click the Common Core tab above to learn more.)

  1. Colors- Talk about the different colors on the boxes, then divide them into groups or make a rainbow.
  2. Size- Compare sizes of boxes.  Put them in order from smallest to biggest.
  3. Counting– How many boxes in all?  Count how many you can stack in a tower.
  4. Addition and Subtraction– How many cereal boxes plus fruit snack boxes do we have? (first grade- Represent and solve problems involving addition and subtraction)
  5. Geometry- Talk about 2D vs 3D.  Use the word rectangular prism.  How many rectangles make up a box?   (kindergarten- Identify shapes as two-dimensional or three-dimensional)
  6. Measurement- Use a ruler to measure boxes length, width, and depth. (second grade- Measure and estimate lengths in standard units)
  7. Classification- Sort the boxes into groups based on color, size, or type of food.   (kindergarten- Classify objects into given categories; count the numbers of objects in each category and sort the categories by count)
  8. Reading– Beginning readers might be able to read some of the labels using the picture as a clue.  If they know it is a pizza box, see if they can pick out the word “pizza.”
  9. Letters- Try to make letters or even words out of the small boxes.
  10. Creative building– Design your own sculpture with box blocks!

Or combine all the above into a scavenger hunt.  Scatter the boxes around the room and then shout out things to find.  “Find a green box and bring it to me.  Which box would we use to eat breakfast?  Find the largest box.  Can you find the letter T on a box?”  This is great way to get kids moving and learning at the same time.

cardboard box horse
cardboard box scultpure

Tube Owls

toilet paper tube owls

We’re a little owl-obsessed around our house.  So when I saw toilet paper tube owls on Pinterest, I knew we had to try it.  The ones I saw were beautiful with intricate designs drawn with black sharpies.  Not exactly a project for a three-year-old and a five-year-old.  So we improvised.  Bring on the googly eyes and foam shapes!  These owls are so simple that my daughters made them completely on their own.  And isn’t that the best kind of project?  They get to learn by creating, then play with their creation. It’s a win-win!

Super simple instructions:

  1. Fold the top of the tube down. (optional: cut tube to make an owlet)
  2. Paint tube.
  3. Glue on eyes and foam (or construction paper) shapes for beak and wings.

 

Materials:

  • toilet paper roll
  • foam shapes (or cut out triangles and ovals from construction paper)
  • googly eyes
  • glue
  • paint

tube owl materials

kid made cardboard owls

Five Free (Summer) Field Trips

sprayground

1.  Spraygrounds- Called spraygrounds or splash parks, these free fountains are always a kid favorite.  Who doesn’t want to play in the water on a hot day?  I was especially grateful for spraygrounds when I had a baby and a toddler.  Take them both to the swimming pool by myself? A nightmare.  But watch my oldest run through the fountains while my baby sits and splashes?  Very doable.

2.  Bowling Alley– Kids can get two free games of bowling every day, all summer long!  Check out kidsbowlfree.com to see if a bowling alley in your area participates.  We did this last year and loved it!

3.  Concerts– Lots of shopping centers, communities, parks, and churches do free summer concerts in the evenings.  What better way to spend a summer night?  Just do a search for “free summer concert (your city name here)” and see what you can find.

4.  Art Fairs- Hands down my favorite activity.  We have already been to two this summer!  Although taking toddlers to a place with large groups of people and very expensive objects is not for a the faint of heart.  Wearable babies or older kids make the best art viewers (in my experience).

5.  Public School Playgrounds-  The schools are out and the playgrounds are open!  Pack a picnic and spend the afternoon “at recess.”  Just make sure to check the signage to make sure it is open to the public.

Letter Sound Game

phoneme game

Tired of playing “I Spy?”  Try “What Letter Makes This Sound?”  It is an easy while-you-wait game that you can play in the doctor’s office or restaurant.  One person makes a letter sound and the other person guesses the letter.  Easy.

Adult- “What letter makes this sound?” (make /b/ sound)

Kid- “B!!”

Then switch it up and let the kid ask the question.  Or make it more difficult and ask “Which two letters together make the /ch/ sound?” Or how about which two letters can both make the /s/ sound?”

This game should really be called the Phoneme Game.  (That’s a fancy way to say the individual speech sounds that make up a language. Also- I have been reading too many Fancy Nancy books.)  Phonemes are the building blocks of words.  Phonemic awareness will help kids “sound out” words in their reading and writing.  This game will also give kids who need help with speech an opportunity practice saying phonemes.

