Children love to learn, it is human instinct to crave new information, and we as adults have a duty to teach them. Learning does not have to be a boring experience, in fact we can make it quite an enjoyable encounter.
Chemistry is great in the way that it can be taught in an stimulating and exciting manner. We can get our hands dirty, thrill with spontaneous reactions or amaze with awe inspiring experiments.
The wonderful thing is that while we are having fun and bonding with our kids, they are learning at the same time.
Spending some money on a chemistry sets could be a great way to open the minds of our children, but it is not necessary. Many tests can be done using household materials.
It is important to put safety first, so remember always to supervise your children, and use personal protective equipment when required.
Crystals on a String
Baking soda – 3 tsp, possibly more.
Water – 1/2 cup
Electric hot plate
String – 10 cm (5-6 in)
Small weight for string (e.g. fishing weight)
A clear glass or vial.
Put 1/2 cup water in pan.
Dissolve in as much baking soda as possible, stirring in 1 teaspoon at a time.
Heat the solution (do not boil).
Remove from heat source, stir, and add more baking soda until no more will dissolve and solution is saturated.
Pour into a clear glass.
Tie the weight onto the end of the string and hang into solution.
After several days crystals will begin growing on the string as the water evaporates.
Mix equal parts water and baking soda.
Use a cotton swab, toothpick, or paintbrush to write a message onto white paper, using the baking soda solution as ‘ink’.
Allow the ink to dry.
One way to read the message is to hold the paper up to a heat source, such as a light bulb. The baking soda will cause the writing in the paper to turn brown.
A second method to read the message is to paint over the paper with purple grape juice. The message will appear in a different colour.
Make a density column
Make a density column with many liquid layers using common household liquids. This is an easy, fun and colourful science project that illustrates the concept of density and miscibility.
You can use some or all of these liquids, depending on how many layers you want and which materials you have handy. These liquids are listed from most-dense to least-dense, so this is the order in which you pour them into the column.
Corn syrup or pancake syrup
Liquid dish washing soap
Water (can be coloured with food colouring)
Rubbing alcohol (can be coloured with food colouring)
Make the Density Column
Pour your heaviest liquid into the centre of whatever container you are using to make your column. If you can avoid it, don’t let the first liquid run down the side of the container because the first liquid is thick enough it will probably stick to the side so your column will not end up looking quite as good.
Carefully pour the next liquid you are using down the side of the container. Continue adding liquids until you have completed your density column. At this point, you can use the column as a decoration. Try to avoid bumping the container or mixing its contents.
The hardest liquids to deal with are the water, vegetable oil, and rubbing alcohol. Make sure that there is an even layer of oil before you add the alcohol because if there is a break in that surface or if you pour the alcohol so that it dips below the oil layer into the water then the two liquids will mix. If you take your time, this problem can be avoided.
How the Density Column Works
You made your column by pouring the heaviest liquid into the glass first, followed by the next-heaviest liquid, etc. The heaviest liquid has the most mass per unit volume or the highest density. Some of the liquids don’t mix because they repel each other (oil and water). Other liquids resist mixing because they are thick or viscous. Eventually some of the liquids of your column will mix together.
There are many other simple experiments out there and as I have said buying a simple chemistry set can open up a whole new experience.
The most important thing to remember is to have fun!