By: Alyssa Chirco
We all eagerly await the arrival of spring. Sunshine and warmer weather mean more time to play and explore outdoors. But when you wake up to one of those gray, wet spring days, don’t let it stop you from having fun with your kids — and teach them a bit of science in the process. Whether you put on your raincoats and head outside or stay indoors where it’s nice and dry, these experiments are perfect for a rainy day of family fun.
Experiment 1: Measuring Precipitation
Exactly how much rain is falling? Find out by making a rain gauge to measure the precipitation.
Clear 2-liter plastic bottle
A heavy bucket or flowerpot
Bounty paper towels
- Using the serrated knife, cut about 4 inches off the top of the bottle
- Flip the piece upside down to create a funnel
- Secure the funnel to the bottle using waterproof tape
- Measure off inches or centimeters on the bottle and mark them with the marker
- Set the bottle inside the bucket or flowerpot and place on a flat, open surface
Measure the precipitation in your rain gauge at any time. Consider checking it daily, and having your kids chart the daily rainfall — just like the meteorologists do!
Tip: For more Rainy-Day Science Experiments, checkout Bounty tips and articles: Science Experiments for Kids.
Experiment 2: Making Rain Indoors
Before your kids go and unleash the garden hose indoors, note that this experiment is seeing how rain forms. Although the rain doesn’t come from clouds, it helps illustrate what causes water to fall from the sky.
Ice in an ice tray
- Bring a pot of water to a boil
- With oven mitts on, hold tray over the steam
- Watch as “rain” forms and falls from the bottom of the tray
How does the science behind this work? The surface of the ice cube tray is so cold that it literally cools the steam, turning it back into liquid form. This is a great opportunity to explain to your kids how water can exist in three different states — liquid, solid or gas — depending on its temperature.
Tip: Checkout rainy day craft ideas at Bounty tips and articles: Arts and Crafts.
Experiment 3: Creating a Rainbow
If the sun comes out after the rain has ended, don’t miss the opportunity to create your own rainbow.
Sheet of white printer paper
Glass of water
- Hold the glass of water above the sheet of paper
- Angle the glass so sunlight passes through the water, forming a rainbow of color on your paper
This is actually similar to how rainbows form in the sky: light refracts when it passes through raindrops and is separated into the colors red, orange, yellow, indigo and violet. For even more fun, have your kids hold the glass and the paper at different heights and angles to see how their rainbow changes. Kids can also use the rainbow as a “stencil” to create their own effects on paper with markers or colored pencils.
Experiment 4: The Doppler Effect
Introduce the concept of radar to kids who really love weather by conducting a simple experiment. Get your kids to make a hypothesis before you perform the experiment It’s an interesting concept that you, too, might get a kernel of knowledge out of!
An electric razor
A microphone or a sound-recording device (a smartphone’s voice memo function works)
- Turn on your recording device
- Turn on the razor either close or far from the microphone
- Bring the razor closer or farther from the microphone
- Listen to the recording
The change in sounds you are hearing is known as the Doppler Effect: The change in the frequency of the sound. By measuring these frequency changes, forecasters can use the radar to predict weather patterns in your area. After completing this experiment, your mini meteorologists will have a better understanding of how weather forecasting works.
Instead of feeling like you’re stuck indoors on a rainy day, take advantage of the wet weather and have some fun with these experiments. It’s a great opportunity for your kids — and you — to learn something new.
Alyssa Chirco is a St. Louis-based freelance journalist who provides writing, editing and social media services for print, web and small business. She writes about parenting and family life for STL Parent and as a contributing editor for Parenting Squad.