Preschoolers are fascinated by the magic of everyday life. Even things as basic as differences in temperature captivate young children. You can explore and observe the impact of temperature on sugar with this simple holiday peppermint science activity.
Exploring basic science with preschoolers is always fun because to them science is exciting and magical. Science experiments are also a great way to practice how to follow directions, expand vocabularies, work on fine motor skills and of course, introduce basic math and science concepts.
For the safety of your young scientists, keep your experiment and materials simple and conduct them as a class or in small groups where the activity can be closely monitored.
In this peppermint science experiment, your preschoolers will learn about temperature – hot and cold – and its impact on sugar – the peppermint.
A Holiday Exploration of Temperature
For this simple science experiment you will need a few very basic materials:
- 3 cups of water: hot, cold and room temperature
- clear cups
- paper plates
- peppermint candies
First, explore what happens to the peppermints in different temperatures of water. For a fine motor skill challenge, let children unwrap peppermints and place one at the bottom of each cup. Warm one cup of water in the microwave, allow one cup of water to rest at room temperature, and add ice to the third cup to create hot, warm, and cold water experiments for comparison.
Next, add hot, warm, or cold water to each cup. Start your timer to see how quickly the peppermint changes in each cup. You can assist students in adding water to the cups, but please be careful with hot water.
Encourage your preschoolers to watch and make observations about the changes to the peppermint. The hot water will begin dissolving the peppermint in seconds, while the cold water takes much longer. What happens to the water? Does it look different? How does it taste?
Direct Application of Temperature and Touch
You can also explore applying temperature to the peppermints without water. The changes are tougher for preschoolers to observe but offer a great way for them to touch and feel difference in temperature.
To create hot, warm, and cold peppermints, place peppermints in the freezer overnight, leave some out at room temperature and, just before your class is ready to observe them, place some on a paper plate in the microwave. Heat for 30-60 seconds, and watch them closely. Remove as soon as they begin to melt, and let them cool until they are safe for children to touch.
Place three separate plates with each of hot, warm, and cold peppermints for the children to touch and observe.
The Science and Extensions
Sugar dissolves in water because water breaks the bonds between sugar molecules. Heat makes the sugar molecules move faster, speeding up this process. If you let students taste the water, they will find that it changes too. While the sugar molecules break apart from each other, the individual molecules remain stuck together, making the water taste sweet, like sugar.
Add some gross motor and imaginative play to your peppermint science by having students hold hands, like sugar molecules, then run together. They will warm up and find it harder to hold hands while moving.
BIO: Meghan is a former hedge fund professional turned SAHM to Big M (5), Lil’ M (3), and Baby M (14 months). She writes at Playground Parkbench, where she shares practical parenting tips, kids learning activities and family financial savvy. If you enjoyed this post, check out all her STEM activities for preschoolers. You can also find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram.
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