Hi there, mamas! This is Tiffany and today I’ll be discussing science experiments for preschoolers — specifically easy, not-too-messy science experiments you can do with your preschool aged wild child. I am a mom of two crazy and inquisitive boys, Finn and Justus. This past year for Christmas, my mom gifted my oldest son a science experiment kit and ever since then we have fallen in love with doing science experiments!
Doing science experiments can seem like something that only “pro moms” do (you know, those moms with calm, studious children who fold their hands and listen quietly) because it’s messy, difficult and seemingly pointless. I’ve felt that before as I scroll through my Pinterest feed looking for something “educational” yet attainable to do with my crazy and energetic little man.
But there’s hope! I have discovered and tested some science experiments that are accessible and fun for that difficult preschool age group. These activities utilize simple supplies and instructions and offer a fun learning opportunity for you and your kiddo.
Normally, my wild child is bouncing from room to room and activity to activity. However, he loves to stop and do these science experiments with me — and it’s a sneaky way to teach him about nature, problem solving, engineering, and more. Win win!
Before we start though here are some tips for running successful science experiments with preschoolers:
- Prepare supplies in advance I usually do this during nap time if there’s something that needs to be glued, taped, or drilled and I don’t want my preschooler in the middle of it.
- Educate yourself You’ll be surprised how much you can learn by teaching your child. Also, all it takes is a simple Google search to learn about friction or gravity!
- Ask questions A true science experiment is when you have a problem/ask a question, formulate an educated guess (hypothesis) and conduct an experiment to test your guess. Then, you analyze and draw conclusions. All of this sounds really science-y but all I’m really saying is: ask questions. Why does this happen? How can we re-create what just happened? How can we make this reaction bigger/stronger/weaker? As you ask questions, your preschooler is learning how to ask questions also, and how to discover the answers.
- Have fun Don’t sweat the small stuff. If the experiment doesn’t turn out the way you think it should that’s okay! Your kid really won’t care (or even notice?). Just have fun with your kiddo and enjoy this moment that you get to learn together.
Now, on to the fun stuff!
6 science experiments for preschoolers
Your child gets to build something (hello, engineering skills!) and launch stuff across the house. Sounds like a win-win for your kiddo! Finn had so much fun catapulting items down our hallway. It took some coordination for him to figure out the best way to launch his items, but once he figured it out he was ecstatic. Eventually he got a lego truck and strapped the catapult onto the truck for a mobile launcher!
7 jumbo craft sticks
4 rubber bands
Juice or soda bottle lid/cap
A collection of several different projectiles (for example: dried beans, pom pom balls, erasers, marshmallows, nuts, dried fruit, cotton balls, paper clips, etc.)
Stack 5 jumbo craft sticks together and secure them on each end with a rubber band. This is the fulcrum.
Take the remaining two craft sticks and stack them. Secure one end with a rubber band. Spread the sticks apart so they make a ‘V’ and insert them into the fulcrum so that the fulcrum is between the two craft sticks. With your remaining rubber band, criss cross the band around the fulcrum and the ‘V’ so that they’re attached to each other and secure.
Glue the juice bottle lid onto the end of one of the ‘V’ craft sticks.
Once the glue is dry and the lid is secure, start flinging projectiles!
Have your child make predictions: which item will go the farthest? Why? Are there any items that you think won’t fly very far? Why?
If you have more than one child, you can make several catapults and have a catapulting competition!
4. Sink or Float
This is another favorite that we’ve come back to time and again. Finn fell in love with this “game” through Blippi. This one is incredibly simple as well – all you need is a large container of water (could even use the kitchen sink or bathtub) and a random assortment of household objects that can get wet. Try to choose things with different materials and weights/sizes (metal, plastic, cloth, etc.)
Large container to hold water
Household objects that can get wet (example: loose change, a feather, bath toys, silverware, snack food, leaves, sticks)
Fill your container with water and collect your objects. If keeping the mess to a minimum is important you can easily set this up outside or inside in the bathtub.
Before you drop each item into the water, start with a hypothesis: Do you think this item will sink or float? Then, drop the item into the water and see what happens.
Discuss: why did this item sink or float? Does it have to do with the shape, the material, the size, the weight or something else?
Density might be a hard subject for a preschooler to understand, but I like this video about sink or float with a discussion on density. At this stage with Finn, we’ve mostly just discussed the heaviness of an object compared to the water.
