At Home Science for Kids... 15+ simple experiments you are going to want to try

My kids have always been interested in doing science experiments at home. I think it's a combination of their love for learning and the joy they take in making a mess. lol

Today, I am sharing a collection of OVER 15 simple science experiments we have done together. They are all easy to do at home, and they use things you likely already have in your cupboards.

1) Make rain - This is a good way to teach kids about how water becomes rain. It's provides a wonderful opportunity to talk about physical changes versus chemical changes. This particular experiment is an example of a physical change because the water changes its form but its chemical composition remains the same... i.e. it is still water.

To make rain:
  • Heat a pot of water until it is boiling
  • Watch as the water turns to steam (changes from a liquid to a gas)
  • Hold a tin foil pan full of ice over the steam coming from the pot
  • Watch as the steam is cooled and turns to water (changes from a gas to a liquid)

2) Magic ice fishing - This experiment lets you pick up a piece of ice with a piece of string. It works because the salt lowers the freezing temperature water. Sprinkling salt on the ice causes it to thaw... then as the melting water dilutes the salty mixture, it freezes again... over the string.

To fish for ice:
  • Fill a cup with water and an ice cube or two
  • Place the string on top of the ice cube (s)
  • Sprinkle salt on the spot where the string touches the ice
  • Wait 10 seconds
  • The ice will melt slightly and then refreeze around the string
  • Lift the string... and the ice... like magic!

3) Make popcorn dance - By causing a chemical reaction between vinegar and baking soda that creates carbon dioxide, you can make popcorn kernals "dance". When the carbon dioxide gas gets trapped under the kernals, it lifts them up.

To make popcorn dance:
  • Put 1 tbsp of popcorn kernals into a glass
  • Add 1/2 cup water
  • Add 1/2 cup vinegar
  • Add 1 tbsp baking soda (over a sink with a towel handy... because there is going to be a foamy reaction)
  • Wait 10 seconds and watch the kernals "dance" as they get pushed up by the gas bubbles.

*Here is a video of my boys and I doing experiments  #1 to #3.*

4) Make a Mentos geysor - To make a Mentos geysor, all you need is a 2L bottle of diet soda and a package of Mentos. (Make sure it is diet because the reaction is a lot better.)

Then, open the soda, drop the Mentos in as quickly as possible, and stand back. (If you have a tube that allows you to slide them all in at once, it would be ideal. However, I just gave two to each of my boys and told them to drop them in as fast as they could!)

5) Make ice cream in a bag - There is nothing more fun than a science experiment that ends with an edible treat. To make ice cream in a bag, you'll need:

  • big ziploc bags
  • small ziploc bags
  • salt
  • ice, sugar
  • vanilla,
  • coffee cream (18%).
1) Put 1/2 cup of course salt and a bunch of ice in the big bag.
2) Put 1/2 cup coffee cream, 1 tsp vanilla, and 3 tsp of sugar in the small bag.
3) Seal the small bag, place it in the larger bag, seal the larger bag, and shake it until ice cream forms (approximately 10-15 minutes).

Eating it right out of the bag is half the fun, but try not to get salt from the outside of the bag into the ice cream. You might want to give it a quick wipe with a cloth before you give it to the kids to eat.

6) Make an exploding sandwich bag - Experiments where things explode are always popular in my house, and exploding sandwich bags are super-fun. 

  • First, gather your supplies (baking soda, a square of toilet paper, vinegar, water, and a Ziploc sandwich bag)
  • Then, take 1 tbsp of baking soda and wrap it in a square of toilet paper. 
  • Next, pour 1/4 water and 1/2 white vinegar into the baggie. Partially zip the baggie, but leave an opening for the baking soda packet.
  • Finally, head outside (because this part is messy). Drop the packet into the water/vinegar mixture, seal the baggie, put the baggie down, and wait for the "pop"!

7) Colour carnations - This is an easy experiment that teaches kids about how flowers/plants absorb water. It's also fun for the kids to watch the flowers magically change color.

To do this experiment, you'll need: plain white carnations, glass containers, and food coloring.

1) Fill the glasses with water, and then add several drops of food coloring to each glass. We added about 15 drops of food coloring to each container. (We used blue, red, and green food coloring, and we found that the red food coloring had the best results.)

2) Then, make a fresh cut to each of the flowers, and put them in the containers.

After a few days, the flowers will start to change color. The kids will be able to see how the water (and the food coloring) travels up the stem of the flower and into the petals.

8) Play with density - A fun way to explore the scientific concept of "forming a hypothesis and testing it" is to do a "Will it sink or will it float?" density experiment. 

To investigate density: put 1/4 colored water, 1/4 oil, and 1/4 corn syrup in three different glasses. Then, try to guess what will happen when each liquid is poured into the same glass.

As the liquids start to settle, talk about how the more "dense" liquids sink and the less "dense" liquids rise. 

9) Play with ice - Ice is inexpensive and readily available, and it is the perfect material for experimenting on. It's super-fun (and easy) to make a large ice orb to play with.

