I have always loved science, even before I knew what I was doing was science! Lining up dominoes to knock over, making ‘potions’ in the garden, baking in the kitchen and watching water turn different colours.
It’s no surprise that some of my favourite lessons at secondary school took place in the science labs. Also when I completed my education degree as a teacher, I specialised in science!
My love of science continued into my teaching. It’s now a huge part of the messy play classes and science parties I run. Most of the experiments I use are firstly trialed at home with my children using kitchen cupboard equipment.
Below are 2 experiments that are fun to try at home with children (although I’m sure there are many a grown up who will love them too!).
Just A Few Things To Bear In Mind:
1. Safety first. Although none of these are especially dangerous, it’s wise to start good habits early. Encourage children to wash hands after each experiment. Also to either wear an apron or wear ‘experimenting’ clothes that don’t matter if they get spilled on.
2. Experimenting, by definition, is to try out new ideas and methods. They may not always work first time and can take a bit of trial and error but that is all part of the scientific process.
Experiment 1: Colour Changing Milk
What you need: milk, food colouring, washing up liquid (dish soap), cotton buds.
Method: Pour some milk onto a plate or bowl and add a few drops of food colouring. Dip the cotton bud into the dish soap and then place it into the milk. Repeat in different places around the milk and watch what happens.
The science bit: Many children are amazed just by the moving colours. However older children may notice that they seem to move away from the dish soap. This is because the soap molecules are attracted to the fat molecules in the milk and rush around trying to collect them. This causes the fat molecules to move around and, in turn, disrupt the surface of the milk. The colour droplets suspended within it are jostled around and begin to mix. Once the soap is evenly dispersed there will be less movements and so the colour mixing will slow down.
Taking it to the next level: Try experimenting using milk with different percentages of fat (or dilute full fat milk with water) or water by itself. Are the reactions the same? How could you record your observations?
Experiment 2: Colour Stealing Water
What you need: water, coloured sweets like smarties or skittles
Method: Lay the sweets in a circle on the plate then slowly pour water on and watch what happens. Here is a video of the magic.
The science bit: The colour change happens as the colours on the sweets dissolve into the water.
Taking it to the next level: Does it make a difference if the water is warm or cold? Which coloured sweet changes colour the fastest or slowest? What different patterns can you make by laying the sweets in a different order? Children could also experiment with other types of sweets to see if they all work in the same way.
I hope you enjoy performing these experiments at home. My favourite bit? The ‘ooh’ that so many children utter as they observe the changes. Nothing beats creating a bit of awe and wonder in our children!