Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard your child say “I’m bored!” But if your child has already played with LEGO bricks and spent the morning at the park, then what’s a parent to do when boredom strikes? If you’re looking for a fun activity that the entire family can do together, then keep reading. Two experts in the Chicago area have shared science experiments that parents can do with their children. You don’t need to purchase special equipment, either, as these at-home science experiments use everyday household items.
Pat Knable
Manager of Education
Kohl Children’s Museum
2100 Patriot Blvd.
Glenview, IL 60026
(847) 832-6600

Your child isn’t too young to participate in an at-home science project. Pat Knable, manager of education for Kohl Children’s Museum, noted that even infants can take part in a science project and participate in color mixing with Play-Doh. “Take some tubes and dump water through pipes and tunnel to see how water moves,” Knable suggested. “We encourage families to look at the At Home Zone activities [on the museum’s website]. It’s all about building interest in the sciences,” Knable emphasized. She also noted the staff of Kohl Children’s Museum does outreach in the community.

Knable also stressed the importance of having adult supervision when conducting a science project at home, especially when using specific tools in the kitchen. “It’s always great to have an adult to interact with their child,” Knable noted. “If the kids are using basic chemical reactions, make sure it doesn’t cause harm. Most of it is having fun with the child and adult,” she said. The science projects from Kohl Children’s Museum are among those created as part of a grant sponsorship with Astellas USA Foundation. Additional at-home projects are available on the website of the Kohl Children’s Museum.

Gooey Rainbow Slime
Credit: Education Staff at Kohl Children’s Museum

Learn how to make slime with this recipe using items found at home.

1 ½ cups of clear glue
1 ½ cups of liquid starch
A few small bowls
Food coloring

1. Mix all ingredients together EXCEPT food coloring, and then separate the slime into a few small bowls.
2. Add food coloring to each bowl. (Just a few drops of food coloring!)
3. The mixture may need to be mixed with your hands for a bit to get the desired texture, depending on the brand of glue you use.

Shake Then Take A Butter Break
Credit: Education Staff at Kohl Children’s Museum

Make butter at home with the whole family using this science project.

Small, clean watertight plastic container or glass jar with lid
Very cold whipping cream

1. This activity is best with more than one child to do the shaking, and can of course be great for family time!
2. Fill the container half full of the whipping cream. Put the lid on tightly. Pass the container around to the child or children, and ask each to shake the container eight to 10 times. Invite family members to pitch in until the shaking sound changes, sounding less like liquid, and the cream clearly becoming thicker and more of a solid.

3. Open the container and have your child/children describe what’s inside. Serve the butter with bread or a cracker. While you’re having this tasty snack, ask what could have been done to speed up the process of turning cream into butter. Model responses if needed, such as beginning with colder cream, shaking the container faster/slower, adding a marble, or using a glass jar instead of plastic. Choose two of these responses/hypotheses and provide the materials to test it at another time. Use a timer to determine which one is the faster approach.

Plant Part Parade Snack
Credit: Education Staff at Kohl Children’s Museum

Learn about parts of the plant while making a snack.

1. Choose a snack that is part of a plant:
The roots of a plant (carrots, radishes)
Stems of a plant (Celery, bamboo shoots)
Flowers of plant (broccoli, cauliflower)
Fruits of a plant (apples, dates, tomatoes)
Seeds of a plant (nuts, peas)
2. Eat and enjoy!

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Brett Nicholas
Manager of Community Initiatives
Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago
5700 S. Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL 60637
(773) 684-1414

According to Brett Nicholas, manager of community initiatives at Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago, the primary thing the community initiatives department does is “make the museum come alive outside the walls of the museum.” Nicholas explained the museum also partners with approximately 100 different organizations that offer some sort of after-school programming, and the museum helps the organizations include science as something to offer. When it comes to safety when performing a project, Nicholas shared some advice. “Work with materials you’re comfortable with, so if you find a science activity with chemicals, make sure you’re aware of the safety precautions. If you’re a kid and you’re dealing with something that’s hot or sharp or could break, like glass, make sure you’re working with a parent or older sibling that could help. If you work with something that could break, make sure you have safety glasses. If you’re working with something that’s messy, don’t have it break on something that you don’t want to get messy.” Additional science projects are available on the museum’s website.

Touchdown! Egg Drop Challenge
Credit: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

“It’s all about breaking eggs. If you were an astronaut returning to earth, how would you land safely?” Nicholas explained. “We recreated it with an egg drop challenge. You take an egg for your ‘eggstronaut’ and you need to build a container and a way to slow it down so you can drop it from a certain height and have that egg land without breaking. We offer suggestions for things that will work, like yogurt cups. It’s open-ended and you can make any kind of design,” he said. He also encouraged families to try different containers for this project. Additional resources for this experiment are available on the museum’s website.

One raw egg
One container (examples: cardboard tube, cup, box or plastic fruit basket)
Pen or pencil
External protection (examples: balloons, straws, craft sticks or rubber bands)
Internal padding (examples: paper, cotton balls, packing peanuts or fabric)

1. Collect your materials. You’ll need a container, some internal padding and external protection to safely land your craft.
2. Draw your design ideas on paper before you start to build. Be creative! Try using just one container, one type of internal padding and one type of external protection.
3. Build your landing device and put your egg inside. Test it out by dropping your device from up high. If the egg doesn’t crack, your design is a success! If the egg cracks, make changes to your design and retest it.
4. Once you’re successful, try dropping the egg from a higher height or increasing your payload to two eggs. Try landing your craft on different types of surfaces like grass, pavement, or water.

Float Your Boat
Credit: Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

In this project, find out how many items can be held on a boat made from aluminum. According to Nicholas, “The idea is to have a challenge and to think of engineering. How can you change your design to make it better?” He also advised identifying what works, and what you can do to improve your design.  Additional details on this science experiment can be found on the museum’s website.

One large plastic tub or container
Small items of uniform size (examples coins or blocks)
Aluminum foil sheets

1. Use one sheet of aluminum foil to build a boat that you think will hold the most coins before it sinks.
2. Make a prediction – how many coins do you think your boat will hold?
3. Test your boat in the tub of water, counting the coins as you add them.
4. Continue to place coins on your boat until the boat begins to sink.

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Megan Horst-Hatch is a runner, reader, baker, gardener, knitter, and other words that end in “-er.” She is also the president of Megan Writes, LLC. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.