A science scavenger hunt encourages exploration of scientific ideas.

Science Activities for 3 to 5 Year Olds

by Shelley Frost

Forget boring science textbooks. Preschoolers feel like they're playing while learning scientific concepts through hands-on, entertaining activities. That natural curiosity that sometimes gets your preschooler into trouble serves him well when he explores science topics like nature, outer space and buoyancy. Exploration through everyday activity turns your preschooler into a junior scientist.

Scavenger Hunts

A scavenger hunt sends your preschooler on a search for science all around him. Nature provides a seemingly endless list of objects for a science scavenger hunt and you can do it in your own neighborhood. Lists of items like pine cones, rocks, flowers, seeds and leaves get your preschooler moving. Arm your youngster with a bucket to collect the objects and a magnifying glass to better explore the items he finds. Another option is to find examples of scientific ideas, such as something that is frozen on a winter day or something that is growing. Since you can't collect these items, let your preschooler check them off the list when he finds them.


Cooking might not be the first thing that comes to mind, but kids learn about science as they mix and cook recipes in the kitchen. As you whisk eggs in the morning, show your preschooler how they go from a separate yolk and white to a yellow combination. As the eggs cook, they turn from a liquid to a solid state. Baking is another scientific concept in the kitchen. Talk with your preschooler about how all of the individual ingredients combine to make something different. He may not have a full understanding of the science behind baking a cake, but he can marvel at the almost magical changes he sees before his eyes when he helps out in the kitchen.


Chemicals in a lab often come to mind at the mention of experiments, but many preschool-friendly science experiments are available with everyday objects at home. One simple idea is to collect several objects from around the house. One-by-one, let your preschooler drop them in a bathtub or sink filled with water to see if they sink or float. A white carnation placed in a vase of food color-tinted water shows how plants draw the water into the plant. Preschoolers learn about the volume of containers by pouring the same amount of liquid into containers of different shapes. Sprouting seeds in damp paper towels is a classic science experiment that works for preschoolers.

Child-Led Activities

The endless questions a preschooler spews throughout the day sometimes lead into interesting explorations about science topics. Your preschooler's obsession with clouds may lead to an investigation on different types and how they form. A trip to the zoo may spark a passion for learning about different types of animals and their habitat, diet and behavior. The nonstop questioning gets old, but you can turn that curiosity into a child-directed science exploration that your preschooler loves.

About the Author

Based in the Midwest, Shelley Frost has been writing parenting and education articles since 2007. Her experience comes from teaching, tutoring and managing educational after school programs. Frost worked in insurance and software testing before becoming a writer. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education with a reading endorsement.

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