Yes, we know: you’re homeschooling. Or crisis schooling. Or doing packets the district sent you. Or home education. Whatever you want to call it, the rugrats are home, you’re suddenly in charge of their education, and you’re panicked/at a loss/bored to tears/lost at sea. We understand. That’s why we compiled a list of science experiments you can do at home, using materials you either have on hand or can easily get your paws on (especially if you never fell for that Marie Kondo stuff). These count as science, math, bonding time, and give you something to do on that rainy day when the kids are trapped inside and just will. not. shut. up.
Let’s get this out of the way first: you’re doing homemade science experiments for your kids so that they can learn how the universe works, grow their brains, gain confidence in themselves, and grow up to win a Nobel Prize and specifically mention in their acceptance speeches about how that time you did the thing with the straws directly led them to that moment.
Your kids, on the other hand, are into homemade science experiments because they are messy and colorful and involve lots of pouring and stirring and small-scale destruction. This homemade science experiment has both of these in spades. Your kid gets to learn about density and velocity and drop marbles into various liquids. You don’t need a fancy test tube looking thingy, either — anything narrow and vaguely see-through will do. Those fancy champagne flutes your aunt got you for a wedding gift that you’ve used twice? They’re now lab equipment!
Remember that plastic tornado tube thing you got on the field trip to the science museum that linked two bottles together to make a tornado? Still have that tube thing? No? Didn’t think so. Fortunately, this homemade science experiment requires only a jar, a little soap, and a touch of glitter to teach your kids about cyclones, vortices, and everything else tornado-related. Plus, the very phrase “glitter tornado” should be in everyone’s life right now.
Tip: the video emphasizes that a plastic jar is a good idea when doing this with kids. If you’re wondering why, just imagine your enthusiastic four-year-old vigorously shaking a glass jar full of soapy glitter around like the world’s most fabulous hand grenade. You see it now.
If you clicked this article, chances are you’re a crafty parent with a nice messy pile of S.T.E.A.M. supplies waiting to be turned into homemade science experiments, and you understand that popsicle sticks come in packs of hundreds, and you never really knew what to do with them after your kid finished that goddamn log cabin project. The answer: let’s get medieval! With a few rubber bands, some popsicle sticks, and the projectiles of your choice, you and your little barbarians can get a simple lesson in physics and finally see if those LEGO castles are really all they’re cracked up to be, defense-wise. Also, feel free to, I don’t know, maybe do this one outside … or with less lethal-looking projectiles than marbles? But really, you do you.
As homemade science experiments go, the vinegar and baking soda volcano is basically like the song “Sweet Caroline.” It’s familiar to the point of being cliched, and while you don’t hate it, you’d probably be fine going your whole life without experiencing it again. But don’t rule the vinegar and baking soda out just yet: the two things you know you have lurking around the bottom shelf of your pantry have a new trick for you. Instead of all of that carbon dioxide fizzing out around a paper mache Vesuvius, you’re going to be trapping it to inflate a balloon more effectively than you thought possible. Here’s a fun idea: once COVID-19 has been sent packing and saving PPE isn’t a priority anymore, celebrate by taping down all the fingers on a medical glove but the middle one and flip this pandemic the inflatable science bird it deserves.
LEGO has always been educational. We know this, and this is what we tell ourselves over and over as our kids stream that Ninjago series for the fortieth time this week. This homemade science experiment will make you feel better about everything LEGO as it uses some leftover parts and the baffling, amazing architectural principle of tensional integrity to create a truly cool sculpture that seems to defy logic. This will help your LEGO architects get to know some real architectural principles, and will leave you with a sculpture neat enough you’ll want to show everyone in the next Zoom meeting.
This homemade science experiment is probably the easiest on the list, and perfect for the really little ones, too. Next snack time, just pull out some extra raisins and a can of soda water, and let your little scientist do what they do best: dump one thing into another thing. It’s genuinely fun to watch the carbon dioxide gather on the raisins and fling themselves up and down no matter how big or little you are, and it doesn’t hurt that a glass of La Croix with a bunch of raisins in the bottom pretty much tastes like a regular glass of La Croix anyways.
The mess factor for this homemade science experiment is high, but worth it. Mixing water and corn starch makes a non-Newtonian liquid, which is a liquid that behaves like a solid when force is applied to it. In other words, this gooey mess seizes up when your kids jam their hands into the bowl, and little hands can have fun with a liquid that doesn’t behave at all like it should. Much like them.
For your budding botanists, this video turns your kitchen scraps into a homemade science experiment, a way to save trips to the grocery store, and a lesson in conservation. A truly shocking number of the vegetable scraps you throw away or compost can be replanted and grown into a whole new plant. A simple window box or flower bed, some kids eager to get their hands dirty, and the leftovers from Taco Tuesday can at the very least bud before wilting pathetically through a combination of alternating over-enthusiasm and benign neglect.
These science experiments serve as both entertainment and education, and in a time when we’re long on boredom and short on school — at least the brick-and-mortar kind — that’s definitely a win-win.