Water, Mirrors, and Reflections: A Physics Investigation for Preschoolers
I’ve been struggling with this post. Not because the activity it’s about wasn’t fun and worthwhile. On the contrary, it was simple to set up, fits well with my belief in the philosophy of learning through play, and engaged my son and my daycare kids for a good amount of time. What I’ve been stuck on is whether to include the word “physics” in a post about an activity for toddlers and preschoolers.
I don’t have a teaching background. Science and math have never been my strong suits. When it comes to kids activities, arts and crafts and nature play are my comfort zones. I don’t want to mislead parents into thinking that I am suggesting they teach physics terms to their three year-olds. Or worse, give them reason to think that I have no business talking about this subject in the first place.
When I mentioned this dilemma to some blogging friends of mine they kindly tolerated my neuroses and convinced me that not only was it ok to write about physics for preschoolers but that I might actually help other parents see how easy it is to incorporate science and math into activities they do with their children.
My son is almost three and the two little ones who come to my house for daycare are two and a half and three. They are too young to understand the law of reflection but they are not too young to benefit from exposure to a simple exploration of reflection. As my son’s first teacher (thank you Mary Catherine from Fun-A-Day for reminding me of that) I am always looking for ways to build on his interests, nurture his curiosity, and introduce new concepts to him in playful and age appropriate ways. I believe that by giving him a broad range of experiences, both in the arts and in sciences, I am helping set the stage for a lifelong love of learning.
And so, without further ado, here’s our activity, “Water, Mirrors and Reflections: A Physics Investigation for Preschoolers”.
The kids and I headed outside with two small mirrors and a plastic storage container. I showed them how the mirrors could be angled to catch sunlight and reflect it onto the birch trees at the edge of our lawn. Then I put the mirrors in the container and had the kids lean in to look at their reflections.
Next came the real fun! Any activity we do with water is always met with enthusiasm and this one was no exception. I gave the kids containers of water (empty pop/soda bottles, a spray bottle without the nozzle, and a little plastic cup) and instructed them to take turns pouring water on top of the mirrors.
As they poured the water we talked about how funny and strange our distorted reflections looked.
After each container was emptied and the water became still we could easily see ourselves in the mirrors again.
Dandelions found their way into the container…
Peanut thought it would be neat to gently shake the container to make the water move. I love that he came up with this great idea to extend our investigation all on his own. We’ve been visiting a stream in our neighbourhood a lot lately and he’s been interested in the ripples that form on the surface of the water when he throws rocks in. I could see that he was drawing on his experiences at the stream while participating in this activity.
Eventually the kids lost interest in peering at their reflections and our activity evolved into good old water play and scooping dandelions.
Thanks for reading! Next time I’ll spare you the rambling preamble about my insecurities.