Fun science activities to try at home
Science can not only lead to well-paid and exciting jobs (think doctor, sports technologist, space craft engineer), it also opens up children’s minds to new ideas and encourages a curiosity about the world around them. Here are some fun activities that you can do with your child to inspire their interest in science (thanks to science teacher Pippa Hardisty), plus links to some Royal Institution ExpeRimental hands-on experiments.
Cabbage water indicator
To determine which substances are an acid and which ones are an alkali. The cabbage water acts as an indicator, changing colour if it is in contact with an acid or an alkali. Even if the concept of acids and alkalis is too complex for your child, they will wonder at the amazing colour changes in this experiment.
- Chop and boil a quarter of a red cabbage
- Strain off the cabbage water and keep it
- Note what colour the cabbage water is
- Place the cabbage water in several clear glasses or in several bowls
- Place some washing soap powder in one of the glasses or bowls and note down any colour changes
- Try the same thing with other household substances e.g. vinegar (acid), lemon juice (acid), orange juice (acid), soap (alkali), shampoo (alkali), conditioner (alkali)
The cabbage water should turn pink in acidic solutions, and blue or green in alkaline solutions.
Kids could also go on to make and try different indicators such as the juice from freshly boiled beetroot, blackberry juice or strawberry juice. They could also go on to use these natural colourings to dye some scrap materials.
Make your own lava lamp
Understand the science and download a free activity information sheet from ExpeRimental.
Which egg will cook first?
To guess which egg will cook first.
- Take two pans and fill them with the same amount of water
- Boil two eggs, one in each pan, but over two different sizes of flame - one larger than the other. Boil both eggs for four minutes
- Ask your child to guess which egg they think will cook first
- Then crack them both open and look inside.
Answer: Both eggs should be the same when you open them up, because the water boils at 100 degrees, so even if the one flame is hotter the water will not get any hotter!
Race a balloon-powered car
Build a race cars out of cardboard, straws and a balloon and investigate physics, engineering and motion! Get step-by-step balloon car racer instructions from ExpeRimental.
To explore how soluble different colours are…or to make pretty patterns!
- Cut a circle of filter paper (such as coffee filter paper)
- Place a dot of water soluble felt tip pen in the centre
- Cut a narrow strip and fold back so that it hangs down (but is still attached at the centre)
- Fill the bottom of a glass with water
- Sit the filter paper on top of the glass of water, with the cut-out strip dangling into the water.
As the filter paper absorbs the water, colours will emerge and spread across the paper. Try it again with other colours – they will spread to different distances depending on how soluble they are. Note which colours travelled the furthest; these ones are the most soluble.
You can create some great patterns with this. You can also try the same thing with food colours, colourful sugar-coated chocolate sweets (wet them a bit and rub them on the paper), and also with hot and cold water to see if there is any difference in how quickly the colours spread.
Make giant bubbles
A couple of wooden spoons and some string are all you need to make truly giant soap bubbles! You'll also find out why bubbles are always round with a giant bubbles experiment guide from ExpeRimental.
Kitchen science experiments to do at home
Looking for more easy investigations for young scientists? Try some milk magic or a silly egg trick and experiment with gravity-defying water with the Science Museum's free Kitchen Science booklet.