For many children, hands-on learning is the best way for them to really understand what they are learning about, and it gives them a sense of accomplishment when they are able to see their projects successfully completed. For instance, science is one of those subjects where kids can do a lot of different types of hands-on activities that will help them to learn more about various scientific processes.
This may be something that worries parents who are home-schooling their kids, because they just don’t have science labs in their homes, nor do they have access to a lot of scientific materials. But, this doesn’t mean that home-schooling parents can’t come up with fun and interesting ways to help their kids to learn all about science.
Also, kids don’t need to necessarily stay indoors in a classroom-like setting in order to experiment with science. There is a whole world out there, just waiting to be discovered by students of all ages, and there are tons of outdoor experiments for kids to work on.
Today we are going to take a look at some of our favorite outdoor experiments for kids. Let’s get started.
What Lives in Local Waters?
If you have access to a river or stream, you can take your kids there and they can do a simple experiment that will help them to learn about the organisms that actually live in that river. The best part about this experiment is that the only instrument your kids will need is a strainer.
But, rather than just handing them a strainer, get them to make their own, using a piece of strong wire, such as an old coat hanger, a piece of screen or mesh, and some duct tape.
How to Make a Strainer
The first step is to bend the wire into the shape of a circle, or as close to a circle as possible. If your children are younger, you may have to do this step for them. Next, bend a piece of screen or mesh around the wire or coat hanger. Use duct tape to keep the screen in place.
Now you and the kids can take the home-made strainer to the nearest river or stream. Let the kids dip the strainer into the water, and make sure that they hold it there for at least a minute or two, allowing the current to push things into the strainer. Then, get them to remove the strainer from the water and see what remains in the strainer.
You never know what they are going to find. For instance, they could find seeds that will eventually turn into plants along the river banks. Or, maybe there will even be tiny forms of life, such as insects, or even small fish such as minnows or crayfish.
While they are learning about these life forms, make sure that they also learn about conservation, and have them put the marine life back into the water.
One of the most fun parts of this experiment is that you never know what the strainers will catch. Your kids may even find small objects that have been lost by other people.
Get Out and Explore
While this activity isn’t exactly an experiment, it is a great learning activity for budding scientists, and one that won’t cost anything. The best part is, the kids (and you) will have loads of fun exploring in nature. You can even combine this with the above experiment so they get two lessons in one!
All each kid will need for this activity is a notebook and a pencil or pen. Then, they can journal everything they are doing, just like Lewis and Clark did as the first European-Americans to explore what we now know to be the western United States. Their own journals included notes, as well as drawings of the many new things they saw, including animals, terrain, and plants.
How to Do It
Take your kids to a park or a body of water near your home, and let them pretend that they are explorers. Get them to closely examine plants, rocks, trees, insects, and animals and write about them in their journals. Encourage the kids to create drawings in their journals, or even draw maps that other “explorers” can use in the future.
You can find a different location to explore each week, so this could actually be a long-term thing that will help your kids to develop a love of biology, geology, and more.
What is In Soil?
The next experiment will help your kids to learn about soil, and find out that it is more than just dirt. There are many things they can learn from the composition of soil, and this experiment will help them to do so.
This is another inexpensive experiment, requiring only a pie pan, a small garden spade (or a plastic kids’ shovel), some garden soil, and water, and it something the kids can do without having to leave their own yard. This is a great experiment for smaller children, and they will have fun learning and getting dirty at the same time.
Take the kids to the yard and get them to dig up a bit of garden soil. Next, have them fill the pie pan with the soil. After they have plenty of soil, they can take the pan indoors and place it in an area where it will get plenty of sunlight, such as in front of a window.
Make sure they water the soil a little bit so it stays moist. Make sure the windows are not open so nothing can get into the soil.
Now the learning begins! Your kids will have to observe the soil daily to see if there are any changes. For instance, there may be earthworms or other worms and insects in the soil that they didn’t notice when they were digging.
They may even notice small sprouts beginning to grow. At the end of the experiment, have the kids put the soil and any insects or worms that are in it back into the garden.
