10 ways to make physical science FUN!

This month we've been completing lots of physical science lessons that my kids do not want to put down. I just love it when they are hooked on learning!

My kids have been learning all about simple machines, matter, and electricity from the best science teachers at the Edison Home. What better place to learn about science than Edison's home! A big thank you to the wild wizards there! They did a super job setting the stage for further science lessons.

As you may already know, I REALLY like hands-on learning because those are the lessons that make learning stick. Watching fantastic videos, creating fun projects, reading great books, and of course, edible lessons are totally my thing so here are some highlights of our awesome physical science lessons.

We watched Bill Nye, The Science Guy teach about Atoms in this great video!

The kids used cereal to model the different spacing of atoms in matter.


We made a 3-D atom using an orange, candy, and toothpicks. I got the idea from this creative teacher below. Very cool!

Here my boys are watching the video that is mentioned above. I like how the teacher taught about protons and neutrons being the seeds inside the nucleus (the orange).

The teacher in the video had them make negatively charged and positively charged atoms. This was challenging for them but I liked how they were practicing those critical thinking skills.

I was on a quest to make an edible atom. I searched on-line way too long and found nothing that I really liked so I decided to make an atom cookie cake. Since my family loves cookie cake, I knew this would be a big hit. You should have seen my kids faces when I said, "Let's make a cookie cake for science today." They thought I was kidding.

While designing our edible atom, I discussed how the numbers of the neutrons and protons are the same in the nucleus, so they took turns adding the colored protons and neutrons (M&Ms) making sure they were the same number. They boys wanted a negatively charge atom so they added more electrons than protons. 

When we were creating the atom, one of my sons exclaimed, "Oh, now I get it! That is why Jimmy "Neutron" has that symbol." I thought that was cute.

I can't believe how much learning took place during this lesson. My oldest son said it was his favorite science lesson EVER. That made me smile. :)

Update: A sweet reader commented below that the number of neutrons is calculated by subtracting the atomic number (number of protons) from the mass number. Thanks Carol!

We built molecules from gumdrops using a periodic table. This is such a terrific hands-on activity for kids to really grasp the concept of how molecules are made of atoms.

I got this idea from kidsdiscover.com.

I also had my kids memorize the parts of an atom using this mnemonic trick.

This poster is from my Mnemonics Packet, which includes the most common mnemonic devices I have used in twenty years of teaching.

Kids just LOVE Snap Circuits Jr. that teaches about electricity! My kids take this set out every summer during their free time to play with it. I've even bought a bunch for gifts because they are always a hit.
Snap Circuits Jr. SC-100
Magnetic Magic is a great hands-on books filled with really neat facts about magnets, as well as tips on using magnets to perform magic tricks. Talk about capturing a child's attention!

We conducted all sorts of experiments this week. We balanced magnets on sticks and pencils with repelling poles. We made paper clips fly. We tested things around our home to see what was magnetic. We played a racing game with a magnet under a paper maze and guided a paperclip figure through the maze.

I completely forgot about our Gears! Gears! Gears! Beginner's Building Set. I had purchase this set for my boys as a Christmas gift a few years ago. Yes, I am one of those moms who like to sneak in educational gifts anytime I get the chance. My kids don't seem to mind.☺ When I was finished reading to them about simple machines for our science lesson, I saw my boys in their room constructing gears for at least an hour. Even my toddler joined in! I love it when my kids' curiosity is peaked and they want to continue lessons on their own without any encouragement from me.

My boys could not stop playing the game, Tinker Ball. They thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of using different simple machines to get the ball in the hole.

I have not used any textbooks in homeschooling. Probably because I thought they were SO boring when I taught school. I'd rather use high-interest books to teach concepts instead. I have also used these science magazines due to all the colorful images and photos. Below are the ones I used for physical science in the upper elementary grades. I also reuse these magazines in high school. (Note: There are occasional references to evolution so I skip those sections.)

To observe physical and chemical changes we made s'mores. Yes, I wrote that! :)
The chemical changes are burning the marshmallow and eating the s'more. The physical changes are breaking the graham cracker and melting the chocolate.

We learned about acids and bases. This was my favorite science lesson when I taught fourth grade. Kids always enjoy testing substances with litmus paper. We tested 10 substances from around our home: milk, toothpaste, cream of tarter, laundry detergent, water, vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice, egg white, and Tums. I liked watching them make predictions and test them. They got so excited when their predictions were correct.

We topped off the physical science unit with a close look at one of the most famous inventors of all time.

I never did a day's work in my life. It was all fun. 
~Thomas A. Edison

Gotta love that quote! After reading this book, my kids made their our inventions.

I hope you gained a few FUN ideas to add to your science lessons. Enjoy sparking your child's interest in physical science!


PS I know I went over "10" ideas like the title states but I couldn't stop adding to the list after I published this post. :)