Get Ready for Some Science-Friendly Summer Fun!
Science is an important subject that helps several crucial aspects of children’s’ development—it helps improve communication skills, fosters critical thinking, increases a child’s sense of understanding, develops patience and perseverance, and, perhaps more importantly, teaches children that they can play an active role in explaining and solving problems that face our world.
Incorporating science lessons and demonstrations into children’s routines helps satisfy their curious nature while getting them interested not only in science but in education as well. There are several helpful, science-based and kid-friendly websites that will help you choose the activities you find best-suited for you and your kids. Below we’ve included a few of our favorite easy demonstrations and experiments you can try at home or in the classroom.
Science Activity #1: Build A Soap-Powered Model Boat
One of our favorite resources for kid-friendly science experiments is ScienceBob.Com, which is a website run by “Science Bob” Pflugfelder a science teacher, author, maker, and presenter who is a regular guest on TV shows like Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Out of the many experiments featured on the website, we liked the soap-powered boat because this experiment takes minimal effort and has impressive results.
- A foam tray or a piece of non-corrugated cardboard
- A tray, bowl, or cookie sheet full of water
- Liquid dish soap
- A toothpick
- Cut the foam tray or cardboard into the boat shape shown here.
- Dip the toothpick into the liquid soap and use the toothpick to put soap on the sides of the notch at the back of the boat.
- Carefully place the boat onto the surface of the water.
Lesson: Forces and Their Effects
This demonstration shows the effects of the soap molecules’ disruption of the water’s surface tension, the force of which propels the boat forward.
Ask Questions and Investigate
Keep the learning process going by prompting children to ask questions and figure out the answers. Try answering the following questions using the scientific method:
- Does liquid soap last longer than a solid piece of soap?
- Does warm water work better than cold water?
- What materials make the best floating boat?
If you’d like to try this demonstration, and others like it, in an organized and kid-friendly way, then create your own lab /play area with a water and sand play table. It will make the experience feel more official in an easily accessible way.
Science Activity #2: Make a Levitating Orb
Another one of our favorite demonstrations from ScienceBob.Com, the levitating orb is bound to fascinate children. This simple demonstration will capture children’s attention and make way for a fun and engaging lesson.
- 1 inch wide PVC Pipe about 24 inches long or a regular balloon.
- Mylar tinsel–the thinnest and narrowest possible so that the orb isn’t too heavy to levitate.
- A head of clean, dry hair
- Arrange 6 strands of mylar together and tie them together in a knot at one end.
- Tie them together again about 6 inches from the first knot.
- Cut the loose mylar strands off just past each knot.
- Charge the PVC pipe or balloon by rubbing it back and forth through your hair for several seconds.
- Hold the mylar orb (by the knot) above the charged pipe and let it drop and touch the pipe.
- It should repel away and start floating.
More detailed directions and descriptions available here on ScienceBob.com.
Lesson: Static Charges
Similar static charges repel away from each other. When you rub the pipe in your hair you give the pipe a negative static charge. As soon as the orb touches the pipe, it picks up a negative charge. Since the pipe is negative and the tinsel orb is now negative, they repel away from each other and the orb levitates. And since the tinsel strands repel away from each other when charged, the orb will take on more of a “ball” appearance.
Ask Questions and Investigate
- Do different materials (socks, fur, cotton) build up better static charges?
- How long does the static charge last?
- Can you find a way to make it last longer?
Science Activity #3: Make Your Own Quicksand
Science Kids is another valuable resource for planning science-based summer fun with you children. The website includes a variety of facts, activities, games, and experiments in the areas of physics, biology, chemistry, and astronomy–all of which you can practice with your kids.
One of our favorite experiments was “Make Your Own Quicksand,” since quicksand makes a lot of appearances in movies and cartoons. This quick and easy (and perhaps messy) demonstration will help explain the phenomenon to kids so that the next time they see it on TV, they’ll know understand why quicksand is so deceiving!
- 1 cup of cornstarch/cornflour
- Half a cup of water
- A large plastic container–we suggest a sand and water play table (this will help control the mess).
- A spoon
- This one is simple, just mix the cornflour and water thoroughly in the container to make your own instant quicksand.
- When showing other people how it works, stir slowly and drip the quicksand to show it is a liquid.
- Stirring it quickly will make it hard and allow you to punch or poke it quickly (this works better if you do it fast rather than hard).
- Remember to always stir instant quicksand right before you use it.
Lesson: Suspension and Viscosity
This mixture is an example of a suspension, a mixture of two substances when one substance is finely divided and dispersed in the other–in this case, a solid dispersed in a liquid. Because water has a low viscosity, thickness or resistance to flow, it creates a soupy mixture when mixed with cornstarch. The mixture acts like a solid sometimes and a liquid at other times.
Ask Questions and Investigate
- What happens when you hit the mixture softly or hard?
- What happens when you stir the mixture quickly or gently?
- How can you explain the differences?
These stimulating demonstrations should help you get spark children’s interest in understanding the world. Give them a try, and if you have any ideas for any other kid-friendly science demonstrations or experiments, please share them in the comments. And to stay informed on matters that matter to you and the children in your life, our blog and like our Facebook page!