Published: April 24, 2020
It’s hard to believe that for most of us, it’s been a little over one month in quarantine! The kids are home and you’ve been trying to get some much needed work accomplished. We get it — juggling those two things effectively can be…difficult to say the least. But pat yourselves on the back! You’ve been doing great keeping them busy while staying on top of your work. Your kids are truly lucky to have you!
That said, we thought we’d put together a trio of fun science experiments that can be adapted for kids of all ages to help you keep them engaged and learning! We’ve chosen experiments that can be accomplished with some basic household items that many of us will likely already have laying around. Try any or all of these with your kids and let us know how it goes by leaving a comment below!
Experiment #1: Sink or Swim
The main question this experiment is seeking to answer is whether or not different household objects will float or sink when dropped into three different liquids. Specifically, you’ll need three clear glasses, corn syrup, vegetable oil, tap water and several small objects such as a paper clip, raisins, pebbles, and a ball of paper.
First, fill each glass 1/2 to 2/3 of the way with a different liquid. Have your kids write down or tell you what they think might happen when they drop the different objects into the three different liquids — will the items sink or float? Why?
Next, starting with the raisins, have your kids gently drop one in each of the three liquids. Have them write down what happens to the raisin in the water, oil and corn syrup. Take out the raisins and repeat the process with each of the items you’ve gathered.
Once this process has been repeated with all of the items, have your kids look back at their predictions. Were they correct? Did the objects sink or float when they expected them to or were they surprised by the results? Why do they think they got the results that they did?
Now it’s time for a discussion. Depending on the age of your kids, you can either talk to them about how density affects an objects ability to sink or float. Alternatively, if your kids are a little older, this is a perfect way to have them do some research on density! Have them create a short presentation and ask them to come and tell you the answers once they’re done.
If they are interested in this topic, you can do some things to extend the experiment. For example, if you add some food dye to the water, you can then have your kids pour all three of the liquids into one empty container. Let the liquids settle and have them describe to you what has happened — how did these liquids separate from one another? Why has this happened?
Experiment #2: Wingardium Leviosa
Ever wish you could wave a “magic” wand and make things float like they do in Harry Potter? Well, maybe you haven’t but your kids probably have! With this very simple demonstration, they will be able to do just that (only it’s not magic, it’s all thanks to the power of static electricity)! For this experiment you’ll need to get a plastic rod, a cloth, and a light plastic bag.
Begin by having your kids rub the plastic rub with the cloth for 40 to 60 seconds. Next, flatten the plastic bag and rub it with the cloth for 40-60 seconds as well. Release the plastic bag in the air and have your kids wave the plastic rod underneath the bag. Voila! If done correctly your plastic bag should levitate as you hold the rod underneath it.
Again, depending on the age of your kids, you can either explain to them the basics of static electricity or have them do some research to answer the question of why and how this happens.
Experiment #3: Slipping and Sliding
Have your kids ever wondered why they can slide across your hardwood or kitchen tile in socks but not barefoot? The answer is friction! There are plenty of fun experiments to demonstrate the forces of friction but this one is our favourite.
In order to get started, you’ll need 4 to 6 pieces of cardboard (preferably cut from the same box) about 12 inches long and 6 inches wide, your kid’s favourite Hot Wheels car, a marker, and various items to create the surfaces on the different lengths of track. When creating the surfaces of your tracks, you can have your kids get creative by finding the various items themselves or you can provide them instead.
Once you’ve chosen your track surface material, take 3 to 5 of your pieces of cardboard and start assembling with your kids. For example, one of the tracks could have sandpaper glued to the surface, another could have bits of ribbon or fabric, while another could be brushed with dish soap. Again, be creative here! The point is to create several tracks with different surfaces so that the forces of friction are different when your toy car rolls over them.
At this point, you should still have 1 to 2 plain pieces of cardboard leftover. Use this to build a ramp for the car to travel down. Once this is complete, start by having your kids write down, draw or describe which of the surfaces they think the car will travel the furthest on. Take one of your tracks and place it at the bottom of your ramp so that the car will travel down the ramp and across the track. Your kids can experiment with each of the tracks and record how far the car travels across each of them by marking the distance with the marker and recording the length with a ruler or measuring tape. Next, have them write down these results on a piece of paper (or simply record them yourself).
Once they’ve had their fun, ask them if the results lined up with their predictions. Did the results surprise them at all? Extend this experiment by doing some research on friction. Is there anyway to alter the toy car to make it go further? Would any other objects travel further than the car did? Have your kids do some experimenting on their own to see if they can solve these questions!