Backyard science experiments to do at home!

18 August 2021

At YWCA Canberra, we value the importance of early childhood education and teaching children fundamental skills to help the development their mind and natural curiosity. With lockdown well and truly underway, we wanted to remind everyone that learning in the home doesn’t have to be boring!

This week for National Science Week, we want to encourage children to explore the world of science by sharing three easy science experiments you can with in the home!   

COLOURFUL CHEMISTRY: Explore density, colour, and the properties of liquids.  

Experiment: fireworks in a jar 

Materials: a tall glass (or glass jar), water, small measuring cup, vegetable oil, food colouring (a few different colours) in dropper bottles, fork 


  1. Half-fill the tall glass with water. 
  2. Pour about 50 mL of vegetable oil into the measuring cup. 
  3. Add food colouring to the oil (three drops of each colour). 
  4. Mix the oil and food colouring with the fork to break up the drops of food colouring to make smaller drops.  
  5. Slowly and carefully pour the vegetable oil and food colouring from the jug into the glass of water and notice how the oil floats to the top. 
  6. Watch as the drops of food colouring slowly sink through the oil. As each drop reaches the water, you will see a burst of colour in the water.  


Invite children to describe what is happening and to explain why they think it is happening.  

What’s happening? Oil and water do not mix well and oil floats on water because it is less dense. The food colouring sinks through the oil towards the water because it is made of pigment mixed with water. When the colour pigment reaches the water, it creates streamers that look like fireworks. Density is a measure of the amount of mass in a given volume. It is a difficult concept to introduce to young children but exposing children to activities related to density provides them with experiences that will help them build knowledge and understanding. Knowing ‘what’ happens will give a child the experience they need to learn ‘why’ these things happen as they grow older and move into higher levels of education.  

GROOVY GRAVITY: Explore the force that makes things fall and how air resistance slows them down  

Activity idea: Fastest fall 

Materials: Sheets of paper, balls of various sizes, feathers, toy hammer  


  1. Hold two identical sheets of paper, flat on outstretched hands, and ask the children to guess which piece of paper will hit the ground first if they are dropped. Drop the sheets of paper at the same time and watch as they drift to the ground.  
  2. Repeat step 1, but this time, scrunch up one of the sheets of paper into a ball. Drop the two pieces of paper at the same time and ask the children to describe what happens and why.  
  3. Ask the children to fan their cheeks with their hands, and discuss how air cannot be seen, but it can be felt. This may lead to a discussion about how air can make things move, such as leaves moving in the wind, a kite flying, or clouds moving across the sky.  
  4. Invite the children to test how fast other objects fall, such as balls of various sizes and weights, feathers, and sheets of paper of various sizes and shapes. 

BEAUTIFUL BIOLOGY: Explore camouflage, collecting, and categorising  

Activity idea: Camouflage race  

Materials: Green, white, brown, black, and red cardboard shapes (small squares, circles or triangles, or plastic counters), approximately ten of each colour  


  1. Explain to your child that when you say ‘Go!’ their challenge is to quickly collect the cardboard shapes from the ground before you say, ‘Stop!’  
  2. Scatter the cardboard shapes over an open area of grass and say ‘Go!’  
  3. When about half of the shapes have been found, say ‘Stop!’  
  4. Ask your child to tell you how many shapes they collected of each colour and discuss why they may have collected more of one colour than the other.  
  5. Try repeating the activity on different coloured surfaces, such as brown mulch, and white concrete.  
  6. Look at images of animal camouflage in books or download images from the internet
  7. Provide a range of colourful dress up clothes and your child to camouflage themselves to blend in with different backgrounds (e.g., wear a red dress to sit on a red chair).  


Ask your child what is happening? Talk about how the colour and texture of an animal can help it blend into its surroundings. This is important for animals to hide from predators that might eat them, and for predators to sneak up on their prey! However, some animals use the opposite strategy to survive: their bodies are brightly coloured, and they stand out to warn other animals to stay away because they are poisonous (e.g., corroboree frogs).  

Want more fun learning activities to do with your children? Make sure to follow our Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter where we will be sharing kid-friendly resources for parents!  

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