5 Hands-On Experiments to Start Science Saturdays

If you want your kids to be more excited about science, you have to make it fun. Starting your own family “Science Saturday”—an hour (or more) on Saturday morning to test out new experiments—is a great way to get your kids into the routine of trying new things. After a few successful experiments, your kids will be asking for a “Science Sunday” as well.

Before and after conducting the experiments, be sure to have the kids think about, discuss, or write down the following:

  • What do you think is going to happen?
  • What did you observe?
  • Did the experiment work?
  • What should we change, if anything?
  • Do you want to try it again?

Here are five hands-on experiments designed for beginner scientists to get your kids excited about science:

Optional equipment for a successful Science Saturday

1. Goo—is it a solid or a liquid?

What you’ll need:

  • Cornstarch (about 1 cup)
  • A large bowl
  • Water
  • Food coloring (optional but fun)

Directions:

Mix cornstarch and add a bit of water until it starts to take on the consistency of glue or goo. It’s fun to squeeze into a solid and then allow it to run through your fingers like a liquid. Add food coloring for a fun swirly effect.

What you’ll learn:

This goo is a non-Newtonian fluid which basically means that it does not behave according to Newtonian physics when under pressure (it gets nervous). When under pressure, the cornstarch molecules suspended within the water bunch together like a solid but once the pressure is relieved, the goo will flow like a typical liquid through your fingers. There are other non-Newtonian fluids like ketchup, quicksand, and honey. Examples of Newtonian fluids, ones that behave as we would expect, are water, alcohol, and mineral oil.

Pro tip: Place some newspapers down on your table beforehand to help with the gooey clean-up.

2. Make Your Own Perfume (with food extracts)

Grab whatever food extracts are available

What you’ll need:

  • Nice smelling food extracts (or in my case, is available—I had easy access to citrus, vanilla, and peppermint)
  • A tube/jar for holding your perfume
  • Water
  • Pipettes (or straws using the “finger on top” method—super technical term, but you totally know what I mean)

Directions:

Using the pipettes/straws, add a bit of the food extract to a jar of water and test out which flavors result in the nicest smells. Have your child experiment combining the flavors to customize the perfume. To do a scent test, waft the air over the jar toward the nose and take a deep breath.

What you’ll learn:

All things that smell have chemical properties of aromatics. All aromatics are created by benzene rings. Real perfumes mix fragrant oils in a solvent of alcohol and water to give something a more pleasant smell. Aromatic compounds are molecules (most commonly carbon) in a ring formation—the benzene ring is a very stable molecule that has an aroma. The nose detects aromatic compounds and the brain recognizes the smell. Our sense of smell is often tied to both positive or negative associations and scientists are still studying the power of this sense.

Did you know? Everyone smells scents differently with the exception of citrus — everyone smells citrus in the same way. I wonder why…

You’ll also learn that not all handmade perfumes smell as nice as the expensive ones at the store—some things are worth the investment.

3. Copper plating—put those dirty pennies to work

What you’ll need:

  • A bunch of dirty old pennies (15–20 and the older, the better)
  • Clean nails, screws, bolts, or paperclips
  • Lemon juice
  • Jar or disposable cup
  • Tweezers to remove the pennies (optional)

Directions:

  • Add lemon juice to the jar/cup and add the dirty old pennies
  • Let sit for about an hour
  • Remove the pennies and add the clean nails, screws, bolts, or paperclips
  • Let those sit for a while
  • Remove and observe. The once shiny nails should now have a film of copper on them

What you’ll learn:

Pennies are covered in copper oxide, which dissolves in a weak acid—lemon juice. When some of the copper atoms left the pennies, they were suspended in the lemon juice solution. When the nails, screws, or paperclips were added, some of the steel ions left the metal leaving behind a negative charge on the nail. The positive copper ions floating in the solution are attracted to the negatively charged nail (opposites attract!) which forms a thin coating of copper on the metal.

Did it work for you?

Before and after shots of the copper juice bath—it definitely worked!

4. The floating water trick

What you’ll need:

  • A plastic cup of water
  • A piece of paper
  • A sink, tub, or something to catch the water

Directions:

  • Fill the plastic cup partly with water (the less water, the longer the paper will hold upside down)
  • Place the piece of paper and flip it upside down
  • The water should hold in place but eventually, it will fall

What you’ll learn:

Air is a gas that is all around us and it exerts pressure on whatever container it holds. Air is what fills up a bike tire, a balloon, and other objects that we can see. When we fill up the cup partially with water, the remaining space in the cup is full of air. It is this air pressure that keeps the paper in place and “suspends” the water and the cup. Give it a try!

Pro tip: Use less water at first for increased chances of a successful experiment on the first try.

5. Save your breath and blow up balloons the easy way

What you’ll need:

  • A few balloons
  • A funnel (recommended)
  • An empty plastic water/soda bottle
  • Baking soda
  • Household white vinegar

Directions:

  • Stretch the balloons a bit to make it easier
  • Using the funnel, place two tablespoons of baking soda into the balloon
  • Fill the empty bottle with white vinegar a few finger widths
  • Snugly fit the balloon over the mouth of the empty bottle and allow the baking soda to fall in.

What you’ll learn:

A chemical reaction takes place when the baking soda mixes with the vinegar producing carbon dioxide, CO2—a gas. This gas escapes from the bottle and fills the balloon.

Pro tip: Be sure to tip ALL of the baking soda into the balloon for maximum effect. I used a bit more white vinegar than necessary to ensure an exciting result but a few finger-widths of vinegar should be fine.

Success!

Remember to practice good lab hygiene and always clean up when you’re done.


If you love these experiments, then you’ll love the Experiment Package exclusive to Marie Curie and the Power of Persistence that are designed to complement the story. Your child will get hands-on experience trying out new experiments and Science Saturdays will take on a life of their own.

Experiment package on IndieGoGo

Click here to get extra experiments and help your child discover the Power of Persistence.


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