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Very basic science type experiements for a 5yo please

(55 Posts)
HappyAsEyeAm Mon 24-Feb-14 09:09:39

Can anyone recommend anything please? It has to be basic and preferably have instant results (rather than say leaving it on the windowsill for a fortnight). As much mixing and adding various things as possible smile

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:27:18

Does an Orange Float or Sink?

Does an orange float or sink when placed in water? Seems like a fairly straight forward question, but is it? Give this fun density science experiment for kids a try and answer the question while learning a unique characteristic of oranges.

What you'll need:

An orange
A deep bowl or container


Fill the bowl with water.
Put the orange in the water and watch what happens.
Peel the rind from the orange and try the experiment again, what happens this time?

What's happening?

The first time you put the orange in the bowl of water it probably floated on the surface, after you removed the rind however, it probably sunk to the bottom, why?

The rind of an orange is full of tiny air pockets which help give it a lower density than water, making it float to the surface. Removing the rind (and all the air pockets) from the orange increases its density higher than that of water, making it sink.

Density is the mass of an object relative to its volume. Objects with a lot of matter in a certain volume have a high density, while objects with a small amount of matter in the same volume have a low density.

Nocomet Mon 24-Feb-14 10:27:24

Chromatography, some felt pen inks split into different colours with water or alcohol. Coffee filters make good bolting paper for this.

Blue bells change colour in weak vinegar and bicarbonate. Other blue flowers do too.

Hydrangeas have different flower colours dependent on soil type. Not instant, but a great talking point for visitors if you have them in pots on the patio.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:29:36

Experience Gravity Free Water

What goes up must come down right? Well try bending the rules a little with a cup of water that stays inside the glass when held upside down. You'll need the help of some cardboard and a little bit of air pressure.

What you'll need:

A glass filled right to the top with water
A piece of cardboard


Put the cardboard over the mouth of the glass, making sure that no air bubbles enter the glass as you hold onto the cardboard.
Turn the glass upside down (over a sink or outside until you get good).
Take away your hand holding the cardboard.

What's happening?

If all goes to plan then the cardboard and water should stay put. Even though the cup of water is upside down the water stays in place, defying gravity! So why is this happening? With no air inside the glass, the air pressure from outside the glass is greater than the pressure of the water inside the glass. The extra air pressure manages to hold the cardboard in place, keeping you dry and your water where it should be, inside the glass.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:31:05

Will the Ice Melt and Overflow?

At first thought you might think that an ice cube sitting at the very top of a glass would eventually melt and spill over the sides but is this what really happens? Experiment and find out!

What you'll need:

A clear glass
Warm water
An ice cube


Fill the glass to the top with warm water.
Gently lower in the ice cube, making sure you don’t bump the table or spill any water over the edge of the glass.
Watch the water level carefully as the ice cube melts, what happens?

What's happening?

Even though the ice cube melted the water doesn’t overflow. When water freezes to make ice it expands and takes up more space than it does as liquid water (that’s why water pipes sometimes burst during cold winters). The water from the ice takes up less space than the ice itself. When the ice cube melts, the level of the water stays about the same.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:32:10

Make an Egg Float in Salt Water

An egg sinks to the bottom if you drop it into a glass of ordinary drinking water but what happens if you add salt? The results are very interesting and can teach you some fun facts about density.

What you'll need:

One egg
A tall drinking glass


Pour water into the glass until it is about half full.
Stir in lots of salt (about 6 tablespoons).
Carefully pour in plain water until the glass is nearly full (be careful to not disturb or mix the salty water with the plain water).
Gently lower the egg into the water and watch what happens.

What's happening?

Salt water is denser than ordinary tap water, the denser the liquid the easier it is for an object to float in it. When you lower the egg into the liquid it drops through the normal tap water until it reaches the salty water, at this point the water is dense enough for the egg to float. If you were careful when you added the tap water to the salt water, they will not have mixed, enabling the egg to amazingly float in the middle of the glass.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:33:44

Invisible Ink with Lemon Juice

Making invisible ink is a lot of fun, you can pretend you are a secret agent as you keep all your secret codes and messages hidden from others. All you need is some basic household objects and the hidden power of lemon juice.

