Just before Christmas the lovely people at DUPLO sent us a box of bricks and some challenge ideas. If you read Science Sparks regularly you’ll know that we LOVE LEGO and DUPLO and use both frequently in our activities.
If you look carefully at the photos below you’ll notice some of our bricks have numbers written on them from years of using DUPLO to teach children to count, and I’ve had to clean sticky areas from many a brick that’s previously had something stuck to it. That’s got to be the sign of a much loved toy!
I remember buying my eldest daughter ( who is now 9 ) a DUPLO house for her first birthday, a set I very much enjoyed building again earlier today with my almost 1 year old. It’s lovely to have another little DUPLO builder in the house.
To celebrate all things DUPLO, we’ve put together a fun collection of our favourite DUPLO play ideas from the last few years. I’ll keep adding to the collection, so do pop back again.
DUPLO Tic Tac Toe
This was one of the the fab ideas sent to us by DUPLO which my daughter changed slightly to give each player different themed characters. This set up is Winnie the Pooh vs Toy Story!
I love Tic Tac Toe as it’s easy enough for even very young children and nice and quick for those times when you want to play a game, but don’t have much time.
Printing Patterns with DUPLO
Back when my big children were little, they loved creating patterns using paint and DUPLO bricks and people. Next on our list is to use the bricks to make pictures of flowers and trees.
DUPLO Ball Run
My 10 year old created this DUPLO ball run using DUPLO and paper to make the run down smoother. It took a few attempts, but he managed to find a way for the ball to travel all the way through without stopping.
This has been a great project as all the children have come back to it over and over again this half term, making the ball run bigger and longer each time.
Our DUPLO Monsters are a new creation for this week. You could make these symmetrical, write stories about them or draw their shadows to extend the fun further.
We made letters using DUPLO bricks and then used a crayon to run over the top to give the print of the letter on the paper.
DUPLO Ring Toss Game
Another idea sent to us by DUPLO was this great ring toss game. Ours had a festive theme, but you could easily change this for any time of year.
How about flower towers for spring?
More DUPLO Play Ideas
Can you work out how many DUPLO bricks tall you are?
We LOVE this DUPLO maze, could you make a version with several layers?
Did you ever make scratch art paper pictures as a child? I remember making them using coloured colouring pencils with black crayon over the top, they took an age to make and never worked that well. If only I’d known then that oil pastels are an amazing art resource.
Use the oil pastels to add lots of colour to one sheet of card and then rub over the top with a black oil pastel.
Once you’ve completely covered the card in black, you can create your scratch art picture.
Scratch Art Eggs - YouTube
Try using a white crayon to draw a picture on white card, you’ll need to press down very hard. Once you’ve done that, gently crayon over the top using coloured crayons. You should find the white resists the coloured crayons giving you a lovely white outline on the page.
For those days where you don’t want to be making your own scratch art paper, we highly recommend these ready made scratch art sheets from Melissa and Doug.
Have you heard about Terrific Scientific from the BBC? BBC Terrific Scientific is a fantastic primary science campaign hoping to get children to think differently about what being a real scientist is like. Here at Science Sparks we’re all about making science fun and accessible to everyone, so we think BBC Terrific Scientific is pretty awesome!
Terrific Scientific consists of ten classroom based investigations using minimal equipment. When a school has completed an investigation they send the results to both the BBC and leading universities as part of real academic studies. However, it’s not all about schools, the BBC Terrific Scientific website also has a brilliant DIY section full of exciting investigations you can carry out in your home. We’d definitely recommend having a look around and trying some out on the weekend or in half term.
BBC Terrific Scientific’s current investigation is all about POWER. The two-week challenge with the University of Edinburgh encourages children investigate how much power is used by their school. They will look for ways to improve their efficiency, find ways to change their behaviours and reduce how much electricity they use.
Once the results are in schools will be able to compare how much power they have managed to save with other schools across the UK on the BBC Terrific Scientific map.
Inspired by BBC Terrific Scientific we’ve come up with our own power activity based around simple circuits.
Before you start, please read on for some very important health and safety advice. As we’re demonstrating electricity, this activity will require adult supervision. Electricity can be extremely dangerous, so please ensure none of the wires are damaged or exposed, and ensure your hands are dry before you begin the activity. Please also make sure an adult checks the circuit before it’s switched on, and remember to always switch it off at the end of the activity.
Light up a model village - YouTube
Make a light up model street
This activity uses a model village to demonstrate how power reaches our homes and introduces the concept of an electrical circuit.
We use electricity in our homes to power lights and televisions as well as for cooking and heating so it’s very important. The electricity used to power appliances you plug in is called mains electricity.