Take Them On a Micro-Hike
You will need to set up this activity before the kids can take part, or have older kids help you with this first step of the project. A micro-hike will allow your kids to explore a tiny world and learn about the organisms that live in this world.
You will need to have some string, scissors, short stakes (small, fallen branches will work), magnifying glasses, paper, and toothpicks for this science experiment activity. The kids will also need a notebook and a pen or pencil to write down their findings. Measure about 20 to 30 feet of string, and tie each end of the string to one of the stakes.
Now, go outside and pick out an area for the micro-hike. It can be across the lawn, under shrubs and bushes, along a stream, etc. Place one stake in the ground, and then stretch the string across whatever area they will be working in.
If necessary, use more stakes to secure the line so it stays in place. Now the fun begins!
Time to Crawl Around
Get the kids to crawl on their hands and knees while following the string, starting where you placed the first stake. Each kid should have their own magnifying glass.
Have them search for things like plants, mosses, fungi, and even animal life, such as insects and worms. They will need to inch their way along the string to make sure that they don’t miss anything (or at least as little as possible).
Once they get to the end of the string, they can take notes about the various things they discovered along their micro-hike. Have them compare notes, because it will be interesting for them to see what each other has discovered. One kid may find something while another kid finds something completely different.
Following the discussion, have the kids take the paper and toothpicks to make little flags that they will then use to mark the areas to show what they have discovered.
What Happens to Insects in the Winter?
Here is a fun experiment for kids that will help them to learn about where insects go when the weather turns colder. Why do they disappear in the winter? Your kids are going to learn through this experiment.
Some insects are bothered by cold weather, and they seem to pretty much vanish until the following spring. This activity will teach your kids just how much the cold weather can affect certain types of insects.
For this experiment, you will need a fresh jar, and a lid that has been outfitted with air holes. You may need to create the holes, which is easy. Simply use a hammer and a nail. Pound the nail into the lid several times until there are plenty of holes that will allow the insects to breathe.
You are also going to need some table syrup, a living fly that has been captured, and your refrigerator.
Get to Work
The first step of this outdoor experiment for kids (and actually the only part that will actually take place outdoors) is to capture a fly in the jar. Get the kids to put a bit of the table syrup inside the jar, which will make it easier to catch the fly because it will want the syrup.
Once they have caught a fly, put the lid with the holes on the jar to close it. Have your kids observe the fly to see how it behaves. At first, the fly will be quite active and moving quickly. The next step is to place the jar inside the refrigerator for about a half an hour.
Have your kids remove the jar from the fridge, and then they can observe how the fly moves now that it is cold. Get them to take notes, so they can make a really good comparison as to how active the fly was before refrigeration, and after.
Remember, the aim of this project is not to harm or kill the fly. Once the kids have observed the fly in both warm and cold states, have them release it back outdoors so it can live its normal life.
Turn Your Kids into Rock Hounds
This activity is known as the rainbow rock collection. Your kids, and even yourself, may be quite surprised to see just how many colors are right in your own yard. This is a great experiment for younger children, and it can be combined as an arts and crafts class.
Your kids will need to have some sort of container for the rocks they collect in the yard (or wherever you take them to collect the rocks). They will also need glue or duct tape, along with some poster board.
Get the kids to collect as many different colored rocks as they can find. It will be lots of fun for them to see just how many colors and tones they discover in the rocks. Next, set up an area where they can glue the rocks onto the poster board. They can glue them in random order, or create a picture using the rocks.
Finally, take the kids to a natural history museum to learn why the rock specimens are made up of certain colors. If there is no museum in your area, find a school where geology is taught, and ask if a teacher can help your kids to identify the rocks and learn about their colors.
These are just a few of many outdoor experiments for kids that you can set up to help your kids to learn about science and have a great time doing it.
Talk to other home-schooling parents about doing these activities in larger groups, and look for more learning resources that will help bring your kids closer to nature and science. Keeping these experiments light and fun is a great way to show kids that science can indeed be lots of fun!