5 Science Experiments for When You’re Stuck at Home

As I write this, it’s been a week since Daniel tested positive for Covid. Five days since I did, and four days since Joss started showing symptoms. Which means, other than a brief run to Walgreens and one, pre-symptom evening at a park, we’ve been stuck at home! For seven days! Thankfully, my symptoms have not been bad – two days of a sore throat, one day of needing a three-hour nap. Some light stuffiness. Joss came off slightly worse, but still not bad overall. He had one feverish day/night, and one morning of an upset stomach. Daniel was down for the count for the first several days of his sickness, holing up in Joss’s bedroom while I brought up trays of food. Once we all had it, though, things were a bit easier in that regard.

Our brief, glorious outing before the plague descended. Maple Park has this incredible climbing tree.

Anyway, we’re all on the upswing. Which also means that Joss is more aware that he hasn’t left the house in a week. Knock on wood, we’ll all be testing negative in the next couple days and be able to leave the house (masked) this weekend. In the meantime, how do you keep an energetic kid occupied at home? Science is a good place to start! Here are some new-to-us experiments we’ve tried over the past week.

1. Exploding Plastic Bags

I did three separate baking soda-and-vinegar experiments, purely in an attempt to satisfy the Instagram Algorithm and create a timeless Reel. We’ll see how it does. One, of course, was the baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano. But the other two were new to me.

For this one, fill a ziploc sandwich bag with 2/3 c. of vinegar. Seal it 3/4 of the way closed.

Next, wrap 1 Tbsp of baking soda in a small sachet of toilet paper. (The wrapping helps slow the reaction down.) Pop the sachet into the ziploc bag, and quickly seal it closed. Place the bag on the ground, and watch what happens! There should be a satisfying “Pop!”

Watch the original Reel (with music!) on TulsaKids’ Instagram account at instagram.com/p/CfJ8z4aDODn.

Don’t Try This at Home

I also tried the a baking soda-and-vinegar rockets experiment before this one. You tape three straws to the top end of a plastic bottle, so that when you turn the bottle upside-down, it will rest upright on the three prongs. Fill the bottle with 1.5-2″ of vinegar. Add 1 tsp. of baking soda, pop a cork into the end of the bottle (quickly!), place the bottle on the ground and wait for the reaction!

At least that’s what’s supposed to happen. What actually happened is that our cork didn’t fit well, so I tried using the plastic bottle cap instead. It worked SPECTACULARLY one time, but other than that, it was nearly impossible to get the cap screwed on just the right amount (not too tight, not too loose), faster than the fizzing vinegar could leak out. I tried SO. MANY. TIMES. to replicate the one time I got it to work. Good thing vinegar and baking soda are cheap!

The final straw was when I screwed the lid on too tight, so I picked up the expanding bottle and tried to take the lid off, causing an explosion to happen in my hands! I’m SO glad I didn’t cut my face somehow. I did cut my hand. So – I don’t recommend that you experiment at all! But I also don’t recommend being so foolish as to try to take the lid off of a reacting bottle. Hindsight.

2. Baking Soda Paint

Don’t expect to paint a masterpiece using baking soda paints, but this is still fun. Mix equal parts baking soda and water in plastic cups. Add food coloring. You may need to adjust ratios to achieve a paint-like consistency. Once you’ve got a canvas and your paints lined up, get painting!

When you’re done painting, pour vinegar over the canvas and watch the reaction.

I was happy to note that after leaving the canvas out in the sun a couple days, the color was very faint. I rinsed it off and the canvas looks basically good as new, so I can use it for actual painting. Yay!

SafetyNote: For both the baking soda-and-vinegar activities, you may want to have your kid wear safety goggles. Not only will that help them get into the scientific spirit, they can help make sure the child doesn’t get vinegar splashed in their eye, which can burn. In either case, make sure they know to handle the vinegar carefully – not to shake or splash it in any way that could get it in their eye, and try to avoid touching it with bare skin, too.

3. Dancing Dry Erase Figures

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This one was very trial-and-error for us! Which is perfect, if you’re trying to keep kids occupied and learn a little about the scientific process. The ideas is that you use a dry erase marker to draw a simple stick figure on the bottom of a glass or ceramic container. For example, a ceramic tray, pie plate, pyrex container, disposable plastic plate, etc. Then, pour water very slowly around the figure. When the water hits the figure, it should start to lift it off the bottom of the surface, making it float on top of the water. You can tip the container around to make it move!

Some things to try:

  • Differentsurfaces. Is it better to have a perfectly smooth surface, or slightly bumpy?
  • Different water temperatures. Does hot or cold water work better?
  • Different marker widths. (We used fairly large markers. The juicier marker definitely seemed to work the best.)
  • Different drying times. Let your figure dry a little before pouring the water on. This definitely seemed to help. How much time works the best?
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It was SOOOO satisfying when I finally got mine to work!!

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Hehe, so dramatic.

4. Shaving Cream Rain Cloud

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We started off with blue food coloring, and then had to try a couple other colors.

This experiment demonstrates how rain happens! Fill a mason jar nearly to the top with water. Add shaving cream on top, making a “cloud.” Squirt drops of blue food coloring onto the shaving cream. When it gets heavy enough, the food coloring will “rain” down into the water, creating a pretty effect! Just like clouds produce rain when they get too heavy with water.

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Shaving cream and food coloring – definitely a winning combo!

5. Refracted Water Magic

This one couldn’t be easier, and if your kids like to draw, this could be another winner. Minimum effort plus lots of fun time. Simply draw an image on a piece of paper. Make sure there’s something very “directional” about it. For example, draw an arrow pointing right. Or draw a figure with the eyes looking to the side.

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Next, stand a clear, smooth-sided glass of water in front of it. Look at the image through the glass. The image is reversed!

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Need More?

Check out these blogs of times past for more science experiment ideas:


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