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Geeky Parent Guide: Hands-On Activities and Experiments That Your Kids Will Enjoy

I try to provide activities that I know my kids will enjoy, and with a summer that’s already reducing outside time because of extreme heat, I’m trying to find some productive use of that time. Science experiments, STEM activities, or really anything that’s hands-on usually garners a lot of interest from my 7 and 8-year-old kiddos; however, like this past week, things don’t always go as planned. But that’s okay. Parenthood is all about adapting and “reading the room” when it comes to our kids, and sometimes that means letting them make the call.

We were able to tackle a few experiments over the course of a few days, which I’ll share here in a bit, but I also want to highlight one day when they just wanted to do one activity in particular. Yes, I had a couple of ideas lined up, but when it came time for it, they wanted to do something else. If anything, I try to be as flexible as possible, especially as they’re getting older and wanting a little more independence. So, when they asked for an activity that wasn’t on my itinerary, I said “okay” and just let them have fun.

Now, let’s take a look at a few hands-on activities and experiments they tackled, including one they picked and spent hours doing.


                        


Water Absorption and Color Transfers

My kids were very excited to watch this experiment. This first activity involved transferring dyed water from two different glasses into one. One glass had yellow and the other had blue, which they correctly guessed that those two colors together make green. Yes, as soon as I asked the question, I felt like, “Duh, of course they know the answer.” Once I filled two glasses with water, they placed the food coloring into them and then stirred them around. We folded two pieces of paper towels, bending them in half, and then placing one end from each into the glasses filled with colored water. The other two ends met in the middle within an empty glass. You can watch this video, which speeds up the process, to see if it’s something your kids might enjoy!

Full Disclosure: This one is a slow burn, but worth it for them to see this transfer take place. They were able to see the water trickle up the paper towel at first, but quickly realized it would take a while and decided to come back later. So, they kept coming and going from their playroom to see how much had actually filled into the empty glass. There was about an hour’s worth of time going back and forth, but they kept getting more excited the higher the water filled and seeing that it did in fact turn into green water.


                        


Rainbow Rainfall in a Jar

This activity goes quickly, but this produced the loudest response as my kids were excited with the final outcome. I had them fill a cup with canola oil and they put in a mixture of food coloring, each taking a turn stirring up the mixture. We had a larger jar filled with water and the oil mixture was then dumped inside. All of the colored oil mixture floated to the surface, but slowly the magic began. My kids “oh, look!” or “look at this!” to one another. The colors float through the water until the water becomes a dark, blackish mixture. Check out this video to see if it’s something you’d want to do!

Full Disclosure: I started with the absorption experiment knowing it would take a while for it to complete, but this rainbow experiment goes by quickly. They definitely wanted to do it again, but I did not want to waste more than what we’d already used. Overall, this one took five to ten minutes from start to finish.


                                                 

                                                 


Making Structures and Dominoes Out of Jenga Blocks

Okay, so my kids have been building structures on their own for as long as I can remember, and recently they started using Jenga blocks, so I introduced them to the wonderful YouTube channel that is Hevesh5; this channel is filled with wonderful videos with EPIC designs for falling dominoes. I showed them “The Amazing Triple Spiral” first, which is made from 15,000 dominoes, and you can be sure that they both flipped their lids! Unless I cut them off after about 30 or 45 minutes, we would still be watching those videos non-stop for days.

So, after watching these videos, my kids took to making their own creations. They used Jenga blocks and also brought books into the equation. Much like building structures, both Adelaide and Marshall enjoyed making their own and helping each other. After a few runs of making their own, they tried teaming up to make something bigger and bigger. It was a lot of fun to watch them get to into building these setups. I highly recommend this activity.

Full Disclosure: I absolutely sat down with them in the beginning to be a part of placing the Jenga blocks, and it was a lot of fun, but I let them work on their own for most of it. There were some frustrations when things wouldn’t connect and fall, but they kept at it and I loved seeing such determination in their creations! This is one activity where I believe it would be more successful with actual dominoes, so those are gift options I foresee in the kids’ futures. This is a total win – plus, watch the Hevesh5 channel!


                        

                        


Kids Choosing to Paint for Hours

My kids were all about painting one day. It’s what they wanted to do and that’s completely okay. As a parent, I admit I’m not always the best at letting them do all of the activities they want to do all of the time. Now that they’re getting older, I have to realize they can do things on their own and don’t need me around to supervise or assist on a lot of activities; especially those I’d constantly worry about a major mess being made. Yes, messes still happen, but not to the degree that would’ve happened when they were much younger.

This day made them so happy. They loved playing with the paint brushes, pouring the paint, and doing whatever they wanted on paper. Now, building the dominoes’ structures lasted several days (and it still continues), but they were happiest on this painting day. As a parent, I have to recognize that they loved getting their hands dirty. They thrived in the independence of putting everything together, and how proud they were as they asked if we wanted to see each and every painting. The answer was always “Yes!” and I took many, many pictures to make sure they knew how interested I was in their works.

Full Disclosure: This was the best activity and it wasn’t my idea. They love to paint and they should do it more often. In a world where their independent bubble gets bigger as they get older, I need to come to terms with the fact that they have ownership in their happiness – and all I want for them is to be happy.


Are any of these activities ones your kids enjoy doing or you know they’d like to try? Share your thoughts in the comments section! If you’re over on Facebook or Twitter, don’t forget to like and share this with all of your geeky friends, and you can also let us know what else you’d like to see us cover in the future.

Until next time, happy parenting and happy geeking.