A summer science break is a great time for kids to relax and have fun with their friends, but the days can drag on without some planned activities. Science experiments are an easy way to keep your kids busy and learning at the same time, and they often only require common household items that you probably already have around.
If you are looking for some fun science experiments to keep your kids entertained on summer break, check out some of these ideas that will teach kids about magnetism, the water cycle, and physics.
Learn About Magnets
Teach your child about science and magnets with this simple experiment that uses common household items. This experiment is recommended for children over 3 years old and requires close supervision since small objects can pose a choking hazard and magnets are dangerous if ingested.
- Plastic water bottle (empty)
- Small items made from a variety of materials, both magnetic and not, such as: paper clips, yarn, coins, buttons, brads
Have your child put the collection of small household items into the clear plastic water bottle and then screw the lid back on. Ask them which items they think will stick to the magnet and why. Next, get into the science and let them test their hypothesis by moving the magnet along the side of the plastic bottle. Have them see if they can get any of the objects all the way to the top of the bottle using their magnet. Once they see what happens, ask them again why they think those items stuck to the magnet and why the other ones didn’t. Have them describe the characteristics of each item to come to a conclusion.
Magnets have an invisible force that either attracts or pushes away other items. Magnetism is something found in nature, just like gravity and electricity. Magnets can attract items containing certain metals, like iron, nickel, steel, or cobalt.
Water Cycle in a Bag
This simple activity also uses common household items and will teach your child about the water cycle. Make sure to do this one on a sunny day so your child can see the water evaporate quickly.
- Clear plastic Ziploc bag
- Blue food coloring
- Optional: Paper, markers, and scissors to decorate the bag
In a bowl or measuring cup, mix a few drops of blue food coloring into a small amount of water (about ½ a cup or so should work depending on the size of your bag, but it doesn’t need to be exact). Next, help your child pour the blue water into the Ziploc bag — there only needs to be a centimeter or two of water at the bottom of the bag. Zip up the bag and tape it onto a window that gets plenty of sunlight.
Just for fun, your child can also draw a sun and cloud on their piece of paper, cut them out, and tape them to the top of the bag. You should begin to see the water cycle in action inside of the bag. As the sun warms up the water in the bag, it will begin to evaporate and then drip back down toward the bottom of the bag.
As the sun heats up the earth, water from lakes, streams, oceans, and other water sources begins to evaporate and rise into the atmosphere. There, it cools and condenses, forming clouds and then falling back down as precipitation (rain or snow). Much of this water ends up back in the oceans, lakes, and streams where it will evaporate again. This is called the water cycle.
Your children can learn about gravity and basic physics concepts with this fun activity that will have them building their own structure to drop their egg in. This one can get a little messy, so you may want to have a mat or old newspaper down where your plan to drop the eggs. An egg drop experiment works best if you have more than one structure to test so you can compare results.
- Uncooked eggs
- A variety of household materials to build their structure, such as: cotton balls, newspaper, straws, toothpicks, popsicle sticks, balloons, cardboard, rubber bands, tape, sponges, pipe cleaners
Start by asking your child what they think would happen if you dropped an uncooked egg onto the ground from somewhere up high, like a treehouse or second-story window. Next, talk about different ideas for how you could protect the egg from cracking — either by resisting gravity (as a parachute does) or cushioning the egg. They can think about things they see in nature, like maple trees’ “helicopter” seeds, for ideas to incorporate into their structure.
Once your child has some ideas, it’s time to start building their structure. It’s best to have the structure mostly built before adding the egg to avoid having it crack before it’s even dropped. When they’ve finished, they can now drop the egg inside it’s structure from a treehouse or somewhere else high up to test it out. After checking to see if the egg survived the fall, ask them what worked and what they could have done better.
Gravity is a force of nature that pulls objects toward the earth. It’s what keeps us on the ground and makes objects fall down. Air resistance can slow down objects as they fall, as you can see by watching parachutes, maple seeds, or feathers falling through the air. These types of items “catch” the air as they fall, slowing their descent.
“The Water Cycle.” NASA, NASA, gpm.nasa.gov/education/water-cycle.
“Magnet and Magnetism.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., kids.britannica.com/kids/article/Magnet-and-Magnetism/353411.