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flashy science experiments for young kids

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For Christmas, my husband and I like to give my nephew books and experiences. Our idea for this year's experience is a bit elaborate and needs some fleshing out. I think maybe you all can help.

My nephew is five, and he loves the TV show Mythbusters. My husband and I want to act out a pretend Mythbusters episode with him. We'll get a couple of easy, safe, science-y experiments set up, then have him test the "myths" that they work. We'll take pictures as we go and have him paste them into a book at the end of the day. I'll make him help with the captions, thus adding a sneaky writing lesson into the mix.

I need a few science activities that are good for a five-year-old kid, preferably easy and fun things that we can do in one afternoon. We've already tried dumping a package of Mentos in a bottle of soda together, and that went over very well. (Try that with your kids if you haven't done it. Fair warning: it's a strictly outdoors sort of activity. Diet soda is better than regular because it's less sticky in the clothing and hair.)

I doubt we'll find anything as flashy as the mentos-soda combination, but my nephew has a good time with pretty much anything that allows him to get his hands messy. Do you know fun things to do with dry ice? Acid-base indicators? Paper airplanes? You name it, we'll pretty much try it, as long as it's safe enough (no explosions, sorry) and works with the attention span of a little guy.
#1 - November 26, 2011, 08:10 PM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

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There's always the good old pop bottle filled with baking soda and vinegar, plus a balloon. As a kid I used to love watching the balloon fill up and eventually pop off or explode. It's an old one, but one of my favorites.

There's also putting a skewer through a balloon without popping it. I came across it awhile ago and thought it was super cool.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LO8OGkhsX6M&NR=1

I really like your idea. : ) Best wishes!

#2 - November 26, 2011, 09:11 PM

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Oh man, I can think of tons of things. Go to the library and look for Janice Van Cleave books.

Here's one I just did with our homeschool co-op on Newton's third law. Tie one end of a piece of fishing line to a chair. Blow up a balloon but do not knot the end, just twist it shut and hold on. Tape a drinking star to the balloon. Thread the fishing line through the straw. (You're probably going to need a second set of hands. Tie the other end of the fishing line to another chair. Have them about six feet apart. Then let go of the balloon .... phooooosh!

Now, I could never get this one to work right, but maybe you can. You need two yard sticks, and two same sized funnels and some some tape and a pile of books. Tape the two funnels together at the bells -- the wide ends. Stack up about 1 inch of books on one end, and about 3 feet away stack up another stack about 3 inches high. place the yard stick on the lower stack with the end closer together like the bottom of a V .. then the other ends rest farther apart on the taller stack. I think I had problems with my funnels and yardsticks .. BUT ... if you can get it to work ... when you place the funnels at the end of the V with the stems resting on the yardsticks, it should roll UP. You can find this experiment on YouTube if you google anti-gravity experiment .. there are a few .. but a real cute one with a young kid doing it.

You can also take a sturdy wooden ruler, a hot wheels car (or facsimile thereof), a pencil, some masking tape, a 1 inch thick book, and some bits of modeling clay to make crash test dummies. Form a tiny snowman type guy from the modeling clay. Place one end of the ruler on the book to make a ramp. From the other end measure two car lengths. Tape a pencil to your floor or table at this spot. Lightly stick you clay guy to the top of your car. Roll car down ramp. Measure how far the little guy gets thrown. Vary this with different sizes of clay guys, different ramp heights, etc. This demonstrates Newtons 1st law or inertia.

There's also a tornado in a bottle you can make.

Google for science experiments .. and you'll come up with tons!
#3 - November 27, 2011, 11:31 AM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Get a copy of The Book of Totally Irresponsible Science by Sean Connolly. Tons of fun stuff in it.

Potato Gun, Volcano, you can make slime ... lotsa fun stuff to do
#4 - November 27, 2011, 03:25 PM
Making metaphors out of molehills for over thirty years.

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Awesome ideas! Thanks.
#5 - November 28, 2011, 08:45 AM
Twitter: @MelissaKoosmann

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I like the Janice Van Cleave books too. (The Irresponsible Science, not so much, the experiments weren't as accessible and the history was interesting but for a different level kid)

I like blowing up a balloon with yeast -- that is the mixture in the bottle has yeast. You can have three such bottles and ask what the yeast would eat -- sugar, flour or salt. Then add to the three bottles, attach balloons at the top and go on to another experiment while the yeast eats the food (sugar usually works best).

I also did a demo on the gizzard stomachs of dinosaurs (birds too), by putting lettuce and rocks into plastic jars then having the kids dance around. The lettuce gets pretty chewed up -- so these animals with no teeth have rocks that help them digest.

And I like making a fire extinguisher by pouring carbon dioxide over the candle. You capture the gas as you burn the candle, then pour it back over the lit flame. It does look like magic.
#6 - November 29, 2011, 09:53 AM
How Things Work (Publications International, 2006)
Bugs & Bugsicles: Insects in the Winter (Boyds Mill Press, 2010)
Touch the Earth (NASA, 2009)

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I just did this one at my daughter's science fair:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JT4UVsfZkwg

And if I could have gotten the right tinsel I would have done:

http://www.sciencebob.com/experiments/videos/video-static_orb.php
#7 - November 30, 2011, 02:15 PM

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There's always the non-Newtonian fluid you make with equal parts of corn starch and water. Kids love it. Put some in your hands and it runs through your fingers, but if you press it in your fist, it turns solid - until you let go and then it immediately becomes liquid again.

You can also have a lot of fun with giant bubbles. Google bubbles and search around the net a little and there will be instructions for making the bubble juice. The cool thing is that if your hand is wet, you can put it inside the bubble and pull it out again without breaking the bubble. You can even make bubbles big enough for the child to be inside one.

You sound like a terrific aunt and uncle.

Laurel
#8 - December 06, 2011, 08:30 AM

We like to put a cut-open (family-sized) teabag sitting upright on a plate and then light it at the top. The remains of the bag will float into the air when the tea burns away.
#9 - January 30, 2012, 12:09 PM
SWAY, 2012 from Disney-Hyperion
CIRCA NOW, 2014 from Disney-Hyperion
http://www.ambermcreeturner.com
https://www.facebook.com/SwayByAmberMcReeTurner

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