Help kids explore the natural world, test cause and effect, and see how smart designs lead to clever inventions with these easy experiments from Eric Muller of the Exploratorium, a science museum in San Francisco.
Build an insect TV.
Whether your child is fascinated or freaked out by bugs, this is the perfect post-hike or -picnic activity: Capture an insect and make it the star attraction for a couple of hours. Cut a rectangular opening in the lid of a cardboard shoebox and tape clear plastic wrap over it. Poke small holes in the box, then add watersprinkled dirt and twigs inside. kids learn how to observe the natural world (even the most bug-phobic child can relax enough to watch from a safe distance). For a little extra credit, have kids go online to discover what the bug eats and how it fits into the food chain.
Make ice balloons.
The next time your kids have a water balloon fight, save one and stick it in the freezer. After a couple of days, peel off the balloon. Stand the ice ball on a lit flashlight and let your child examine the ice with a magnifying glass. (This is supercool to do in a dark room.) Try different experiments: Place a drop of water on the ice ball and observe (the droplet freezes); let him sprinkle the ice with salt and watch what happens (the ice melts); float it in a bowl of water. Kids learn the chemical properties of water — why it freezes, why it melts — along with lessons in density (that’s physics!).
Host an egg drop.
Give kids raw eggs in their shells and stuff from around the house (newspaper, straws, rubber bands) and challenge them to build a “device” to “protect” their egg from breaking. Kids take turns dropping their protected egg down a few outside stairs (drop cloth encouraged!). Have the kids drop the eggs that survive from progressively higher stairs. The winning egg is the one that lasts the most drops — or cracks the least. Kids learn how to come up with creative solutions for physical challenges — skills used by product manufacturers — and about shock absorption (that’s physics again).
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