12 fun science experiments for kids that you can do at home

science experiements for kids

Bring science to lockdown life with these easy DIY experiments, tried and tested by Mumsnet users. They'll educate and amaze both you and the children.

As one Mumsnet user remarked: “My five-year-old is always asking to do science. I suspect he really means: 'Can I add stuff to other stuff to see what cool things happen?'” Well, you're in luck, because that's exactly what science means in the following experiments.

Simple science experiments for younger kids

Five-year-olds and above will enjoy the following. Ensure all are closely supervised.

1. Foaming fizzy potion

What you need

1: Put a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda into the cup. Any cup will do, but tall, narrow ones work best.

2: Add a squirt of washing-up liquid.

3: Stir mixture together. If it’s tricky to stir with a spoon, try using a long drinking straw. If you want your magic potion to be colourful, add some food colouring. Not too much – a couple of drops will do.

4: Squeeze or pour a small amount of lemon juice into the mix. Continue stirring while you pour. As you stir, bubbles will form and start to fill the cup.

5: Add more lemon juice and bicarbonate of soda until the frothy mixture bubbles up to the top!

Note: This is a twist on the classic exploding volcano, also using the principle of base (bicarbonate of soda) + acid (lemon juice or vinegar) = a chemical reaction resulting in a fizz of carbon dioxide.

“'Make a volcano' is always a good one. Toilet roll inner taped to a plate. Then add bicarbonate of soda in the bottom and vinegar mixed with red food colouring. Lava pours over the top very convincingly”

2. Rainbow rain

rainbow rain

What you need

  • Jam jar
  • Water
  • White shaving foam
  • Drinking glasses
  • Food colouring
  • Eyedropper (optional)

1: Fill the jar two-thirds full with water. Squirt shaving foam on top of the water, so it looks like a cloud.

2: In the drinking glasses, mix up some more water and different colours of food colouring.

3: Slowly and carefully pour (or better still, use an eyedropper) the coloured water onto the foam.

4: The shaving foam fills up until it can’t hold the coloured water any longer, then lets it fall like rain into the water below.

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3. Twirly-swirly art show

What you need

  • A plate
  • Milk
  • Food colouring
  • Washing up liquid

1: Pour enough milk onto the plate to cover the bottom with a thin layer. Drip a few different drops of food colouring into the middle of the milk. Try to get them close together without any overlapping and mixing.

2. Take careful aim, and squeeze a single squirt of washing up liquid into the middle of the food colouring.

3: The colours will shoot across the surface of the milk, swirling together into patterns.

4. Pop a balloon

balloon

What you need

1: Pour the popping candy into your uninflated balloon. (This is where the funnel comes in handy!)

2: Take the lid off your fizzy drink bottle.

3: This is a bit fiddly – stretch the opening of the balloon over the top of the bottle, making sure none of the popping candy falls into the liquid. The balloon can be securely attached using an elastic.

4: Tip the balloon up so the popping candy falls into the drink. The balloon will inflate.

Easy science experiments video

In need of a visual to perfect the four experiments above? This how-to video should help.

The experiments also all feature in Roald Dahl: George’s Marvellous Experiments (Amazon, £6.50).



5. Make ice without a freezer

ice without a freezer

What you need

  • Big bowl
  • Small bowl
  • Salt
  • Water

“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 saltwater enters it. The water in the smaller bowl will start to crystallise.”

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6. Sink or float

“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're going to sink or float before we put them in the bucket.”

“Experiment with playdough or foil to see if some shapes float and some shapes sink. Then go on to make a 'junk' boat choosing the materials and shapes which will stay afloat.”

“My five-year-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. Obviously some supervision is needed before they put an iPad in there though!”

7. Make gloop

What you need

  • Cornflour
  • Water
  • Food colouring (optional)

It might not sound wildly scientific, but it does explore Newtonian principles of matter.

“Gloop is good fun, I made it with a seven-year-old and a ten-year-old in charge. The ten-year-old was designated film-maker (he refused to touch the gloop), but we had fun for hours. It's basically cornflour, water and a little food colouring (optional). Mix it up and play with the gloop. It'll harden under pressure, but melt in your hands as soon as the pressure has gone.”

“One of our favourites is just cornflour and water to make a non-Newtonian fluid. Can play with it for ages.”

8. Explore how we hear

“Test your directional hearing, and why we have two ears. (Two children can do this together.) One child is blindfolded so they can't see. The other moves to another place in the room or garden, and claps. Can the blindfolded child point at where they are? Do this from lots of different places. Then get them to try while covering one ear, to show that we need both ears to hear where sounds are coming from.”

You can also extend this into learning compass directions or the time for younger children – ie the blindfolded child must say where the other child is compass directions (eg east) or on the clock (three o'clock).

Fun science experiments for older kids

These experiments require a little more time/patience/care, so are best for pre-teens (or even teens).

9. Test pH using red cabbage

red cabbage

“Boil up some red cabbage (you can tear it up or grind with a pestle and mortar beforehand). Then use the water to test the pH of household chemicals. There will be a colour change depending on how acidic or alkaline they are.”

10. Dyeing using fruit and veg

What you need

“My son did a science project a few years ago with natural dying. We took a variety of fruits and vegetables, boiled them and then dyed natural wool and tried 'fixing' it with various things (vinegar and salt). We had lots of fun and it really lends itself to a nice colourful presentation at the end. I took photos of him cutting up the vegetables and cooking them, as well as photos of the vegetables. You can vary the amount of time wool sits in dye, or what type of wool/cotton you use, what you use to fix the dye, and the temperature of the dye water. We used onion skins, artichokes, red beans, blueberries, beets, red wine and a few others I can't remember.”

11. Make invisible ink using lemon juice

lemon juice

What you need

  • Half a lemon
  • Bowl
  • White paper
  • Cotton bud

1. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon into a bowl and mix in a few drops of water.

2. Dip your cotton bud into the mixture, and using it as a pen, write your (secret) message onto the paper.

3. Let the lemon juice ink to dry so that it becomes completely invisible.

4. Then, heat the paper by holding it close to a lamp or light bulb (carefully and supervised!) and watch the message appear.

12. Coke can crushing

You can show the effect of cooling gases quite simply using this coke can crushing experiment.

“Put a small amount of water in a coke can, and get it to boiling point. With tongs, swiftly turn it upside down and plunge into iced water. The steam inside (which forces out the air as it evaporates) quickly condenses back to a liquid, and the greater pressure outside crushes the can in a second.”

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