Have fun with science this winter break
By Moira Baldwin
Dec. 18, 2017 at 9:36 p.m.
Updated Dec. 19, 2017 at 1 a.m.
Winter break is fast approaching and, along with it, the dreaded "I'm bored" response from children.
Many parents worry about how to entertain their children when school is out. Science can come to the rescue. There are many simple yet educational science experiments that can be done at home.
If you need to make cookies for the holidays and your children are learning about chemical changes at school, then guess what? Baking cookies is an example of a chemical change. Have the children describe the physical properties of the ingredients. Physical properties include appearance, texture, color, odor, melting point, boiling point, density, solubility and polarity.
Mix the ingredients together and have them describe the physical properties again. Are they the same or different? Predict what will happen after the cookies are baked. Once the cookies are baked, have them look for changes in the physical properties. Has a chemical change occurred? How can you tell? A new substance has been formed. The cookie dough has been changed into cookies.
How about some outdoor science fun? Try some chemical reactions. For this experiment, you will need a 2-liter bottle of diet soda and a package of mint Mentos. Make a tube out of paper just long enough to loosely hold seven Mentos. This will allow you to put the Mentos into the bottle of diet soda. Have the children predict what they think will happen when you add the candy to the soda. Open the bottle and put the seven Mentos into it. Stand back and enjoy the show. You also can try the experiment again with other types of soda. What, if any, differences do you notice?
Want to launch small rockets? More chemical reactions will do the trick. You will need small containers about the size of a film canister, water and antacid tablets. Decorate the canisters as desired. Have the children predict what will happen after the tablet is added to the water. Fill the canister about two-thirds full with water. Drop in a quarter of a tablet. Tightly cap the container and place it cap side down. What happens next? Launch time. Look for similarities and differences between the launches.
With a little bit of planning, you can turn an ordinary afternoon into an experiment-filled, fun science time, plus your children won't be bored anymore. For the science behind the experiments, check out these websites:
Moira Baldwin is an assistant professor of science in teacher education in the University of Houston-Victoria School of Education, Health Professions & Human Development.