One of the best things about working with young children is the wonder they have about things that we barely give a second thought to as adults.
The week before spring break I put bubble solution (water, dish soap, glycerin) in the water table with several bubble making items: slotted spoon, canning ring, plastic berry basket, several small random toys that have openings to blow bubbles through, etc. I thought to kids would enjoy exploring bubble making with these unique bubble wands. However, they instead enjoyed stirring the mixture with the slotted spoon and spatula, creating a frothy lather that no one could blow bubbles with.
At first I was disappointed and explained that if they made the froth (new vocabulary), they couldn't blow the bubbles. Even as the words were coming out of my mouth I was regretting them. I've been trying to do better following the children's lead, rather my own agenda. However once I said them, I decided to see what happened on day two of water table bubbles. Free play started out with some of the older children going to the water table to explore the bubbles. A younger child came over and began the mixing and froth making. One of the older girls got after her, telling her not to make the froth. The younger child left. I took that opportunity to explain to the group that there was more than one way to play with the bubbles, but if anyone wanted to blow bubbles they should come to the water table early, before someone else makes froth.
It turns out most of the kids needed the opportunity to explore the making of froth before working with the bubble-making toys. So we made froth. My student with autism enjoyed the sensory exploration of feeling the froth with his hands, arms, face, and hair. He would have liked to have climbed into the table, I think. He was playing at the table with two other children, which has been a challenge for him. So bubble blowing was not a success (at least how I envisioned it), but froth making was a huge success!
After a week of spring break, we returned to find bubble blowing at the science table. This was a simple activity with cups of bubble solution on trays and straws. I stationed myself at the table for most of Monday and the beginning of Tuesday's free play time. I had each child who came to the table demonstrate to me how to blow out with the straw. (In the past I have had some children who could not do this and ended up sucking in a mouthful of soap, not a huge deal, and quite a learning experience, but a bit of trauma that is avoidable with a bit of instruction.)
Once the child can show me how to blow out (onto my hand), they were given a place to work and instructed to make lots of bubbles in their cups with their straw. The look of delight and wonder in their eyes was priceless! They made mounds of bubbles which spilled out over the cups onto their trays. We talked about blowing hard and soft, making big and little bubbles, and other concepts. One child pointed out that his bubbles had rainbows in them and showed other children this. We noticed that bubbles popped when you touched them, unless your hands were wet. We made lots of clean messes! This area was the most popular area early in the week, but interest waned as the week went on.
I'm taking another week off of bubbles (so that it doesn't become too mundane) then I will re-introduce the bubble blowers that I tried out in the water table before spring break. This time I plan to use a smaller tub at the science table, rather than the water table. Hopefully it will be nice enough to take the bubbles outside too.
By the way, bubble blowing is a science activity. Children explore change in matter, practice their observation skills, make inferences, learn new vocabulary, interact with materials in new or different ways. As they interact with these materials, they will create memories that will become prior knowledge to build future learning upon. This is physical science at its best.