11 Easy DIY Science Experiments That Won’t Blow Up Your Kitchen
Science doesn't need to be reserved for Ph.D.s and textbooks.
Erica Silverstein · 8 months ago
Science is not reserved for Ph.D.s and textbooks. Families can easily turn their homes into science labs to learn about the world together in a way that’s hands-on and fun. You don’t need expensive equipment or dangerous chemicals that could destroy your kitchen. With common household items and perhaps a few affordable purchases, your family can experience principles of biology, chemistry, and physics with these 11 easy DIY science experiments.
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1. Vortex Cannon
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Did you know that with just a cardboard box and duct tape, you can blow out a candle or knock down a pyramid of paper cups from across the room? You can, if you build a vortex air cannon. The kids will be so thrilled to build a working cannon and impress their friends with these tricks that they won’t mind learning a bit about air pressure and movement along the way.
2. Capillary Action Experiments
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If you’ve ever wondered how trees bring water from their roots to their leaves, you can watch it in action with the Walking Water Rainbow or Color-Changing Carnation experiments. A little food coloring, some paper towels or white flowers, and glasses of water are all you need to watch capillary action in technicolor. Schedule this activity for Mother’s Day; Dad can lead the science project while Mom sleeps, and kids can later present her with the colorful flowers they made.
3. Tornado in a Bottle
Any science experiment that involves glitter is sure to be a hit. Even better, you’ll learn about centripetal force and bizarre weather when you create a tornado in a bottle (technically, a couple of two-liter soda bottles filled with water and glitter). You can manage this one with a metal washer and duct tape, but you’ll be more consistently successful and less messy if you order a “vortex connector” to help with this trick.
Is it a solid, or a liquid? It’s both! Oobleck is a non-Newtonian fluid that exhibits behaviors of both liquids and solids. Make it out of cornstarch and water, and see how it behaves when you poke it, squeeze it, or roll it in a ball. Want to blow everyone’s mind? Have an adult place a plastic lid over a subwoofer (or cover the stereo in plastic wrap), add some oobleck, crank up your favorite bass-heavy jams, and gawk as the oobleck starts to boogie.
5. Lava Lamp
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Invoke your inner hippie and create a DIY lava lamp to demonstrate the differing densities of liquids. Combine water, vegetable oil, food coloring, and Alka Seltzer (or any generic fizzing tablet), and stare mesmerized at the colorful blobs floating up and down. When you come out of your trance, discuss how oil is lighter than water and air bubbles (a gas) are lighter than either liquid.
6. Apple Oxidation
Anyone who’s packed cut-up apples for a snack has probably wondered why the flesh turned brown by the time they’re ready to eat. Learn about oxidation and how acidic liquids can stop the process with an easy apple experiment. Dip apple slices into various liquids (lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, etc.) and observe which do the best job of keeping the apples fresh the longest.
7. Soap Cloud
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Microwaving Ivory soap may feel like a recipe for blowing up your kitchen, but we promise the soap won’t explode. It will expand into a puffy soap cloud that not only will impress onlookers, but also demonstrate how gas molecules expand when heated. Note: This trick only works with Ivory soap because it’s the only brand whose bars contain air bubbles.
8. Blubber Experiment
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The budding marine biologists in your home might be wondering how sea creatures keep warm in frigid oceans (think whales in Antarctica). Introduce them to blubber by making your own blubber-style gloves out of zip-top bags and vegetable shortening. With a blubber glove on one hand and a regular bag on the other, feel the difference when you plunge your hands into ice water.
9. Skittles in Water
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Another fun one for rainbow lovers, the Skittles in water experiment teaches how certain substances dissolve in water. Line up Skittles in alternating colors around the edge of a round white plate. Pour water over them, and watch a rainbow form as the colors run. Your family can explore the scientific method by hypothesizing what will change if the water is warmer or cooler, or whether M&Ms yield the same results.
10. Pinhole Camera
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If you’ve ever wondered how a camera works, you can learn about lenses and light diffraction by building a pinhole camera (aka, a camera obscura). With just a small cardboard box, scissors, tape, and wax paper, you can build a camera that will project an image seen through a hole in the box upside down on the wax paper “film” in the back.
11. Saltwater Circuit
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You can test the electrical conductivity of water — and turn on a lightbulb! — by making a saltwater circuit out of items you have at home (9V battery, aluminum foil, popsicle sticks) and a few minor purchases (copper wire, a small light bulb in a socket). Observe the difference when you complete the circuit with distilled water versus salt water, and discuss the role of ions in electricity.
Bonus: If you’re game for some explosive drama, the popular experiments in this category are making baking soda and vinegar volcanoes and Mentos and Diet Coke rockets.