Fun Friday – 4 fantastic light experiments for kids

Fun Friday – 4 fantastic light experiments for kids

Yesterday Dr. Simple answered the question… Why is the sky blue?

Sometimes it is nice to get the “proof behind the science” so I thought I would share our four favourite light experiments so your children can find out how it works for themselves!


First up, an experiment to demonstrate what Dr. Simple was talking about yesterday…

Make a blue sky in a jar
Make a blue sky in a jar

Make a blue sky in a jar

You will need…

A clean glass jar, water, milk, a spoon, a torch and a dark room.

What to do…

Fill the jar two-thirds full with water and add half a tea spoon of milk.

Mix well.

Turn on the torch, make sure the room is dark, then shine the torch at the jar of liquid, holding the torch to one side of the jar and look at the colour of the liquid from the front.

The milky liquid will appear light blue in colour (move the torch closer to, or farther from the jar if necessary).

What is happening?…

Tiny particles in the milk act just like the tiny particles in the atmosphere, they scatter light shining upon them. When the light comes from the side of the jar the light of shorter wavelength, like blue light, is scattered the most so this is the colour we observe.


Now with a little alteration you can make…

Sunset in a jar
Sunset in a jar

A sunset in a jar

What to do…

This is the same experiment as the previous one, only this time shine the torch at the back of the jar while you observe the colour from the front. Now the milky water should appear red.

What is happening?…

When we shine the torch from the back of the jar the light is scattered differently. This time most of the blue light has been scattered away from our line of sight so the dominant colour to reach our eye is red light, hence the solution appears red.


Remember how Dr. Simple said that even though sunlight might appear white it is actually made up of all the colours of the rainbow? Here is an experiment to prove that…

Make a rainbow
Make a rainbow

Make your own Rainbow

You will need…

A plastic container, a piece of white card, a mirror and a sunny day!

What to do…

Fill the plastic container about two- thirds full with water and place it on the ground outside, in direct sunlight.

Place a mirror into the water and prop it up at an angle so the sun shines on it.

Hold the white card away from the mirror and move it from side to side or back and forth until you capture the rainbow on the card!

So what is happening?…

Water bends (refracts) light that passes through it.  Each colour bends a slightly different amount so the colours separate. The separated colours are bounced off the mirror and the image is caught on the piece of white card.

If you want a simpler version of this experiment take an old CD out into the sunshine and tilt the side without the label to the Sun. You will see a rainbow of colour appear on the CD at the point where the Sun shines.


Bend light
Bend light

Make a fountain of light

You will need…

An empty plastic bottle (one or two litre), a pin or needle, a torch, a sink or basin and a dark room.

What to do…

Place the empty bottle beside the sink and, using the pin, make a small hole in the side of the bottle, about half way up.

Place your finger over the hole and fill the bottle with water.

Turn on the torch and shine the torch on the bottle, behind the hole. Make sure the side with the hole is positioned towards the sink.

Remove your finger and let the water pour into the sink. See how the stream of water lights up.

So what is happening?…

Light bends when in water so when we shine the light from behind the stream of water the light is reflected off the side and bends with it… effective the light is trapped within it.


A simple slice of science – Why is the sky blue?

A simple slice of science – Why is the sky blue?

This week’s question for Dr. Simple came from a source very close to home… my eight year old wants to know

“Why is the Sky blue?”


I told him we would put it to Dr. Simple, so here it is, in 30 seconds…





If you have any other questions on this topic or another do leave a message in the comments below. There are lots of great questions coming in for Dr. Simple but he always loves getting more!


If you need a little convincing about all this information on light and colour you can check it out for yourself as I will be sharing some great experiments on tomorrow’s Fun Friday post!

A Simple Slice of Science – What makes the wind?

A Simple Slice of Science – What makes the wind?

This week Dr. Simple answers a question that comes in from a lovely little girl who can sometimes be found here; she would like to know…

What makes the wind?




Did you like Dr. Simple’s explanation or did you find it “a load of hot air“?

Personally I preferred the little girl’s own explanation… she reckons the wind is made by the trees flapping their leaves! A much more simple, and beautiful, explanation, don’t you think?

Remember to keep your questions coming, just leave them in the comments below and Dr, Simple will be happy to answer!

Spark any child’s imagination with this great “Fairy Door” GIVEAWAY

Spark any child’s imagination with this great “Fairy Door” GIVEAWAY

it is all about imagination on the blog this week and what better way to spark a child’s imagination that with fairies! A belief in the little folk requires a leap of faith, a journey into the unknown and a lot of imagination. Here in the Science Wows house we have lots of all three which is why we are such fans!

Win a lovely Fairy door from The Irish Fairy Door Company
Win a lovely Fairy door from The Irish Fairy Door Company


The lovely people over at The Irish Fairy Door Company have offered one lucky Science Wows reader a chance to win one of their wonderful fairy doors. The giveaway is open until 12 am on Monday 7th July so get tweeting, sharing and liking to be in with your chance to win this great prize!

Now repeat after me… “I do believe in fairies, I do, I do!”

