Introducing the preschool science experiment: Ice and water
© 2008 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved
The preschool science experiment is an opportunity to introduce kids to the concepts of observation, prediction, and testing (Gelman and Brenneman 2004).
The purpose of these experiments is to introduce preschoolers the scientific method and to present kids with the idea that matter can change states.
Water can be a liquid and a solid. What conditions transform ice into water?
Before the experiments: Exploring ice cubes
Give children a plastic bowl of ice cubes and let them play outside. The goal is to let kids explore on their own. You can play, too, but participate as a peer, not a teacher. Kids might try the following:
• “Painting” (i.e., drawing ice cubes across different surfaces to see what tracks they leave behind)
Questions to ask
• What makes ice melt?
• What eventually happens to your ice "paintings"?
If you like, you can also encourage kids to record their observations (by drawing or having you take dictation) in a notebook.
Preschool science experiments: Melting ice
These experiments introduce kids to the idea of making predictions—-thoughtful guesswork about the outcome of an experiment.
They also present kids with the concept of comparing two different conditions (e.g., ice in warm water versus ice in cold water).
Preschool science experiments #1 and #3 can be performed indoors. Experiment #2 should be performed outside, on pavement, during a sunny day. The hotter the better, but you will need a source of shade!
Preschool science experiment #1:
The effects of warm water on ice
• Ice cubes
• Two bowls
• Cold and warm water
Provide kids with two bowls of water—one very warm (but not scalding), the other very cold. Let kids make observations about the temperature of the water (by testing it with their fingers). Then have them consider what will happen if you put an ice cube in each bowl.
Ask kids to make a guess. Which cube will melt faster? Why?
Watch the ice cubes closely and discuss outcomes.
Preschool science experiment #2:
Sun versus shade
• ice cubes
• sunny and shady surfaces
Before beginning the experiment, start a discussion about what makes ice melt. Ask kids to make a guess: Where do you think ice will melt faster? In the sun, or in the shade?
Have kids to put one ice cube in the sun and the other in shade. Watch and note the results.
Why did the ice left in the sun melt faster? Ask kids to stand in the sun and then stand in the shade. Can they feel the difference?
Encourage kids to investigate about two sources of heat—-the sunlight hitting their skin, and the heat that has been absorbed by the pavement.
Have kids touch the pavement to feel the difference between shady pavement and sunny pavement.
Preschool science experiment #3:
Ice and more ice...
• ice cubes
• two large bowls
• two small paper cups
Put an ice cube in each paper cup. Then, in the first bowl, place 1 or 2 ice cubes. In the second bowl, place many ice cubes (10 or more).
In this experiment, kids will place each cup (containing an ice cube) in a bowl. Ask kids to consider what will happen.
In which of the cups will the ice cube melt faster? The bowl with only a couple of cubes? Or the bowl that is packed with cubes?
Place each paper cup in a bowl. Make sure that the cups are standing upright (so they don’t spill their contents). And make sure that the paper cup in the bowl full of ice is surrounded by ice cubes. Watch and note the results.
Why did the ice cube in the packed bowl melt more slowly?
For more activities and for tips about teaching science to young children,
see my page on preschool science.
In addition, check out this
preschool science experiment about making mud bricks.
References: The preschool science experiment
Gelman R and Brenneman K. 2004. Science learning pathways for young children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 19:150-158.