I am in England for all of August helping out with my cousin’s children as it is summer holidays over here. The eldest is 6 and loves science. So far we have done lots of things and it has only been a week!
We made an explosion with bicarb and vinegar. We tried lots of different containers and he lead the way once he worked out what was happening. Problem solving which should go where. Vinegar then bicarb? Bicarb then vinegar? Does the speed which the vinegar is poured make a difference? Does the diameter of the mouth of the container make a difference? All things we problem solved, hypothesised then researched.
Another experiment involved making goop, seeing what happened when cornflour and water were combined. This then lead on to seeing what would happen if this mixture was poured into the bucket for washing hands. As it was outside and all safe I thought ‘why not?’. After all, how many great discoveries in history have started with the question “I wonder what would happen if…?”
We tried another experiment with Skittles that is meant to make a rainbow layered in a jar. We were very patient, mixing the Skittles with hot water to melt them. We developed our fine motor control and perseverance slowly syringing the liquid into the jar so as not to disturb the layer below. Sadly this was not successful, but again he asked the question “what would happen if…” this time transferring his knowledge of jelly, and wondering if the mixture would set in the fridge. We tried, it didn’t, but it was a great hypothesis.
Another experiment involved exploring the properties of shaving foam. This was one that the youngest was interested in. She’s nearly 2. While cautious at first she soon was grabbing handfuls and apparently the best place for them was on my legs. Was she transferring what she had seen before? Was she just wanting to explore the sensation and my legs were an easy reach? Once one leg was done the other was asked for, “nother leg”, then “arm” as she coated me in the foam. We were outside, my legs were uncovered and it is just soap, so I allowed her to investigate and explore, letting her lead the play rather than trying to control it. Normally not one to like messy hands she happily played like this for around 15 minutes. She was also developing sensory awareness, fine motor skills, manipulation, understanding of the properties, communication, and demonstrating a close relationship with me, who she has only known for a week.
All of these experiments were fun, child focused, playful and educational. By being fully present and following the children’s cues/ideas I was able to learn more about their thought processes and interests. I could have stopped any of these from happening as they did, saying “that’s not what we are doing”, or “don’t do it that way” or “no, it needs gelatin to set”. Had I have done that would the children have the same level of understanding or achieved as many outcomes? Sometimes it’s ok to ask “what would happen if…” and just go with it. Trust that the children are capable and confident and let them have control.
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