Young children are experts at asking questions. They are filled with a natural curiosity about what things are, how they work and why. This natural curiosity opens the doors wide for learning, especially when it comes to science. This same curiosity makes teaching science to preschoolers a rewarding and entertaining experience, both for the child and the adult.
The Fall season presents a variety of interesting science topics to explore with your child. Here are eight, easy, inexpensive and fun Fall-themed science experiments to do with your preschooler that will encourage their natural curiosity and expand their understanding of the world.
Tips for Making the Most of Science Activities and Experiments
1. Before you begin each activity, always ask your child to predict what they think will happen, and why they think it. Keep a journal where your child can record their prediction as well as the actual outcome once the activity is over. Your preschooler can draw pictures of the prediction and the results in place of words.
2. Arouse their natural curiosity and provide your preschooler with lots of hands-on activities.
3. Take advantage of any opportunity that arises to link your science lessons with everyday experiences.
4. There are also many wonderful books you can find that will go along with the Fall theme’s behind each of these experiments.
Some examples include:
Charting Fall Changes
Fall is a season of many changes. Green leaves turn yellow, brown and red. The temperature is more comfortable than it was during Summer, and it slowly becomes colder and colder. This is an excellent opportunity to teach the children about the concept of change. Get a notebook and some crayons. Each day for a period of several weeks, have your child chart record the daily temperature, the different colors of the leaves and even the type clothes they wore for a period of several weeks. This is a great way to give them a concrete example of change.
Pumpkins begin to appear everywhere during the Fall, and are a great tools for teaching several scientific concepts. For example, cut open a pumpkin and let your child help take out the seeds. Discuss how they feel and smell. Wash a few off, then plant them in a cup of soil. Explain to her that pumpkins start from a seed. Throughout the season, have your child water and take care of the plant. Teach her how the water helps the plant grow. Then, using the remaining pumpkin, cut it into three pieces and let one sit outside, one inside and another in the freezer. Check all three each day for several days and discuss the changes that are occurring.
This is a great way to teach about decay and temperature’s effect on it. Let her draw pictures of the pumpkin’s changes every few days or once a week until it reaches a state of decomposition. If you let her touch the pumpkins to examine their texture, make sure to wear gloves! Explain to her how and why the pumpkin begins to break down.
Autumn Sink or Float
For this experiment you will need two trays, a tub or water (or use the bathroom sink) and several Fall related items of different sizes and shapes. Begin by gathering together the Fall related objects such as an apple, a mini pumpkin, acorns, leaves, pine cones, walnuts, stones and other items. Once you have everything together, ask your child to put the objects he thinks will float on one tray, and the ones he thinks will sink on another. Talk a little bit about why he thinks this one item will float while another will sink – including the objects weight and size. If you want to, take a quick picture of the trays as they are. Now let him choose which tray to start with (either the ‘sink’ tray or the ‘float’ tray), and have him place each object one by one in the water to see if it sinks or floats. Now do the same with the other tray. Discuss the findings as they occur. Once finished, have him place the items back onto the trays, once again dividing into sink or float. This time, instead of guessing, he will be using his observations. Now, if you took pictures of the original trays, pull them up and compare the differences!
Fall is the perfect time to learn about leaves. Begin by going on a nature walk and gather different leaves including pine tree needles and cones. Once home, sit with your child at the table and spread out the leaves for comparison. Ask questions such as: do all of the leaves look the same? How are they different? Are there any features they have in common? How many points do they have? Discuss how some are thin and long, others short and wide. Discuss the parts of the leaf (stem, veins) and what a leaf’s purpose is. Make sure to explain that trees and leaves, just like people, need food. Trees need sunlight to make chlorophyll, which is the tree food that keeps leaves green. Tell him how they store this food for times when the sun is not as readily available, like during the fall and winter. Now, place the leaves on a cookie sheet or tray and observe them for one week, coloring a page with a leaf outline on it each day to document the leaf’s colors (and the changes that will begin to occur). Watch as the colors fade and the leaves dry out due to lack of chlorophyll and water.
If you live in an area where acorns are readily available, have your child help you collect some. Once you have a fairly large collection, take them inside and place them on the table. There are several activities you can now do. Begin by sorting them into categories such as big/little, cap/no cap, dark color/light color. Have your child guess which ones will be the heaviest and which will be the lightest, then weigh them on a scale. Discuss your findings. Now, crush one of the acorn’s to see what is inside. If you have a magnifying glass, use it! Discuss which type of nuts humans can eat, and which ones we cannot. This is also an ideal opportunity to discuss how many animals, such as squirrels, begin to gather food in order to prepare for the long Winter.
Discuss how Fall is the harvest season. Talk about the main crops that are harvested. Have a fresh ear of corn on the cob for your child to investigate. Identify the husk and the silk, then show her how to peel back the husk and explore the kernels inside. If you have an ear of Indian corn,place it in a dish of water and watch as over the next several days it will sprout many little sprouts.