There's no better time than summer for your child to explore the effects of light and shadow! Combine science and art with this entertaining experiment that results in a pretty sun print. Sun prints, which usually employ the sun's rays and chemically-treated paper to create a silhouette of an object, were one of the earliest forms of photography. Help him tap into this classic, awe-inspiring technique and investigate how different household objects react with light—using ordinary, inexpensive construction paper.
What You Do:
- Start by asking your child to come up with a hypothesis. What does he think will happen when he covers part of a piece of paper with an object, and then leaves it in the sun? Will it stay the same? Will it change? Have him make guesses as you jot them down.
- Walk outside with your child, and encourage him to observe the outside light and the shadows cast by the sun. Move from a sunny spot to a shaded area, such as under a tree. Ask him to tell you what happened when he moved from the light to shaded place. Try a variety of different shady places, and then talk about the differences he felt in different locations.
- Place a plain piece of construction paper on a flat surface that's in direct sunlight. If the weather hasn't projected rain, this can be done outside. If there is the possibility of rain, do this project on a windowsill or table near a sunny window.
- Invite your child to search the house for objects of several different shapes. Household items like a solid coffee mug (make sure that it is not clear or glass) or a coffee can make great circles. For other shapes, you may want to help your child draw and cut templates out of dark construction paper or cardboard.
- Next, have him place the shapes onto the construction paper, making sure the objects don't fill the entire piece of paper.
- Set the paper—with the shapes on it—in the sunlight to fade. There is no definite time it takes for this to occur; it will depend on the sun quality, weather conditions, and the paper itself. Periodically have your child lift the corner of a shape to see if it's creating a print.
- Take the shapes off of the paper to reveal a pretty sun print!
Try this experiment in different seasons to see if it takes more or less time for the paper to fade. Add objects of different shapes to create a fun design!