Three Easy Science Experiments for Kids at Home
It’s summer. The temperature’s rising, the days are longer, and the kids are home from school. How long does the excitement from their newfound freedom last before the boredom sets in? Do you fight over screen time limits or just hope to stop the whining? Connections Academy has come to the rescue with these easy science experiments you can do at home. Your kids will be having so much fun that they won’t even realize how much they’re learning!
Parents, as you’re performing these science experiments at home with your kids, also check out Connections Academy’s summer school for even more ways to expand your kids’ minds. It beats having to hear “I’m bored!” eight times a day for the next couple of months.
Diet Coke and Mentos Geyser
The first of our science experiments is one that became famous in 2005 from internet videos. Chances are you’ve seen a video or even a music video that featured this Mentos and Diet Coke geyser experiment, but have you ever done it yourself? Even though the concept for this science experiment for kids is simple, there are a few steps to follow to make sure that this geyser experiment is a success:
● Find a good outdoor area with a fair amount of space.
● Open your Diet Coke bottle and place it in the middle of your open space.
● Start off with a few Mentos and drop them all into the Diet Coke bottle at the same time. Grab a tube, a rolled up piece of paper, or some kind of funnel to help get all of the Mentos into the bottle at the same moment.
● Drop the Mentos and back away!
Why It Works: Soda is bubbly because of invisible carbon dioxide—also known as CO2—which is kept under a lot of pressure when the drink is bottled or canned, so you get that nice fizz when you open it up. That’s why a two-liter will go flat after a day or two: once you open it, the CO2 starts to escape because the pressure that kept it inside is gone. Those CO2 bubbles will also latch onto certain objects they come into contact with. Mentos are special because they actually contain a bunch of tiny pits on the surface of the candy, so those bubbles attach to countless places on the Mentos when it comes into contact with the soda. They’re also relatively heavy—so drop in a whole roll, and the CO2 bubbles latch on while the Mentos shoot straight to the bottom of the two-liter. This pushes the soda inside right out the top in a Diet Coke eruption!
For Scientific Purposes: The live explosion will be plenty awesome, but for extra fun, grab a phone or camera and start recording. An editing app should be able to put the footage in super slow motion—and, naturally, reverse slo-mo is bound to be lots of fun. Just don’t get Diet Coke all over your smartphone. You can also try experimenting with different types of soda and compare the eruptions that follow.
Ziploc Ice Cream
This at-home science experiment, courtesy of How Stuff Works, is not only fun for the whole family but is also it pretty darn tasty! Ziploc ice cream is exactly what it sounds like. With a few simple ingredients and only five minutes, you’ll be cooling off with everyone’s favorite frozen treat—made by your family!
Here are all of the ingredients that you will need for this experiment:
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup milk, cream, or half-and-half
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (or other flavoring)
6 tablespoons salt (rock salt or kosher salt works best)
enough ice to fill the gallon-sized bag halfway
1 gallon-size Ziploc bag
1 pint-size Ziploc bag
Put the ice into the gallon-sized bag and then pour the salt around the ice. Pour the vanilla extract, sugar, and milk into a bowl. Then pour the contents of the bowl into the pint-size bag and seal it up tight. Finally, place the pint-size bag with the cream into the gallon-size bag with the ice. Cover the cream with the ice, and then shake the bag for five minutes. Then, voilà: ice cream! (Tip from an experienced parent: do the shaking outdoors, just in case the bag comes open!)
Why It Works: The secret here is actually in the ice. If you live in a place that gets a lot of snowfall, you’re probably familiar with the idea of salt trucks covering the roads with salt during the winter, or salting a sidewalk so people don’t fall on the ice. The reason salt is effective is because it makes some of the snow melt, even when it’s still too cold out for it to melt naturally. The more salt that is present, the colder that water needs to be to freeze. In our ice cream experiment, the salt ice in the larger bag becomes saltwater but at a lower temperature than the 32°F at which water usually freezes. This creates the condition in which ice cream can be made.
For Scientific Purposes: Cooking is chemistry, and that goes for our ice cream experiment, too. How does the process change if you use more or less ice? What about using sea salt versus table salt? Do different flavors change how the ice cream is made? Chocolate syrup is a given, but the baking aisle at your local grocery store probably has quite a few different flavor extracts you can try, like peppermint or orange. If your kids are younger, you can add some more educational value by charting your results as you try different ingredients and methods. (But remember, using the scientific method, you should only change one variable per experiment!)
What’s more fun than a little homemade slime? This is a great, gooey, gross science experiment for kids!
Here is what you will need to make your slime:
● white wood glue
● borax powder
● food coloring
● measuring spoon
● two containers
● airtight container for storing your slime
To make your slime, put one tablespoon of the glue into a container and mix it with a tablespoon of water and a few drops of food coloring (it’s technically your choice, but we heartily recommend purple). In a separate container, mix one teaspoon of borax powder with a tablespoon of water until the powder dissolves. Now combine the contents of the two containers, and the slime will start to form! This experiment provides lots of gooey fun.
Why It Works: The key here is the chemical reaction between the glue and the borax powder. Glue is normally a liquid (before it dries), but the borax prevents it from flowing the way a liquid is supposed to. When the two are combined, they create a polymer, which exists as both a liquid and a solid at the same time. That’s why slime is so fun. It breaks the rules!
For Scientific Purposes: Ask the kids if they want to make another polymer. When they say yes, pull out a box of Jell-O and make it up. They’ll probably be able to list quite a few similarities between slime and gelatin—although it’s very important that they don’t think the former is edible (borax should not be ingested!). You can pull up a list of other common polymers and talk about how each one is both liquid and solid.
Not only are these science experiments for kids great to help stimulate summer minds, but also they are also great boredom-busters. For other ways to stimulate young minds and to find new ways to teach kids, check out Connections Academy’s online elementary school and our elementary school finder.