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4 Science Experiments Your Kids Can Do With Recyclable Materials

June 4, 2019

Whether you’re looking for something fun to do on a Saturday or you’re scrambling to help your child complete a school project, there are lots of fun science experiments you can do using recyclable materials.

The good thing is, gathering items you already have on hand will cut activity costs and teach your child a valuable lesson in repurposing used materials. So, if you’re looking for ideas to nurture your future Albert Einstein or Marie Curie’s curious mind, we’ve listed four easy, eco-friendly experiments suggestions can do below.

Cardboard Marble Run

This clever experiment gives new use to empty cardboard toilet paper, paper towel, or gift wrap tubes.

All you need is a flat, upright surface (such as an empty wall or cupboard door), several empty cardboard tubes, some wall-safe tape (blue painter’s tape works great!), and some marbles.

When designing the run, encourage your child to make some creative angles and show him how to make a “slope” as you link the tubes together and tape them to your desired surface.

Once the path is completely constructed, have your child drop the marble at one end of the run and watch it fall! If you have several angles, you can also drop marbles from more than one side and watch them meet in the middle. During the experiment, you can talk about science concepts like gravity, speed, and force of an object as it falls. See an example of the marble run HERE.

Soda Bottle Volcano

Building a soda bottle volcano and watching it “erupt” is simple. NOTE: This experiment is messy. So, it’s best to do it outdoors.

First, you’ll need the following items and ingredients:

  • 10 ml of dish soap
  • 100 ml of cold water
  • 400 ml of white vinegar
  • Food coloring
  • Baking soda and water mix (fill a cup about ½ with baking soda, then fill the rest of the way with water)
  • An empty 2-liter soda bottle

Add the vinegar, water, dish soap and two drops of food coloring to the empty soda bottle. Stir up the baking soda mixture until it is all liquid. Then, pour the baking soda mixture into the soda bottle and step back to watch the “volcano erupt.”

What causes the eruption? A chemical reaction between the baking soda and vinegar creates carbon dioxide gas. There’s not enough room in the bottle for the gas to expand. So, it “erupts” and spills outside of the bottle.

Shrinking Plastic Cups

NOTE: This experiment requires adult supervision as it involves using the oven.

For this activity, you’ll need two different kinds of plastic cups that are rated by different recyclable numbers on the bottom. Quality Logo Products explains the different types of plastics and recycle codes here.

For this example, water and soda bottles are in category one, and a disposable drinking cup is a category six (polystyrene).

Using clear containers for this experiment, color the outsides of the cups or bottles with a permanent marker. Then, cut slits in the rims to help the cups separate. Finally, place on a baking sheet and bake in a 350-degree oven for one minute and remove.

Let the containers sit for 10 minutes on a heat-safe surface and see what happens. Ultimately, the category six cups will melt and the category one cups won’t. That’s because the polystyrene in the category one cup has a lower melting point than the category six cups.

See an example of the experiment HERE.

Ocean Waves in Bottle

Most people love to watch the waves roll into shore at the beach on a sunny day. Kids can create their own “waves in a bottle” in this neat activity.

You’ll need four ingredients for this experiment:

  • An empty mason jar or plastic water bottle
  • Baby oil or vegetable oil
  • Blue food coloring
  • A funnel (optional)

First, fill your bottle or jar halfway up with water and add as much food coloring as you’d like. Next, fill the rest of the bottle as close to completely full as possible with the baby or vegetable oil and screw the jar lid or bottle cap on tightly.

Finally, gently shake the mixture to watch the “waves” roll. Be careful not to shake too roughly, as this will distort the contents.

Talk about the energy the waves make as they move inside the bottle. Also, ask kids to share as many facts as they can about the ocean. For example, ask them if the water is saltwater or freshwater, and ask them to name their favorite creatures that live in the ocean.

See an example of the experiment HERE.