Find out What Motivates Your Child to Learn: Science Experiments to Pique Interests

By Bethany Johnson in Healthy Feeling

All kids are different. What really excites one child can be a total drag to his sibling, or vice versa.

Some academic subjects speak only to one personality or another, but I’ve found that science can jazz almost every kid. A simple science experiment can help you define what motivates your child. Then, you can tailor future activities to that interest!

Finding out what motivates your child to learn can be as easy as testing a few different science experiments, like this chemistry activity.

Here are a few simple science activities to pique your child’s curiosity. Each one engages a different branch of science, so you can get a feel for what motivates your child to learn more:

The Classic Volcano

Last summer, I was frustrated by all the amazing science activities I wanted to do with kids—what mom has time to set up elaborate chemistry experiments? Instead, we opted for super simple activities that packed an educational punch. First up was the homemade volcano . . . with a twist.

First, gather your supplies. You’ll need:

  • A beaker or tall translucent bottle
  • A box of baking soda
  • Food coloring
  • Distilled white vinegar
  • Dish soap

Start by having your young chemist dump a spoonful of baking soda into the beaker. Next, let her mix a drop of food coloring into the powder. Then open your vinegar lid and drop two drops of soap into it. What happens? (The answer: nothing!)

Hypothesize together about what chemical reaction may transpire when you dump your wet liquid concoction into your dry mix. Talk about the atoms that comprise baking soda and vinegar and why those atoms might want to “share” electrons or protons, if given the chance.

Then, it’s showtime. Get your camera ready, and have your child slowly pour the vinegar mixture into the beaker to combine with the baking soda. Your result is a marvelous, colorful volcano!

Try experimenting with different ratios of soap to vinegar and baking soda. Why would each recipe produce a different volume of bubbles? Finally, talk about the byproduct of this chemistry experiment (gas and water) and how every reaction produces a different compound altogether.

Atmospheric Visual

The next activity visually teaches kids how a liquid (water) can turn into a gas. In other words, you’ll be making a cloud!

Start by carefully pouring about 6 ounces of boiling water into the bottom of a mason jar. Then, place three ice cubes on top of the jar’s lid and loosely place the lid atop the jar. Have your little scientist assistant carefully remove the lid (with your supervision) so you can spritz a quick shot of hairspray into the jar, and then loosely put the lid back on for observation. What do you see happening?

Finding out what motivates your child to learn can be as easy as testing a few different science experiments, like this cloud-in-a-jar activity.

As you wait for the cloud to form, let your child peruse a list of famous scientists for kids. Who does she admire most? What scientific field does she want to explore next?

After about a minute, remove the lid to let the cloud escape. Where does the cloud go? Why?

Finding out what motivates your child to learn can be as easy as testing a few different science experiments, like this cloud-in-a-jar activity.

Geologic Curiosities

So far, you and your young scientists have dabbled in meteorology and chemistry—two fun branches of science. Why not also enjoy a geological activity, to see whether that’s what motivates your child to learn more science?

This activity is equally fun and just as easy. Simply keep an eye out for pretty rocks during your travels throughout the next few days and weeks. Our area has tons of interesting rocks my kids enjoy picking up, and I let my kids bring home all sorts of shapes, colors, and textures of stones (even sand!). Have your child rinse her rocks and pebbles and lay them flat. Using a simple guide like the one available at the United States Geological Survey, determine whether each is a sedimentary, metamorphic, or igneous rock. Then, use them to make your own formation. Here’s how:

Start by putting a layer of pebbles at the bottom of a plastic cup. Next, add a layer of sand, and then squeeze about 2 tablespoons of white craft glue into the cup. Now, layer a few larger rocks on top of the glue. (Repeat like a geological parfait, until all your rocks are included.) Finish with another 2 tablespoons of glue (yes, it’s a lot), and let the whole concoction sit for at least 48 hours.

After everything has dried, cut the plastic cup away from your rock, and observe the different layers of “time” represented in your customized rock formation. Hypothesize how this may compare to the actual layers of the Earth’s crust.

Some kids are motivated by rewards, and others just want to enjoy the journey. No matter your kid’s personality, he’ll enjoy learning about the planet and its many wonders. How does science factor into your family’s life? Let us know on Twitter!

Image source: Bethany Johnson

This article was brought to you by Tom’s of Maine. The views and opinions expressed by the author do not reflect the position of Tom’s of Maine.

Why It’s Good

You, having life experience, can appreciate the delicate balance of our environment. Instill the same appreciation in your kids with fun science activities. It's so rewarding to learn what motivates your child to care, and it feels good knowing you sparked a lifelong love of science in the next generation.