Just like all of us, kids want to feel happy and interested while they are learning. Hands-on activities, where children are creating, moving, and problem solving are wonderful for keeping kids engaged and involved.
Science and art are two great ways to create hands-on activities! Interacting with kids in a positive way also helps to build bonds, practice social skills, and learn life lessons.
Enjoy these five activities! You may also like to come up with some of your own!
Disclaimer: All of the activities in this article need to be done with adult supervision and all instructions followed as indicated. If injury occurs in the making of any of these activities, it is not the responsibility of Education and Behavior. Thank you and have fun!
Project 1. See How the Sun Makes Chemical Changes and Hang Up Your Work as a Decoration
Besides providing us with warmth and light, the sun can make chemical changes. Watch these changes take effect with the following materials:
- direct sunlight
- photosensitive paper (can be found on Amazon.com, or at other online stores or art supply stores)
- objects of your choice to make an imprint
- tub/pan of water
After reading the steps for completing this project below, you may want to use photosensitive paper to teach about letter, number, or shape recognition:
For example, you can put magnetic letters on the photosensitive paper and follow all the steps below. When the paper dries, have your child match the real letters to the spaces on the paper. Here is an example:
1) Find objects that you want to use for you project. Examples could include jewelry, flowers, toy cars, keys, coins, leaves, rocks, buttons etc. Be careful if it is windy because lighter items could blow away.
2) Take out a sheet of photosensitive paper and lay it flat on a table outside in the sun, blue side up.
3) Quickly arrange the objects on the paper
4) Leave the paper flat on the table for two minutes (time with timer/clock) until the color is pale blue. If the color is not pale blue after two minutes, leave it a little bit longer. Be sure not to leave it for too long.
5) Once the paper is pale blue, take the objects off and dunk the paper in the tub of water to wash the chemicals off. Leave the paper in the water for one minute.
6) Take the paper out of he tub and lay it flat or hang it up to dry.
7) Look at the paper to see the shapes left behind from the objects you had placed on the paper. The shapes occurred because those objects blocked the sun from making chemical changes to the paper.
2. Make a Bead Bowl and See How Heat Causes Plastic to Melt or Change Form
- beads: we recommend Perler Beads
- oven-safe bowl such as ones made by Pyrex
- butter Knife
1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2) Grease the bowl with the oil. A light coating should cover the inside of the bowl. You can put some oil on a paper towel and rub the inside of the bowl until it has a light greasy film.
3) Arrange the beads in the bowl in a single layer “bowl shape”, picking whichever colors you and your child like.
4) Have an adult place the bowl in the oven for 10-15 minutes. Check on it after 10 minutes and determine if it needs more time. All beads should appear melted together in the shape of the bowl.
5) Have an adult remove the bowl from the oven using pot holders.
6) Use a butter knife to peel the beads off (bowl should be warm, not hot, when doing this step) and then remove the bead bowl with your hands.
7) Voila! You now have a beautiful bead bowl. It is not recommended to eat food from the bowl. Try storing fruit, jewelry, or using it as a candy dish for wrapped candy.
3. Make a Poster Showing What Trees Look Like in All Four Seasons. Materials:
- construction paper or poster board
- coloring tools such as crayons/markers/colored pencils/water color paint
- child-safe scissors (optional)
- non-toxic glue/paste/tape (optional)
Steps: This project gives you a lot of room for creativity. You can make the poster in any of the following ways:
1) Pull up pictures on your computer screen from Google Images (do a search for “trees in all four seasons“) Here is an example:
Take turns with your child drawing or painting. As a team to try to recreate the images.
2) Another option is to print out the pictures, cut them out, and paste them to your own piece of construction paper or poster board. Organize them however you like. You can label them with the season names, pick whatever color paper you want, and color in different details in the background.
3) As a third option, just talk to your child about what trees look like in different seasons (no need to pull up pictures). Have your child try to color/paint the trees based on how you describe them in different seasons. She may already know how they look in different seasons and can describe them to you while you try to draw them.
You can also work as a team, discussing the changes and drawing while you talk about it. However you decide to create this project, it is a great opportunity to talk about how the weather and sun affects the tree life cycle. You can ask your child to share what he/she already knows about the subject and teach him/her new information. You can also do a Google Web Search to get more information about the tree life cycle so you feel prepared to discuss it with your child or student.
For people who live in warm weather all year, that don’t see these kinds of changes, this project opens up the door to talk about weather and season changes in other parts of the country or other parts of the world, which can also be made into a geography lesson (e.g., where on the map do these types of weather changes occur?).
4. Make Your Own Green (or any color) Slime
- Borax (a powder found by the laundry detergent in the grocery store)
- mixing bowl
- plastic cup
- measuring cup
- food coloring-optional (found at the grocery store in the baking section)
1) Pour an entire 8 oz. bottle of Elmer’s Glue into a mixing bowl.
2) Fill the empty glue bottle up with warm water, put the lid on, and shake the bottle up. Pour the gluey water from the bottle into the mixing bowl and use the spoon to mix all the glue and water together really well.
3) To make the slime a color of your choosing, add a drop or two of food coloring.
4) Measure a half cup of warm water and pour it into your plastic cup. Add a teaspoon of Borax powder and mix. Don’t worry if the Borax powder does not fully dissolve. The Borax is the secret agent that helps turn the Elmer’s Glue into slime, which you will see in the next step.
5) While mixing the glue/water (in your mixing bowl) with a spoon, slowly pour in a little bit of the Borax/water combination. Immediately you will start to feel the long strands of molecules connecting. Now, put down the spoon and start using your hands for the serious mixing. While mixing, keep adding your Borax/water solution to your mixing bowl of glue until everything is mixed together.
6) Now you have your slime. Play with it whenever you like. Keep it away from carpets and hair and put it in a zip lock bag or plastic container when you are not playing with it. See more at Steve Spangler Science
5. Create a Poster that Explains the Water Cycle
- construction paper or poster board
- crayons/markers/colored pencils
- cotton (optional)
- water color paint
- child-safe scissors (optional)
- non-toxic glue/paste (optional)
This project allows for a lot of creative freedom. You can teach your child about the water cycle while working as a team to create this poster. This activity also incorporates a reading and spelling lesson because you can label all the parts of the cycle as shown in the picture above.
If you don’t want to draw everything straight on construction paper, you can cut out clouds, water, a sun, and arrows from different colored construction paper, and then paste them on the poster board. Of course you would have to draw in the rain or paint the rain drops. For the clouds, feel free to draw them, pain them, cut them out, or glue on cotton balls.
If you want to make grey clouds, like the one in the picture above, you can use water color paint to make them grey, let them dry, and then glue them on.
Label the parts of the water cycle by either writing them directly on your poster, or writing them on separate pieces of paper and gluing them on.
These are just some suggestions. You may think of more. Feel free to be as creative as possible with your child to make this exciting scientific poster.
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Rachel Wise is a certified school psychologist and licensed behavior specialist with a Master’s Degree in Education. She is also the head author and CEO at educationandbehavior.com, a site for parents, caregivers, educators, counselors, and therapists to find effective, research-based strategies that work for children. Rachel has been working with individuals with academic and behavioral needs for over 20 years and has a passion for making a positive difference in the lives of children and the adults who support them. For Rachel’s top behavioral strategies all in one place, check out her book, Building Confidence and Improving Behavior in Children, a Guide for Parents and Teachers. If you want Rachel to write for your business, offer behavioral or academic consultation, or speak at your facility about research-based strategies that support children, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.