Join me on my quest to keep a toddler entertained in my garden and home, with nature as our inspiration, and with fun (and a bit of learning!) as our goal. My 2 and ½ year old will test out these simple and easy-to-do-at-home activities; we’ll let you know the results, and would love to hear how you get on, too. I’ll offer some Outdoor Learning Top Tips on how to adapt the activities for older children, and suggest what skills each activity helps you and your child explore. All the activities are simple, use mostly things you will find in and around your home, and will be free, and will hopefully help to keep you both entertained (and sane!) a they have done for me. Enjoy!
The Archimedes Challenge
Have fun with some water, and challenge your toddler to think outside the box with this simple but effective science experiment.
Science and Experimenting
Fine motor skills
What you’ll need:
A bottle with a wide neck, but not wide enough for your child’s hand (take extra care if you use a glass milk bottle)
Pebbles (or things that sink and fit through the neck of the bottle)
Something small that floats
Part fill your bottle with water – at least half full – and let your toddler drop in the floating item.
Ask them if they can retrieve the item, without letting them tip the bottle up. They’ll probably try and squeeze their hand in, so at this point ask them to drop the pebbles in.
See if they notice the water start to rise. You might need to help them at this stage for them to notice the water level change.
Carry on until they can retrieve the floating item from the top of the bottle!
Top tips (and what we learnt along the way):
- For younger children, have lots of pebbles to hand, and start with more water in the bottle. For older ones, collecting the stones is part of the fun!
- Repeat the activity more than once if you can – Oscar spent a lot of time trying to squeeze his hand in the first time round. As soon as we started again, he knew exactly what to do!
- If you can, use something round or even shaped as the floating item – we used a cork in our first attempt, and though it worked well at first, it got a bit wedged as it came to the neck of the bottle, and needed a lot more intervention from me to keep it floating (we used a dandelion flower in the second run).
- The narrower the bottle, the quicker the result!
Water is always fun in our household, so this one was a win. Selecting pebbles from around the garden, and allowing Oscar to work out whether they might fit or not, almost became another activity in itself, and really helped keep his attention. He instantly knew he was making the dandelion flower ‘float up’ when we started the same activity for the second time, and was actually more interested in the task.
For older ones –
- Can they work out how to solve the problem without help from you?
- Can you predict how many pebbles it will take to bring the item to the top? And record how many it actually took?
Thank you the National Lottery Heritage Fund for support with this content.