Fun with Dry Ice

Dry ice offers the opportunity for lots of science fun with kids of all ages! There will be lots of ooohs and aaahs and giggles! But, there are some safety precautions to be aware of, so these all require adult supervision. This tutorial will give you several ideas on how to demo this for kids from preschool to grade school on up, whether in a science class, home school setting, birthday party, or just for a fun parent-kid activity.

How to get and store dry ice

You can get it at many grocery stores, or it may come with grocery deliveries or meal delivery services you use. Plan to get it as close in time as possible to when you plan to use it. In 24 hours, a ten pound block of dry ice can sublimate completely – change to gas and disappear. You don’t need a lot – a 4 x 4 inch square was plenty for us each time we’ve done this. Store it in an insulated foam container. Keep the container in a well-ventilated area. (For example, if you’re driving with it in your car, roll down the windows – it is off-gassing carbon dioxide which can cause rapid breathing, headaches, or worse.) For more info, read this wikihow on How to Buy Dry Ice or read info on Steve Spangler Science page.

Safety notes

Never touch dry ice with bare hands!!! It is very cold (-109°F) and can “burn” your skin. Use tongs or insulated gloves whenever handling it and treat it with as much respect as you would a hot frying pan. If you want to break apart some dry ice, always cover it with a towel first, so no shards can fly up at your face. (And use safety goggles, just in case.) Never put it inside a tightly sealed container. As the gas sublimates, pressure builds and the container could explode. Always use in well-ventilated areas. (See the wikihow or Steve Spangler articles cited above for more info.)

Experiments to Try

There are lots of activity ideas here. Do whichever ones inspire you. I’ll give you some of the scientific explanations below, so you can share them with your kids / students. But let the focus of all this be on the fun, and the “magic”, spend plenty of time playing and oohing and aahing before you feel like you need to “teach” anything.

Note: Whenever I say “a small piece” of ice, I’m talking the size of a regular ice cube or smaller.

  • Why it’s called dry ice: Put a small piece of dry ice on one plate, and a regular ice cube on another plate. Leave it alone for 30 – 60 minutes, then notice that the dry ice plate is dry and empty. The regular ice plate has a small puddle of water. Explain that the ice was solid water, which turned to liquid water when it got warmer. If we heated it more, it would turn to gas water (steam.) Explain that dry ice (carbon dioxide) is different than many other substances. When dry ice gets warm, it sublimates instead of melting… instead of becoming a liquid then a gas, it goes directly from solid to gas and vanishes into thin air.
  • Making fog: Take a container of warm water. Drop in a small piece of dry ice. Fog will form. (This isn’t smoke. It isn’t steam. It’s a combination of carbon dioxide gas from the dry ice, and tiny water droplets.)
  • Blow up a balloon: Fill a bottle halfway with warm water, drop in a small piece of dry ice, and put a balloon on the mouth of the bottle. Watch the gas blow up the balloon. (Note: remove the balloon before it gets full enough to pop!) This demo is a nice clear illustration that gas is escaping.
  • Floating bubbles: Fill a bowl with water, drop in a piece of dry ice. When a cloud of fog forms on the water, blow bubbles and let them land on the fog – they will float there. The dry ice fog is heavier (denser) than air, so it sinks down. But it’s less dense than water, so it floats on the water. The bubbles are heavier than air, but less dense than carbon dioxide fog, so they’ll float on the fog.
  • Bubbles of fog: Fill a bowl with a little warm water. Stir in some dish detergent (or bubble solution). Drop in a piece of dry ice. A cloud of fog-filled bubbles will boil up out of the bowl. Kids love popping these bubbles and releasing a poof of “smoke.”
  • Bubble prints. Once you have a bowl of foggy bubbles, drop some food coloring onto the bubbles. Then place paper carefully on top, and press down ever so gently. Peel it off carefully, and you’ll have bubble art. (See pictures on Science Kiddo.)
  • Water droplets: Put dry ice in a tray, let kids drop water on it – the water beads up and rolls off. After you’ve done this for a while, use the tongs to flip the ice over. A layer of colored water is frozen along the bottom.

  • The fountain: Test your water bottle or sippy cup… does water pass through the straw very easily? (You never want to put dry ice in a tightly sealed container because pressure will build up quickly and it can explode.) Put some water in the sippy cup or water bottle / drop in a small piece of dry ice and screw on the lid – the water will fountain up out of the cup. (See video at the top of this post.)
  • Fountain of bubbles. Repeat that experiment, except add a little detergent or bubble solution to the water before you add the dry ice… here’s a video where we didn’t get the lid back on before all the bubbles started erupting.
  • Fire. Put water in a container, add the dry ice to make some fog. Light a match or a candle – hold it in the fog. The fire will go out. Carbon dioxide is a fire suppressant – fire needs oxygen to burn.

These activities could be done in a States of Matter unit, or as a stand-alone activity.


Music and STEM Learning

I teach a class called Family Inventors’ Lab. The shortest way to describe the class is “STEM Enrichment for ages 3 – 7.” But if I describe it that way, and then mention that we do a rhythm activity to open every group time, and that we teach a new theme-related song every week, some folks will ask how music fits in to STEM.


First, let’s broaden out STEM to STEAM – Science, Technology, Engineering, ARTS, and Math. Not only do we include music, we also include other arts: painting, sculpting, collage, print-making, plenty of opportunity for imagination / dramatic play, and a fictional story designed to inspire the imagination. If we’re raising the “inventors of tomorrow”, then imagination and creativity are just as important as knowledge of science facts and mastery of science process skills.

Music and academic skills

Second, let’s talk about rhythm and music and how they help kids to learn academic skills.

  • Language – beat, rhythm and pitch are all a part of language, so music and rhythm activities help a child develop speech, communication and language skills.
  • Auditory processing – music lessons help kids respond to sound more quickly, distinguish between sounds better, and pay attention to sound, all of which aid in classroom learning.
  • Memory – kids with musical training have better memories for words, lyrics, and numbers.
  • Academic success – children do better on standardized tests and in school performance.

As a comprehensive learning experience, we want to give our students some music exposure to get a small dose of these benefits.

You can see the details of the research here. And learn more about the benefits of music in this post.

Rhythm and motor skills

Third, let’s talk about how rhythm helps kids learn how to use their bodies effectively.

When we use our bodies well, we have rhythm – we walk in rhythm, chew in rhythm, and breathe in an even rhythm. Rhythm helps with playing an instrument, dancing, jumping rope, rowing a boat, or bouncing a ball. It helps us to speak in conversational rhythm without stuttering. When we use tools with our bodies, it helps to have rhythm – when we hammer, use a saw, beat eggs with a whisk, cut with scissors, typing on a keyboard, and many other tasks work better when you’ve got an even rhythm. So, the rhythm ties into the T in STEM – T for Technology and for Tools.

The ability to keep a steady beat is not completely instinctive. (Source) It is something we need to learn.

“One study revealed that fewer than 10% of kindergarten children could independently feel and express the steady beat of recorded music (Wright & Schweinhart, 1994). Fewer than 15% of first graders tested had this ability (Mitchell, 1994). Fewer than 50% of the children in grades 4 through 6 could walk to the steady beat of a musical selection (Kiger, 1994).”  (Source)

Ideally, all children would be able to keep a steady beat by age 3, and the best time to teach it is before age 7. (Source)

We learn a steady beat by using our bodies in rhythm – dancing, swaying, clapping, beating a drum, or using rhythm sticks all help us to learn about rhythm. So does swinging on a swing, rocking in a chair, going up and down on a teeter totter, or doing any activity that works better with rhythm. (See above for examples.)

