Science experiments to do at home

child and adult with safety googles in classroom doing science experiement

Jenna Meade

Posted August 17, 2021


Low-cost and low-effort activities to expand and educate little minds. 

Looking for easy ways to keep young minds engaged at home? Look no further than the mind-blowing magic of simple science experiments. 

From fizzing citrus fruits to roaming rainbows, we’ve rounded up five of our favourite experiments that can be done with everyday materials you probably already have in your cupboards. 

Work your way through the list and watch as you dazzle little brains - and likely learn a thing or two yourself. Once you’re done, be sure to tick off the feast of festivities happening both online and in-person for National Science Week from August 14-22. 


Experiment 1 - Orange Fizz 

Let’s start with something simple. You’ll only need two ingredients for this one: oranges and baking soda. Begin by cutting an orange into slices and sprinkling half a teaspoon of baking soda onto a separate plate. Dip a slice of the orange into the baking soda, then take a bite. The orange will begin to bubble - and fizz - in your mouth as you chew. Mixing acids and bases make for exciting chemistry. The citric acid from the orange reacts to the baking soda base, which is the opposite of an acid. When they mix, they make millions of carbon dioxide bubbles, which is the same gas that makes soda fizzy.  

Experiment 2 - Walking Water 

Learn about the scientific magic of capillary action. Gather six cups and fill them halfway: three with water, one with red food colouring, one with blue colouring and one with yellow colouring. Alternate the clear and coloured cups as you line them up and use folded paper towels to make bridges between the cups. Leave to sit for one hour. Watch as your kids’ eyes light up as the coloured water ‘walks’ across the bridges and into the clear cups, creating a vibrant rainbow. Because the adhesive force between the paper towel and the water is more powerful than the force inside the water, the paper towel pulls the water up. Who needs a pot of gold when you have capillary action? 

 

adult and child looking in to microscope on table

National Science Week is a great time to get kids interested in the more practical side of science.


Experiment 3 - Floating Stick Man 

Sure, your kids might be able to draw a stick figure. But can they make him float? You’ll need a whiteboard marker and a glass or ceramic dish with a flat bottom. Draw your stick figure (or any design you desire), making sure all the lines are connected. Slowly pour water to cover your drawing, and watch it rise to life. For extra effect, blow on the stick figure to make him dance. Because the pigments in the ink are insoluble, they can’t be dissolved in the water. They’re left behind as a solid and slide off the surface when they get wet. 

Experiment 4 - The Leak-Proof Bag 

Feel like a magician while you get your children thinking about chemical compositions. You’ll need a zip-top bag, sharpened pencils and water. Fill the bag with water and securely close it. Poke a pencil right through the bag so that it comes out the other side. Repeat with the rest of your pencils. The reason water doesn’t spill out of the holes is because the bag is made of a flexible plastic polymer. The sharp point of the pencil slides in between the chain of molecules that make up the polymer. These molecules hug the pencil, creating a seal that won't let the water out. 

 

child playing with orange slime science experiment in cup on wooden table

These experiments are just a few example of how you can keep your kids entertained with science.


Experiment 5 - Lava Lamp 

Aspirin is handy for aches and pains, but who knew it could help make your own groovy gadget? Fill a bottle or container (600ml water bottles are ideal) one-third of the way with water and two-thirds with vegetable oil. Add ten drops of food colouring, then half an aspirin tablet. Seal the lid tightly and watch as the wondrous whirlpool swirls. Because the oil and the water have differing densities and polarities, the water will sink to the bottom when you mix them together. The tablet reacts with the water, so the droplets rise to the top, release air and sink back down. 
 


Want more science in your life?  

There’s plenty more science to lap up during National Science Week. Whether you can make it to a workshop or need to stream from home, in-person and online events are running across the country from August 14-22. Scienceworks is hosting a robotics and coding workshop and exploring our treasured earth with their Planetarium Nights series. CSIRO is challenging Australians to find out what connects them to the ocean, and Questacon is holding a kefir-making competition. Take a virtual tour of the hi-tech Yakult factory, listen to a discussion of the different scientific techniques being used to date Australia’s rock art and learn about the science behind different animals' diets when Taronga Zoo streams live from their habitats.  


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