A Toddler and Early Years STEM Experiment to Try

Sandra Beale, Founder, Toddler and Early Years STEAM
15th December 2023

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Sandra Beale has a background in psychology, has worked in Advertising as a copywriter and has made very short experimental films, some of which won awards and nominations.

Sandra is now a mum of three and started Toddler and Early Years STEAM sessions when her middle son was 9 months old. He’s 9 years old now!

What started as entertainment solely for her baby soon grew. After visiting friends were amazed at a 9-month-old doing science experiments, they wanted their children to participate in the sessions.

Since then, the sessions have grown and have appeared several times on the BBC, BBC Tiny Happy People, BBC Radio, BBC Breakfast, Early Years TV, local newspapers and magazines and were nominated for a ‘STEM Initiative of the Year Award’ at the Cambridge Science and Technology Awards in May 2023.

Sandra has also been participating in the BBC’s STEM season for the last 3 years with a workshop on her Toddler and Early Years STEAM sessions. She has also done sessions at the Cambridge Science Centre and Saffron Walden Museum, as well as with local primary schools and nurseries and at a local French Restaurant in Saffron Walden. Most recently, Sandra organised a STEM Relay Race to raise money for BBC Children in Need. This is the 4th year that Toddler and Early Years STEM have been raising funds for Children in Need.

The sessions are held every Monday morning at Sandra’s home at 9:30am, for an hour, throughout the year. An example of a typical Monday morning session is a small group of four or five young children aged between 2 and 4 years, along with their mums around her dining table, exploring various science concepts in a fun and playful environment.

The sessions are run with a bigger group and more varied ages during half term and holidays. There are various themed sessions also depending on the time of year.

The local MP for Saffron Walden Kemi Badenoch attended one of Sandra’s themed summer sessions in September 2023 and enjoyed participating in the 5 experiments.

I thought a fun experiment that you could try over Christmas in your Early Years setting could be the Snowstorm in a jar experiment. Its great fun and the children at my sessions love it!

Ask your preschoolers or Key Stage 1 children to gather around. They could either sit around the table or stand. I always find being flexible with seating arrangements makes for more enjoyable experiences for Children and their Care Givers.

Once they are settled you could maybe start by asking them if they know what a snowstorm is? Ask if they might have read about a snowstorm in a book or seen it on TV. Then explain that you are going to try and make one in a jar. You could then either hand out a jar to each child or use just one or two depending on jar availability. If each child is given a jar, ask them to place the jar on the table and to not touch it until you tell them to.

Then show the children the materials that you will be using and ask them what they think each ingredient might do to create the snowstorm. Once they have all responded, then proceed to follow the instructions below explaining each step as you go along.

Once I put in the paint, water and oil I generally give each child a tablet and ask them to put it into the jar (and not into their mouths). This is fun for children especially if they are between 15 months – 2 years, as they love getting involved. Also, make sure you have plenty of helpers when you are doing experiments with this age group. At my sessions the parents sit around the table with their young children on their laps, or standing beside them.

Older children would probably like to be involved in the pouring and measuring as well as dropping in a tablet.

 Materials Required:

  1. Mason Jar, or any Jar
  2. White poster paint
  3. Water
  4. Clear oil like Babyoil
  5. Alka Setlzer


  1. Fill your jar with a little bit of water (less than half of the jar, about a quarter)
  2. Pour in the poster paint again about a quarter.
  3. Fill the rest of the jar with baby oil (I use Johnson’s baby oil as I buy it online, but any clear oil is fine)
  4. Then pop in the one tablet of Alka Seltzer and watch what happens.

The Science

  • Oil and water don’t mix and when the alka seltzer is dropped in, it breaks through the oil and water picks up the paint and bubbles to the top.
  • The citric acid and bicarb in the alka seltzer react in the water to create carbon dioxide which cause the bubbles creating a storm kind of effect.]

Author: Sandra Beale, Founder, Toddle and Early Years STEAM

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