Note: the Music Connections blog has some great resources on teaching rhythm to babies and toddlers.

Teaching Tool

Within the rhythm of our class, music serves many roles.

  • Signals transitions. We change our activities each week, to provide as many novel experiences as possible. However, we also know that young children thrive on routine, so we try to keep some of the core structure of the class consistent from week to week. We sing the same songs each week to signal this routine – “It’s time to make a circle…”
  • Gathers attention. At the start of group time, the kids can be really scattered. Doing a rhythm activity together helps them to center themselves, get focused on the teacher, and let go of other distractions.
  • Reinforces key ideas and increases retention. We have a science themed song each week. Many, though not all, of our songs help to reinforce key ideas about the topic we are learning (such as the States of Matter song, or the Simple Machines song), and some help apply and remember ideas (like the Habitat Song and the Rainbow Song.) At the end of the year, we reprised some of the songs we had learned, and it was fascinating to see how many the kids remembered.
  • Fun. Many of our songs are just fun to sing, and make us all happy – parents, teachers, and kids. We know the kids learn more when they’re happy.

Research on Benefits of Music Lessons for Kids

This post collects some of the research on the benefits of music lessons for kids, looking not so much at how their musical skills increased, which would be expected, but also on what other un-related skills appear to benefit from music instruction.


The ability to keep a steady beat is not innate to humans. We have to learn it. And many of our children are not learning it. Although ideally children would learn it by age 3, or by 7 at the latest, less than 50% of kids in grade 4 to 6 can walk to the steady beat of music.  (Source) Thus, it’s important to teach rhythm.

Kids who have the ability to keep a steady beat also have better physical coordination, pay attention for longer periods of time, do better in kindergarten, and do better on achievement tests. Kids who participated in music and dance classes had a better ability to keep a beat. (Source)

Kids who can keep a steady beat (rhythm) are better readers and more successful in math. They are better behaved in class, and have less aggressive contact with other kids. Steady beat seems to contribute to kids’ ability to concentrate, understand space and distance, and control their actions. (Weikert 2003 as summarized here.)

Connection between rhythm and movement. Kids must experience rhythm with their bodies (e.g. by drumming or by tapping rhythm sticks) before they can hear rhythm in their heads. Many school age children can’t walk to the beat of music or describe how their bodies are moving. (Source)


Music is a way to learn an inner voice… for example, if you sing B-I-N-G-O, then on the next verse,  you do [wait] I-N-G-O, a child “says” the B inside of their head to hold the timing correct. Or, if you do Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes, and then hum your way through it, they have to “hear” the words in their head to remember what body part to do next. This will later help them remember things like if a teacher says directions for what to do, they can repeat them inside their own head to remember what to do. (Source)

Using the singing voice – If the environment supports vocal development (e.g. if parents sing to and sing with children), then most children could enter kindergarten knowing how their singing voices are different than their speaking voices. But, about half of kindergarten age kids can’t do this. (Source)

Children who took keyboard or voice lessons had greater increase in IQ than those who took drama lessons or no lessons. Unlike other research, this showed more IQ benefits from singing lessons than from keyboard. (Source and Source)

Learning to Play an Instrument

Children who studied a musical instrument for at least three years scored higher in things related to instrumental music, such as auditory discrimination and finger dexterity, but also in unrelated skills like verbal ability and visual pattern completion. (Source)

Musically trained kids have improved musical skills (melody, harmony and rhythm processing) but also have improved memory (tested by repeating back a series of numbers spoken by the researcher.) Memory is correlated with literacy, verbal memory and IQ. (Source)

Children learn more when they participate in music (e.g. play instruments in class) than when they listen to music (e.g. in a music appreciation class.) Two years of music training improve the brains’ ability to distinguish similar sounding syllables, which is important for reading. (Source)

Music instruction speeds up the development of the brain’s auditory pathway, and increases its efficiency. Children with musical training are more accurate at processing sound. (Source)

The brains of older adults (age 55-76) who had music training as a child but haven’t played an instrument in decades respond more quickly to speech than older adults who never played an instrument. (Source)

Children who had instrumental music training for 3 or more years did better on outcomes related to music (auditory discrimination and fine motor skills) and on un-related skills (vocabulary and nonverbal reasoning skills).

Motor skills – kids who’ve had piano lessons have better motor proficiency (Costa-Giomi), and are better at tapping keys in rhythm. (Hurwitz et al and Jancke et al) (Source)

Music and math. Music is mathematical and organized. If you play a concert A on a violin, it vibrates at 44o Hz / second. The A one octave up is 880 Hz. The A one octave down is 200 Hz. A half note takes half as long as a whole note, a quarter note takes a quarter of the time. When you read music and play the piano, a middle C on the notation is always the same key on the piano and always makes the same sound – the note you see on the page correlates to what you touch on the keyboard and what you hear. This multi-sensory connection helps to build the brain. (Source)

Music and verbal skills: Music perception skills correlated with both phonological awareness (hearing and using parts of oral language, like syllables) and early reading skills. (Source)

Music and literacy: Both music notation and written English involve formal notations that always represent the same thing, they read from left to right, and there are clues about timing (note length and rests in music, commas and periods in writing.) (Source)

Young adults with music training have better memory recall for spoken words, sung lyrics, and random words that were spoken to them. (Source) (Source)

A meta-analysis of studies (Butzlaff) found a significant association between music training and reading skills. (Source)

For children with dyslexia, phonological awareness improved with singing and rhythm games. Musically trained children did better on a verbal memory test. Musically trained children have higher IQ scores. (Source)

Increased duration of music lessons correlated with higher IQ in childhood and better academic ability in young adulthood. The benefits are small, but general and long lasting. (Source)

Children who had taken instrumental lessons scored higher in verbal ability (vocabulary) and non-verbal reasoning.  (Source)
Learn more about the benefits of music for kids here, find activities for teaching rhythm here, find lyrics and hand motions for lots of songs that toddlers and preschoolers love here, and check out resources for finding more great kids’ songs here.

Rhythm Curriculum for Kids

At our Family Inventors’ Class (for ages 3 – 7) we include a rhythm activity in every class. Sometimes parents wonder why we do this – how does music tie into STEM? Easy – it’s a math activity! Listening to rhythm and dividing up beats helps to train the parts of the brain which also relate to math! (Learn more about the benefits of music for kids here or find research into music and learning here.)

We also use rhythm to aid the structure of the class. When preschool age kids arrive in group time, their energy can be very scattered, and if we tried to go straight into discussion or reading a story, it would be hard to gather their attention. But clapping rhythms together helps us all get synched up and focused on the same thing. Here are some of the activities we use throughout the year.

