Chemistry, alongside other subjects within the realm of maths or science, often has a bad reputation as being a particularly tricky subject to learn and master.
Despite this reputation, the fact is that chemistry isn’t as difficult to learn as some people may think, and in reality, the subject is just as approachable as any other subject, whether that’s history, art, or politics.
One of the best ways to help do away with this stigma surrounding chemistry is to encourage children and pupils to engage with the subject from an early age.
If young children, for instance, can develop an interest in chemistry or other scientific subjects such as physics while they are still young, then it would be reasonable to assume that the chances of that child staying interested in a subject such as chemistry as they get older would be greater than a child who had no interaction or interest in the subject when they were younger.
This article looks at ways in which chemistry can be made more fun and engaging for children, specifically, through the use of experiments. Experiments are a great way to engage the interest of children as they can be undertaken either at home or at school, and can really improve the “fun factor” of any chemistry lesson.
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Before carrying out any experiments yourself, either on your own or with children, it’s important to remember that experiments should always be conducted in a safe way.
Although any safety concerns would likely have been thought and taken care of when it comes to chemistry or other science experiments performed during school hours in a classroom, it’s equally important to ensure that any experiments conducted at home are also safe.
Ways to help ensure a safe environment for an experiment to be carried out include, but aren’t limited to, thinking about the following:
- The age range of the children performing the experiment; younger children often require more supervision when it comes to tasks such as measuring liquids;
- The types of materials required to conduct the experiment, and whether those materials are considered safe for children or adults to handle or be near (highly reactive experiments, for example, might not be the best idea); and
- Whether sufficient space and ventilation are available at home for the experiment to be carried out.
A good example of considering safety during science experiments and science activities would be the fact that when you conduct the Mentos and Diet Coke rocket/volcano experiment (outlined below) you should perform it outside, as it is much safer, not to mention cleaner, to see the bubbles produced by that experiment fly up into the air rather than around an enclosed space.
Why Chemistry Sets For Kids Are So Beneficial
One of the best ways you can hold a child’s attention when it comes to chemistry class is to introduce an experiment or two during science lessons. Equally, if you’re trying to pique the interest of your child in chemistry while they’re at home, a chemistry set can have a similar impact.
There are a number of reasons why working with chemistry sets and conducting experiments for kids can be fun:
- Experiments for kids, such as those featuring chemical reactions, bring chemistry to life as a subject and help kids to visualise certain chemical processes and reactions; and
- Seeing or performing fun science experiments help challenge the notion that the sciences are “boring” subjects, as the experiments are usually quite fun to perform while also being interactive.
Chemistry sets can also be a great way for your child to try out a science fair project if they are planning on attending a science fair and provide an environment that encourages kids science experiments to be carried out.
With that in mind, let’s take a look below at some chemistry experiments that are easy and fun to perform.
Fun Chemistry Experiments Are Easy To Find
Chemistry experiments can generally be carried out in a number of different places provided the correct materials, space, and equipment is present. However, two of the most common places where a child might see an experiment are in the home or at school.
Typically, children that are old enough to go to school, particularly those at secondary school, should have seen experiments being carried out as part of their chemistry classes. Younger children, however, may only have come into contact with experiments at home – either by watching experiments being performed on TV or via the internet or by conducting their own with the help of a supervising parent or carer.
The great thing about learning in the digital age is that there are plenty of different resources that you can tap into if you’d like to find some inspiration when it comes to which experiments you can undertake with your child.
Below are just some examples of easy science experiments you could try with your child at home to teach them about various aspects of chemistry. Equally, if you don’t have a chemistry set at home, you could watch videos of people performing these experiments by searching online for that particular experiment and watching a demonstration of what unfolds.
Erupting Volcano / Mentos Volcano
The erupting volcano has been a staple chemistry experiment for years, and it’s easy to see why. It doesn’t require many household ingredients to carry out (the primary ingredients being baking soda, vinegar, and some food colouring for the lava) the set-up time is fast, and it helps teach children more about how volcanoes work as well as how chemicals can react with one another.
You can find a link with steps on how to complete this experiment here.
Another variation of this home science experiment that has proven popular with children is the variation where you put roughly half a packet of Mentos sweets into a large bottle of fizzy drink (usually Diet Coke). The more Mentos you add, the stronger and faster the fizz and reaction.
However, there are a few differences in this experiment that it pays to be aware of:
- The chemical reaction and the resulting bubbles are usually more powerful than what you see in a traditional chemical volcano project; and
- This experiment is best performed outside – a garden or park would be ideal – as otherwise expect the room you do the experiment in to get very wet and messy as the chemical reaction occurs very quickly!
Another popular chemistry experiment that highlights the structural properties of crystals is to grow your own sugar crystals, also known as rock candy. This experiment can be performed using ingredients and materials that can be found around the home, so it’s not difficult at all to put together.
When forming rock crystals, it’s important to note that the crystals will not form immediately, so a little patience is needed (over the course of a few days or more) before you start seeing the results of your labour.
A guide on how to carry out the experiment can be found here.
The above experiments aren't the only ones you can try at home. For example, you might want to make your own invisible ink, play with slime, find out more about static electricity using a balloon or balloons, or learn about sound waves, magnetism, or gravity.
There are plenty of cool science experiments and science projects for kids to be found online, with tips and tricks for carrying them out, so don't worry if none of the above experiments particularly appeal to your child's inner scientist.
Equally, you can find plenty of fun science experiments for kids away from traditional chemistry sets.
For example, baking is a great way to teach simple science principles seen in chemistry, such as melting and boiling points (try and melt a marshmallow, for example). By baking, not only do you get to make something to eat at the end (provided the end product is indeed edible) but you can also help your child participate in simple science experiments with your supervision.
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Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help
If you find an experiment that you think your child might be interested to see or would like to try it yourself, but you’re not sure whether you can or should perform that experiment at home, then don’t be afraid to ask a chemistry teacher for some advice about the best way to proceed.
It's always better to be on the safe side before making something like slime, or a baking soda and vinegar volcano, for instance, and no-one should mind you asking.
If your child is already at school, it might be that the teacher could incorporate that experiment into a lesson so they have hands-on experience with that science experiment. Otherwise, if that’s not possible, or your child isn’t yet studying chemistry at school, then you could also watch a video of someone perform that experiment and discuss what that experiment showed with your child once it has concluded.
Equally, if you’d like your child to learn more about the principles of chemistry, or your child has expressed their own desire to learn more about the subject, then it’s equally viable to reach out to an external party for help when it comes to teaching your child about chemical principles and concepts, especially if you haven’t studied any chemistry yourself for a while.
There are websites, such as Superprof, that have a wide network of tutors who are happy to provide one on one, group, workshop, or remote tuition sessions to children and students who are looking for help when it comes to a particular subject.
If you enter your postcode on the Superprof site and select chemistry as the subject you would like to find a chemistry tutor for, you’ll be shown how many tutors within your local area that are experienced in providing chemistry tuition, as well as tutors who are happy to provide remote lessons.