15 Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids

These boys are about to demonstrate osmosis with gummy bears.
These boys are about to demonstrate osmosis with gummy bears.
G&J Fey/iStock via Getty Images

Parents and teachers across the internet have found fun ways to teach kids science, and have documented the experiments for the rest of us. Here are 15 hands-on science lessons that will stick in a kid’s brain far longer than anything they get from a textbook.

1. Make a lemon-scented volcano

Fun Quotient: It's like the classic baking soda and vinegar volcano experiment, but it smells a lot nicer.

Teaches: The baking soda base and the citric acid create an endothermic reaction while releasing carbon dioxide in bubble form. You have to look up endothermic reaction on your own.

Find it: Fun Littles

2. Set money on fire

Fun Quotient: Wait, what? You’re burning money? Why?!

Teaches: Combustion, the process behind fire. Rubbing alcohol is flammable, but the wet, cottony dollar isn't. The fire will go out once the alcohol has been consumed.

Find it: Barefoot in Suburbia

3. Create rock candy skewers

Fun Quotient: It makes pretty rocks you can eat.

Teaches: Water evaporates, but the sugar crystals don’t. The sugar precipitates meaning it separates from the supersaturated sugar water. Seed crystals form on your stick, attracting more sugar crystals, until finally, about a week later, you got yourself some tasty science.

Find it: Science Bob

4. Build an electromagnet

Fun Quotient: Kids get to use sharp things and electricity, which is Frankenstein-level cool.

Teaches: Electromagnets are everywhere. They make motors spin, CDs play, and most modern cars run. This experiment shows the difference between a permanent magnet (the ones on your fridge) and the kind that can be turned on and off at will. When turned on, the electricity forces the molecules in the nail to attract metal, even though the nail itself isn’t magnetic.

Find it: Science Bob

5. Write a message with invisible ink

Fun Quotient: Kids can pretend they're spies sending highly classified information (not recommended in real life).

Teaches: Oxidation, a.k.a. the process that creates rust. Lemon juice is acidic enough to resist oxidation in open air, but a little heat “rusts” it right up.

Find it: Scientific American

6. Walk on eggs

Fun Quotient: Like walking on hot coals, but not as painful.

Teaches: Structure matters. No matter how flimsy an egg shell is, its shape gives it amazing strength, as long as you put the weight in the right place.

Find it: Steve Spangler Science

7. Make a tea bag rocket

Fun Quotient: Every child enjoys watching things burst into flame and fly around the kitchen.

Teaches: Hot air rises and cooler air sinks. But it also demonstrates convection current, which is the force that makes it shoot into the air.

Find it: Physics Central

8. Discover how cornstarch and water can dance

Fun Quotient: Oobleck is a mix of cornstarch and water that can act like a liquid and a solid. By itself it’s fun, but add a sub-woofer and the glop will shimmy in its container.

Teaches: Sound waves. You can’t see them, but they exist, and they like to party.

Find it: Housing a Forest

9. Create an Ivory Soap monster

Fun Quotient: You get to nuke a bar of soap until it becomes a frothy cloud of 99 percent pure mess.

Teaches: When the gas molecules trapped in the soft pliable soap get hot, they need more space. They make a break for it and take the soap with them. As the temperature of the gas increases, so does its volume.

Find it: ThoughtCo

10. Launch marshmallows across the room

Fun Quotient: Weaponized marshmallows, hello!

Teaches: Force equals mass times acceleration. A little thing going very fast will hit you just as hard as a big thing going slow. That’s Newton’s second law.

Find it: Adventure Science Center

11. Poke a "magic" plastic bag

Fun Quotient: You'll find out it's possible to poke a pencil through a plastic bag of water without spilling it.

Teaches: How polymers work. Also, on a different level, why you’re not supposed to take the arrow out of a person after they get impaled in movies.

Find it: Tinkerlab

12. Make gummy bears change shape

Fun Quotient: Deform gummy bears by dunking them in a variety of potions.

Teaches: Osmosis, and which kinds of liquids do it best.

Find it: Sciencing

13. Design an optical illusion

Fun Quotient: Animate a cartoon the old-fashioned way.

Teaches: Your eyes aren’t entirely reliable. Optical illusions occur because our brains fill in the gaps for whatever our eye isn’t processing, so two pictures become one.

Find it: Science Sparks

14. Set up a chain reaction

Fun Quotient: It’s tough to get started, but the payoff is clatter and splatter.

Teaches: A demonstration of potential energy, kinetic energy, and chain reactions.

Find it: The Kid Should See This

15. Make Molecules Move

Fun Quotient: Slow and steady wins here; kids with an artistic streak will love creating designs as the colors move through liquids.

Teaches: Why oil and water don't mix. Kids will witness how molecules of water, fats, and proteins come together and move apart in different substances.

Find it: American Chemical Society

Wednesday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Computer Monitors, Plant-Based Protein Powder, and Blu-ray Sets

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As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 2. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

Never Got a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine as a Kid? You Can Still Buy One This Holiday Season

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Even as toys have gotten more complex in recent decades, one low-tech item has held a perennial spot on holiday wishlists. The Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine was a hit when it debuted in 1979, and kids and nostalgic adults can still get their hands on one this December.

People who grew up in the 1980s may remember commercials promoting the “yum-yum fun” plastic appliance. Like the Easy Bake Oven and the Frosty Sno-Man Sno-Cone Machine before it, the Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine allowed kids to make edible treats at home. The Peanuts branding made the toy popular with kids, and despite the elbow grease required to crank a couple of ice cubes into shaved ice, it's stuck around.

If you asked for a Snoopy Sno-Cone Machine for the holidays as a kid and never received one, you can still make your childhood dreams come true. The retro product is available practically unchanged from how it appeared in the 1980s. The biggest changes are that the hand crank is now easier to turn and there's a clamp for stabilizing the machine while you use it. Get one for yourself or a loved one from Amazon today for $30.

Looking for more nostalgic gift ideas? Here are some items the Millennials in your life will love.