If you’re looking for simple science projects to try at home or in the classroom then look no further. Here we bring you 5 simple ideas for experiments you can try with your little ones.
1 Make a Non-Newtonian Fluid
It sounds impressive but this experiment is startlingly simple to do. A non–Newtonian fluid is a fluid that does not follow Newton’s law of viscosity, i.e. constant viscosity independent of stress. In non–Newtonian fluids, viscosity can change when under force to either more liquid or more solid. Ketchup, for example, becomes runnier when shaken and is thus a non–Newtonian fluid.
How to make your own
To make your own non-Newtonian fluid, all you need is some water and cornflour or custard powder (which is made mainly from cornflour). Mix them together to form a paste and then try picking up handfuls and applying pressure/smacking the paste. It will turn from a sloppy mess into a firm surface/ball on impact. Children are sure to enjoy playing with this messy stuff and it’s a chance to explain an interesting scientific principle, too! They could try doing the same thing with regular flour to compare the results. There are also some great videos on YouTube of people running across a swimming pool filled with a non-Newtonian liquid which the children might enjoy seeing.
2 Make Bath Bombs
My child LOVES bath bombs. Not only is it a fun craft activity to do, it’s also a great way to get him into the bath at the end of the day AND an opportunity to discuss science (it could also be added to our list of mother’s day craft ideas!). The fizziness of bath bombs comes from the chemical reactions that happen when the baking soda and citric acid come into contact with water. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, has the chemical formula NaHCO3. In water, baking soda quickly dissolves, and the positively charged sodium (Na+) breaks apart from negatively charged bicarbonate (HCO3-). Meanwhile, the citric acid also dissolves, with a single hydrogen ion (H+) separating from the rest of the molecule. Then, that positively charged hydrogen from the citric acid and the negatively charged bicarbonate from the baking soda mingle, very quickly undergoing a series of reactions. One of the end products is carbon dioxide (CO2). Because carbon dioxide is a gas, it forms small bubbles in the bath water, creating a delightful fizz. If there are perfumes or scented oils in the bath bomb, they are released into the air with the carbon dioxide bubbles.
How to Make Your Own Bath Bombs
You will need:
- 1 Cup Baking Soda
- 1/2 Cup Citric Acid
- 1/2 Cup Epsom Salt/Bath Salt (for a more luxurious bath!)
- 1 tsp Essential Oil (if you want them to smell nice!)
- 3 tsp Oil (any is fine – I use almond – makes your skin feel soft)
- Fee drops Food Colouring (if required)
- Few drops Water to combine
- Old Jar
- Moulds (I use cake pop moulds but ice cube trays or even old yoghurt pots work!)
What do do:
- Combine all dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk gently to mix evenly
- Combine all wet ingredients in the old jar, put the lid on and shake to mix
- Add wet ingredients to bowl – mix thoroughly until you get an even distribution of ingredients – it will resemble a crumbly mix at this point.
- Take handfuls of the mixture and push into your moulds – tamp them down firmly. If using a closed mould, leave a small gap as the mixture will expand a little as it dries
- Leave to dry for 2-3 days (the smaller the bombs and the warmer the drying location, the faster they’ll set). Don’t be tempted to turn them out before they feel dry and hard or they’ll fall apart.
- Turn out and enjoy in a lovely warm bath! Don’t forget to discuss the science as they fizz!
3 Microscope slides
Not all children will have a microscope at home, but if you have access to one, there are plenty of fun things you can look at with it. You can try finely scraping onion to get a very thin layer of skin and take a look at it under the microscope, or you could put some yeast in a bit of water until it starts to multiply then pipette a little of the mix out onto a slide to take a closer look. With either experiment, you should get to see some real life cells up close!
Learning about cells is a key part of the science curriculum, so follow up the fun by looking up cell diagrams and doing a labelled drawing, and you’ll be helping your child to either revise or get ahead with their school work – win/win! (Remember that plant and animal cells are different so be sure to use the right diagram!)
4 Bacteria and Hand Washing
This is a simple experiment that not only teaches scientific method, it also helps children to understand why hand washing is so important!
Simply take three clean bags, 3 slices of bread and do the following:
- In the first, use gloves or tongs to put a slice of bread in the bag. This is your control.
- In the second, after thoroughly washing hands with soap and water, use clean hands to put a slice of bread in the bag.
- In the third (and this is the fun part), encourage your child to touch lots of dirty surfaces (think bin/floor etc) and then with dirty hands, put the third slice of bread into it’s bag.
You’ll need to leave it a few weeks to develop (ideally somewhere warm). The idea is that the third bag will develop lots more mould/bacterial growth than the other two, highlighting to your child the importance of hand washing! You can also use this as an opportunity to discuss microbes and how they multiply.
5 Bird or Insect Survey
This is one experiment that needs very little in the way of additional materials. Simply make or download a survey sheet (RSPB provide one as part of their Big Schools Birdwatch). Get outside, and get counting. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn about different types of birds while also getting some fresh air and spending quality time together. In fact, studies have shown that bird watching can be very therapeutic and can help children who struggle with anxiety, so can be great for this, too. For an extra bit of science, try looking at beak shape and discussing how it is adapted to the types of food each bird eats. Or why males and females have differently coloured plumage.
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