Our two year old is intrigued by anything you label "science". Like most kids, he loves mixing, pouring and scooping too. I thought what better an activity, in honor of Halloween, than to let him play a little mad scientist and set up with his his very own potion lab.
There are a number of ways that you could set up an activity like this for children of all ages and abilities. I will share with you how we did it for our 2yr old in hopes that it will inspire you to do brew up a little something of your own.
To get started I put out a little table with a variety of elements to be explored. I was trying to appeal to all the senses here so I used everything from water, to vinegar, to different spices. I set out some empty bottles, as well as some that were filled with colored water, some with vinegar and even some with cooking oil. In other containers I set out cornstarch, various spices ( I went through the cupboards and pulled some expired ones), and even some Halloween themed baking sprinkles. Make sure to include all the necessary tools for mixing, pouring, and scooping. We used wooden spoons, measuring cups, whisks, test tubes, funnels, and eye droppers.
Tip: Whenever I empty things in unique bottles like baking spices, coffee creamer bottles, bottles of vanilla and that sort of thing I save the bottles for various activities like this. Kids enjoy the novelty of playing with the differently shaped bottles. My son has been entertained for great lengths of time just pouring plain old water back and forth between fun shaped bottles like this.
We set this activity outside and I included a large but shallow container to set the bottles in. You could easily move it inside and just put towels or sheets on the floor under your table to catch spills.
Once you've got everything set up, step back and let them go for it!
They will pour....
They will mix....
They will learn & be amazed....
When C first came to the table I let him mix and play and explore a bit on his own. Your kids will come up some amazing concoctions this way. You might also choose to get them started by showing them what happens when you do something like add vinegar to baking soda. Once C saw that reaction and knew which bottles to mix for what he deemed the best "fizzle" he was off and running. He wanted to make "fizzy potions" as he called them and I had to refill the baking soda, vinegar, and colored water multiple times.
To make the colorful baking soda and vinegar explosions like we did you can either add food coloring to vinegar or add a little bit of colored water in with the baking soda before adding the vinegar. The added element of using the funnel was great because the mixture would come bubbling right back up the funnel and that really made it look even more like a potion. C added sprinkles and spices for more some added experimentation.
Encourage them to experiment! This is a great opportunity to teach them what the word "hypothesize" means if they don't already know. Ask them (or help them if need be) to create a hypothesis before mixing two elements, like oil and water for example. Was their hypothesis correct?
Be sure and chat with your kids while they are playing. Have them describe to you what they are doing and seeing or describe to them what you are seeing. There's a lot of chemistry going on here, but not only that, my 2yr old added more than a few new words to his vocabulary during this activity. If they don't know how to use all the tools you've provided, show them. Eye droppers are great for developing fine motor skills in little ones. Older kids can practice measuring the ingredients for their potions using measuring cups and spoons. Challenge them to figure out how/if they can alter a reaction by changing the amounts of ingredients they use.
This potion lab is a fantastic sensory experience. There's plenty to look at and touch but there are also many different smells (think vinegar & spices). I must confess we had some mighty interesting smelling potions before it was over. Have your child listen and see if they can hear the fizzing of the baking soda and vinegar mix, and of course there's taste. I can't say much of what I put out was all that appealing but he did sample the sprinkles!
To enhance play even further try teaching a fun Halloween song like 'Stirring the Brew' to sing as they are brewing their potions.
Full time mom to three boys, Jen blogs over at Plain Vanilla Mom. Plain Vanilla Mom is where her love of family, learning, playing, crafting, baking, writing and photography all come together. You will find a little bit of everything on the blog but she is best known for her playful learning ideas and activities for babies and toddlers.