Encourage and nurture little scientists and keep their love of science alive with these 15 science projects to do at home.
Children are natural born scientists and love to explore and learn. As soon as they are able, they start to explore their world and experiment with sound, taste, touch, texture. Here are 15 projects for little scientists to try at home.
Measuring and weighing activities
1. Arm little scientists with a variety of containers of different shapes and sizes and turn them loose in the bath or the sandpit. Point out how the same volume of sand is held by both a long thin bottle and a short fat bottle, how water trickles through a thin opening but pours through a wider one and count how many cups of sand it takes to fill a bucket.
2. Get a small kitchen scale and a collection of items to weigh – small and large tomatoes, stones of different sizes, a potato, a pen, your house keys or a slice of bread. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, use a bathroom scale and weigh heavier objects, such as books and toys. If your child is old enough, you can teach them how to read the measurements.
3. Teach your child to measure the world with rain gauges and outdoor thermometers. If you don’t have a rain gauge, visit ehow.com for ideas on making your own. Talk to your child about any environmental changes he might be noticing. Does today feel colder than yesterday? Does it seem to be raining more this week than last week? Older children can record their readings in a notebook and compare them over a whole season.
4. There’s no better place little scientists to learn than in the kitchen, where they can witness first-hand the effects of mixing ingredients and subjecting them to heat or cold. Talk about the way the texture of flour changes when a liquid is added, what happens to cream when it’s whipped, how fruit juice turns into an ice lolly in the freezer – and then back into fruit juice; and why a lump of biscuit dough changes shape when it’s rolled out on the table.
The natural world
5. Get organising. Gather a variety of objects from the garden, such as different sized stones, coloured leaves, pine cones, twigs, bits of bark (although household items will also do) and let your child organise them in as many ways as possible. Set them out from smallest to largest and from softest to hardest. Let your child guess which objects will float or sink, which will feel prickly and which will feel soft.
6. Teach little scientists about solids, liquids and gases using water. Help your child follow the transformation of water from one state to another; from the tap to the freezer to the stove top. What other solids and liquids can you find in the house? Are there any gases your child might encounter (such as helium in balloons and the exhaust fumes they may smell on the road)?
7. Turn your little explorer loose with a magnifying glass. Garden soil, the inside of a tomato, the lounge carpet… everything looks thrillingly different in extreme close-up. There are also other activities that will help your child learn from nature.
8. Encourage your child to drop a variety of objects from shoulder height and watch what happens. If you’re feeling brave you could even drop an egg to really get their attention. With older children, you can talk about gravity. Get the younger ones to predict what they think will bounce and what won’t, then test their theories.
9. Stimulate your child’s sense of touch. Put out a container of warm water and one of cold, a square of Velcro, some cotton wool, a pot scourer and some strands of cooked and uncooked spaghetti. Let your child touch, splash and squish to her heart’s content.
10. Make a racket. Gather a variety of hard and soft objects: pots, pans, plastic buckets, wooden stools. Put a spoon in your child’s hand and let him bash away.
11. Place several glass bottles in a row and fill each with a different level of water – empty, a third-full, half-full and completely full. Let your child tap each with a spoon and listen to the different tones. Older children can blow across the tops of the bottles to find different notes.
12. Cut squares out of three pieces of cellophane. Make one red, one blue and one yellow. Let your child look through them and describe what they see. Then layer one over the other — red and blue to make purple, red and yellow to make orange, yellow and blue to make green. Talk about primary (red, yellow and blue) and secondary (purple, orange and green) colours.
13. This one will appeal to little scientists and budding detectives. Write a secret letter in lemon juice on a sheet of paper. Let the paper dry completely, then hold it close to a heat source such as a toaster or a light bulb. Watch the invisible message reveal itself. How to explain it: The acids in the lemon juice weaken the paper, so when heat is applied, it’s the letters that burn first, long before the rest of the paper.
14. Pour a cup of milk into a shallow container. Add a few drops of food colouring – the more colours, the better the effect. Then add a drop of dishwashing liquid and watch the colours swirl. How to explain it: The dishwashing liquid breaks the surface tension of the milk (think of it as a sort of skin, keeping the liquids separate), letting the food colouring flow into it.
15. Tear a tissue into small pieces and lay the pieces on a table. Let your child rub a plastic comb against their hand for a few seconds, then hold it over the tissue pieces and watch them rise. How to explain it: When you rub the comb against your hand, you’re building up a negative charge in the comb. The tissue pieces are more positively charged than the comb and, when they are brought close together, the opposite charges attract one another, pulling the tissue pieces up to meet the comb.