A warning from my college reading professor:  Be careful to only say one phoneme at a time.  It’s more difficult than you think.  For example, people have a tendency to say “wa” (making a /w/ and /a/ sounds) instead of the pure /w/ sound.

 

Ten Ways to Learn With Water Beads

10 Ways to Learn with Water BeadsWe recently discovered water beads.  You see, there is this thing called “Pinterest” that has all sorts of ideas for kids.  You should really check it out. 🙂  So I ordered some from Amazon (a 2-oz pack of Jelly Beadz), but I hear you get them even cheaper at dollar stores or floral supply stores.

Water beads are awesome.  They start out tiny and very hard, then you soak them in water for a few hours.  They soak up the water and become large and gelatinous.  That is a cool word.  But not cooler than water beads.  Seriously.  As fun as it is to feel then between your toes (try it!), you can also LEARN with them.  I know.  Mind blown.educational water beads

  1. Fine Motor Skills– They are SLIPPERY!  It takes a steady hand and pincer grip to pick them up.  Or try scooping them up one a time with a spoon.  We even tried chopsticks.  I think it is impossible.
  2. Colors– Sort by color into smaller containers.
  3. Language– Use adjectives to describe how water beads look, feel, etc.
  4. Letters- Use the water beads to “hide” plastic letters, then go on a letter hunt.
  5. Estimation– Choose a small container and estimate how many water beads will fill it up.  Then find out!
  6. Counting- Take turns grabbing handfuls and counting how many you can hold.
  7. Addition and Subtraction- Math is more fun when you have wiggly water beads to add together or take away.
  8. Patterns- Make a pattern with the colors.  It is difficult to make the beads line up, but that is part of the fun!
  9. Capacity– Kids will naturally want to fill up containers, so throw some measuring cups and let the kids explore.  They can see firsthand how many 1/4 cups it takes to fill up a cup.
  10. Hypothesize and Experiment- Do water beads bounce?  Can you squish them?  What happens when you put them in salt?

And speaking of experiments, Creekside Learning offers a free printable science observation worksheet that is perfect for older kids.

*Disclaimer- Water beads look a lot like candy.  I wouldn’t use them with babies or toddlers who like to put things in their mouths.

learning with water beads

 

Cardboard Tube Shape Painting

toilet paper roll painting

So easy.  Fold toilet paper tubes to make a triangle and square.  Lucky you, the circle is already done. 🙂  Then dip the ends in paint, stamp on paper, and you have a shape masterpiece!  This is a great craft for toddlers who haven’t mastered painting with a brush.  You can talk about shapes and colors while you create.

toilet paper roll shapes

You might want to give them one color at a time or else this happens…
paint circles

Spring Picture Sequencing Activity

Okay, so spring is almost over.  Don’t worry.  You can do this activity any time.  Just take pictures of something growing and changing, then have your kids put the pictures in order.  They get to witness the changes in person, then review it with the pictures.  Try taking pictures of flowers, trees, bushes, plants, or grass in your yard.  Or take it inside and plant a seed in a flower pot.  If you want to get all science-y (I’m sure that is a word), take the pictures at the same time each day.  Obviously, I am not a scientist.

spring picture ordering activity

Popsicle Stick Shapes

I saw this idea for making popsicle stick shapes on Pinterest from A, Bee C, Preschool.   So fun and easy!  She wrote the shape names on the sticks and also made paper shapes that fit inside the stick shapes.  Of course I had to make it even easier.

  1. Color the sticks with markers.  This was my girls’ favorite part.  I gave them a certain amount of sticks and a marker and let them do the rest.
  2. Put all the sticks together.colored popsicle sticks
  3. Identify colors by saying “Find all the green sticks!”
  4. Make a shape with the sticks by connecting them end to end.  Identify the shape.  Count the sides and corners.

popsicle stick shapes
I liked leaving the sticks plain so the kids could play with them in other ways.  We made symmetrical designs and played “continue the color pattern” with the sticks after we made shapes.

Some other ideas:

  • Glue the sticks down on paper
  • Draw around the sticks to make the shape
  • Glue the ends of the sticks to make permanent shapes
  • Use playdough or marshmallows to “glue” them together temporarily