Earth Day Absorption Science

Water is a fantastic “chemical” to do science experiments and investigations with.  I love this easy water absorption activity, especially for the littlest tots.   Easy to set up with cotton make-up pads, some water and droppers.  Using blue and green water, this makes a perfect Earth Day STEAM activity.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Small tray/plate or cookie sheet
  • cup of blue water
  • cup of green water
  • dropper
  • Round cotton pads

Show your little one a picture of the Earth.  We spent some time talking about our planet and where we live on the planet, that the blue was oceans, the green and brown was the land and the white were the clouds.

Next, I gave them a cup of green water, blue water, dropper and a cotton pad and told them to drip the colored water onto the pad to create their own Earth.

The tots LOVE droppers!

The youngest ones dipped their pads in the water or dumped the water onto their pads.

The older ones were particular about where to place the green and blue drops.

They were so proud of their Earths!

The Science Behind the Activity:

I love using droppers whenever possible as it is a great way to strengthen muscles in preparation for learning to write AND it develops fine motor skills, both of which are vital as pre-writing skills begin emerging.  It’s also a great way to watch how water gets “sucked up” by the cotton pad and to introduce big words such as “absorb” and absorption” to their expanding vocabulary.

Visit this link to see where I got my “wet” idea from: http://littlebinsforlittlehands.com/earth-day-water-science-experiment/

For more Earth Day activities, try the following:

Also, if you like this activity, you will LOVE the Water Absorption Tray!  Another easy water science activity that you can put together with whatever you have at home!

Panning for Gold

So technically, this isn’t a *science* experiment/activity but it was part of my activities for St. Patrick’s Day where we went hunting for gold to put in our gold pots.  But it was so much fun for the tiny tots and for my superheroes that I had to share it:)  Super easy to do!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Bin or Sandbox (I use the shoebox size bins from the dollar store)
  • Sand (I used the play sand from Home Depot)
  • Gold (we painted rocks in our yard with metallic gold acrylic paint)
  • Plastic gold coins or pennies, plastic gems or shiny glass stones
  • “Tools”: sand toys such as sifters, shovels, rakes, magnifying glasses, etc…

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To prepare the rocks:

We first collected big and small rocks to make large gold pieces and small gold nuggets.  Then we painted them with gold acrylic paint.

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We let them dry and they looked AWESOME!

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To prepare the box:

Fill the bin about halfway with sand.  Bury the gold rocks and gold coins into the sand.   Make sure all the treasures are covered up by the sand.

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Give your superheroes some “Tools” and let them dig and discover!  That’s it!  Easy!

IMG_5485The little ones enjoyed digging in their boxes for gold and treasures!

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This was definitely a favorite for my superheroes and the Tiny Tots in my science class.  I’ve also varied this with dinosaur eggs and skeletons in my Dinosaur Dig activity

 The Science behind the Activity:

Here is another science activity that invites young children to explore, investigate and be curious, just like real scientists.  They choose which tools to use and how to use them and what methods are best for locating the hidden items, and cleaning off their finds.  Lots of problem-solving and the kids think that they are just playing in the sand!

Extension:

This activity can be modified for any hidden items.  You could also throw in some gems, large beads,  Great for a pirate party or to link to a history unit.  You can also add magnetic items and non magnetic items and have them use a magnetic wand to find and test the items!  So many options!

Travel on Sand (or Snow)

My son asked me for money to buy a book at the school book fair.  I assumed he would purchase a Star Wars or Superhero type book.  I was correct.  BUT, it was a Star Wars Science Fair Book so I was pretty impressed at his choice.  We are slowly trying out some of the classic experiments in the book with a Star Wars twist but seriously they can be done without the Star Wars connection.

This particular investigation explores how to travel in the desert/snowy environments of the planets that the Star Wars characters live on.  We added some of our own extensions to this as well.  Super easy to get this set up!

