There are numerous everyday opportunities for exploring science with your child. For example, your child is learning about the basic properties of light when he notices the size and shape of his shadow change as the sun appears to move across the sky. Seeing his reflection in a mirror, window, or pool of water tells him more about how light behaves. Similarly, you can use common everyday objects such as balloons and paper airplanes to help your child explore the properties of air. And any of these experiences can happen indoors or out, day and night. Make the most of your daily experiences with these everyday science ideas for first and second graders.
Studying your shadow over time: With a piece of chalk and a suitable surface such as a sidewalk or a driveway, you and your child can watch shadows change over a period of time. Begin by asking your child to stand on the surface. Then trace his feet (to know where his feet actually were at the start) and then the outline of his entire shadow. Write down the time, and then repeat this process at intervals throughout the day, trying to be sure that your child stands exactly where he stood earlier. These intervals can be long, such as every hour, or shorter. This kind of shadow recording can provide experiences with the predictable pattern of the sun’s “movement” across the sky. NOTE: The sun is not moving! It is the earth’s rotation on its axis that is causing what appears to us—particularly young children—as a moving sun.
Bending reflections: Flat reflective surfaces offer one kind of view, but what about curved surfaces? Or more than one mirror? Have your child look at a shiny spoon. Ask, “Can you see your reflection in the curved part? What do you notice about your reflection?” Once your child has gotten used to seeing his reflection in any number of surfaces, extend on these experiences by helping him notice the quality of his reflection, such as a changed size or shape, or even if it appears upside-down as the shape of the surface changes. Push him to try to offer an explanation as to why he thinks this is happening. For a creative way to put reflection to use, see the Kaleidoscope activity on PBS Parents.
Paper airplanes: A few sheets of paper and just a small amount of space in a room or outdoors can be enough for some investigation into how things travel through air. You can find instructions for making paper airplanes on the web. Try out different airplane designs; do they all work equally well?