Monday, September 16, 2013

Go Mad With Science: Mix Up Some Kitchen Science Magic

Go Mad With Science: Mix Up Some Kitchen Science Fun

When I was about eight years old, I found a science article in a newspaper describing how to grow coal crystals. The picture looked so fascinating to me. I remember becoming completely obsessed with growing my own crystals. I needed salt, ammonia, laundry bluing and a piece of coal. I knew my mom had salt and food coloring in the cupboard and ammonia under the kitchen sink. I had no idea what bluing was, but I pestered her relentlessly to buy some for me. It felt like an eternity before she was able to go to the store, but one day she finally got it.

Once I had the bluing, I was set to go. I had already found a piece of "coal" in the street. It really was just a black rock, but at the time I was sure it was coal. I eagerly mixed up the magic crystal potion, poured the solution into one of my dad's ashtrays (sad, but true) and placed the piece of coal in the middle of it.Then I waited and waited rather impatiently. It took a couple of days, but I finally began to see amazing, icy white mountains forming on the rock.They grew bigger quickly and I topped them off with dots of food coloring. They looked magically beautiful. How did that happen? It seemed like a miracle to me at that tender young age.

Growing coal crystals was one of the many kitchen science experiments I performed as a child. And as you can probably tell, it certainly was one of my most memorable ones. As my daughter grew up, I watched her face glow with the same fascination and wonder that I experienced as she did some of the same experiments at home with me and her dad.

I believe these kinds of kitchen experiments with simple, safe ingredients from the cupboard (and adult supervision, of course) are essential to learning and development. While kids have fun watching concoctions grow, bubble or change shape, there are solid chemistry rules and scientific principles being taught and demonstrated at the same time.

Hands-on science experiments at home with kids go beyond just presenting facts to them in a class. Kids can interactively witness outcomes firsthand. They come to understand how science is part of daily life. It's good, educational family fun, too. And these experiences may spark curiosity and interest in a science career.

So throw open the kitchen cupboards. Get out the measuring cups, spoons and bowls. Choose your ingredients. Expect a mess at times. And watch with wonder every time.

Want some cool recipes for home science fun with your kids? Check out's "24 Kids' Science Experiments That Adults Can Enjoy, Too!" Their crystal geodes look pretty neat. I might have to try making them myself. And join us at Fundamentally Toys on Friday, September 20, 2013, 7:00 p.m (CT) for Mad Science with Magnificent Meg's fun and interactive show,"Fire & Ice." Watch Meg in this video on KUOW Houston.

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