Science Experiments for Kids

Nitya Jain, PhD, a researcher at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, shares some of her favorite children’s books about science and suggests some experiments that kids can do after reading the books.


Book: What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With An Idea

Activity: Floating eggs

What you need:

  • 2 transparent glasses (deep enough for an egg to sink completely)
  • 2 fresh eggs
  • Hot and cold tap water
  • Salt
  • Measuring spoon
  • Stirring spoon

Experiment:

  1. Fill one glass with hot water (ask an adult to help you with this) and one with cold water
  2. Add 4-5 tablespoons of salt to the hot water and stir until it dissolves completely. Keep adding 1 tablespoon of salt until no more dissolves (you will see salt swirling at the bottom—this is called a saturated solution)
  3. Put a fresh egg in each glass. Observe.
  4. The egg will sink in the glass with cold water but will float in the glass with salt water!

How does it work?

Salt dissolved in water increases the density if water. Denser liquids are better at keeping objects afloat.

Further ideas:

  • When you toss a penny into the ocean when you go to the beach, it sinks! But how does a ship, which is SO much bigger and heavier than a penny, float?
  • Try floating different objects on the salt and fresh water.

Book: What do you do with a Problem? by Kobi Yamada

What Do You Do With a Problem

Activity: Coffee filter parachutes

What you need:

  • Coffee filters (the round/bucket kind)
  • Yarn
  • Pipe cleaners

Experiment:

  1. Cut the yarn into 8 inch lengths
  2. Punch 4 holes at equal distances in the coffee filter
  3. Tie one end of the string into each hole; tie the other 4 ends of the yarn together with a piece of string or with a short pipe cleaner
  4. Make a stick figure with the pipe cleaner by twisting it
  5. Attach the pipe cleaner person to the parachute (note: you can attach any other weight too such as Lego figures a small stone etc.)
  6. Test your parachute

How does it work?

As the parachute floats down, the air under it pushes it up, thus slowing the fall of the parachute.

Additional ideas:

  • Test other materials to make your parachute; a square section of a grocery bag, paper or cloth: which one is better at holding your “weight” up in the air longer?
  • Try different lengths of the yarn and see which works better- shorter or longer?

Ada Twist Scientist by Andrea Beatty

Ada Twist Scientist

Activity: Make slime

What you need:

  • School glue—white or clear (Clear looks better!)
  • Liquid laundry starch or borax solution (2 tablespoons borax in a cup of water)
  • Water
  • Paper cup for mixing
  • Food coloring/glitter/glow-in-the dark paint etc. for added effects

Experiment:

  1. Mix 1 cup water + 1 cup school glue thoroughly
  2. Add food color/glitter etc. as required. Stir
  3. Add 1 cup liquid starch (or borax solution) and stir
  4. Slime will begin to form almost immediately

How does it work?

White glue is a polymer—made up of large chains of identical molecules (other examples of polymers are rubber, plastic, nylon etc.). These chains slide past one another easily and allow the glue to be “poured” from the bottle. When borax or starch is added, their molecules link the glue molecules to each other, making even bigger molecules that make it difficult for them to slide past one another. This results in a tangled mass—slime!


Iggy Peck Architect by Andrea Beatty

Iggy Peck Architect

Activity: Build a bridge

What you need:

  • Drinking straws
  • Masking tape
  • Popsicle sticks (Craft sticks)
  • Scraps of paper
  • Pipe cleaners
  • Glue

Experiment:

  1. Talk with an adult about different kinds of bridges (arch, beam, suspension, truss)
  2. Think about how you might make a bridge with the materials you have.
  3. Draw out a design in a notebook
  4. Construct your bridge
  5. Test your prototype with a can or toy car
  6. If your first prototype does not work, try again after making changes to the design

The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires

The Most Magnificent Thing

Activity: Tinker crate: build your own ‘most magnificent thing’.

What you need:

  • Pipe cleaners
  • Straws
  • Card paper
  • Hole punch
  • Nuts and bolts
  • Twine/yarn/rubber bands
  • Marshmallows
  • Toothpicks
  • Empty kitchen towel or paper towel roll
  • Anything else you can find around your home

Experiment:

    1. Think about what you want to make
    2. Then draw a design in a notebook/piece of paper
    3. Build it
    4. Did your contraption work? What would you do differently the next time?

Book: Rosie Revere Engineer by Andrea Beatty

Rosie Revere Engineer

Activity: Build a ‘Rosie-copter’. Download the template from this link. Follow instructions. After building one, try to make changes to the design to make it stay up in the air longer.

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