Magnification experiments will introduce your budding Isaac Newton to the exciting world of optics. Magnification occurs when light travels through different types of lenses, causing the image to bend. Your eyes perceive that an object is a different size, even though it is not. These concepts will be new and exciting for your curious tot, and magnify boring afternoons into big fun.
Your little one can perform a magnification experiment with nothing but a large, clear glass filled with water. Looking through the glass, add different objects like a leaf, pen, or carrot. Another way to use water for magnification is with drops of water. Use a flat piece of glass, or smear a thin layer of petroleum jelly on newsprint. Add a drop of water to magnify whatever is under it. Your preschooler will be intrigued when you explain that the water is actually changing the speed that light is traveling, therefore changing the appearance and seeming size of the object.
For this type of magnification experiment, you'll need to wait for a sunny, cloudless day. This is a powerful experiment to demonstrate how sunlight is intensified when it shines through a magnifying glass. You and your preschooler should wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. Bring something that melts easily -- like ice or chocolate -- outside in a ceramic bowl. Let your child focus a beam of light with the magnifying glass, and watch together as the items melt quickly. If you supervise and have a safe place to do so, you can also use this technique to burn dry leaves or patterns onto a wood beam. Experiment with different sizes of magnifying-glass lenses, as they will heat at different intensities.
Magnifying and Measuring Objects
You can teach your little one about magnification and measuring at the same time with this experiment. Since small items are used in this experiment, watch closely to avoid choking. Line up little items like coins, beads, and earrings. Have a pencil, ruler and paper ready. Kids can measure the length of an object and record it. Next, they can look through a magnifying glass. While you hold the glass, they can measure the object from different distances, and record the various measurements. If they are just getting started with writing, help with the writing and recording.
Even little kids can use a microscope to easily and powerfully magnify items. Computer microscopes, also called digital microscopes, are inexpensive and simple enough for kids to operate. They come with equipment like droppers and slides. Little ones will be amazed by the up close and personal view they get when different substances and items are looked at under a microscope lens. Try dropping liquids like saliva or milk on the slide, and kids can see what types of organisms and debris might be visible. Microscopes will reveal intricate patterns for item like leaves and sticks.