Keeping young students’ attention the weeks/days preceding Christmas can be a challenge which is why I like to incorporate engaging, hands-on science activities that grab students’ interest and keep them focused on learning. In this post I am sharing my favorite Christmas science experiments and activities. They are easy to set up and require simple materials to complete.
Since I now have iPads available, we have started using them to record our findings and observations. Not only do students find this more engaging but it also teaches them how to use technology as a tool. Since this was not always the case, I’ve included both the print and digital options used for each experiment.
Christmas Cookie Cutter Baking Soda & Vinegar Experiment
This is a simple experiment that teaches students about chemical reactions and one that students like doing again and again.
To prepare this experiment I line a cookie sheet with foil (for easier clean-up) and place Christmas cookie cutters on it (I found packs of cookie cutters at the Dollar Tree) and fill the cookie cutters with baking soda.
I then put some vinegar in small containers and color it with red and green food coloring.
Lastly, I sprinkle some glitter on the baking soda for a more festive look.
Prior to beginning the experiment I have students hypothesize what they think is going to happen when the vinegar is squirted on the baking soda and record it on a recording page. For the digital version, we used the Text tool in Pic Collage to record our predictions.
We then put some vinegar in the eye dropper and squirt it on the baking soda in each cookie cutter.
The vinegar reacts with the baking soda and bubbles and fizzes. You can control whether you wish the mixture to “erupt” over and out of the cookie cutter or stay contained in it by the amount of vinegar you squirt on the baking soda.
After the experiment, students draw and/or write what actually happened on their recording pages. Technology allows them to insert actual photos of the experiment in Pic Collage. They can also “app smash” by creating a collage of photos from the experiment in Pic Collage, saving it, and adding it to their Seesaw journals. Then, use the Record tool to talk about the reaction, what they learned, whether their predictions were correct. I love the Record tool in Seesaw because it is sometimes hard for younger students to write everything that they observed or learned.
Dancing Cranberries & Jingle Bells Experiments
This is one of the most simplest experiments to do with young students but it gets a big reaction!
You may use dried cranberries (which have more action) and/or you can use jingle bells which will move up and down but not quite as much as the cranberries. You can also do both and compare the two results (the jingle bells do not move as often because they are heavier for the bubbles from the soda to move).
Prior to beginning the experiment I explain to students that we are going to put cranberries and jingle bells in glasses of Sprite (any clear pop will work).
Students predict what they think will happen by circling one of the answers from their recording pages (there are separate pages for each option). They use the Doodle tool from Pic Collage for the digital version.
Students are fascinated when they see the dried cranberries actually jump up and down in the pop from the bubbles pushing them to the top and then popping making them fall back down. Here is a video of the action as well as some photos:
The jingle bells move up and down too but not quite as much as the dried cranberries due to their size and weight. They are still enjoyable to watch and spark a great conversation as to why they don’t move as much as the dried cranberries. Here is a video of the jingle bells as well as some photos:
Afterwards students record their observations. Using Pic Collage to create a photo of both experiments and uploading it to Seesaw allows students to record their observations of the two experiments and explain the difference (love hearing their reactions and thoughts!).
Magic Milk Color Mixing
I must admit that this one is a personal favorite! It is a super fun way to learn about color mixing with Santa’s “magic milk”.
Prior to beginning the experiment I have students predict what colors they think each combination will make by coloring and/or writing in the second column of the graph on their recording pages.
For each color mixing experiment, add milk to a plastic container (enough to cover the bottom) and place a Christmas cookie cutter in the center.
Place a few drops of food coloring of the first color inside the cookie cutter and few drops of the second color outside of the cookie cutter.
Dip a Q-tip in the dish soap and dab the food coloring. The color will “burst” as the dish soap breaks apart the fat and protein in the milk. It creates beautiful designs and is so fascinating to watch! Here is a video as well as a few photos:
After dispersing the food coloring drops it is time to mix the colors. Remove the cookie cutter and use a dry Q-tip to swirl the colors. This is the fun part! It makes beautiful designs! Eventually the colors will mix together and form a different color.
I have students record the new color in the third column of the graph on their recording pages. Since this experiment creates such nice visuals, I like allowing students to use Pic Collage and Seesaw to record results.
Pine Cone Science Experiment
In this experiment students will discover what effect water has on pine cones.
Prior to beginning, allow students to observe the dry pine cones. Tell them that you are going to place one pine cone in hot water and one pine cone in cold water (keep one pine cone dry to use as a comparison or control). Ask students what they think will happen to the pine cone in the water.
I have them write their predictions on their recording pages along with what water temperature they feel will have the biggest effect on the pine cone.
