Whether you homeschool your children or you’re stuck inside, pass some hours using ideas from this list of science activities for kids! It’s a fun way to get kids involved in learning something new and don’t worry, it won’t involve acids and bubbling liquids exploding in your kitchen. In fact, most use common household items.
STEM challenges and experiments can be enjoyed by kids of all ages, but keep in mind that adults should be present to supervise, handle any necessary heat sources, and help prevent any negative chemical reactions. It’s totally worth it since the kiddos will be able to learn something new and have a blast while doing it!
Entertain Your Little Scientists With Adventures From Scratch
When you’re done experimenting, open up a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition and choose one of the 50+ challenges inside! Uncover an at-home task, choose an outdoor adventure, or take advantage of the other interactive elements. Every page is a new surprise!
Science Activities for Kids
Here is our full breakdown of the 15 best science experiences and activities you can do at home today.
1. Cook S’Mores in a DIY Solar Oven
Mix two super fun and popular things into one activity—dessert and a fun science experiment. S’mores are usually made from marshmallows cooked over a bonfire, but this activity uses the power of the sun to cook the marshmallows.
- Pizza boxes or similar sized cardboard boxes
- Aluminum foil
- Plastic wrap
- Glue Stick
- A utility knife or scissors
- Black construction paper
- Graham crackers
- Markers (optional for decoration)
To make your own solar stove, you’ll first need to prep the box. Cut a door out of the top of the box that is a bit smaller than the box itself because you want to be able to capture enough sunlight to cook the number of s’mores you’re putting in your DIY solar oven. An adult should do the cutting part, but the rest can be done by kids.
Once the door is cut out, the stove can be decorated with markers. If you have multiple children participating, this can help them identify them. Once the exterior is ready, you can start putting together the necessary parts. The bottom of the box should be covered with black construction paper to help absorb the heat. Use glue sticks to attach aluminum foil to the inside of the door. This part will reflect the sunshine into your oven.
Add your s’mores ingredients to the inside of your oven and tape the plastic over the top of the opening. The pencil can be used to prop the door open to capture the sunshine. Leave it out and check on the marshmallows often. They will start to plump up when they are cooking. The chocolate might melt quickly if you leave that in the oven, so that’s totally up to you.
There are several factors that will impact this. If it’s not a hot day, it will take a lot longer to cook and warm up. Change up the color of the construction paper, the size of the door, or the size of the box next time to see how it changes the outcome.
2. Prep Some Elephant Toothpaste
This experiment gets its name because the final product will look like you’re squeezing a giant tube of toothpaste, like one for an elephant. It’s simple and messy and will be a hit for younger kids to watch.
- 16 oz plastic bottle cleaned out
- Half cup of hydrogen peroxide liquid (look for 6% solution for best results)
- 1 tablespoon of dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons of warm water
- Liquid dishwashing soap
- Small cup
- Food coloring – any color that you choose
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Tray or dish to keep the mess contained
The safety equipment is for hydrogen peroxide because it’s an irritant, so make sure the adults are the ones handling it. Pour the half cup into the plastic bottle while wearing your safety goggles. Add the food coloring to the bottle next followed by the tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. Mix it up in the bottle by swirling it around a bit.
In the small cup, add the warm water to the dry yeast and stir up for about 30 seconds. Then you’ll add that to the bottle and the fun begins. This is where the tray comes into play because the foam will go everywhere and you’ll want to contain it in one small area.
How does this work? The yeast works to remove the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide. When this reaction happens, you get so many bubbles. This will be fun to watch and learn about. Kids love messy projects and will get such a kick out of the foamy surprise of this one.
3. Write a Message in Invisible Ink
This is a fun way to incorporate a little spy activity into your kitchen science lab. Challenge your kids to write each other secret messages in invisible ink.
- Cotton q-tip
- Light bulb
- White paper
To get started, you’ll want to help the kids squeeze the lemon juice into the small bowl and mix it with a bit of water. One lemon will be enough unless everyone wants their own bowl of “ink.” Spread out the white pieces of paper on the counter.
Have the kids dip the q-tip into the lemon juice and then write out a message on the pieces of paper. Leave the papers out to dry (don’t peek at what the others have written). Once it’s dry, the message will be invisible. Just hold it close to a lightbulb to read it.
