Want to have fun with your kids this summer and be educational at the same time? Discover some easy and budget-friendly ways to integrate science into summer break while spending quality time with your children.
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Plant Seeds and Watch Them Grow
Now that it’s summer, plants and flowers are in full bloom. One easy activity for kids is to have them choose some seeds, plant them in cups or small pots filled with soil and watch them grow. Older kids can learn responsibility by watering and caring for their plants.
Talk about how plants grow from seeds to plants and their life cycles. Teach them what plants, as living things, need water, food, sunlight and air to survive.
How Plants Use Water
As a secondary experiment, you can demonstrate how plants use water. Get a glass jar or cup and place several stalks of celery with the leaves on them in a container filled with water tinted with food coloring. After a day or so, it will become noticeable that the water circulates throughout the plant, as the leaves will show tints of the food coloring in them.
Track & Measure Growth
Have each child start a journal to track the progress of your plant's growth from seed to full-grown plant by measuring its changes every day or two. If you plant something that will eventually get too big for its container, get the kids involved in planting it outside once it is big enough to transfer outdoors.
I like working with pumpkins and sunflowers. If each kid’s pumpkin matures and produces, they will have their own pumpkins to carve come Halloween as well as pumpkin seeds to cook and eat or dry and save to plant again next year. Once sunflowers mature, you can observe how the birds and butterflies feed on them and in the fall, you can remove the flower from the stem and remove the seeds (the large sunflowers are better for this project) and even dry them and cook them if you want. You can spend all summer watching science unfold in front of you.
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During the summer months, there never seems to be a shortage of bugs and creepy crawlies! Use this to your advantage and teach your kids about the life cycles of bugs, fish or small amphibians. Learning the life cycles of such creatures will help your kids gain a better understanding of why each creature is important to nature.
You can begin by purchasing tadpoles, larvae or eggs (some stores and companies online sell these for this purpose) or have a scavenger hunt if you live in an area where you can easily locate the insect, fish or amphibian of your choice in its infant form.
Create a proper habitat for the insect, fish or amphibian of your choice. This will require your young scientists to research what the creatures need to live in and set up a proper space. You will also need to learn what it eats to survive. The internet offers limitless information, but you could also check out some books on your creatures at the library to use as a resource.
Create a journal to track the metamorphosis that occurs over time. Once your creature has reached its final life cycle, release it back to nature or keep it as a pet.
Kids will learn the delicate balance of life that each living thing goes through. You can also discuss the changes we humans go through as we cycle through life.
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Make Your Own Rainbow
Rainbows are one of the prettiest natural occurrences you will see in the sky. Although they’re simply light reflecting through water droplets in the air at just the right angle, a rainbow is always an amazing sight. You can recreate this effect with a flashlight, a white piece of paper and water in a clear glass or plastic drinking glass.
Set your glass of water on the edge of your table with half of it hanging over the edge. Hold the white paper behind the cup and then shine your flashlight up from under the bottom half of the cup that is hanging over the edge of the table. If you get the angle just right, a rainbow will appear on your paper.
Your little scientists can then paint their own rainbows following the color order of ROY G. BIV to learn the order of rainbow colors. There are also many books available at the library (fiction or non-fiction) on rainbows you could read to complete your kids’ rainbow science lesson.
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Learn About Constellations
Pick up some books from the library on mapping the constellations and spend some twilight time teaching kids the science of the stars. Kids can learn what stars are made of, what types of stars are out there and the stories behind the constellations.
Have them make their own constellation art project by cutting out stars, gluing them to black construction paper and decorating them with glow in the dark paint. For older kids, you can also have them write an imaginative story about how their constellation came to be and how it got its name.
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Box Set Science Experiments
If you have exhausted all your science options or don’t want to spend a lot of time prepping for science time, spend a little money and pick up science activity sets at your local toy stores, craft stores and department stores. (If you’re thinking of purchasing a set, watch for sales or use discount coupons for the store of your choice; you can get some great deals this way.)
Mythbusters and Scientific Explorer are two of a handful of brands thatsell kits instructions and most supplies necessary to perform multiple experiments included in the package. There are kits for virtually any area of interest for you to do along with your children. Learn about weather, disgusting science, perfumery, chemistry, geology, flight, water power or air pressure to name a few.
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Applaud The Effort
Remember to praise your budding scientists for their efforts and interest in the activities. It's not so much about how well the product turns out as it is what they learn along the way. The fact that you spend time having some science fun with them is meaningful and you will create lots of great memories to look back on later.