The kitchen is often a child’s first venue for learning about chemistry and physical changes in materials. What happens when we mix certain ingredients? Does it matter how much of each ingredient we use in a recipe? How does the cake batter change in the oven? Try some of these kitchen science explorations at home with your first or second grader.
Inventing recipes: First graders and reader-writers are ready to both create their own recipes and to record them. Children at this age have some sense of which ingredients they think should be included and in what quantities. After all, science is about experimentation! Encourage your child to make cookies, telling him he can create the recipe on his own—but he should write it down like in a cook book. You can help by making the amounts of each ingredient reasonable. Once the cookies have been tasted you can talk together about how to adjust the recipe for next time—and then, in the true spirit of science, try again! Eventually, you can create a family cookbook with favorite recipes.
Mixing colors: Once you’ve used the ice, don’t fill up those ice cube trays immediately. Use the empty trays as a place for some experimenting with different-colored water. Provide your child with a medicine dropper or a straw, and ideally three different cups of primary-colored water (red, yellow, blue), and an empty ice cube tray. You can begin the process by asking “What do you think will happen when you put a couple of drops of blue and a couple of drops of yellow together in the ice cube tray?” After your child has spent some time exploring, encourage him to record what he has found. And when the tray is full, empty it and start over again. Your child might like the related game, Mix and Paint, on the Curious George web site.