Science for the Summer!
Part Two: Explorations
Dr. Rebecca Palacios

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In my most recent blog, I wrote about science for the summer and ways to set the stage for science explorations. My first suggestion was to find out about your child’s interests and set up an experience or exploration with that in mind. I asked: “Is it bugs, bubbles? How about shadows and light, or sound and vibrations? Perhaps it is things that move or things that grow?”

Here are some suggestions on setting up exploration zone with those themes:


As with anything, safety comes first, so when dealing with insects and young children, it is important to have an adult present at all times to keep the youngster safe.


Set up a small area in your home for insect observing. You’ll need a jar with holes in the top so that your child can observe the insects for a day or two before releasing them.

Where do you get the bugs? Dollar stores sell nets and containers for observing insects, and some pet stores sell crickets that you can purchase fairly inexpensively to observe and then release. You can also purchase an ant farm, which usually comes with a coupon to populate the farm.

I have also captured ants from my backyard and placed them in my ant farm. I released them after about two weeks, but in the meantime they dug complex and fascinating pattern tunnels in the perlite sand.

You can try to capture a butterfly with a net in your backyard as well. And sometimes just lying on the grass on a blanket will produce insect finds deep in the grass.

If you don’t have a backyard, you can go to a park or take a nature walk and look for some insects.


  • What are some different kinds of insects?
  • How are insects the same? How are they different?
  • What colors are insects?
  • What do insects need to live?


Are You an Ant? by Judy Allen and Tudor Humphries
Ladybugs by Cheryl Coughlan
Fireflies by Cheryl Coughlan
Bumblebees by Cheryl Coughlan
Grasshoppers by Cheryl Coughlan
Dragonflies by Cheryl Coughlan
Mosquitoes by Cheryl Coughlan
Beetles by Cheryl Coughlan
Crickets by Cheryl Coughlan

Shadows and Light

It’s fun to play with lights and shadows, whether in the sun outdoors or with a flashlight indoors. Set up an indoor area where you can keep your flashlights and other objects, like small stuffed animals and small plastic toys. Read several books about shadows with your child to help him or her understand the properties of light.


Hold up an object such as a stuffed toy or place it on a flat surface. Have your child hold a flashlight in front of it, then move the flashlight closer or farther away. Discuss the differences in the shadow.

Go outside during the morning and observe the shadow of a tree. Then go outside at noon, in the afternoon, and in the evening and compare where the shadows were. Discuss how the changes are made.

Have your child “play” with his shadow, making it move as he moves into different positions.


  • What is outdoors that can make shadows?
  • Can you make a shadow outdoors? How did you do it?
  • How can we make shadows indoors?
  • Can you make the shadow bigger? How?
  • Can you make the shadow smaller? How?


Moonbear’s Shadow by Frank Asch
Shadows and Reflections by Tana Hoban
Day Light, Night Light by Franklyn M. Branley
What Makes Day and Night by Franklyn M. Branley
Whoo’s There? A Bedtime Shadow Book by Heather Zschock

Sound and Vibration

If you don’t mind noise, then this will be a fun exploration! Almost anything can make some kind of sound, and you can control the volume of the exploration by your choice of the materials that you select for your child to play with.


Place small pots and pans with some wooden spoons in your child’s exploration area and have him or her have at it.

Place a variety of objects that make noise in a basket: a rattle, two spoons, a well-sealed container partially filled with macaroni or beans, rhythm sticks, a maraca, or any rhythm instrument.

Use three or more small water glasses with different levels of water in them. Tap the glasses with a pencil, and listen to the sound. Compare the different levels of water with the different pitches of sound.

Cut a long piece of string and have your child hold one end while you hold the other. Pull it tight and pluck the string and have your child feel the vibration on the string.


  • What are some different kinds of sound?
  • What can you use to make different sounds?
  • How can you make sounds loud and soft?
  • How can you make sounds high and low?


Sounds All Around by Wendy Pfeffer
The Sense of Hearing by Elaine Landau
All About Sound by Lisa Trumbauer
Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What Do You Hear? by Bill Martin and Eric Carle
Sound: Loud, Soft, High, and Low by Natalie M. Rosinsky

You can do similar types of explorations for wheels, balls and motion, and seeds and plants, and I’ll describe these in my next blog.

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