Space might have been the last frontier for Captain Kirk and his crew but it certainly could be one of your child’s first! From building rockets using recycled materials to exploring the universe, there’s plenty to keep your curious child occupied.
Before you start on any of these projects, it might be a good idea to head to the library for some reading and research. Look for books that include an element of science as some of the concepts in the projects below might require more detailed explanation. Concepts that you might want to read about in advance include gravity, orbits, planets, rockets, jet propulsion and diffusion.
This simple experiment is so much fun that your pre-schooler will be begging you to do it over and over again! All you need is an empty plastic bottle (a 1 litre soft drink bottle is ideal), some cardboard, a cork, a bicycle pump with a needle adaptor, water, tape and a pair of scissors.
Launch the rocket outdoors as the bottle will shoot a fair distance upwards and outwards. Make sure the rocket isn’t aimed at anything breakable (sprinklers, lights, other people, windows, cars) and that all children in the area stand clear of the launch site.
Connect the pump and pump air vigorously into the bottle. After a few seconds, you should experience a lift off! What happens is that as you pump, the air pressure within the bottle builds up until it can force the cork out of the end of the bottle. As the water rushes out, the bottle pushes back in the opposite direction, which results in the bottle shooting upwards.
Explain to your child that space rockets work in very much the same way, but because they are so much heavier and have a much greater distance to travel, space rockets burn fuel to create a very powerful jet of hot gas. To extend your child’s learning further, try varying the amount of water in the rocket or the shape of the rocket’s nose. What happens if you remove the nose and fins? Remember adult supervision is needed at all times.
DIY planet earth
This is a crafty project that will appeal to your child’s artistic side. At the end of it, he’ll have a beautiful poster of the planet Earth in all its glory.
Here's what you will need:
Orbits and how gravity works
For the science-minded, here’s a really quick and fun demonstration you can do with just a marble and a pie tin. If you don’t have a pie tin, anything round with a flat base will do – think plate, saucepan, laundry basin, casserole dish etc. If you like, you can glue or draw an image of the sun in the centre of the plate.
Set the marble in motion and let it spin around the edges of the pie tin. Explain that the path of the marble is the same path the Earth takes as it orbits the sun. The edge of the pie tin is what keeps the marble on its circular rotation. Likewise, the gravitational force exerted by the sun is what keeps the Earth revolving around the sun.
Early Childhood Development Agency