Hands-on learning is the best way for those little Einsteins in your 1st grade class to discover science. Kids will cheer when you announce that they’ll get to do a real experiment. The activities here are easy for kids to do, with concepts that will help build their science knowledge for the future. Best of all, most require no special equipment at all! Many of the 1st grade science experiments on our list even use childhood staples like crayons and Play-Doh!
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1. Grow a rainbow
Kids learn the colors of the rainbow along with chromatography as they watch marker streaks climb up and meet across a wet paper towel. The word might be a big one for little kids to learn, but they’ll love to see it in action!
Learn more: The Best Ideas for Kids
2. Make it rain
You need rain to make a rainbow. Simulate a rain cloud in a jar with shaving cream and food coloring, and see how the coloring saturates the “cloud” until it simply must fall.
Learn more: Fun Learning for Kids
3. Make frost in a can
This is an especially fun experiment during those chilly winter months. First, fill the can with ice and halfway with water. Then have the kids sprinkle salt in the can and cover the top. Finally, shake it and wait about three minutes for the frost to begin to appear.
Learn more: Kindergarten Worksheets and Games
4. Give gummi bears a bath
Drop gummi bears into different liquid solutions to see how they change (or don’t) over time. Kids will learn about osmosis, as well as how scientists must be good observers.
Learn more: First Grade Buddies
5. Sort animals by features
Use a printable or pull out the toy animals and have kids sort them into categories. It’s an early introduction to classification systems.
Learn more: Fairy Poppins
6. Play a flute
These homemade flutes are fun to play, but they also help young kids learn about sound. Let them experiment with straw lengths to see what tones they can make.
Learn more: Buggy and Buddy/Pan Flute
7. Play with Play-Doh to learn why we have bones
Ask kids to build a person from Play-Doh and see if it will stand on its own. Then show them how adding drinking straws gives it structure and strength, and explain that bones do the same for us! (Get more clever ways to use Play-Doh in the classroom here.)
Learn more: Keeping My Kiddos Busy
8. Build the layers of Earth with Play-Doh
Another creative use of Play-Doh! Teach your students about the different layers of Earth and then have them create them using different colors of Play-Doh.
Learn more: Evans Elementary School
9. Find out which objects are attracted to magnets
Equip students with magnets and send them out to explore and discover which objects the magnet will stick to and which won’t. Record their findings on the free printable worksheet.
Learn more: Fairy Poppins
10. Grow a crystal garden
First grade science students might not grasp the concept of supersaturated solutions, but they’ll still love a good crystal project! Grab some magnifying glasses and let them examine the crystals up close (try not to touch, as they’re very fragile) to see the cool geometric structures.
Learn more: Babble Dabble Do
11. Make a jelly bean structure
If you’re doing this STEM project in the spring, jelly beans make the perfect base. If you can’t get a hold of jelly beans, try substituting tiny marshmallows in their place. Make sure to have some extras on hand since little hands are likely to snack as they build.
Learn more: The Stem Laboratory
12. Experiment with marshmallow Peeps
Peeps used to just be an Easter treat, but these days you can find them in different shapes throughout much of the year. Use them to practice making predictions and recording observations with this sweet experiment.
Learn more: Gift of Curiosity/Easter Peeps Science Experiments
13. Spark excitement with static electricity
No doubt your 1st grade science students have already encountered static electricity by rubbing a balloon on their hair. This experiment takes things a step further, letting kids explore which objects an electrically charged balloon can pick up and which it can’t.
Learn more: Kids Activities Blog
14. Melt crayons to explore solids and liquids
Dig out some old crayons and use them for this easy experiment that demonstrates the difference between liquids and solids. When you’re done, you’ll have a cool piece of art to display. (Discover more uses for broken crayons here.)
Learn more: First Grade Circle
15. Talk through a paper cup phone
This classic experiment will help your 1st grade science class understand that sound travels in waves, through the air, and across other objects. Watching their faces light up when they hear whispers in their cups will make your day!
Learn more: There’s Just One Mommy
16. Make a bubble snake
You’ll need to plan this experiment for a day with nice weather since it is best suited to outdoors. You will need an empty water bottle, a washcloth, a rubber band, a small bowl or plate, food coloring, scissors or box cutters, distilled water, dish soap, and Karo syrup or glycerin. There’s a lot of prep, but the end result is definitely worth it!
Learn more: Hand 2 Mind
17. Learn why we have night and day
The Earth’s daily rotation gives us days and nights. This simple demo helps kids understand that. They draw a day scene and a night scene on a paper plate, then cover it with half of another plate that can be moved. This is an art project and 1st grade science experiment all rolled into one.
Learn more: Universe Awareness
18. Float food coloring on milk
Learn about surface tension by dropping food coloring onto different types of milk (whole, skim, cream, etc.). Then use dish soap to break down the fats and surface tension, and watch the colors dance!
Learn more: STEAMsational/Surface Tension
19. Drop water onto a penny
Continue your exploration of surface tension by adding water drop-by-drop to a penny. The surface tension will allow you to add far more water than you might think.
Learn more: Science Buddies/Surface Tension
20. Turn a plastic bag into a greenhouse
Turn your 1st grade science class into gardeners! Use a damp paper towel in a plastic bag to allow them to see a seed sprouting and growing roots.
Learn more: Lessons 4 Little Ones/Greenhouse Bag
21. Will it sink or swim?
Set up a tank of water and then have your students test different objects to see if they will sink or float. Have them make their predictions before running the experiment.
22. See how shadows change throughout the day
Start in the morning: Have kids stand in one spot on the playground while a partner traces their shadow with sidewalk chalk. Ask them what they think will happen when they stand in the same spot during the afternoon, then head back outside after lunch to find out.
