3. Now remove about an inch of the plastic coating from both ends of the wire and attach the one wire to one end of a battery and the other wire to the other end of the battery. (It is best to tape the wires to the battery – be careful though, the wire could get very hot!) Now you can experiment by picking up paper clips and small non-aluminum objects.
As you wonder and ask questions, experiments will let you watch chemical reactions as they happen. Even something as simple as writing a secret message on the bathroom mirror with a cotton swab and dish detergent can teach you about science. When the bathroom fills with warm steam from a shower, your message will appear like magic on the mirror. It’s not really magic, though. The dish detergent on the mirror is preventing water molecules in the steam from sticking together, so you can see the letters you wrote earlier.
This simple experiment teaches kids about inertia (as well as the importance of seatbelts!). Take a small wagon, fill it with a tall stack of books, then have one of your children pull it around then stop abruptly. They won’t be able to suddenly stop the wagon without the stack of books falling. You can have the kids predict which direction they think the books will fall and explain that this happens because of inertia, or Newton’s first law.
The kitchen can be an ideal place for performing science experiments, with an adult’s help. For instance, with a few stalks of celery and some food coloring, you can watch capillary action happen almost before your eyes. Capillary action describes what happens as plants move water up from their roots to their leaves. Get four stalks of celery and cut off the bottoms so each stalk is 10 inches long. You’ll also need four identical cups, each filled with a half-cup of cool water. Decide what color you want to make the water, and then add the same number of drops of food coloring to each cup of water. Stir the water well with a spoon. Place one stalk of celery into each cup. After two hours, remove one stalk and label this one “two hours.” After four hours, remove another stalk and label it the same way. Do the same with the next stalk at six hours and the final stalk at eight hours. After you finish, compare the celery stalks to see how each one changed color, depending on how long it was in the colored water.
You could even step into the living room to have more scientific fun. Learn about static electricity with some tiny scraps of paper and a balloon. Blow up the balloon and tie it closed. Make a small pile of paper scraps on the floor, and rub the balloon back and forth several times on your hair or on a sweater. Immediately move the balloon to the paper and watch as the paper scraps cling to the balloon. Rub the balloon on your head or sweater again and then place it against the wall to see it stick there. This surprising sticking happens because you have moved electrons around and the balloon now has more of a negative charge, while the paper or the wall has more of a positive charge. Putting the two surfaces together makes the opposite charges stick to each other.
It’s natural to have a lot of questions about the world. As you wonder about these things and ask questions, you are learning. Curiosity about science helps you become an explorer finding out how things work and why things happen. Anyone can be a scientist, performing experiments to ask questions and get answers. You can even be a scientist at home, working on experiments with ingredients you probably have in your kitchen or laundry room. Always get a parent’s permission before you conduct experiments. Working as a team with an adult is best for safety.