The heat from the bulb will break down the lemon juice and release carbon which turns brown. The message will become visible. Give it a try and see if you can decipher the secrets.
4. Make Your Own Lava Lamp
Step back in time while helping your kids with a science project. Help them create their own colorful lava lamp. It’s a great way to learn more about how oil and water interact with each other, plus the outcome is so cool.
- Vegetable oil
- Food coloring
- Alka-Seltzer tablets (or comparable generic fizzing tablets)
- Clear plastic water bottles
Take the clean water bottle and fill it about a quarter of the way full with water. Then, pour in the vegetable oil until it’s almost full. Make sure to watch the oil and water separate in the bottle for a few minutes while they settle.
Add in a few drops of food coloring using whatever color your kids choose. The color will work its way through the oil and is super cool to watch. Have your tablets of Alka-Seltzer broken in half and ready to go. You’ll drop one half in and see colorful blobs start to appear. Wait a while and then drop in the other half. This is creating gas which will float to the top bringing the food coloring with it.
For the full experience, turn the lights off and turn on the flashlight to make it look just like the lava lamps that were super popular a few decades ago.
5. Complete with an Egg Drop
This STEM activity is popular with school science classes because it can become a fun competition where everyone gets to use some creativity in their vessel. Challenge each person in your family to participate and see who is able to succeed.
- Collection of supplies with items like straws, pipe cleaners, toilet paper, paper towel rolls, plastic containers, bags, and other recycled items found around the house
- Pens and scorecard to make predictions
- A second-story window
The point of this activity is for each person to design and construct a vessel that they will put a raw egg in and drop it out of a second-story window. You want the egg to make it safely to the ground without breaking. The fun part about this activity is that everyone gets to be creative and you might end up with a couple of totally different designs.
Give all the participants time and supplies to put their creations together. Anything can be used to build the containers. Some kids will try making a parachute, others will try padding the egg. Challenge them to think outside of the box. Assign a time limit and let everyone get to work. You won’t need more than an hour or so to put the different designs together.
The next step is to have everyone share what they made. Each person should have a piece of paper to write down all the different egg drop containers and predict whether or not they think the egg will break at the bottom. This step is important because each person can check out the competition and see all the different theories and ideas people had about protecting the breakable egg.
Finally, the drop happens. The best way to do this is to have one adult take all the creations to the second story or roof and prepare to launch them. Let them go one at a time and see if they make it safely to the ground. Check off the predictions to see how each person did in their guessing. This is an activity you can do again and again and see what everyone learned from the previous time.
6. Fish for Ice Cubes
Learn how salt impacts the freezing process of water by putting together one of the easiest learning activities for your kitchen.
- Ice cubes
- Glass of water
- Small stick
Grab the ice cubes from your freezer (the number doesn’t matter) and add them to a glass or bowl of water. Ice cubes will float at the top. Lay the string down over the ice cubes and then sprinkle a little salt on the ice where the string is.
You’ll be able to watch the ice slightly melt and then refreeze. Once you’ve waited about 20 seconds, you can pull the string up and you’ll find that the ice cubes are attached. The salt actually lowers the water’s freezing temperature. When you sprinkle the salt, it melts the ice a little. The string will be in the water and, once the salt gets diluted, it will refreeze, grabbing the string along with it.
This is a fun and simple experiment, but you could easily try some other substances and make it more like science fair projects.
7. Put Together a Rainbow Water Experiment
Impress younger children with this rainbow created completely by water and paper towels. It takes just a few minutes to set up with things that you’ve already got in your kitchen.
- 7 glasses
- Red, yellow, and blue food coloring
- Paper towels
Fill up four glasses with water and set all the glasses in a line with a full glass, then empty glass, and continue the pattern. Add red food coloring to the two glasses on the ends and then pick one of the middle glasses to add yellow food coloring and then add blue to the final glass with water.
Once this is all set up, gather the kids and then add the paper towels to see the magic start working. Paper towels should be folded in half multiple times and then put in between each of the glasses. You’ll start to see capillary action as the water moves through the paper towels into the empty glasses. The colors will start to mix together and create a rainbow.
This is a fun experiment because the kids can see it all happen right before their eyes. Learn more about the primary colors and what happens when they mix together.
