We love a science experiment in our house! They are such a great way of making learning fun and keeping the kids busy. That’s why we’ve teamed up with The British Science Association (the charity behind British Science Week) to share these ten awesome science experiments for kids which you can do at home
1. Are you a Supertaster? (suitable for primary school children and above)
We are big fans of science experiments in our house. In my experience, kids these days absolutely lap them up – as well as anything to do with science – and they are never short on the fun or wow factor. If you’re looking for some awesome science experiments for kids to either work into your homeschooling or just do with them for fun, then I’ve teamed up with the British Science Association – the charity behind British Science Week – to share 10 awesome science experiments for kids that they will go crazy for.
Are you a supertaster? Supertasters experience bitter tastes more strongly than other people! This is because they have a higher number of taste receptors within the fungiform papillae – the big pink bumps on your tongue that contain your taste buds and enable you to taste.
This activity, you will determine whether you are a supertaster, taster or non-taster.
What you need: Bottle of natural blue food dye, cotton buds, disposable ‘mini cups’, A4 card, hole punch, scissors, damp cloth, cup or bag on each table for waste
Health & safety: Ensure the person preparing and handing out the holed card has clean hands, uses new card and has clean scissors and hole-punch. Prepared card should be kept in a new freezer bag or similar. Used cotton buds and card strips should be discarded into a waste container immediately after use and the container then placed in the bin. Ensure everyone washes their hands before and after taking part in the activity. Only allow children to dip their cotton bud once into the food dye. If more dye is needed, get a fresh cotton bud. Have a receptacle on each table for waste. Have paper towels, antibacterial surface wipes or cleaner on hand to wash up any mess or spillages.
- Everyone taking part should wash their hands.
- The person who is going to have their fungiform papillae (pink bumps) counted first needs to sit down with their elbows on the table, supporting their chin.
- Place a cotton bud into the blue food dye until it is covered. Ask the person taking part to stick their tongue out. Using the cotton bud, coat the front third of the person’s tongue with the dye.
- Place the cotton bud in a container such as a plastic bag which will then be thrown away.
- The blue dye will stain the tongue but slide off the fungiform papillae. Did you know that each bump contains three to five taste buds?
- Next, ask the person to carefully place a hole-punched card on their tongue over the blue food dye. Looking through strip of paper/card, someone in your group should count how many pink bumps they can see on the tongue inside the hole.
- Count the number of fungiform papillae twice to find an average amount. Record your results on a sheet of paper. When you have finished with the card, throw it away like you did with the cotton bud.
- Look at the chart at the end of this activity and see how your taste buds compare to your families!
2. Make your own bath bomb! (Suitable for secondary school children and above)
In this activity, you will investigate how to make your own bath bomb! We can all support the diversity of our planet by using less packaging including single-use materials.
By designing your own bath bomb you could also find a way to cut down on the packaging required and encourage others to make their own bath bombs.
What you need: Dry ingredients: 100 grams baking soda, 50 grams citric acid, 25 grams cornflour, Wet ingredients: 2 tbsp sunflower oil or olive oil, 2 tsp water, 1 tsp food colouring (optional), 12-15 drops essential oils of choice (be sure to check for allergies), Kit list: two mixing bowls, whisk, flexible plastic moulds (clean empty yogurt pots, silicone ice cube tray or silicone cupcake cases)
Health & safety: Never use anything on your skin that has been made in the laboratory or using laboratory chemicals.
- Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl and the wet ingredients together in the other bowl.
- Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients a few drops at a time while whisking, until the mixture just sticks together when pressed.
- Press the mixture into the mould and leave to dry for at least 2 hours.
- Make a few bath bombs with variations and record the differences in them, such as: More or less baking soda, More or less citric acid, Different oils (citric or other), Different colours
- Remember to keep some elements the same, to make it a fair test.
- Now it’s time to test your bath bomb! Put the bath bomb in some water and record: How long it takes to disperse? How high the ‘fizz’ is? What happens to the water? Anything else you think might be important in deciding if a bath bomb is effective or not?
