One of the great things about young children is that they will like almost anything if their parents are enthusiastic enough about it (with the notable exceptions of green vegetables and potty training, that is). While maybe it’s not the first thing you associate with “play”, there’s no reason science can’t be fun. Doing experiments is something my boys love – it even made their summer bucket list along with the zoo and the Please Touch Museum! Last year my oldest son got this great present for his birthday, and we used it as the inspiration for our experiment today.
The purpose of today’s experiment was to see how far a car would travel if we made the ramp steeper each time we rolled the car down. We used the car built from the experiment kit, but really any vehicle would work for this. First the boys predicted what they thought would happen to the car when we put more blocks under the end of the ramp. If your kids are fans of Sid the Science Kid or Dinosaur Train they have probably heard the word hypothesis. Don’t be afraid to use it!
Next the boys took turns adding blocks to the ramp, sending the car down, and measuring the distance it traveled. I made a chart to keep track of our data. They were especially impressed the last time we sent the car down because it traveled past the end of the yardstick!Now, my 4 and 5 year old obviously could have figured this out without doing an experiment about it, but I really like how this type of activity teaches them to think and observe. For example, about ten minutes after we finished this, my oldest was rolling two balls across the coffee table when he stopped and asked, “Why does the light ball go farther than the heavy ball?” Now aside from the other obvious question, “Why are you playing with balls in the living room?” I thought that was great! He then found something to push both balls with at the same time and observed what happened. We discussed that the heavy ball took more force to move so it didn’t travel as far as the light ball.
After we were finished outside we went in the house to make a bar graph of our data. The boys enjoyed choosing colors for their bars, and when we were finished they could clearly see that the car had traveled farther each time we raised the ramp. Their predictions were correct!
Making predications and thinking about why things happen is an excellent life skill, and when you have young children it’s the perfect time to teach them that it’s fun as well!
Now go have some fun with YOUR little scientist! --MaryAnn