Mains electricity can be very dangerous, never poke things into a plug socket or touch switches with wet hands.
Electricity is also used for small toys and games powered by batteries, we’re going to use batteries for our circuits.
Battery pack with wire
Crocodile clips and wires
Making a simple circuits
First let’s create a very simple circuit. A circuit always needs a source of power, we’re going to use a battery pack with wires connected to the positive (+) and negative (–) ends.
Create a circuit by placing each wire into the connector area of the lightbulb. You should find the bulb lights up. Now hold one wire slightly above the connector, you should find the bulb goes out. You’ve broken the circuit. Electricity only flows if a circuit is complete as it has to flow all the way around for the bulb to light up.
Add a switch
Switches can be used to control whether a circuit is complete or not. When a switch is open, there is a gap in the circuit which means electricity cannot travel all the way around. When a switch is closed it makes the circuit complete again allowing electricity to travel around the circuit.
You can make a very simple switch using small piece of folded paper and two paperclips. If the paper is open the paperclips do not touch, meaning there is a break in the circuit. If you close the paper, the paperclips touch which completes the circuit.
Connecting bulbs in series
You should have found that the bulb in your simple circuit was quite bright. If we add another bulb into the same circuit without increasing the power both bulbs will be dimmer than one alone. This is because the more bulbs ( or other features such as buzzers ) in a circuit the harder it is for the current to flow. There is more resistance.
If your circuits don’t work try the following:
Check your batteries work
Look for loose wires on the bulbs, the wires must be fixed in place and touching the metal part for the circuit to be complete.
Check your bulb is screwed in properly and isn’t damaged.
Did you know electricity is not stored in a battery, it is generated inside when the chemicals react with each other.
Lighting up a model street
Electricity in the home is generated by power stations, but how does it get from a power station into your house?
Pylons carry power lines from the power stations to substations closer to houses. From the substations, underground cables carry the electricity into homes.
We created a small model street to demonstrate this and to use all three circuits created above. You can see the power station in one corner, with power cables being taken to a sub station via pipe cleaner pylons. We’ve drawn lines to illustrate underground cables too.
You will need:
Small houses – use cardboard boxes or create a wooden frame.
The circuits created above
We created our houses using a wooden frame in a cube shape with cardboard attached for walls.
Our street has four houses:
One is lit with the simple circuit.
Two are lit by the series circuit ( one bulb in each house )
One has the circuit with a switch.
Turn on each circuit and watch your street light up. Do the bulbs that share a circuit look dimmer than the bulbs that are on their own?
How many houses can you light up using one circuit with the light bulbs in series?
Can you overcome the extra resistance in your series circuit by adding extra batteries? You should find the extra power makes the bulbs brighter.
What do you think of our model street? If you like the idea, take a look around the BBC Terrific Scientific website and see what else takes your fancy.
We challenge you to try one of the investigations from the DIY section on the Terrific Scientific website, maybe even with a child who thinks they don’t enjoy science activities, you might be surprised how much fun they ( and you ) have.
We know from our play dough circuits that the circuit needs to be complete for electricity to flow, but we usually want to be able to control whether electricity flows or not. This can be done using a simple switch.
How to make a simple switch
The basic circuit below has a switch made using a small piece of paper and 2 paper clips to break the flow of electricity which allows the bulb to be turned on and off.
Cut out a small rectangle shape from the paper and attach a paperclip to each end.
Set up your circuit like the one below. You should find the bulb only lights up when the paperclips touch. This is because the metal paperclips do conduct electricity but the paper does not.
Metals are good conductors of electricity , so wires are made from copper, which has the added advantage that it can be stretched thin without breaking. The wires you use are covered in a coat of plastic for safety which does not conduct electricity.
Can you add an extra bulb to your circuit? What do you notice?
We’ve been doing a lot of space themed activities recently focussing on the many famous scientists who changed people’s perception of the Universe. In the 1600s many people thought that the Earth was at the centre of the Universe, until Copernicus used mathematical models to prove that the Earth actually orbits the Sun.
We’ve used a paper plate, magnet wand and paper clip to show this.
These squishy bags are a great, mess free way to experiment with mixing colours. After we’d finished experimenting making different colours we put a sheet of card inside each paint filled bag, sealed them up again and used them to practice forming letters and numbers with our fingers.
Here at Science Sparks we’re trying to reduce the amount of plastic we use, so do wash out the bags and save for another activity once you’ve finished.
Small sealable plastic sandwich bags
Red, yellow and blue washable paint
Small sheets of cardboard/stock
Place a two small blobs of different coloured paint into each bag.