- Compare your different bath bombs, deciding which one makes it more effective as a bath bomb.
3. Pollution solution (Suitable for Primary School children and above)
When we look around, we do not usually see the ‘air’ so it is easy to assume that our air is clean. In reality, the air and the pollution in it are made up of mostly invisible gases.
Many pollution particles are so small that we cannot see them. This means that it is hard to know if the air we breathe is clean or polluted. This experiment will help you discover how we can test for air pollution
What you need: Bicarbonate of soda dissolved in water (“pollution”), red grape juice (“reagent”), droppers/spoons, beakers/cups (ideally white or clear), sticky labels, paper pen or pencil for recording ideas
- For parents only to prepare away from the children – Make 2 types of sample in large containers e.g. litre bottles: (A) neutral (just water) and (B) polluted (Add around 1-2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda per 500ml of water). Label the container of plain water (A) ‘Park’ and the water mixed with bicarbonate of soda (B) as ‘Busy road’.
- Give the children the two containers of water labelled ‘Busy road’ and ‘Park’.
- Make a hypothesis together about whether a busy road or a park would be likely to be more polluted
- Use a teaspoon or pipette to add ten drops of the ‘reagent’ to each container.
- Watch for a reaction to see if the reagent changes colour when it is added to the sample.
- Which container has the ‘pollution’ and which one does not? Is the more polluted container the busy road or the park? Why do you think this? Was your hypothesis correct?
- What do you think are the biggest causes of pollution in the UK? Can you think of any solutions to air pollution? Try designing a vehicle that creates no pollution.
4. Nature walk diary (Suitable for Primary School children and above)
In this activity, you will have the opportunity to explore, observe and document the natural world using all your senses, and then use your findings to write poems. We must all follow the government’s guidelines on social distancing, so perhaps this activity could be your one form of exercise outside a day?
You will go for a walk in a park, wood or open field and document your observations, by noting the sights, smells and sounds you encounter on your journey.
What you need: paper, clipboard, pens, a bag for leaves, camera (optional)
Health & safety: All living things, including plants, should be looked after carefully and not injured in any way. Make sure you leave everything as you find it and take all litter away with you. Adults should supervise activities outdoors. Wash hands after working outside.
- Plan your walk somewhere where it won’t be too busy considering the Government’s rules around social distancing. You could use a map of a local park or forest to plot your route. What do you expect to see while you are there?
- Tip: take a camera to photograph species. Then you can identify the plants and animals when you get back home
- Go on your walk. Record what you see, smell and hear. Collect a variety of leaves from the ground (but don’t pick any off trees or plants).
- Listen closely to the sounds you can hear. What birds or insects can you detect? Can you hear the wind moving through the trees? What does the ground sound like as you walk over it?
- Once you’re back at home or at school, use the words you have written down to write your own poem. Use nouns and descriptive words and try to think about similes to describe your observations.
5. Ditch the dirt (Suitable for secondary school children)
Over 1/3 of the world’s population do not have access to clean water. In countries such as Kenya and Sudan, children have to journey many miles a day to collect water that isn’t very clean. If they are lucky they will have a way of filtering it. Your task is to design a filter!
What you need: 2 litre plastic bottle, variety of plastic containers to store your water, dirty water (a mix of mud, stones, twigs, leaves etc.) Materials to make layers e.g. stones, course sand, fine sand, gravel, cotton wool, measuring jug, paper towels, cloth, e.g. j-cloth Elastic band
Health & safety: The water you have filtered may look clean but is not fit to drink.
- Make a container for your water filter. You can make a simple one by cutting through a 2 litre water bottle approximately one third up from the bottom, then inverting the top into the bottom. Alternatively, you can design your own using the other plastic containers
- Look at the materials available to you and discuss/research what type of contaminants they would be able to remove. Contaminants can be divided into biological e.g. bacteria and viruses, chemical, e.g. cleaning liquids and physical e.g. dirt or broken glass.
