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Fun Science Experiments Parents Can Do With Kids at Home

Updated on January 23, 2017
Saarith LM profile image

Saarith LM has a Ph.D in Physical Chemistry and is a teacher. He is also a father to two daughters that are energetic and fun.

Getting Kids Interested in Science

The best way to get kids interested in science is to allow them to watch and take part in real science experiments which are still simple enough for them to understand. There are a lot of experiments that are suitable for kids from the age of 3 and up. Here is a list of nine that kids can perform, either by themselves or with the help of an adult. These activities can all be performed with items that are found in most kitchens.

If you find the text description confusing you can watch the videos where I perform these activities with my daughters at home. As you can see from them, we had great fun doing these experiments together.

Fun Science Experiment 1: Water in a Turned Over Glass

This experiment demonstrates the ability of air pressure to hold water in a glass that has been turned upside down.

Items needed.

  • A single glass
  • tin foil or aluminium foil
  • water

Execution

  • Take some water and fill a glass to the brim with it.
  • Place the foil over the glass and make sure that it sits tight to the glass rim.
  • Now turn the glass upside down.
  • If everything works out the water should be held in the glass by the foil.
  • Try this out a few times over the sink before the show.

How this works

In simple terms the air is holding up the water.

The pressure from the atmosphere on the foil is greater than the pressure from the water on the same foil. Therefore the water cannot push the foil down.

For this to work the foil needs to be tightly pressed to the rim of the container.

The water is being held up by the pressure from the outside air.
The water is being held up by the pressure from the outside air.

#2: Matches in a Glass

This experiment demonstrates that fire needs oxygen to burn. It also shows the effect of reduced pressure in the glass due to water condensation.

Items needed.

  • A plate with curved edges
  • A large glass
  • A few matches
  • A piece of poster putty
  • Water

Execution

  • Place the piece of poster putty in the middle of the plate and put a couple of matches in it facing up.
  • Pour some water in the plate.
  • Light the matches.
  • Place the glass over the matches.

How this works

When the glass is placed over the flame it only has a limited amount of air. Fire needs oxygen to burn and when the oxygen is done the flame goes out.

As the oxygen is burned it is turned into carbondioxide and water vapor. Each molecule of oxygen takes about the same space as each molecule of carbondioxide. The same holds for oxygen and water vapor, only in this case the water vapor gets condensed on the glass which reduces the pressure inside the glass, drawing the water into the glass.

My daughters wondering how the water got into the glass like this.
My daughters wondering how the water got into the glass like this.

#3: Snuffing out a Candle

This activity demonstrates how air flows in a uniform direction when pressed out of a nozzle.

Items needed

  • A single candle
  • Matches
  • A plastic bottle


Execution

  • Simply light the candle and place in on a table.
  • Point the nozzle of the bottle towards the candle.
  • Now this part is tricky. You need to lightly tap the bottle while it's pointing towards the candle so that the flames are snuffed out.
  • This usually requires some practice but when perfected you should be able to snuff a candle at about a yard away with a light tap to the bottle.

How this works

When the bottle is hit it creates a small blast of air that goes straight out of the bottle and snuffs the candle if the bottle is pointing in the right direction.

Video showing these three fun science experiments for kids.

#4: Flowing Colors

This activity demonstrates what happens when a hydrophobic and hydrophilic liquid meet and are then mixed with soap.

Items needed.

  • A white plate
  • Some cooking oil
  • Food coloring
  • Dish water soap

Execution

  • Place oil on the plate until it reaches the rims.
  • Place a drop of food color at the center of the plate. You will notice that is forms a dome that won't spread.
  • Add a drop of dish water soap to the food coloring.
  • Enjoy the show.

How this works

In simple terms this effect is due to the insolvability of water and oil.

The dye is a water based solution, which means that it will not mix with the oil as can be seen. Dishsoap is however made from chemicals that have a hydrophilic „head“ and a hydrophobic „tail“.

When the soap is added to the red dye the hydrophilic part of the soap bonds with the oil creating first channels and then later an area where the water based dye can spread out.

If you try this just be sure that the children do not touch the food dye as it can easily stick to clothes and furniture.

Here the food color has spread nicely over the oil, due to a drop of dish soap dropped in the food color.
Here the food color has spread nicely over the oil, due to a drop of dish soap dropped in the food color.

