7 Eco-Friendly Science Week Experiments for Children
Science Week is a time to embrace the beakers and break out the lab coat! To help inspire your child, check out our fun (and sustainable) science experiments that’ll get the little one’s brains buzzing 👇
Every August, schools, universities, libraries, and museums around the country join for a week to celebrate all things STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics). This year’s Science Week theme is all about inspiring future world-changers – Innovation: Powering Future Industries.
Moreover, Science Week is the perfect time to spark children’s curiosity through eco-friendly science experiments. By using sustainable materials, you can inspire your child’s scientific curiosity while also introducing them to conservation and sustainable practises.
1. Dancing Sultanas
Simply fill a clear glass with sparkling water, then gently place a few sultanas inside. As bubbles form on the sultanas, you’ll notice some will ascend to the water’s surface before falling, creating a ‘dancing’ effect.
This experiment elegantly demonstrates how the density of objects change based on their environment. Initially the sultanas, being denser than the water, sink. However, as bubbles stick to them, their density decreases, making them to rise to the surface. Eventually these bubbles burst, causing the sultanas to return to the bottom.
Better yet, this experiment generates absolutely no waste! Simply enjoy the remaining sparkling water and sultanas.
What You’ll Need:
- A glass
- Sparkling water
2. Upcycled Rainbow Spinners
Do you have a box of old CDs lying around? Get into the spirit of upcycling by cutting CDs into small shapes to explore light and reflection. Then, drill a small hole in each new shape and invite your child to help thread a piece of twine through the holes. Lastly, hang your colourful new spinner by a window and watch as the sunlight transforms into rainbows. This is the perfect opportunity for additional learning about light and reflections.
What You’ll Need:
- Old CDs
- Power drill
3. Lemon Juice Invisible Ink
Demonstrate the power of chemistry with this simple experiment. Start by squeezing half a lemon or some store-bought lemon juice into a bowl. Next, invite your child to write a message on paper with a brush. It could be their name, a shape, a tree – anything works!
Then, let the ink dry.
The acidic juices will remain invisible until they’re heated with a hairdryer or held close to a light bulb (just be careful not to get the paper too hot to avoid fire risks). Due to oxidisation, the hidden message will appear dark brown as the acid from the lemon juice is heated. Afterwards, hang the paper or recycle it so it doesn’t go to waste!
What You’ll Need:
- Lemon/lemon juice
- Paint brush
- Hairdryer or light bulb
4. DIY Compass
Explore the mind-boggling concepts of magnetism with this DIY experiment.
Start by stroking a needle with one end of a bar magnet 20-30 times, making sure to lift the magnet after each stroke and only stroking in one direction, not back and forth. Next, fill a bowl of water and place your cork in the water.
Lastly, place the now magnetised needle on top of the floating cork and watch as it spins to align the needles to North and South – just like a real compass! This experiment introduces children to the wonders of science and nature, with only a few simple materials that can be reused.
What You’ll Need:
- Small cork
- Steel needle
- Bar magnet
5. Paper Mâché Volcano
The paper mâché volcano is a classic for a reason. This time-honoured experiment offers an engaging way to understand volcanic eruptions and the power of nature, while also providing an opportunity for children to get creative.
Start by taping a clean plastic bottle to your cardboard base. Next, scrunch up some foil to act as the bulk of your mountain. Then, create a paper mâché mixture with flour and water and paste it over layers of old newspapers. This will act as the exterior of your volcano.
Once dried, get your child involved by painting the volcano in browns for rock, greens for grass, or any colours you like! Lastly, carefully pour 2-3 tsps of baking soda into the top of the volcano, add a few drops of your desired food colouring, and add a splash of vinegar to watch the magic erupt.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled newspaper strips or scrap paper
- A plastic bottle
- Recycled cardboard (as the base)
- Non-toxic paint or natural dyes
- Baking soda
- Optional: food colouring or natural pigments
6. Ocean-in-a-Jar Ecosystem
Teach your child about ecosystems and sustainability with an ocean-in-a-jar experiment. Fill a glass jar with water (collected rainwater works best), leaving about an inch of space at the top. Add a handful of clean sand or small pebbles for the ‘ocean floor.’ Then, place a few aquatic plants or seaweed (real or recycled craft materials) and a tiny figurine representing a marine animal. Seal the jar and place it near a window with indirect sunlight.
Over time, the plants will release oxygen, while the water evaporates and condenses on the sides, creating a self-sustaining mini-ecosystem. This experiment illustrates the delicate balance of ecosystems and the importance of conserving our oceans.
