by Sarah Benton Feitlinger – Science is everywhere, and it is easy to fuel children’s natural curiosity outdoors with a quick and easy science experiment. Kids are natural born scientists, always inventing and experimenting, with whatever just happens to be right in front of them. Throwing spaghetti against a wall? A science experiment. Stacking blocks. A science experiment. Blowing bubbles. Yep! A science experiment for kids right in the comfort of your own home (or backyard).
We made it our mission to keep these cool kid’s science experiments simple, using minimal supplies you can find around the house. Whether you are out on a hike, camping trip, play-date at the park, or just a walk around the yard, here are 50 different outdoor science experiments for kids that will get their creative juices flowing, ignite their critical thinking skills, and connect them to nature.
50 Easy Science Experiments for Kids
Evaporation Science Experiment for Kids
Turn your next rainstorm or snow melt into a science experiment! How long does it take for a puddle to evaporate, or turn into water vapor?
This is all you will need to investigate this question:
- A puddle
- Sidewalk chalk (if your puddle is on pavement or concrete)
- A stick (if your puddle is on soil)
- A ruler (optional)
Find the perfect puddle. If it is on a surface like concrete or pavement, outline the puddle with a piece of sidewalk chalk. If the puddle is on the soil, draw a line around it in the dirt with a stick. Determine how often you will check your puddle throughout the course of one day (or longer). Once every hour is a good place to start. If you have a ruler, stick it upright in the middle of the puddle to measure the water’s depth before you start.
Each time you check on your puddle, note whether it has shrunken from your original outline, and if you are measuring depth, check that, too. Take into consideration that your puddle might “disappear” faster on a sunny day than on an overcast day. Why is this so?
There are many other fun ways to experiment with water and the weather outdoors.
This water desalination experiment is great to try over a campfire.
Headed to your local splash park? Experiment with physics while you play in the water!
Build a toy boat from recyclables and experiment with buoyancy in a puddle, pond or lake.
Raining? Perfect! Head outdoors and experiment with color in this fun rainy-day art experiment.
Learn more about the water cycle by leaving this salt water experiment outside for a few days. What happens?
Keeping Warm or Cool Outdoors Science Experiment for Kids
Whether it is cold or warm weather outside we always need to insulate something. A down parka keeps your body heat in during the winter, a cooler keeps your lemonade cold in the summer. Experimenting with insulation is fun and easy.
You’ll need the following for your experiment:
- Ice cube tray and ice cubes
- Egg carton, plastic baggies or small containers
- Ice cubes
- Stopwatch or timer
- Insulation materials of your choice (i.e. newspaper, leaves, fabric, moss, tree bark, cotton balls, etc.)
You can easily set this experiment up just about anywhere outside. The objective is to see what material is best for insulating an ice cube to prevent it from melting. Egg cartons are good for this because they provide several compartments for testing different insulation materials.
Choose various materials to stuff around your ice cubes. You might want to use all-natural materials, or things you can find around the house. Decide on a set amount of time that you will wait between checking on your ice cubes. Place your experiment in one location and do not move it during the experiment. Which materials keep the ice cubes cold the longest?
If you want to do an experiment like this outdoors during the winter, you can try to insulate something warm instead. You will need some plastic containers or cups, a thermometer, warm water and materials for insulation. Fill your cups or containers with the warm water. Choose your insulative materials and wrap or cover the cups or containers with them.
Take the temperature of the water with the thermometer before you begin your experiment. Choose the amount of time between your observations. During each observation, take the temperature of the water. Which insulator works the best?
You can continue to explore temperature, melting and freezing with these other fun experiments.
Investigate the differences between melting snow and ice with just a few items from your kitchen.
Get outside on a nice sunny day and see exactly what the sun can melt with this easy experiment.
Why do we use salt on icy roads? Find out with this salt and ice experiment.
Brew a batch of sun tea and learn about diffusion and osmosis.
Find out whether cold water or hot water freezes faster by exploring the amazing Mpemba effect.
Ever get brain freeze when you are eating a popsicle? Try this experiment to learn more on a hot summer’s day.
How Does it Grow Science Experiment for Kids
Satisfy your green thumb with a plant experiment. We know plants need sun, water and soil. But what type of soil is best? Plant some quick-growing seeds in different soils outside to see which soil is best.
You will need:
- Quick-germinating seeds, (radishes or green beans are good choices)
- Trowel or shovel
- At least 2 of the following soil types: sand, potting soil, garden soil, forest soil, clay, compost, or a mixture of one or more of these
- Sunny location
- Water source
- Craft stick or another type of garden marker
Choose a spot to grow some seeds. With your trowel or shovel, dig a trench just a few inches deep. Try to keep it consistently deep along the length of the trench. Take the various types of soil you’ve chosen and fill segments of your trench with them.
For example, if I’ve chosen to use sand, compost and garden soil, I would fill one-third of the trench with the sand, one-third with the compost and so on. Write each soil type on a garden marker so that you don’t forget what you’ve planted your seeds in.
