Just because you look at the overturned sippy cup of spilled milk as another chore challenge doesn't mean that it can't also double as a super science lesson. Your young child's inquisitive nature is helping her to explore and make discoveries. Instead of thinking of science as something for older kids or college courses, help your little learner to discover the world around her with projects on absorbing liquids.
Before beginning any science project on absorbing liquids, keep one thing in mind: safety is key. Always supervise your child at all times during the science exploration process. Never use any liquid, item or material that is potentially toxic. It's common for young children to explore with their mouths. Avoid potential safety issues such as ingesting toxic substances or choking by only using child-safe items. For example, glass cleaner is certainly a liquid, but not one that you should use with your young child. The crystal clear blue color may mimic your little one's favorite berry punch drink, making it appealing to his sense of taste. These types of poisonous liquids are a no-no when it comes to absorption science for kids.
What Absorbs Liquids?
Preschoolers, and even older toddlers, can try a basic project that helps them to understand what types of materials do -- and don't -- absorb liquids. Choose a variety of absorbing and non-absorbing materials from around the house. Try a piece of a sponge, cotton, a paper towel, a plastic block, a toy car or any other item that you can think of. Place at least two absorbing and two non-absorbing items on a plate or shallow bowl. Have your child use a clean medicine dropper to drip water onto each item. If you don't have a medicine dropper, use a spoon to slowly add water onto each item. Ask your child to observe what happens and tell you which items absorb the liquid and which ones don't.
Set up a kitchen experiment, allowing your little learner to explore how liquids and other food items mix together. Your child can see how some items change from liquid to a semi-solid simply by mixing and absorbing water or another substance such as milk. Add milk to your favorite pancake batter. Let your child stir the mixture, watching how the white liquid begins to disappear as the batter powder absorbs it. Ask her where she thinks the milk went to and how she helped the powder to absorb the liquid.
Towels and sponges aren't the only things that absorb liquids. Think about the plant's life cycle, and how it needs water to grow and flourish. Help your little one to understand how the water gets from the ground, or a vase, all the way into a flower's stem and petals. Fill a clear cup halfway with water. Add a few drops of a bright food coloring such as green or blue. Place a cut flower with white petals -- such as a carnation -- into colored water. Have your child observe how the color creeps up into the petals, turning the flower into a new hue.
Experiment to see what type of sponge absorbs more, or less, liquid. Choose two different varieties of sponges, making sure each one is roughly the same size as the other: one synthetic and the other natural. Set each sponge on a plate or in a bowl. Fill two measuring cups with equal amounts of water. Slowly pour water onto each sponge, using the same increments. For example, pour 1/8 of a cup on each sponge, then another 1/8 of a cup. Watch the sponges to see how soon they become saturated. You will know that they are saturated when they no longer hold the water and it begins to run out. Compare which sponge holds more.