Nurturing curiosity creates a healthy appreciation of all that is unique and wonderful on this earth, for kids and adults alike. Whether it’s slowing down to admire ice crystals on sparkling winter leaves or watching an airplane leave contrails across the sky, I never want my young scientists to lose their sense of awe and wonder.
There are many ways to encourage curiosity but science experiments (a la Steve Spangler’s books) are a favorite with us these days.
With titles like Naked Eggs and Flying Potatoes and Fire Bubbles and Exploding Toothpaste, Mr. Spangler’s books are sure to grab your (and your kid’s) attention. Without realizing it, we’ve already performed some of the experiments featured in his book, specifically making our own Lava Lamp Fireworks (he calls them “Bubbling Lava Bottles”) but we tried a couple new ones last week: Color Changing Milk and Naked Eggs.
The only supplies needed for color changing milk were food coloring, milk, Q-tips, and dish soap. We poured the milk onto a plate, placed drops of food coloring at the center, then inserted one end of the Q-tip into the center of the liquid.
Next, we dipped the other end of the Q-tip into dish soap then placed that end into the liquid.
Like magic, the colors burst from the center toward the edge of the plate. “Wow!” (direct quote from 4-year-old Sara). Then we proceeded to do it again and again when her big brother got home from school. He was equally impressed.
The naked egg required a bit more patience but the kids were still mesmerized. We placed an egg in a glass then poured enough vinegar in to cover it. The egg stayed at the bottom of the glass at first but bubbles quickly formed all over the egg and it began to float. In less than 24 hours, a bit of foam appeared at the top of the vinegar and a curious finger poke into the water revealed that the egg was already changing.
By the next afternoon the egg’s hard shell was gone and only a rubbery coating remained. The acid in the vinegar dissolved the calcium carbonate of the shell (I know this thanks to the “What’s Going on Here?” section from Steve Spangler’s book where he explains the science behind each experiment in easy to understand terms).
Most of the experiments in his books use household items so they’re fairly simple to set up. As long as you don’t mind some messes (c’mon, it’s all in the name of science) there are enough ideas to keep your budding scientists busy for days.
If setting up your own experiments from scratch sounds daunting then you might consider a science kit. William received two for Christmas and we’re still having fun with them.
Smart Lab’s Glow in the Dark Lab comes with molds and beakers, lots of fun pieces to snap together but be aware that the ingredients for each experiment must be used sparingly. Not knowing this, we used up a couple of things before we realized they were necessary to complete other experiments.
The Smithsonian Mega Science Lab offers a wider variety of activities and (as you might expect from the Smithsonian) looks much more official. The box says for ages 10 and up but my 6-year-old has done just fine with supervision.
Whatever you try (even if you start with the very simple but extremely interesting combination of Baking Soda and Vinegar), know that your efforts are worthwhile.
What are some of your favorite science activities? How else do you nurture creativity in your children?