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play-based science activities that build stem skills

children playing with slime

Science is a great way to explore ideas, make discoveries and have some fun along the way. Many experiments have that ‘Wow!’ factor for early learners, and there are lots of reasons to encourage science activities at home.

Young children learn through play, and play-based experiments help little ones to:

  • Think in new ways and solve problems

  • Understand cause and effect, and trial and error

  • Practice their communication and teamwork skills

  • Expand their vocabulary and

  • Gain a better understanding of the world.

Home-based science activities are also a chance to spend quality time with a parent and have a giggle as science transforms into sensory play.

To engage your young Einstein, here are 9 simple science activities to try at home:

Create cornflower slime

Slime is wildly popular with children, and cornflour makes a version that’s both easy and educational. When you mix cornflour and water into a slime consistency, you create a non-Newtonian fluid (something that can be solid and liquid). As a result, you and your child can punch or jab the slime to feel a solid, roll it into a ball, then feel it drip through your fingers as a liquid.

Experiment with flotation

For a lesson in Buoyancy 101, fill a larger container with water and help your under five collect different items from around house. As your child drops things (like DUPLO bricks, wooden spoons and toy cars) into the water, ask them if they think the item will sink or float.

Make milk dance

To show your child what a chemical reaction looks like, simply pour full-cream milk into a saucer. Add a few drops of food colouring to the milk and dab the drops with a cotton tip dipped in washing-up liquid. The colouring will dart about in the milk, and for added effect, use a variety of colours, dabbed in different spots.

Grow something from seed

Watercress egg heads are an easy way to show your child how a plant grows, and they’re cute to boot. Just fill some empty eggshells with cotton wool and watercress seeds. Add eyes to the shell with a marker pen and wait for your little friends to sprout ‘hair’.

Build a marble run

For a whiz-bang way to develop your child’s spatial and engineering skills, collect some cardboard tubes, plastic bottles and egg cartons and build a marble run.

This project encourages teamwork, patience, and creativity, and shows children how gradient affects speed. Experiment with different angles and construction and ask your child to predict how (and how fast) they think the marble will travel.

Make a magnet maze

To introduce the magic of magnets, ask your pre-schooler to draw a maze (or simple wriggly line) on a paper plate. Use a magnet under the plate to guide the magnet on top, and explain in simple terms, how magnets work.

Learn about the weather

The weather is a go-to topic for grown-ups and it’s also a great learning experiences for under-fives. To teach your child about wind direction, you can make a wind chime or wind sock, and a plastic bottle with sharpie markings is a simple way to measure rainfall with a DIY rain gauge.

Investigate solubility

To test the dissolvability (or ‘solubility’) of different substances in liquid, lay out some small, see-through containers and a variety of different substances (such as sugar, oil, salt, food colouring, rice and flour). Fill the containers with water and drop a different substance in each one, asking your child if they think the substance will dissolve or not.

Cook something yummy

Edible experiments (also known as recipes!) are another fantastic way to teach your child about weights and measures, different flavours and consistencies, time management and cooking methods, and cause and effect.

There are lots of delicious ideas for fun, nutritious and kid-friendly recipes – give it a try!

play-based science activities for kids

All of these experiments are easy to set up and not too hard to clean up, which makes them as fun for parents as for children. Your budding biologist, first-time physicist and young chemist will be keen to partner with you in the ‘lab’, so take the time to answer their questions, pose your own hypotheses, and explore different ways of approaching each activity. For more fun science-based activities, check out this article from Care for Kids


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