One question that I am repeatedly asked by my little ones is “why does it rain?” It may appear as an easy question, but it isn’t, there are a lot of complicated ideas to understand in the process, so after some research here are two simple experiments that will help explain it and will also be enjoyable to do.
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Science behind why it does rain:
As the sun warms up water it evaporates, this vapour then rises up and begins to cool. The vapour then condenses back into water droplets, which then freeze. No one is really sure why this happens, but scientists believe that the water droplets are formed around a cloud seed, which is a tiny particle of dust or bacteria. Over time more water is attracted to the cloud and the cloud gets bigger. As more water forms and freezers, it gets heavier and gravity pulls it back down to earth. Depending on the ambient temperature the frozen droplet either thaws and comes down as rain or it doesn’t and you get snow.
“Why does it rain?” experiment 1 : For Older Children
This is a better experiment for older children who can understand more of the concepts and language involved. It isn’t as exciting as the next one, but it is great way for them to really see the process happening.
You will need:
- A container or glass
- Boiling water
- Hair spray or perfume
Boil a kettle of water, and then carefully pour it into your container. Both EC and YC helped doing this, so to make it slightly safer I put the boiling water into a measuring cup so that is was easier for them to pour.
Before you put your lid on (it could be a plate that covers your container) spray some hair spray or perfume into the container, this will be your cloud seed.
Place some ice onto your lid and watch as your “vapour” begins to condense and starts to rain down the side of your glass.
This is a very short experiment that will basically keep them entertained for as long as it takes for the rain to appear, but as I said before it really shows the cycle. EC was desperate for me to take the lid off as he thought that the cloud would come out and that it would start raining inside the kitchen, he was obviously disappointed that that didn’t happen.
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“Why does it rain?” experiment 2: For Children of All Ages
This one is a very simple way of showing what happens and it a lot of fun to do, but you do need to be patient with this one.
You will need:
- A glass or container
- Shaving foam
- Food colouring or liquid watercolours
Fill your glass with about ¾ full of water, this will represent the air.
Then add a layer of shaving foam on top to be the cloud.
Using the pipette, squeeze your food colouring onto the shaving foam.
Depending on how much food colouring you put in and how thick the layer of shaving foam is will depend on how quickly it will “rain”. My one took about 5 minutes for it to filter through into the water whereas EC’s and YC’s took about 20 seconds.
The patterns made when the colouring hit the water were spellbinding to watch, and lasted a good few hours (again depending on how much colouring you put on)! This experiment really kept them captivated, we noticed that as it was “raining”, the colour would settle down to the bottom, keeping the “air” clear. EC really wanted to see if this would stay like this, so made me keep them out over night. The next morning when we came down for breakfast all the water had turned a blue colour, so unfortunately it didn’t remain separated, but the shaving foam had started to crystallise, which was pretty to look at.
These activities may help development of:
- Scientific enquiry – thinking about and hypothesising what will happen
- Language – use and understanding of new words
- Knowledge of the water cycle
- Fine motor skills – using the pipette
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