Fill a balloon with water, leave it in the fridge for 9 hours, remove it from the fridge, break and remove the balloon, crack open the weak side of the ice, pour out the water, and insert glow sticks. Head to a dark room to examine your glowing orb.

Another experiment you can do with an ice orb is to put it in a bowl, pour salt over it, and add food colouring. The rivers of colour created by the melting ice are super-cool. You can also check out how it cool it looks in a dark room with a flashlight shining up through it.

10) Learn a baking soda magic trick - The reaction of baking soda and vinegar is the basis for this simple "magic trick". You'll need spoons, clear glasses, baking soda, vinegar and food colouring.

  • Put a couple drops of food coloring onto spoons.
  • Cover the food coloring with baking soda.
  • Fill glasses (half full) of vinegar.
  • While saying magic words, stir the baking soda into the vinegar.
Kids will love watching the clear liquid turn into a colorful and foamy fountain.

11) Make a Skittles rainbow - Science experiments involving candy are always fantastic for kids... and making a Skittles rainbow is easy and fun.

To make a Skittles rainbow:

1) Line Skittles in a circle around the outside of a plate.
2) Add warm water to the middle of the plate.
3) Watch the rainbow appear.

12) Create Sharpie magic - A plate, water and Sharpies are all you need to make a drawing come to life. Draw a picture on a plate, cover it with cold water, and then watch as the picture detaches from the plate and floats around. (You may need to gently prompt it with your fingernail.) Fun, right?

13) Make a boat and learn about buoyancy -  Building boats and testing their buoyancy is a wonderful scientific endeavor. Letting kids design and build their own boats is educational and super-fun. 

Start with a variety of craft supplies (e.g. popsicle sticks, craft foam, straws, jar lids, pool noodles, etc...) and let kids try to make something that floats in the sink. You can also experiment with asking the question, "How many rocks will it take to sink the homemade boat?" When we made our boats, my boys came up with their own guesses (hypotheses), and then we tested the hypotheses to come up with conclusions. 

We had a lot of fun building our boats and testing their buoyancy, and when we were finished, we took our boats down to the river, and floated them there.

14) Poke pencils through bags of water (without leaking) - Poking pencils through a bag full of water is a great way to explore the scientific concept of displacement.

Fill a Ziploc bag with water, seal the bag, and then stick sharp pencils (slowly) through both sides of the bag. 

My boys were delighted to discover that no water leaks from the bag! (Note: You'll want to hold up the top of the bag so that bag doesn't get wider than the pencils when the water settles at the bottom.)

15) Blow up a balloon with vinegar and baking soda - Using vinegar and baking soda to create a reaction is a classic science experiment for kids... and it's even more when the gas produced blows up a balloon.

Fill an empty pop bottle 3/4 full of vinegar, add some baking soda, and quickly cap the bottle with a balloon. The gas produced will blow up the balloon.

16) Explore sound by making your own musical instruments - The "science of sound" is another fun category of scientific education to explore. There are many fun tutorials online for crafting DIY instruments, but tin can drums are a colourful and simple option.

To make tin can drums, start by collecting the supplies needed: three empty tin cans (cleaned with the tops removed), colourful balloons, painting supplies, and elastic bands.

Then, carefully paint each drum with acrylic paint. (A couple of coats will make sure the colours are vibrant.)

Once the tin cans are dry, cut the tops off the balloons and stretch them over the tops of the tin cans. The elasticity of the balloons holds them in place, but to make the surface tighter, you can secure the balloons with elastic bands.

17) Make butter - Food science is always fun, and making butter is a wonderful scientific activity for kids. All you need is some whipping cream (we used 250ml) and a jar or container with a tight lid.

Here's how to make butter:

  • Pour the cream into a container and make sure the lid is on tight. (It works better/quicker if the cream is at room temperature.)
  • Start shaking. Kids tire easily, so be prepared to do some of the shaking yourself! 
  • Keep shaking and shaking -- seriously, I think shook it for about 20 minutes. First it will turn to cream, and then, it will magically turn into a clump of butter.
  • Finally, drain off all the liquid. (I put it in a strainer, rinsed it with cold water, and squeezed the moisture out into some paper towel.)
  • Enjoy!

18) Make a bouncy egg - This is one of my boys' all time favourite experiments. Over the years, we have done it several times. All you need to make a bouncy egg is a glass, an egg, and vinegar. 

Fill the glass with vinegar, drop in the egg, and wait for the vinegar to dissolve the shell. The process starts immediately, and it will take about 24 hours to complete. (If the shell isn't completely dissolved after 24 hours, change the vinegar and let it sit for another 24 hours.)

After the shell has completely dissolved, rinse the egg in cold water, and dry it off. Children will be amazed by the "rubber" egg they have created.

My boys loved playing with the bouncy egg, shining a flashlight into it to see the yolk, and poking it with a knife to see the inside. 

19) Make a Lava Lamp - This is a really fun one. With a few simple ingredients, you can cause a super-cool reaction. Check out my son's YouTube video here.

It is extremely important to expose kids to science and nurture their curiosity for why things work the way they do. Doing a few of these simple experiments at home is a really fun way to entertain kids... and they'll learn something too!

Gina Bell (aka East Coast Mommy)

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