8. Crush a Can with Air Pressure
Make recycling even more fun by showing kids how a can be crushed without having to step on it or put it in a contraption. Instead, use air pressure as the can crusher in this experiment.
- Empty, clean soda can
- Cold water
- Stovetop burner
- Medium-sized bowl
This experiment needs to be done by an adult because it involves the stove, but by watching it, kids can start learning about air pressure and temperature differences. Fill the bowl with the coldest water possible and set it next to the stove. Put about a tablespoon of water into the empty can, it should be enough to cover the bottom of the can.
The can will go directly on the burner on the stove (this is why an adult should do the work and the kids should just watch). Turn on the burner and heat up the can until you hear the water inside start to boil, then start a timer for 60 seconds and prep your tongs.
Once the timer goes off, use the tongs to grab the can around the bottom, quickly flip it upside down, and put it into the bowl of cold water. The can will crush itself at this moment.
You can talk through the process of water turning to vapor when boiled and then when it’s turned back into the bowl of water, it takes up so much less space and therefore the can crushes.
You may want to repeat a few times to see if the kids can figure out how this is happening. It’s tough to flip the can and get it into the water, so proceed with caution.
9. Try the Rock Candy Experiment
Rock candy is fun to snack on, but you can make it a science experiment too. It’s not often that kids get to make their own candy, so this is some cool science that kids of all ages can get into.
- 3 cups of granulated sugar
- 1 cup of water
- Wooden skewers
- Jar or glass
- Large saucepan
- Food coloring
- Optional candy flavoring
Start by combining 1 cup of sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the water has dissolved all of the sugar. Continue adding more sugar slowly while stirring until the sugar stops dissolving—the water will look a little cloudy. If you are making a larger quantity, just keep the ratios 3:1 sugar to water. Flavoring would be added at this step as well if you want. Remove from heat and allow this sugar water to cool down.
Prepare the skewers by getting them wet, then roll them in loose sugar and then let them dry. Pour the sugar water into jars. Add the colors to the jars. Put the skewers into the jars and hold them in place with the clothespins.
It’s important that the skewers are completely dry because the sugar on the sticks needs to grow. You also want to stop the sticks from touching the sides of the jar or the bottom so there is room.
Leave these jars in a spot where it’s easy for the kids to check on them. It usually takes about a week or so to have a good-sized piece of rock candy, so it will be a good test of patience. Take the sticks out and let them dry and then they are ready to enjoy. The best part is to eat the candy that was homemade.
10. Make Some Magic Milk
If you are looking for fast and fun science activities, try making some magic milk with the kids. You may already have the simple ingredients, and kids love it!
- Liquid food coloring
- Dish Soap
- Shallow pan
To get started, you simply set out your shallow pan and pour milk into the bottom. It should be enough to fill the bottom, but it doesn’t need to be too deep. Have the kids add some drops of food coloring to the milk. Add multiple colors and be generous about it.
Once that’s done, dip the q-tip into some dish soap and then put it in the milk. Hold it in place for about 15 seconds. You’ll notice the colors start to move around. Dish soap breaks up different fat molecules in the milk and that’s what causes the movement of the liquids. The food coloring helps you see the process, plus it puts on a beautiful show.
11. Set Up a Colorful Skittles Race
Skittles are known for being the colors of the rainbow and they are super tasty treats, but they can be used for a pretty cool science experiment. This would make a great preschool science experiment because it is very quick and easy.
- White plate or container
- A bag of Skittles
Pour out the Skittles and have the kids arrange them in a circle on a plate. It’s best if you alternate the colors to get the full effect. Once they are in a circle, slowly pour water over the top and watch what happens.
The colors will swirl towards the middle of the plate in a beautiful pattern because the candy is coated in food coloring and sugar. You can add a little extra to this experiment by doing one plate with warm water and one with cold water to see which gets to the middle quicker.
If you’ve been trying to figure out how to use up extra Halloween candy without the kids just eating all of it, this is one of the simple science experiments that use the sweet stuff.
12. Create a Shaving Cream Rain Cloud
Elementary school kids have probably sat through a science lesson on weather, so creating their own rain cloud at home can help them understand it a little better and maybe even teach you something.
