Image credit: iStock
When you think about science experiments, chances are images of test tubes, Bunsen burners and possibly a mad scientist in a white coat come to mind. But what if learning about and experimenting with science doesn’t have to be done in a laboratory? There are plenty of fun, yet fascinating, science experiments that you and your child can tackle at home using basic household items. Here are our favourites:
Experiment #1: Magic mud
Primary school science themes covered: diversity, interactions, energy
Combine potatoes with tonic water to create a magical, glowing mud that behaves very strangely – it acts like a solid dough as long as you play with it, but turns into a liquid as soon as you stop.
This experiment is great for the whole family. Since all the ingredients are food-based, it’s completely safe, even for toddlers. Older children will find this non-Newtonian fluid fascinating. While playing with the mud, consider discussing the properties of different states of matter like solid, liquid and gas. Where does this mud fit in? Why does it act this way? What makes it glow?
Experiment #2: Tea bag ghosts
Primary school science themes covered: interactions, energy
Any regular tea bag will do for this experiment, which helps children learn all about the physics of flight using a tea bag, instead of a hot air balloon. What happens is that lighting the top of the teabag cylinder will heat the air up. As the warm, less dense air rises, it can lift the teabag.
A word of caution though – you might want to conduct this experiment downstairs in the void deck to make clean up a little easier.
Experiment #3: Capture a rainbow
Primary school science themes covered: cycles, interactions, energy
Rainbows are simply magical for most kids, and this elegant, easy experiment lets you capture one in a jar. All you need is some oil, rubbing alcohol, honey (or dish soap) and some food colouring. Each colour of the rainbow has a different density, which is why the liquid layers don’t mix easily. Once you’ve made your rainbow, encourage your kids to experiment dropping various objects into the jar to see if they will sink, float or settle into one of the layers.
Experiment #4: Grow a bean (or two) in a jar
Primary school science themes covered: cycles, systems, energy
This is a classic home science experiment that provides plenty of material to discuss with your child. To get the most mileage out of this project, consider setting up more than one jar. Or use different beans. Our favourite at home is to use both a small red bean, and a large broad bean in each jar (so we can compare and contrast the outcome). Set up several jars in this manner – and experiment with different germinating and growing conditions. Try one in a dark cupboard, one on a sunny shelf, one in the fridge. As you set up the beans for germination, talk about plant systems and reproduction. How does the bean know that it’s time to grow? What does it need to grow?