Slide Experiments

In this lesson, children will explore concepts of force and motion while experimenting with slides.

Content Area:

Force and Motion

Learning Goals:

This lesson will help toddlers and preschoolers meet the following educational standards:

  • Demonstrate curiosity about the world and begin to use the practices of science and engineering to answer questions and solve problems
  • Explore concepts of force and motion

Learning Targets:

After this lesson, toddlers and preschoolers should be more proficient at:

  • Planning and carrying out simple investigations
  • Exploring the effect of force on objects in and outside of the early childhood environment
toddler with sunflower

Slide Experiments

Lesson plan for toddlers/preschoolers

Step 1: Gather materials.

  • Balls/Spherical Objects
  • Flat Objects
  • Toy Cars

Note: Small parts pose a choking hazard and are not appropriate for children age five or under. Be sure to choose lesson materials that meet safety requirements.

Step 2: Introduce activity.

  1. In the classroom, introduce the idea of rolling items down a slide at the playground or a local park.
  2. Invite children to identify and collect objects in the classroom that are spherical, flat or have wheels.
  3. Once items are collected, invite the children to sort and classify these objects.
  4. Ask questions such as “Which group of items will go down the slide and travel farthest from the slide? Why do you think so? Will all of the items that are round go the same distance?”
  5. Once children have made their predictions, complete this activity outdoors.

Step 3: Engage children in lesson activities.

  1. At the school/center playground or at a local park (or wherever there is a slide), invite the children to share their predictions about the collection of items and how far they think they will travel off of the slide.
  2. Invite the children to, one by one, select an item and release it from the top of the slide.
  3. After the first item has traveled, invite the children to explain why the item traveled as far as it did in terms of the item’s roundness, flatness or if it had wheels.
  4. Continue selecting items and releasing items down the slide while engaging in discussions with the children about comparisons between items and the different characteristics of each item.
  5. After all of the items have been released, invite the children to share any patterns that they see relating to the characteristics of items.
  6. Additionally, consider taking photos of the experience and where the items have landed for later analysis in the classroom.

Step 4: Vocabulary.

  • Predict—To guess what might happen next
  • Characteristic—A feature or attribute of an object
  • Category—A group of things sharing a common attribute or property
  • Classify—To arrange objects by rules or shared attributes or characteristics
  • Conclude—To make statements about what was learned after an observation or experiment

Early Science Glossary

Step 5: Adapt lesson for toddlers or preschoolers.

Adapt Lesson for Toddlers
Toddlers may:
  • Be interested in releasing items down the slide and not stopping to discuss
  • Be interested in items that roll easily
Child care providers may:
  • Encourage children to continue to release items down the slide, commenting on how far they traveled instead of discussing how all of the items relate to each other
  • Start with items that roll easily at first before introducing different items
Adapt Lesson for Preschoolers
Preschoolers may:
  • Be interested in measuring distances between objects
  • Extend this activity to ramps in the classroom
Child care providers may:
  • Provide measuring tools and chart paper to gather data
  • Provide flat boards and materials to create ramps similar to the slide used outdoors to explore how items move down a slide or ramp

Suggested Books

  • Ramps and Wedges by Sian Smith
  • Roll, Slope and Slide: A Book About Ramps by Michael Dahl
  • Zoom! by Diane Adams

Music and Movement

  • Measure how fast children go down the slide
  • Create an outdoor obstacle course incorporating the slide

Outdoor Connections

  • What natural materials can be used to make ramps? Create outdoor ramps out of these natural materials.
  • Go for neighborhood walks to scout out streets with inclines, declines and flat areas. Discuss how cars roll on these different street angles.

Web Resources

Comment on this lesson