  • Hello song with drums. Teacher drums rhythm while singing: “Dum-diddie-dum Can you bang my drum? Banging my drum is lots of fun. Hello ___.” Let that child bang drum. “Hello _____”. Bang. “Hello ______”  Bang. “Hello _____.” Bang. “We’re glad you came today.” And continue till all are done.
  • Clap the rhythm of words – one clap per syllable.
    • Do the first and last names of each kid in the class. For little ones, you clap the rhythm once [Bill-y Thomp-son], then everyone copies. For older ones, ask them to clap their own name rhythm first (correct them if needed), then everyone copies. Help them notice if anyone else’s rhythm matches theirs.
    • Foods: Ask them the name of a favorite food. Have them clap them, and draw them as notes on the board. Quarter note = fruit, pear, bread. Two eighth notes = cherries, pickles. Three eighth notes: strawberries, bananas. Four sixteenth notes: watermelon.
    • Clap any words related to the day’s theme.
  • Copycat rhythms. Give them drums, rhythm sticks or shakers. Or have them clap or jump or do some other motion related to the day’s theme (hammer on build a house day). Start a rhythm. Encourage them to all follow along. Change the rhythm and they follow.
    • Ti-ti-ta ti-ti-ta. Ti-ti-ti-ti-Ta-Ta. Tika-Ti. Tika-tika-tika-ti-ta-ta. Tiki-tiki-tiki-tika-tika-ta. Tika-tika-tika-ti tiki-ta-ta.
    • Dum-tek, dum-tek. Dum tek-a-tek. Dum-tek-a-tek tek-a Dum Dum tek.
  • Drum to music. Put on music and everyone drums along. When the music stops, they freeze.
  • 1-2-3-Cow. Start them clapping (or drumming). 1-2-3 Pause. 1-2-3 Pause. Then say you’re going to go around the circle, so everyone has a turn. When it’s their turn, then on the fourth beat, they’ll say an animal’s name. [Can also be done with lots of themes other than animals.]
  • Partner clapping songs:
    • Pat a cake. First teach how to clap, left, clap, right, etc. Once they have that, then teach the pat it, roll it motions. THEN put it together with the rhyme.
    • A Sailor went to sea. First, teach the pattern: clap-lap-clap-lap-clap. Then add to that hands-hands-hands. Then start saying sea-sea-sea instead of hands. Then add in the full rhyme.
    • A sailor… alternate method. (clap, clap right with partner, clap, clap left with partner, clap both hands three times, and so on.) Here’s a tutorial:, and here are kids doing it full speed: If all your students were 6 or 7, you could probably just teach this as it is. For younger children: First, two adults demo it. Then pair up one grown-up with each kid. Level one – the child puts their hands up in front of them palms out and just holds them there. The adult claps against their upheld hands. If they master that, then on to level two – the adult holds their hands still and the kid claps against them. Then for those who can – on to level three, where both clap simultaneously. Level 4 – speed that up!
    • Miss Mary Mack. Clap-lap-clap. Then right-left right. Then put those together. Then add rhyme.
    • Double Double. When you say Double, hold fists up, shake. “This” is clap the front of your hands with your partner’s hands. “That” is clap the backs of your hands together. Double double this this, double double that that, double this, double that, double double this that.
    • Say say oh playmate.
  • Songs with rhythm sticks:
    • To Mulberry Bush: Let’s all tap our sticks today, sticks today, sticks today. Let’s all tap our sticks today. Let’s tap them on our hand. [Tap out rhythm on hand as you repeat the song… when you get to “Let’s tap them on our… “ pick a child to pick where to tap next.]
    • Mary had a lamb. Every time you say “little lamb” they tap their rhythm sticks.
    • This is the way we tap our sticks, tap our sticks, tap our sticks, This is the way we tap our sticks, so early in the morning. This is the way we scrape our sticks… tap the floor… tap our shoes, and so on.
    • Tap your sticks. Tap your sticks. One, two, three. One, two, three.
      Can you tap your sticks, Can your tap your sticks, Just like me, Just like me?
      Tap your sticks, Tap your sticks, Way up high, Way up high.
      No-w, bend down, No-w, bend down, Tap the ground. Tap the ground.
  • Metronome ball toss. Start it slow, tossing ball around the group in rhythm, then speed it up. Or pick out 4-4 music and they throw to that, then waltz music or march music.
  • Rhythmic sound charades: Make cards that have pictures of items that make rhythmic sounds – clock, windshield wipers, washing machine. Have kids draw a card, then act out that object.
  • Move to the tempo. During movement games, tap out a slow rhythm – they move slowly. Tap a fast rhythm, then move fast.
  • The Cup Song:

Lots more ideas:

Note: We also sing a new song each week, tied into the science theme of the week. Find all the songs at:

Kids’ Songs about Science and Inventors

These are all songs we sing together at circle time at Family Inventors’ Lab, a STE(A)M enrichment class for ages 3 – 7. To see the full lesson plan for any theme, just click on the name of the theme. Here’s info on why we use music in a STE(A)M enrichment class.

Theme: What is an Inventor

Song: Inventor’s Lab Theme Song.  Words by Peter and Janelle Durham. Tune: Bully in the Alley.  (tune here.)

Look at me, I’m building and inventing,
Way, hey, building and inventing
Look at me, I’m building and inventing,
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

There’s a challenge that I want to do
Way, hey, building and inventing
Here’s the process that I will go through
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

I brainstorm ideas from which to choose
Way, hey, building and inventing
I look for supplies that I can use
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

Now it’s time to build my innovation
Way, hey, building and inventing
As I work I get more inspiration
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

I test it out to see what’s wrong and then
Way, hey, building and inventing
I fix and tweak and do the test again
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

My work is done, the challenge has been met
Way, hey, building and inventing
I think it’s my best invention yet.
Here at the Inventor’s Lab

Look at me, I’m building and inventing,
Way, hey, building and inventing
Look at me, I’m building and inventing,
Here at the Inventor’s Lab.


Theme: Towers

Lyrics from Preschool Express (which they say they adapted from a poem by Peggy Sloan). Can be sung to the Final Jeopardy theme music. (here’s the tune.)

Pick a block to put on top.
Careful now, don’t let it dro-o-o-o-op!
Higher, higher – up you go.
Take your time, just do it slow.
Balance one block, two blocks, three
See how tall your stack can be-e-e.
Pick a block to put on top.
Careful now – don’t let it drop!

Theme: Bridges

Song 1: We’re going to build a bridge today, by Cymbric Early-Smith, to the tune of Johnny Comes Marching Home Again. (tune here)

We’re going to build a bridge today, hurray! hurray!
We’re going to build a bridge today, hurray! hurray!
We’ll make it strong, we’ll make it straight,
We’ll see if it will hold the weight
And we’ll all be learning together while we play.

Song 2: London Bridge

Theme: Build a House

Song 1: This is the Way… from Pre-K Fun. [Use rhythm sticks to mime the activities!]

This is the way we saw the wood, saw the wood, saw the wood,
This is the way we saw the wood, so early in the morning.
This is the way we hammer the nails…
Lay the bricks… Paint the walls….

You could also do these verses to match the actions in the book Building a House by Barton.

This is the way we dig a hole… hammer and saw… pour cement… lay the bricks… make a floor… put up walls, build a roof… build a fireplace… put in pipes… wire for lights… put in doors… paint the walls… build a house. [on final verse, instead of ending with “so early in the morning” end with “the family moves inside.”]

Song 2: “When I build My House” by Parachute Express. (starred lines are done as call and response – you sing, they echo.) Mime the steps with rhythm sticks.

When I build my house*, I’ll need some wood*.
And I’ll saw the wood*, when I build my house*.
And we’ll saw the wood, saw the wood, saw the wood when I build my house.
When I build my house, there’s so much to do…
It’s nice when you come along and help me too.

On second verse swap in… I’ll need some nails… and I’ll hammer the nails. After singing third line with nails, repeat the third line with sawing the wood.
Verse 3: bricks, lay the bricks.
Verse 4: Paint, paint the walls.
(See the posters of the lyrics if that’s not clear….)

The song finishes with:
And when I’m through, I’ll go inside. And I’ll look with pride at the work I’ve done.
I painted the walls, painted the walls, painted the walls when I built my house.
Laid the bricks… Hammered the nails… Sawed the wood…
When I built my house, there was so much to do…
It’s nice when you come along and help me too.