What You’ll Need:
- Glass jar
- Water (preferably collected rainwater)
- Sand or small pebbles
- Aquatic plants or seaweed
- Tiny figurine or toy
7. Sustainable Water Filtration
Raise awareness about water pollution through a sustainable water filtration experiment. Start by filling a large glass container with water and mix in some dirt to simulate polluted water. Next, cut an old plastic bottle in half and punch a hole in the lid.
Then, put the lid back on the top half of the bottle and place it (facing down) inside a clear jar. Carefully pour a cup of sand, gravel, or activated charcoal into the bottle to complete your filtration system.
To complete the experiment, pour the polluted water through the filtration system and observe how the layers clean the water. This visually demonstrates the process of water purification and the need for clean water sources. Remember – don’t drink your filtered water! Although it may look clean, it hasn’t removed the potentially harmful bacteria. Rather, use the leftover water for your garden or indoor plants.
What You’ll Need:
- Recycled plastic bottle and lid
- Clear jar
- Sand, gravel, or activated charcoal
What are the Benefits of Science Experiments for Children?
Eco-friendly science experiments provide valuable learning opportunities for children, while also embedding environmental responsibility from an early age.
And it’s not just for a fun afternoon with invisible ink and dancing sultanas. Science Week is one of the most important yearly events for the future of Australian – and global – innovation. Recently, Ed Husic, the Minister of Science and Innovation, stressed the importance of inspiring future STEM superstars.
‘Why is this so important? Because we want a future made in Australia. One based on our expertise in quantum computing, medical science, renewables, and other advanced technologies. To get there, we’ll need to grow our STEM talent pool.’
Remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s scientists, inventors, and environmental champions!
5 Fun Ways to Celebrate World Wildlife Day
Happy World Wildlife Day! This day raises awareness for global conservation efforts. Read on for our 5 fun ways to celebrate this important day!
World Wildlife Day is observed annually on 3 March to raise awareness for global wildlife conservation efforts. Likewise, it’s a chance to celebrate the amazing biodiversity of plant and animal life which inhabit our planet.
Each year, World Wildlife Day has a specific theme that focuses on a different aspect of wildlife preservation and protection. This year’s theme is ‘Partnerships for Wildlife Conservation.’
To celebrate World Wildlife Day, we’ve listed five fun ways you can get your little one out in nature and learning about the importance of sustainability.
1. Make a Garden
Not only does gardening get children active, but it also teaches them about responsibility as they learn to care for a living thing. You can create a special space in your backyard for your little one to plant seeds, water them and watch them grow. Additionally, you can incorporate different plant species, build birdhouses and add homemade decorations like coloured rocks and little signs. This is a wonderful way to teach children the beauty of natural spaces and how they can help protect them.
At Explorers, we encourage budding green thumbs through our One World, One Planet program. Our Garden and Sustainability Teacher regularly visits the Centres, introducing children to the joys of gardening, sustainability and watching things grow.
2. Go on a Nature Walk
A nature walk is a great way to get your little one exploring the world. Take your child to a local park, nature reserve or lake and encourage them to observe the plants and animals in their natural ecosystem. To help out, Museums Victoria has a Field Guide smartphone app to help you identify different species. Try making a game of it by seeing how many you can find!
3. Make Wildlife-Themed Crafts
Arts and crafts are perfect for engaging children’s creativity and teaching them about wildlife. You can make animal masks, bird feeders or even create a mini ecosystem in a jar. All you need is a clear bottle, some patches of moss, soil and small rocks!
Otherwise, loose parts and recycled materials are ideal for teaching children about recycling, while also letting them flex their creative muscles. At Explorers, we gather loose parts through our Recycle Stations and repurpose them in new and exciting ways. These experiences teach children about sustainability, recycling and waste reduction.
4. Visit the Zoo or Aquarium
A trip to the Melbourne Zoo is a fun and educational activity to help children learn about different species and their habitats. Not only is the Melbourne Zoo globally recognised in zoo management, but it also offers a host of child-friendly activities. There are picnics, toy animals, maps with fun facts, interactive activities and educational programs for the children.
Alternatively, the Melbourne Aquarium is the perfect weekend activity. In fact, the World Wildlife Day theme just a few years ago was, ‘Life below water: for people and planet.’ The Aquarium regularly champions conservation efforts through their partnership with SEA Life Trust.
