Science for kids doesn’t need special equipment or a PhD. Easy, at-home science experiments can be done right in your own kitchen (or yard) and usually with ingredients you already have at home or can easily get. We’ve rounded up 24 classic concoctions, perfect for your curious crew. So get ready to make lightning, grow crystals and make slime. Plus, we’ve rated each experiment from one to five sponges so you know the messiness factor ahead of time. Scroll down to get cooking!

Make Elephant Toothpaste

A lesson in: chemistry and the exothermic process.

If you’ve ever wondered how elephants keep their tusks clean, we’ve got the answer. They use elephant toothpaste! Find out how to mix your own and figure out the science behind this dynamic exothermic (heat releasing) reaction from Asia Citro at Fun at Home With Kids. Our favorite part? That you get to throw in some sensory playtime after the action’s over.

Messiness Factor: three sponges

Crystal Egg Geodes

A lesson in: Molecular bonding and chemistry.

This grow-your-own experiment that lets you grow crystals inside an egg shell. Be sure to get alum powder that contains potassium, or else you won't get any crystal growth. Adding drops of food dye to the growing solution yields some super cool crystals. A perfectly formed geode takes about 12-15 hours to grow, making this a great weekend project. Check out more of Art and Soul's gorgeous eggs over at their blog!

Messiness Factor: Four sponges

Glowing, Smoking Bubbles

A lesson in: sublimation

When a substance passes directly from a solid phase to a gas phase without ever becoming a liquid, it sublimates. Add a little dry ice to bubble solution and the contents of an activated glow stick and get ready to rock the glow-in-the-dark scene in your neighborhood. Owlcation whipped up this awesome experiment to create glowing bubbles, and The Maker Mom thought to add dry ice to the same experiment here. The bubbles are out of this world—they glow and rise from the smoke. Naturally, we recommend an adult to handle the dry ice (skin contact can burn) and supervise this experiment.

Messiness factor: three sponges

Regrow Leftovers

A lesson in: photosynthesis and plant science

Insert a little plant science into the mix by re-growing food from scraps. Think onions, potatoes, and lettuces for this one (psst… green onions are a super easy, fast option). Get the low down on all that recycled goodness at Mrs. Happy Homemaker. Since plants need water and sunlight to grow, exposing scrap roots to that winning combo helps them recharge.

Messiness factor: two sponges

Salt Crystal Feathers

A lesson in: Evaporation. And also awesomeness.

You’ve probably tried a salt crystal growing kit at some point in your life (5th grade Science Fair perhaps?) but Schooling a Monkey takes the idea to a new level with these Salt Crystal Feathers. This awe-inspiring project is deceptively simple and inexpensive to achieve, and requires just a wee bit of patience to see the results—kids will love checking in on the progress. Visit Schooling a Monkey now to get started.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

 

Magnetic Cereal

A lesson in: Magnetism.

You’ve probably seen the label that says “fortified with iron” on your cereal box, but how much iron is actually in your cereal? Is there enough to cause a magnetic reaction? This super easy experiment doesn’t require too many fancy ingredients (cereal magnet) which means you and the kiddos can try it right away. The results may surprise you! Get the how-to at Rookie Parenting and get started!

Messiness Factor: Two sponges

 

Homemade Slime

A lesson in: Polymers.

Is it a liquid or solid? The answer is both! This DIY slime—made from glue, borax and water—is also known as a polymer (molecules that can stick close together to be a solid or spread apart and take liquid form). And it’s all thanks to borax, which acts as a binder to prevent the glue from going completely liquid. Check out Explorable’s recipe on mixing the ingredients. Prolong the life of your goo by keeping it in an airtight container in the fridge.

Messiness Factor: Three sponges

Turning Pennies Green

A lesson in: Chemical reactions.

It happens to the Statue of Liberty and it happens to the change in your pocket! Create your own home lab with just a few household ingredients (this experiment will literally cost you just pennies). It’s also a chemical reaction with very non-toxic ingredients, so it’s safe and fascinating even for young kids. Click over to Buggy and Buddy to get the simple how-to.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Film Canister Rocket

A lesson in: Rocket science.

Like the popular baking soda and vinegar experiments, this film canister rocket literally takes it to the next level by using that creation of gas and energy to jet off into the sky. If your explorer has seen videos of mountain tops getting blown off during a volcanic eruption, this science project is pretty much any space lover’s version. Get the building instructions over at kids science activity blog The Science Kiddo.

Messiness Factor: Three sponges

Potato Power

A lesson in: Chemical to electrical energy.

When these nails and copper wires collide, heat is generated (psst ... heat is a result of expended energy, so you can explain to your little runner why he feels warmer after a race around the house). But with some potato magic, the properties of the nail and copper stay separated, allowing the heat to become the electric energy needed to power up your devices. Build your own potato battery with this tutorial from PBS Kids.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Disappearing Egg Shell

A lesson in: Chemistry.

Can you and the kiddos solve the mysterious case of the disappearing egg shell? Following the simple how-to at Go Science Girls, you’ll learn the step-by-step and talking points about the process along the way. Warning! Although it’s totally non-toxic, toddler aged kids will be tempted to squeeze the egg at the end so make sure it’s a supervised experiment. Visit Go Science Girls to get cracking!

Messiness Factor: One sponge 

Baking Soda and Vinegar Volcano

A lesson in: Basic chemistry.

