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Science at Home: Fun Experiments for Parents & Kids

Wednesday, February 17, 2016 -- Chris Bentley

Science is cool! If you have any doubts, keep reading. We’ve already shared with you a list of strategies for parents to support STEM learning, but today let’s talk about how you and your child can really have fun with science. And yes—of course science is fun!

One of my favorite learning experiences in grade school was a program called Science in a Bucket. Every week, my classmates and I would be sent home with a little bucket filled with supplies and instructions to complete a science experiment with our families. I always had a blast doing these experiments with my mom.

Your child’s school might not have a program like this, but it’s easy to start doing your own experiments at home. It’s a great way to practice science concepts with your child, and even better, it will get your child excited to keep learning in the future!

Here’s one of my favorite simple at-home experiments to get started with. If you’re looking for more ideas, be sure to download our complete Science At-Home Toolkit with 5 easy experiments to try with your child!

The Experiment: Escape the Quicksand!

Is it a liquid? Is it a solid?

With this experiment, you’ll explore how pressure can impact the properties of a material. Here’s what you’ll need:

-          One mixing bowl

-          A spoon

-          1-2 cups of cornstarch

-          1 cup of water

-          BONUS: add some food coloring just for fun!

Getting started:

First, you’ll want to pour the cornstarch into your bowl and have your child feel it. The cornstarch is a solid made up of tiny particles.

Next, start pouring in the water and any food coloring you want to use. Stir everything together as you go. Keep adding water until it starts to look thick like quicksand. You’ll know it’s ready when it becomes difficult to stir quickly!

Now for the fun:

Have your child tap the top of your “quicksand". It should feel thick and hard to the touch. However, if they push their hand into the quicksand slowly, it will slide right in. Now, imagine that you’re stuck in quicksand! If you struggle to escape it will harden around your hands, but if you try to slide your hands back out slowly you can escape.

Explain what’s happening:

The quicksand-like material you have created is known as a non-Newtonian fluid. Unlike a solid or a liquid, non-Newtonian fluids have a different viscosity depending on the pressure you use. Viscosity means something like thickness. Think about stirring a cup of water versus a cup of pudding. The water and the pudding have different viscosity. The quicksand you’ve created has a different viscosity depending on how much pressure you apply. This is why struggling in quicksand makes it harder to escape, but if you move slowly you can get out.

There you have it! In under an hour you and your child can create quicksand, learn about non-Newtonian Fluids, and have a lot of fun. Give it a shot and share your experience with me in the comments.

Ready for more at-home fun with science? Click here to download our Science At-Home Toolkit for five great experiments to try with your child! Interested in getting your child more structured science practice? Check out Study Island for Home. Whether kids need to catch up or stay ahead, Study Island for Home can help them succeed!