Two-year-olds explore transparent, translucent, and opaque materials

Exploring how light goes through a materialScience activities with two-year-olds may not last very long but sometimes the children surprise me. One group of four children spent about 15 minutes exploring a set of cardboard tubes with ends covered with either clear plastic wrap, wax paper, or a double layer of black plastic (black construction paper would also work). We looked through the tubes and talked about what we saw— could we see through them? Then I put out small flashlights. Exploration took off!

The twos tried each tube, comparing how much they could see through the material and how much light from the flashlight came through.

Child uses a flashlightThe children learned to turn the flashlights on and off, and found out they could hide the flashlights inside two tubes. We talked about being safe by never shining a flashlight into our own or anyone else’s eyes. As children proposed explorations we tried out their ideas. The tiny bathroom really can fit two teachers and four children! The children moved the lights closer and farther away from the wall, noticing how the size of the light beam grew bigger and smaller. One child asked, “Are these toys or are they science?” I said, “They are both, toys and science” which seemed to be an acceptable answer.


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  1. Candace
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    I never thought two year olds were interested in science! This was a great article! Thanks!

  2. Melanie Taylor
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

    How do you find good science activities for the young ages?

  3. Allison Davis
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    Great activity. Are there any other activites that two year olds are able to do in a longer time period?

  4. Larrica
    Posted February 18, 2010 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

    That was a very informing article! Thanks for posting!

  5. Posted February 27, 2010 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    great enquiry/investigation and so doable – thankyou for sharing so generously.

  6. PeggyA
    Posted March 1, 2010 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    You all are excited as a group of two-year-olds and I will post more on doing science with that age! Last week a four-year-old’s exploration into the smell of a broken pine branch inspired me to bring some twigs into the classrooms. The twos pressed the twigs and needles into playdough and pointed out the impression. They used scissors to cut the needles and then noticed the stronger smell, and cut more. The threes did this and glued the pieces to paper to take home to share. Later this year I’ll repeat this activity with maple leaves and pine needles to expand the children’s experience with, and knowledge of, trees.

  7. Posted June 15, 2010 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I think that was a very good idea. The children were able to experience how trees play a part in our environment. You found a way to make the activity age approperiate.(well done)

  8. Peggy Ashbrook
    Posted June 15, 2010 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Dorothy and I have to share your compliment with the two-year-olds because they got out the scissors themselves. Many of the best ideas for expanding the exploration come from the children! I try to urge them to reflect on what they notice and record it somehow so we can refer back to it the next time we discuss the topic. When the children began crushing the now dry maple leaves they had glued to paper when fresh, we looked at the leaf rubbings they had made weeks before and talked about how when the leaves were fresh they folded or bent instead of crumbling.

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