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 takes a few hours to see the results of this leaf experiment, but it couldn’t be easier to set up, and kids will love to see a leaf actually “breathing.” Just get a large-ish leaf, place it in a bowl (glass works best so you can see everything) filled with water, place a small rock on the leaf to weigh it down, and leave it somewhere sunny. Come back in a few hours and you’ll see little bubbles in the water created when the leaf releases the oxygen it created during photosynthesis.
Have you ever gone into a cave and seen huge stalactites hanging from the top of the cave? Stalactites are formed by dripping water. The water is filled with particles which slowly accumulate and harden over the years, forming stalactites. You can recreate that process with this stalactite experiment. By mixing a baking soda solution, dipping a piece of wool yarn in the jar and running it to another jar, you’ll be able to observe baking soda particles forming and hardening along the yarn, similar to how stalactites grow.
For this saltwater density experiment, you’ll fill four clear glasses with water, then add salt to one glass, sugar to one glass, and baking soda to one glass, leaving one glass with just water. Then, float small plastic pieces or grapes in each of the glasses and observe whether they float or not. Saltwater is denser than freshwater, which means some objects may float in saltwater that would sink in freshwater. You can use this experiment to teach kids about the ocean and other bodies of saltwater, such as the Dead Sea, which is so salty people can easily float on top of it.
Kids this age will probably enjoy a whole range of different science kits. It’s good to look for something which will help with what they are learning about at school. Pre-teens are becoming more and more independent, so it might be worth looking for an experiment kit which is simple enough for them to do alone, but still hard enough to keep them entertained and learning.
Ah, slime. It’s the one thing that parents across the UK have been being pestered to make, so why not turn it into a science activity? For our concoction, we mixed shaving foam, PVA glue and a little bit of air freshener (fabric conditioner can work too!), to create a slime that you can swirl, stretch and crack, providing hours of fun. Try changing the quantities to see how the mixture changes, and ask the kids to explain the differences.