Carefully seal the bag and gently squish the colours together until they mix. You should find:
Yellow + Blue = Green
Red + Yellow = Orange
Blue + Red = Purple
Once you’ve finished experimenting place a small sheet of card inside each bag and carefully seal it up again.
Try writing letters and numbers on the surface of your bag, wipe the surface clean and then try again.
Mixing colours – why does this work?
What are primary colours?
Primary colours cannot be created by mixing other colours together.
Red, Yellow and Blue
Secondary colours are made by mixing primary colours.
Tertiary colours are made by mixing a primary colour with a secondary colour.
Always supervise small children when using paint and plastic bags
Caroline Herschel was a pioneer of her time, she was the first woman to discover a comet, the first woman officially recognised in a scientific position and to receive a salary and the first woman to receive honorary membership into Britain’s Royal Society.
Caroline Herschel made a huge contributions to the field of astronomy in her lifetime, both independently and alongside her brother William Herschel.
What is a comet?
Comets are big balls of ice, rock and dust left over from the beginning of the Solar System. They are generally thought to come from the Oort Cloud and the Kuiper Belt and orbit the sun the same as planets although this can take 100s of years.
When comets get close to the Sun, they start to release gas and dust forming a head ( or coma ) and a tail. The tail always points away from the Sun.
Make a model of a comet
Foil or small ball
Three colours of ribbon
Attach foil made into a ball or the ball onto the end of a small stick. The ball represents the nucleus of the comet.
Wrap one colour ribbon around the ball. This represents the coma.
Attach the other two colours of ribbon to the nucleus, these represent the two tails of the comet. One is the gas tail and one the dust tail.
Some comets have highly elliptical orbits that bring them relatively close to the Sun.
The nucleus of a comet is made up of of ice and rocky materials, it can range from about 10 to 100 km in diameter!!
The coma is a cloud of gas that forms around the nucleus, the gases are usually a mixture of water vapour, ammonia and carbon dioxide.
The dust tail forms from gases and dust particles that get blown away from the nucleus as the comet heats up.
The gas tail is a stream of gases which are blown away from the Sun as the comet comes into contact with solar winds.
It is thought that comets are leftovers from the material which initially formed the solar system.
These simple science experiments are perfect for a rainy day or when you just need a quick and easy activity idea to keep the kids busy for an hour or so. They don’t need much prep or thought beforehand and are easy to set up and explain.
Simple Science Experiments
Try a fun magic milk experiment. Younger children will love watching the colours shoot across the surface of the milk while older children can use the experience to learn about emulsions.
This one requires a bit of forward planning, but did you know you can remove the shell from an egg with vinegar? Simple leave an egg soaking in vinegar for about 48 hours and you should be able to rinse off the shell. Once you have a shell-less egg, see if you can bounce the egg without it breaking.
Test your reaction time using just a ruler. Can you test your friends and record their results too? How do you think could you improve your reaction time?
How about trying some ice painting? Ice provides a lovely slippy surface, and wipes clean!
Ask a friend to draw around you on a giant sheet of paper. How many body parts can you add to the drawing?
If you want to make a volcano, but don’t want the mess a snow volcano is a super simple alternative. Build a volcano shape around a plastic water bottle using snow, add your explosive ingredients and then tidy away the snow afterwards.
Find out about Florence Nightingale and how to keep hands clean with this super simple activity using hand soap and glitter.
Ice excavations can keep children busy for hours as they try to rescue a toy. Experiment with salt and warm water to see which help the ice to melt the fastest.
Try drawing 3D shadow shapes outdoors on a sunny day. You should find the shadow changes as the the day progresses and the sun moves. Try drawing a shadow of the same shape every 2 hours during the day. What happens?
Build a raft using different materials and test to see how well it floats. How much weight can you add before your raft sinks
Did you know Science Sparks now has a book as well as hundreds of activity ideas here on the website? I first started writing the book about 18 months ago and in that time had a baby and completed various other projects, so it’s amazing to finally have it in my hand!
Science Sparks includes 40 exciting and hands-on activities as well as extension ideas, learning points and ideas to promote cross curricular learning. It’s perfect for Early Years and Key Stage 1 here in the UK, and for children aged 3-7 elsewhere.
Like all our activities the investigations in the book are safe and simple to carry out using materials you probably already have in the classroom or at home.
Scientific concepts are explained in simple terms making them easy for children to grasp and adults to explain. I’m hoping Science Sparks will be a useful resource for teachers, home educators and anyone who just wants to investigate the wonderful world of science with their children.