5 science experiments to try with your child

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This is the first in a five-part series about STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

When you’re teaching your kid about science at home, what does it usually look like? Is there a textbook or a worksheet at the table? Do their eyes glaze over at the mention of definitions and processes? Talking about science doesn’t have to be dry and methodical. Instead of sticking to theory, get down and dirty with these five experiments, and turn an unpopular subject into a game that the two of you can enjoy.

1. The classic mini volcano
This is the go-to experiment to introduce kids to the art of science. All you need are two containers, some baking soda, vinegar, and dishwashing liquid. First, combine a tablespoon of the soap with about a cup of vinegar. Then, add two tablespoons of baking soda to a separate container.

Watch as you pour the vinegar solution into the baking soda, creating carbon dioxide that expands at such a swift rate that it mimics an eruption. For added realism, build a mini volcano around the container with brown clay or create a cone with brown construction paper, and add red food colouring to the vinegar.

2. A boat that runs on soap
For this experiment, you’ll need a tub of water, a small piece of cardboard, a bowl of dish soap, and a toothpick. The most difficult part of this project is constructing the boat. Don’t worry, you don’t need fancy origami skills. You do, however, need a pair of scissors to cut the cardboard into the shape of a boat, with three sides of a rectangle and the fourth side sticking out like an arrow.

On the opposite end of the arrow, where the back of the boat is, find the centre and cut out a narrow rectangular hole at the edge of the cardboard. After placing the boat on the water, soak the toothpick with soap and dip it into the water where the opening is at the tail of the boat. Voila! Thanks to the magic of surface tension (weakened by soap), the boat is able to move.

3. The science of frozen art
You can create instant ice sculptures at home with just a bottle of cooled purified or filtered water. The trick is to supercool the water first, bringing its temperature down to just below its freezing point without turning it solid. Simply pop the bottle into your freezer and leave it there for two to three hours.

A good gauge is to use a bottle of tap water and see when it freezes solid – this is when purified water has reached its supercooled state. When it has, remove it carefully from the freezer, and pour it onto a tray of ice. The water’s contact with ice triggers the process of crystallisation, thus creating “sculptures” that seem to form mid-air.

4. Walking on (literal) eggshells
This is not a magic trick. It is a weight distribution experiment. Your tot might think it’s impossible to walk on eggs without cracking them, but wait till you lay out the cartons. Arrange them in two rows, so each foot rests on a dozen eggs. Your weight is distributed among the twelve shells, which reduces the pressure exerted on each egg. Additionally, the top and bottom points of the egg are its sturdiest parts, and won’t break easily when even pressure is applied on both ends.

5. Recreating the 90s lava lamp
Lava lamps were well-loved for their futuristic, colourful bubbling blobs. But what’s the science behind them? The answer lies in density and solubility. Two insoluble liquids of different densities, such as water and oil, don’t mix together. So if you add 300ml of vegetable oil and 150ml of water into a bottle, the water will sink to the bottom.

To recreate the colourful look of a lava lamp, add food colouring to the mix. But to make it come alive, drop a fizzing tablet, which creates gas bubbles that carry water to the top of the bottle. When the gas reaches the surface and escapes, the water goes back down again, creating a bubbling effect.

 

Learn more about STEAM and how to integrate it in your child’s life! Join us at Happy Sparks on 23 and 24 June from 10am to 8pm at Our Tampines Hub. Click here for the programme lineup.

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