Summer is the perfect time for science experiments. With some careful planning and supplies, it’s fun and exciting to create unforgettable experiments that capture your child’s awe and curiosity. These projects are simple ways to begin showing your child the natural wonders of science as you demonstrate how parts of our world work together. Toddlers that gain a health appreciation and curiosity for science at a young age are far more likely to gravitate toward STEM-based subjects later in school such as math and science. As you plan exciting and creative summer projects, consider these 5 toddler-focused experiments.
Introduce your child to the concept of the “cohesion-tension” theory. Although this sounds complicated, it’s actually very simple. It describes how plants draw water upward through their stem and transport it to their flowers and leaves. Although this process is normally invisible, with a white carnation flower and food coloring, your child can visualize the whole process.
- White carnations
- Jars/tall cups
- Food coloring
Place drops of food coloring in several cups of water. Leave an equal number of cups with plain water. Trim the bottom of each flower stem and create a slit down the middle. Place one half of the stem in the colored water and the other in the plain water. Each flower should have two separate cups. Within several days, your child should notice a “magical” surprise. One half of each carnation will remain white while the other becomes colored.
Capture your child’s interest in the process of “crystallization” by allowing them to grow their very own colorful crystal display. Although this project takes some time to complete it’s great for building patience and detail-orientated skills.
- Hot water
- Giant pipe cleaners (fluffy)
- Clear plastic string
- Pencil or chopstick
- Large container
Bend each of your pipe cleaners into a rainbow-like shape and secure them together with several knots of string. Prepare your crystal recipe by combining 3 tablespoons of Borax powder per 1 cup of boiling water. Continue adding Borax until it no longer dissolves. Tie a piece of string to the peek of the rainbow and tie the other end to the pencil or chopstick; suspend the rainbow completely in the Borax mixture. Soak for at least 12 hours. By the next morning, your rainbow will have a sparkly sheen of tiny crystals. For bigger crystals, continue soaking longer. This project makes a great window decoration your child will definitely be proud of.
Using the power of “osmosis,” your toddler can play the role of “made scientist” for the day and create larger-than-life gummy bears and gummy worms. “Osmosis” focuses on the movement of water as it leaves or enters different objects.
- Clear, plastic cup
- Gummy bears
Place each gummy bear or worm into a clear cup of room-temperature water. Ask your child what they think might happen to the candy. After about 10 hours to several days, something strange will happen to the gummies. Give your child a normal gummy and have them compare it to the gummies in each cup. They should notice a surprising difference in size. Explain how the gummies “soaked-up” water and began to swell as more and more water entered the candy.
Solar power and natural energy is one of our world’s most vital discoveries. Help your child see the wonder and importance of using sunlight as a natural power source. This tasty project is easy to save and repeat throughout the summer months.
- Cardboard box
- Aluminum tin foil
- Plastic wrap
- Graham crackers
- Chocolate bar
- Pencil, stick, or small wooden dowel
Use a pizza box or similar-shaped box as the frame for your solar cooker. Use scissors or a box cutter to cut a 3-sided flap from the box’s lid with at least 1-inch border remaining on the sides. Cover the bottom of the flap with aluminum tin foil and secure with tape. Also, line the inside of the box with foil and secure it as flat as possible. Secure two sheets of plastic wrap across the opening; be sure they’re stretched tight. Use a stick to keep the flap propped upright at a slight angle. The box should sit in a bright, sunny location for the best results. After about 30 minutes of “pre-heating,” place an uncooked s’more on the plastic wrap and wait for the sun to melt the treat. As your child enjoys the treat, explain how the shiny tin foil reflected the sun’s heat and light to melt the marshmallow. If possible, show them real-life solar projects and similar experiments to continue growing their interest.
This eye-catching experiment explores the power of acids and and allows us to catch a sneak peak of what an egg looks like without its shell. This “insider’s view” will definitely stick with your child, especially when they eat eggs in the future.
- Food Coloring (optional)
- Mason jars
Fill each jar with vinegar label them clearly as “Day 1,” “Day 2,” “Day 3,” and “Day 4.” Drop a raw egg inside and double-check that each shell has no cracks. Add several drops of food coloring to give your eggs some festive color. Store jars in the fridge and check back throughout the next 4 days. Each jar will have a uniquely different egg by the end of the experiment. For instance, the egg in the “Day 1” jar will be noticeably firmer than “Day 4.” By the final day, the egg will be very “rubbery” and “squishy.” These different eggs are a result of the acidity in each jar. As an acid, vinegar “eats” away at things; the effects are bigger when vinegar has more time to work.
Keep your toddler’s mind busy and growing over the lazy summer months. Although each of these projects takes supplies and time, the effects and learning opportunities are well worth the investments. The projects also allow you to form many loving memories with your child as they discover brand new facts about the world they live in.