5. Read Wildlife-Themed Books
Reading wildlife themed books introduces children to different species and their habitats while also stimulating their imagination. You can read them as a family and discuss the themes and lessons of the story. Thankfully, there are many wonderful children’s books from Australian authors available that teach about animals, their behaviour and their environment. Just a few examples include:
🐭 Bilby Secrets by Edel Wignell and illustrated by Mark Jackson
🐟 Saving the Spotted Handfish by Gina Newton and illustrated by Rachel Tribou
🦘 Jumping Joeys by Sarah Allen
🌏 Big World, Tiny World: Reef by Jess Racklyeft
In conclusion, World Wildlife Day is the perfect opportunity to teach children about the significance of conservation and the amazing diversity in nature. With these child-friendly activities, you can engage your child’s curiosity about the natural world and pave the way for the next generation of world leaders. After all, 2017’s World Wildlife Day theme was ‘Listen to the Young Voices’, which speaks volumes about the wisdom of even the littlest among us.
7 Handy Tips to Reduce Food Waste
Is your bin filled with expired food? Read on to save your hard-earned money while also teaching your child about healthy eating and sustainable habits!
Every year, 7.6 million tonnes of food is wasted – and that’s just in Australia. What’s worse, 70% of food that ends up in landfills and incinerators was perfectly inedible when discarded. To fight food waste, the United Nations established the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste Reduction to campaign for sustainable solutions to food waste from the farm to your plate.
To contribute to the conversation, we’ve listed seven handy tips to reduce food waste and save your hard-earn money. These aren’t life-changing adjustments, but something as simple as buying an ugly cucumber is the first step to introduce your child to sustainable habits and healthy eating.
1. Buy Ugly Food
Firstly, keep an eye out for disfigured or misshapen fruit and veg at the supermarket. A shocking amount of fresh produce is discarded by farmers that don’t meet supermarkets aesthetic standards, with 45% of all produce being thrown away. Ugly produce is often disregarded by shoppers and left to the reduced bin, with many of that nutritious produce thrown out as supermarkets discard up to 10% of their food.
Thankfully, some supermarket chains have identified this needless waste through marketing ugly fruit separately, such as Coles ‘I’m Perfect’ range and Woolworths ‘the Odd Bunch.’ Importantly, this demonstrates how consumer spending habits directly influence the policies of the big players in food waste.
2. Make a List
Have you ever wondered why milk is always at the back of the store and the produce is waiting for you at the front? Or why the chocolate bars are tantalisingly placed at the checkout? The design of supermarkets and the placement of their products are specifically engineered to make you buy on impulse, therefore making a list is vital to ensure you only buy what you need.
Additionally, a list promotes mindful shopping. When buying those birthday cake flavoured biscuits, ask yourself – do I really need this? Often you realise you actually don’t, and they end up going stale before eventually meeting the bin.
3. Keep Leftovers
Meal-prepping and freezing meals is a wonderful way to reduce your household food waste as you can prepare meals on weekends or cook several days worth a few nights a week.
A recent survey found that Australians throw away in one in five bags worth of groceries, which is equivalent to around 312kg per person each year – equalling $2,500 wasted annually per family.
Pre-cooking meals reduces waste, saves money on takeout and promotes healthy eating habits for your child (you can get them involved in the cooking too!).
4. Understand Use-By and Best-Before Dates
Many people don’t understand the difference between use-by and before dates. While use-by dates are required on meat products and cannot be sold after this date, best-before dates are only an estimation of when food will be at its highest quality. Essentially, this is guess work by the manufacturer, which can result in consumers conflating best-before and use-by dates.
One study estimated that 24% of Europeans believed food is unsafe to eat beyond its best-before date. Some UK supermarket chains have even taken steps to prevent this misconception, with Aldi, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and M&S removing best-before dates on many produce, milk and yogurt lines. This is in line with research outlining that the three most wasted foods are fruit, veg and bread.
5. Buy Local
Your local farmers market or baker are a fantastic way to reduce waste and support your local community. Local food markets control their own food production and distribution chains, so they’re not constrained by supermarket aesthetic standards or large-scale transit concerns.
Additionally, local traders have a better understanding of how much they need to make and what sells. Moreover, they often have better systems in place to handle leftovers, such as allowing staff to take home leftover stock or even giving it away before closing.
There are countless not-for-profit organisations that specialize in taking leftover food for homeless shelters, compost or animal feed. While some supermarkets partner with these groups and even allow customers to take discarded produce for animal feed, they are often hampered by legal waivers and forms.
Organisations such as FareShare, Foodbank Victoria and Empower Australia are just a few foodbanks that are always looking for donations!
7. Grow your Own!
Starting a veggie garden is a great bonding opportunity for you and your little one. It teaches them the wonders of nature, sustainability and the benefits of clean eating (and you control the pesticides).
