In the first part of my properties of materials lesson, I taught my kid some definitions of properties of material, such as elastic versus plastic; hard versus soft; magnetic versus non magnetic; conducts versus insulates; and shiny versus dull. With his mind aware and observant of such properties, in Part II, I put together bins of material, organized by type of material, for us to explore. 🙂
I put together some bins of materials. I did rubber, plastic, metal, glass, wood, and silicone. I gathered objects in our house and put them in the bins. Here are some:
I put together some tools for us to investigate. Here is our flashlight, magnet, and cold packs.
My idea at first was to fill out data sheets about each of the materials. Here was the sheet:
I came prepared as a teacher. I did a full demonstration at first. I let my son do as he wanted with the bins. I found however that this approach was a flop. Taking data at 4 years old wasn’t a big hit. Also, some of it was confusing. For instance, some plastic objects were transparent and others were not. So that was confusing. I thought I could check both, but it didn’t work so well.
What worked really well was to play games with the material along the style of “I spy” games. So in Round 2 of this, I put some materials out, got our tools out, and then for instance, asked, “Can we find any material that is transparent?” Then we hid objects inside objects and shined a light on them. That was fun! Or we took a magnetic and just started checking objects. When my son found one, it was the ultimate. Here we are testing if glass will conduct cold:
My son has since shown an accurate understanding of these concepts. It shows up in his play and how he looks at things. It has helped me too. I started microwaving soup in plastic bowls instead of glass bowls, because the glass bowls were getting really hot but not my soup. The plastic doesn’t conduct heat as well, so the plastic stays cooler while my food heats up.
Ultimately, these lessons were a huge hit. This approach of teaching the definitions of words to sensitize my children to some aspect of reality, then doing some games to explore those concepts worked really well.