Chemistry happens all around us every day, and can be used to explain many questions about the world that kids ask. Chemistry is a great subject to expose kids to because of the dramatic demonstrations and experiments that can be performed. Many experiments are safe enough for kids to be involved with, and kids learn far more from hands-on activities than simply listening to descriptions.
Getting Kids Interested in Chemistry
Before jumping into experiments, talking to kids about basic chemical processes can help get their minds moving about the kinds of questions that can be answered by chemistry. Chemistry can be woven into nearly any everyday conversation, and by talking about chemistry topics regularly, kids will become familiar with the concepts and accepting of further discussions. Some topics can include:
Fire: By discussing how fire consumes fuel, kids can start to learn about combustion, how fires are fueled by oxygen, the properties of different fuels, and the by-products of combustion.
Basic Elements: By discussing elements, kids can begin to identify some of the free elements around them, like copper, aluminum, and gold, and how compounds are made up of two or more elements “stuck” together.
Electricity: Electricity is also an interesting topic for kids, because they use it every day. Kids can learn about how the batteries in their toys provide power.
In addition to discussing chemistry topics with kids, provide them with resources to increase their interest, such as books and television shows about science topics, and introduce them to the periodic table.
Finding Experiments for Kids
Experiments should be selected based on the age of the kids, their attention span, their ability to follow instructions, and their fine motor skills. All kids should work on experiments under adult supervision, but the “danger” level can be increased for older kids that can follow safe procedures.
There are many books and kits available with pre-scripted experiments that can be easily performed at home. Also, many websites exist to provide suggestions for experiments. Look for teacher resources as well, particularly those geared towards the age group of the children involved. When re-creating experiments at home, always be sure to follow the provided instructions and safety procedures. Even the safest experiments can run some risks, including cuts, burns, or flying debris. Discuss why safety precautions are important, rather than just enforcing them.
During the experiment, talk about what is going on at each step of the process. Show how the experiment relates to real-world phenomena as well as basic chemical principles. After the experiment, talk about how things worked, and if they worked as expected.