Even in preschool, your young learner is already a savvy observer, noticing changes in your family’s habits and behavior as the weather gets cold. We start wearing more layers, and we walk carefully on slippery sidewalks. The seasonal transitions occurring at this time of year are a great opportunity for preschoolers to practice their science skills of observing, comparing, and predicting changes.
Has your child noticed a cloud of his or her breath in the frosty morning air? The molecules of water vapor in our warm breath lose their heat energy in the cold, and condense to a fog of tiny liquid water droplets. When liquid water loses even more energy, it turns to ice and snow. You can use the cold weather to observe these changes firsthand.
On a snowy day, ask your child to fill two large bowls with snow and bring them inside. Put one bowl in the freezer, and leave the second out. What does your child predict the difference between the two bowls will be throughout the day? As the frozen crystals of water gain energy in your warm home, they will melt into a liquid. After the snow melts, notice that a big pile of fluffy snow left only a small amount of water. What has happened to the snow in your freezer?
Once the snow is melted, ask your preschooler what they think will happen if you put the bowl back outside. Do they think the water will turn back into snow? If the temperature is below freezing, check your bowl often to observe the changes. You might first notice a thin layer of ice that breaks easily, then a thicker layer that floats on the water. Finally, the water molecules will lose enough energy to freeze to solid ice.
Remember to save a snowball in your freezer for snowball day at Carnegie Science Center in the summer.