Water experiments provide hands-on fun and discovery for children

My four-year-old stopped to pick some Queen Anne's lace as we walked along the road one day. ``Mom!'' he cried. ``Let's take these home and do that experiment!''

``Which experiment is that?'' I asked, waiting to see how much he would remember from something we had done months before.

``You know,'' he sighed. ``We take these flowers home and put them in a vase with water. Then we put red food coloring in the water.''

I nodded. ``And then what happened?''

``The flowers drank the red water, and they turned red!''

``Right,'' I said. We picked the flowers, and he talked excitedly all the way home, eager to repeat that same project.

A few simple projects for children are listed below. Although there are many others you'll come up with once you're on the lookout, these all have one common element -- water.

Children should have close supervision to ensure safety, but it's also important to have an adult on hand to ask questions, answer inquiries, offer simple explanations, and help with the discovery process.

After trying a few experiments with your children, you'll be likely to agree with the theory that children can learn from informative television, nonfiction books, and adult explanations, but there's nothing quite as exciting or meaningful as discovering by means of eyewitness, hands-on activities! WHAT DISSOLVES?

Materials: Clear glasses or bowls, spoon, water, salt, sugar, flour, pepper, and other baking items. Process: Suggest that the children use a teaspoon and measure one spoonful of each item at a time to see what happens to them when mixed with fresh water. MUSICAL SCALE

Materials: 4 or 5 glasses, water, spoon. Process: Line up glasses on table. Fill each glass with water, increasing amount by about an inch with each glass. Let children tap glasses lightly with spoon and help them discover which glasses make the higher or lower notes.

A variation is to put the water in clean, empty soda bottles and blow lightly over the rims. MAGIC EGG

Materials: Measuring cup, egg, tablespoon, salt. Process: Fill cup three-quarters full with water and gently set in entire egg with shell. Observe. Remove egg. Add 2 tablespoons salt and stir. Gently set egg in again and observe. HOMEMADE PLAY-DOUGH

Materials: Medium-sized pan, stirring spoon, and play-dough ingredients. Process: Combine the following: 1 cup flour, 1/2 cup salt, 2 teaspoons cream of tartar, 1 tablespoon oil, 1 cup water, food coloring if desired.

Allow children to help measure and pour. Then heat over medium heat until doughy consistency. Cool and store in small plastic bag.

Our children were amazed to discover that combining these things over heat turned them into play-dough! BUBBLY BREW

Materials: Teaspoon, paper cup, baking soda, measuring cup, water, vinegar. Process: Put teaspoon of baking soda in paper cup. Combine 1 teaspoon water and 1 teaspoon vinegar in measuring cup and pour slowly into baking soda. The bubbly reaction is sure to surprise and delight children.

You can also test other white powders (salt, sugar, flour) to see if their reaction to the liquid is similar or different. FLOAT OR SINK?

Materials: Pail, water, and assortment of simple objects -- pencil, rock, spoon, small ball, stick, sponge, comb, penny, etc. Process: Fill pail with water and test each item to see if it floats or sinks.

Children can chart their discoveries on a paper which has a label and picture of each item by making an X under F for float, or under S for sink.

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