Learning about air is like magic to kids! We can’t see air but we know it exists, right?
Adults accept and understand that air exists, sure, but children are different. Young children need to see and to feel the concrete. Explaining that air exists is an abstract idea since we can’t actually see it. We know that it exists and takes up space. So how do we show that to young kids?
There are many kid-friendly science experiments that show air does exist even though we can’t see it but this hands-on demonstration is sure to be a hit.
First, I collected our supplies:
- Paper towel
- Food coloring or liquid water color (optional)
Learning About Air
To start, we filled a bowl 3/4 with water. (You can use a small pitcher to get your child involved in the pouring.) Then I had my child crumple the paper towel and place it into the bottom of the glass so that it wouldn’t fall out when we tipped it upside down.
We placed a few drops of food coloring into the bowl so that when air escaped the cup later and water took its place, we’d be able to easily see it as the food coloring soaked the paper towel.
I asked my son what he thought would happen when we pushed the glass into the water and then we turned the glass upside down and pushed it into the water.
As we pulled the cup from the water and the paper towel from the glass, I asked, “What do you notice about the paper towel?”
“It is dry,” he replied.
I followed up, “How did the paper towel remain dry?”
“The air takes up space,” he replied proudly.
We ended by tipping the glass a bit and watching as the water entered the glass and the air bubbled to the top. The colored water quickly absorbed into the paper towel.
- Talk about how air is made of a mixture of gases. This mixture blankets the Earth 400 miles high making our “atmosphere.” Air actually protects Earth by absorbing radiation and reducing heat differences between night and day.
- Introduce the topic of “air pollution” to children.
- Explain that all living things need air. Animals take in air, use the oxygen, and then release another gas called carbon dioxide.
- Feel the wind and observe trees moving as examples of being able to feel air while not seeing it.
- Blow bubbles and balloons as examples of air taking up space.