We love gardening at Explorers. Our Educators and children maintain our herb and veggie gardens, and families are welcome to take home produce to enjoy! Children engage in the planting process and even harvest the veggies, which are then cooked by our chefs and enjoyed in daily meals.
In conclusion, food waste is an unavoidable part of food production, but we can take steps to reduce it from the farm to your fridge. You don’t have to become a food waste advocate, but the first step is stopping at the supermarket to ask yourself – do I really need garlic bread flavoured potato chips?
7 Sentimental DIY Father’s Day Gifts
Looking for something more meaningful than a new power drill? Read on for some DIY Father’s Day gifts that are sure to make Dad’s special day even better!
It’s almost Father’s Day! The commercials are filled with specials on toolboxes, neckties are on sale and you’re glaring at that homebrewing kit you bought last year that’s never been used.
With more gift choices now than ever, we’ve done away with the quirky socks and ‘World’s Best Dad’ mugs to list some wonderfully sentimental – and environmentally friendly – DIY gifts that will mean so much more to Dad, Grandad or the special person in your life than a new power drill.
1. Father’s Day Picture Frame
In a world of smartphones, computers and screens seemingly everywhere, it can be easy to forget the simple magic of a framed photograph. A family photo is the perfect addition to a bedside table or office desk, so why not make it extra special?
With some basic materials, you and your little one can create a unique picture frame for Dad in a few easy steps! Once you’ve assembled your desired frame, just add glue and decorate. For example, you can use sequin, glitter, buttons, stamps, old newspaper scraps, seashells or even twigs! The possibilities are endless, so get as creative as you like.
Do you have a little Michelangelo at home? If so, artwork is the perfect gift for Dad while also providing your child a sense of accomplishment. Whether it’s a portrait, a sketch of a special moment or just some squiggly lines, Dad’s love seeing their children’s artistic spirit come to life.
Moreover, you can print drawings onto t-shirts, mousepads, posters, Father’s Day cards and fridge magnets. Not to mention they make a fine addition to a custom picture frame.
3. Wooden Coaster
If you come across some fallen branch, why not take it home for a DIY project?
All you need is a thick enough branch (at least 9cm in diameter), a saw, a brush, some sandpaper (heavy and fine) and clear varnish. It’s a surprisingly simple process with remarkably personal results:
- Cut the thick parts of the branch with a saw into desired coaster sized discs.
- Sandpaper the top and bottom. Use a heavy paper for the wider areas and a fine paper for the harder to reach nooks – don’t sandpaper the bark on the outside.
- Coat all around the wood with clear varnish and let it dry.
This one requires strict parental supervision, however your child can pitch in by helping apply the varnish with a brush or even team up on the saw. Additionally, you can personalise a coaster further by using a wood burner to write out a message or signature.
For a more in-depth guide, click here.
A custom bookmark is the perfect gift for bookworms this Father’s Day. All you need is some coloured card, scissors, ribbons, a hole punch, some texters and an idea.
DIY bookmarks are a wonderful gift because they can be effortlessly personalised. If he’s a keen fisher, make a fishing rod. If he’s a foodie, make a spatula. Does he love golf? You get the idea. Lastly, you can go the extra mile by writing out a special message or poem to make this bookmark stand out!
5. Clay Creation
Clay play is a deeply sensory experience for children because they use both hands to feel and work the material. Moreover, it’s a popular form of messy play which aids in children’s emotional and physical developmental in an environmentally friendly way. Just make sure to look out for non-toxic clay and always supervise your child during clay time.
You can create mugs, bowls, pencil holders, paperweights or anything your child desires. A dragon? A mini football? A mould of their hand? The only limit is their imagination because clay is the perfect blank canvas. Mistakes are easily reversed by mushing the art and starting over. However, make sure you take finished products to a ceramist to be professionally fired in a kiln as conventional ovens don’t get nearly hot enough to fire clay.
Need something to put into that clay-fired plant pot? Plants are a sentimental and environmentally friendly Father’s Day gift without breaking the bank. Cacti are a Father’s Day favourite, as are bonsai trees, spider plants and dragon trees.
In recent years, Jade plants – also known as money plants – have exploded in popularity. This is likely because they’re considered lucky, require little care and make the perfect addition to a study, bedroom or office space. Just give them water, light and lots of love and they’ll last for years!
7. Baked Goods
If you think dad will force a smile at all the above, why not keep it simple? Baking your special someone their favourite treat is a foolproof plan because homemade food is so much more personal than grabbing the first thing you see at the supermarket.