Following the planting directions on the package, plant seeds in each type of soil. Water the trench consistently until your seedlings sprout. Which sprout first? Which sprouts look strong and healthy? What soil is the best for the type of plant you’ve chosen?
Plants make great outdoor experimental test subjects! Explore some botany with these kid-friendly outdoor science experiments.
How does water move through plants? Learn with this easy leaf transpiration experiment.
All you need is a stump to explore a tree’s rings with this dendrochronology project.
Why do pine cones and other conifer tree cones open? Try this experiment and find out!
Got a pumpkin? Before you make a pie with it, try this super fun outdoor engineering experiment.
Experiment with measuring the height of a tree, while keeping your feet on the ground.
Discover what is growing in your backyard by making your own plant specimen discovery bottles.
Decomposition is a natural part of a plant’s life cycle. Learn what happens when you let a fruit rot with this pumpkin experiment.
What exactly is in soil? Dig some up and find out in this outdoor soil experiment.
Shadow Science Experiment for Kids
Shadows are always fun to play around with. You can experiment with the sun and shadows just about anywhere, with little to no supplies. Experiment with shadows by finding a sunny spot outdoors and investigate these test questions:
- Where is the sun when your shadow is in front of you?
- Where is the sun when your shadow is behind you?
- Where do you have to move your body to have the longest shadow?
- Where do you have to move your body to have the shortest shadow?
- Can you move to a place where you have two shadows? More than two?
Once you’ve learned all about your own shadow, try these other sun and shadow experiments.
Playing on a paved surface? Try this awesome outdoor art and science shadow project.
Can you make an outdoor human sundial? Find out here.
If you are wondering how the groundhog sees his shadow, investigate with this shadow experiment.
Experiment with light and shadows by taking these shadow puppets outdoors.
Build your own DIY spectroscope from just a few materials that you already have at home and see what else you can find out about the sun’s light and its hidden colors.
Investigate transparent and opaque materials and the shadows they make by building some shadow frames and taking them on your next outdoor excursion.
Seed Physics and Engineering Experiment for Kids
Who hasn’t taken a little joy in finding a maple seed, aka “helicopter”, “whirlybird” or “samara”, and watching it spin through the air? Can you design a seed that spins? Try out some designs and then experiment to see which one works the best.
You will need:
- Paper, string, recyclables, leaves, sticks or any other material you would like to build with
- Scissors (optional)
- A location off the ground (i.e. top of the slide, a boulder, balcony, stump, etc.)
- Stopwatch (optional)
Test the question: “Which seed design will spin the longest?” Design your “seed”. First you need to find out if it spins. Test it out! Drop your design from a location off the ground. Keep safety in mind when you are experimenting.
Does your design spin? If it does not, modify your creation until it does. Once you have a design that spins, use your stopwatch to find out how long it will spin and stay adrift. Now…can you make an even better spinning seed design? Compare your seed models to an actual maple seed to see which spins the longest.
If you loved engineering a spinning seed, then you’ll also love these other outdoor engineering experiments.
Want to build more seeds? Try to build and test seed designs that float, fly and stick!
Design and build a catapult from recyclables and experiment to find out how far your creation will launch an object.
Create a fulcrum balance from natural materials and experiment with weight and balance of items you find in nature.
Design a natural bridge and experiment to see what it can hold!
Create a giant outdoor ball run and see how long you can keep a ball in motion.
Build towers with natural items and experiment to see which material is best for making the tallest tower.
Experiment with sticks to find the best design for a stick fort! Which is the most stable design? Test and find out.
Bubble Science: Playful Outdoor Science Experiments for Kids
It is so much fun to blow and pop bubbles outside. Try this experiment next time you are playing with suds in the backyard or at the park. Can you blow a square bubble? How about one that is a triangle?
Here is what you will need:
- Pipe cleaners or flexible wire
- Bubble Solution
- Large bowl
Bend some pipe cleaners or wire into bubble wands of various shapes. Try squares, triangles, hearts, rectangles, etc. Pour some bubble solution into the bowl. Dip your homemade bubble wands into the solution and blow some bubbles. Try each shape. What is your result?
Science is fun outside and in. Try these other outdoor experiences that are not just fun, but also experiments!
How long can you make a “bubble snake”? Build this bubble blower and find out!
Can you crush a bottle using just your mind? Try this magic science experiment.
Experiment with friction next time you are at the playground.
Build a sandbox volcano and learn some chemistry while you are at it!
Why do you have to wear sunscreen? This fun experiment makes it easy to see how it protects us from the sun’s rays.
Have some little ones with lots of energy? This easy jumping experiment can be done just about anytime and anywhere outdoors.
Make some moon craters right here on Earth. Experiment with how deep or shallow you can make a crater in your own backyard with just a few supplies from the kitchen.
Love little bugs and other crawly things? Foster respect for living things by designing your own insect investigation.
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Sarah Benton Feitlinger is a science educator with over a decade of experience teaching in museums, nature centers and the science classroom. She now shares her passion for teaching science on her blog, Share it! Science. She loves exploring the outdoors with her family in rural New England.