Even the youngest children can be introduced to the primary laws of physics, and one of the best ways to do so is through interactions with the outdoors. With the weather warming up and kids getting a little antsy to be outside, why not take a quick break and sneak in some learning while you’re roaming through the yard? These are just a few of the ways you can get creative with outdoor learning, and explore physics right in our natural world.
Sand and Water
Seeing how sand and water move differently through various spaces and types of filters allows you to introduce the concepts of liquids while waterfalls and basins can show the flow of gravity and provide a multi-sensory experience as children immerse parts of their body in these fun substances. Allow children time alone to experiment with the new mediums, and then gently insert questions that will help them think about what’s happening without distracting from their play. Water offers even more options, as you can introduce ice cubes and show how mixing sand and water together in different volumes results in new consistencies.
Dig in the Dirt
Children love to get dirty, so why not indulge their love of mud while teaching them about soil and how things grow. Add sticks for digging, and your little explorers will be delighted for quite some time. Find some soft seeds that you can break apart to dissect or pull seeds off of different plants you find in the yard. Don’t forget all the interesting little insects that can be found crawling or waddling through the dirt, too! Encourage children to gather building materials such as straw, rocks and grasses and see how they stand up to various levels of pressure.
It’s important to keep in mind that children take time to get into any activity — so don’t rush them! Be sure to allow at least 40-45 minutes per activity in order to gather their full attention and encourage deep understanding. The good news is that the more likely you are to let them get a little dirty, the more likely they are to stay engaged with the great physics lessons you’re trying to share!