Place a pine cone in each glass and observe the changes. It will not take long to see the pine cone in the cold water begin to close. You can watch a time lapse video below of the first 3 minutes or so of our experiment.
You can choose to leave the pine cones in the water for a while and come back to them later or observe them until they are mostly closed.
The cold water pine cone should close faster than the hot water pine cone.
Remove the pine cones from the water and compare them to the dry, open pine cone so students can see the difference.
Lay the wet pine cones on a paper towel to dry. Depending on whether you are in a dry or damp climate, you may observe them begin to open back up fairly quickly (they will open more quickly in a dry climate). We noticed ours begin to open a little bit after leaving them for a half hour or so.
Since we are not in a dry climate, we left them overnight. By the next day, they were dry and open again and looked similar to the control pine cone.
I then have students complete their recording pages by writing what happened to the pine cones and what they learned.
The Seesaw app makes it easier for younger students to explain what they observed and learned. We create a photo collage in Pic Collage, save it, and upload it to Seesaw. Then students create a drawing video using the Rec button and pointer in the Draw tool section to point to the pictures and tell what they observed and what they learned.
Christmas Sink or Float Experiments
This is another simple but fun way for students to create and test their hypotheses. They may be surprised by some of the results!
All you need is to gather some Christmas items such as an ornament, plastic cookie cutter, metal cookie cutter, bow, candy cane, cranberry, pine branch, jingle bell, gum drop, tinsel, etc. along with a bowl of water.
Students predict whether they think each item will sink or float.
I have students draw their predictions for each item. Having them draw the Christmas item in the bowl helps them understand the difference between what it means to sink or float.
They can draw the items themselves or use the Web Search tool in Pic Collage to find pictures of each item.
These are the items we used for our Christmas sink or float:
The most surprising to students was the candy cane – most predicted it would float but it actually sank.
As each item is tested students record the actual results.
Gum Drop Challenge Christmas STEM
The challenge is for students to build the tallest freestanding structure using gum drops and toothpicks within the given time period.
Students can complete this challenge in pairs, teams, or individually.
The object of the challenge is for each team or student to build the tallest freestanding structure on the surface of a table within the allotted time period of 10 minutes (time can be adjusted).
Give each team or student 20 gum drops and 40 toothpicks (amounts can be adjusted).
On your signal students can begin constructing their gum drop towers.
When time is up, students must step away from their towers.
Measure each tower from the table top to the highest point.
The winner is the structure that stands the highest vertical point above the table.
After the challenge I have students draw or take a picture of their structures and then reflect on what was easy, what was a challenge, and what they learned or would do differently.
What Dissolves a Candy Cane the Quickest?
In this Christmas science experiment students hypothesize which liquid they feel will dissolve a candy cane the quickest and then test their predictions.
The liquids used can vary. We used warm water, cold water, vinegar, oil.
I filled each glass with equal amounts of the four liquids and labeled each container.
I show students the liquids and have them predict which liquid they think will work best and record it on their recording pages.
We place a candy cane in each container at the same time. I hung ours over the edge of the glass to leave the top of the candy cane out of the liquid so students could easily compare and see the difference between the original candy cane and the dissolved portion of the candy cane.
Observe the candy canes. You should see a difference in the warm water pretty quickly. You can either wait to see which liquid completely dissolves the bottom part of a candy cane first or take out the pieces after a while to more closely observe the results (this is what I did to make it easier for students to observe and record the results). The warm water was almost completely dissolved, followed by the cold water, vinegar, and oil.
We discuss the results and students learn that water molecules have powerful magnetic properties that break apart the bonds that hold sugar molecules together. They can actually insert themselves between the sugar molecules which is why the sugar (candy cane) breaks apart. Eventually they insert themselves in between all of the sugar molecules dissolving the candy cane.
The heat in the warm water makes the molecules move faster so the water molecules are able to break up the sugar (candy cane) molecules at a faster rate.
Students then record the results on their recording pages and write which liquid worked best on the bottom. Students can either draw the results or use Pic Collage to insert actual photos.
Holiday Static Electricity Christmas Science Experiment
Cut tissue paper into holiday shapes approximately 2-3 inches in height. I made Christmas trees.
I tell students that I can lift the shapes and make them move without touching them which leads to a discussion about how they think I will do it.
I then blow up a balloon and rub it on my hair for about 30 seconds to build up static electricity.
I place the balloon above the tissue paper and carefully move it close enough to make the tissue paper shapes rise up and then move the balloon around to make them “dance”. They also fly up and stick directly to the balloon. You can watch a video below as well as see photos of the experiment.
