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Chemistry-mad child. Any ideas for bringing the subject alive?

(30 Posts)
nkf Sat 13-Jun-09 18:53:23

My son is mad about chemistry. He's nine. What can I get for him? He really wants to do experiments and explore adn those kits are just rubbish. Toys not real chemistry. What can I get for him? Or where could I take him?

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 18:57:52

are you near London? there's always the science museum

dd is science mad too (in yr4, is that the same year as your son?)

have you done any of the home made experiments? like making a 'telephone' (the string and yoghurt pots), a camera (haven't done that in ages but it involves the sun...can look that up).

I am also a bit science mad and bought a book about making a radio out of penny (or something like that..will look it up) - about making scientific things out of normal house products.

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 18:58:24

sorry, telephone not really chemistry but ykwim!

mrz Sat 13-Jun-09 18:58:51

We run an after school Mad Science session each week which is always popular

nkf Sat 13-Jun-09 19:01:52

Thanks Foxinsocks. We've been to the Science Museum many times, It's just I think he needs something hands on. He's been asking all day about litmus paper. And I guess we should buy some and he should practice dipping liquids in and out. He wants to look things up and test things and write things down in charts. I'm not scientific at all so I'm trying to keep up.

We've had all those make a volcano stuff but they're not very serious. It's just bicarbonate of soda and red food dye and it's not a volcano in the end.

Was that book you used any good?

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 19:05:53

this looks like the sort of thing that would be good but looks out of print

that's my book [grin] - it's an adult's book really (semi amusing but not brilliant)

scienceteacher Sat 13-Jun-09 19:12:30

You don't need to buy litmus - make your own indicator out of red cabbage. The colours are much more impressive!

What is it your son finds fascinating about chemistry rather than other branches of science? Does he like the flashes and bangs? If you want to be spectacular, you might want to buy some gas (eg camping gaz) - and then you can have loads of fun with that.

Growing crystals is something that you could do together that could take a while, and that you could work to optimise - and you'd be left with fantastic souvenirs.

Making Borax/PVA slime is very interesting and something you can experiment with.

I have a couple of chemicals that I think are great fun, but you can't just get them on the High Street.

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 19:14:20

yes litmus paper great stuff. Is fascinating finding out what is acid/alkali.

I loved chemistry as a child. Would have loved to have gone into a career using it tbh.

Other thing that is fun doing is early molecular chemistry. Making H2O and CO2 e.g. with molecules. You can get kits with different coloured balls that you stick poles out of to make the molecules. Is great fun. 9 might be a bit early but he might understand the simpler ones.

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 19:18:15

other thing I LOVED at around that age was paper chromotography (where the ink separates in different colours - looks v impressive)

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 19:21:22

home made paper chromatography experiment with sweets

smultronstallet Sat 13-Jun-09 19:23:48

How about having him watch Lifestory the BBC dramatized story of the discovery of DNA? It is more biochemistry than chemistry but it is great for enthusing kids (though possibly a little older, depends on your DS) about science as it is quite electrifyingly exciting to watch. I should think it is on DVD these days. Has Jeff Goldblum as Watson and that Tim wossisname as Crick.

Just a thought.

Kathyis6incheshigh Sat 13-Jun-09 19:29:21

could you get him into doing photography and developing it himself? That's pretty magical.

mrz Sat 13-Jun-09 19:37:42

nkf the point of the "volcano" experiment isn't that it is meant to be a real volcano it is to show how mixing chemicals cause a reaction.

trickerg Sat 13-Jun-09 20:13:08

Cooking involves maths, physics and chemistry, with quite nice results!(And there's a bit of reading, speaking, listening, PSHE....)

scienceteacher Sat 13-Jun-09 20:14:56

Bicarb/vinegar has lots of possibilities. You can blow up balloons with the generation of CO2 - but I think it is more impressive to show the fire extinguishing properties of CO2 and that it is a dense gas.

You can also generate CO2 using sugar and yeast - if you want to experiment, you can do it at different temperatures to find the optimum.

CMOTdibbler Sat 13-Jun-09 20:17:15

My god mother always said that cooking was just organic chemistry, so she should be able to do it grin But her cooking wasn't as good as her chemistry by any means.

Things like washing the starch out of bread flour to leave the gluten, categorising rocks (fizz with vinegar, soft or hard, etc) are good. I like the red cabbage litmus test

Extracting DNA from kiwi fruit is fun - that one is in the New Scientist book

foxinsocks Sat 13-Jun-09 20:20:50

you have a life time ahead of you of home made bombs nkf wink

mrz Sat 13-Jun-09 20:21:22

don't forget the maths!
cookery is a great all round activity

popsycal Sat 13-Jun-09 20:23:54

a bottle of cola and a packet of mentos mints
and a very large bowl

popsycal Sat 13-Jun-09 20:26:27

bicarb and vinegar
and another very large bowl

is that what is called? that doesnt seem right - my brain isnt working

smarties and blooting papr

gemmiegoatlegs Sat 13-Jun-09 20:37:31

with a bit of help, he might like how to fossilise your hamster

it has lots of experiments with booze (for mum!) and also things like "how do flowers drink water?" using food colouring and water, you can see the effects of the water going up the flower stem, turning a white flower blue (or whatever)

also how to get iron out of breakfast cereal (you need a very strong magnet). This is really cool.

how to trick yourself into believing you are eating something different to whatever you are actually eating

making plastic from milk and vinegar (we actually did a similar thing in the biochem labs at uni, making paint from milk)

popsycal Sat 13-Jun-09 20:48:34



gemmiegoatlegs Sat 13-Jun-09 20:51:25

tis a good book, popsy. I haven't had a look for a while, but i am definately doing science activities with the dcs this week, although possibly not the one that allows you to weigh your head by holding your breath and putting your head in a large bucket of water!

popsycal Sat 13-Jun-09 20:55:49

caps even

nkf Sun 14-Jun-09 15:05:08

Thank you for all these ideas. I have just ordered some litmus paper. I think the fossilise your hamster book might work too.

And I really like the look of that paper separating colour experiment.

Cooking we do all the time. But maybe we could try some trickier recipes.

Thanks again. Lots of ideas to keep my little chemist entertained.

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