Biology wasn’t a particularly strong area for me in school. Fortunately when you’re talking about 4 year old biology, that’s okay. With a maybe 15 minute attention span, it’s great to be able to discuss parts of the body without going into too much detail, and introduce basic body awareness for preschoolers.
While we weren’t ever going to cover all aspects of what the body is made up of and does, these simple activities gave Ameli an insight into the magic that is our human body.
Our first experiment was one I remember from those school days:
I attached a balloon to the end of a straw and put it in a glass jar.
With this I was able to explain three key things:
- As you breath in and out, your lungs expand and contract.
- The air goes into your lungs and from there goes to little (shopping!) bags at the ends from where it goes on to give oxygen to your body.
- Your ribs (the glass) are there to protect your lungs.
We discusses how running makes you breath faster, and demonstrated how that would look. We counted how many breaths we take in a minute. We tried to hold our breath for a minute.
I then tried to stab the balloon through the glass, unsuccessfully, then took it out of the jar and popped it easily: the lesson, don’t run with sharp objects or stab at people with sticks, even during Peter Pan sword play.
The heart follows on nicely from lungs, because it too changes speed depending on what you’re doing.
Here we counted our ‘resting’ heart rate, then ran in circles and did jumping jacks, before counting our active heart rates.
We tried the marshmallow and toothpick trick from Science Sparks, but it didn’t work out so well for us, so instead I dug out my mother’s old stethoscope, and we listened to Ameli’s heart beat (turns out I don’t have one!!) We compared notes on the resting versus active heart rates, and were pleased to find that Ameli has a good, strong heart beat.
Having just used our ears to listen to our heart beats, we moved on to the inner ear.
I had Ameli put her finger in her ear, gently, to feel the hard bone there.
Next, I pulled a balloon taught over a glass, and wrapped elastic around it to keep it secure, as shown here. I explained to Ameli that that bone is like the balloon. It’s there to protect the ears from things coming in, but also sound waves (a pencil) bounce off it (bouncing the pencil on the balloon) and seeing the rice vibrate around. She didn’t really understand what vibrate meant, so I put my lips to her arm and ‘vibrated’ them against her skin till it became all ticklish. That worked quite well.
Again, we pierced the balloon with a sharp object, and the vibration didn’t work as well, with the clear lesson being not to put sharp things in your or someone else’s ears.
Everyone has lungs, a heart and ears. Everyone also has fingerprints but they are unique, so using them for art is a little signature all of your own – of course a little hard to identify by regular eye.
We used paint to do a row of finger prints, and discussed the differences we could see between our two sets. Afterwards, we used different colours and different finger tips to create ‘leaves’ on a tree, and grassy fields. Just a little craft, really, but a good opportunity to discus body safety while we were serenely stamping away with our fingers.
These are just starter activities for raising body awareness for toddlers, an introduction, so to speak… .
The books we used for this session are:
- The Interactive Human Body
- Myself – Themes From Early Years
- The Big Body Book – a perfect book for toddlers
- Amazing Body Scene– there are 7 pull out scenes and over 50 stickers in this one. My four year old loved it.