Sure, your kids almost definitely take a science class at school, but that doesn’t mean the learning has to stop there. Here are 3 fun and easy science demonstrations you can do with your kid in your own backyard. None of these experiments require special materials, and with most of them, you probably have everything you need at home already. This makes them great for filling up a weekend afternoon so you and your child can have fun, learn, and bond together.
We all know how annoying squeezing that last bit of toothpaste out of the tube can be. However, with this demonstration, a mixture that resembles toothpaste will come out of a container all by itself. This activity can get messy, so you’ll definitely want to do it outside and possibly even have your child wear a lab coat (a kid’s bath robe can make an easy pretend one). You will need:
- An empty plastic bottle
- Dish soap
- Hydrogen peroxide
- A funnel (or a steady hand)
- Food coloring (optional)
This demonstration will show what happens when hydrogen peroxide and yeast come in contact with each other, while keeping kids oohing and ahing at the fun foam it produces.
Here is what your child will need to do:
- Pour one half cup of hydrogen peroxide into the empty plastic bottle
- Add 3 drops of dish soap
- Add 3 drops of food coloring (optional)
- Mix 1 teaspoon of yeast with 2.5 tablespoons of hot water
- Pour the yeast and water mixture into the bottle
Almost instantly, the bottle should start spewing out a foamy mixture that looks like toothpaste coming out of the tube. This foam should continue pouring out for the next 2-5 minutes and the color should be white, or the color of the food coloring. The bottle and foam will probably be warm because the reaction is exothermic (gives off heat) but should not become hot, and the foam is fine for your kids to play with.
DEMONSTRATE SOLAR ENERGY
All that this experiment requires is a sunny day, a few pieces of white paper, milk, food coloring and 4 ice cubes. By making the ice cubes different colors, and then timing how long each of them takes to melt, you can teach your child about how the different colors absorb and reflect light, and how the colors can make them heat up quicker or slower.
Here is what your child will need to do:
- In an ice cube tray, fill up ice cube spot with milk and water, one spot with water and black food coloring, and the other two with water and whichever colors they would like.
- Let all of the ice cubes freeze
- Remove the ice cubes from the freezer. Each should be frozen solid and white, black, or one of the other two colors selected.
- Take them outside along with some paper. Find an area that is exposed directly to the sun and set down each ice cube there on its own sheet of paper.
- Time how long it takes each ice cube to melt
The first ice cube to melt should be the black one. You can explain to your child that this is because black absorbs most of the light and its energy, which is why it doesn’t have a color, but rather resembles darkness and heats up quickly. The white ice cube should melt last, because white reflects the most light. This is why in cities, they are starting to paint many rooftops white – it helps keep them cooler in the summer. The other two colored ice cubes should melt sometime between the black and white one – they absorb most colors except for the one you see them as, which they reflect. To expand on this demonstration, your child can try making ice cubes of the same color, but putting them on different colored surfaces, for example, black, white, and red construction paper and seeing which ones melt the quickest. If they do enough experiments, it could even make a great science fair project.
MAKE YOUR OWN COMPASS
Smart phones may have changed the way we use maps, but that doesn’t mean your child shouldn’t know how to use a compass. With this activity, not only will they learn how to use one, but also how to make their own. To get started, gather a wine cork, a refrigerator magnet, a 2 inch sewing needle, and a set of pliers or a thimble.
Here is what your child will need to do with them:
- Carefully stroke the needle with a magnet 20 times in the same direction. Make sure your child is careful not to poke themselves.
- Help your child cut off a circular piece of cork, about 1/3 – 1/4 of an inch thick.
- With the thimble or pliers, poke the needle through the circle, so that it goes all the way through the widest point. You may want to help with this part so your child won’t poke themselves.
- Fill a container with enough water to float the cork in.
- Drop the cork into the water
If you set the container down, the magnet should spin to point to the nearest magnetic pole. If you are in the Northern hemisphere, it will point north, if in the Southern hemisphere, it should point south. To test it, spin the cork around and see if it always ends up pointing in the same direction. If there are any large magnetic devices near it, it could change the way the magnet points. To test this out, grab the fridge magnet used earlier and hold it close to the needle. Which direction does it point when you do this?
Now that we are firmly in fall, there isn’t much time before the winter sets in. You can make the most of the nice cool weather by taking your child outside, and doing some of these projects as a way to learn, create, and bond together.