Learn more: The First Grade Roundup/Shadows
23. Blow up a balloon using yeast
This is similar to the classic lemon juice and baking soda experiment many kids do at some point, but it’s better for younger kids since you don’t have to worry about them splashing the juice in their eyes. Kids will be just as astonished at the results as the yeast eats the sugar and produces carbon dioxide gas!
Learn more: The STEM Laboratory
24. Push on air
Teach your students about air compression and air pressure using a barrel, plunger, syringe, and flexible tube. Kids will definitely get a kick out of air wrestling and popping off their plungers using air pressure.
Learn more: First Grade Adventurers
25. Test your reaction time
Do your students have lightning-quick reflexes? Find out with this easy experiment. One student holds a ruler vertically, while another places their hand just beneath and waits. When the first student drops the ruler, the second catches it as quickly as possible, seeing how many inches passed through their fingers first.
Learn more: Science Sparks
26. Discover how plants drink water
Capillary action is the name of the game, and your 1st grade science kiddos will be amazed at the results. Place celery stalks in cups of colored water, and watch as the leaves change color!
Learn more: Lessons 4 Little Ones/Capillary Action
27. Make a salt volcano
Your firsties are too young to remember the lava lamp craze, but this science project will give them a taste of it as they learn about liquid density.
Learn more: What Do We Do All Day?
28. Learn the scientific method with candy
See the scientific method in action as kids hypothesize what will happen to various types of candy in the hot sun. Observe, record, and analyze your results to see if their predictions were correct.
Learn more: Playdough to Plato
29. Build a bird feeder
Set young engineers loose with wood craft sticks, glue, and string to create a bird feeder. Then research the best seeds to fill them with, and hang them outside your classroom window to draw in some feathered friends.
Learn more: Mombrite
30. Observe the birds at your feeder
Once your feeder is in place, teach kids to identify common birds and keep track of their visits. Report their findings to one of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Citizen Science projects to let kids be part of real-life research.
Learn more: Science Buddies/Bird Feeders
31. Look into mirrors to discover symmetry
By now, 1st grade science students may have noticed that mirrors reflect objects backward. Ask them to write the alphabet in capital letters, then hold it up to the mirror. Which letters are the same when they’re reflected? Use those findings to talk about symmetry.
Learn more: Buggy and Buddy/Mirror Symmetry
32. Create a super-simple circuit
This is the perfect way to introduce the concept of electricity to young students since the materials and steps are minimal. You will need a D battery, tinfoil, electrical tape, and a light bulb from a flashlight.
Learn more: What Do We Do All Day?
33. “Bend” a pencil using light refraction
Tell your students you’re going to bend a pencil without touching it. Drop it into a glass of water and have them look at it from the side. Light refraction makes it appear to be in two pieces!
Learn more: STEAMsational/Refraction
34. Use colorful beads to learn about camouflage
Animal camouflage is an important way for prey to protect itself from predators. To learn how effective it can be, place matching colored beads on top of a photo of wildflowers and see how long it takes students to find them all.
Learn more: The First Grader Roundup/Animal Adaptations
35. Roll marbles to explore momentum
Momentum is “mass in motion,” but what does that really mean? Find out by rolling marbles of different sizes down rulers placed at various slopes.
Learn more: Frugal Fun 4 Boys and Girls
36. Dunk eggs to understand dental health
Grown-ups are always telling kids sugary drinks are bad for their teeth, so try this experiment to put your money where your mouth is! Eggshells are a good substitute for teeth since they’re both made of calcium. Leave eggs in different kinds of beverages to see which ones do the most damage to the shells.
Learn more: First Grade Funtastic
37. Experiment with apples and oxidation
Apples turn brown when they’re cut open due to oxidation. Is there any way to prevent that from happening? This experiment aims to find out. (Explore more apple activities here.)
Learn more: Camping Teacher
38. Create an avalanche
Learn about the destructive power of an avalanche in a safe way with this experiment. All you need is flour, cornmeal, pebbles, and a plastic tray.
Learn more: A Dab of Glue Will Do
39. Melt ice cubes to make new colors
Color mixing is one of those incredibly cool activities that kids will want to try again and again. Make ice cubes using primary colors, then let them melt together to see what new colors you can create.
Learn more: Gift of Curiosity/Color Mixing With Colored Ice Cubes
40. Expose a sponge fish to pollution
It’s never too early to start learning about how important it is to protect the Earth. Use sponge “fish” to see how polluted water affects the wildlife living in it.
Learn more: The Owl Teacher
41. Dig in the dirt with claws
Animal adaptations allow creatures to live in just about every environment on Earth. Learn how claws help some animals survive and thrive by gluing plastic spoons to a glove.
Learn more: The First Grade Roundup/Claw Glove
42. Observe plant transpiration
Many plants take in more water than they need. What happens to the rest? Wrap a plastic bag around a living tree branch to see transpiration in action.
Learn more: Teach Beside Me
43. Create a weather vane
This experiment seeks to answer the questions of how wind is created and which direction it comes from. You will need a lot of materials to bring this experiment to life so be sure to give yourself plenty of prep time.
Learn more: Rookie Parenting
44. Fly a paper airplane
Kid absolutely love creating and flying paper airplanes, so this experiment is sure to be a hit. Have your students create different-style planes and then experiment with thrust and lift to see which fly the farthest, highest, etc.
45. Weigh items with a homemade balance scale
Make a simple balance scale with a coat hanger, yarn, and some plastic cups. Have students gather items from around the classroom, make predictions about which will be heavier, then test their hypothesis.
Learn more: Wikihow
If you love 1st grade science, be sure to check out these 25 First Grade STEM Challenges.
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