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Here’s what you need to get started:

  • box or container (we use the plastic shoeboxes from the dollar store)
  • enough sand to fill the container about 1/2 full
  • cardboard (we used leftover cardboard from our multiple Amazon deliveries)
  • scissors
  • jar lid
  • dime or penny
  • pencil

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Before starting this activity, I asked my son how it feels to walk on the sand at the beach.  Is it hard to walk?  What happens to your feet as you step in the sand?  I then had him take the pencil and press gently into the box of sand and obviously, the pencil immediately sank in.

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Next we used the jar lid and coin to draw 2 circles of different sizes.

IMG_2665I helped him cut the circles out of the cardboard since it was so thick and difficult for him to do on his own.

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Next, he placed the small cardboard circle on the sand and used the pencil eraser to apply some pressure as before.  We repeated with the larger circle.

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The smaller circle did eventually begin to sink into sand but not like the pencil did.  The large circle did not sink at all.  I asked my son why he thought that was.  I asked him if it hurts more to poke him with a sharp pencil or with my flat palm.  I asked him some probing questions and then it led us to talking about skis and snowboards and why they don’t sink in the snow.  So guess what?  We cut out skis and snowboards out of the cardboard to test out his theory.

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The snowboard did pretty well under pressure.
IMG_2675The skis buckled a bit (more due to the cardboard bending than the shape/surface area) but still didn’t sink.

We tried out snowshoe shapes as well (my son thought they looked more like tennis rackets…sigh).  Those held up pretty well, too.

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This simple experiment was really so easy but led to some fantastic discussion and experimentation with my son and I.  I thought it was going to take us 5 minutes but by the time we tested all our shapes and discussed his theories and the science behind it all, it was 45 minutes!  Wow!  Time flies when learning is FUN!

And lastly, the Lego Star Wars Minifigures went into the box for some playtime:)

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The Science behind the activity:

In physics, students are taught that a force applied over a given area results in pressure or P=F/A.  The greater the force applied, the greater the pressure.  BUT, if you increase the area over which the force is applied, you can REDUCE the pressure.  This is why it hurts more when someone steps on you with the tip of a high heel versus a flat shoe.  Or why it hurts more if your little brother pokes you with a toy sword versus a toy shield (I am not promoting violence but I do live with three little boys…)  It’s why you don’t sink in the snow with skis or on a snowboard but leave deep shoe prints while walking with just your boots.  It depends on how your body weight is being distributed over a small or large area.

Extension: Have your child make large cardboard or wooden versions of these that they can put on their feet and test it on in a sandbox.  Do you get the same results?

For more details and to see where I got this idea from check out this fantastic book we got from the book fair Star Wars Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles and sold by Scholastic Books.

Layers of the Earth

I wanted to show my superheroes what our Earth looked like from the inside.  They’ve seen plenty of images of the outside with the oceans and the continents.  I found this great model Earth activity to do with them that would show them all the layers underneath the Earth’s surface.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • Playdoh in the following colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, brown
  • Dental Floss

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I couldn’t find a single pack of brown playdoh anywhere so I made my own batch using a recipe given to me by son’s preschool teacher many moons ago.

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I made a large batch of playdoh and used brown liquid watercolor to get the color I wanted.  So mine is definitely not meant for the mouth.  I must admit, the homemade playdoh is so much softer and easier to play and mold with.  But I digress…

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We first took the red playdoh and made a very small ball with it.  (We should have made ours smaller).  The red ball represents the Earth’s inner core, a solid mass of iron.

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We next took the orange playdoh and flattened it out a bit and then wrapped the red ball inside.  We rolled it around to smooth out the bumps.  The orange layer represents the outer core, a liquid mass of iron and nickel.

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We repeated the previous step with yellow playdoh to form the Earth’s mantle and then added the brown on top of that to represent the Earth’s crust.  The mantle is thick solid rocky substance.  The crust is the thinnest part of the Earth made up primarily of rock.

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The boys ended up using a roller to flatten out the larger layers and it was much easier.

