With schools closed nationwide during the coronavirus quarantine, millions of parents find themselves, practically overnight, having to devise new ways to entertain, engage, and educate kids stuck at home. Few activities for kids better satisfy all three needs than these fun, easy science experiments for kids. Parents and kids can follow these simple experiments, get visual instruction via YouTube, or keep things really simple by ordering one of the many standout science kits for kids, which let them make things like slime and candy (while learning about the science behind those transformations). The best science experiments and kits allow kids to explore concepts independently and learn about the world around them — under supervision, of course.
The Best DIY Science Experiments for Kids
Want to turn your home into a kid-friendly scientific laboratory? You don’t need bubbling beakers and centrifuges to produce cool at-home science experiments for kids. In fact, everything you need to help them feel like a tiny Nikolai Tesla or miniature Marie Curie is likely sitting in your home already. And we’re not just talking about the make-things-fizz genre of experiments. With a few simple ingredients, your kids can make everything from fake snot to invisible ink and actual lightning. They’re simple, educational, and a lot of fun. The best part? You don’t need a Ph.D. or particle accelerator.
Make Fake Snot
Similar to slime, fake snot is a great tool to have around the house for the purposes of … well, having fake snot around the house. Concocting your own nasty goo is a great way to get into some chemistry fundamentals with kitchen items.
What you’ll need:
- A cup
- A teaspoon
- A fork
- Boiling water
- Corn syrup
- Fill half a cup with boiling water.
- Add 3 teaspoons of gelatin.
- Let the mixture soften, then stir it with a fork.
- Add a quarter of a cup corn syrup.
- Stir the mixture again with the fork.
- As the mixture cools, slowly add more water, small amounts at a time.
Tip: For some particularly fun goo, add green food coloring to the mixture along with the corn syrup.
Turn Pennies Green
This experiment finally gives pennies a new, useful role. Pennies are susceptible to oxidation, just like other metals. But because they’re made mostly of copper, pennies, rather than simply rusting, can produce a blue-green substance known as malachite!
What You’ll Need:
- Pennies, duh
- Small tray
- Paper towels
- Soak a paper towel in vinegar and place it at the bottom of the tray.
- Place the pennies on the paper towel.
- Sprinkle the pennies with salt.
- Wait. Like a long time. Seriously. The process can occur in as fast as a day or as long as two weeks.
- Voila! Over time, the vinegar and salt have dissolved the penny’s top layer of copper-oxide. The copper atoms mix with oxygen in the air and chlorine in the salt to produce blue-green malachite!
Create Your Own Lightning
The lightning you see during storms is essentially just massive amounts of static electricity. You can safely replicate a similar effect at home by producing smaller amounts of charge, which is still pretty cool.
What You’ll Need:
- Inflated balloon
- Metal spoon (or any metal utensil)
- You know the drill! Rub the inflated balloon vigorously on your head for two minutes.
- Turn the lights off or go into another dark room.
- Touch the metal spoon to the balloon.
- Watch the spark!
Make an Eggshell Disappear
Dissolving an eggshell is another easy activity with a longer wait but huge payoff: a rubbery, translucent egg!
What You’ll Need:
- White vinegar
- Jar with lid
- Put the egg in the glass jar.
- Pour enough vinegar into the jar to completely cover the egg. Don’t worry if it floats at first, it’ll sink.
- Be sure to check out the carbon dioxide bubbles that quickly form on the eggshell!
- Tighten the lid, and leave the concoction for a few days to a week. You’ll know the egg is ready when the brown color of the shell has paled to a whiter hue.
- Remove the egg and carefully wash it under water to wipe away the shell, gently rubbing it as you do so.
- You’ll be left with a translucent, amber egg! The naked egg is squishy and bouncy almost like a ball, but be careful not to break it unless you’re in the mood for a bigger cleanup.
Turn your kid into a secret agent with this simple recipe to concoct invisible ink that only they know the trick to revealing.
What You’ll Need
- Half a lemon
- A spoon
- Cotton Q-tip
- White paper
- Lamp, or similar lightbulb
- Squeeze lemon juice into the bowl.
- Add a few drops of water.
- Use the spoon to mix the water and lemon juice.