3. Baking soda + vinegar balloon
This is a unique take on the classic chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar that brings one of most preschoolers’ favorite things into the equation: balloons. There are all sorts of fun, exciting things to do with baking soda and vinegar which you can also try — like creating a volcano or exploding a plastic sandwich bag — but for this experiment the chemical reaction creates carbon dioxide, which fills the balloon. As if by magic!
Bottle with a narrow spout
Pour 1/4 cup vinegar into the bottle.
Using the funnel, pour 2 tablespoons of baking soda into the balloon.
Without pouring the baking soda into the vinegar, attach the balloon to the spout of the vinegar bottle. Once it’s securely in place, pour the baking soda into the vinegar and observe.
Discover: when an acid (vinegar) and a base (baking soda) combine, they create a chemical reaction = carbon dioxide! Carbon dioxide is a gas, which is why it fills up the balloon.
Experiment: what happens if you add more/less vinegar or baking soda? What happens if the vinegar is warm or cold?
Note: Be careful because the balloon COULD explode if you add too much baking soda/vinegar!
4. CD Hovercraft
This one will help you score extra cool points with your kiddo. I recommend drilling the hole in the bottle cap and gluing it to the CD while your child naps or when you have a few moments to yourself.
An old CD or DVD
A soda or juice bottle cap with a hole drilled in the middle
Hot glue gun
First, have your child try to slide a CD over a flat surface, such as a table or tile floor. How far does the CD go before it stops? Why does it stop?
Discover: friction! Friction is when one force is rubbing against another force, causing it to slow down or stop.
Drill a hole into your juice bottle cap and glue it onto the middle of your CD/DVD so that it covers the circle in the middle of the CD.
Inflate a balloon – twist the enclosure but do not tie it.
Place the CD on a flat surface. Holding the balloon closed, attach the balloon to the cap that’s glued onto the CD. Make sure the balloon is directly over the center of the disc. Then, let go of the balloon so that the air can travel through the hole in the cap. The air from the balloon will go through the hole, reducing the friction of the CD on the flat surface – and there’s your hovercraft!
Discuss: How far can the CD go now? Why does that happen? What happened to the friction?
5. Gravity Drop
If you have a staircase where you can stand at the top and see down to the bottom, that’s ideal for this experiment. If not, have your child stand up on a chair (carefully) to “test” gravity!
Objects of various sizes/weights that can safely be dropped (i.e. they won’t break if you drop them)
Stairs or a chair
Have your child gather various items that they would like to “test.”
Discuss: why do things fall when we drop them? Why don’t they just float up into the air?
Discover: gravity! Gravity is the force that keeps us “stuck” to the Earth. It is also what keeps our planet orbiting around the sun, and our moon orbiting around Earth.
Two at a time, drop items off of your stairs/chair. As you drop the items, discuss: which item will drop faster? Why?
Discover: if an object has more mass, it will drop faster. The force of the Earth’s gravity works harder/faster on objects that have greater mass.
Have a “race” with different objects to see which object will fall the fastest!
Object ideas: ball, toy block, feather, paper, lego, pencil, napkin, kleenex, paper cup, ribbon, stuffed animal, plastic silverware
6. Bending Water
This is a fun one with a big “wow” factor. Through this experiment, we discovered that rubbing the balloon on mama’s head produced the biggest bend, whereas rubbing the balloon on baby brother’s (mostly bald) head produced the least bend. It also produced a lot of laughs!
Blow up the balloon and tie it shut.
At your sink faucet, run a very small stream of water.
Rub the balloon on your hair and then hold the balloon right next to the stream of water, without touching it. The balloon will pull the water toward it, “bending” it.
Discover: Static electricity! Static electricity is the buildup of an electrical charge on the surface of an object (such as a balloon). This electrical charge can either push objects away or attract them.
Experiment: Why does this happen? Experiment by testing other factors to see how it affects the water. For example: you could turn the water hot or cold, you could rub the balloon on someone’s head with a lot of hair versus someone with only a little bit of hair. Form a hypothesis about which one will create more of a bend in the water.
I hope you found these ideas for science experiments you can do with preschoolers inspiring and helpful! Remember, no matter what happens in your experiments, any and every situation can be used as a learning and bonding opportunity for you and your child. They’ll love all of these, no matter the outcome. Enjoy!