As the school year ends, kids begin to look forward to the fun and games of summer. Playing in the sprinklers, science experiments, socializing with friends, and playing at the neighborhood park replace school and structured classroom experiences. Parents and Nannies sometimes worry about the children forgetting what they learned. Reinforcing what was learned in the classroom does not have to be boring. Here are five fun ways to make science interesting and facilitate learning while keeping kids entertained.
Make it rain.
This experiment lets kids create an environment in a jar and see how rain forms and falls. In this demonstration, the shaving cream represents clouds and the colored water represents rain. In nature – clouds gather moisture until they become saturated and then the moisture is released as rain. Gravity helps the ‘colored rain’ fall through the clear water below. To get started you need:
- A large clear cylinder (mason jar, tall vase, etc.)
- Shaving cream
- Eyedropper or pipette
- Water-based food coloring
Instructions: Fill the clear cylinder about 2/3 full of water and cover that with shaving cream. In a small bowl, combine food coloring and a small amount of water. This solution should be dripped over the shaving cream with an eyedropper or pipette. Slowly add drops of colored water until they break through the shaving cream and ‘colored rain’ into the water below.
A lava lamp is a decorative lamp, invented in the 1960s. The movement of the differing substances was mesmerizing. Kids can create the same effect with this demonstration. The food coloring is water-soluble and since oil and water do not mix, it won’t dissolve. As the Alka Seltzer reacts with the water, it makes bubbles of carbon dioxide. These attach to the colored water blobs and float to the top of the container. When they pop, the colored water blobs sink back to the bottom. To make a lava lamp, you will need:
- Clear tall glass
- Vegetable Oil
- Food colorings (gel-based provide more vivid colors)
- Original Alka Seltzer tablets
Instructions: Pour about ½ c of water into a small container and dissolve the food coloring. Break 2-3 Alka Seltzer tablets into pieces and place them in a separate small container. Fill the clear tall glass ¾ full of vegetable oil. Pour in the colored water until it is an inch or two from the top of the glass. (This should leave enough space, so the mixture will not overflow.) You may want to do this outside or on a tray, just in case it does overflow. Add the Alka Seltzer pieces one at a time and watch the reaction. (Note: Do NOT let any child put part of the Alka Seltzer tablet into their mouths!)
Floating Ping Pong Balls
Many kids are fascinated by magic and nothing seems more magical that an item floating in the air. In this demonstration, the ping pong ball stays nicely inside the stream of air produced by the hairdryer. The fast-moving air from the hairdryer creates a column of lower air pressure. The surrounding higher air pressure forces the ping pong ball to stay inside this column, making it easy to move the hairdryer around without losing control of the ping pong ball. You can make this experiment even more interesting by adding another ping pong ball or two to see how they react. The only things you need for this are the ping pong balls and a hand-held hairdryer.
Instructions: Plug in the hairdryer. Turn on the hairdryer, point it straight up and place a ping pong ball in the stream of hot air. If the ping pong ball is properly placed, it floats above the hairdryer without flying across the room or shifting to the side.
Animated Dry Erase Creatures
This experiment makes a child’s drawings seem to come to life as they float freely in the water. Dry-erase ink is made with ingredients that prevent the ink from sticking to non-porous surfaces, like glass and the dry erase board. One of the main ingredients is an oily silicone polymer. That is why they can be removed with an eraser. Since the silicone polymer is oily, it does not mix with water and when water is placed on the drawing – it loosens from the surface and floats in the water. You will need:
- Glass plate or shallow glass bowl
- A dry-erase marker
Instructions: Have the child draw a simple picture n the glass. Stick figures, hearts and round circles with legs work well. (Keep the drawing simple and make sure all parts of the drawing are tied together. If not, you may have ‘floating pieces’ everywhere.) When the drawing is done, slowly pour water onto the plate and watch as the drawing slowly lifts up and separates from the glass. To make the drawing move, use gently swirl the water.
Soda and Mentos
This experiment which makes a soda geyser, is one of the most popular experiments with kids. They love it when the foam spews out of the bottle. The soda contains carbon dioxide gas to make it bubbly. The Mentos have tiny pits on their surfaces that cause the soda to provide even more bubbles. The faster the Mentos hit the soda, the greater the eruption. This process of bubbling is called nucleation and causes the eruption. All you need is:
- 2 liter bottle of diet soda (regular soda will also work – but makes a stickier mess that is harder to clean.)
- 7-10 original Mint flavored Mentos (There are normally 8-10 in a roll.)
- A single piece of paper
Instructions: Pick an area that won’t be damaged by a huge mess. Most people do this outside. Open the diet soda and sit it in the middle of the selected area making sure it won’t tip over. Roll the piece of paper into a tube that fits into the neck of the bottle. Put your finger on the bottom of the tube and place Mentos into the tube. Put the tube directly over the bottle opening and remove your finger. As the Mentos drop into the soda – quickly back away as far as you can. The eruption is impressive!
While these activities seem like fun and games to the children, they can demonstrate important scientific concepts. If you explain what and why these results occur, the children can enjoy the activities and learn science at the same time. Nannies can learn more ways to help children retain their academics over the summer with an online STEM and other nanny courses.