- Use the Q-tip as your pen. Dip it into the mixture and write a message on the paper.
- Wait for the juice to dry so you can’t read any of the message.
- To reveal the secret message, hold it close to the lightbulb to heat the paper.
Kids learn about solutions, saturation, and evaporation with this sweet experiment.
What You’ll Need:
- Four cups of sugar
- A few lollipop or popsicle sticks (or even plastic spoons)
- A few clothespins
- A few cups or jars
- A paper towel
- Food coloring (optional)
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil, then stir in 4 cups of sugar. This makes a supersaturated solution. Add any flavoring, like vanilla.
- Allow the solution to cool, and then divide into jars or glasses. Add food coloring if you wish.
- Dip the sticks in water and then roll them in sugar and allow them to dry.
- Place a paper towel over each jar, then poke the stick through and secure it with a clothespin. This ensures the sticks won’t touch the edge of the jar.
- Place jar in a cool, quiet place, and watch it grow each day! As the water evaporates, sugar is left behind, forming crystals.
The Best Science Experiments to Copy From YouTube
For parents who prefer video instruction, there’s an entire rabbit hole of kid-friendly science experiments on YouTube. Showing your kid the end product in the video can help spark their enthusiasm and keep their attention when it comes to explaining the science.
Shaving Cream Clouds
This super simple experiment helps kids visualize why it rains. When enough food coloring is dropped onto shaving cream “clouds,” they become saturated, depositing some dye into the water so that colorful streaks run down the cup. The video explains how water evaporation turns to condensation, and eventually, precipitation.
In this simple experiment, which requires only water, cups, food coloring, and paper towels, kids learn about capillary action, which explains how trees draw water from their roots, and color theory, or why you start with four colors and end up with seven.
Oobleck is a substance made of cornstarch and water that acts like both a solid and a liquid. Pick it up and it will fall through your fingers like honey, but try and press into it and it solidifies like dough. Younger kids will have fun playing with oobleck and observing how it shapeshifts, while older kids can get a more in-depth explanation of types of matter with this video. The recipe for oobleck is 2:46 minutes into the video.
Flubber is a gel-like, playdough-adjacent substance made from glue and a type of laundry detergent called Borax. When you mix warm water, borax, and glue, the American Chemistry Society, explains, polymers form, creating a stretchy substance.
The Best Ready-Made Science Kits for Kids
For parents who prefer the kind of science experiments that don’t require any prep, there are plenty of ready-made kits for purchase. Whether your kid is interested in making slime, learning about the science behind baking, or mixing things in authentic beakers, for-purchase kits can facilitate learning and fun. These kits contain multiple experiments that require few additional materials and come with easy-to-follow directions.
This chemistry set comes with all the trappings of a mad scientist's lab, plus illustrated instructions for 20 experiments
Kids 4 and older measure and mix ingredients to make their own ice pops, juices, and no-bake desserts. It's basically an edible math lesson. Bon appetit.
Another great kit for kids 4 and up, this one teaches them all about water. They learn about volume, buoyancy, and flow, and can use this near a sink for minimal mess. Towels not included.
If your kid is into robotics, get them this kit, meant for kids 8 and up. Builders create four different things: A bubble machine, a graffiti doodling robot, a robotic car, and crazy bicycle. The kit includes a screwdriver sized precisely for small hands.
Kids 6 and older conduct a whopping 10 experiments with slime. They make four different kinds of slime, and then conduct viscosity tests, dissect it with tweezers and a plastic scalpel, cut out a brain shape, stamp it with an alien head, and add eyes. Because of course slime needs eyes.
As you might have surmised, this kit lets intrepid scientists make their own bath bombs. Kids 8 and older decide on the sizes, colors and scents of the bath bombs of their dreams. They make them. They record their findings. And then, they bathe. Hooray!
Kids 9 and up get all the tools they need to design their own working pinball machine. It's one hell of a great physics lesson, too.
Every scientist needs the right tools. Hence, this microscope, for kids 9 and up. It comes with five plain slides, one concavity (well) slide, four prepared slides, a plastic dropper, slide labels, lens paper, and forceps. You want to watch science magic in action? Drop a speck of dirt onto a slide and let your child get up close and personal with it.
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