You can personalise baked goodies with edible toppers and food dye to celebrate their favourite sports team, hobby or tv show. However, baked goods won’t last (at least you hope they won’t!), so you can always pair them with another gift like a homemade plate or mug filled with freshly brewed coffee.
In conclusion, Dad, Grandad or whoever you celebrate the day with deserves to be spoiled on their special day. Whether it’s a framed drawing, a prickly cactus or a tray of brownies, be sure to thank them for everything they do and to celebrate the occasion together. After all, they deserve so much more than a new screwdriver.
5 Super Sustainable Playdough Alternatives
Is your little one in the playdough phase? To avoid the nasty chemicals and in store-bought brands, read on for our list of sustainable playdough alternatives!
Children love messy play. It’s a chance to explore their imagination without fear or judgement. It also aids in fine and gross motor skills, strengthens finger muscles and may even prevent illness later in life. There’s a world of options for messy play, but many parents reach for store-bought playdough without a second thought.
While sustainable playdough brands exist, store-bought playdough is often filled with preservatives and chemicals. Sadly, this makes them unfit for decomposition and recycling – not to mention the plastic containers they come in – leading to unnecessary waste.
Our Explorers Early Learning Centres embrace environmentally friendly messy play, so here are five of our favourite alternatives to storebought playdough for you and your little one to enjoy!
Clay is an inexpensive alternative to storebought playdough that doesn’t leave the crusty mess when it dries out. It’s easily rehydrated, a breeze to store and costs as little as $2 a kg. Just be sure to always look out for clearly labelled and certified non-toxic clay.
The benefits of clay are multi-sensory. It encourages children to see, feel and smell the experience as they create something new. Above all, this develops children’s curiosity, attention span and confidence as they see a project develop from idea to finished product.
Little masterpieces can be taken to your local kiln to be fired and saved as mementos – perfect for gifts, ornaments or keepsakes.
Note: do not fire clay creations in your oven. Conventional ovens do not get hot enough to fire clay and may damage your appliance. Please consult your local ceramist for a kiln service.
Mud play is a surprisingly fun messy play option for young children. It’s a calming experience that introduces children to the wonders of nature.
Simply go to the backyard or park, add some water to a patch of dirt and let your little ones do the rest. If the weather’s not ideal or you want to save time cleaning up, just fill a bathtub or bucket to replicate the experience in a controlled environment.
A 2014 study of children in urban environments argued that young children coming into contact with bacteria found in mud may decrease the likelihood of developing asthma. This study was conducted in response to fears that over-sanitisation has led to weakened immune systems. The researchers concluded that:
‘Exposure to high levels of certain allergens and bacteria in early life might be beneficial and suggest new preventive strategies for wheezing and allergic diseases.’
3. Cloud Play
All you need for cloud play is cotton wool. Children gleefully tear and recombine the fluffy fabric, making clouds, mountains, animals or anything their little minds can conjure.
It’s ideal for hypersensitive and autistic children who may be dismayed by unfamiliar smells or textures. It’s important that children are exposed to these sensations, as not doing so may hinder their development.
Cloud play is the ideal entry point for children to explore new sensations and develop fine motor skills in a calming setting. It’s super simple, completely safe and cotton is 100% biodegradable!
4. Recycled Materials
Do you have any old boxes lying around? How about some forgotten kitchenware? What about those pipe offcuts in the shed? Don’t throw them away! You’d be amazed what a child can create with some tape, glue and sheets of cardboard.
Those old pots and pans become a robot butler, the boxes a castle in the Middle Ages and those pipes a spaceship to mars. Children’s imaginations are limitless, and using old materials reduces waste while also developing your child’s problem solving and creative skills.
All Explorers Early Learning Centres have a Recycle Station for this exact purpose. They rely on donations from families and the broader community, so if you have any old materials you’re not using, please donate them to your nearest Centre!
5. Homemade Playdough
If none of the above appeal to you or your little one, there’s an old saying that comes to mind: if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Homemade playdough is an extremely basic recipe – mostly flour and water – so you can make it with ease in as little as ten minutes. It’s also a wonderful opportunity to spend some quality bonding time with your child!
All you need to make homemade playdough is:
- All-purpose flour
- Cream of tartar
- Table salt
- Vegetable or canola oil
- Gel food colouring
For an in-depth video guide, please click here.
While it can sometimes be a hassle to clean up, messy play is a vital part of all children’s development. It’s a blank canvas that not only allows, but encourages, experimentation and ingenuity. And don’t forget, it’s not just for them, you can get involved too. That’s why we have soap!