National Science Week runs from 10 to 18 August and although school children are focusing on a 'Destination Moon: More Missions, More Science' theme, this week is a great opportunity for younger children to launch into a whole range of simple science experiments.
As well as being lots of fun, science-based activities are a great way to engage young minds and hone fine motor skills. By conducting beginner-level experiments, preschoolers learn how to ask questions, try new things and solve problems. So here are 5 easy, but exciting, activities to try at home.
A homemade volcano is a great introduction to chemistry. All you need is to pile up some dirt or gravel outside, bury a plastic cup in the top, filled with water, baking soda, washing up liquid and some bright washable paint, then pour on some vinegar and watch your volcano blow.
The eruption is caused by a base-acid reaction between baking soda and vinegar, but your preschooler doesn't need to know that, they'll just want to pour on more vinegar!
This is a beautiful way to show your preschooler how plants suck up water using a gravity-defying technique called 'capillary action'.
For this experiment, line up six glasses or jars on a table, fill them with water and put one white flower in each vessel, with the stem in the water.
Add about 15 drops of food colouring to each glass, using different colour combinations, like yellow, red, blue, green, purple and orange, and study the flowers as they change colour over several hours, then days.
You can experiment with different types of flowers, such as white carnations and roses, or even celery, and use different colours and quantities of food dye, too.
To make magic happen, all you need is a zip-lock plastic bag, three or four sharpened pencils, and some water.
Start by filling the bag two-thirds full with water and seal the top. Then get your little one to hold it upright as you poke a pencil right into the bag and out the other side without a drop being leaked.
Once they've seen the right method, your child will love poking the other pencils through the bag, and if you're wondering why the bag doesn't leak, then it's because plastic bags are made of polymers, or long chains of molecules. The pencil squeezes between these molecule chains, widening the gap between them, but it doesn't break the chains.
To assemble this easy, yet eye-catching, experiment, just find a large plastic bottle, preferably with a child-safe lid, like a mouthwash bottle, and pour in tap water until it's one-third full. Add several drops of blue food colouring, shake well, then fill the remaining two-thirds with cooking oil.
Screw on the lid tightly and get your preschooler to tip the bottle upside down to make waves of blue water roll through the yellow oil. Shaking the bottle makes the ocean bubbly, and as well as looking pretty, this experiment shows that oil and water don't mix.
The science behind this is that water molecules are polar, with a small positive charge at one end and a small negative charge at the other, while oil molecules are non-polar, they have no charge. For this reason, oil is more attracted to oil, and water is more attracted to water, but before your child is old enough to grasp this, they'll just love making and shaking their ocean in a bottle.
We can't promise a goose that lays golden eggs, but this experiment will make a beanstalk spring up before your child's eyes!
All your preschooler needs to do is stuff some cotton balls and dried lima beans into a large glass jar, then add just enough water to moisten the cotton balls. They’ll enjoy spritzing the seeds with water over the coming week and will learn about plant growth as the beans burst to life.
All in all, science-based activities are a great way to entertain, engage, and educate children. There are loads of different experiments, for all ages, and the discoveries they make today will stay with them for all the years to come, so get set for some science!