School may be out during the summer, but it’s the perfect time for little ones to get outside and learn. Not only is it a more relaxing venue for messy play (your rugs and upholstery are safe!), but the great outdoors provides endless opportunities for exploring scientific concepts. Help your little one discover more about their world and enhance their natural curiosity with these three easy experiments:
Simple Melty Fun
Set up a melting station using the sun as a source of heat. Grab an ice cube tray or muffin tin and have your kiddo fill the compartments with a variety of objects that they think will melt in the sun, as well as some they think won’t soften at all. Need a bit of inspiration? Blocks, figurines, coins, playdough, crayons, chocolate, candy, butter, ice and cheese are all great choices.
Before placing the tray outside, help your child make a chart, tailored according to their age. For younger children, it can be a simple three column table listing the objects, the child’s guess as to whether each one will melt and a third column for the end result. For older children, add more columns and encourage your budding scientist to check on their experiment in 15 minute intervals, noting the results as they go.
Little investigators will love seeing whether their predictions came true and observing the effects of the sun on everyday objects.
Need something really impressive to captivate your kiddo? Grab an assortment of carbonated beverages in 2 liter bottles and a variety of Mentos candy to demonstrate the scientific process of nucleation. When the Mentos come into contact with soda, the carbon dioxide grabs onto the microscopic nucleation sites and forms bubbles. LOTS of bubbles. As oodles of YouTube videos can attest, slipping a bunch of Mentos down the neck of a soda bottle makes a spectacular reaction that should only be enjoyed outside.
Kids will love predicting which combination of liquid and candy will make the biggest spray. Spoiler Alert: fruit or mint flavored Mentos dropped into Diet Coke is known to make the most dramatic fountains. Make sure participants wear safety goggles and the hose is on standby because this one is messy!
Whether you’re in your backyard sandbox or at a local beach, your little ones can quickly create an exciting volcano with a simple chemical reaction. Make sure you have plenty of baking soda and vinegar on hand to keep the lava rolling!
Use a plastic water bottle (or sand bucket if you prefer) and fill it about a third of the way with water. Add 5-6 teaspoons of baking soda - use a funnel, if you have one, to make it easier. Pile up a bunch of wet sand around the sides of the bottle so that the mound resembles a volcano, but the mouth of the bottle is still accessible. Now pour a cup of vinegar down the mouth of the bottle and stand back to enjoy the eruption. Repeat and enjoy! You can also experiment with adding a few drops of red food coloring and surround your mountain with animal figurines for added fun.