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Everytime we dance, twirl, climb, run, jump, or slide, we are exploring physical science. We are bodies in motion, and those motions are good for the heart and good for the brain. When kids jump, they feel the force of gravity pulling them back down. When kids spin, they experience rotation around a fixed point. These early experiences with forces and motion will ignite their curiosity and provide a foundation for future science study!
Talk About It!
Our conversations with our kids increase their powers of observation and help them ask and answer questions about the world around them.
- At Home: How many things spin in your home? What objects rotate around a fixed point? (For example, you may have in your home: toys with wheels or spinners, a microwave with turning plate, a blender or mixer, a washer or dryer, a fidget spinner, a doorknob . . . ). What spins fast? What spins slow? Why?
- Around Town: How many different types of movement can you see as you walk around the neighborhood or play at the park? Look for up and down, side to side, rotating, fast and slow, jerky and smooth. Try to find fun, creative words to describe what you observe! Does a squirrel run, scamper, bolt, sprint? Does a bird fly, soar, dive? Do you notice something rolling or sliding?
Dance Party Time!
Explore the motions and movements a human body can make. Clear some space in a room, put on some music and hold a dance party. What does it feel like to twirl, to leap, to jump, to fold, to stand on one foot? Here a few dance party variations:
- Take turns making up, showing off, and teaching a dance move to others. Once everybody has shared a move, string them together in one choreographed dance!
- How many parts of your body can rotate in a circular motion? Try rotating your head, your hands, your feet, your arms, and your legs. Now turn your whole body! Try spinning with your arms out and your arms tucked in. What do you notice?
- Try your dance moves on different surfaces to see how the force of friction affects motion. Is it easier to spin on rug or tile? On grass or concrete? Now explore how the force of gravity affects your movements: Can you push against gravity and jump really high? What is the best jumping technique? Straight knees or bent knees?
- As you change up the music – from a fast song to a slow song or from loud to soft - how does it change how you want to move your body?
In Motion at the Playground
Swings, slides, merry-go-rounds and climbing structures are loads of fun – and they offer first-hand experiences with simple machines like ramps and levers, not to mention forces such as rotation, gravity and friction. Exploring and observing how things move provides children with important early experiences in physical science. Turn your local play area into a science playground with these simple activities.
- Balance Beam: Many children enjoy the challenge of walking on balance beams or ropes, seeing how long they can stay on. Encourage your child to talk about what she is feeling as she tries to keep her balance. What is she doing with her arms in order to keep her balance? What about her feet? The rest of her body? Asking her to think about what she is doing will help her begin to focus on how certain kinds of movements seem to help balance while others do not. Talk about the force of gravity that is trying to pull her down.
- Swings: Learning how to pump legs at the right time to get a swing moving is a milestone of childhood! It’s also a lesson in physics. What leg movements and upper body movements make the swing move faster? What slows it down? Experiment! And talk about how every time they swing up, gravity pulls them back down.
- Tire Swings: As they spin, does leaning their body in make the tire move faster or slower? What about leaning their body out?
- Floating in the Air: The playground offers high perches where you and your child can investigate how different things fall to the ground and see the force of gravity at work. Find a safe space that is high off the ground. Bring various materials to drop such as balls, feathers, pieces of paper, etc. Do they all fall to the ground the same way? Does a piece of paper fall the same when it is dropped as an open sheet as it does when crumpled into a ball? How about when folded as a paper airplane? Does anything twirl or rotate as it drops?
- Activity: Build a Kinetic Carousel
- Activity: Make a Tornado in a Jar
- Game: Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood | Feel the Music
- Game: Sesame Street | Zoe's Dance Moves
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