Kids love science. Even if they don’t know it, they freaking love it. It’s all about uncovering the mysteries of our natural world, and for a child, that means interactive play, expanding their brains and the potential for making a serious mess. So let’s have some fun, learn some new stuff and make a mess with the kids.
Here are four cool experiments you can do at home with minimal preparation.
1. Inertia Experiment
Newton’s First Law: An object at rest remains at rest unless acted upon by a force. This can be demonstrated in a simple, hands-on test. Take a large hoop, something akin to a crochet hoop, with a wide, flat top. Balance the hoop on the lid of a plastic bottle filled partially with water (for stability). On top of the hoop, balance a pen cap or a small stone (one that will fit through the opening of the bottle). Make sure to center the cap or stone just above the opening of the bottle.
Step to the side and yank the hoop out from under the cap or stone. You must pull the hoop out in a quick, perfectly horizontal motion. If done correctly, the cap or stone will fall directly into the bottle, since there is not enough friction between the fast moving hoop and the object to pull it to the side. The cap or stone falls straight down into the bottle. (Note: If you pull the hoop out at an angle, this will not work, so practice!)
2. The Power of an Egg Shell
This could get messy, but kids will love it. This experiment demonstrates the architectural strength of the dome. Take an egg in your hand (wear gloves if you don’t like egg goo running through your fingers), and hold it so it lies horizontally across your palm. Squeeze it hard. POP! The egg will burst in your hand, and your kids will think it’s hilarious. Better yet, let them try it.
After cleaning up that sticky mess, take another egg and place it in your hand with the “points” touching your palm and the tips of your fingers, so when you squeeze, you will be pressing the points only. Try as you might, you will not be able to burst the egg. This is because all of the pressure you exert is distributed evenly across the shell, with no single point receiving the force. When you hold the egg horizontally, the weakest part of the egg bears the weight, and thus, you burst the shell. (Wanna get really crazy? Try walking on a dozen.)
3. The Balloon That Wouldn’t Pop
Here’s a fun one. Take a balloon, blow that sucker up and tie it off. Do several, as this one takes a little practice. Take a sewing needle and puncture the balloon. It will, for course, pop. Now take a small piece of clear tape and place it on the side of the balloon. Slowly and gently pass the needle through the tape. If done with a little finesse, the balloon should not pop. Moreover, you should be able to remove the needle with the balloon intact. This makes a great magic trick for the little ones to perform for their friends.
4. Sticky-Notes Waterfall
For this gravity demonstration, you will need at least six sticky note pads. Place three side by side and tape them together with one piece of tape running across the top sheet of all three. (Do not run the tape over the sides.) Then, one by one, take the remaining three and peel off the backs of each, revealing the sticky strip at the top. Place each one on top of each of the other pads, respectively, so that you can pull up on the pad and the sheets will freely fall back into place accordion style. Tape the tops of those together. Flip the entire six-pad stack over and tape them together across the bottom sheets. Flip it once again, so that the tops are again facing up. Now the entire package is a unit.
Place the unit lengthwise along the edge of a stool or box whose vertical edge is not too far from the floor. Place a stationary, somewhat weighty object on each side of the pads to stabilize them. Lift the top sheet (actually the three sheets joined by tape) and drop them Slinky style over the edge. They should roll out into a nice, even “waterfall” of paper. Use blue pads for authenticity; pink or green for a psychedelic twist.