Even with school out for the summer, there’s no reason for learning to stop. Summertime learning can help keep kids from losing information over the months they’re out of the classroom and it can be lots of fun too! There’s no reason that learning has to be boring. There are lots of science-based activities that offer so much messy, gooey, goopy fun that your kids won’t even realize they’re learning while they play.
If you live in a family-oriented community association, why keep the fun to yourselves? See if there’s a room in the clubhouse or a community kitchen where you can get several families together to share in the science. Plan the experiments ahead of time and assign everyone items to contribute to the fun. Use your community’s social media or mass communication tool to plan and spread the word.
Combine your community science activities with group trips to local science centers and museums to keep kids engaged in hands-on learning all summer long. (There’s no reason to stop once school starts again either!)
Check out these 5 fun experiments you can do with your kids, using items you probably have on hand:
Teach your kids about the science of density by showing them first-hand how various liquids have different weights. With just a few household ingredients, including corn syrup, dish soap and olive oil, you can create a rainbow of liquids in a jar!
Before starting, explain the concept of density using marbles. Fill two containers with marbles, one with only a few and one with a lot. The one with a lot of marbles is heavier (or denser). Explain that each marble represents a molecule. The liquids with more molecules are heavier and stay at the bottom of the rainbow jar, where as the ones with less molecules are able to float on top.
Recommended Age: 5+ Years
- A tall Mason jar
- Light corn syrup
- Dish soap (in blue or green)
- Olive oil
- Rubbing alcohol
- Food coloring
- A dropper
- Pour the honey into the Mason jar, making sure to pour in the middle of the container, careful not to touch the sides.
- Color your corn syrup with purple food coloring, and pour it into the center of the jar, again avoiding the sides.
- Pour your dish soap in on top of the corn syrup without touching the sides.
- Dye your water with either blue or green food coloring (use a color that is different from your dish soap). Pour in the middle of the jar avoiding the sides.
- Next, pour in your olive oil, again being careful not to touch the sides. You will want a thick layer of the olive oil.
- Color your rubbing alcohol red. Using the dropper, add the rubbing alcohol by dropping it around the sides of the jar on top of the oil. Be careful not to break the layer of oil, or the rubbing alcohol will mix with the colored water below it.
- Admire your rainbow! The honey at the bottom is the densest, and the alcohol on the top is the least dense. Make sure not to shake it, as that could cause the layers to break and the liquids to mix together.
Remember Flubber? The Robin Williams movie may have seemed fantastical, but you can create your own flubber at home! Depending on how it’s made, you will get something that’s solid like putty or stringy and slimy. Creating your own flubber is also a great visual for introducing your children to the properties of polymers, or large strands of molecules. Common polymers include plastic, Jell-O and glue.
Show how a polymer has the properties of both a solid and a liquid by comparing your flubber to a piece of chocolate. When you snap a piece of chocolate in half, you get a clean break, but the same isn’t true for the flubber. To see how it’s also a liquid, slowly pull the flubber apart and watch it stretch… you can’t do that with chocolate!
Recommended Age: 5+ Years
- 3/4 cup cold water
- 1 cup Elmer’s glue or other white non-toxic glue
- Liquid food coloring
- 1/2 cup hot water
- 1 tsp. borax
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the cold water, glue, and food coloring. Set aside.
- In a separate medium-sized bowl, mix together the hot water and borax, until the borax is completely dissolved.
- Slowly add the glue mixture into the borax mixture. Mix well, and pour off any excess water.
- Enjoy the gooey creation.
The Science of Magic Milk
This experiment allows you to observe the science of chemical reactions by creating beautiful swirls of color on a plate full of milk. Use just enough milk to cover the plate and add drops of different food coloring. While milk is made up of primarily water, it also contains vitamins, minerals, protein and fat. Add drops of dishwashing liquid to the plate and watch the soap react and join together with the protein and fat, creating colorful movements in the milk. Your magical masterpiece is certain to put a smile on your child’s face!
Recommended Age: 2+ Years
- A plate with a rim
- 1/2 cup – 1 cup of milk (try different fat percentages and see if they have different results)
- 1 drop of dishwashing liquid
- Food coloring, multiple colors
- Pour the milk onto the plate, making sure there is enough to cover the base of the plate.
- Add drops of different food coloring randomly around the milk, but do not stir.
- Carefully add one drop of dishwashing liquid to the middle of the milk. Watch as the colors begin to spread away from the soap, mixing with each other in the process.
- For extra fun, take a toothpick and swirl it around, watching how the colors mix around each other.
If you’re looking for a science experiment that’s also a delicious treat, this crystalized rock candy is perfect. It’s a great way for your kids to learn about precipitation and evaporation, too. As the dissolved sugar starts to cool, it will separate from the water and form a precipitate on the stick, much like how rain droplets separate from clouds and fall out of the sky. As more time passes, the water in the jar will slowly start to evaporate, leaving more and more crystals on the stick. Add food coloring to the sugar-water mixture to create a variety of rock candy colors.
Recommended Age: 3+ Years
- 2-3 cups of sugar
- 1 cup of water
- Skewers/candy sticks
- Jars or glasses
- A large saucepan
- Food coloring (optional)
- Candy flavoring (optional)
- Combine 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water in a saucepan and heat until all of the sugar is dissolved. Slowly add the rest of the sugar in small amounts until it will no longer dissolve in the water, leaving the water looking a little cloudy.
- Add candy flavoring and continue to heat until it comes to a simmer. Remove from heat and allow to cool.
- While the sugar-water is cooling, prepare your sticks. Cut the sticks so they fit properly in your jar. Dip the sticks in water and then roll them in sugar. Allow the sticks to dry completely.
- Once your sugar-water is cool, pour into jars and add food coloring.
- Place the sugar sticks in the jars. Attach a clothespin to the top of the stick and rest it over the top of the jars (make sure your sticks do not touch the bottom or the side of the jar).
- Observe the changes over the next week, and watch as more and more crystals form every day. After about a week, your rock candy should be ready to eat.
Volcanoes are formed when magma from within the Earth works its way to the surface. As hot lava and gas escape from the Earth’s core, a chemical reaction occurs, releasing carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide causes pressure to build up, forcing the lava to flow.
Arguably one of the classic school science experiments, creating your own volcano at home is fun and easy to do. When creating your home volcano, combine baking soda and vinegar. This causes a similar reaction, which releases carbon dioxide, making your homemade experiment overflow like a real-life volcano. Your homemade lava – made from dish soap – is much safer than the real stuff, but it does make a mess!
Recommended Age: 4+ Years
- 1 tbsp. baking soda
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Dishwashing liquid
- Orange or red food coloring
- Party hat
- Small glass jar
- Lay newspapers down on the table.
- Take the party hat and cut the tip off. Cut zig-zags in the top with scissors.
- In a jar about the same height as (or a bit shorter than) your party hat, add the baking soda, salt, and food coloring. Mix well.
- Add a squirt or two of the dishwashing liquid to the top of the mixture. Put the party hat on top of the jar and pour in the vinegar. Bubbles and gasses will flow from the top and ooze on to the table, just like a real volcano.
Once you’ve rediscovered the fun that can be found in science, you’ll want more way to play. Check out MommyPoppins, Red Tricycle and ScienceFun for more great suggestions, including snow day fun for the winter.
P.S. Need things to do for rainy-day fun? Check out our blog post with lots of great ideas!