Want to do science but don't have your own laboratory? Don't worry. This list of science activities will allow you to perform experiments and projects with materials you likely already have in your cupboards.
SlimeDorling Kindersley / Getty Images
You don't need esoteric chemicals and a lab to have a good time with chemistry. Yes, your average fourth-grader can make slime, but that doesn't mean it's any less fun when you're older.
Making a borax snowflake is a crystal-growing project that is safe and easy enough for kids. You can make shapes other than snowflakes, and you can color the crystals. The snowflakes sparkle really nicely. If you use these as Christmas decorations and store them, the borax is a natural insecticide and will help keep your long-term storage area pest-free. If they develop a white precipitant, lightly rinse them but don't dissolve too much crystal.
Mentos and Diet Soda Fountain
This is a backyard activity best accompanied by a garden hose. The Mentos fountain is more spectacular than a baking soda volcano. If you make the volcano and find the eruption to be disappointing, substitute these ingredients.
Penny ChemistryAaron Sollner / EyeEm / Getty Images
You can clean pennies, coat them with verdigris, and plate them with copper. This project demonstrates several chemical processes, yet the materials are easy to find and the science is safe enough for kids.
Invisible InkPhotodisc / Getty Images
Invisible inks either react with another chemical to become visible or else weaken the structure of the paper so the message appears if you hold it over a heat source. But we're not talking about fire here; the heat of a normal light bulb is all that's required to darken the lettering. This baking soda recipe is nice because if you don't want to use a light bulb to reveal the message, you can just swab the paper with grape juice instead.
Fire is fun. Colored fire is even better. These additives are safe. They won't, in general, produce smoke that is any better or worse for you than normal wood smoke. Depending on what you add, the ashes will have a different elemental composition from a normal wood fire, but if you're burning trash or printed material, you have a similar result. This is suitable for a home fire or campfire, plus most chemicals are found around the house (even of non-chemists).
Seven-Layer Density Column
Make a density column with many liquid layers. Heavier liquids sink to the bottom, while lighter (less dense) liquids float on top. This is an easy, fun, colorful science project that illustrates the concepts of density and miscibility.
Homemade Ice Cream in a Plastic BagNicholas Eveleigh / Getty Images
Science experiments can taste good! Learn about freezing point depression or not-the ice cream tastes good either way. This cooking chemistry project potentially uses no dishes, so cleanup can be very easy.
Hot Ice (Sodium Acetate)
Got vinegar and baking soda? If so, you can make "hot ice," or sodium acetate, and then cause it to instantly crystallize from a liquid into "ice." The reaction generates heat, so the ice is hot. It happens so quickly that you can form crystal towers as you pour the liquid into a dish.
Burning MoneyPeter Kim / Getty Images
The "burning money trick" is a magic trick using chemistry. You can set a bill on fire, yet it won't burn. Are you brave enough to try it? All you need is a real bill.
Coffee Filter ChromatographyIssaurinko / Getty Images
Exploring separation chemistry with coffee filter chromatography is a snap. A coffee filter works well, though if you don't drink coffee you can substitute a paper towel. You can also devise a project comparing the separation you get using different brands of paper towels. Leaves from outdoors can provide pigments. Frozen spinach is another good choice.
Baking Soda and Vinegar Foam FightAmrut Kulkarni / Getty Images
The foam fight is a natural extension of the baking soda volcano. It's a lot of fun and a little messy but easy enough to clean up as long as you don't add food coloring to the foam.