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Science is everywhere. You can teach your child scientific concepts with everyday items readily available at home. Get your toddler excited about the oohs and aahs of science with some fun, safe experiments.
Waiting to introduce scientific concepts to your child until they are in school might be too late. Since children are inquisitive from a young age, science comes easy and naturally to them. Throwing their food on the floor, playing with the wheels of their toy vehicles, splashing water in the tub – these are all activities that show your child is curious and learning.
As you read on, we discuss the benefits of introducing scientific concepts in early childhood and list a few toddler-friendly experiments.
By the time your child completes toddlerhood, they already have a grasp of basic scientific concepts from household routines and real-life interactions. Research shows that they are capable of conducting investigations, making observations, and drawing conclusions from a young age. This is why the one-to-three age group is the perfect time to stimulate and develop a science mindset in your child.
Science benefits a young child in many ways:
Owing to their inquisitive nature, kids are encouraged to ask questions about the workings of the world. For instance, “Why does ice melt in my hands?”.
With science, your child learns about cause and effect.
Science improves their observation skills.
Learning scientific concepts helps improve your child’s logical reasoning.
Science stimulates their natural curiosity.
A grasp of scientific knowledge helps teach your child literacy and numeracy better.
Science instils life skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem solving skills.
Okay, here is a note before you start:
While these are toddler-friendly experiments, exercise your discretion while conducting them.
You need to be with your child for the duration of the experiments.
You might need to guide them through steps; if you aren’t confident that your toddler will follow through, take the lead.
Even though these are toddler-safe experiments, make sure your baby doesn’t mouth any of the ingredients.
Toddlers love a good fizzing experiment. All the materials you need for this experiment are easily available in your home: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate), citric acid, and water. Take equal portions of each ingredient in separate cups.
Optional ingredients: If you want a colourful fizz, add a few drops of your child’s favourite food-grade colour into water. You can also add glitter to either baking soda or citric acid.
To a bigger bowl or container, add baking soda and citric acid together. Then let your child pour the water into this mix. Watch how the foam forms and then settles into a bubbling potion. Explain to your child the fizz is formed due to the release of carbon dioxide.
Lessons learnt: Chemical reaction of citric acid and baking soda
A classic activity to stimulate your child’s senses, a lava lamp is the perfect experiment to teach your child about density. For this, you need water, vegetable oil, food colouring, and effervescent tablets.
You can substitute the effervescent tablets with:
a pinch of baking soda and a drop of vinegar, or
a spoon of table salt.
In a bottle, pour water till one-third capacity. Instruct your child to add their favourite food colour and mix well. Add vegetable oil to the mix until an inch or two is left at the top. You would see oil at the top and the water at the bottom, both staying separate. Explain to your little one that water is heavier than oil.
While this itself will be fun for your child, you can spice things up by adding the effervescent tablet. As the tablet settles at the bottom, it releases bubbles. Switch off the lights and shine a flashlight on the bottle to see how the bubbles mix with the colours.
Lessons learnt: Density of different liquids
You can start this experiment by first talking to your child about volcanoes. Though it is highly unlikely that your child might ever experience this in real time, it is a magnificent natural event to learn about. Try using an age-appropriate book ー Exploring Volcanoes With Zayn & Zoey ー to explain.
For the volcano experiment, while an elaborate setup (read: volcanic mountains) does a convincing job with toddlers, it is time-consuming to build it.
The following are the ingredients required for the easiest volcano recipe: a plastic cup, water, 4-6 tablespoons of baking soda, a spoon of dishwashing liquid, one cup of vinegar, and food colour (optional).
Set the plastic cup where you are able to control the mess. Instruct your child to fill the cup halfway with water. Add baking soda, food colour, and dishwashing liquid to the water; stir until everything is combined. Add vinegar and see the lava flow out.
Lessons learnt: Scientific knowledge of volcanoes; chemical reaction of baking soda and vinegar
If your child is artsy, they would love this experiment. You need a plate, half a cup of milk, some dishwashing liquid, cotton buds, and at least three food colours.
Instruct your child to carefully pour the milk on the plate. Once the milk is still, add drops of different food colours. Dip the cotton bud in the dishwashing liquid and touch the colours in the milk. Cue “wow”.
Explain to your child that the milk has fat in it and the colours float on the top because they are lighter. When the dishwashing liquid comes in contact with the milk, the fat separates making colourful patterns. This is why dishwashing liquid is used to clean oily and greasy utensils.
Lessons learnt: Surface tension
If your child hasn’t already raised questions about rain or clouds ー for instance, “Who is pouring water from the sky?” ー it is only a matter of time before they do. Talk to your child about the water cycle using The Water Cycle With Zayn & Zoey.
This experiment gives your child a visual understanding of rain and clouds. For this, you need a clear mason jar, shaving cream, different food colours, water, paper cups, and droppers.
Pour water in the jar up to halfway. Add shaving cream generously on top. Mix food colours in small quantities of water in different paper cups. One by one, pour the coloured water on the shaving cream and wait for the magic to happen.
Ask your child to verbalise what they see. Explain to your child what is happening. The shaving cream acts as the cloud, coloured water is the rain, and clear water is the air. As in a real cloud, the water in the shaving cream gets heavy and colourful water droplets drop down due to gravity.
Lessons learnt: Precipitation, water cycle
Learn about space and planets with Slimey Pod's 2-in-1 Space Slime.
Understand the concept of magnetic fields using Stax Glow In The Dark.
For older children, learn about molecules and covalent bonds with One-Step Tie Dye Kit.
As they grow older, children may not always find it easy to understand concepts from text in books. Experiments will always nurture a child’s curiosity and explain scientific concepts better.
Even if they aren’t interested in becoming a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, encouraging your little one to do science experiments helps stimulate their brain and makes them less averse to learning complex concepts.