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Materials and their Properties - There’s a hole in my umbrella!


Explain to your child that you need their help to solve a problem, ‘Grandpa has just phoned to say that he’s discovered a hole in his umbrella and he needs your help! It’s raining where he lives but he’d still like to go out for his daily walk. What material that he has at home would be the best for him to mend his umbrella with?’

(You might need to reword the characters in the problem to suit your family/lockdown situation!) 


If you have an umbrella at home (it doesn’t have to have a hole in it!), have a look at it together. Talk about: What do umbrellas do? What sort of material is useful for the canopy on an umbrella? What properties will it need? How can we test a material to see if it has those properties?

Encourage your child to feel the umbrella and describe the different parts and the different materials, using words such as floppy, strong, bendy (flexible), thick, waterproof. Ask them to clarify what an umbrella is used for (keeping the rain off, it also has to fold away neatly) and to make links between the umbrella's use and the useful properties of the materials used.


When completing this science challenge it would be really useful if you use the following ‘science’ words with your child: waterproof, absorbent, lightweight, breaks/tears, materials, properties.


Talk about what materials you have in the house that could be used to mend the umbrella e.g cling film, kitchen towel, plastic bag, tin foil, newspaper. Choose 5 materials that you are going to test.

Complete the ‘Exploring Umbrella Materials’ worksheet together. Encourage your child to record their ideas for themselves. We appreciate some children might be reluctant to engage in the written part but keeping these skills ticking over is important. A little and often would be really beneficial.

Exploring Umbrella Materials - Worksheet

Cut a piece of each of your 5 test materials. Using an elastic band or sellotape attach the piece of material over the opening of a plastic cup or empty yogurt pot, make sure it is tight and secure. You will need to do that with each of the 5 materials you have decided to test.


As you complete the practical part of this challenge, talk about and support your child to complete the 4 boxes on the ‘Umbrella Materials Testing’ worksheet. As well as writing they could also use simple labelled diagrams to show what they did or what they saw happen. 

Umbrella Materials Testing - Worksheet

Talk about how much water you will place on each material. You will need to put the same amount of water on each material. (A Calpol syringe would be good for this.) Talk to your child about the numbers and marks on the syringe and how you can use the scale to measure out the water. You could talk about litres and millilitres as the standard units of measure we use for liquids.


Before you start testing the materials, talk to your child about what they think will happen. Can they explain why they think that will happen?


Now for the fun part! Test one piece of material at a time. Remember to use the same amount of water for each test. Look closely at the water droplets on top of the material. Are the water droplets sitting on the top of the material? Or are they being absorbed? Is there any water inside the cup/yogurt pot? 


When you have tested all the materials, ask your child to choose the material that they think is the most suitable from mending the umbrella. Why have they chosen that material?

Congratulate them for solving the problem by thinking and acting like a real scientist … and don’t forget to phone Grandpa to tell him that you now know how to help him mend his umbrella!


Happy investigating!