Most of our “science” study to this point has been through living life: learning that a cool breeze feels pleasant on a warm day, food with steam coming off of it is too hot to touch, shade provides a cooler respite from the hot sunshine. But, taking time to understand foundational knowledge of learning science, how to use basic lab equipment, and the steps to experimenting helps us gain better ways to explore what’s around us.
Below are some of the concepts we’ve introduced so far (and a sneak peek to others we’re going to explore). We don’t introduce all these concepts at once, but over a week or two (or longer) to build foundational knowledge.
5 Steps to Introducing Science Basics to Preschoolers
- Allow free play. This step is one I constantly have to remind myself. I want to dive into the experiment, but I already know how to use the equipment and follow lab steps. My kids are just learning this process. When I brought out our new lab set, I first allowed free play. We named each piece within the lab set, and the kids handled each piece first. I then poured a little water into each test tube and the beaker. The kids poured between the test tubes, beaker, and flask and tested out the eyedropper. Five or ten minutes of free play before we began specific experiments helped them be ready to focus.
- Concentrate on basic results (not too detailed yet), and focus more on becoming familiar with the process and gaining experience. Begin with a variety of experiments to engage multiple senses and incorporate various fine motor skills (pouring, gripping, squeezing, pre-scissor skills, etc.). Take time for hands-on experience with the process itself rather than obtaining a perfect outcome.
- Begin with great first experiments. Choose experiments geared towards preschoolers both in directions and components. Experiments with quick results help keep budding learners engaged and able to see the fruits of their work, as well as the process of an experiment. Choose experiments that expand on current knowledge and utilize observations children already witness in daily living. We did a simple color mixing experiment, a sink-or-float experiment, and inspected cereal and ants under a preschool-aged microscope in our first week.
- Introduce predictions and charting results. For our sink-or-float experiment, I introduced a prediction chart. We described sink (“the object goes all the way to the bottom”) and float (“the object stays at the top of the water”), then predicted what each of our five objects would do. As we tested each one (the best part!), the kids told us if the object was sinking or floating, and I marked it appropriately. After more practice, we’ll let the kids mark their own charts, but this introduced the practice of recording results.
- Try “instant” experiments first (like ones above), then complete experiments that take longer spans of time to complete. Experiments that take less than 15 minutes from start to finish allow preschoolers to stay focused, learn, but also see results without getting distracted. As your preschoolers understand the process of experimenting more, advance to more in-depth experiments, like growing seeds or mold explorations.
Special needs considerations: Kids with special needs can perform experiments, too! For our son, I often asked questions with multiple-choice answers to allow him to consider what he viewed and learned. We also helped him grade his motions more smoothly when using the eyedropper by using hand-over-hand assistance. I love that the activity cards included incorporate the sense of smell in a couple of experiments. I’ve read about the link between the olfactory system and increased neuron connections, so I’m excited to use this lab set to further his experiences.
Learning Resources Primary Science Lab Set and ViewScope
Thanks to Learning Resources and Stone’s Education Superstore, we were given the Primary Science Lab Set and ViewScope to review.
We love these sets!
I knew I would quickly fall in love with the lab set, but I’m ecstatic at how excited and engaged my kids are with this set. The set includes a beaker, magnifying glass, funnel, eyedropper, flask with stopper, tweezers, goggles, large 6″ test tube and stand, and two small test tubes with lids and stand. Like most Learning Resources materials, these pieces are durable and easy to clean. (Though, you might need to take a little longer time cleaning the eyedropper out after using colored liquids.) The lab set allowed us to provide a solid introduction of lab terms, and the set is definitely multi-use.
I love the set of ten experiment cards included! These ten experiments alone cover a variety of subjects within science and engage multiple senses (including sight, touch, and smell).
My only cautions so far: watch for how you place the lids back on the test tubes and hand wash after each use (especially when using scents or food coloring). For young hands, it can be a little difficult to tighten the test tube lids correctly which might result in slight leakage. We also placed a towel or two under our experimenting surface to make clean up even easier.
We were happily surprised with how well the ViewScope works! Not only does it provide experience in using a microscope, it actually magnifies! To test if my kids could actually see through the viewer, I wrote small letters on pieces of paper. If my kids could tell me what letter they saw, I knew they were looking through the microscope correctly and in focus. (Choose letters like “t” and “x” that look the same when inverted.)
We also caught a few ants and watched them under the microscope. Amazing! This ViewScope uses natural light (which is usually sufficient), so to see the ants in more detail, we pointed a flashlight at the disk. The scope potion can also be unhooked from the base to allow your young scientists to explore outside. This is a great tool for preschool through about 1st grade.
Look how much the ants are magnified! So cool!
Other Resources and Experiments
What do your preschoolers love studying in science right now?
Disclosure: I received the Primary Science lab set and ViewScope free from Stone’s Education in exchange for my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own. I was not compensated in any other manner.
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