Discovery Point Blog

September 1, 2020
at home science experiments

3 Fun and Easy At-Home Science Experiments

Are you looking for a way to insert a little more education into your children’s free time? Learning doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t always involve books, either. Sometimes the best way to learn is through exploration and experimentation. When children have the chance to see abstract theories in action, they’re more likely to understand the principles at hand and retain the knowledge they’ve learned.

So, how can you get your children to put their thinking caps on while still having plenty of fun? Good old-fashioned science experiments may be the best way to go. 

There are a ton of ideas out there that will not only educate children about the world around them, but also provide that “WOW!” factor. Below, we’ve listed a few of our favorite at-home science experiments that offer a good dose of educational fun with minimal clean-up.

Understanding Polymers: No-Leak Plastic Bag

This experiment only requires a gallon-sized plastic zip bag, freshly sharpened pencils, and water, making it a cinch to set up. First, fill the plastic bag about half full with water. Then, make sure you’ve got your children’s attention as you poke a sharp pencil through one side of the bag and out the other.

At this point, even you may be shocked by the results—not a leak in sight! So what’s going on here? The plastic bag is made of a polymer, which means its molecular structure is formed of long, flexible chains. When the pencil goes through the plastic, the molecules spread out and create a seal around the pencil.

Depending on your children’s ages, this idea may be hard to comprehend. For younger children, what you can emphasize is that the plastic material is made of tiny, tiny chains we can’t see with our eyes, and these chains move around when the pencil is inserted. Older children may want to do a little research about how polymers work to make other materials flexible, from rubber car tires to plastic wrap.

In the meantime, let your children have fun sticking more pencils through the water-filled bag and watch as it continues to remain leak proof!

Understanding How Soap Works: Magic Milk

This science experiment doubles as an interactive art project! The only supplies you’ll need are cotton-tipped swabs, dish soap, milk, liquid food coloring (not gel!), and a shallow baking dish or pan. Start by pouring a thin layer of milk into the dish, and then have your children drop food coloring into the milk at random. After that, dip a cotton swab into dish soap before pressing it into the pan of milk and keeping it in place for around 15 seconds.

What happens next is pretty magical, thanks to science. When your children see the colorful swirls activate, they’re sure to be curious about what’s going on. Here’s the lowdown: Milk contains fat, and soap breaks down fat molecules. When the soap comes into contact with the milk, little molecules of soap try to attach to the fat molecules. This would occur even without the food coloring, but the food coloring helps us see this chase in action.

Try pressing another soap-soaked cotton swab into the milk. If there’s more movement, there are still some fat molecules floating around. To emphasize the reaction between the soap and fat molecules, try the experiment again with milk containing different amounts of fat (1%, 2%, whole, etc.). Then, you can ask your children why the level of movement varies with each type of milk. You may also want to use this as an opportunity to explain how soap helps clean surfaces, from our hands to our hair to dinner dishes.

Understanding the Water Cycle: Rain Cloud in a Jar

If your children have ever asked you where rain comes from, you might have been a little stumped. Rain comes from the clouds, but…why? After all, elementary school science class was a long time ago!

This experiment will help children visualize the water and cloud cycle and gain a better understanding of how and why it rains. All it takes is food coloring, a clear jar, foam shaving cream, and an eye dropper or plastic pipette.

Start by mixing a few drops of food coloring with some water and set it to the side. This will be the “rain.” Next, fill the jar with cool water about three-quarters of the way up. Then, layer shaving cream on top to create a “cloud.” With an eye dropper or pipette, have your child add drops of the colored water to the cloud. As the cloud becomes saturated, the color will seep down and “rain” into the jar.

This experiment offers a basic visual of how clouds become rain. You can explain to your children that there is water vapor in the air around us, and clouds are created when this invisible water vapor rises and condenses into a visible cloud. As the cloud continues to gather water from the surrounding air, it will eventually become too heavy to contain it all. Gravity then brings the water down out of the cloud in the form of rain.

The best part of this experiment is your children will want to try it over and over again with different colors of rain. This repetition will help solidify what they’ve learned. Next time it rains, don’t forget to see if they can explain why!

With these experiments, you’ll finally have some fun projects that are easy to throw together anytime your children complain of boredom. Plus, you’ll get to show them just how fun science can be! 

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