- Start to build your filter by experimenting with different materials and combining layers of material in different ways. Consider: The order of the layers and the depth of the layers. Changing these variables could alter how clean the water is and the rate of filtration, both are important.
- Pour 250ml of dirty water into the top of your filter and see how much (hopefully cleaner!) water you can collect in 5 minutes. Your aim is to collect at least 100ml.
- Stand 100ml samples of both the original dirty water and your cleaner water next to each other on a sheet of white paper to compare. You can even have a competition to see whose water filter has worked best! Consider why this may be.
6. Clever camouflaged creatures (Suitable for Primary School children and above)
This activity will get you thinking about creature adaptations and understanding the diverse world around them.
What you need: Butterfly shapes cut out of brown or grey paper (sugar paper or wrapping paper is fine), crayons, scissors, pencils and/ or felt tip pens, Blu-Tack Objects to ‘hide’, a piece of brightly coloured wool or pipe cleaner, plastic animals in their natural colours, a square white sheet of paper (6 cm x 6 cm approx) and some patterned wrapping paper
- Use the cut-out paper butterflies to explore camouflage by finding ways to hide them around the room. Talk about how camouflage works. How easy is it to hide creatures that are a plain colour? Some animals, such as snakes, use patterns to hide. Others, like stick insects, use their shape to try to stay hidden. There are other ways of camouflaging as well.
- Take it in turns to hide the other objects as quickly as you can. You are not allowed to cover them up.
- Think about: Which object do you think will be easiest to hide? Why do you think this? Where will it be best to hide them? Will anyone be able to find them? What if you change the colour of things? What about their shape? Can you see a pattern that might help?
7. Sneeze zone (Suitable for Primary School children and above)
Achoo! How far can a sneeze travel and how can we prevent others from getting ill? Through this fun activity you can learn more about the spread of microbes and their potential to infect people. You will get to measure the distance and impact of a sneeze by using water in a spray bottle.
What you need: 10 sheets of flip chart (A1) paper stuck together to make the sneeze zone, an empty and clean spray bottle, sticky tape, gloves, sugar, paper cut into squares (7cm x 7cm) tape measure (approx. 4 metres long), three different coloured pens (red, blue and black) tissues, water
- Stick the pieces of flip chart paper together so that you have a large sheet 4 metres long and 1 metre wide and stick this to the floor with tape.
- Place a tape measure along one side of the sheet and secure with tape. This is the sneeze zone.
- Everyone should draw a round face or a stick person on a sugar paper square. This represents a person. You will need between 10 and 30 of these. Place the “people” anywhere in the sneeze zone.
- Stand at one end of the sneeze zone and use the “nose” (water sprayer) to sneeze twice (spray the water).
- Measure how far the water droplets travelled using the ruler on the sneeze zone start mat. Count how many people on the mat were affected by the sneeze. Check each piece of sugar paper for any water marks. If there are any marks, draw a red circle around them.
- Repeat step 3 but this time put a gloved hand in front of the “nose”. Count how many people were affected. Draw a blue circle around the water marks (if any) and wipe away the water droplets.
- Repeat a final time but put a tissue in front of the “nose” when you “sneeze”. Draw a black circle around the water marks (if any). Wipe away the water droplets.
- Compare the results. What might the problems be with just using your hand to protect others from sneezes? What are the best ways to stop sneezes spreading?
8. How do rockets work? (Suitable for Secondary School children)
In this activity, you will study how rockets are propelled by building and testing your own water rocket. Make sure you read UK Rocketry Safety Code ukra.org.uk/safetycode before take off!
What you need: For the water rocket: One 2 litre plastic fizzy drink bottle, a wine cork, a valve from a bicycle inner tube, the longer the valve the better, a pump that fits the valve, e.g. hand pump, something that can hold the bottle neck down at an angle to the ground (the handle of a garden fork works well but branches, bits of wood or plant pots will all work as a launch pad) tapwater, stopwatch, tape measure
- To build the rocket, start by checking the cork fits suitably into the neck of the bottle.
