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Simple science activities to try today

Girl and teacher using microscope
Science doesn't have to mean complicated experiments with chemicals and Bunsen burners. Children in the Early Years Foundation Stage can get involved in science with these fun, fast-results experiments. Sarah Cruickshank reports.

Helping children to acquire language, maths and creative skills tends to come easily to parents, but science is another story. Many of us didn’t do well at science at school, so we feel we might struggle to share our (limited) knowledge. But never fear, you can easily bring science to life at home.

A great hub for home-science explorations, packed with videos and free guides to exploring chemistry and physics with children, is the Royal Institution's ExpeRiment site.

Experiments to try at home

There’s no complicated science in the activities we suggest below. If you have a particularly bright child with lots of questions, don’t be afraid to say that you don’t know the answers, but you could find out together from the local library or the internet.
The most important thing is for them (and you!) to have fun. If you show that you are enjoying the activity and are interested in what happens, your child will pick up on that.

Make a Feely Book

This is a really simple project to make something that your child can use over and over again.
You’ll need:
  • Card – A4, you could fold each sheet in half to give you four separate A5 pages.
  • Scraps of fabric, paper, foil, card – anything you can find.
  • Glue – PVA (often called 'school glue' in shops).
How to do it:
  1. Gather all the scraps of material together and talk about them. What colour are they? What different textures are there and how do they feel? Are some materials heavy or light, thick or thin?
  2. Talk about what the different materials would be good for. Is there some plastic that would be good as an umbrella or coat? 
  3. Draw some simple pictures on the card – big and simple ones are best.
  4. Help your child to select the best materials to stick on each picture.
  5. You could write words about colour, texture and what the materials are used for on each page.
  6. Put the finished product with your child’s other books to show that the things you create together are just as valuable as those bought in shops.

Make an egg bounce

The science behind this experiment is explained in the free ExpeRimental factsheet; the acid in liquids like orange juice and vinegar reacts with eggshells and make them dissolve, leaving the inside of the egg intact.

Grow your own cress

Cress is really easy to get hold of and grow. Talk to your child about what the seeds are and how they might change when they’re planted. What might they need to grow?
You'll need:
  • Cress seeds
  • Damp kitchen paper
  • Two plates or saucers (or two lids from margarine tubs)
How to do it:
  1. Sprinkle the seeds on to some damp kitchen roll placed on two plates. Keep one plate on the windowsill and put the other plate into a dark cupboard. Water both plates regularly to keep them damp.
  2. Once the cress has grown (it only takes a few days) have a look at the differences between the two plates. Discuss how the cress grown in the dark is yellow/brown in colour and bending to try and find some light. This shows that the seeds need water and sunlight to grow.
  3. Put the plate of cress from the cupboard onto the windowsill and continue to water it and see what happens to it now that it’s in the sunlight.
  4. Use the cress you grew on the windowsill to make sandwiches. Use this as an opportunity to talk about favourite foods and to explore the different shapes you can cut sandwiches into (try squares and triangles, but also make use of some biscuit cutters).

Make a flame jump through the air

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