Six fun and simple science experiments for kids and parents to do together! These teach basic science skills in simple, yet fun, ways. Thank you to BayerMSMS for sponsoring this post and encouraging children to be scientists!
While I don’t have any children that are in school, I have a lot of friends and family members who do. Something I often hear them lament on is the summer brain drain, which is basically a regression in skills obtained during the school year due to the lack of formal education. Fortunately, this is a preventable issue, and if you make it a goal to help your children continue to learn through the summer, they probably won’t experience that dreaded brain drain.
The great thing about that is this – there are ways to learn all around us, and it doesn’t require sitting in a classroom and having a teacher teach! During the summer there are a lot of great opportunities to go outside and learn about nature, visit museums and zoos, or even just visit the local library and enter the wonderful world of learning. With so much technology distracting children, I believe it’s more important than ever to encourage learning in hands-on ways.
While science isn’t my strongest suit, there’s a lot of ways to learn about it in day to day life. It’s easy to be a scientist just by looking around you and asking, “Why?” For me, one of the most fun places to do experiments is in the kitchen – specifically with cooking. With cooking (and baking especially) so much of it involves science. So if you have a child who doesn’t love science, try introducing certain concepts using items in the kitchen!
Below are six fun experiments you can do using products that are commonly found in the kitchen and that are often using in baking. These can be fun for all ages, and I believe they teach different scientific topics in a fun way.
1) Does sugar or salt melt ice faster
This is an experiment that I remember doing in my third grade class, and it was so fun to do. All you need is two bowls and some ice. We placed several cubes of ice in each bowl, but you could really get away with just doing one. For younger children, you could freeze something – like a small toy – inside the ice, so it’s more exciting to watch the ice melt.
After placing the ice into a bowl, put about 1 tablespoon of salt on the ice in one bowl and 1 tablespoon of sugar on the ice in the other bowl. It may take awhile for them to melt completely, but you can have your child observe which one starts to melt first, and, of course, which one melts the fastest.
You’ll find that salt melts the ice faster. This is because salt has more molecules than sugar, so, essentially it has more molecules that can attach to the ice and help lower the freezing point of the ice faster. This is why salt is put on icy roads and sidewalks instead of sugar!
2) Sugar and Salt evaporation
For this project, you can either do it on the stove top or outside if it’s hot enough. We did it inside because it was raining outside. But if it’s a hot, cloud-free day, doing it outside is a fun idea too!
We had Jack look at the bowls after we dissolved the sugar and salt and recognize that it wasn’t there anymore. After we boiled the water, we showed him how the sugar and salt reappeared – though in different forms than it was before!
The salt goes back into a crystal form but the sugar goes more into a syrupy form. This is a great way to show that while two substances may look the same at one point, they are very different in other ways (beyond just the taste!)
3) Sugar Rainbow
This project has to do with the density and how tightly packed the molecules of sugar and water are together. The heavier items remain on the bottom and the lighter are at the top.
What you need for this project is food coloring, sugar, water, a straw or pipet, and some kind of tube-like container (we used a vase.)
It’s important to use colors that aren’t super similar in shade and to not use too much. While we could see the color separation in person, the pictures we got were too dark because the colors we used were way too similar!
So, in one cup of water and food coloring, stir in 8 tablespoons of sugar, in the next 6 tablespoons, in the next one 4, and in the final one 2 tablespoons. Using a straw or pipet, start with the cup that has 8 tablespoons of sugar, and put about 8 strawfuls into the bottom of the tube container. Forrest did this by sucking the liquid up with a straw, but I wouldn’t recommend having a child do that – a pipet would be easier (so they don’t get it in their mouth!)
After you get the first liquid in, use the cup that has 6 tablespoons in it, and gently pipet it into the container. Repeat with all the cups, ending with the 2 tablespoon water on top. If all goes according to plan, you’ll be able to see the density differences in layers. It’s pretty cool!
4) Salt and Sugar Saturation
This is a project Forrest really enjoyed doing in high school. You just need two clear glasses with about one cup of water in each, as well as a hearty amount of sugar and salt.
Add one teaspoon of sugar to one cup, and one teaspoon of salt to another cup. Stir to dissolve. Keep doing this until the sugar and salt no longer dissolves.
You’ll find that the salt dissolves MUCH quicker than the sugar. It was about 15 teaspoons of salt for us before it stopped dissolving. For sugar, it was about 3-4 times more, which shows that sugar has a lot higher of a saturation point than salt. This also teachers what saturation is – that you can only dissolve so much of a solid in a liquid before it stops dissolving. It is also dependent on air pressure and temperature. At higher temperatures, you can typically add more and have it dissolve.
As a bonus activity, you can show your child how certain things will float better in salt water as opposed to sugar water, and especially regular water. We did a little comparison with an egg:
Salt on Left, Sugar on the Right
Salt on the left, Regular water on the right
5) Strange Acting Goop
This is a fun project that involves using corn starch and water. If your child loves all things ooey and gooey, they will LOVE this. We found this project in the Bayer Making Science Make Sense® toolbox experiment guides, which have all sorts of easy and fun experiments. Bayer is a life sciences company, and they are committed to creating awareness of the importance of science and fostering curiousity, creativity, and critical thinking skills within the minds of young children.
What you need is 1 cup of cornstarch, 1/2 cup water, a bowl, and a mixing spoon. All you do is pour the items into a bowl and mix well.
What happens is pretty cool. You want to have your child grab some in their hand and then pour it back into the bowl, grab some in their hand and squeeze, and slap it hard with their hand. It’s fun to see what happens.
The lesson this teachers? It’s another great way to learn about molecules. When slapped, the goop molecules prevent any splattering, and it acts like a solid. When you squeeze it in your hand it feels like a solid in your hand, but when you pour it back in the bowl, it acts like a liquid. It’s pretty cool. And all the mixture comes off your hand just with a little bit of water. Jack was mesmerized!
6) Ice Cream in a Bag
This is just a fun experiment/project that you can do as a culminating activity…that results in a tasty treat. You can show your child how easy it is to make ice cream from scratch without the use of a machine and show them how these ingredients all work together. It’s great for teaching basic chemistry principals. You will need:
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon sugar
4 cups crushed ice
4 tablespoons salt
2 quart size ziploc bags
1 gallon size ziploc freezer bag
Mix the milk, vanilla and sugar in one of the quart size bags. Remove as much air as possible and seal the bag. Put this bag inside the other quart size bag, and seal well (removing all the air you can as swell.) Now, put these two bags inside the gallon bag and fill that bag with ice, sprinkling the salt on top. Seal the bag, wrap it on a towel, and shake the bag for about 5-10 minutes, or until it forms ice cream!
You can explain how the ingredients for the ice cream need to be cooled down enough to freeze in order to make the ice cream. This article gives some great information on the science of ice cream making (though they used a different recipe), and different questions you can ask as you make it!