spaghetti building attempts

Children’s science ideas at Banbury Museum

A couple of weeks ago I finally got round to taking N to Banbury Museum.  I’ve been meaning to for ages because a) I’ve never been and b) they quite often do children’s activities at weekends.  The week we went was a Science Day, with activities for over 4s.

We’d nipped into town anyway, and for once planned it so that we were ready for when the museum opened, rather than having finished our shopping way too early.  The activity days are a bargain.  Although the museum is free, special events for children are ticket only and range from around £1-3.  This event was a bargain £1.50 for N.

The science event was being held on the bridge and was structured as a drop in like so many of the events are.  It was all very relaxed, and lovely to be able to overlook the canal while we were doing our science experiments.  Staff were on hand to show us what to do at each activity table, although the instructions on the table were all easy to understand.  Everything was based on day to day ingredients, but with a science slant – so engineering, technology, chemistry etc. All great fun, and much more practical and exciting than stuffy science you might remember from your school days (or was that just me?!).

Here were some of the science experiments we had a go at.

Bridge building with cotton buds

What you need – cotton buds minus the cotton wool ends on, mini marshmallows, 2 high items (or stacks of books) to create a gap to build the bridge over.

We started with the bridge building using cotton bud sticks and mini marshmallows.  The challenge was to build a bridge to go across the river, and to be able to drive a matchbox car over it without it collapsing.  Of course I like a challenge, and I remember the basic theory of triangular structures, along with maths practical sessions building bridges out of newspaper and sellotape when we were at school.  N was just happy sticking the marshmallows together and ordering me to use certain cotton buds.  He was good at sharing out the cotton buds and marshmallows though so he got a bit of maths learning in there.

superscience building bridges

N did build a (kind of) bridge himself, and we tried it out alongside mine.  Then it was time to test.  Put the bridges in position, put the bit of card over the track part, and push the car across.  Whoop both worked…until N heavy handedly tried his own version of pushing a car over it.

childrens engineering

N then spotted marshmallows at another table so he wanted to have a go at building a spaghetti tower.

Tower building with spaghetti

What you need – spaghetti, mini marshmallows

spaghetti and marshmallow towers

This seemed like a simple challenge, but was actually really hard.  Spaghetti is not strong so it was good for N to try and learn how not to force it too hard, and to hold the spaghetti next to where he was pushing the marshmallow on.

spaghetti and marshmallow tower

We didn’t get a very high tower made, but it still achieved the aim of looking like a tower, even if we didn’t break the height target.

spaghetti building attempts

Paper helicopters

What you need – paper (any size, but we had A5ish), paper clip

I remembered these from my youth, and we’ve been pointing out sycamore ‘helicopters’ when they’ve been out on the trees.  N really loved these although he did need to be lifted up or on a chair to actually be high enough to see them twirl.

I’ve attached a paper helicopter printable template with instructions.  You can adjust to any size you want, print out and use, or just refer to it to create your own from whatever paper you have. Smaller will be better, you probably don’t want much bigger than A5.  And really you want narrower to the length for it to work well.

paper helicopter

We made one each, added the paper clip to the bottom to hold the folded thirds together and create a weight, and then launched.

Lots of fun watching it twirling round to the ground.

Our helicopters were also taken home to show the OH how well they could fly…giving N an excuse to stand on the kitchen table.

Sinking submarines

On another table there were big bottles of water and little toy submarines.  It was time to find out more about sinking and rising of ships by using baking powder.  It was a case of putting a spoon of baking powder into the little hold of the submarine, popping the lid back on.

baking power submarines

Then we had to put the submarine under the water, wiggle it about a bit get to get the reaction between the water and bicarb to start, then let go.  The submarine then sinks and rises in the water.  You can find out about the science behind it, and learn how to make a carrot version by going to this science club website.

dunking the submarine

N quite liked this one, although he didn’t really think before launching in to get the sunken submarine from the bottom of the bottle.  One wet arm and coat sleeve later, and we were heading off to see some of the static canal exhibits on the museum bridge.

N loved making the canal locks work

winding the lock

testing the weight of bridges

testing bridge weights

and generally enjoying watching what was happening on the canal.  For a bargain price and an hour or so of our time, he learnt a few new things, tried some different experiments and explored a bit of local history.  I’ll definitely be looking out for more of the children’s events at our local museum.

children's science activities

Have you got a local museum who does similar events?  Have you tried any of these experiments?

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  1. Wow what brilliant ideas! I’m going to try some of these. My little one may eat most of the marshmellows though.

    1. It’s ingenious, but a nightmare because the spaghetti always breaks. Takes a careful hand and patience. N mostly liked breaking it into (too) small pieces

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