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On top of the crust, we added bits of blue and green to form the oceans and the continents.  The crust is covered up by the oceans and only the tips of the crust protrude above the oceans as continents and landmasses.

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My middle son wanted to hold the “world” in his hands!

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Finally, our Earth was complete.  But we need to see our layers, right?  So, we used a piece of dental floss to cut through the Earth.

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Why floss?  Because floss will cut through smoothly without smooshing your Earth into a lopsided blob the way a knife will.

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We got a nice clean cut and were able to see all of the layers of the Earth distinctly.

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The superheroes loved it!  And then they were ready to just play with the playdoh.  The good thing is that I was easily able to put the Earth back together to show my Tiny Tots in class the following day.

If I were to do this again, I would make the mantle layer (yellow) thicker and the inner core (red) a bit smaller.

Here’s where I got my idea from: http://www.meetthedubiens.com/2011/04/playdoh-planet-earth-and-some-babbling.html

Salt Dough Dinosaur Fossils

By far the biggest hit of my Dinosaur theme Science class are the salt dough fossils.  So easy to make the dough and the kids love playing with it like playdough.  And best of all?  You can bake them, paint them and save them or give them as gifts!  With the holidays right around the corner, you have to try this!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 cup water
  • toy animals, dinosaurs, anything that can leave a fun imprint!

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Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl.  Add about 1 cup lukewarm water and knead until you have a nice dough.  If it gets too sticky, add more flour.  That’s it!

Break off the dough and flatten it to about 1/2 inch thick.

IMG_2315We used a bunch of dinosaur skeletons and toy dinosaurs to make imprints of their feet and their skeletons.

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When your fossils are done, bake them in the oven at 200°F for about 3 hours.  They should be fairly hard by the time they cool.

IMG_0328You can paint your fossils and spray them with acrylic spray to save them as keepsakes.

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Extension:

A fun way to play with these fossils is to have the kids make them with their favorite toy animal prints and then later try to match the footprints with the animals.  A different twist to a matching game for little superheroes and a fabulous way to build their reasoning skills.

Click on the link to see where I got the idea from and for more details:

http://www.loveplayandlearn.com/2013/02/salt-dough-recipe.html

Dinosaur Eggs

As part of my dinosaur theme, I like to set up a “Dinosaur Dig”.  One of the treasures my Mini-Paleontologists dig for are fossils.  These easy homemade Dinosaur Eggs are a great way for your superheroes to use their problem solving skills to crack them open and discover what’s inside and how to get it out.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Cornstarch
  • Sand (I used some sand we got from the beach as well as play sand from Home Depot)
  • Cream of Tartar
  • Water
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Old Pot (or one you don’t mind getting scratched up from the sand)
  • Some dinosaurs (or other small animal figures-I got mine from the dollar store)
  • Tools: brushes, toothbrushes, plastic knives (metal butter knives if your kids are old enough), magnifying glassesIMG_2320

To make the dinosaur eggs:

Add 1 cup of sand, 1/2 cup of cornstarch and 1/2 tsp of Cream of Tartar to an old pot.  I say an old pot in case you are worried about it getting scratched from the sand.

Add 1/2 cup of water and mix over medium-low heat.  It will be watery at first but will slowly thicken into a dough.

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Once the dough has formed, place it on a cutting board to cool a bit.

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I used dinosaur skulls and small dinosaurs for my eggs.

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Place a dinosaur or skull into the chunk of dough and shape into an egg.

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Let it dry overnight.  I put ours out in the sun and they were rock hard the next morning.

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Give your kids the tools to break it open.  Or hide them in a sand box.  Or make it part of a dinosaur dig!

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The superheroes used a knife and their hands to crack the eggs open.

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They used brushes and magnifying glasses to examine the dinosaurs and clean them off.

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Science Behind the Activity:

This is an excellent way to develop fine motor skills as well as enhance problem solving skills.  The superheroes tried many different ways to get the eggs open, using their hands and tools.  Once they discovered the skulls, I gave them a chart to try to identify which skull belonged to which dinosaur.