Techniquest

5 merry little Christmas experiments

Fairy lights are strung, family size tubs of snacks are being stockpiled, and the panic has well and truly set in. Christmas is almost here.

One of the most troublesome tasks of December is keeping the children occupied on weekends and during the holidays, especially when the adults have a to-do list as long as Santa’s nice list.

Fortunately, our residential three wise scientists are on hand to provide some inspiration for your Yuletide festivities.

5 Christmas experiments to keep the family busy

Nice ice, baby… Add some frost to your Christmas decorations

Bringing science into your home doesn’t need to be complicated. This is an activity that checks the boxes for being simple, fun and festive. It also takes the pressure off the adults to decorate the garden (we know you were really, really worried about that)

This one is all about teaching the little ones about the plummeting temperatures, and what happens to water when the air drops to freezing.

All you need is a box of clear baubles, which you can find in shops such as Hobbycraft. You’ll also need some extra materials: some holly, sticks and twigs, and red berries.

Pour some water into the baubles, and add your other Christmas bits and pieces. Pop them into the freezer and then hang them outside. Even when they melt, you’ll still have some pretty arctic looking themed decorations to Instagram.

Spin a Yarn sphere

If you live in slightly warmer conditions and the frozen outdoor tree decs aren’t an option, you can still craft a few decorative accessories with the little ones.

Spheres made of yarn are just as fun to make as frozen decorations, even if they don’t sound as particularly… cool (see what we did there?) However, PVA glue, balloons, yarn and learning about static electricity as you go can be just as rewarding.

Get started by blowing balloons in various sizes, then experiment by rubbing the wool on the balloon to experience the effect of static electricity. You get extra points if you can make it stick to your Christmas jumper.

Armed with your PVA glue and crazy static scientist hair (it happens to the best of us), cover the balloons with PVA and wrap the wool around them. Once dried, pop the balloons and decorate your porch/garden/shed… Whatever floats your boat.

Block out the boredom with Christmas construction

Who doesn’t love getting into a box of LEGO at Christmas, as long as you don’t step on it?

If you’ve got your own set of these colourful building blocks, why not try constructing a Christmas maze? Use a marble to travel around the maze until you get to your LEGO Santa. This is the perfect activity for your mini engineer over the Christmas break.

Say snow long to a snow-less Christmas

Dreaming of a white Christmas? Grab some Instasnow and create your own snow flurry with your family.

How does it work? Products like Instasnow are made from a super absorbent polymer causing it to expand when mixed with water. This is because a physical reaction has taken place.

Through the process of Osmosis, the water moves to the inside of the polymer, causing it to expand 100 times its original volume and creating a magical snow like substance.

Enjoy a lit Christmas pudding

Photo – Victor Bayon/Flickr

One of the most enjoyable (albeit a little dangerous) parts of the festive season is setting a Christmas pudding alight. Brandy is usually the alcohol of choice in this classic tradition. But what’s the science behind it?

The process of making alcohol produces a chemical called ethanol. Ethanol is highly flammable, making it useful as fuel. As the ethanol molecule contains oxygen, it burns with a clear, hot, blue flame when set alight, unlike the hydrocarbons in candle wax, which give a yellow flame.

But why doesn’t the fire burn the pudding?

Because it isn’t the pudding or the brandy that is on fire, it’s actually the vapour associated with the drink. Once the alcohol content has vaporised, the flames extinguish, leaving behind a perfectly heated dessert.

Try these out for yourself, and make sure share your results with us on Facebook and Twitter!

 

Find us

  Techniquest, Stuart Street, Cardiff, CF10 5BW

Contact us

  029 2047 5475
  info@techniquest.org

Opening hours

  During local school holidays
10.00am–5.00pm Bank Holidays, seven days a week.

  School term
9.30am–4.30pm Tuesday–Friday;
10.00am–5.00pm Saturday and Sunday.

Charity & company

  Registered charity no. 517722
  Registered in Wales no. 01955696

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FAQs

  •   What is Techniquest?

    Techniquest is an educational charity, with a science centre in Cardiff Bay. Our mission is to embed science in Welsh culture through interactive engagement. We provide a range of services to schools and teachers to complement formal education provision in Wales and work extensively with public audiences.

  •   Where can I park?

    We are pleased to be able to offer all of our visitors discounted parking with Q-Park, our preferred parking partner.

    The Q-Park operates the Cardiff Bay car park in Pierhead Street which is around 8 minutes walk from Techniquest.

    We have agreed a special discount rate for our customers of 15% off all pre-bookings.
    Pre-book and guarantee your space here using the code TECHNI15.

    There are also nearby pay-and-display car parks on Stuart Street and Havannah Street. Please do not park on Havannah Street itself.

  •   Who is it for?

    Techniquest is suitable for all ages! We do have special events for certain groups, however — see Toddler Days, After Hours and Home Educator days.

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