#5: Floating Eggs

This activity demonstrates the effect density has on the buoyancy of eggs in water. By changing the density of water by adding salt.

Items needed

  • Eggs
  • Salt
  • water
  • A glass

Execution

  • Simply add the eggs and water to a clear glass.
  • Then add salt to the water and stir.
  • At some point the density of the water becomes greater than the egg and the egg floats up.

How this works

The density of eggs is usually just above the density of water at room temperature.

When the salt is dissolved in water the density of the water increases and becomes greater than the egg.

This causes the egg to rise up as it‘s now „lighter“ than water.

Fun fact: If the eggs float before you add salt to the water they are rotten.

The end result of the egg experiment. The water is  saturated with salt and the eggs are floating.
The end result of the egg experiment. The water is saturated with salt and the eggs are floating.

# 6: Foaming Glass

This activity demonstrates the reaction that takes place when sodium hydrogen carbonate and vinegar are mixed together.

Items needed.

  • Backing powder
  • Food vinegar
  • A single glass

Execution

  • Place a few tablespoons of baking powder into the glass
  • Pour the vinegar over the baking powder.

How this works

Most baking powder is made from a compound called sodium hydrogen carbonate.

When I poured vinegar over the baking powder a chemical reaction changes the baking powder to CO2 and sodium acetate. This in turn creates the foam that rises out of the glass.

There are other much more spectacular ways to create foam, but this method is pretty safe for children.

Video showing these three fun science experiments for kids.

#7: Mentos in Coke

This experiment shows how Mentos increases the release of gas trapped in a liquid.

Items needed.

  • 2 L bottle of coke or diet coke
  • A few mentos

I recommend that this be done outside as it will leave a mess.

Execution

Open the bottle of soda and place a few mentos into the bottle. For added fun you can drill a small hole into the bottlecap and try to drop the mentos in and close the cap.

How this works

When the bottle of soda is opened the trapped gas starts to leave the liquid in the usual manner. This release occurs slowly unless something is added that catalyses the release of gas, which Mentos does.

This also works for other materials such as rock salt, but Mentos seems to work best.

#8: Crushing a Can With Vacuum.

This experiments shows how a single bar of atmospheric pressure can crush a can of soda.

Items needed.

  • A can of soda
  • A heating apparatus
  • A bowl of cold water.

Execution

  • You need to heat a small amount of water in a can to boiling.
  • Observe as water vapor pushes the air out of the can.
  • Take the can upside down into a bowl with water.

How this works

When the can is placed into the cold water the water vapor inside the can compresses quickly, creating a vacuum inside the can, which then causes it to crush together. This might need some practice to get right so have a few cans ready if you are showing the kids.

What's interesting about this is that the size of the container does not matter, this can be done with a drum barrel for example.

#9: Inflating Balloons with Baking Soda and Vinegar.

This science experiment demonstrates the reaction that takes place when sodium hydrogen carbonate and vinegar are mixed together in a fun and colorful manner.

Items needed.

  • Backing powder
  • Food vinegar
  • A couple of plastic bottles
  • Food coloring
  • Balloons

Execution

  • You first need to stretch the balloons a bit by inflating them yourself a few times.
  • Next you need to put baking soda inside the balloons using a paper funnel.
  • Then you pour some vinegar into the bottle you intend to use and add a drop of food coloring.
  • After this you stretch the opening of the balloon over the bottle opening.
  • Finally, when ready you pour the baking powder which is now inside the balloon into the bottle and watch the show.

Safety warning: This experiment uses vinegar which might cause injury and the balloon could possibly pop. Children should not try this unsupervised. I was a little nervous about doing this with the girls are you can see in the video below.

How this works

Most baking powder is made from a compound called sodium hydrogen carbonate.

When I poured vinegar over the baking powder a chemical reaction changes the baking powder to CO2 and sodium acetate. This in turn creates the foam that rises out of the glass.

As the released CO2 increases the pressure inside the balloon and bottle the balloon inflates. This is a really colorful and fun way to demonstrate this chemical reaction.

Video showing these three fun science experiments for kids.

What do you think?

Which science experiment did you find the most interesting?

See results

Finally

I hope you enjoyed trying these experiments and if you found them fun and helpful to get your kids interested in science then please share them with friends and family. Also please add in the comments if your tried them out and how it went.

© 2016 Levictus Marcus Saarith

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