This page started 98 Jan 7 -- first draft is not yet complete.

Letter to Parents
About Home Science Experiments

The projects on this website should be safe for childern provided a parent assists and joins in the fun. Younger students in the lower grades will need help understanding most of these pages. Eventually, this website will include pages of ideas and safety precautions for parents, teachers, and club sponsors.

Have Fun Doing Science Experiments with your Child

Kids enjoy science experiments. The wonders of nature and the mechanics of the operation of the universe are all new and exciting to them. These simple, safe experiments are intended for preschool and elementary students working at home with a parent. Parents should not overlook the fun of doing experiments with their child. Many parents think they lack the time or information to enjoy science experiments with their kids, but young childern are bubbling with curiosity and few things in life can bring the joy and satisfaction of sharing learning activities with them. Don't let these best years of your life get wasted on the mechanics of providing food and shelter. Being with you and learning from you is your child's greatest joy. You and they will treasure these hours you had together for a lifetime. The toddler who learns he can turn to you for accurate, fair advice on solving the problems of play may turn to you with confidence when he needs advice on more serious problems as he grows older. Ever notice the large number adults that have no interest in anything? Don't ridicule or show no interest in the things your kids are excited about if you want them to retain the curiosity that drives leaders and scientists.

Are Science Experiments at Home Safe?

We all agree that some experiments can be dangerous. Perhaps some parents worry that encouraging kids to experiment may lead them to do things which will harm them or burn the house down when the parents are absent. This page will attempt to offer guidance on this problem, but this is just a first draft.

We might use teaching kids to swim as an example of an activity having risks. One parent might promote the terror of drowning as a way of keeping kids away from water. That child might grow up with excessive fear of water. Another parent may believe drown-proofing a child by teaching him the Georgia Tech method gives him better preparation for life. In a similar way, teaching a child to work safely with chemicals, glassware, heat, bacteria, animals, and electricity may reduce his risk of injury rather than increase it. Actually, most kids attempt some very dangerous things in their efforts to learn about the world in spite of the warnings of parents. If the child knows his parent will allow him to do these things safely with parental supervision, he might not attempt them by himself (playing with matches, knives, power tools, explosives).

In the above paragraph I was trying to state my view that kids attempt dangerous things based on what they know of the world. I did not mean to limit our thoughts to science experiments at home. I am suggesting it may be safer to allow kids to do some of the things they want to do in your presence and with your coaching on the proper and safe way to drive a car, build a bonfire, build a club house, swimming and diving, etc. I am trying to express my view that science experiments may be no more dangerous than other ordinary activities you child needs to learn before adulthood. Since science experiments are commonly conducted with safety face shields and other precautions, the experiments may actually be less dangerous than skating, bicycling and other activities formerly done without safety equipment. While I sometimes get comments from parents indicating they believe science experiments are dangerous, I feel they are no more dangerous than other childhood activities such as riding a bicyle. Just as supplying a helmut and safe riding in traffic instruction can reduce the risk of accident in riding a bike, providing proper equipment and training can reduce the risk of injury in home science experiments.

Take the Risk out of Experiments at Home

In my view, helping your kids conduct science exeriments can teach them principles which will reduce their chances of injury in the routines of life. For example, as the child gets older, you may wonder if experiments with bacteria and chemicals are not placing your child at needless risk. Definitely, you do not want to give your child pathogenic organisms or nitroglycerine as toys, but allowing him to isolate bacteria from cheese which you would otherwise eat, seems to offer little risk, but teaches him much about bacteria. Since it is possible that garden soil could contain pathogenic organisms such as Clostridium tetani which causes lockjaw, is it safe to let him isolate and work with the many interesting organisms from such sources? Here information would be the best protection. Use isolation methods which do not permit the growth of Clostridium tetani. While you probably don't know the conditions that favor Clostridium tetani, it would be simple to read about them before you begin such work. One goal of this website is to provide or guide you to such safety information.

Deciding which experiments are safe for a child are up to the parent and parents' attitudes differ. Some parents let childern begin driving farm machinery or automobiles earlier than others. The answer often depends upon the maturity of the child and other local factors. I felt the opportunity to teach my son safe methods for working with electricity, chemicals, and swimming equipped him with skills which benefited him more than the risks involved. For example would teaching a child to swim cause him to become more interested in swimming and tempt him to go swimming alone in risky situations. I can't say for your child. If your child wants to attempt an experiment and you are concerned it might be too risky, one approach would be to avoid an immediate "yes or no", but let him list and evaluate the risks of the project and plan ways to overcome the risks. We all face decisions in life involving risks such as buying a new car or keeping the old one another year when the brakes are of uncertain quality. Sometimes we decide not to make a decision and drive the old one more day. Helping your child make definite decisions rather that let a questionable practice continue can be a benefit of doing science experiments at home.

Comments by a 65 year old kid on Experiments at home.

From about age 10 to graduation from high school, I and my siblings did lots of tinkering at home. Not once did Dad ever complain about our use of his carpentery and plumbing tools. In turn we made sure they were clean and dry and returned to his tool chests in the proper place so that he could respond promptly to calls for help from his customers.

