The Royal Institution presents ExpeRimental, a series of short films that make it fun, easy and cheap to do science at home with children aged 4 to 11. These films give lots of ideas for kids’ activities that will help you explore the world around you, question and experiment together. They show how to do the activity and how to make sure adults and children get the most out of it.
Absolutely anyone can do the experiments with children at home, in a playgroup or a primary or kindergarten class. Here are the top five tips for getting the most out of the activities:
- Don’t worry if you don’t know the science!
- Play, look, ask.
- Ask the right questions.
- Go off script!
- Don’t worry if it doesn’t work!
Take a look at some of the funniest and most interesting activities of ExpeRimental:
Kat and her son Sam investigate the psychology of memory. By playing a memory game, trying to remember 10 random objects in different ways, they explore how our brains work. Do some techniques work better for memorising things than others? Sam comes up with his own ideas of how to remember the objects and finally creates a silly story to help cement the list in his mind.
In this activity, Eva and Daniel investigate what factors make this illusion work, and think about why our brains can be tricked in this way. Hands-on investigations like this are the perfect way to encourage children to think about how their brains work, and the way we interpret the world.
Small, or far away?
We know that a toy car is much smaller than a real one, but when you hold a car up to your eye and compare it to a car in the distance, they can look the same size. Thinking about why this happens is the start of a fun experiment to investigate how our brains make sense of the three-dimensional world around us. In this video, Dwain and Sahara learn a simple trick to make their drawings look three-dimensional, and then build an Ames room: a classic illusion that plays a trick on your mind with strange proportions.
Baffling body illusions
Alex and the pupils of Ben Jonson Primary School experiment with their sense of proprioception: the awareness of our body. By doing eight different illusions that trick your understanding of your own body, they learn how their senses work, and how they can be confused by conflicting information. In the process, they learn how our sense combine to create the full perception we have of the world.
Aaron and Phoebe experiment with their ability to multitask. By trying to do a variety of activities in combination with each other, they explore why some sorts of multitasking are easy, and some are almost impossible. However, try rubbing your head while counting, and it’s not so hard, because your brain can tackle each task simultaneously.
Cakes in a cup
Jo and her daughter Sally investigate the chemistry of cakes by making microwave mug cakes in this fun kitchen science experiment. They follow the recipe for the perfect cake, then investigate what happens if they try making the cakes without certain ingredients. This scientific approach reveals which ingredient does what to the cake. They discover how baking powder is needed to make a cake spongy, because of the carbon dioxide gas it produces; how an egg with its long chain-like molecules gives structure; and how oil coats the other ingredients to stop them drying out, leaving a nice moist cake.
Olympia and her daughter Viola explore how bicarbonate of soda reacts with different liquids from around the house. Some fizz vigorously, others bubble gently, and some substances don’t appear to react at all. These simple chemical reactions introduce the idea that substances can react together to make a new substance, and are an excellent starting point for looking closely at the world around us. This experiment can be a little messy, but that’s part of the fun.
Rufus and the racers
Rufus and Alby do a science magic trick with some pepper (or oregano, if that’s your flavour), washing up liquid and water. Watch the flakes shoot across the water at the touch of a finger. They experiment with different liquids, investigating how substances around the house affect the surface of the water. The dramatic effect you see is because the soap weakens the pull that water molecules have on each other. As a result, as the soap spreads over the surface of the water, the water is able to pull away, taking the oregano or pepper with it.
Find these and more experiments at https://www.rigb.org/families/experimental