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Science was really boring for me throughout grade school and high school. None of my teachers tried to make it interesting; they all were fine with it just being about rote memorization, worksheets, and tired experiments. It’s sad that it wasn’t until I was in college that I had my first teacher who made science FUN to learn.
Everything in science can be made fun, especially for a preschooler! For this experiment, we used one of the best sensory play items out there… water beads. Water beads start out super tiny, but when you leave them in water for several hours, they expand up to the size of a marble! They’re squishy and bouncy and have a really weird texture that kids just love.
This experiment was the first time I played with water beads with my son. I didn’t tell him what was going to happen because I wanted it to be a real experiment. I showed him the super tiny colorful beads without any water and told him we were going to put them in a bowl of water to see what would happen to them. I then explained that he needed to make a hypothesis, (yes, I use the word ‘hypothesis’ with my 2.5 year old!) or a big guess what would change, and we would write down his hypothesis or guess and then find out if he was right or wrong.
His hypothesis was that after leaving the beads in water for 4 hours, they would bounce. We wrote in down on our white board. Good hypothesis!
We checked back on our water beads while they soaked about every half hour. I asked him if he noticed any changes. He wasn’t quite sure just looking at them, but when I brought out some of the beads we didn’t put in water, the ones still super tiny, he noticed right away! He was so excited about the change. Once they were full sized (4-6 hours is mostly full size, but if you leave them in for 24 hours, they’ll get a little bit bigger), we played, and he examined them further.
While he didn’t hypothesize that the water beads would grow, his hypothesis that they would bounce was correct! We looked at the white board where we wrote it down at the start of the experiment and talked about how we had just tested to see if the change he had predicted was correct. Even though he’s years away from doing formal written science experiments, I like planting the idea in his head that science experiments always involve writing down our predictions and observations.
One thing to note if you’re playing with water beads… yes, the ones I linked here are non-toxic, but they still have risks, and not just for kids under 3. If your child eats one (they do look like gumballs), they will expand in your child’s stomach and could cause a blockage. They’re translucent, so they wouldn’t show up on an X-ray, so it would be extra complicated and dangerous for a doctor to remove. Please be extra confident that your child knows not to put these in their mouth before you play with them. And be careful about pets too!
What are some of your favorite sensory activities? Comment and let me know!