Science Experiments for Kids of All Ages
Hands-on science experiments are more than just fun -- they're educational.
They bubble, they ooze, they change forms! They're science experiments for kids. Even if your kids get plenty of science during the school day, you can still educate and entertain them at home with a few fun interactive activities.
Why get hands-on? According to the National Science Teachers Association, young children learn best when they're allowed to explore for themselves. "Since young children experience the world through their senses...hands-on science succeeds at meeting young children where they are," shares Rachelle Doorley, the creative mind behind the blog Tinkerlab.
With that in mind, set out to start some serious science with your little ones. Here are four fun activities to get you started. Talk to your child's teacher to see if they know any more or hire a science tutor who excels at activities.
1. Walks and Nature
Even though your toddler doesn't know a bottle from a beaker, she can still explore science. Play up natural curiosity, and jump into this sensory science activity.
- A paper bag
- Natural materials (tree bark, leaves, grass, flowers)
- Magnifying glass
- Go for a walk in the backyard or through a local park, exploring the sights, sounds and smells of nature.
- Help your toddler to gather a few natural materials like rocks and leaves. Put them into the paper bag.
- Play a guessing game. When you get home, shake up the bag and ask your tot to put her hand in (without looking first). Ask her to use her words, and tell you what she feels.
- Sort the items. Have your tot categorize what she finds by placing the materials into like piles such as "things from a tree" or "grows near the ground."
- Look at them through a magnifying glass. What do they look like up close?
If your kids enjoy this type of exploration, try these 8 Scavenger Hunt Ideas for Kids.
2. Rainbows and Sunlight
Many pint-sized scientists have a case of the "whys." As a parent or nanny, you can't solve every question, but you can help her explore some answers. "Hands-on play is so critical for science understanding," notes Christy McGuire, educator and blogger at Thriving STEM. Even big questions like "why is the sky blue?" can be answered with an at-home experiment. Try this one, which explores sunlight.
- A prism (look for kid-friendly prisms at educational toy stores or teacher supply shops online)
- Hold the prism up to the light. Help your child turn it so that the rays pass through it.
- Play rainbow hide-and-seek, and ask your child to find the sky-blue band.
- Move on, and look for other colors.
- Explain that sunlight is really a rainbow (study NASA's explanation if you need a refresher).
3. Kitchens and Chemistry
Another option is to explore what happens when everyday kitchen substances meet up. Doorley suggests, "Try playing with ice or mixing vinegar with baking soda, and you'll see their eyes open wide with wonder."
- Baking soda
- Scoop a few tablespoons of baking soda into a large plastic mixing bowl.
- Slowly add the vinegar and watch it bubble. Use this explanation from the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) to explain what's happening. Switch up the experiment by freezing baking soda and water into cubes before pouring vinegar on top, or see what happens when you use different amounts of each substance.
4. Magnets and Magnetism
At-home science experiments for kids don't stop when your child hits grade school. Crystal Chatterton, creator of The Science Kiddo, notes that participating in science activities with young children "fuels their natural curiosity and eagerness to learn." It helps them to develop a scientific way of thinking, which allows them to think critically as they get older. Magnets are a common household item, so they're an easy way to get started.
- A magnet
- Something metal (like a screw or nut)
- A cup
- Tie the string around the metal object.
- Put the magnet in the cup, and fill the cup with water.
- Hold the metal object by the attached string, and dangle the metal near the magnet to see what happens.
- Take the magnet out of the water, and repeat the experiment.
- Place the cardboard in between the magnet and the metal, and repeat the exploration.
- Compare what happened in each instance and use this explanation from UCSB to explain how magnetism works.
Erica Loop is a freelance parenting writer with a background in child development. She also blogs about hands-on kids' activities at Mini Monets and Mommies.
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