A few days ago my 3 year old was flipping through a new book of experiments. We are lucky to have family members who are always on the lookout for things that might be useful to us! This book came from the girls Aunty who is a teacher and sometimes gives us old library books from her school that are going to be thrown away. We have gotten some great books this way! This one has hundreds of simple experiments. We just happened to have all the materials for the one that caught my 3 year old’s eye. The experiment was called ‘What’s in the air?’ and all we needed was a plate, candle, matches, play dough, a jar, and some coloured water.
The first step was to use the play dough to stand the candle up in the middle of the plate.
They then poured the coloured water into the plate around the candle.
Next, my job, lighting the candle. We talked about fire and that it needed oxygen to stay alight. They know what oxygen is because we have been learning about the body and talking about how our bodies use oxygen.
I then asked them what would happen when we put the jar over the top of the candle. They both said the candle would go out. When I asked them why my 5 year old was able to tell me that it was because there would be no oxygen for the fire. We put the jar over the top to see if she was right.
After a few seconds the candle went out. They were so focused on that, that they didn’t notice anything else happening.
I finally asked them if they noticed anything else had changed and they discovered that some of the water had been sucked up into the jar!
I asked them why this happened and there were lots of guesses… ‘the jar sucked it up’, ‘ the candle sucked it up into the jar’, ‘the oxygen went out and the water went in’. I asked them where the oxygen went, which prompted them to remember that the oxygen gets used up by the fire. Then I explained that because the oxygen was gone the water moved up into the jar to fill the space left by the oxygen, and that it didn’t fill the whole jar because air is also made up of nitrogen and other gasses. They were fascinated! We have been talking about oxygen in the air and how it travels in our blood to different parts of our body, but it was hard to imagine for a 5 and a 3 year old because it’s not something you can actually see. I think this little experiment really helped them visualise what we had been talking about. A great coincidence that the experiment she had picked could be linked back to something we had been learning about.
Of course after this we repeated the experiment 6 more times. They really enjoyed it!