To make it easier, you can place small pieces of tape on the bottom of the tissue paper shapes to prevent them from flying up and sticking to the balloon. This makes it easy for students to try the experiment. You can watch a video and view photos below:
We discuss that invisible electrons with a negative charge build up on the surface of the balloon when you rub it through your hair or on your sweater. The invisible electrons with a negative charge can pull very light objects with a positive charge towards them (the tissue paper).
Afterwards students draw and/or write what they on their recording pages or insert actual photos of the experiment in Pic Collage.
Younger students add photos to their Seesaw journals and record their observations and what they learned.
Dissolving Peppermints Christmas Science Experiment
In this experiment students hypothesize which water they think will dissolve peppermint candies the quickest (hot or cold), record their predictions, and test the results.
Place the same amount of hot and cold water in each bowl. Place a peppermint candy in each glass at the same time.
The peppermint in the hot water will begin to dissolve very quickly.
Continue to observe the candies and discuss the results. The red stripes of the peppermint will dissolve into the water creating a very nice visual effect.
Afterwards students draw the results on their recording pages or use Pic Collage to insert real photos.
Jingle Bell STEM Activity
The object of the challenge is to see if students can quiet a jingle bell.
Students can complete the challenge in small groups, as partners, or individually.
Give each student or group a jingle bell, plastic container, and pieces of cotton, tinsel, and wrapping paper (these materials can be changed to other holiday items if desired).
Students place the jingle bell in the plastic container along with any of the materials they feel will quiet the jingle bell. They can combine materials or use just one of them.
We used small plastic condiment containers from the cafeteria for our experiment. The students placed their fingers over the top and shook the jingle bell in the container to test the sound. Any container that allows the bell to move and jingle will work. You can also use small plastic fillable ornaments such as these from Amazon.
Allow students to experiment and try to quiet the jingle bell. You can choose to give them a specified time period such as 10 minutes or allow them to experiment until they feel they have the best solution.
Here are some examples that we tried:
First they tried each item individually.
Then they tried combinations of the materials:
Eventually students discover that they have to place enough material inside the container to absorb the sound and prevent the bell from moving.
After the activity I have students complete a recording page by drawing and/or writing what materials they tried in the box and then writing what worked best and why on the bottom.
Students can also us Pic Collage to complete their pages.
Magnets & Jingle Bells Christmas Science Activity
In these activities students explore magnetism.
Give each student or partner group a recording page (one for each student), jingle bells (I found jingle bells at the Dollar Tree and gave each pair of students a bag), magnetic wand, a ruler or form of non-standard measurement such as Unifix Cubes, and 2 small plastic containers of differing sizes.
- Students predict how many jingle bells they think will fit on their magnetic wands and write their predictions on their recording pages. Then, they wave their magnetic wands over the jingle bells (using both sides of the wand) and count to see how many jingle bells actually stuck to their wands and write the results on their recording pages.
2. Students predict how far away from the jingle bell the magnetic wand needs to be before it attracts or pulls the bell and write their predictions on their recording pages. You can have students use rulers and make their predictions in inches or use a form of non-standard measurement such as Unifix Cubes. Students then test it by placing the jingle bell at one end of the ruler or line of Unifix Cubes and the magnetic wand at the other end. They move the magnetic wand slowly towards the jingle bell until the jingle bell moves and sticks to the magnetic wand. Students then record where the attraction occurred (in our experiment it was 1 inch).
- In this activity students discover that a magnet will attract an iron/metal object through plastic and also how strong the attraction. You will need 2 small plastic containers of differing sizes. We used a small condiment container and a snack size container.
Students predict how many jingle bells they think need to be in each container in order for the magnetic wand to be able to lift it off the table and write their predictions on their recording pages.
Then students place one jingle bell at a time in each container and attempt to lift it using the magnetic wand. Students were surprised to find that only 1 jingle bell was needed for our small container and only 2 jingle bells were needed for our larger container (your results will vary depending on the containers used and the strength of your magnetic wands). Students then record the actual results on their recording pages.
Jingle Bell & Magnet Mazes
This activity will help students discover how magnets can attract an object through a material (paper plate).
Students will create a holiday maze on their paper plates and use a magnet to guide a jingle bell through the maze.
Give each student a paper plate, a jingle bell, and a magnet or magnetic wand.
Students use crayons and/or markers to draw a simple holiday maze on their paper plate. For example, they can draw a Christmas tree with tinsel and follow the tinsel as the maze.
Students then use a magnet or magnetic wand under the plate to guide a jingle bell along their mazes. For the Christmas tree example, students can first guide the bell along the tinsel and then along the outside outline of the tree.
After completing their own mazes students can switch mazes with a partner and try to guide their jingle bell along each other’s mazes.
I have students upload a photo of their mazes to their Seesaw journals. After completing the partner activity, students leave comments on their partner’s maze telling them what they liked about it.