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3 Tips for doing experiments at home without the suggested supplies {Episode 88}

March 23, 2020 4 min read

 What do you do when you don't have the supplies for an experiment? These three tips will help you figure it out.

One of the biggest struggles with doing experiments at home is having the right supplies on hand. But you don’t need to ditch hands-on science activities just because you don’t have the exact supplies suggested for the experiment! In this episode, we are going to chat about how you can rescue that science-learning opportunity.

Hi, I’m Paige Hudson and welcome to season 6 of the Tips for Homeschool Science Show where we are breaking down one of the lofty ideals of teaching science into three building blocks you can use in your homeschool. In this episode, I'll share three tips for doing experiments at home without the suggested supplies.

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Episode 88 Transcript

What do you do when you don't have the supplies for an experiment? Here are three tips to help.

I know that I’m not the one this happens to – I forget to look ahead in my plans and as a result, I don’t have all the experiment supplies I need on hand for the scientific test we are scheduled to do.

So do we ditch the experiment altogether?

Is the only choice to push it back till another week that, let’s face it, will probably never come?

Heaven’s no!

If you have listened to this podcast for a while, you know that I say experiments, or rather hands-on science activities, are a key part of our science teaching plans.

But I also live in reality.

I know that even with the best-laid plans and with that experiment kit in your homeschooling closet, you still might find yourself missing a suggested supply or two.

And that’s why I wanted to chat about what to do when you find yourself in this situation.

3 Tips for doing experiments at home without having all of the suggested supplies

What do you do if you don't have the exact supplies suggested for an experiment? Here are three tips to help you rescue the science-learning opportunity.

Tip #1 – Find something similar.

The first thing I will do if I don’t have the exact material suggested, is to try to find something similar. When we were studying the spinal cord, we were doing the activity where you make two stacks of marshmallows and put toothpicks in one of the stacks to show how our backbone gives us strength. I had the toothpicks, but not the marshmallows. We don’t drink a lot of hot chocolate here in Florida!

So, I opened up the pantry to hunt for something relatively soft and mushy. We had a pack of hot dog buns and I cut one up into squares to use instead. It wasn’t as Instagram worthy, but the point of the activity got across.

If the experiment calls for vinegar, try lemon juice. If you don’t have a potato for your starch test experiment, try using a piece of bread or cooked pasta. The internet and your cookbook are great places to look for “recipe” substitutions.

I also use my meat thermometer for all our experiments. Don’t laugh, there’s no need to go out and buy thermometers for you to use in science when you have two of them sitting in your kitchen.

When we lived overseas, we didn’t get too many sunny days there. So, when our experiments have called for the sun, I improvised by using my oven or a heat lamp instead. If you don’t have a 2-Liter bottle, make a mini-experiment using a 1-Liter.

The list can go on and on, but the basic idea is that you don’t have to have the exact item, find something close to it to use instead.

If you find a similar substitute, you will rescue the science-learning opportunity for your kiddos.

Tip #2 – Swap it out for a different experiment.

If you can’t find a good substitute for the suggested material, the next step is to swap out the activity for another one related to what you are studying. One that you do have the supplies for.

You can take a look at the experiment books you have on your shelf for another related experiment. You can search Pinterest or Google for “the topic + experiments for kids.” Then check those options to see if you have the supplies.

A bit of research will yield several options that you could use instead. It’s not ideal and it takes a bit of effort, but at least you do an experiment related to the topic.

If you swap the planned experiment out for a different one, you will rescue the science-learning opportunity for your kiddos.

Tip #3 – Just head outside.

If you can’t find a good substitute and you can’t find a different related experiment, just head outside. You can go over what you were supposed to do – I shared how to successfully skip an experiment several years ago – and then head outside.

Not only with this help you to hit reset and diffuse any tension, but you can also learn about science by just observing nature for a few minutes. A bit of sunshine and fresh air will be good for all!

If you head outside you may not do a hands-on activity related to your lesson’s topic, but you will rescue the science-learning opportunity for your kiddos.

Wrapping it up

So if you find yourself without the suggested supplies for an experiment, don’t skip the science-learning opportunity. Try to find a similar material or swap the experiment out for a different one before you scratch it and head outside to observe science in your own backyard.

Thanks for listening and I hope you have a great week playing with science! If you have any questions or want to share a time when you successfully rescued a science-learning moment despite not having the supplies, please feel free to leave a comment below.


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