What you'll need:

Half a lemon
Cotton bud
White paper
Lamp or other light bulb


Squeeze some lemon juice into the bowl and add a few drops of water.
Mix the water and lemon juice with the spoon.
Dip the cotton bud into the mixture and write a message onto the white paper.
Wait for the juice to dry so it becomes completely invisible.
When you are ready to read your secret message or show it to someone else, heat the paper by holding it close to a light bulb.

What's happening?

Lemon juice is an organic substance that oxidizes and turns brown when heated. Diluting the lemon juice in water makes it very hard to notice when you apply it the paper, no one will be aware of its presence until it is heated and the secret message is revealed. Other substances which work in the same way include orange juice, honey, milk, onion juice, vinegar and wine. Invisible ink can also be made using chemical reactions or by viewing certain liquids under ultraviolet (UV) light.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:35:15

Test Your Dominant Side

Check out this cool experiment that will teach you more about how your body and brain work together. Test your dominant side by completing a series of challenges. Which hand do you write with? Which foot do you kick with? Do you have a dominant eye? Do you throw with one side of your body but kick with the other? Are you ambidextrous? Answer these questions and much more with this fun science experiment for kids.

What you'll need:

A pen or pencil
Paper or a notepad to write your findings on
An empty tube (an old paper towel tube is good)
A cup of water
A small ball (or something soft you can throw)


Write ‘left’ or ‘right’ next to each task depending on what side you used/favored.
When you’ve finished all the challenges review your results and make your own conclusions about which is your dominant eye, hand and foot.

Eye tests:

Which eye do you use to wink?
Which eye do you use to look through the empty tube?
Extend your arms in front of your body. Make a triangle shape using your fore fingers and thumbs. Bring your hands together, making the triangle smaller (about the size of a coin is good). Find a small object in the room and focus on it through the hole in your hands (using both eyes). Try closing just your left eye and then just your right, if your view of the object changed when you closed your left eye mark down ‘left’, if it changed when you closed your right eye mark down ‘right’.

Hand/Arm tests:

Which hand do you use to write?
Pick up the cup of water, which hand did you use?
Throw the ball, which arm did you use?

Foot/Leg tests:

Run forward and jump off one leg, which did you jump off?
Drop the ball on the ground and kick it, which foot did you use?

What's happening?

So what side do you favor? Are you left handed or right handed? Left footed or right footed? Is your right eye dominant or is it your left?

Around 90% of the world’s population is right handed. Why most people favor the right side is not completely understood by scientists. Some think that the reason is related to which side of your brain you use for language. The right side of your body is controlled by the left side of your brain, and in around 90% of people the left side of the brain also controls language.

Others think the reason might have more to do with culture. The word ‘right’ is associated being correct and doing the right thing while the word ‘left’ originally meant ‘weak’. Favoring the right hand may have become a social development as more children were taught important skills by right handed people and various tools were designed to be used with the right hand.

Around 80% of people are right footed and 70% favor their right eye. These percentages are lower than those who are right handed and this could be because your body has more freedom of choice in choosing its favored foot and eye than that of its favored hand. In other words you are more likely to be trained to use your right hand than your right foot and even more so than your right eye.

It’s not strange to find people who favor the opposite hand and foot (e.g. left hand and right foot), and some people are lucky enough to be ambidextrous, meaning they can use their left and right sides with equal skill.

Try testing others and coming to your on conclusions about what side the human body favors and why.

Extra: Are you more likely to be left handed if one of your parents is left handed? What are some of the possible disadvantages for left handed people? (Tools, writing materials etc) Do left handed people have an advantage in sports?

Interesting fact: In 2009, only 7% of the players in the NBA were left handed while in 2008 around 26% of MLB pitchers were left handed.

Is it better to be left handed in some sports than others? What do you think?

Flicktheswitch Mon 24-Feb-14 10:35:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SundaySimmons Mon 24-Feb-14 10:36:34

Bend a Straw with Your Eyes

Using the power of your eyes, bend a straw sitting in half a glass of water without even touching it! It sounds like magic but it's really another amazing scientific principle at work.

What you'll need:

A glass half filled with water
A straw
2 eyes (preferably yours)


Look at the straw from the top and bottom of the glass.
Look at the straw from the side of the glass, focus on the point where the straw enters the water, what is strange about what you see?

What's happening?

