Physics may sound like a tricky subject for a toddler, but the basics of this science simply have to do with how things work. Toddlers are naturally interested in everything around them — and some simple physics experiments can feed this curiosity and introduce your little scientist to the concepts of light, heat, motion and magnetism.
Investigate light with your toddler. Put a flashlight under his hand to show him how his hand lights up and looks red. Explain that his hand looks red because human skin lets a small amount of light pass through — and the red color comes from the blood vessels in his hand. Shine the flashlight through some colored translucent objects, such as a plastic cup or tissue paper, to show him how the light changes color as it passes through those objects. If it’s sunny, go outside and play with your shadows. Explain shadows to your child by saying, “Since the sunlight can’t pass through you, it creates a dark patch in the shape of you.” You can create shadows of your hands on the wall at home using a lamp or flashlight.
Teach your toddler about heat by demonstrating how objects react to different temperatures. Take ice from the freezer and watch what happens to it in a warm room. Show your toddler the inside of a raw egg — and then heat it up until it goes solid. Your toddler will likely also enjoy tasting chocolate before and after you melt it. Put a metal and plastic spoon into a bowl of hot (not boiling) water — and leave them there for a minute before taking them out for your toddler to feel. Explain to your little one that the metal soaked up more heat than the plastic so it feels warm. You can then remind her to never touch the metal oven or pans as they get very hot.
You can demonstrate motion with a racing game. Scoot a toy brick along the floor or table while your toddler scoots a toy car — explain that the wheels help the car go further and faster. Encourage him to “race” some other objects. Show your toddler how a ball travels different distances, depending how hard he kicks it. Have your toddler try to slide his hand around on a dry tray, then a wet one, and then a wet tray with soap to see how the surface becomes more slippery. You can then talk about the dangers of running on wet surfaces.
Give your toddler a refrigerator magnet and see if he can find surfaces in your home to which it will stick. Help him come to the conclusion that it won’t stick to wood or plastic, but it does stick to some metal surfaces. Put a paper clip on a thin tray or table and have your toddler move it from underneath using a magnet. Explain how the paper clip is trying to stick to the magnet — even through the table. He might also enjoy playing a fishing game with paper fish hooked onto paper clips and trying to “catch” them with a magnet attached to a piece of string.