Theme: Cars

Songs: Wheels on the Bus, or Zoom Down the Freeway (Here’s Zoom as a song… We do it as a chant, not quite so musical.)

Zoom down the freeway, zoom down the freeway, zoom down the freeway. Stop.
Up goes the drawbridge, Up goes the drawbridge, a boat is going past.
Down goes the drawbridge, down goes the drawbridge, the boat has passed at last.
Zoom down the freeway, zoom down the freeway, zoom down the freeway. Exit!

Theme: Electricity

Song 1: Electricity is a Powerful Thing, by Cymbric Early-Smith

Electricity is a powerful thing… I know, I know…
Electricity is a powerful thing… I know, I know…
Then ask kids to suggest something they use electricity for, and we substitute in those words.
Electricity lights our streets…  I know, I know. Electricity lights our streets, I know, I know.
Electricity warms our Homes… Electricity starts our cars… Electricity makes lightning >boom<

Song 2: Electricity from School House Rock. (Lyrics here.)

Theme: Contraptions and Rube Goldberg Devices

Song: Button Factory. Tune here.

Hi! My name is Joe. And I work in a button factory
One day my boss came up to me.
He said “Joe, are you busy?” I said, ”No”
He said “push this button with your right hand”

[Kids start miming pushing a button. On next verse, say “push this button with your left hand”, and kids push with both the right AND the left. Keep adding verses and actions… push with left toe, hip, forehead, whatever – it gets sillier and sillier. When you’re ready to end, say ‘“Joe, are you busy?” I said Yes!!!’ and fall down.

Theme – Robots

Robot Song from Fingerplays and Action Rhymes. (To the Tune of: The Wheels On The Bus)

The arms of the robot swing up and down,
Up and down, up and down,
The arms of the robot swing up and down,
All around the room.

The legs of the robot move back and forth…
The head of the robot turns side to side…
The buttons on the robot blink on and off…
The voice of the robot says beep, beep, beep…

Theme: Wind and Flight

Song: Blow Wind Blow. Tune at or

Blow, wind, blow! And go, mill, go!
That the miller may grind his corn;
That the baker may take it, And into rolls make it,
And bring us some loaves in the morn.

Theme: Simple Machines

Simple Machines by David Newman: find tune here:

Simple machines make work easier to do
Use a wedge or a lever or a pulley or a screw;
A wheel and axle or an inclined plane.
They’re all simple machines, oh simple machines.

A wedge starts wide, but is pointed at the end
A lever’s like the seesaw that you ride on with a friend
A pulley is a wheel with a rope that goes around
Wherever there is work to do, you know what will be found…

Simple machines make work easier to do
Use a wedge or a lever or a pulley or a screw;
A wheel and axle or an inclined plane.
They’re all simple machines, oh simple machines.

An inclined plane helps you move things up and down
A wheel and axle helps things move or turn around
A screw is like a screw (duh!) or the lid of a jar
Without simple machines, we couldn’t get too far…

Simple machines make work easier to do
Use a wedge or a lever or a pulley or a screw;
A wheel and axle or an inclined plane.
They’re all simple machines, oh simple machines.

Simple machines make work easier to do
Use a wedge or a lever or a pulley or a screw;
A wheel and axle or an inclined plane.
They’re all simple machines, oh simple machines.

Song 2: Move It Work It from Capstone kids (has a companion book by Salas) which is to the tune of Kookaburra. Find the song here.

Song 3: Simple Machines song from Hubpages unit on simple machines. It’s done to the tune of Yankee Doodle. Find it here.


Theme – Chemistry: States of Matter

The Matter Song from Teachers Pay Teachers, with modifications by Janelle Durham. To the tune of Farmer in the Dell

Chorus: There’s matter over here.
There’s matter over there.
Liquid, solid, or a gas,
There’s matter everywhere

A solid keeps its shape.
It doesn’t separate.
What you see is what you get.
A solid keeps its shape.

When you melt a solid down,
A liquid will be found.
It’s wet & flows to fill a shape.
And drips down to the ground.

Gas is in the air.
You can’t see it but it’s there.
It blows and flows right through your nose.
And fits in anywhere.


Theme – Chemistry: Mixtures

Cake Recipe song from Patty Shukla. Before teaching the song, teach kids clap the rhythms of the chorus: 1-2-3 1-2-3 mix-mix-mix mix-mix-mix and 1 2 3 4 mix mix mix mix.

Chorus: I’m gonna make a cake today
Gonna make a cake for my birthday
I’m gonna make a cake today
Gonna make a cake for my birthday

First, two cups of flour
Then mix-mix-mix, mix-mix-mix
Second, one cup of sugar
Then mix, mix, mix, mix

Third, three large eggs,
Then mix-mix-mix, mix-mix-mix
Fourth, one cup of milk
Then mix, mix, mix, mix

Fifth, one stick of butter,
Then mix-mix-mix, mix-mix-mix
Sixth, tablespoon vanilla
Then mix, mix, mix, mix

Seventh, tablespoon of baking powder
mix-mix-mix, mix-mix-mix
Eighth, a teaspoon of salt,
Then mix, mix, mix, mix

Ninth, spread some more butter,
and spread-spread-spread in the pan,
Tenth, pick up the batter
and pour-pour-pour with my hands

Mom puts it in the oven
350 and she bakes the cake
After 25 minutes, mom takes it out
I made my cake

The best part is at the end.
The best part is at the end.
The best part is at the end.
When I get to put on the icing.
[Say:] And lick the spoon!

Chorus – two times

Theme – Chemistry – Reactions

Song: Boom Chicka Boom – hear it here. If you’re wondering what this has to do with Chemical Reactions, it’s that our alternate name for this class theme is “Make Things Go Boom!”

First verse – sway hips when singing… all other verses have a different motion…

I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat)
I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat)
I Said A Boom Chicka Rocka Chicka Rocka Chicka Boom! (repeat)
U-HUH (repeat) OH-YEAH (repeat) One more time (repeat) Cowboy Style!

(Hold your right hand up and do a lassoing action.)
I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat)
I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat);
I Said A Boom-Chicka-A-Ropa Chicka-A-Ropa-Chick-A-Boom (repeat)
YA-HOO (repeat) YEE-HA (repeat) One more time, (repeat) Motorcycle Style!

(Using both your hands pretend to rev up your motorcycle.)
I Said A Vroom-Chick-A-Vroom (repeat)
I Said A Vroom-Chick-A-Vroom (repeat);
I Said A Vroom-Chick-A-Rocka-Chick-A-Rocka-Chick-­A-Vroom (repeat)
U-HUH (repeat) OH-YEAH (repeat) One more time (repeat) Janitor Style!

(Using both hands make a sweeping action.);
I Said A Broom-Push-A-Broom (repeat)
I Said A Broom-Push-A-Broom (repeat);
I Said A Broom-Push-A-Mop-A-Push-A-Mop-A-Push a Broom
U-HUH (repeat) OH-YEAH (repeat) One more time (repeat) Underwater Style!

(Make underwater sound by moving your finger quickly, up and down, in front of flapping lips.)
I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat)
I Said A Boom Chicka Boom! (repeat);
I Said A Boom Chicka Rocka Chicka Rocka Chicka Boom! (repeat)

Theme – Light and Shadow

A couple options, both to the tune of Frere Jacques:  (Source 1; Source 2)

See my shadow, see my shadow
Move this way, move that way.
See it do what I do, see it do what I do,
It follows me, it follows me.

