My kids LOVE doing science experiments. They can be as simple as you want them to be but engage kids in a way that allow them to develop a mind for inquiry and curiosity. Science writer, Gabrielle Walker states that "Experiments encourage kids to be curious, creative and confident." Science allows children to interact with the world around them in a hands on way in relation to our bodies, nature, cooking, gardening and much more.
But just doing a science experiment is the first step, it is also important to develop a child's critical thinking through inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning "is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems or scenarios—rather than simply presenting established facts or portraying a smooth path to knowledge." It helps kids construct meaning for themselves by asking questions, making hypothesis, and solving problems.
Here is the first of a series of experiments we will share with you - a classic vinegar and baking soda experiment. I set up the experiment by placing a layer of baking soda on a baking sheet. Then I filled an ice cube tray with some colored vinegar. The colors help the kids see the reaction better. We used eye droppers to transfer the vinegar onto the baking soda.
I began by asking my kids, "What do you think will happen when we put the vinegar into the baking soda?" As my kids are only 2 and 3 years old, their answers were extremely basic which is completely okay. We don't need them to be complicated and in depth, but just begin to develop scientific thinking by making predictions, then comparing their predictions to what actually happens. My 3 year old said he thought the baking soda would change into the colors of the vinegar which was a great prediction.
So they put a drop of vinegar into the baking soda and were amazed. I encouraged them to try again and notice what was happening. I then asked them to think specifically about their senses:
1. What do you see? (Bubbles, colors, popping)
2. What do you hear? (Fizzing, popping)
3. What do you smell? (sour)
Then we discussed what happened - when the vinegar touched the baking soda, it created a reaction that caused it to fizz. The baking soda also changed colors just like we predicted. These discussions are an important part of the experiment process to help the kids develop critical thinking skills that are important for solving problems and being creative.
What is Inquiry-Based Learning
Effects of Inquiry-based Learning on Students' Science Literacy Skills and Confidence
Developing Sixth Graders' Inquiry Skills to Construct Explanations in Inquiry-based Learning Environments
Phases of Inquiry Based Learning: Definitions and the inquiry cycle
Here are some awesome books for a range of ages:
1. Kitchen Science Lab for Kids - this book has a ton of science experiment ideas.
2. Mistakes that Worked - this information book has lots of interesting information about inventions that were created through mistakes. This really encourages kids to take chances and engage in the scientific process of critical thinking and problem solving.
3. The Curious Kid's Science Book - a great book filled with ideas for kids to try from age 4-8.
4. Baby Loves Gravity - There is a whole series of Baby Love Science Board books that are written just for babies!