Keeping young minds active is every bit as important as keeping their bodies active. So we’ve come up with some outdoor science activities for kids that get the grey matter working.
The simple experiments might not turn them into the next Professor Brian Cox but, as far as fun science activities for kids go, these will certainly get them asking questions.
So get yourself out in the garden with some everyday objects for some summer activities for kids … and adults.
Start with a bang
If explosions are your bag, you’ll love this explosion … in a bag.
What you’re demonstrating is how adding vinegar to baking soda creates carbon dioxide gas. But what you get from this kids’ science activity is a Ziploc bag that goes BANG!
• A Ziploc bag • Quarter cup of water • Half cup of vinegar • 3 tsp baking soda • A tissue.
Measure the baking soda into the tissue and loosely fold it up.
Open the bag and carefully pour in the vinegar and water. Slide the Ziploc along until there’s a gap just big enough for the tissue to get through.
We’re hoping you’re going outside now! Next, slip the tissue through the gap and quickly seal the bag.
Place the bag in an open space and step well back. You might wish to cover your ears. We said, cover your ears!
Paint pictures with the Sun
Diffusion, you can tell your children with that knowing look, is the movement of particles from one area to the other.
They might not be that impressed – but they’ll love the colourful results of summer activities for kids like this one.
• A shallow oven dish • White paper • Black construction paper • Sticky tape • Water • Watercolour paints
Tape the white paper to the inside of the oven tray.
Cut out shapes from the black paper – anything your little ones fancy. This is one of those outdoor activities for kids where they can let their minds off the leash. Sharks, swirls, spirals, maybe even something that doesn’t start with an S.
Now, brush the white paper with a little water.
Splash and dot the black shapes with watercolour paint then place them on top of the white sheet.
Now lie the tray outside in the sunlight and leave it there until the paper is completely dry.
Peel off the shapes. You’ll be left with a crazy psychedelic pattern thanks to the actions of the water and the sun. Like, far out, man.
Ever been excited by the thought that long-chain polymers can form watertight seals around sharp objects? Thought not.
But getting excited about jabbing pencils through a Ziploc bag filled with water and it not leaking – now, that’s acceptable.
For added fun, do the first piercing over your children’s heads. This is one of those outdoor activities for kids that they’ll love to repeat for their friends.
• A Ziploc bag • Some very, very sharp pencils • Water
Fill the bag with water and zip it shut. Leave enough room at the top so that you can grip it. Head outside. This is not something you want to do in the kitchen, trust us.
Now jab the pencil straight through the bag and out the other side. No leaks? Do it again, with another pencil, and again, and again. Not a drop is spilt.
See why we recommend doing it over your kid’s head. They’ll be in tears of laughter by the time you’re through.
You might want to open the top of the bag to empty it – otherwise you’re going to get very wet.
Anyone can blow bubbles. But how many of you have blown a bubble rainbow?
This is most definitely an outdoor activity for kids – unless you want a rainbow-coloured sitting room carpet.
This one shows the stickiness of soap bubbles, and how a little effort over a long time can have big results – an idea that stretches far beyond kids’ science activities and into the area of life skills.
• A clean, empty plastic drinks bottle • A single sock (Finally a use for those orphan socks!) • Duct tape • Washing up liquid and a little warm water • Food colouring
Carefully cut the bottom off the bottle and put it in the recycling.
Slip the sock over the wide end and pull it tight across the opening.
Secure the sock all the way around the bottle using the duct tape. If you don’t have tape, a rubber band will work.
Dot the sock with food colouring.
Mix the washing up liquid and water in a wide dish.
Dip the sock end of the bottle in the soapy solution, raise it to your lips and gently blow through the neck end.
Froth will start to appear on the sock. Keep blowing … and blowing … and blowing – let’s see how long a multi-coloured rainbow you’re capable of.
Fizzy drinks fountain
Stand well back. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. Stand well back. Can’t say you weren’t warned.
This is one of the most spectacular outdoor science activities for kids – and one of the stickiest.
Essentially, you’ll be dropping Mentos mints into a diet soft drink, which then fountains out of the neck of the bottle. Stand, as we said earlier, well back.
The science behind this eruption is something called nucleation. The carbon dioxide bubbles in the drink shoot to the surface of the liquid when it’s first opened.
The Mentos have a pitted surface, meaning they’ve more surface area for the bubbles to stick to, supercharging the nucleation. In simple terms: Stand well back.
• An area that you can easily hose down, well away from anything you don’t want ruined • A bottle of soft drink (diet cola is a favourite, but cheap diet tonic water works best in our experience) • A packet of Mentos • A sheet of paper
Open the Mentos packet and roll up the sweets in the sheet of paper to make a tube.
Take the tube and the soft drinks bottle outside.
Open the bottle, and ask junior to hold the tube over the open neck and tap in the Mentos. Stand well back. Nope, a little further back.
If your little ones enjoyed these kids science activities, there is a good chance they’ll love our Lab Rats course, suitable for kids aged 4 ½ - 8 years.
Our Lab Rats course entails five structured sessions full of wacky experiments to capture and stretch their imaginations. It's geeky and educational, but most of all, because it's Barracudas, it is FUN!