After Dinner Science

After Dinner Science | Twin Cities Moms Blog

My preschooler’s imagination and endless curiosity are two of my favorite things about him, but they are exhausting. I do my best to indulge his interests, but by the time dinner is over I don’t always have much left to give. Unfortunately, that’s also when he and his younger brother are at their most energetic.

Here are a few simple science activities that help us get through the crazy after-dinner hour. They are fun, colorful, and not too messy. In addition, they are great opportunities to promote curiosity and critical thinking skills.

Don’t stop reading if you have older kids, these are fun for all ages—my husband and I enjoyed them just as much as our kids! You can find more detailed science explanations for these activities on various websites, but I suggest exploring the activities together first. To get the most out of them, let your kid(s) be as hands-on as is reasonable and safe.

Not sure what is happening? Take a guess and test it! Still can’t figure something out? Call a science-loving relative or friend, or look up the answer together. Don’t feel like you need to formally discuss the suggested questions or even know the answers, the goal is simply to spark wonder, curiosity, and an age-appropriate discussion about how the world works. And to keep the kids from destroying the house right before bed…

A Flowing Rainbow
My kids loved this activity—it’s fun, easy, pretty, and tasty! You can also incorporate patterns and color mixing if you have lots of Skittles on hand.

Materials
Skittles, plate (preferably white), warm water

Activity
Arrange the Skittles into a large circle on the plate. Pour warm water into the center of the circle until all of the Skittles are partially covered. Wait a few seconds and watch what happens next.

Discussion
What do you think is happening? Why do you think that? How could we test it?
Turn over one of the Skittles. What do you notice about the bottom?
Do you think this would work with cold water? Hot water? Why?

Explanation
The dye covering the Skittles dissolves in water and spreads out, flowing from areas with lots of dye into areas with no dye.

A Growing Peep
What’s not to love about the sticky, sugar-covered, gooeyness of a candy Peep? Even if you are one of the few who don’t enjoy the taste and associated sugar rush, try this and you’ll have to admit they are good for something.

Materials
Peep, microwave-safe plate, microwave

Activity
Place a single Peep on the plate and put it in the microwave. Set the timer for about 25 seconds. If your microwave window is clear, gather around to watch what happens in real time. If it’s tinted, get ready to swing the door wide open when the timer dings because the effect fades fast. Then start the microwave and watch what happens next.

Discussion
What do you think is happening? Why do you think that? How could we test it?
What happens when the peep cools back down? Why?
Compare a cooled off microwaved peep to one straight from the package. How are they alike? How are they different?

Explanation
Peeps contain air pockets that expand when they are heated and contract when they cool.

A Cup of Warm Milk
This activity goes perfectly with cookies! It’s simple, but my kids want to do it over and over again (even without the cookies). If your kids are young, watch out for overzealous dye squeezers and have a towel handy just in case a cup of warm, blue milk goes flying.

Materials
Milk, food coloring, two clear glasses or containers

Activity
Microwave a cup of milk for about 90 seconds. Pour an equal amount of cold milk in one of the clear glasses and hot milk in the other. Let the milk settle for a bit and then add 1-2 drops of food coloring to the center of each cup. Enjoy a cookie or two while you watch what happens over the next minute, paying special attention to how the milk looks from the top and the sides.

Discussion
What do you think is happening? Why do you think that? How could we test it?
What would happen if you used even colder milk? Boiling milk? Room temperature milk?
How do they compare after sitting out for 15 minutes?

Explanation
The molecules in a hot liquid move around faster than the molecules in a cold liquid. These molecules push the dye around, mixing it into the milk more quickly.

I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. -Eleanor Roosevelt


Kendra spends her days trying to manage the chaotic life of a mom with two boys while sharing the value and wonder of science broadly. She spent 10 years in the Washington, DC area coordinating national physics education and outreach programs before returning the Midwest in 2015. She lives in Bloomington with her husband and boys. Now a freelance science writer, you can browse her stories on cutting-edge research.

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply