You don’t need a storm to see lightning; you can actually create your own lightning at home. For younger kids this experiment requires adult help and supervision. You’ll stick a thumbtack through the bottom of an aluminum tray, then stick the pencil eraser to the pushpin. You’ll then rub the piece of wool over the aluminum tray, and then set the tray on the Styrofoam, where it’ll create a small spark/tiny bolt of lightning!
When these nails and copper wires collide, heat is generated (psst ... heat is a result of expended energy, so you can explain to your little runner why he feels warmer after a race around the house). But with some potato magic, the properties of the nail and copper stay separated, allowing the heat to become the electric energy needed to power up your devices. Build your own potato battery with this tutorial from PBS Kids.
If your kids are learning about genetics, you can do this edible double helix craft to show them how DNA is formed, what its different parts are, and what it looks like. The licorice will form the sides or backbone of the DNA and each color of marshmallow will represent one of the four chemical bases. Kids will be able to see that only certain chemical bases pair with each other.
With just a package of Starbursts and a few other materials, you can create models of each of the three rock types: igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic. Sedimentary “rocks” will be created by pressing thin layers of Starbursts together, metamorphic by heating and pressing Starbursts, and igneous by applying high levels of heat to the Starbursts. Kids will learn how different types of rocks are forms and how the three rock types look different from each other.
With just some basic materials you can create your own musical instrument to teach kids about sound waves. In this water xylophone experiment, you’ll fill glass jars with varying levels of water. Once they’re all lined up, kids can hit the sides with wooden sticks and see how the itch differs depending on how much water is in the jar (more water=lower pitch, less water=higher pitch). This is because sound waves travel differently depending on how full the jars are with water.
Refraction is when light changes direction and speed as it passes from one object to another. Only visible objects reflect light. When two materials with similar reflective properties come into contact, light will pass through both materials at the same speed, rendering the other material invisible. Check out this video from BritLab on how to turn glass invisible using vegetable oil and pyrex glass.
If you’ve ever wondered why someone can measure and pour ingredients into a bowl, mix them up, and then bake the batter in the oven to make a cake, you’ve thought about science. The process of mixing certain ingredients together and adding heat causes the ingredients to react and change. For example, baking powder or baking soda in a cake recipe will react with acidic or wet things in the batter to puff it up and make the cake light and fluffy. Scientists tested these reactions so many times that they learned what would happen every time. This is called experimentation, and you can do it, too.