First off: Don't worry! Your lab does not have to look this good! And this one probably looked a lot less good about two minutes after the kids came outside. So with that aside, here's a lovely idea excerpted from a book chock full of lots of easy, fun kid things to do: Backyard Adventure by mom/garden maker/ Girls Scout troop leader/"rule breaker" Amanda Thomsen. It is used, of course, with permission! (We don't break the rules.)
Create a Mud Lab
How about an activity that gives kids full permission to get muddy and messy . . . in the name of science?
“Daycare closing. All toys for sale, including play kitchen $20, desks $10, outdoor balls $5 and toy boxes $5. Woodridge.” That was the Craigslist ad that I had been hoping for. I called right away, drove out there, and snapped up a well-used, wood play kitchen. It did not require major surgery to transform it from a regular play kitchen into a laboratory where important scientific research could be done, right here in my yard. I simply painted the kitchen set with waterproofing paint and created a “floor” from an old kitchen counter I salvaged.
Get Your Gear
It doesn’t have to be that complicated; any table can be made into a mud lab! Use a kid-height table or bench that can get messy, and lay out some (or all!) of the following:
- Cooking gear: measuring cups, spoons, whisks
- Clear tubing
- Stones, gravel
- Food coloring
- It’s important to keep things tidy in laboratories. Use pegboard and hooks to make a lab look professional and inexpensive plastic baskets to keep supplies in order.
Imagine the Possibilities!
The important part of the lab is really not the kitchen structure, it’s the tools that are used with it. We have two American Science & Surplus stores near our house where we shopped for plastic test tubes, beakers, pipettes, tweezers, magnifying glasses, tubes, funnels, hoses, springs, little trays, and pans.
We bought and filled two small, lidded garbage cans, one with topsoil and one with clean play sand. The best part is the tiny lab coat we found that not only would make any kid look professional, but will also keep her somewhat clean.
The basic idea: You need a kid or kids, a place to play outside, and some containers and tools they can goof around with. Mix and enjoy!