The following is a guest post highlighting science activities for kids:
Not all science activities require laboratories and expensive equipment. In fact, many can be done easily and inexpensively from your own home. Here are three fun activities to get your kids learning about the stars, making lava lamps, and having a great time with bubbles.
1. Learn about the constellations and bring them into your kid’s bedroom.
The night sky makes a great opportunity to learn about astronomy from home. At night, a child can throw on a pair of fun kids pajamas and go outside to observe the stars. He can bring a star chart (a map of the night sky – available online or at the library) to help find constellations and stars. Then, pick a few favorite constellations and take note of them.
Once back inside, he can recreate these constellations with a flashlight, a cardboard tube, black construction paper, chalk, and a needle. First, make a tube that extends over the flashlight lens (for small flashlights use a toilet paper roll, for larger ones make a roll from black construction paper). Then, draw the constellations on the construction paper, drawing each one in an area as wide as the tube mounted on the flashlight. Once all the constellations are marked, prick small holes through the stars’ locations on the paper with the needle. Then cut them out and put them on the end of the tube on the flashlight.
With a flashlight on in a dark room, point it towards a wall, he should see each of the constellations he saw outside earlier displayed on the wall. This can make a great nightlight, or serve as a tool for teaching children astrology, even on cloudy nights.
2. Make lava lamps
The swirling and whirling blobs inside lava lamps can easily be recreated at home. While a child makes them, show him how some things are soluble in water, but not oil. For younger children, this can be a great way to show how colors can combine to make new ones. All that is needed is a clear plastic bottle, food coloring, Alka-Seltzer and vegetable oil.
Fill up the bottle ¼ of the way with water, then the rest of the way with vegetable oil. After waiting a few minutes, the water and oil should separate into two clear layers, with the denser water on the bottom and the lighter oil on top. This is a great opportunity to show a child how even liquids can float or sink. Next, put about 12 drops of food coloring into the bottle. The drops should visibly fall through the oil un-affected (because they are not oil soluble), and then spread out as soon as they hit the layer of water (because they are water soluble). The last step is to drop an Alka-Seltzer tablet in. This will sink through the oil without doing anything, but should start fizzing as soon as it hits the water (again, because it is not oil soluble). After a minute or so, the oil, water, and food coloring should start swirling together like a lava lamp. When it stops fizzing, you can just add another tablet to get the same reaction. To really highlight the effects, put a bright flashlight under the bottle and turn off the lights.
Try making variations with this experiment, such as changing the water to oil ratio to see its effects on the lava, adding sparkles to bedazzle the lava lamp, or just mixing different colors together.
3. From Dry Ice Volcano to Dry Ice Bubble
Note: Only adults should handle dry ice, and then only with tongs or gloves. It’s extremely low temperature can damage exposed skin if it comes in direct contact.
This demonstration has two things kids may get excited about: a fog spewing volcano and a giant cloudy bubble. Best of all, it is fairly inexpensive, quick and easy.
You will need:
- Dry Ice (a baseball sized chunk will be enough)
- Gloves or tongs to handle the dry ice
- A large bowl (a clear one will be the most exciting)
- Bubble solution
- A piece of cloth that is longer than the diameter of the bowl
First fill the bottom of the bowl with 2 inches of warm water. Then drop the dry ice inside of it using a glove or tong. A fog should almost immediately start spilling out from the bowl. This is safe as it is just carbon dioxide (the same thing that makes soda bubbly) and water vapor.
After the child has finished oohing and ahhing at the foggy volcano, it is time for the real fun part. Dip the rag in bubble liquid and then use it to coat the rim of the bowl with the soapy solution. Next, dip the rag in the solution again, hold it taught, and drag it from one end of the bowl to the other, so that it’s pat covers the whole opening of bowl. This may take a few tries, but if you do it right, there should leave a layer of bubble solution over the top of the bowl. This should quickly begin to fill up with the fog from the dry ice, forming a giant bubble that will eventually spill over the top and pop in a foggy burst.
There are a variety of variations to try with this activity. For example, try making bubble solutions to see which will allow the biggest bubbles without popping, or even add food coloring to the bubble solutions to make different colored bubbles.
From shining the night sky on a bedroom wall to making exotic bubbles from dry ice, there is no end to the science demonstrations to do at home. With a little time and creativity, anything can be taught from astrology to physics without leaving the house.