"I do believe in fairies"
“I do believe in fairies”


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Competition open to residents of Ireland and the UK.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, I have not received any payment for it, the Irish Fairy Door Company has provided the lovely Fairy Door for this Giveaway.

The science of imagination – is it more important than knowledge?

The science of imagination – is it more important than knowledge?

Is imagination more important than knowledge?

Albert Einstein certainly thought so…

“I’m enough of an artist to draw freely on my imagination, which I think is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world.”

I have looked at imagination at work in life and it never ceases to amaze me. When I see my children share the knowledge they have learned I encourage and applaud with pride but when I see their imagination shine through I really stand back in awe… it is theirs, it is unique and it is truly amazing!

So yes, I do believe imagination is more important than knowledge, but I also think that if you combine both you are really tapping into life’s power. What does science have to say about it?


What is imagination?

Imagination is creativity in action. It can be using our brain and our senses to create an image within our mind.

Imagination draws on our experiences and knowledge of the world around us and combines them with the complete unknown to make something new.

It allows us to explore beyond the constraints of our environment and our reality, into a world of dreams, where creativity and invention are at their strongest.


photo credit: Cyril-Rana!! via photopin cc
photo credit: Cyril-Rana!! via photopin cc

How does it work?

Science has long held that the complex nature of imagination must involve more than one area of the brain. The idea and the proof have been hard to amalgamate but recent studies using advancements in the monitoring of complex neural interactions within the brain provide new evidence for this theory. The findings from this study suggest that imagination uses a large portion of the human brain, creating an interconnecting network of activity across many different areas.

Imagination really does light up our brains!


Is imagination unique to humans?

It would appear that imagination (at least in its complete form) is a uniquely human experience. It has allowed us to modify and develop our surroundings and to create and invent new ideas, new structures, new technologies. Imagination also allows us the very human emotion of empathy as we can literally imagine another person’s life experience without ever having actually experienced any of it.

In the words of JK Rowling…

“Imagination is not only the uniquely human capacity to envision that which is not, and, therefore, the foundation of all invention and innovation. In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experiences we have never shared.”


The evolution of imagination

Our early ancestors, the hominids showed basic levels of imagination in their tool making abilities, cooperative hunting skills and social interaction and colonization. It would appear that their level of imagination was limited though, perhaps with respect to their brain size and their compartmentalized thinking.

As modern humans evolved scientists have reported an increase in brain size, advances in technical skills and creativity and a development in social complexities. Farming, sophisticated tool making, complex language development, the performance of rituals and the development of art and crafting all required a complex development of thought and mental interaction… Imagination!

A more developed neural network within the brain, connecting the different areas of brain function, must have had some part to play in all this. The majority of these changes evolved between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago, to the eventual emergence of the modern human.


The importance of imagination in our development and learning

As a parent this is the part that I am most interested in. What part does imagination play in my children’s development?

Science has shown that imagination stimulates brain function and activity. It literally expands the mind as it encourages connections between so many areas within the brain.

Both neurologists and psychologists agree that play in early childhood is necessary for children to develop at a normal rate and to reach their full potential.

Imagination and play have been shown to increase brain development and growth in children. At a neurological level imagination can increase the number of neural connections within the brain, linking different regions. These links need repeated stimulation and activation to be maintained.

 Imagination is an activity that used the whole brain rather than isolated, individual sections.

Use of the whole brain in this way increases a child’s problem solving abilities, emotional development and social interactions.

Early childhood (between the ages of three and six) is usually when children are most actively involved in their imagination. Through pretend play children create their own imaginary world, allowing them to develop and learn from the new experiences they explore.

When children start school there is often a shift in how they play, moving towards games with more social interaction and rules. These games still engage the children in creative play, often with a more cognitive imaginative thought process.

 Imagination is a vital learning tool within the classroom. Children will learn and remember more powerfully when imagination is included. Imagination will create more neural links within the brain, engage more regions within the mind and it will bring the subject to life!

This holds true for all subjects not just the ones we consider more creative. I have always loved maths, for example, and I remember from a young age that each number took on a personality for me. This probably increased my enjoyment of the subject and certainly would have increased my memory and ability.

As children grow it is important therefore that their imagination is constantly stimulated and encouraged. As they enter their teenage years imagination will allow better social interaction and social awareness as it encourages a better sensitivity to the needs and feelings of those around us.

Imagination can also decrease stress levels as it encourages problem solving and the possibility of positive outcomes and solutions.

A powerful imagination is a wonderful skill to have and a very important one to nurture throughout all stages of life. To really reach our full potential I believe imagination and play should be as important in our daily lives as love, nutrition and health.


How can we encourage imagination within our children?

We all have imagination within us, that is what makes us human. We do not need to instil it within our children but perhaps we can encourage and assist what is already there. Starting from a young age we can encourage pretend play, imaginative fantasies and the belief in some things unknown.

An imaginary friend can be encouraged rather than feared. Dress up clothes are a great facility for a child’s imagination. There are many simple toys that can assist a child in a wonderful make believe world. It is also a wonderful reinforcement for children to see their parents actively involved in the imaginary worlds that they create.