Our eyes are using light to see various objects all the time, but when this light travels through different mediums (such as water & air) it changes direction slightly. Light refracts (or bends) when it passes from water to air. The straw looks bent because you are seeing the bottom part through the water and air but the top part through the air only. Air has a refractive index of around 1.0003 while water has a refractive index of about 1.33.

zommerslefteyeball Mon 24-Feb-14 11:00:47

my 5yr old was amused for half a day with just the "will it float or sink" game by finding something to put in a bowl of water.
Obv. some supervision is needed before they put an ipod in there though!

Penguin0fMadagascar Mon 24-Feb-14 11:10:56

Ooh just thought of another - the "floating arms" experiment. Stand in a doorway with your arms by your sides, then raise them so that the backs of your hands press against the frame. Push outwards as hard as you can and count to 30. Then step out of the doorway - your arms will float upwards without any effort from you because your triceps will continue to contract. Not sure how well this will work with a 5-year old as they may struggle to reach the doorframe or to stand still for 30 seconds!

HappyAsEyeAm Mon 24-Feb-14 12:19:48

Oh wow. Thanks very much everyone for all the ideas. thanks

ReadyToPopAndFresh Mon 24-Feb-14 12:22:55

torando in a bottle!

oil and water

slug Mon 24-Feb-14 12:28:13

Once you've done the volcano experiment, use the same principals to make honeycomb

Great thread - hope you don't mind, have asked MNHQ to move it so it doesn't disappear (it might take me more than 90 days to get round to some of these grin)

Weliveinabeautifulworld Mon 24-Feb-14 14:08:36

During the summer you could teach him the difference between solid and liquid by making ice-lollies smile

CaffeinatedKitten Mon 24-Feb-14 14:14:44

Make ice without a freezer. In a big bowl, mix lots and lots and lots of salt and water. In a smaller bowl put plain water and sit it in the big bowl, making sure no salt water enters it. The water in the smaller bowl will start to crystallisesmile

Farrowandbawl Mon 24-Feb-14 14:44:42

Make a cornflake move about in milk using only a magnet.

The iron in the cereal is attracted to the magnet so you can chase it around the bowl.

Opheliabumps Mon 24-Feb-14 16:41:00

This is fab, it's got to go into classics! My DC have just finished half term, but now I can't wait for the Easter holidays to try some of these.

Mumoftwoyoungkids Mon 24-Feb-14 17:16:48

This is brilliant! Marking place.

Put lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda in a film canister, put the lid on and give it a shake. Then run very far away as the lid is likely to shoot off at serious speed. (To be done outside, with lots of supervision and preferably safety specs!) Alternatively (and much much safer) put a balloon over the canister rather than the lid and watch the balloon blow up all by itself!

If anyone lives near Cambridge have a look at this site for something sciencey and fabulous on the 15th March. My best friend ran this back in the late 90s and I fell in love with my dh watching him demonstrate the lemon juice experiment to a really cute little boy.

Allthingsprettyreturns Mon 24-Feb-14 17:31:49

Google bird in a cage optical illusion or stick it in you tube

The diet and non diet drinks experimemt is easy.

Get your ds to guess which cans will float or not. Sugary ones will sink and diet ones will float

NotCitrus Mon 24-Feb-14 17:49:45

Possibly for the summer - study centrifugal forces by filling a bucket of water and swinging it round over your head.
Make a toy roundabout and have fun flinging Lego people off it as you spin it.
Balancing lots of coins on a see-saw - challenge.them to balance the thing when you put a number of coins in one place, but they can't just do the same.

Sieving soil or sand or compost with a colander and sieve to see what size bits are there.
And the classic sending them on a ladybird/woodlouse hunt in the garden (while you have a cup of tea)

DisgraceToTheYChromosome Mon 24-Feb-14 18:55:18

Get an oscilloscope app and measure the frequencies generated by blowing over the tops of various sized bottles.

YoullNeedATray Mon 24-Feb-14 19:06:36

Make ice cream!

Lots of other ideas here if they've not already been linked.

BikeRunSki Mon 24-Feb-14 19:07:42

The book people have got anUsborne book at tge moment called Junior Science Encyclopedia or's £4 andhas home science experiment ideas.

We play a game called "Sink or Float" where we get things of similar shape and size, but different material (metal spoon , plastic spoon; golf ball, ping pong ball) and a big bowl of water and guess if they are going to sink or float before we put them in the bucket.

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