I see shadows,  I see shadows,
On the wall,  On the wall.
Some are short and scary,
Some are short and scary,
Some are tall, Some are tall.

Theme – Rainbows

Barney’s Rainbow Song:

Oh, I like red, it’s the color of an apple. Orange, it’s the color of an orange.
Yellow, it’s a lemon, and a wonderful sun, sun, sun.
Green, is the color of the trees, and lots of things that grow.
And then there’s blue for the sky, And purple, that’s a color that’s fun, fun, fun.
And when we put those colors side by side, Now, what do you think we’ve done? We’ve made a rainbow, and it’s a really beautiful one, one, one.

Other nice options on Preschool Express on Perpetual Preschool, or on this YouTube playlist.

Theme – Dinosaurs

There’s lots of great dinosaur songs / videos for listening and watching on YouTube. Check out this playlist. There’s lots of preschool level songs about dinosaurs that you could use for circle time at Perpetual Preschool, Preschool Express, and Kidsparkz.

Song – We Will Stomp You. From Perpetual Preschool. To the tune of We Will Rock You.

[stomp, stomp, clap (4 times) OR if sitting down, clap thighs twice, clap hands once (4 times)]

I’m ankylosaurus I’m big and strong; 10 feet tall and 30 feet long.
I’ve got a club on my tail, Armor on my back;
Don’t get too close Or I’ll give you a whack.
Chorus: We will , we will stomp you, stomp you. We will, we will stomp you, stomp you.

Stegosaurus is my name. A little walnut is the size of my brain.
On my back are seventeen plates. Leaves and plants Are what I ate.
Repeat “stomp you” chorus.

I’m tyrannosaurus rex I’m big and mean.
The meanest dinosaur That you’ve ever seen.
I’ve got tiny little arms, Great big feet;
I’ll pick you up with my big sharp teeth.
I will, I will, Chomp you, chomp you. I will, I will CHOMP YOU !!!

Theme – Earth and Earthquakes

Song – We Will Rock You. (Tune is Queen’s We Will Rock You)

In class, we play the “Cassady will Rock You” video and kids clap along and sing the chorus. There’s another video version from Emily B. There’s another set of lyrics at Beakers and Bumblebees, and here’s one from the National Park Service website.

We will – we will – rock you! We will – we will – rock you!
I was underneath the sea. (Pinch nose shut, raise one hand and sink down.)
I’m the oldest rock you can see. (Bend over an imaginary cane and be old!)
Life decayed and layered me. (Hand over hand to mime layers.)
I am sedimentary! (Hands out in front and spread to sides like yeah, I’m cool.)

We will – we will – rock you! We will – we will – rock you!

Igneous is who I am. (Point to self with thumb.)
Magma is how I began. (Hands together, palms down, arching out in front of you like a lava flow…up and over.)
I’m a hot one, that’s the truth, (Lick finger tip, touch hip and make a sizzling hiss.)
I was molten in my youth! (Wiggle fingers out in front of you to mime boiling.)

We will, we will – rock you! We will – we will – rock you!

We think this is pretty neat, (Tap finger against side of head.)
Pressure, chemicals and heat, (Count off on 3 fingers so all can see.)
Change around our building blocks (One hand over other in circular motion…switch-overs.)
Into metamorphic rocks! (Mime molding clay with both hands.)

We will – we will – rock you! We will – we will – rock you!

Theme – Magnets

Song – Did you ever see a magnet? From To the tune of Did you ever see a lassie.

[Have them lean side to side when singing “this way and that.”]

Did you ever see a magnet, a magnet, a magnet?
Did you ever see a magnet pull this way and that?
Chorus: Pull this way and that way, and this way and that way.
Did you ever see a magnet pull this way and that?

On iron and steel, its pull is unreal!
Did you ever see a magnet pull this way and that?


A magnet has action, it’s called an attraction!
Did you ever see a magnet pull this way and that?


Alternate song with a spicy Latin rhythm… From Music K – 8. Mp3 of music available at:

Magnets push, magnets pull
Magnets stick to certain metals – like iron
Magnets can stick to each other
And push each other away
Push and pull, push and pull
That’s what magnets do
Push and pull, push and pull
That’s what magnets do

Theme – Gravity

This is a companion to the “Did you ever see a magnet” song we sing in magnet week. These words by Janelle Durham, to the tune of Did you Ever See a Lassie.

[When we say “pull this way”, we crouch down. When we say “not that way”, we stand up on our tiptoes.]

Well, you’ll never see gravity, gravity, gravity
But you can see gravity pull this way, not that.
Chorus: Pull this way, not that way, pull this way, not that way.
You can see gravity pull this way, not that.
You toss up a ball, gravity makes it fall
Oh, you can see gravity pull things to the ground.
You throw up a gown, gravity brings it back down
Oh, you can see gravity pull things to the ground.

An alternate song, to the tune of London Bridge, can be found here.

Theme – Planets and Astronauts

Song – Zoom Zoom Zoom (here’s a video of librarians teaching the song, and here’s another video you could sing along with in class)

Zoom Zoom Zoom, we’re going to the moon.
Zoom Zoom Zoom, we’re going very soon.
If you want to take a trip, climb aboard my rocket ship.
Zoom Zoom Zoom, we’re going to the moon.
In 5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1, Blast Off!

Verse 2: Fun Fun Fun, we’re going to the sun and Verse 3: Far, Far, Far, we’re going to the stars

OR “We can have a party upon the stars, with Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars. Jupiter might just sing a tune to Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.”

Theme – Stars and Constellations

Song: Catch a Falling Star. (Tune here. We teach just the chorus. Then we put on the video, and blow bubbles for them to catch.)

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,
save it for a rainy day.
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket,
never let it fade away.

Options: Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star; Follow the Drinking Gourd (sung before the Civil War, about escaping slaves following the Big Dipper and the north star to freedom)

Theme – Skeletons

Song – Dem Bones. Tune, jazzy tune.

Chorus: Dem Bones, Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones. [3 times]
Doing the Skeleton Dance.

The foot bone’s connected to the ankle bone.
The ankle bone’s connected to the shin bone.
The shin bone’s connected to the knee bone.
The knee bone’s connected to the thigh bone.
Doing the skeleton dance.


The thigh bone’s connected to the hip bone.
The hip bone’s connected to the back bone.
The back bone’s connected to the neck bone.
The neck bone’s connected to the head bone.
Doing the skeleton dance.


Biology and Nature

Theme – 5 Senses

The Five Senses Song, by Cymbric Early Smith (to the tune of Bingo)

What are the senses, can you tell?
We use them every day-o:
Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, Smell.
Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, Smell
Look, Listen, Taste, Touch, Smell…
We’re using our five senses…!

Include gestures for senses – point to eyes, then ears, then tongue, touch cheeks with palms, then point to nose. (Note: this was challenging even for adults to get right.)

Like BINGO, you can start dropping words – first time through we just point at eyes instead of saying look, then we say listen, taste, touch, smell. On second time, we point at eyes, then ears, then say taste, touch, smell, etc….

Theme – Animal Classification

Song – One of these Things is Not Like the Other from Sesame Street.

One of these things is not like the other.
One of these things just doesn’t belong.
Can you guess which thing is not like the other,
By the time I finish this song?

After each time you sing the song, show a picture of four animals, three from one category, and one that doesn’t belong to that category. Have the youngest children guess which doesn’t belong, and have older children tell what criteria show us that animal doesn’t fit with the others.

