Jumping in mud puddles just to see water splash all over their new clothes and pulling the round ornament off the Christmas tree just to see if it will bounce, toddlers have a natural curiosity about the scientific world. Mischief aside, the best way for toddlers to learn about science is to experience it firsthand — and there are many easy and bulletproof science lessons for toddlers that won’t require doing laundry or sweeping up broken ornaments.
how your budding little scientist how magnetism works. Cut out a 3-inch kite-shaped piece of paper. Tape a paper clip to the top of the paper kite and a 10-inch-long string to the bottom. Tape the free end of the string to the table and pick the kite up by a paper clip with a magnet. Once the kite is off the table, pull the magnet off the paper clip and hold the magnet just above the paper clip, close enough so the magnet still attracts the clip. The smile on your toddler’s face when he sees the kite magically hang in the air will make you forget all about the time you considered putting him up for adoption after he tried to change the color of the cat’s fur with finger paint.
Give your little one an exciting science lesson on thrust with common party balloons. Blow up a balloon and clamp the end closed with an alligator-style clothespin; don’t tie the end of the balloon in a knot. Tape a drinking straw to the side of the balloon with a piece of masking tape and thread a long piece of string through the straw. Tie one end of the string to a high point, such as the top of a bookcase or coat rack, and the other end of the string to a low point, like the leg of a chair. Ask your tyke, “Do you know what balloons do when they get mad? They blast off!” Let your toddler remove the clothespin and watch as she jumps for joy when the balloon climbs up the string.
Teach your toddler how to help save the planet by making his own recycling bin. All you need is a plastic tub, a few sheets of colored craft plastic, child-safe scissors and waterproof glue. Help him cut out shapes of animals, trees and flowers from the craft plastic and glue the shapes to the outside of the bin. Explain the importance of recycling to your toddler by saying, “When we recycle, we help protect all the plants and animals all over the world.” Just don’t be surprised if you find him a week later looking for things to recycle with the contents of the kitchen trash can dumped out all over the floor.
Show your toddler how one of nature’s most wondrous phenomena, the rainbow, is generated. Fill a large glass with water and hold the glass up to the sunlight. Place a large piece of white paper just below and to the opposite side of the glass from the direction the sunlight is coming from. Ask her, “See how the water separates and refracts (but use the word “bends,” seriously, she’s just a toddler) the colors onto the paper?” You can teach her how to remember the colors of the rainbow by singing the song “Roy G. Biv.” Just be sure that you hold onto the glass of water, or the experiment could turn into an accidental lesson on gravity.
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