3 DIY Science Activities for a Rainy Day

Are your children feeling bored at home – but you can’t think of anywhere interesting for them to go? As the school holidays come to a close, you might even find that the usual kid-friendly places over the weekend have been fully booked for last-minute plans!

Instead of fretting while you search up interesting places that’ll entertain your child, why not explore another way of creating interesting events and activities at home for them?

For starters, there are hundreds of DIY science experiments that you can do at home, using regular items found around your home and in your kitchen. The best part is that there are numerous blog posts and videos documenting the experiments. After all, the fun part about science is experimenting to see if you can get the desired results!

Without further ado, here are three activities you can do with your children to teach them science at home:

1. Will it float?

Materials needed: A variety of fruits (from grapes to bananas and watermelons), and a large glass bowl or fish tank

Learning objectives: Density and buoyancy

This activity works best with a large fish tank, so that you can place multiple fruits in the water at the same time. However, a very large (preferably see-through) bowl works just as well.

Fill the tank or the bowl about three-quarters full with water. Before you place the fruit into the tank or bowl, ask your child whether they believe that the fruit will sink or float. The results may surprise you!

You can go a step further and compare if fruits in different states will sink or float. For instance, will a peeled orange float, compared to an unpeeled orange? How about a banana? You can then explain to your child that the peel around an orange or a banana has a large amount of porous air pockets that allow the fruit to float, and explain that it is the reason why we wear life jackets.

2. Cloud in a Jar

Materials needed: A jar with a lid, water, ice, hairspray, shaving cream, food colouring, a pipette or a straw

Learning objectives: Weather science, evaporation, condensation and the water cycle

This activity has two variations – the first one involves creating a cloud in a jar, and the second involves learning how the water cycle works from seeing how the rain interacts with the clouds.

  1. Fill one-third of the jar with hot water. Turn the jar lid over and place several ice cubes on it. Then, after 20 seconds, lift the lid and spray hairspray into the jar, and place the lid back on. Watch as the water vapour condenses to slowly form a visible cloud in the jar.
  2. In the second experiment, fill the jar about three-quarters full with water. Spray shaving cream to fill the rest of the jar. Then, using the pipette (or a straw), pick up some coloured water to drip into the shaving cream “cloud”. You may not see anything happen at first, but as you fill the “cloud” with more coloured water, watch as the water in the jar starts to become dyed with colour…

In the first variation of the activity, we used the hairspray to provide a “base” for the water vapour to condense onto, in order to form a physical cloud that you can see. This activity allows for children to visualise condensation and evaporation in action. In nature, water vapour attaches to the dust in the air. With Singapore’s equatorial weather and our urban city environment, it makes it easy for clouds to form here – and that’s why we have a lot of rain.

For the second variation, children can see how the water cycle takes place in nature. You can explain to them that although we have many clouds in the sky, not all of them are rain clouds as they would need to be laden with enough condensed water vapour to fall back down to the earth as rain.

3. Candy Tower

Materials needed: Gummy candies (preferably round or square) and toothpicks

Learning objectives: Engineering, geometry, physics and Math

Insert either end of a toothpick into a gummy candy. Then, slowly construct a 3D triangle or a square that can stand on its own. From there, you can build the structure upwards or sideways to form a lattice or dome shape.

You can create a challenge for your children by providing them a set amount of gummy candies and toothpicks, and challenging them to create the tallest tower that they can. Alternatively, you can ask them to build a strong enough structure that can hold the weight of a textbook. Plus, they can eat the candy afterwards!

With this activity, children can learn to experiment with different shape structures. They get to learn that larger bases can be more stable, and that triangle shapes tend to be favoured by architects as they are much stronger structurally as compared to squares. Show your child the different types of buildings (such as geodesic domes), and point out how knowing geometry is necessary for the construction and architecture of buildings for us to live in.

This activity is also a great way of helping your child to visualise 3D shapes, which will help them in Math questions related to volume, and in seeing how atoms and molecules form matter.

Ultimately, Science is Everywhere

Allowing your child to experience the wonders of science at home can be incredibly beneficial for their curiosity and creativity. It also teaches them that science does not need to be limited to chemical reactions in the classroom either. In fact, baking and cooking is considered a type of science, whereby you follow recipes (equations) to get your delicious baked good (the desired result)! Many of the items that we use and some of the foods that we eat daily can teach us about specific scientific concepts.

Most importantly, it shows them that science can be fun and engaging, while being applicable to our everyday lives. We simply need to be willing to explore further, using our creativity in tandem with the tools that we have at home. Applying an integrated form of learning can help your child to understand how the concepts that they learn in school will work in real life. This is known as STEAM education (STEAM is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).

If you’re looking for more STEAM activities and topics that’ll spark your child’s curiosity for learning further, subscribe to our STEAM Explorers and STEAM Matters magazines here!