Like my other Science Storytimes this summer (Colors and Dinosaurs), this was limited to 18 children ages 3 to 5, and they were required to have an adult with them. It was 45 minutes (our usual storytimes are 30). We actually ended up with 20 kids, which worked out ok – a few kids must have skipped some of the activities with limited supplies. I also had another staff member to help out at this one. I’m not sure how we could have done the water bottles without a second person.
Opening Song: “I Am Here & You Are Here” by Peter & Ellen Allard (on Sing It! Say It! Stamp It! Sway It! Vol. 3)
Story: Water Can Be by Laura Purdie Salas. We talked before we started about different places we see water – in the pool, at the beach, in the sink, falling as rain or snow – and then started. As we went, I stopped to ask kids to identify some of the other forms of water identified in the story, like fog, clouds, waterfalls, and ice.
Song: “All the Fish Are Swimming in the Water” on Caspar Babypants, I Found You! Volunteers blew bubbles and the kids jumped around and tried to pop them. I thought of having them just do this during the “bubble bubble bubble pop!”, but it was really too short. So this turned into a dancing with bubbles activity. Without the bubbles, you could use it to act out some of the different animals and what they’re doing in the water – swimming, splashing, resting, etc.
After the song, I introduced the activities and let them have at it. Most people stayed the full 45 minutes this time, with most time spent on the water beads. The water beads and rheoscopic fluid bottles were definitely the biggest hits, and some of the families with younger kids skipped the absorbency experiment. We had lots of questions about where to get water beads, how to use them, etc. Several families left with plans to create their own water bead play stations at home. I let the older babies play with the water beads at the end of Babytime, which was right before this program, and one of the moms said she wanted to fill her kiddie pool with them! That would be sensory heaven.
Activity #1 (table): Rheoscopic fluid bottles made out of water bottles, water, liquid food coloring, and powdered mica. I put out a call about a month ago, and a local family volunteered to save up Smart Water bottles for me. I wanted the non-contoured bottles, even though they’re super expensive, because when I tried it with a regular, contoured water bottle, it just didn’t turn out as well. I had a teen volunteer come in earlier in the week to remove the labels. Covering the bottle with vegetable oil and baking soda and letting it sit for a few minutes worked wonders in removing the sticky residue from the labels!
The bottles in this picture, which I made at home, were half-liter bottles. The bottles we made at the program were 1 liter. They were a little bit big for the kids to handle, but super gorgeous! A 1-liter bottle needed about one full dropper of liquid watercolor and 1/2 tsp of mica powder. We limited their color selections to magenta, purple, blue, and green – the lighter colors didn’t show off the mica powder as well. We prefilled the bottles with water and premeasured the mica into small paper cups. When the kids came to this table, they started by coloring the water. Then a staff member helped them pour in the mica. We tested out our funnels and found that the mica tended to get clogged up in them, so we just pinched the paper cup to form a little spout and it worked just fine. We had the kids paint a little bit of tacky glue around the neck of the bottle with a q-tip before recapping it. I don’t know if it will be a super-permanent seal, but it did reinforce that you shouldn’t open the bottles.
I heard from the desk staff that the kids loved to come out of the program and show off their water bottles. A parent also mentioned that these bottles can be used when kids need a cooling off period. I had heard this before – the kids go to a quiet place and shake up the bottle, and then can come out when the bottle has settled. The motion of the bottle is soothing, and it takes long enough to settle that it also serves as a kind of time-out timer.
Activity #2 (table): Absorbent or not absorbent? I set out paper cups of water, droppers, recording sheets, pencils, and bags of items for the kids to test – cotton ball, cardstock, filter paper, napkin, wax paper, foil, clear plastic, and paper towel. We talked about predicting and observing. I saw a lot of really great caregiver-child discussion and interaction at this table. Plus using a dropper is such a great fine motor skill!
I had considered setting this up as a “sink or float” station with prediction sheets and items to test, but decided that I wanted something relatively neater, and also something they may not have tried before. In fact, when I was talking about the process of experimenting, one little girl yelled out that they had done sink or float at school. I also thought it would be fun to introduce the concept and the vocabulary of absorbency.
Activity #3 (table): Water beads. I had a huge, shallow plastic container at home that we used to use as under-bed storage. It was just about the right size to fill up one of our craft tables. It took about 8 ounces of water beads to fill the container halfway. I made the beads a few days in advance to make sure that I got the proportion of water correct. I also put out a shoe-box sized plastic container full of measuring cups, spoons, and bowls, plus two plastic balance scales that I had gotten for Fun with Math in the spring. I took away the chairs at this table so that the kids could work standing up.
This was a super-popular table with both adults and kids. Some even took home a plastic bag full of beads to play with at home. There was lots of good talk between adults and kids about color, size, texture, volume, and weight. I spent a lot of the program chasing down errant water beads, and we found them all over the place at the end, but it was totally worth it. I think it might have been less messy if we had just put the measuring cups and bowls in the water bead container to begin with – something about having them out on the table inspired the kids to scoop the beads out of the container into a bowl on the table, which led to a lot of spills. There were also a lot of kids who had so much fun filling containers that they didn’t really notice when the containers were already full and spilling everywhere. This was especially true of the balance scale buckets for some reason.
Activity #4 (rug): Sticker pictures on blue construction paper with underwater themed stickers and Slick Sticks. I set these out on trays in advance so they’d be easier to work with – and also so the first kid didn’t get all the cool glittery foam stickers. This was a low-key but fun activity. Some kids even chose it first. I love Slick Sticks. They are fun to work with, come in great colors, and show up on anything – dark colored paper, foam, cardboard… On the down side, they are pricey, and they run out pretty quickly.