Matter & Materials

In our Online Art & Science class for 4 – 5 year olds, last week, we talked about Dots. And we shared videos about Pointillism, which showed how when you combine LOTS of dots, you get a complex picture. Today, we talked about how all things are made of matter. How all matter is made up of teeny tiny pieces called Atoms, and the more you add together, the bigger thing you can make.

Art Projects

We invited the children to bring a project to work on during class where they take lots of little things to make something big. The ideas we shared were:

  • materials for a collage: paper or cardboard to stick things to, glue, and items to stick on (tissue paper squares, feathers, sequins, beans, pasta, rice… whatever you’d like! It would be especially relevant if you had items made of different materials – some wood pieces, some plastic pieces, etc. Choose materials with different properties like rough sandpaper, soft cotton balls, fluffy feathers and shiny foil)
  • beads and string to make a necklace / bracelet
  • strips of paper to make a paper chain:
  • paper and dot stickers or something to make dots with (paint, marker) to make pointillist art, like our extension activity from last week

The Big Idea

We used a video called Atoms: the Building Blocks of Matter to introduce our key ideas for the day. An alternative would be Physical Properties of Matter. Or What is an Atom – Dr. Binocs:

And then we read the book Touch It by Adrienne Mason. (Part of her FABULOUS physical science series.) An alternative is Matter: See it, touch it taste it (video of this book)

The Song / Game

We sang “One of these things is not like the other” from Sesame Street. Have a collection of 4 items where 3 things are made of one material and the fourth is made of something different… like a a metal cup, a metal can, a metal spoon, and a plastic spoon. Or a stick, a wooden spoon, a wood chess piece, and a plastic chess piece. Or a glass, a mirror, a glass marble and a rubber bouncy ball. You’ll intro the items, sing the song, they’ll tell you which one doesn’t belong and why.

What’s the same, what’s different: You can more broadly just do any collection of 4 items and let them figure out what they have in common and what’s different about them. My co-teacher showed 4 items: a pottery cup, a glass coffee cup, a metal goblet, and a plastic cup. Through a guided conversation, the children noticed that they were all things you could drink out of, two had handles and two did not, two had stems and two did not, two were breakable and two were not, one was transparent and the others were not, and so on.

Exploring Materials

Pick ANY object. (e.g. paper clip, rubber band, plastic straw, rubber ball, wooden spoon, magnifying glass, plastic cup, a stone carving… anything that is primarily made of one material) Ask them these questions:

  • What is it made out of?
    • Wood, plastic, glass, metal, cloth, paper, cardboard, foam, wax?
  • How would you describe it?
    • Hard or soft? Rough or smooth? Sticky? Flexible or rigid? Transparent, translucent, or opaque? What color is it?
  • Why do you think the person who made this chose that material for this object?
  • What would happen if it was made out of _______ instead? 


We typically end class with a delightful, imaginative, flight of fancy fictional book that relates to the topic in some way. I am certain that there is a FABULOUS book about taking lots of small items and putting them together to build something big, but I couldn’t think of it last night when I built this lesson plan. So, we used Ada Twist, Scientist because you can never go wrong with that book!

But, if you have ideas for the perfect story, PLEASE add a comment!

More Resources

For non-fiction concepts set inside a nice story about a kids’ science classroom, check out: What’s the Matter in Mr. Whisker’s Room: It’s great… just too long for our purposes, and better suited to 6 – 8 year olds. (We work with 4 – 5 year olds.)

Matter – Physical Science for Kids ( is a non-fiction book about matter. The section at the beginning is about how when people say “what’s the matter” that’s different than when they’re talking about matter as a science concept. It’s helpful to explain this, but this book spent too long explaining it.

Extension Videos: There is a nice lesson plan you can work through with this Mission Materials Video:

Science Standards:

The activities in this lesson plan line up with these standards:

The Colorado Quality Standards for Early Childhood Care and Education Services ( include this in their preschool standards:

Concepts and skills students master:

  1. Objects have properties and characteristics
  2. How are various objects similar and different?

Students can: a. Use senses to gather information about objects; b. Make simple observations, predictions, explanations, and generalizations based on real-life experiences, and c. Collect, describe, and record information through discussion, drawings, and charts

Next Generation Science Standards for 2nd grade ( include: describe and classify different kinds of materials by their observable properties. [e.g. color, texture, hardness, flexibility, absorbency]; test different materials to determine which materials have properties that are best suited for an intended purpose. [describe] how an object made of a small set of pieces can be disassembled and made into a new object.

Learn More about Matter

We also have a lesson plan for States of Matter. Check it out. And in our Sink and Float, we talk a lot more about one particular property of materials that would guide what we chose to make a boat out of.


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