If you haven’t added some messy science experiments to your collection of messy play ideas, I highly suggest you do so now!
Young children are natural scientists, always exploring the world around them in one way or another. And I’ve lost count at the number of times I’ve been asked, “Why?” over the years! So why not encourage this enthusiastic curiosity with a bevy of messy science activities?!
Below you’ll find some fun science experiments that run on the messy side. Of course, let’s be honest here, almost every science experiment can be a bit messy when you add young kids to the mix.
Your students are going to have a blast with all of these science ideas. And if the messy makes you a little anxious, be sure to go in with a plan:
- Use mats, trays, and/or large tubs to contain the mess.
- Explain and model your expectations.
- Have cleaning supplies on-hand.
- Teach the children how to clean up.
What is a Messy Science Experiment?
To put it simply, it’s a science experiment that’s messy or has the potential to be messy. Yes, when it comes to exploring science with kids, most everything has the potential to be messy. I don’t see anything wrong with that, though, since I know there are so many benefits of messy play.
In addition to being messy, these science ideas also touch on the scientific method (which is what makes them science experiments, rather than science activities). Very simply put, the scientific method is process that we follow to investigate something. It consists of:
- Asking a question
- Crafting a hypothesis
- Taking notes and analyzing
- Discussing what happened
That may seem like a lot of steps for young children, but I find many happen pretty naturally with the kids. Applying the scientific method to messy science activities can transform them into true experiments, too!
Messy Science Materials
Here are some of the supplies used for the messy science experiments found below (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Baking soda
- Food coloring
- Liquid watercolors
- Liquid starch
- Soap flakes
You can definitely see what you have in your kitchen pantry or teacher stash first. And then choose the messy science ideas below that use the materials you already have!
Messy Science Experiments
Let’s jump into all of the messy science fun! I sorted the experiments into a few categories so you can find what you want a little easier. We have ice and water experiments, goopy and slime science, and messy science that “explodes” or fizzes.
There are also a few additional ideas outside of those categories, because I just couldn’t help myself. Click on each link for a more detailed description of each science experiment.
Messy Ice and Water Science
Let’s start off with the science ideas built around water or ice. As anyone who’s bathed a toddler knows, even water has the potential to be messy!
Let the kids work on excavating dinosaurs from ice. This is a classic science activity for kids, and we put a little spin on it and pretended the dinos were trapped in “tar.”
Wow the kids with a salt water science density trick. They might need a little help getting this one set up properly, as there’s some balancing cups involved.
Watch tunnels form in the ice during a melting ice science project. This messy science looks beautiful throughout the entire process and really helps the kids see what’s happening as the ice melts.
Explore the concept of air by making a water bottle fountain with the children. They learn that air is still present, even though we can’t see it.
Add a literacy twist to a well-loved activity with this name melting ice experiment. We enjoyed testing out various methods for getting our names to melt.
Kids learn about how to clean water with a homemade water filter science project. I think this one would be especially good around Earth Day.
Goopy, Slimy Messy Science Experiments
If we’re talking about science that’s messy, we have to touch on goop and slime! Here are a few fun ideas to try with the kids.
Begin by learning how to make slime. Then test out the various slime-making directions to find your favorite. The children can also experiment with adding different textures to the slime they make.
Then make creepy, crawly mud slime with the kids. You don’t have to add the bug toys, but they’re definitely a fun addition. Fake flowers are a great alternative!
Color changing oobleck is such an awesome combination of math, science, and sensory play. Definitely one to include with your other messy science experiments!
Have the kids experiment with heat sensitive color changing slime. You can break out all kinds of warmer and colder materials to test with the slime once it’s made.
The dancing oobleck experiment elevates the goopy fun to a whole other level! And there are so many ways to test and experiment with it.
Soapy “slime” isn’t slime exactly, but the texture of it can be comparable. We’ve made Jell-O soap foam many times, and it’s always a hit with the kids. Encourage the children to experiment with different soaps, what’s added to it, and the measurements of the ingredients.
Fizzy, “Exploding” Science Ideas
These are the kinds of activities that first pop to mind when the term messy science experiments is bandied about. Well, at least for me. What about you?
One of our favorite messy science experiments is this colorful, scented rainbow science. The kids get to explore with their senses of sight, smell, touch, AND hearing.
After enjoying a delicious, fruity snack, use what’s leftover for a watermelon science experiment. Such a fun spin on a favorite preschool science activity.
Microwave Ivory soap and amaze your students. Be sure to ask the children what they think will happen beforehand. And set aside some time to truly explore the end result, too.
Use fizzing “lava” rocks to teach the kids why lava rocks are bumpy. This one is perfect for children enamored with volcanoes, lava, and rocks.
While the classic baking soda and vinegar experiment yields and endothermic reaction, elephant toothpaste is an exothermic one. So the result is warm to the touch, rather than cool. Definitely one to try with the children.
And be sure to give exploding baggies a try. This is one you probably want to do outside, or in a spot that’s well-covered.
We have tried this Mentos and soda experiment so many times over the years. It always yields lots of excited shouts and giggles!
A Few More Messy Science Activities
As I mentioned earlier, there are a few more that don’t quite fit into the above categories. But they definitely constitute messy science!
Try the pumpkin decomposition experiment during the fall. We loved watching the pumpkins decompose, and the kids got a kick out of dramatically declaring how gross it was. Later, we were utterly deleted to watch the seeds eventually yield a new set of pumpkin plants.
Make bread in a bag with the kids for a science experiment you can eat! Don’t let the bag fool you . . . there’s still an element of mess inherent to this science fun.
Plan an egg drop project with your students. What a great way to see how creative your little scientists can be! But be prepared for some broken eggs along the way.
Set up a viscosity experiment in the form of viscosity “races” with the kids. I can imagine all of the laughter this one entails!
And there you have it! Over 20 super engaging messy science experiments the kids are going to love. Be sure to pin this post and save it for future reference.
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