4 min read
Science is meant to be experienced! Hands-on experiments are not only fun for kids but also allow them to explore the concepts. Kids can feel how heavy or light something is in their hands. When you pour oil into water your hands feel the transfer of fluid at the same time your eyes see how the oil molecules behave. Using all the senses when learning science has a big impact on keeping ADHD kids engaged and motivated!
This is why I dislike worksheets for science and strive to create tangible ways to study science at home. Reading a worksheet is boring and will not likely hold the attention of a kid with ADHD. It is too easy to glance at the paper, zone out, and then say you read it. But the kid learned nothing.
Here are three examples of how I took boring homework worksheets and created hands-on science activities for the kids to explore the concepts, learn and most importantly, REMEMBER!
Learn about density with toys in the bathtub
Lots of kids love to play with toys in water: bathtubs, sinks, swimming pools. This is a great opportunity to talk to them about what sink and what floats.
Use a variety of toys and objects you already have in the house. I like to find a variety of light and heavy items. But I also like to find small objects that feel heavy (more dense) and then larger-sized objects that feel light (less dense). Here are some examples:
|Small Objects||Large Objects|
|cotton ball||solid plastic toy/action figure/doll|
|hollow plastic toy like fruit from a play kitchen||a leaf found on the ground outside|
Have your child help you find objects then fill a large bowl of water or go to the sink/bathtub/swimming pool and take turns guessing what will happen to each item when you put it into the water. Place each object in the water by itself and observe what happens.
Talk with your kid about how the items felt (heavy or light) in their hands, what the item did in the water (sank or floated), and if that is what the kid expected or not. Sometimes the best scientific “aha!” moments come from getting an unexpcted result. It is not wrong – it is discovery!
The child will make connections in their mind about what they guessed and what really happened. This approach builds knowledge, confidence, and strong memories.
Play with magnets to feel the forces and understand poles
On paper magnets just look like bars or curved shapes with “N” and “S” on the ends. This was too abstract for my kids and didn’t resonate with how their ADHD minds needed to learn.
In order to keep the mess contained (because metal filings can end up EVERYWHERE) I grabbed a small glass dish from the kitchen (glass = non-magnetic, so no interfering with the experiment) and poured some metal filings into the dish.
Then I let my kids take turns moving the horseshoe magnet through the metal filings and feel and observe what was happening.
- What do you see?
- How does it feel?
- Can you push off the metal filings?
Once we finished playing with the magnets in the metal filings I asked my kids to walk around the house and see what everyday objects were magnetic and which ones weren’t. What will the magnet stick to? What does it not stick to?
We used the bar magnets to line up a North pole with a North pole and feel the magnets push away from each other. Then we flipped one magnet and lined up a North pole and a South pole. The kids could feel the magnets pull strongly toward each other.
Playing with magnets proved to be a fun way to really experience the science. The kids could feel when the magnet attracted an object or when two opposite poles repelled each other. Now the concept of a “magnetic field” became more than a diagram of arrows on a piece of paper. Strong memories were created leading to retention of the science concept!
Find real-life examples of weather measurement tools
One day my kid came home with a science worksheet to study for a test. The worksheet had several black and white diagrams of weather measurement tools (a thermometer and rain gauge, for example). Each diagram had a name of the object and its definition. After spending 10 minutes quizzing my kid on these tools and their uses he still did not remember the information.
I felt like we were stuck repeating a pattern that was not helping anyone.
So I went to the computer and starting googling images of these weather measurement tools. The pictures still helped but he still didn’t understand where and how you would use some of these tools.
A thermometer used to measure the air temperature is a pretty common and easy to understand tool. But I needed to find better examples of a rain gauge, weather vane, and anemometer. (And to be honest, I knew I had seen anemometers around somewhere but I didn’t know that was what they were called.)
So I showed my kids the pictures I found online and asked them if they ever remembered seeing these items in real life. We brainstormed together and made a list of three places to visit:
- a rain gauge in a friend’s backyard,
- a weather vane on top of a local building,
- and an anemometer at the local park.
So we piled in the car and drove around to see these items in person!
This did not make the objects themselves any more exciting. How exciting is a rain gauge exactly? But now the objects had context and their purposes were easier to understand.
If you don’t have any local places to visit to find real-life examples of your own then photos and videos online are a great option. The whole point is to see the objects in a real-world setting and not just on paper.