The sciences and mathematics often get a bad rap because they’re perceived as impossibly difficult subjects that are only conquered by the most brilliant of minds.

However, the truth is that chemistry, along with all the other sciences, is not as hard as students might believe. Actually, chemistry is a very fascinating and hands-on subject and no more complicated than geography or history.

If you want to steer your kids away from this negative view of chemistry then get them excited about science already when they’re in preschool. Tap into their natural uninhibited curiosity at a tender age then you'll have the opportunity to set them on a positive learning path.

By exposing younger kids to basic chemistry and fun science facts, you’re helping them to become comfortable and confident with subject matter that can sometimes intimidate older kids that aren’t familiar with anything to do with chemistry or science.

group of smiling primary school children
We all want our kids to feel confident and happy as they tackle their school work, and we can make this happen by investing in their knowledge at home - Unsplash

You want your kids to feel comfortable the first time they walk into a science class and tackle their first science experiment. In this article we’ll be looking at how chemistry can be turned into a fun learning experience for children. By focusing on science activities like home experiments to capture kids’ attention you can inject a positive attitude and confidence into even the most hesitant learner.

Staying Safe

Rather safe than sorry, as they say, and this is particularly true when it comes to experimenting with chemical-reaction. It’s so important to set some ground rules with your kids about the dos and don’ts of science experiments.

One can assume that experimentation done in the science lab at school are pretty safe and that all the hands on science that teachers try with kids have been tried and tested. But it’s imperative that this kind of precaution is carried over into little experiments that kids might like to try at home.

yellow danger sign with skull and crossbones
Chemistry is fun and exciting but it's important to remind children that certain chemicals can be dangerous - Unsplash

Here Are Some Pointers for Ensuring Safety While Doing Simple Experiments at Home:

  • Consider the age of your kids. Think about how much supervision younger children may need with tasks such as measurement or heating.
  • What materials are being used for the purpose of the experiment? Remembe that even some household items can be hazardous if they fall into the wrong hands and are used incorrectly. Be aware that chemical reactions can end up exploding!
  • Make sure there is enough space to safely carry out even a quick experiment. And always check that there’s enough ventilation to prevent toxic exposure to fumes.
  • Experiments for kids can just get messy. So if you want to try something like popping a Mentos in some Diet Coke then opt for the great outdoors. This way you can ensure a safe distance from any kind of fizzy explosion and save yourself hours of cleaning up!

Is It Really Worth Getting a Chemistry Set?

If you want to turn your kids into a captive audience then take a tip from Steve Spangler and do a demonstration.

A good science teacher will tell you that the most successful science lessons are the ones that involve fun activities such as science games and experiments where the kids can get a first hand understanding of the chemistry they’re learning.

Here Are Some of the Many Reasons Why a Chemistry Set Can Be So Much Fun to Work With:

  • If kids are allowed to experiment with their chemistry sets it helps them to comprehend the idea of chemical reactions and processes.
  • Being able to do cool science experiments is a great way to show kids that science is anything but boring.
  • Chemistry sets really come in handy if your youngster is keen to take part in a science fair. They will have all the basic equipment needed to carry out experiments to explore different ideas they could use for their science fair project.

Easy Experiments for Kids

You could do a chemistry experiment pretty much anywhere, as long as you have all the right equipment and the correct safety protocols are in place. But generally, children will probably only end up experiencing scientific experiments at home or in their school’s science lab.

Usually school going kids should have the opportunity to witness chemistry experiments at school from a fairly young age. However, because many schools in South Africa have limited resources, this isn't often the case. It’s a great shame that for so many kids, science experiments are merely diagrams in a text book.

young boy reading a book
Unfortunately due to the nature of the school system science tends to be focused on bookwork, but parents can step in to change that - Unsplash

For this reason, it is incredibly enriching if you as a parent can spend time with your little ones even before they attend school and experiment and have fun with science in the safety of your own home.

Fortunately, the internet provides an alternative to real-life experiments and there is an endless array of amazing science experiments that children can view on YouTube as a way of bringing the science topics they learn at school to life.

We’ll now explore some home science you can do with your kids to help them with their chemistry. And if you’re still working on putting together a chemistry set then you can watch some cool science videos with your kids instead. s

Erupting Volcano/Mentos Volcano

An enduring favourite is still the volcanic eruption project that delights children because of the fizzy lava bubbles that ooze out of it as a result of food coloring, vinegar and baking soda. Not only is this a quick and simple science experiment to do with kids, but it also teaches them about the workings of a volcano.

You could do another version of this by simply popping half a pack of Mentos into a bottle of soda (usually Coke). Stand back and enjoy the fizz!

But it’s helpful to note how this experiment differs to the good old fashioned baking soda and vinegar trick:

  • The Coke and Mentos mix tends to blow up more than ooze – so be aware!
  • It would be advisable to do this quick experiment outdoors. If you attempt it inside just be prepared for a big clean up because this chemical reaction is equal parts messy and fun.

Making Rock Candy

Can you think of anything better than using sugar to entice kids? If children are learning about crystals then this is a brilliant way of demonstrating rock formation and the structures that materialise from crystallising minerals. And making rock candy is another inexpensive experiment that can be performed with simple household items.

However, unlike the immediate messy burst of the volcano experiment, this one unfolds over time. So, be sure to prepare your eager little scientists beforehand and explain that they will only see the results within a couple of days.

Of course these experiments are only a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands of other cool experiments that appeal to kids.

sugar crystal lollies in two colours
Try making sugar crystals with your kids, it's always a winner! - Unsplash

Here are some more ideas that you could explore:

  • Make your own slime
  • Make your own invisible ink
  • Discover static electricity with balloons
  • Investigate magnetism

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. If you start digging around online you’ll discover all kinds of fantastic science projects and experiments that will appeal to your child’s specific interests.

There are actually many experiments that don’t necessarily require the use of a conventional chemistry set.

Sometimes it’s just simple day-to-day activities such as baking that can teach kids the amazing science behind chemical reactions and the effect of heat on various substances. Doing fun yet practical activities in the kitchen with your child will be a multisensory lesson that they won’t easily forget – especially if there’s a tasty treat they can enjoy in the end!

Sometimes It Pays to Get a Helping Hand

There are instances where it’s just easier to ask someone more experienced for advice. As your children become more advanced with their experimentation you may begin to feel out of your depth. In these instances it’s completely acceptable to approach a chemistry educator and get some tips on how to move forward.

It’s one thing to do baking soda and vinegar experiments or to make a batch of slime but when learners become more advanced in chemistry they’re going to want to try out experiments with more complicated ingredients.

So if you have a school-going youngster then you could also ask their science teacher if it would be possible for them to do a particular science experiment in the science lab at school and incorporate it into their lesson plan. That way your child will have the opportunity to witness first-hand how the experiment works before attempting it on their own at home. Alternatively, you could simply try to find a YouTube video depicting the specific experiment in question and then take it from there.

Of course, if you are eager for your child to excel in chemistry (and they are keen too) then at some point it’s definitely worth employing the help of a more trained professional – especially if you have no formal training in chemistry. Science tutors can step in when you feel that your knowledge and resources are running dry.

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Born from a family of creatives, Kyla has a passion for the arts and interior design.