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Five School Holiday Experiments for Kids

Home > Everywhere > Fun Things To Do | Rainy Day | School Holidays
by Shannon Meyerkort (subscribe)
Writer. Storyteller. Find out more at
Published September 10th 2012
Quick, awesome and just a little bit messy
There are two types of parents. The ones who hyperventilate at the first sight of play-doh and those who roll their sleeves up and let their kids (and the house) get dirty.

I don't even pretend to be the latter, but I am happy enough to share some cool, messy experiments with those of you who are braver (and cooler) than me.

Usborne make the best activity cards

These foaming, growing, gloopy experiments come to us from the good people at Usborne: from their '50 Science Things to Make & Do' pack.

If you prefer not to get quite so messy, here are some other awesome ideas to do at home during the school holidays.

Good for your arms, this one.

Make your own butter
Tell your kids about the 'olden days' when milk came from cows and there was no TV. Then tell them that before there was fat-reduced, salt-reduced, omega3, cholesterol lowering, pale yellow chemical spread (i.e. margarine) people used to make their own butter.

Step 1. Half fill a clean jar with double cream. Add a pinch of salt and tightly screw on the lid.

Step 2. Shake the jar for at least ten or fifteen minutes (of course, to a five year old this will feel like 'years' but eventually it will separate into a lump of fat and a milky liquid.

Step 3. Take out the lump and place on a paper towel, then use the towel to gently squeeze out the excess liquid.

Step 4. The lump is butter! Now spread it on some bread and make yourself a sandwich for your hard work. Let mum have the rest of the double cream for her cake.

Icky, messy gloopy goodness

Make some gloop
Usborne recommends wearing an apron for this one. I recommend a full biohazard suit, but it's really your choice.

Step 1. Place two cups of cornflour in a big bowl and add a cup of water and a few drops of food colour. You might want to supervise the 'few' drops part.

Step 2. Mix it all together with your hands (well, the kids' hands). It will take a few minutes to blend together.

Step 3. Play with your goop. Roll it into a ball. Punch it. Let it dribble through your fingers. The gloop can act as both a liquid and a solid. Maybe make them do this one outside. Or at someone else's house.

Lecture them on the three states of matter (gas, liquid and solid) and feel good that you are making school holidays a learning experience.

Ah, so pretty, but it takes so long

Make some crystals.
This one is not for kids who demand instant gratification, but it is very pretty and is something you can watch 'grow' over the course of a few days. Not recommended if you have a cat or a toddler who climbs.

Step 1. Fill two jar with hot water and stir in about six teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda in each, until no more will dissolve and a layer forms at the bottom (it will depend on the size of the jar).

Step 2. Put the jars in a warm place where they won't be disturbed, and place a small plate between them. But don't put it somewhere so high that the kids will constantly be asking to be picked up so they can see it.

Step 3. Cut a piece of wool as long as your (kids) arm, tie a paperclip to each end and place an end in each jar.

Step 4. Leave the jars for a week. Crystals will grow along the wool and hang down over the plate. If you are lucky, crystals will drip onto the plate and form crystals.

If you are really lucky you will grow a Swarovski crystal, but this is probably unlikely.

For once, you won't be the only thing foaming at the mouth

Make a foaming monster
You can skip the whole monster part and just make the foam, but the monster sounds really cute and will probably help distract the kids for another half hour or so…

Step 1. Turn a small plastic bottle into a monster by drawing a spiky tail, arms, legs and eyes out of paper and sticking them on with stickytape.

Step 2. Half fill the bottle with vinegar. Best not to use Mum's expensive imported balsamic…just use the boring old white vinegar. Add a big squirt of washing up liquid and a few drops of food dye.

Step 3. Gently swirl the contents and then place the monster in the middle of a large tray (or thick pile of newspaper).

Step 4. Place a heaped teaspoon a bicarbonate of soda in the middle of a tissue, roll it up and twist the ends. Drop the tissue into the monster's mouth.

Step 5. Step back and wait for screams of delight as the monster starts foaming from the mouth (and then screams of dismay from Mum as she has to clean it all up).

I admit it, this one is wierd

Make some milk lumps
Two simple ingredients from the cupboard and a little bit of time will make some weird plastic shapes. Just don't let the little kids try and eat them.

Step 1. Half fill a jar with milk and then pour it in a saucepan. Gently warm the milk but don't let it boil.

Step 2. Turn off the heat and add a drop of food dye and two tablespoons of vinegar. Stir until lumps form. Like when your husband tries to make custard.

Step 3. Go to Grandma's house and pinch a pair of her old stockings then cut the foot off (probably best to ask permission first). Put the toe inside the jar and fold over the top to make a strainer.

Step 4. Pour the milk into the strainer and leave for ten minutes, then squeeze the rest of the milk into the jar. (Chuck the milk out, don't let anyone use it for their coffee).

Step 5. Scoop the lumps out of the stocking and squeeze into a single lump. Press the lump into a pastry cutter (choose your favourite shape, but make sure it's not too big for the amount of goo you have).

Step 6. Remove the cutter and leave the shape the dry on some greaseproof paper for a couple of days. Stare in wonder at the weird plastic shape that came from milk.

Usborne have a huge range of activity cards to suit kids of all ages and predilections, you can buy them online, or at many bookshops and toy shops. Choose from optical illusions, brain game, fairy things, science experiments, Easter craft, rainy day and holiday doodles.
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Why? Because kids like to get their hands dirty
When: School holidays or any time
Where: Your kitchen or backyard
Cost: You can find most things in the cupboard
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