Children are natural scientists -- they're often excited to learn about the world around them and usually are ready to embrace an enjoyable experiment. You don't need Bunsen burners or petri dishes to conduct hands-on projects. With a few basic supplies and a little creativity, you'll be ready to begin.
Dry Ice Experiments
Introduce your child to solids, liquids and gases with an ice experiment. Place a cube of dry ice and regular ice on plates, have your child guess what will happen and check back shortly to find that one has melted and one has evaporated. You can also make floating bubbles together. Fill an aquarium or large bowl with a little water, drop in some dry ice and then blow bubbles into the aquarium with a bubble wand. Watch as the bubbles are suspended in midair, floating on top of the heavier carbon dioxide. For a tasty experiment, make sparkling juice from a glass of apple juice. Add a few pellets of dry ice and watch as the drink begins to bubble. Wait until the dry ice is gone and voila! -- sparkling apple juice. To make some fizzy fruit, place dry ice pellets in the bottom of a bowl, fruit slices on top and wait as the dry ice fills the fruit with carbon dioxide. Just wait at least 20 to 30 minutes to let the fruit warm before consuming.
Make your child's day with an easy chocolate experiment. Place small plates of chocolate in different areas around the home and observe which ones melt to see how temperature can change the state of chocolate. Don't forget to find out whether the chocolate melts in your mouth. You can make a geyser from diet soda pop and mint candies. Put the pop on the ground outside, open the lid and pour in four to six chewy mint candies quickly. Stand back as a geyser of soda pop sprays up to 30 feet in the air. You can also make pure sugar crystal candies easily, but they'll take a little time to grow. Melt sugar in water, cool it in the fridge and pour it into a glass jar. Dip a string into the mixture, then in dry sugar, and place it back into the jar. Leave the string suspended in the jar for the crystals to grow.
Amaze your child when she can puncture a water-filled bag without causing a leak. Sharpen a few pencils, fill a zipper bag about two-thirds full of water and zip the bag closed. Hold the bag from the top and have your child puncture a pencil through the bag without a single leak. Add a few more pencils just to ensure it wasn't a fluke. The polymers that make up the plastic are separated not broken when the bag is punctured so they cling tightly to the pencil, keeping the water inside. For a gravity-free experiment, fill a drinking glass to the brim with water and place a piece of cardboard over the cup's mouth. Hold the cardboard in place as you turn the cup upside down and then remove your hand. The cardboard will stay right where it is, keeping the water inside because the air pressure outside of the glass is more than the pressure inside.
Static Electricity and Electroactivity
If your child has never rubbed a balloon on his head to make the balloon stick to the wall, give it a try to introduce him to static electricity, and then move the experiment to the kitchen sink. Turn on the water and then have your child rub the balloon against his head again. Slowly move the balloon toward the water stream from the tap and watch the stream of water bend, attracted to the statically charged balloon. Create a similar experiment with a little slime if your youngster loves all things that are gooey and gross. Mix together 2 cups of vegetable oil, 3/4-cup cornstarch and a few drops of food coloring. Refrigerate the mixture and then let it stand on the counter until it begins to liquefy again. Pour the slime on the counter and charge a block of polystyrene by rubbing it on your kiddo's head. Hold the block about an inch away from the slime and watch it begin to congeal and follow the block if you wiggle it a little.
- The Everything Kids' Science Experiments Book; Tom Robinson
- 365 Simple Science Experiments with Everyday Materials; E. Richard Churchill, et al.
- 101 Great Science Experiments; Neil Ardley
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