Mrs Walker explains how to set up a science lab in your kitchen for some fun experiments!

Have you considered setting up a science lab in your kitchen? Headmistress Jill Walker explains how to go about it in a child-friendly way and suggests some fun experiments.

I appreciate that not many parents looking lovingly at their kitchens and think ‘what a great lab this would make for the kids’. Yet most kitchens, with a bit of imagination, are excellent – and safe – environments for children to learn basic science. One of the most important lessons when it comes to science is for children to discover things for themselves.

Having the equipment
You don’t need Bunsen burners, or pipettes, or a flask of dimethylbenzene in your larder to conduct experiments. All you need are scales, plastic jugs and the ability to heat and cool.

Keeping things at a child’s level
It’s important to keep items at a child’s level so that they can reach everything without having to ask. You don’t want to leave them to their own devices – that’s simply not safe, particularly if the oven or cutting equipment is being used. But allowing children to choose which size bowl is best after you have left three sizes out for them is a great way to ensure that they are truly thinking about the task ahead.

Allowing the mess
If a child is too concerned about making a mess, they won’t have their mind on what they are meant to be doing. As it would be in a real science lab, the environment has to be safe, hair should be tied up and hot or sharp items need to be handled with care, or by the supervising adult. But the idea behind experimenting is that the child can delve in without worrying. Children should ‘help clean up afterwards, but that’s not what they need to focus on to begin with. Let them enjoy the moment, and desk with the mess afterwards.

Being prepared…but not being overly prescriptive
In order to get the most out of a home-based science experiment, it’s important to do some research first. Have the equipment and ingredients ready and a clear idea id the desired outcome. However, this is the child’s lesson, and they are meant to be learning by discovery. So if the experiment starts to go off tangent if they pick the ‘wrong’ piece of equipment, or they decide to add an extra ingredient, don’t worry. Let them work it outs for themselves. If and when you need to, you can steer them gently back to the original questions. The essential thing is to let them find things out for themselves.

 

Three simple science experiments you can set your child 

  • Make a red cabbage pH indicator to test acid/alkaline chemistry

Boil a head of red cabbage before straining the liquid into a jar. Once cooled the dark purple liquid can be mixed with everyday products to see which are ‘acid’, ‘alkaline’ or ‘neutral’. Try lemon juice, coca cola, bicarbonate of soda, vinegar, toothpaste, soap and water.

 

  • Test the hypothesis that buttered toast falls face down

Start by encouraging your child to find out what happens when you drop buttered and non-buttered toast. Does the height make a difference? The size? If you put anything else on the toast? Encourage your child to change one factor at a time to make their ‘data’ reliable and sound.

 

  • Investigate which tea bags make the strongest cup of tea the fastest

Draw a black cross on three pieces of paper and set a glass or heatproof transparent cup on top of each sheet. Using three different tea bags, pour hot water into each cup ad observe how long it takes for the water to turn brown and the cross to disappear?

 

This article was first published for angelsandurchins.co.uk.

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