Hands-On Activities to Help Your Child Learn
Parents and caregivers know from experience that young children have a nearly insatiable curiosity. They have a powerful desire to explore and question the world around them.
Educators have suggested that this natural inquisitiveness sets the stage for future learning. As a result, hands-on activities have proven to be a wonderful and successful way for children to learn.
"To truly understand the definition of a word, children must act physically on a concept in which the word was used," writes the late Sam Ed Brown in his popular preschool science book, Bubbles, Rainbows and Worms (Gryphon House, 2004). "When children have tested a concept by exploration and manipulation, then it has meaning."
Mr. Brown's book has easy, simple, hands-on science experiments for parents who are struggling to answer all those "whys." For example, the following experiment with bubbles will help children understand what bubbles are made of and how they work.
Principles: Air is a real substance with weight. Light shows all the colors of the rainbow when it passes through a bubble.
Words to Discuss:
Put a small amount of soap and water in cups so each child has a cup of soapy water. Dip the end of a straw into the cup, remove the straw and allow the soapy mixture to drip once. Blow gently and produce a bubble.
Talk about the air inside the bubble and point out that the bubble has different colors because light changes when it shines through the bubble.
Ask the children why they think bubbles burst when they hit the ground. When it is time to finish the activity, allow the children to catch some of the bubbles on construction paper. Discuss why the popped bubble leaves a wet circle. Allow the children to draw around the wet outline to make designs.
Light contains all the colors of the rainbow. When light passes through the bubble, it reflects and is broken into wavelengths, allowing the different colors to be seen. Wet rings on the construction paper show that a bubble is composed of bubble solution surrounding air.
Principles: Electricity can be made, and static electricity can be seen.
Words to Discuss:
Blow up the balloons. Rub one balloon briskly on a piece of wool. Push the balloon against the wall.
Explain to the children that static electricity created by rubbing the balloon on the wool causes the balloon to stick to the wall. Tell the children that they can also see this static electricity. Ask if they have ever been shocked after walking on a carpet or putting on a sweater.
Tell them they can see what this looks like when it is dark. Darken the room, and rub both balloons briskly on the wool. Hold the balloons, almost touching, so the children can observe a spark jump between them.
Static electricity is created when certain objects rub together, like the balloon and the wool. A spark occurs when two objects that have static electricity in them come together.
Hello, Who's There?
Principles: Sound travels through the air and through objects.
two plastic Styrofoam cups
Words to Discuss:
Punch a small hole in the center of the bottom of each plastic cup. Insert the string through the hole in the plastic cup from the outside to the inside. Tie the end of the string inside the cup around a toothpick and pull. The toothpick will lie across the bottom of the cup, preventing the string from falling out. Do the same with the other cup and the other end of the string. Pull the string tight between the two cups.
Let one child speak directly into the cup while holding the cup with both hands. The other child listens, holding the side of her cup with both hands. What happens? How does the sound travel?
The sound travels along the string when it is tight.