When it comes to reactions, this project has us watching our tot's face for the big, explosive reveal. The fizzy overflow is a result of combining baking soda and vinegar (and red food coloring for the cool lava effect), which makes carbon dioxide turn into gas. It’s a real volcano on a small scale. Click here for complete instructions. 

Messiness Factor: Four sponges

Fishing for Ice

A lesson in: Freezing temperature.

Children living in snow-covered cities might witness their neighbors salting the driveway. Well, while that is definitely not for fun, this experiment is. Salt lowers the freezing point of ice so it melts, but it won’t be able to freeze unless it’s cold enough. See how activity blog The Science Kiddo made a clever game with this knowledge here.

Messiness Factor: Two sponges

 

Cloud Jars

A lesson in: How clouds hold water.

Let your imagineers pretend shaving cream is a cloud that holds colorful rain drops. As they squeeze more and more food coloring, their “cloud” will soon release the excess below -- just like how real clouds get too heavy and let the rain loose on a gloomy day. Learn how to re-create this weather experiment here.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

photo: Mike Adamick for Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments

Dyed Plants

A lesson in: Capillary action.

Find out how plants “drink” water with some food coloring. Use carnations, roses, or stalks of celery submerged in the colored water and watch the liquid slowly seep through the plant’s “veins” and towards the leaves. Keep an eye out -- you could have a very colorful bouquet just after the first day. Get the rundown by Dad’s Book of Awesome Science Experiments over here.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Elephant Toothpaste

A lesson in: Chemistry.

The magic of this experiment is in the yeast, which breaks hydrogen peroxide down into water and a lot of oxygen. All that air then gets trapped by the soap water and then explodes forth in the form of a foamy volcano. Ask your scientist to touch the bottle; it will be warm because energy is being released. You’ll want to set down a cookie sheet or mat to catch the mess. Make this project with Carla’s easy instructions. 

Messiness Factor: Five sponges

Dancing Oobleck

A lesson in: Sound waves.

The word “oobleck” comes from a Dr. Seuss story where a young boy must rescue his kingdom from a sticky substance. But the neat part of this experiment is how oobleck reacts to vibrations. Put the oobleck over a subwoofer (on top a cookie sheet!) and watch it dance to difference frequencies. Your dancer will see how sound isn’t just about volume! Check out more of this awesome experiment from Tammy of Housing a Forest.

Messiness Factor: Five sponges

Homemade Lightning

A lesson in: Static electricity. (Or weather science.)

Lightning is essentially electrons moving uber fast between the sky and the earth—and with a few simple materials, you can use homemade static electricity (the reason behind your hair sticking up when you rub a balloon or go through a tunnel slide super fast) for DIY lightning. Figure how to recreate a family-friendly version of this spark by visiting activity blog Learn Play Imagine.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Dry Ice Bubbles

A lesson in: Gas.

Dry ice is already cool enough on its own (yes, pun intended) but it takes science to turn them a rad overflow of bubbles. When you add water, it changes the temperature of the dry ice, causing the ice to go from solid to gas. That’s where the fog and bubbles come from! Head to crafty blog Simply Modern Mom to get the full tutorial. But be careful: Dry ice can cause serious skin burns, so make sure your kids are well supervised and know not to touch the ice.

Messiness Factor: Three sponges

photo: From Candy Experiments 2 by Loralee Leavitt/Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC.

Invisible Licorice

A lesson in: Light and Perspective.

Did the candy melt or disappear? Your sweetums might think it’s magic, but it’s really all about how oil redirects light, causing half the candy to disappear! Click here for the instructions on how to recreate this mind-warping experiment.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Egg in a Bottle

A lesson in: Air Pressure.

Your whistler has the basics of air pressure down just by using their mouth to blow. And now you can amaze them with this egg-cellent experiment. There is a little fire play involved (dropping a lit paper into the bottle), but that’s what causes the unbalanced air pressure, which pushes the egg into the bottle. Want to test it out? Head over to The Scientific Mom and get the step by step.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Invisible Ink

A lesson in: Oxidation.

If your snacker has noticed how their apples have turned brown after being left out for too long, then they’ve seen oxidization in action (loss of electrons and nutrients when in contact with oxygen). Fortunately, lemon juice only oxidizes when in contact with heat. This method works with baking soda and milk too. Click here to find out how to write secret messages with your little spy.

Messiness Factor: One sponge

Kid-Safe Lava Lamps

A lesson in: Density and Intermolecular Polarity.

These sound like big words for our little ones, but there’s an easier way to break it down. Water and oil won’t mix because they’re not the same “weight” or substance (just like clay and LEGOs won’t become one). Now add a drop of food coloring (which is heavier than oil) and a fizzy tablet and watch the air bubbles take coloring with them to the top. Head on over to S. L. Smith’s blog to see how it’s done.

Messiness Factor: Two sponges

Rock Candy

A Lesson In: Crystallization.

Be careful: The water only has the power to make the sugar crystals “invisible” when it’s piping hot. After the water cools down and evaporates, the sugar turns back into a solid. And with a little help of your sugar-soaked string, the crystals will find a home to grow upon and become rock candy. Learn how to make your smart sweets with these instructions from the Exploratorium. 

Messiness Factor: Two sponges

Want more at-home science experiments? We’ve got glow-in-the-dark science and gross-but-cool science perfect for your home lab! Tell us about your home science fun in the comments below. 

— Christal Yuen & Amber Guetebier

 

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