- Shaving cream
- Food coloring
- Clear pitcher or jar
To make your rain cloud, start by filling the glass jar or pitcher about 3/4 of the way full with water. Then, have your kids spray the shaving cream over the surface of the water. Make sure to cover the surface, but it doesn’t need to be a super thick layer. Grab the food coloring and add drops all over the top of the shaving cream layer and sit back to watch.
This is a great way to understand how rain falls from clouds. The more condensation that builds up in the cloud, the heavier it gets and, eventually, it will get to a point where the rain (or in this case, food coloring) will fall to the ground. The experiment is fun to watch and super easy to put together.
13. Launch Some Paper Airplanes
This is a great STEM activity because it involves some design and engineering, but it’s also a ton of fun for kids. There are two parts to it because you build both the paper airplanes and the launcher.
- Pieces of paper in different sizes and weights
- Paper clips
- Rubber bands
- Building materials for the launcher – legos, wood, cardboard, etc.
Start by putting together your paper airplanes. There are so many different ways to fold them, so have your kids try a few different styles and strategies so they can compare them. Then you can build your launcher.
The airplane launcher should utilize rubber bands to send the paper airplanes flying. The rubber band has the extra energy that the planes need to launch themselves. The runway can be made with any flat surfaces that you can pull the plane back on before launching it. The materials listed are just suggestions. This is another experiment where the kids can get creative with their building materials to see what will work best.
Once you have planes and launchers, head to a park or space that is nice and wide open. Take turns launching different planes and measuring how far they can go.
14. DIY Some Playdough
Playdough is one of the most popular toys for younger kids to play with. The good news is that it’s a toy that you can easily make a home with the right ingredients, plus the process is a good way to get the kids busy mixing and measuring.
- 2 cups of flour
- ¾ cup of salt
- 4 teaspoons of cream of tartar
- 2 cups of warm water
- 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or vegetable oil
- Multiple colors of food coloring
- Large pot
- Quart sized bags
To get started, mix the flour, salt, and cream of tartar into a large pot. Once that is mixed together, add the water and oil and cook over medium heat. It’s important to keep stirring the mixture while it cooks. It will eventually turn into a dough ball and that’s when you can remove it from heat.
Divide this dough into balls, add to the quart bags, and add the food coloring. The more drops you make, the brighter the color will be. By adding the colors to the bags, you’ll save your hands from being stained in the process.
The DIY play dough will be soft and usable for up to three months if they are stored properly in bags or closed containers. Have fun customizing the colors and playing with your own homemade playdough.
15. Observe the Life Cycle of a Butterfly
One of the coolest things to watch with the kids is the life cycle of the butterfly. It’s pretty easy to set up at home and you and your family can watch as the caterpillar becomes a butterfly.
Note: You can purchase a kit that will come with everything you need, otherwise these items will help you get started with a DIY kit.
- Large glass jar
- Mesh or cheesecloth
- Leaves and sticks
- Larger cage or habitat
- Fruit and sugar water
Finding caterpillars is the first step and the best time of year to do that is in June. That can be a fun adventure with the kids. If you’re constantly striking out, you can order them online and they will come shipped in a jar with holes punched on top. Place them into the smaller container with a mesh top for good airflow.
Add in sticks and leaves and make sure to keep the container out of the direct sunlight, because you don’t want to cook the little guys. Change the leaves every few days so they have fresh food to munch on.
Eventually, they will begin the chrysalis process and attach themselves to the lid of the container with strands of silk. Make sure the container does not move during this transition time. Once they are formed, wait 24 hours and then transfer them to the larger container. Be very careful when you move the entire lid. You can rest the lid against the side of the new habitat. Spray the container with water once a day.
In about 7-10 days, you will start to see the butterflies emerge. At first, they aren’t able to fly. They will stretch their wings out and snack on fruits and sugar water. Once they are flying around, you can prepare to release them. This is such a cool way to let the kids see the full life cycle of these beautiful creatures.
Frequently Asked Questions
To get your kids interested in STEM, start with some cool science activities for kids and observe what interests and excites them. Make it fun, and try not to force it!
There are plenty of educational activities that are also fun! Have a library adventure, play board games that exercise the mind, or try some easy science experiments for kids.