Posted: Jan 19, 2014 8:00 AM
Doing science experiments with kids is a wonderful way to bond and learn together. Capitalize on your girls' natural curiosity and creativity while getting busy together with these fun science experiments for girls. Get her thinking, creating, predicting and — most importantly — loving every minute of science fun with you!

Moms of girls are always looking for fun, creative and inexpensive ways to empower and connect with our daughters. Science experiments might just be the answer. Girls are naturally inquisitive and the benefits of engaging in smart activities together are twofold: The chance to connect and the message you'll send that math and science are, indeed, for her.

When girls are given ample opportunities to practice math and science in a fun and meaningful way, their self-confidence rises and so do their test scores.

Child and adolescent psychotherapist Katie Hurley explains, "What the research shows is that a large part of the gender gap with math and science is due to environmental factors. In essence, girls aren't being encouraged to practice or given the opportunity to work on these concepts. The unstated message being internalized is fairly simple: Girls don't like math and science. However, when girls are given ample opportunities to practice math and science in a fun and meaningful way, their self-confidence rises and so do their test scores. When girls feel confident in their abilities, they are more likely to continue to learn in those areas, in high school, college and beyond."

So now that you're sold on the benefits of doing science with your mad little scientist, try these five simple experiments the two of you can create together using simple ingredients that are probably already in your kitchen!

Mentos volcano science experiment

Mentos volcano

What you'll need

  • Room temperature diet tonic water (Diet soda is less sticky than regular, and tonic water is clear which is a plus for this experiment!)
  • 1 roll of Mentos
  • A piece of paper or an index card

What you'll do

  1. Roll the index card into a tube and drop all of the Mentos at the same time down the tube and right into the open soda bottle.
  2. You'll create a huge explosion, so take this one outside!
  3. You'll need a fresh set of ingredients to repeat this experiment.

Smart science tip^When you drop the Mentos into the bottle, they displace the soda. The carbon dioxide gas in the bubbly soda naturally wants up and out, which is exactly where it goes. The soda dissolves the Mentos, putting gum arabic and gelatin into the solution. These chemicals lower the surface tension of the soda, making it easier for bubbles to expand and escape. Also, the surface of the candy becomes pitted, providing sites for bubbles to attach and grow.

Lava jar science experiment

Lava jar

What you'll need

  • Clear jars or cups
  • Water
  • Food coloring
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt

What you'll do

  1. Fill the jar or cup about 3/4 full with water and add 6 drops of food coloring to it.
  2. Slowly add the vegetable oil, noting how it rises to the top.
  3. Sprinkle the salt into the jar and watch the lava rise and fall.
  4. You can add extra salt to keep the reaction going.

Smart science tip^The oil floats on top of the water because it's lighter than the water. Since the salt is heavier than the oil, it sinks down into the water and takes some oil with it, but then the salt dissolves and the oil goes right back up!

Magic balloons science experiment

Magic balloons

What you'll need

  • Plastic bottle
  • Balloon
  • 2 funnels
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

What you'll do

  1. Using a funnel, fill the bottle 1/3 full with vinegar.
  2. Using the second funnel, fill the balloon 1/2 full with baking soda.
  3. Carefully cover the top of the bottle with the balloon, not letting the baking soda spill.
  4. When you're ready, lift the balloon and let the baking soda fall into the vinegar.
  5. Look closely, and you can see the mixture fizz, bubble and expand the balloon.
  6. You'll need a new balloon and will need to wash out the bottle to repeat this experiment.

Smart science tip^The chemical reaction between baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid) produces carbon dioxide gas. Gases need room to spread, so the carbon dioxide fills the bottle and then moves into the balloon and inflates it.

Surprise color fizz science experiment

Surprise color fizz

What you'll need

  • A baking tray (to minimize the mess, you can also take this one outside)
  • Clear cups or containers
  • Plastic spoons
  • Food coloring
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar

What you'll do

  1. Fill each cup 2/3 full with vinegar.
  2. Place several drops of food coloring on each spoon, and then cover the drops with baking soda.
  3. Pick a spoon and drop the baking soda into the vinegar. You might need to stir a little bit to get the colors going into a bubbly, fizzy and overflowing surprise.
  4. You can add more vinegar and/or baking soda to continue the effect.

Smart science tip^ The baking soda and the vinegar create an acid-base reaction and the two chemicals work together to create the gas carbon dioxide.

Petrified pepper science experiment

Petrified pepper

What you'll need

  • Water
  • Pepper
  • Small drop of dish soap

What you'll do

  1. Fill a small bowl with water and sprinkle it with ground pepper.
  2. Put a small drop of dish soap on your index finger and dip your finger into the center of the bowl.
  3. Watch the pepper get petrified, and run away to the sides!
  4. You'll need to wash the bowl to repeat the experiment.

Smart science tip^The reason for this is surface tension. Water has a very thin "skin" on it and the dish soap destroys the "skin" bursting it like a bubble. As the "skin" retreats from the dish soap, it takes the pepper with it.

More on raising smart girls

Let's make girls unstoppable
Raising a confident child
The right way to praise your children