Science Experiments for 4-Year-Olds

Children enjoy seeing what items sink and what items float.
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You know you have a budding scientist on your hands if you find experiments in your child's bedroom, a collection of rocks in his pockets or if various insects have taken up residence in your home. Four-year-olds are naturally curious and are hungry to learn. Take advantage of that desire and do a few science projects with your little Einstein. Chances are you'll both learn something -- even it it's just how to clean up a giant mess.

1 Float or Sink

Fill a large bucket with water. Collect several items, some that float and some that sink. Show each item to your 4-year-old and have him guess whether the item will float or sink to the bottom. Have your child place each item in the water to see what it does. If he's having fun and doesn't want to stop, have him collect a few more items he would like to use. As an alternative, do this in the bathtub and your child can get clean at the same time he's expanding his scientific mind.

2 Fading Paper

Gather construction paper in several colors. Ask your 4-year-old to find some flat objects such as a comb, toy or paper cutouts. Take him outside and lay the colored paper in the sun. Have your child place each of his items on the paper. You might need to put rocks on the corners of the paper to keep it from blowing away. Find something else to do for an hour or two and then come back and take the objects off the paper. Your child should see the outline of the items he used because the sun will fade the paper. Pink, blue and black paper works best, but yellow won't work as well. See whether your 4-year-old can give you a guess as to why some colors work better than others. You might be surprised at his intelligent responses.

3 Bubble Up

Create a chemical reaction baking soda and vinegar and it's sure to delight your little scientist. Put a small amount of baking soda into a plastic cup and put it where your child can see inside. Pour white vinegar into a small bowl. Have your child transfer the vinegar to the cup with the baking soda using a plastic spoon, and listen to his shrieks of laughter as he watches the bubbles climb the side of the cup. Add a few drops of food coloring to the white vinegar to make the experiment even more entertaining.

4 Fireworks

All you need to make fireworks in the comfort of your own home is 2 percent milk, food coloring, a cotton swab and dish soap. Pour the 2 percent milk into a shallow plate or pie pan. Drop several colors of food coloring onto the surface of the milk. Give your child a small bowl of dish soap and a cotton swab. Ask him to dip the cotton swab in the soap and gently touch the food coloring with the end. When the soap comes into contact with the food coloring, it'll burst out leaving behind a firework shape. Once your child has touched each of the food coloring drops, have him keep watching. The colors will continue to mix in dizzying displays of swirls. You might want to buy a whole gallon of 2 percent milk because your 4-year-old will want to do this experiment over and over again.

Sara Ipatenco has taught writing, health and nutrition. She started writing in 2007 and has been published in Teaching Tolerance magazine. Ipatenco holds a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in education, both from the University of Denver.