Five Fun Summer Science Experiments August 03 2010

This article originally appeared as a guest post on Zoodles, a family-friendly website.

Long summer afternoons offer our kids time to complete activities that are more educational in nature. Kids, however, may balk at anything that resembles schoolwork. I came up with these simple science experiments that are disguised as summer fun, with no need for special teaching supplies.

Nuts and Bolts

The basic parts of a solid science experiment include the following:

  • Question: What question do you have that you want to test?
  • Hypothesis: This is your “best guess” about you think will happen, or how you think your question would be answered.
  • Procedure: What are the steps to completing the experiment?
  • Observations: Sentences and sketches that describe what happens during the experiment.
  • Result: What is the outcome of the experiment?
  • Conclusion: How was your question answered? Was your hypothesis right?

Discuss each of these elements casually with your child while completing the following experiments.

A Salt Field

Make your own salt field using a shallow glass pan, regular table salt and water.

  1. The ratio to begin with is 1 tablespoon of salt to one cup of water. Adjust the amount of each depending on the size of your pan.
  2. Mix the salt and water thoroughly, then pour carefully into the pan.
  3. Set the pan with the salt water out in the sun, allowing the water to evaporate throughout the day.

When the water is gone, the salt left behind makes a cool design on the bottom of the glass pan. A variation of this experiment involves a control pan of water without salt – what is left behind on the bottom of that pan once the water has evaporated?

I’m Melting!

The trouble with ice cream treats in the summer time is that they melt. This activity determines which ice cream lasts the longest in the sun.

  1. Choose two or three different ice cream treats and put each one into a separate (but identical) container.
  2. Set them out in the sun and watch over them, keeping track of how long each one melts into liquid.

For a wider variety, choose up to five different ice cream products to test, using a small amount of each one for your experiments. Another variation is to put out two kinds of the same ice cream treat, putting salt on top of only one of them – which one melts the fastest?

Shadow Sun Dial

This is a fun experiment that requires attention throughout the day.

  1. Choose a spot on your driveway or patio and mark a large “X.”
  2. At the same time each hour, have your child stand on the “X” and trace his/her shadow with sidewalk chalk, writing the time down next to it.

At the end of the day, take a look at your unusual artwork and talk with your child about when you’re his/her shadow was the longest and when it was the shortest.

How Much Water?

Water balloons are wonderful for hot summer afternoons, and kids like to fill them to capacity. But does more water actually make the balloons weaker?

  1. Fill water balloons with water – some with a little, some halfway, and some all the way.
  2. Conduct this experiment by doing a water balloon toss – a pair of kids stand about two feet apart and throw a balloon back and forth, taking a step back with each toss. Which ones break the easiest?

After testing a variety of water balloons with different water levels, talk with your kids about which ones they would want in a water balloon fight and why.

Fry Up An Egg

There are always days during the summer where it feels like it’s hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk, but can we, in fact, actually do it?

This experiment requires an extremely hot day, the kind where meteorologists warn us about the heat wave and reporters interview people keeping cool at the local community water park.

Stake out an area of sidewalk in the sun and wait until mid-afternoon, then crack open the egg and see what happens!

Kelly is an editor with Teaching Resource Center, a trusted source for high-quality, low-cost teaching supplies.