In the 21st Century, homeschooling is growing increasingly popular. One of the significant advantages of teaching young minds at home is the opportunity to engage in hands-on learning.
For many children, a science lesson is a chance to indulge in curiosity and conduct experiments. At home, you will not be restricted to an hour a day. Armed with a variety of essential household items, you can enjoy all manner of educational fun.
Most science classes in the education sector divide into a trinity of sub-categories – biology, physics, and chemistry. With this in mind, let’s review suggest some home experiments under each of these fields.
Biology Experiments at Home
While physics and chemistry revolve around the study of inanimate objects, biology focuses on the living world. Students studying biology in mainstream education will typically learn about nature, in addition to the inner workings of human and animal anatomy.
In the past, this would frequently involve the dissection of a previously living animal. Thankfully, synthetic alternatives are now often used. Plenty of opportunities to learn about biology at home remain, though.
DNA tests are hugely popular across the world for a range of reasons. In some cases, the extraction of DNA is purely recreational and used for genealogy.
Now, if you’re feeling brave, you could even extract your own DNA. That’s much cheaper than investing in a testing kit!
Most children are fascinated by the flowers, thanks to the bright and vibrant colors provided by petals. You can demonstrate how flowers grow through osmosis – and change their color – with a straightforward experiment.
Take some flowers with pale petals (ideally white) and place them in water as standard. Now, drop a little colored ink into this water. Your child will notice the plant taking on the hue of this ink while it grows.
Many children’s bedrooms are breeding grounds for bacteria. Dirty cups and dishes quickly attract bacteria that multiples at a rate of knots. If nagging your kids to do the dishes isn’t working, demonstrate how gross bacteria can be.
Take two dishes – one completely clean, the other containing remnants of food – cover them with Saran wrap, and leave them for seven days in a dark, room temperature location. A closet is ideal. Just don’t keep the dishes near your clothes! Leave the containers for a few days, then compare. One will be swarming with bacteria, the other considerably less so.
You can also use a similar experiment to show the importance of personal hygiene, especially washing the hands. Pick up some gelatin from a supermarket, then heat water on your stove. Apply the gelatin and this water and stir it in until completely dissolved.
Once the mixture is ready, add it to a sealed container and refrigerate overnight. Remove the gelatin in the morning. It should be solid and coated in white spots. Show this to your child and run it under a tap. These white markings will not clear, demonstrating that we must remove bacteria from our hands promptly. If this is not the case, it can become impossible to shift.
Physics Experiments at Home
When teaching physics to children, discuss it as an exploration of the relationship between objects in the world around us. A child with a keen interest in physics may then wish to investigate the many and varied additional elements of this science.
As physics revolves around mass, energy, and motion, there are multiple experiments that you could conduct at home. Here are a handful of examples.
Creating a Catapult
Very few children will reject the opportunity to create a catapult that can launch items across a room. Catapults teach about air resistance – and you can make it a game, trying to extend the range of your projectile.
It’s simple to create a catapult. Bind five popsicle sticks with a rubber band at each end, then wedge two more at the end of your five-stick base. These, too, should be secured with a rubber band.
Now all you need is to add a launcher. Experiment with different kitchen implements here, starting with a teaspoon and gradually increasing in size.
What goes up must come down. Most children discover this the painful way through trips and falls while learning to walk. You can elaborate on this with something as everyday as paperclips. Simply attach a handful of paperclips to a piece of wood or a rule with string. No matter what angle the paperclips are tilted, they’ll point toward the ground.
So far, so standard. Why not defy gravity using magnets? Hand the paperclips on one side of a piece of paper or thin card, then hold a magnet on the other. The magnets will attract the paperclips, demonstrating that – as critical as gravity is – it can be superseded. Explaining how magnetism works is another lesson in itself.
Sink or Swim?
Water safety is important for children to understand, and you can teach it within the confines of a fun physics lesson.
Take an orange and place it in a jug of water. This orange will invariably float to the top of the water. The peel has countless tiny holes, which decreases the overall density of the orange.
Now, it would be a safe assumption that a peeled orange would also float. It should be lighter in weight without an additional layer, after all. A peeled orange will sink like a stone, though.
The air pockets have been removed, which makes the orange sink like a stone. You can explain how floating in water is dependent on the mass of an object. By reducing the availability of air, you are making the object denser than the water that hosts it.
Add an additional wrinkle to this experiment by adding salt to the water. Sodium, in turn, increases water density – ensuring that the object will float once more. This will explain why flotsam and jetsam reach the surface of seawater.
Walking on Eggshells
Eggshells are famously delicate, hence why the term “walking on eggshells” to describe a potentially awkward conversation. However, this experiment will show that anybody can walk eggshells without breaking them. It’s all about applying an appropriate level of mass.
Take at least 24 eggs and house them in firm cartons. Ensure that all the eggs are unbroken and facing the same way up. You may also want to place a towel under the eggs if the first attempt at this experiment fails!
Stand upon the eggs and encourage your child to spread their weight evenly. If this is the case, the eggs will not break. Such equal distribution differs from striking an egg, which concentrates force on one particular part of the shell. This lesson teaches about the balance of mass and pressure.
Chemistry Experiments at Home
Chemistry is arguably the most amenable and adaptable of all sciences. Chemical reactions surround us each day. While you can try plenty of fun chemistry experiments, such as dissolving a nail in a soda can or watching mentos explode, here are three experiments that are equal parts educational and enjoyable.
The humble potato clock is a staple of school science fairs (though you can use a lemon if you prefer). Whatever you use for this experiment, it’s a great way to teach children about chemical reactions.
To create a potato battery, pick up some copper wire, two copper nails, two galvanized nails, and six alligator clips from a hardware store. You’ll also need two large, uncooked potatoes. Find a clock in your home that runs on batteries and remove these.
Add a galvanized nail to the left of each potato and a copper nail to the right. Cut your copper wire into three strips and attach alligator clips to each end of the first. Use this to connect the galvanized nail of one potato to the copper nail of the other.
Connect your spare copper nail to the + pole of your clock and the galvanized nail to the – pole. Voila! You have a battery. The galvanized nails contain zinc, which undergoes a chemical reaction with the copper. These currents move through the wire and create electricity to power the clock.
Kids love superheroes, and the ability to turn something to ice in an instant sounds like the work of a comic book character. In reality, ice can be created in the blink of an eye using chemistry.
Place water bottles in your icebox for around two hours. Such a timeframe should not be long enough to freeze the water, but it sets up your experiment. Place a pre-frozen ice cube into a bowl, then pour the water on top. Within seconds, all the water surrounded the ice will react and freeze.
Turning Milk into Plastic
Take a cup of milk and heat until it starts to steam. Once you spot this steam, take the milk off the heat and stir in four teaspoons of lemon juice. You could use vinegar if you don’t have this to hand, but be warned, that may lead to an unappealing smell.
The purpose of this mixture is to create a chemical reaction. The acid found in the lemon juice will respond to the proteins found in warm milk. As a result, your milk will grow thick and gloopy, forming a kind of plastic film.
Stir your mixture until it resembles curd, then use a sieve to strain any liquid. Dry off your curd mix with paper towels and shape them into whatever you may need – toys, storage boxes, anything that may be helpful.
Leave your homemade plastic to dry naturally. At room temperature, this should take around two days. Once set, you have a plastic item that should be hard-wearing and will not damage the planet!
These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to science experiments in the home. While science revolves around indisputable and evidential fact, the only limit will be your imagination. If you focus on safety, you can encourage a child to experiment with any number of different trials in the fields of biology, physics, and chemistry.