With many classes canceled and kids learning at home this past spring, doing science experiments in the house and backyard has become a fun, new way to learn.
Share these easy indoor and outdoor kid-approved science projects with your grandchildren, and ask them to report back on their findings.
Create a Nature Journal – Observing Nature (ages 6–12)
- Markers, pencils, crayons
This is a quiet, non-messy activity that requires just a few supplies and a child’s natural curiosity. Armed with a notebook and markers, pencils or crayons, kids can take to the backyard or surrounding neighborhood and record what they see in their journal. Ask them to draw or write about the things they discover. They can collect leaves, flowers or feathers to tape in their journal. They can record their thoughts and ideas about what they observe. Later, have them show their journal to you on a video call so they can describe their findings. Encourage them to continue exploring and getting to know the natural world in their area – just like a real scientist or researcher.
Make a Tornado in a Jar – Weather (ages 3 and up)
- Mason jar with a tight lid
- 1 teaspoon dish soap
- 1 teaspoon white vinegar
- Glitter (optional, but way more fun!)
Have your grandchild or their parent fill a mason jar with water, leaving an inch of space at the top. Have them pour in the dish soap, white vinegar, and glitter (if using) and twist the lid tight on the jar.
Instruct them to hold the jar with both hands, one on top of the lid and one on the bottom of the jar, and swirl the liquid in the jar for 5 to 10 seconds. Then when they place the jar down on a table, they can watch a tornado form in the jar.
Ask your grandchild what they saw, and how the tornado formed. How long did it last? Where did the glitter go?
Sidewalk Constellations – Astronomy (ages 6–9)
- Sidewalk chalk
- Small stones
- Diagrams of constellations (Big Dipper, Orion, Pleiades, etc.)
- Camera to take pictures
Ask your grandchildren to look at a picture of their favorite constellation (choose something easy like the Big Dipper for their first try), then have them draw the lines that make the constellation’s shape on their sidewalk or driveway. Next, have them place stones to show where the stars are in the constellation.
If you choose a constellation that can be seen from their home this time of year, have them venture out at night with a parent to look for the constellation in the night sky.
Polishing Pennies – Chemistry (ages 5–7)
- Lemon juice
- Dirty pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters
- Paper towels
Have your grandchild put a dirty, dark penny in a cup and squirt in lemon juice to cover it. Ask them to wait five minutes and tell you what they think will happen to the penny. After five minutes, ask them to take the penny out of the lemon juice and rub it dry with a paper towel. What do they see?
Explain that the penny is partially made of copper, and when copper is exposed to air/oxygen, it causes “oxidation,” which is what makes the penny dirty. The acid in the lemon juice removes the oxidation and makes the penny shiny.
Ask them to do the same experiment with the other coins. What happened? Did they get a different result? See if they can tell you why.
Make a Human Sundial – Astronomy, Scientific Observation (Ages 5 and up)
- Clear, sunny day with no clouds expected over eight hours
- Wide open space like a sidewalk or large driveway
- Different colors of sidewalk chalk
- Tape measure
- Notebook or journal
This is a longer (all day) project that works best with at least two children and a parent or other adult. They’ll need a large spot that will be in the sun all day long.
- Have them start early – 8:30 a.m. is the perfect time to begin.
- Have each child draw a large X on the ground, leaving plenty of space between their marks. They will come back to their own X throughout the day.
- Have one child stand on their X while the other traces their shadow on the ground. Repeat on the other X, tracing the other child’s shadow.
- Repeat the process three times or more throughout the day, at two-hour intervals, so they can see how their shadows change and lengthen depending on the light and the position of the sun.
- Ask them to record their findings in a journal, measuring the length of the shadows at different times of the day. Have them take pictures to show you the results of their experiment. Talk with them about how sundials have been used to tell time for thousands of years, and show them pictures of different types of sundials throughout the world.
Share your favorite science projects from your own childhood with your grandchildren to have them try at home. It’s a great opportunity for ongoing learning over the summer break, and a chance to connect over your shared experience.