Science is everywhere! You don't need to go to a zoo - you can find all kinds of science-related experiences right in your own backyard. Here is a super simple list of science activities that are both fun and full of learning.
What Can We Find? This is pretty straightforward, but probably not as boring as you'd think. Grass and soil are full of worms, ants, and all kinds of little critters that you wouldn't notice every day. Look under rocks, wood, and leaves. For smaller kids, focus on how individual critters use their bodies to get around (for example, having six legs, wings, or no legs at all). For older kids, bring a book to help them formally identify the creatures they find. You can also expand this activity to identify trees, birds, and other elements in the environment.
How Does It Fall? A backyard likely offers some high perches (a deck, for example) where you and your child can investigate how different things fall. Try things like balls, paper, a feather, or leaves. Do they all fall the same way? Which items fall faster? What is gravity?
Shadow Shakers: If it's sunny, encourage your child to experiment with their own shadow. What shapes can they make? Hand animals are always fun. Try incorporating items with interesting shapes and slowly rotate items to see how their shadows change.
Make It Grow: Get your child to observe and record the growth of a plant or animal. This can happen any time of year, especially if you plant something indoors. Depending on where you live, it may be tricky to find an animal to follow, but caterpillars or ducklings are often easy to identify. Growing veggies is also a really educational activity, and yields some delicious rewards!
Hot/Hotter/Hottest: When the sun is shining bright, different surfaces feel warmer or cooler. Metal slides, for example, are much too hot on a hot summer afternoon. How does the shade of a tree impact the temperature? How does a breeze impact the temperature? Use you hand or an outdoor thermometer to investigate what can impact the heat.
How Does It Slide? Find an array of materials (balls, blocks, toys etc) and see how they all go down the slide. Ask your child to make predictions about items before they slide them. Will the item slide quickly? Will it continue to roll once the slide ends? Why does it roll more effectively than other things? This activity teaches about gravity, momentum, and shapes. This can also be expanded to "How Does It Fly", which is using paper airplanes and other items to test aerodynamics.
Balance Challenge: If your backyard doesn’t have a makeshift balance beam (a plank of wood laid on the grass, for example), head to the nearest park for some balance challenges. Don’t just walk across the beam - make it tricky! Try walking the beam with a book on your head. Try balancing something on the palm of your hand while you walk. Try balancing something (a pencil, for example) on your index finger. How do you stay balanced? What are some tricks to make it easier? How does the speed of movement impact balance? Try this indoors by balancing on one foot. Can you balance as long on a cushion as on the floor? How about with your eyes closed?
A Family Tree: Use flowers, rocks, or leaves to represent family members. Explain how, just like trees, families branch out. Starting with grandparents, use the materials to map out who is who in a family, and connect them all with branches to demonstrate how they all intersect.
Tap into your child's curiosity to keep their mind active and have fun while you're at it! Your backyard has a lot to offer! These activities are extremely simple, but familiarize your child with many important ideas. Go online to find more backyard activity ideas, or get creative and come up with your own!
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