Theme – Habitats

Sing to the tune of Mulberry Bush / This is the Way We Wash Our Hands. We found this at but adjusted the wording a bit… Hold up a puppet, ask where it lives, then sing a version of this song:

  • Forests are where the deer live, the deer live, the deer live… forests are where the deer live, It’s their habitat.
  • Deserts are where camels live…
  • Oceans are where octopi live…

Theme – Eggs and Birds

Song – I’m a little chick – tune of I’m a Little Teapot.
Inspired by 3 songs on

I’m a little chickie, (crouch down inside your egg) Ready to hatch,
Pecking at my shell, (Pecking motion) Peck, peck, scratch! (scratching motion)
When I crack it open, Out I’ll leap. (Pop Up)
I’ll spread my wings (hands in armpits and flap) And cheep, cheep, cheep.

Theme – Bugs

Song 1 – Caterpillar. We found this song on  but Janelle added the first verse and revised some of the words a little so they scanned better to the music. Done to the tune of Frere Jacques / Are You Sleeping.

[Optional: you could combine this with a movement game, and have the kids pretend to be each of these stages of the life cycle.]

Caterpillar, caterpillar, curl, curl, curl, curl, curl, curl, curl up in your egg,
curl up in your egg, curl, curl, curl, curl, curl, curl.
Caterpillar, caterpillar, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawling on a green leaf,
crawling on a green leaf crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl, crawl.
Caterpillar, caterpillar eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eating leaves all day,
eating leaves all night, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat, eat.
Caterpillar, caterpillar, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin a silk cocoon,
spin a silk cocoon, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin, spin.
[the scientifically accurate one would be something like: shed shed shed… shed your skin the chrysalis…]
Caterpillar, caterpillar, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep in your cocoon,
sleep until you bloom, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep.
Caterpillar, caterpillar, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm from your cocoon, squirm from your cocoon squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm, squirm,
Caterpillar, caterpillar, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, you are not a caterpillar,
you’re a big butterfly,  fly, fly, fly, fly, fly, fly

Song 2 – From Growing Up Wild book. to the tune of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.

Head, Thorax, Abdomen; [touch head, chest, belly]
Head, Thorax, Abdomen.
Six legs, some wings, and an exoskeleton.

[Touch legs, back, and then sweep your hands around your body]
Head, Thorax, Abdomen

Head, Thorax, Abdomen; Head, Thorax, Abdomen.
Big eyes, small size and two antennae too. [Point to eyes, then use fingers to show a small something, then wiggle fingers over your head as antenna]
Head, Thorax, Abdomen

Theme – Seeds and Plants

A simple song, to the tune of Row Your Boat:

Grow, grow, grow your plants
Grow them tall and green
Soil and water, sun and air
All seeds depend on these

An alternative would be this, inspired by Preschool Education.

Dig, dig, dig the earth
Then you plant your seeds
A gentle rain and bright sunshine
Is all that they will need

Song 2 – Inch by Inch – the Garden Song. (Here’s a video with John Denver and the Muppets. You can also find versions by Pete Seeger; Arlo Guthrie; Peter, Paul and Mary; and my favorite recording by Priscilla Herdman – which accompanies lots of other lovely songs on her album Daydreamer. There are also books featuring the words of the song and illustrations, such as Inch by Inch: The Garden Song with illustrations by Eitan.)

Inch by inch, row by row
I’m gonna make this garden grow
All it takes is a rake and hoe
and a piece of fertile ground.

Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna help these seeds I sow
Soil will warm them from below
Till the rain comes tumbling down

Theme – Sink or Float.

Song – Will It Float by Janelle Durham. Tune – London Bridge. Accompanies a demo: Hold up an object, sing the song, then ask for the kids prediction. Test it.

Will it float or will it sink? Will it float? Will it sink?
Will it float or will it sink? What do you think?

You could add other verses to teach concepts, such as:

Heavy things usually sink, usually sink, usually sink.
Heavy things usually sink, but it depends upon their shape.

Some shapes float better than most, better than most, better than most,
some shapes float better than most, and others tend to sink.

Theme – Submarines and Under the Sea

Song – Over in the Ocean. Get the book Over in the Ocean: In a Coral Reef by Berkes and Canyon (described here: Read the book (see below) and sing the song. (You can find a video of it here or here.)

Over in the ocean, far away from the sun
Lived a mother octopus and her octopus one
Squirt said the mother, I squirt said the one
So they squirted in the reef far away from the sun

Over in the ocean, where the sea grasses grew
Lived a mother parrotfish and her parrotfish two.
Grind said the mother, we grind said the two,
So they ground on the coral where the sea grasses grew.

Over in the ocean, in the sea anemone.
Lived an old mother clown fish and her little clown fish 3.
Dart said the mother, we dart said the three.
So they darted all around in a sea anemone.

Over in the ocean, on the sandy sea floor
Lived an old mother sting ray and her little stingrays four
Stir said the mother, we stir said the four
So they stirred with their fins on the sandy sea floor

Over in the ocean where the scuba divers dive
Lived an old mother puffer and her pufferfish five.
Puff said the mother, we puff said the five
So they puffed in and out where the scuba divers dive

Over in the ocean doing somersault tricks
Lived an old mother dolphin and her little dolphins six.
Jump said the mother we jump said the six
So they jumped and they played doing somersault tricks

Over in the ocean in their sea fan heave
Lived a mother angelfish and her angelfish seven
Graze said the mother, we graze said the seven
So they lazed and they grazed in their sea fan heaven

Over in the ocean very streamlined and straight
Lived a mother needlefish and her needlefish eight.
Skitter said the mother, we skitter said the eight
So they skittered through the water very streamlined and straight

Over in the ocean drifting in a yellow line
Lived an old mother gruntfish and her little grunts nine
Grunt said the mother, we grunt said the nine
So they grunted and they kissed drifting in a yellow line

Over in the ocean in their turtle grass den
Lived an old father seahorse and his seahorse ten
Flutter said the father, we flutter said the ten
So they fluttered all around in their turtle grass den.

Over in the ocean where the sea creatures play
While their parents all were resting they up and swam away!
Find us said the children, from ten to one
When you find all the creatures than this rhyme is all done.

[If you don’t have the book to search for the creatures in, end this way instead: Name us said the children from ten to one, when you name all the creatures then this song is done.]

Other options are: All the Fish are swimming in the water ( or; Slippery Fish ( and hand motions here:; Yellow Submarine, or Under the Sea.

Resource: Check out this post (and collection of related resources) about the Benefits of Singing with Children or check out research summaries on music’s benefits. Here are all the rhythm activities we use in class to teach rhythm skills. And here are some thoughts on how we use music in our STE(A)M enrichment class.

More Resources: All these songs are sing-alongs. If you like to play a recorded song, there are several good resources for finding them – some will be songs you could adapt to a simple kids’ sing-along. Others are really too musically or lyrically complex for little ones to sing:

Submarines and Ocean Life

We had two weeks in a row of beach-themed activities. The first was Sink and Float, which included discussion about boats, and some activities with seashells that might wash up on a beach. This week, we went “Under the Sea” and talked some about coral reefs, fish, scuba divers, and submarines.

Challenge Activities

Each week, at our STEM enrichment class, we issue one or more “challenges” – a “can you build it” test. We put out a variety of materials and kids try to create something that works. It usually involves lots of tinkering and trial and error. You build a sample, test it, adjust, test it again, and adjust again. I always test these at home in advance so I know it’s do-able, but sometimes, like this week, getting one to work takes a lot of repetition and patience. In our morning class, I worked on a diver bottle with an almost-five year old for 15 minutes, then handed off to a dad who worked with that boy for another ten minutes to get a working prototype to show in opening circle. I was so proud of this boy for how long he stuck with this project and how well he worked with two adults who were not-his-dad. This is big progress since the start of the year for this child. We were so excited when we got the diver to work!

