Kitchen Science: The 5 Best Science Experiments for Kids That'll Blow Their Minds!
The best part is that you already have all the materials you'll need in your kitchen!
I'd spent hours planning a fun weekend for my family, full of activities designed to delight -- and ultimately exhaust. But what I HADN'T planned on was a spontaneous rainstorm to wash all my plans away.
I needed a rainy day Plan B, and I needed it FAST.
My kids recently started getting into science-y stuff, so I did a quick search on the Internet and found scores of experiments that were easy, educational and very low on my M.H.T.G.T.T.S. scale. (This is my "Mom-Has-to-Go-to-the-Store-Again" scale.) Definitely a win-win in my book.
These are the five experiments my kiddos enjoyed the most. Not only did they get to be a little messy and creative, but they also learned some pretty cool science lessons in the process! (Bonus point: most of the items you'll need are probably already in your kitchen.)
"Magic Milk"Items Needed:
Milk (2-3 cups)
Pour milk into a dish/bowl. Sprinkle drops of food coloring into the milk. Use a cotton swab to put droplets of dish soap into the milk mixture.
The milk will turn into lots of colors and make bubbles because of the soap.
The dish soap made the milk scatter and react in neat color patterns! Watch our results here:
What We Learned:
Dish soap binds with fat, so the droplets of soap move the colors around as it seeks to bind with the fat molecules in the milk. It's also cool to swish around the colors when you're done. Use several cotton swabs, you might lose one or two!
("Magic Milk" activity courtesy of Left Brain Right Brain.)
"Dancing Worms"Items Needed:
2 clear glasses
Warm water (1 cup/glass)
Vinegar (1-2 cups)
3 Tbsp baking soda
Gummy worms (1 handful)
Fill one glass with warm water, the other with vinegar. Mix baking soda in the cup of warm water. Add gummy worms to the solution and soak for 15 minutes. Remove worms from the solution and place worms in the cup of vinegar.
The original experiment from Playdough to Plato tells you to cut the worms into fourths. We had small worms, so I cut one group in halves and left the others as they were. That way, we could see how worms of different weights would compare.
Once they were cut, we mixed the worms into the baking soda/water solution and waited for 15 minutes. We then fished out the worms and placed them into the glass filled with vinegar.
The gummy worms will explode into little pieces.
We ran into a little snafu and it didn't quite go as planned. This is what happened in Take 1:
We realized that the warm water cooled off completely by the time we were ready to do the project. We also concluded that the worms we didn't cut were too heavy to float and dance, and thus weighed the others down.
It was too late to soak the worms again, so instead, we fished the worms out of the vinegar and added more baking soda directly onto the worms.
You can probably guess what happened next:
What We Learned:
Following directions is key. Science is based on trial and error, but you can still have a really fun time with less-than-perfect results.
We also learned that the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate in the baking soda. This creates gas bubbles around the gummy worm. As the bubbles rise to the surface, they should lift the worm upwards and make it wriggle and dance.
("Dancing Worms" activity courtesy of Playdough to Plato.)
"The Lollipop Lab"Items Needed:
Small bag of lollipops
3-4 clear cups
Pour warm water in clear cups, about half-full. Place the lollipops in the water.
The colors will drain off of the lollipops and leave them white. The colors will mix and float on top of the water. The lollipops might even get smaller.
We unwrapped the lollipops and sorted them based on the color combinations my kids wanted to try. One cup had one lollipop, another had 2, and the last had 4.
We checked on our results every 20 minutes. At the 20-minute mark, we noticed that the lollipops had started to dissolve quickly. Although they did get smaller, they didn't turn white:
Here's what we saw at the 40-minute mark:
The water became more colorful, and the lollipops got even smaller. It ended up taking a full hour for the cups with multiple lollipops to finish dissolving.
What We Learned:
This was a really fun way to teach my kids about how/why substances dissolve. According to Ducksters.com, when you drop sugar into water, this causes the groups of sugar molecules to break apart. The longer the sugar's in there, the smaller the groups get until they end up as individual molecules. That's why the lollipop water became increasingly colorful and cloudy: the clouds were made up of all those individual sugar molecules that broke apart!
This experiment also gave my kids a taste (excuse the pun) of what happens when you mix different colors together:
("The Lollipop Lab" activity courtesy of Fantastic Fun and Learning.)
Water (1 cup)
Cornstarch (1.5 cups)
Small- to medium-sized plastic bag
Pour water into a dish or bowl, add some drops of food coloring and mix well.
Slowly add the cornstarch and stir the mixture with a spatula until it starts to thicken. Then, mix with your hands.
After you're done with the oobleck, put it in a sealed bag either to save it for later, or throw it away. DON'T pour the oobleck down your drain because it'll clog your sink!
The boys predicted that the mixture would have a reaction like baking soda and vinegar: they thought it would bubble over and fizz.
We discovered that oobleck reacts differently, depending on how you handle it. If you use tension with it or try to grab it, it thickens – and even solidifies – making it harder to manipulate. If you let it sit in your hands, it runs like a liquid. Watch our results here:
What We Learned:
According to Scientific American, oobleck is known as a "pressure-dependent substance," or a substance whose properties are changed by pressure, not by temperature. (Think Silly Putty or quicksand.) If you put a lot of pressure on the mixture (i.e. grab), you'll notice that it feels hard: that's because the pressure is forcing the cornstarch particles together. But, if you move your hand slowly through the mixture, you'll notice that it feels like water: that's because moving slowly allows the particles to move away from each other.
Most importantly, we learned that getting messy is fun!
("Oobleck" activity courtesy of SciShowKids.)
2 celery stalks with leaves
2 clear glasses
Fill the glasses with water, and add 2 drops of food coloring to each. Place celery stalks in the water glasses and leave them alone. Check in on their progress in an hour or two.
The celery will turn colors and then fall apart from soaking in the water.
The boy chose green and blue as their celery colors:
We then placed the stalks in the water glasses and checked on them after a couple hours. This is what we found:
There were several obvious spots of blue on the top, bottom and the leaves of the celery stalk. Although there was a lot less action from the celery stalk in the green cup, it did change a little bit. We could see a few green spots on each leaf at the top.
What We Learned:
According to the United States Geological Survey , plants "drink" water through a process called "transpiration". The water is absorbed through their roots and gets carried through the plant's bodies by way of their vessels, also known as "xylem." (Xylem are the tiny holes in the bottom of the stalk you can see in the picture below.)
The plants absorb the nutrients they need from the water as it moves along their xylem. Once the water makes it up to the tops of the plants, it turns into water vapor and evaporates through tiny pores in the underside of the leaves, called "stomata." Food coloring particles are small enough that they can pass through the celery's vessels with the water. That way, we can easily observe transpiration in action!
Do you have any fun and easy science experiments you do with your kids in the kitchen? Feel free to share your examples below in the comments section!