- Check that the valve can fit through the cork and come out the other side enough to attach the pump.
- An adult should make a hole through the cork to let the valve through, using a drill or other equipment.
- Make a launchpad that holds the bottle with the neck downwards, lets you attach the pump and stand behind the bottle.
- Fill the bottle up a quarter of the way and seal with the cork and valve.
- Launch the rocket by pumping air into the bottle until it flies away.
- Try changing the power of the rocket by increasing or decreasing the amount of water in the rocket. Try different launchpads to see if this makes a difference. You could measure the flight time and distance the rocket travels – a calm day is essential for this.
9. Journey to the afterlife – mummification (Suitable for Secondary School children)
Mummies are the preserved remains of dead people and animals. Mummies have been found all over the world, but it is the Ancient Egyptians who are most famous for their mummies, and their preparation of the dead for their journey to the afterlife. Ancient Egyptians believed that they needed to preserve their bodies in order for them to undertake this final journey. Your challenge is to undertake your own mummification process using an orange.
What you need: An orange, bicarbonate of soda, small roll of crepe bandage, knife & teaspoon, salt, cloves, ground cinnamon, two bowls, kitchen towel or toilet roll
- Make a slit in the skin of your orange from the top to the bottom (you may need an adult to help you). Use your teaspoon to scoop out the inside of the orange. Make sure you do this over your bowl – it can get messy!
- Once you have removed all the orange’s insides, stuff it with kitchen roll to absorb any juices left over. Keep replacing with new kitchen roll until the inside of your orange is dry, then remove the kitchen roll.
- Sprinkle a spoonful of cinnamon and a few cloves into your orange.
- In another bowl, mix together enough salt and bicarbonate of soda to fill your orange, then spoon this mixture into the orange.
- Now it’s time to wrap up your mummy! Make sure the slit is pushed together fully, and then start to wrap the bandage around the orange.
- Tie a knot or secure the bandages with a safety pin when your orange is completely covered.
- Your mummy now needs to be kept in a warm, dry place like an airing cupboard. It can take a while for mummification to happen. Check your orange every few weeks to see what it looks like. You’ll be able to see that it shrinks and gets darker over time – just like a real mummy!
10. Rocks from Mars (Suitable for Secondary School children)
The rock cycle is a long, slow process that links the rocks and sediments of the Earth together. Digging into the Earth is a little bit like going back in time. We can apply an understanding of rock types and rock processes to different situations. Imagine that samples of rocks from Mars have been brought to Earth and that we want to use them to learn more about the red planet. You will create simulated samples and study them to identify the geological processes that formed them and how these compare to Earth.
What you need: Gather some ‘samples from Mars’. This can be improvised from what is available but might typically include a mixture of coarse/fine sand, rounded pea gravel, rock salt, granite chips, pumice (or vermiculite), broken shells, or marble chips. These should be put in a petri dish and should be kept separate from the labelled rock samples of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock, petri dishes for samples, forceps, hand lens, toothpicks (for separating out sample), labelled Earth rock samples of sedimentary, igneous and metamorphic rock for comparison. Alternatively, use pictures of different rock types if you can’t access real samples.
- Do some research online about the Mars Rover and its mission. Try to find out more about the samples collected by the Mars Rover.
- Study the labelled Earth samples and identify key observable features. Think about how each of these were formed.
- You should then study the ‘Mars’ samples and suggest what these tell us about the conditions on the planet and what kind of rocks they are.
- Present your ideas to the family about one of the ‘Mars’ rocks and get other family members to critique these conclusions.
- Were there any common themes between your analysis? Although these samples are not from Mars, the process of analysis is what scientists will do with any kind of evidence. What have you learned about analysing scientific samples?
Have you tried any of these science experiments for kids before? Or which of the above are you tempted to try? Do leave a comment below and let us know.