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Learning through Investigation: Winter Science Activities for Preschoolers

Mar 06, 2024    |   STEM LearningWinter

During their preschool years, children are keen explorers – eager to learn new things and investigate the world around them. As educators, we can tap into children’s sense of curiosity by engaging them in simple science activities that incorporate observation and experimentation. Winter is a great time of year to take the children outside to observe seasonal changes, and to bring science indoors through fun winter-themed activities and science experiments. This article describes the benefits of science learning for little learners, and shares simple science-based activities preschoolers will enjoy during the winter months.  

Learning about Science in Early Childhood

Early science activity builds upon young children’s natural sense of curiosity and encourages them to begin to think like scientists, as they ask questions, make observations, and form hypotheses. This introduction to critical thinking skills helps prepare preschoolers for the transition into kindergarten and for ongoing academic success.  

The article, Science in Early Childhood Classrooms: Content and Process, published by Early Childhood Research & Practice (ERP), explains, “science may be a particularly important domain in early childhood, serving not only to build a basis for future scientific understanding but also to build important skills and attitudes for learning…The content of science for young children is a sophisticated interplay among concepts, scientific reasoning, the nature of science, and doing science. It is not primarily a science of information. While facts are important, children need to begin to build an understanding of basic concepts and how they connect and apply to the world in which they live.”

Winter Science Activities for Preschoolers

Below, you will find several winter-themed experiments and scientific activities for preschoolers. Each activity encourages little ones to explore, investigate, and make discoveries. 

Snowflake Oobleck STEM Activity

Oobleck is a gooey, slime-like substance. It is a “non-Newtonian fluid,” meaning that it has the properties of both a solid and a liquid substance – making this oobleck activity an especially interesting way to introduce basic chemistry and physics concepts to the young children in your care. The unique texture of oobleck also creates a fun sensory experience for little ones! 

To get started, you’ll need the following items: cornstarch, water, glitter, and plastic snowflake ornaments. You’ll also want to set out a cookie sheet or a tray for children to work on. To make your oobleck, mix a cup of cornstarch with 1/2 cup of water– adding in glitter if desired. Adjust the ratios as needed, until you are happy with the consistency of the final product. Stick in your snowflakes, and invite children to explore. As the children play with the oobleck snowflakes, you can introduce concepts and conversation related to solids and liquids. 

To enhance your conversation, you might enjoy pairing this activity with Dr. Seuss’s book, Bartholomew And The Oobleck.

Winter Nature Observations

One of the simplest ways to explore during the winter season is to get outside and enjoy nature. Observing the weather, along with different plants and animals in your community, is a great way for children to learn foundational biology concepts. 

You can extend the learning in this activity by giving children magnifying glasses or binoculars to see nature up close. and inviting them to draw pictures of what they see. You might also bring a camera and take photos of the items that children are interested in so that you can print them out for further investigation in the classroom. 

As they explore, encourage your preschoolers to think deeply about their observations by asking them questions about what they are noticing, such as:  What do the birds look like they’re doing? What kinds of different clouds are up in the sky? How do the plants and trees look different today, compared to when the weather was warmer? 

To enhance your conversation, you might enjoy pairing this activity with the children’s book, What to Look For in Winter by Elizabeth Jenner.  

Fizzing Ice Science Experiment

This simple science experiment is a great way to introduce preschoolers to chemical reactions and basic chemistry principles. You will need the following items: a plastic tub/dishpan, ice cubes, baking soda, blue and/or purple food coloring (you can use any color, but blue and purple work best for a winter theme), vinegar, and pipettes

To set up the experiment, fill the plastic bin with ice cubes and fill the pipettes with vinegar. Cover the top of the ice with a generous amount of baking soda, blue food coloring, and dish soap. (The dish soap helps the experiment’s reaction last longer.) Offer each child a vinegar-filled pipette and invite them to squeeze it onto the ice. The acid from the vinegar reacts with the baking soda to create fizzy ice!

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