Simple Kitchen Science for Kids
Science has always been one of my favorite things to introduce to young children. I especially love activities that require very few supplies and provide oodles of opportunity for hands on learning. Here are some of my favorites using materials that may already be in your kitchen. The best part of preschool science is there’s no such thing as a mistake, only a new way to experiment!
Baking Soda and Vinegar
Give a child some baking soda and vinegar and they’ll be entertained for a good long while! We go through these in bulk at preschool and have found Costco to be the least expensive for gallon size vinegar and Amazon to have the best prices for bulk baking soda. You can add clay or sand to make volcanos, put it in your jack-o-lantern to create a spooky Halloween surprise, use spoons, funnels, eye droppers, or bowls, and even try adding a bit off food coloring or dish soap. If you prefer a less messy approach, have your child do their experiment in an empty bathtub and then use the leftovers to clean when they are finished. In addition to a fun carbon dioxide reaction, baking soda and vinegar are great for cleaning!
Cornstarch and Water
Cornstarch and water make a fantastic sensory experience! My favorite way to use this mixture is to put the cornstarch on a cookie tray and then give the child a small cup or spray bottle filled with water. As they add water to the cornstarch and mix it with their fingers, it will turn into something new that is not quite liquid, and not quite solid. You can save this for a few days in a zip lock bag, but when you are ready to toss it, make sure it goes in the trash and not down the drain!
Pour a bit of milk onto a plate so the bottom is covered. Place a few drops of various food coloring in the middle of the milk so the colors are close together. Using a clean toothpick, touch the center of the milk. Does anything happen? Next dip a toothpick into some dish soap and touch the middle of the milk. Watch the colors run! The soap lowers the surface tension and reacts with the proteins in the milk, which sets them into motion.
Homemade playdough is simple to make and feels fantastic. To make a small batch, mix 3 cups of flour, 1.5 cups of salt, 3 cups of water, 5 tablespoons of oil, and 2 tablespoons of cream of tartar in a large pan over the stove. Stir constantly over medium heat until a ball forms. Take the dough out of the pan and knead well on the counter. When cooled, store in a sealed bag. Add spices, extracts, or oils for scented playdough.
Homemade Face Paint
I learned this recipe from one of our teachers and I have loved it ever since! (Thanks Viki!). Combine ¼ a cup of lotion, ¼ a cup of water, ¼ a cup of cornstarch, and a few drops of food coloring. Stir together, add brushes and a mirror, and paint away!
Like with all activities, children should be supervised, and parents should only use ingredients that they have determined are safe and appropriate for their family. Happy experimenting!
Sarah Bradford is the Director at Valley Parent Preschool in Danville, California. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.