It turned out that I did not actually perform the experiments which helped me the most. I longed for a chemistry set but never got one. I guess I decided chemistry sets for kids did not contain enough chemical to be worthwhile. I did buy a few items from the drug store such as sulfur, and epsom salts. I was very interested in growing fruit and purchased some chemicals such as ammonium nitrate, lime-sulfur, dormant oils, copper sulfate, nicotine sulfate, and corrosive sublimate. I also purchased a few things for photography, including sodium thiosulfate. Like most homes, we had the usual household chemicals: sodium hypochlorite (Chlorox), sodium carbonate (washing soda), calcium hydroxide (hydrated lime), calcium carbonate (limestone), sodium bicarbonate (baking soda), sodium hydroxide (lye), and acetic acid (vinegar). That list contains 12 chemicals and they were not in tiny 1/2 ounce bottles!

It occurred to me that I could manufacture lots of other chemicals from these or other readily available items such as wood. That lead me to spend dozens of hours devouring a chemistry book from the library to see what I could manufacture. When you have a goal, your study is intense, your notes and trial equations carefully written and revised. My goal of manufacturing never got beyond a few trials, but I did produce a few grams of beautiful crystals of some very safe chemicals. While I manufactured very few chemicals, my efforts spanned 3 or 4 years off and on and I learned more than one learns in most high school chemistry courses. I pored over an old Welch Scientific Supply catalog and became familiar with their descriptions of most of the equipment offered. I was aware that electrolysis would be the cleanest way to produce hydrogen, oxygen, chlorine and some other elements. Therefore, I tried to design a transformer and power supply for electrolysis, but could not find how to pick sizes to avoid meltdown of my costly wire. Unfortuneately, I did not think about hooking onto the battery in the family car or tractor and using a battery charger to keep it in charge. This is an example where my Dad could have helped me, but I had not told him of my need for direct current for electrolysis. This is an example of a roadblock a parent can discover and help the child overcome.

None of my 60 years in science have been any more exciting than my elementary and high school years. My willingness to build my own equipment served me just as well at Purdue University and California Institute of Technology as it had in my childhood. My pre-college years were so much fun because I have had the free time to read, dream, and experiment. My big problem was the lack of suitable books. Now people like myself understand the importance of such books for kids and much is available on the Internet. That is the reason for this website. As a result of my highschool work, I learned enough to pass the first semester of chemistry at Purdue by examination. I learned so much, I nearly had the highest score on the exam. Thus, I am a firm believer in science experiments at home.

------------------ to be continued. Some notes for those pages are listed below.

You will find the pages in this site vary from simple activities suitable for age 2 thru kindergarten to those for elementary and highschool students. You will not need to purchase items to get started. Encourage your child to follow projects for several years. The fun and work atitudes he develops at his science hobby will last him a lifetime. This site and its many links help you find ways to help your child progress with his science interests.

Success is the main motivation in life. People enjoy things they are successful at. You will foster your child's interest in science and his other studies by helping him succeed with these projects. A little help from you when he is blocked by a problem can enable him to continue. An example: as a freshman at Milltown High School, I borrowed a chem book from the school library and set out to teach myself chemistry because I had no chem set and the school did not teach chemistry. I succeeded until I came to Ferric and Ferrous compounds midway in the book. The difference is simple, but I failed to see the difference and concluded I had reached my limit and quit. It did not occur to me to ask a teacher or write a postcard to the town doctor. The real problem was that I mistook a small problem for the limits of my ability. In an opposite case, I had been taking French for two weeks at Purdue and doing average work. My major professor said his wife was a professional translator of scientific French and she spent two hours tutoring me. My progress the next day in class was astounding and I passed the Purdue Graduate French Exam two weeks later! You can have the similar influence on your child! When you discuss his projects with him you will discover any blocks to his progress and find ways to help him overcome them. Be an interested companiorn not a stern taskmaster.

How can we do expts at home.

Don't overlook the possibility of joining with other parents to form a neighborhood science club to share your skills and equipment. As your child progresses in science, he may lose interest in last year's projects and that equipment. Why not trade or loan that outgrown equipment with other families just as you trade outgrown clothing and school books? Many of these experiments are suitable for Home-Study and Science Fairs, but my main goal is help you child progress in a science hobby for many years.

These pages are accessible from Wayne's World or from the World Wide Web. Wayne's World has provided free space to bring these experiments for young students to you and all the kids in the world. Have fun today! These pages are indexed by INFOSEEK Search Engine and Database. Don't forget to use the many search engines to find information which complements that available from this site.

On another website, Indiana Biolab offers information and supplies for middle school and high school students and amateur scientists to run outstanding science projects at home or school. The Indiana Biolab website also helps adults find the science information they need for business, farming, gardening, food safety and preparation, science teaching, recreation, conservation, and environmental protection.

These pages were written by Dr. Harold Eddleman (Purdue, Biophysics, 1966) and he welcomes links from your pages to these pages. All these pages are placed in the public domain - you may use them free of charges. You may print these pages out on paper if that is more useful to you. Teachers and youth leaders are encouraged to print out and copy these pages for use in their classes and clubs. Crediting Dr. Eddleman as the author will be greatly appreciated. You are free to edit the pages to fit your use.

Never Attempt Unsafe Experiments
Be Wise - Practice Safety First

Revised 1998 January 7


This page was written by Harold Eddleman, Ph.D., President, Indiana Biolab, 14045 Huff St., Palmyra IN 47164