Diver Bottles. I will cover the basic details here. There are lots more details in this post.

Build your diver: Cut a straw into short lengths. Take a bit of Silly Putty to cover/seal one end so air can’t escape. Put a paper clip on the other end to weigh it down. Now, set this in a cup of water to see if it floats. If it sinks, use a smaller paper clip or less putty (less weight) or longer straw (traps more air, making it more buoyant). If it floats too high and tips on its side, then use a bigger paper clip or shorter straw. Keep adjusting till the straw stays upright in the water, just barely floating.

Assembling the bottle: Fill a water bottle almost all the way.  Gently add the diver. It floats. Screw lid on tight. Squeeze bottle hard. The diver will descend to the bottom of the bottle. Here’s a video of our final product in action:

Build a watertight sub from a plastic Easter egg: We did a variant of this activity last year. Read about it here:  Here’s how we did it this year:

We cut small people shapes from construction paper. I told the children that the person wanted to go under water in a sub and not get wet. I picked a Tupperware container I knew was watertight. We put the person inside, sealed it and held it under water and counted to ten. We took it out, dried it off the outside, then opened it and ta-da – there’s a dry paper person inside.

But then I took a plastic Easter egg, and said “let’s test this without a person yet.” We held the egg under the water, and immediately a stream of bubbles came up. I said “uh-oh, what does that mean?” They knew air was escaping because of experiments we did in the States of Matter week. I showed them the holes in the egg, then I said… “if water is going out, what’s going in?” Then I lifted it up out of the water, and the water poured out through the hole. Phew – thank goodness this was an unmanned test. So, then we figured out together how to plug the holes. (I made it easy, because the only useable hole-filler on the table was Silly Putty, which I knew would do the job. If you wanted to, you could also offer tape or glue or other substances to plug the holes and encourage them to test them all.) We plugged the holes, put a little paper person in. Sealed the egg and held it under the water for ten seconds. Results – it “almost worked”. (This phrase is a reference to the book we read – Papa’s Mechanical Fish.) The paper person may be dry, or just damp on one edge, but there will be a little standing water in the egg. We work out the idea that the water is getting in through the seam between the two halves of the egg. We cover the seam with a ring of silly putty to seal it. Success! Dry paper people!

IMG_20160604_122513332  IMG_20160604_122503623

Build a Ballast Tank Submarine: Drill / cut a hole in lid of water bottle. Thread a flexible tube or bendy straw through that. Seal around the opening with silly putty or tape. Punch two or three holes in one side of the water bottle. Add weights. The weight wants to be enough that the sub will sink as it takes on water. (IMG_20160604_122447127The first year we did this, we put several marbles inside the bottle to be weights. This year, we taped five nickels together and five quarters together to make two weights. We rubber banded the quarters near the bottom of the bottle, and the nickels near the top. Put them near the holes. This keeps that side facing down in the water.) Place the “sub” in a tub of water – let it sink, but keep the end of the straw above the water. Once it sinks, blow air through the straw – this forces the water out, so the sub will float back to the surface.

This experiment relates to how submarines work. When they want to dive, they fill ballast tanks with water to increase their density and sink. When they want to re-surface, they pump compressed air into the tanks, which forces the water out. Since air is less dense than water, the sub rises.  This experiment is not a perfect re-creation of that… since they’re not watertight… the water bottle has big holes in the side, the second you stop blowing on the straw, the water rushes back in and the sub sinks.

If you’re up to the challenge, you can make a sealed submarine with a water bottle, balloons as air tanks, and syringes or pumps to fill the balloons. See the video at or the challenge here:

Other Science Activities

Science Observation: I purchased two Toysmith Diving Subs. These are toy submarines, based on toys that were distributed in cereal box or through cereal box mail-aways in the 1950’s. (Read all about them here: It’s a small plastic sub,  where you lift the top off and fill a chamber with baking powder. Then you put the lid back on, place the sub in the water and swish it back and forth. It is heavy enough to sink to the bottom. But when the water hits the baking powder and reacts, it creates a carbon dioxide bubble under the sub, which brings the sub to the surface. When the bubble escapes, the sub sinks back down. Once you get it started, it will go up and down every minute or two for 15 minutes until the baking powder has all reacted. (Here’s a video of one in action: There’s more about them on In Lieu of Preschool.)

sub  IMG_20160604_122424043

Note: baking soda will not react with water (though it would react if you put it in a container of vinegar.) The baking powder contains both baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) which is a base and cream of tartar, an acid. When the water reaches the powder, it activates the reaction.

It’s a cool little experiment, but a couple caveats… the chamber for the baking powder is small – it’s hard to fill it using a spoon or funnel. I had good luck using a pipette at home, but it didn’t work as well at class. This is also slow… you have to wait probably 60 – 90 seconds before anything happens (the sub rising or sinking). This worked out fine for my five year old’s attention span when he was home eating a snack and watching it. It was harder in the class setting for kids to stand and pay attention long enough. And often they would wait 60 seconds, then turn away for one second and turn back, and discover it floated to the top when they weren’t looking. From now on, rather than using it as a classroom station, we’ll do it at the snack table for low key entertainment.

If you don’t want to buy the toy, you could try making one….

Tool of the Week – the Periscope. I purchased two: the Backyard Safari Periscope and the Elenco Adjustable Periscope. The Elenco is much cooler because it’s much bigger, but the Backyard is more manageable for the three to five year old’s motor skills. See “circle time” below for how I introduced these.

periscope1 periscope2

You could choose to make periscopes. Here are some options:

Art Projects

Playdough Sculpting. The illustrations in the book Over in the Ocean are photographs of amazing Sculpy art by Jeanette Canyon. We put the book, samples of the art, white play-dough and blue play-dough on the table and encouraged the children (and parents) to try to recreate Canyon’s style.

Fingerprint Fish. I put out blue paper, ink pads for rubber stamps, and markers. Kids could make fingerprints, then turn them into fish by decorating with markers. I used a picture from as inspiration.


Watercolor Resist Fish. We put out white paper, oil pastels, and paint brushes. We mixed liquid watercolor, warm water, and Epsom salt to make a diluted blue paint, with some sparkly-ness. Kids could draw fish with the pastels, then paint over with the blue “water.”

IMG_20160604_122344049 IMG_20160604_145010789 IMG_20160604_145014550 

Paint Waves. Add fish. At the easel, we had blue, green, and blue glitter paint. We encouraged kids to paint water. Then we had paper fish cut out and jewels to glue on to make a sea scape.



Math skills:

Fish match and sort. I made cards with pictures of fish / sea life on them. (Two of each) Kids can sort into categories, or find the matching fish.


Observation/math: I used artwork to create a mural of a coral reef. Then I used this field guide to make counting sheets so they can tally how many of each fish they see.


Imaginary Play: One year, we had an ocean theme rug and brown mats, so we set up a “beach” and “ocean” and put out sea life puppets – some on the shore and some in the ocean. Another time we set up the climber to be a submarine, and added a steering wheel, and “portholes” (plastic hoops) that they could look through to see the coral reef (the mural.)


Free Play Activities

Puzzles and Manipulatives: We used sea life related items from class supplies.

