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.
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.
This is an easy experiment that’ll appeal to kids of a variety of ages. Just take a zip-lock bag, fill it about ⅔ of the way with water, and close the top. Next, poke a few sharp objects (like bamboo skewers or sharp pencils) through one end and out the other. At this point you may want to dangle the bag above your child’s head, but no need to worry about spills because the bag won’t leak? Why not? It’s because the plastic used to make zip-lock bags is made of polymers, or long chains of molecules that’ll quickly join back together when they’re forced apart.
My First Mind Blowing Science Kit also comes with cool scientific tools like test tubes, pipettes, stirring sticks, and measuring scoops that will make your child feel like a real chemist. Not only will they learn important skills in conducting experiments, they will also learn the basics of acids and bases. While none of the experiments are particularly messy, it’s safer to perform them on a flat surface with adult supervision.
Kids will love shooting pom poms out of these homemade popsicle stick catapults. After assembling the catapults out of popsicle sticks, rubber bands, and plastic spoons, they’re ready to launch pom poms or other lightweight objects. To teach kids about simple machines, you can ask them about how they think the catapults work, what they should do to make the pom poms go a farther/shorter distance, and how the catapult could be made more powerful.
There is a clear line between experimenting with a homemade science kit and one that is paid for. I like both, but it is easier for children to use and be left to their own devices with the kits that come boxed up. These have all the equipment needed, usually labeled and comes with clear, distinctive and easy to use manuals for conducting the experiment.
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.
Invisible inks either react with another chemical to become visible or else weaken the structure of the paper so the message appears if you hold it over a heat source. But we're not talking about fire here. The heat of a normal light bulb is all that's required to darken the lettering. This baking soda recipe is nice because if you don't want to use a light bulb to reveal the message, you can just swab the paper with grape juice instead.
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.
There are a lot of science kits for kids out there, so it can be difficult to work out which brands are the best. Some of our favorites for realistic experiments include 4M and National Geographic. For younger kids, the Kids First brand has a lot of good value kits to choose from. The brand Sick Tricks is also a great choice for kids looking to impress their friends or parents with new tricks and experiments. For robotic science kits, Cozmo and LEGO are great options.
This solar energy science experiment will teach kids about solar energy and how different colors absorb different amounts of energy. In a sunny spot outside, place six colored pieces of paper next to each other, and place an ice cube in the middle of each paper. Then, observe how quickly each of the ice cubes melt. The ice cube on the black piece of paper will melt fastest since black absorbs the most light (all the light ray colors), while the ice cube on the white paper will melt slowest since white absorbs the least light (it instead reflects light). You can then explain why certain colors look the way they do. (Colors besides black and white absorb all light except for the one ray color they reflect; this is the color they appear to us.)