Simple ways to make your kid go “ooh” and learn something at the same time. With thanks to the Royal Institution.
1. Making giant bubbles.
British schools are on half term next week, so your child will be at home, getting under your feet. Here are six simple experiments which you can do with ordinary household objects which should keep them occupied, but, crucially, may actually teach them how to think and act as scientists, as well.
2. Making wine glasses sing.
These experiments have been put together by the Royal Institution, which is trying to encourage British children to get more involved with science. “There’s obviously loads of ‘science at home with your kids’ stuff on the internet,” says Alom Shaha, a physics teacher and one of the brains behind the idea, “but ours shows parents how they can help their children to start looking closely at the world and asking appropriate questions, taking a scientific approach and making it more than just the ‘wow’ factor of making a wine glass sing.”
3. Making balloon car racers.
This is a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law – “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” – through the deceptively simple tools of a balloon and some cardboard. “These are brilliant fun to make,” says Alom, “and they introduce one of the most important pieces of physics you’ll learn at school.”
4. Making music from coat hangers.
You need to do this one at home yourself to get the full effect. “This includes a natural phenomenon that is genuinely surprising if you haven’t tried it before,” says Alom. “It’s a great way to introduce some key ideas about the physics of sound.”
5. Making colours run.
Paper chromatography is a powerful scientific tool, and this simple experiment teaches children the basics of it. “There’s a magic moment in the film where a young girl works out for herself that it can be used as a tool for detective work,” says Alom.
6. Making towers out of spaghetti and marshmallows.
What shapes are strongest? How should you best use materials? “This is a brilliant way to get children thinking about how and why buildings and bridges and other structures are built,” says Alom, “and to discover some key engineering ideas for themselves.”
7. Making a raw egg bounce.
A demonstration of basic chemistry: How, even though they may look the same, different liquids can have very different effects. What happens to an egg in vinegar is particularly impressive to kids: “SQUIDGY!”