IMG_20160604_122218737 IMG_20160604_122145047

Sensory Table IdeasWe could have done sand with shells mixed in, but we’d done that the previous week, so we used rock salt and mixed in shells.

Water Table: We filled it with plastic fish, fish nets.


Game: Somethin’ Fishy was a card game from Simply Fun. I can’t find it on their website, so it may be out of print, which is a shame, because it’s a great game for 4 – 6 year olds. You could make your own… here’s how it works: The cards have a picture of a fish on them. There are four species of fish. In each species there are big fish, little fish, and hungry fish. You draw a card and start a line of fish in front of you. Then draw again. If that card matches the last fish in your line (same color or size) you add it to the line and you continue your turn or, if you have more than three cards in your line, you can choose to collect your cards (i.e. pick up all the cards in your line, set them aside to score later.) If it’s a different color or size, hand it to the person on your left and your turn ends. If it’s a hungry fish… if it is the same species as the last fish in your line, your turn ends, but otherwise you’re safe. Hungry fish don’t eat their own species. But, if it’s a different species than the end of your line, it eats all the fish in your line till it gets to one of its own species. Your turn ends. At the end of the game, you count cards in your score pile.



Outside Play – Beachcombing: Print paper seashells and items to find on a beach. (I used these: Scatter them outside in sand play area.

Opening Circle:

Gathering: A Sailor went to sea sea sea clapping game. (clap right, clap left, clap both hands three times, and so on.) Here’s a tutorial:, and here are kids doing it full speed:

If all your students were 6 or 7, you could probably just teach this as it is. But our kids range in age from barely 3 to almost 8, so here’s how we did it: First, two adults demo it. Then pair up one grown-up with each kid. Level one – the child puts their hands up in front of them palms out and just holds them there. The adult claps against their upheld hands. If they master that, then on to level two – the adult holds their hands still and the kid claps against them. Then for those who can – on to level three, where both clap simultaneously. Level 4 – speed that up!

This game teaches rhythm, hand-eye coordination, singing and moving at the same time, and teamwork.

Book: Papa’s Mechanical Fish (see below)

Discussion: Ask who lives under the water. Ask: can they breathe water or do they have to breathe air? If have to breathe air, then can’t dive very deep, because they have to keep coming up for air. Human beings can do this. Or, if we want to be able to keep looking under the water while we swim, we can wear a mask and a snorkel. (Show picture.) If we want to go under the water for a long time, what can we do? (Show picture of scuba diver, talk about oxygen tanks. Show picture of sub.)

When you’re in a submarine under the water, what can you use to look under the water (demo a “porthole” using a plastic hoop). What could you use to look at what’s up above the water?

Periscopes. I talked about how periscopes are used on submarines. Then I told them they could also be used on land to spy on things. I hid behind a piece of furniture and asked “Can you see me?” No. “Can I see you? Nope…. all I see is the back of this bookcase. Oh wait, I brought my periscope. Now I see you! I see ____ and I see ____. Hey, Teacher Cym hold up 1 – 5 fingers so I can prove I see you… you’re holding up 3!” The kids LOVED it, so we then left them to play with those after circle.

Song: Over in the Ocean – read the book (see below) and sing the song. Other options are: All the Fish are swimming in the water ( or or Slippery Fish ( and hand motions here:

Closing Circle

BookThe Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau.

Music: Hand out shakers, or scarves, or sea life puppets and dance to Under the Sea from Little Mermaid or Yellow Submarine by the Beatles.

Book recommendations

Papa’s Mechanical Fish by Fleming and Kulikov. On my list of Most Recommended Books about Inventors. What I like about it: nice story about a family – Papa, Mama, four kids, and a dog Rex. Papa is an inventor who has invented many (entertaining) things that “almost work.” Then on a family fishing trip he has a Eureka moment – he wants to build  mechanical fish he can ride underwater in. He attempts. And fails. Then makes a bigger bolder attempt. And fails. But he keeps trying, and in the end creates a sub that seats 7 in velvet upholstered chairs and the family has a delightful day under the water. Appeals to a broad age range, 4 – 8, with lots of giggling over the misadventures of Papa.  It’s a little long, so I look for ways to shorten it as I read.

The Fantastic Undersea Life of Jacques Cousteau by Yaccarino. This is one of my favorite books about inventors! Great illustrations, nice quotes from Cousteau, and a engaging story that begins with him as a child and then moves through his life of inventing and discovering.

Super Submarines by Mitton and Parker. I like their Amazing Machines series a lot, for ages 3 – 6. Nice rhyme and rhythm to the text, fun illustrations peopled with cute animals and bright colors, engaging non-fiction overviews of the theme. Some of the topics are a little over kids’ heads (like sonar, and when it says subs can be used to service oil rigs, which most little ones won’t know anything about) but the kids don’t seem to notice/mind.

Submarines (How Things Work) by Mattern. I love how this starts: “Imagine spending months inside a ship with no windows… now imagine that ship is sailing underwater. Usually people want a ship to stay on top of the water! Submarines can dive down underwater. How do they sail beneath the waves?” This engages kids, raises a real question in their mind, and leaves them in a state of curiosity and inquiry – ripe for learning. Good, kid-friendly non-fiction overview of submarines, with good photos. It covers similar content to Super Submarines, though in a little more detail, and without the cute illustrations or rhyming. If you have a kid who likes their science books to feel a little more serious, this is a good match. Also includes a timeline of sub history, and directions for making a ballast sub similar to ours. 4 – 8 years.

Submarines (My Favorite Machines) by Ruck. A fine non-fiction overview of subs, for ages 5 – 7. Like Bodden’s book (below), it has more emphasis on the weapons and military use than I like. If this doesn’t trouble you, it’s a fine option.

Submarines (Built for Battle) by Valerie Bodden. I didn’t notice that series sub-title of “Built for Battle” before I checked this out. Although it’s a good overview of subs, it focuses on their use in war: “the control room has everything crew members need to steer the sub and fire its weapons… It can protect warships from enemies. Subs can fire torpedoes or missiles at enemy ships… and toward targets on land too.” It’s too militaristic / jingoistic for my taste, but may really appeal to some. (A review of another book in the series says the series got a reluctant 8 year old motivated to try reading.) Ages 6 – 8.

Submarines UP CLOSE by Abramson. For ages 7 and up – and only kids who are really into machines. The text goes into a lot of detail about parts of the sub, there are lots of BIG photographs of subs – some modern, some dated some historical – but without captions that really explain what you’re seeing.

Yellow Submarine.. the Beatles. I should have read the description better. I thought it was just an illustrated version of the song lyrics. But instead, it’s the full story of the film Yellow Submarine, and much longer than I wanted to read.

Scuba Bunnies by Loomis and Eitan. For 3 – 5 year olds. Sweet little bedtime story about scuba diving bunnies. “Scuba bunnies long to see what’s beneath the deep blue sea. Kiss their mamas, check their gear, tanks are filled, masks are clear. Watches working, wet suits zipped. Snorkels on, flippers flipped.” And so on. I’m sure if you’re clever, you could find a way to make your Cartesian bottle divers look like Scuba bunnies. Maybe Shrinky dinks??

Scuba Diving by Teitelbaum. This was one of only two kids’ book on scuba diving my library had. It’s for older children, ages 7 and up, so it’s not something we read in class, but I did like it for the pictures. We put it on the table where we were building the diver bottle. Many of the kids hadn’t heard of scuba diving, so it was nice to be able to show them photos of divers both in and out of the water.

Don’t miss the other post on recommended books about the ocean and fish, especially Over in the Ocean.