Does the cold winter weather have you bundled up inside your house for yet another day? Try doing great winter kid weather experiments to keep the cold weather out and the fun in.
As always, when doing experiments at home with your children, try to let them do as much as possible. You should not be the demonstrator, but instead the facilitator. Also, be sure to have your children make hypotheses, or guesses, as to what they think will happen in the experiment. In addition, they should observe and then conclude as to whether or not their hypotheses were correct. The following experiments are especially worthwhile this time of year, as the ideas can be connected to what your children see going on in the world around them during the winter. That is when true learning takes place; when your children are able to build upon and apply their knowledge.
When Does Water Float?
This first experiment deals with the density of water in both its liquid and solid state. You may want to give your child a little bit of background on density: essentially that density is how tightly together molecules are packed, and that a denser object will sink.
Materials needed are:
Hypothesize - What will happen when this water and oil are poured into the same container?
Add a few drops of food coloring to the water.
Pour the water into the clear plastic container.
Pour in the oil.
Observe and conclude - What happened? Was the hypothesis correct?
Now to add the wintry mix…
Place the container in the freezer. What do you think will happen?
After a couple of hours remove the container and observe.
With your children, discuss what happened. What does this mean about the density of water? Unlike most liquids, as water freezes it actually expands and becomes less dense than oil. This causes the water/ice to rise to the top. Now try to connect this learning to what it means about the world around us. Think about what happens to a pond in the winter. What would happen to the pond if water performed like most liquids and sank when it changed to a solid? You can assess if your children understand what this means by simply having them hypothesize what will happen if they drop an ice cube in a glass of water. Then let them try it.
Another fun science and art activity that you can try involves modeling how salt lowers the freezing point of water. Just why do those trucks drive around in the winter throwing salt all over the icy roads? The addition of salt to the ice creates a solution that can actually lower the freezing point of water from 32°F to 15°F or even more. To demonstrate this try the following ice art project.
Materials needed are:
Fill each spray bottle with 3 parts water to 1 part salt. Add a few drops of different colored food coloring to each bottle. Remove frozen balloons (one for each child) from the freezer and carefully cut and peel away the balloon to reveal the ice.
Explain that salt lowers the freezing point of water. This means the ice will melt more easily. Make sure to connect this to the salt trucks or the people who put salt on their sidewalks. The outside temperature has to be lower for the salt water to freeze. Have your children hypothesize what will happen when the water is sprayed onto the ball.
Place the ice ball on a baking sheet and, if it has not begun to melt and get a slight film of water around it, pour some warm water over top.
Set bottle nozzles to stream and let your child squirt "paint" to create holes and designs. The conclusion will be that yes, the salt lowered the freezing point, thus melting the ice, and yes, winter days at home can be fun.
Just about everyone remembers the old "Mr. Potatohead" set where you used a real potato and then dressed it up like a person, with accessories included in the kit. Kids had so much fun with the set that millions were sold.