This winter break, turn your kitchen into a makeshift science lab with these fun (and only mildly messy) experiments from Mad Science Portland.  

Kids are natural scientists — they are always engaging in informal science experiments by asking questions about things and then testing their hypotheses. Expanding the idea of science from something you do formally in a lab into something that people do all the time in their lives helps children to feel more like scientists themselves. And home is a perfect place for a child to comfortably observe, test their ideas, and learn about the world.

ELEPHANT’S TOOTHPASTE

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Materials

Funnel 

1 empty 16- or 20-ounce bottle

½ cup hydrogen peroxide

Food coloring (optional)

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1 tablespoon dish soap

Newspaper or plastic tablecloth

1 tablespoon or 1 packet active dry yeast, such as Fleischmann’s 

3 tablespoons warm water

Instructions

1. Using a funnel, pour hydrogen peroxide into the bottle. If you want to make the bubbles colorful, add 10-15 drops of food coloring.

2. Add dish soap and mix gently.

3. Cover the area where you’ll be doing this experiment with newspaper or a plastic tablecloth.

4. In a separate cup, add yeast and warm water. Gently mix and wait 1 minute.

5. When ready, add the yeast water into the bottle and wait for the foam.

What does this project teach? The Elephant’s Toothpaste experiment helps kids learn about the properties of chemical reactions by focusing on reaction products that would not typically be visible. The reaction here (the foam) is an accelerated breakdown of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen gas by use of a catalyst — yeast. By adding soap and food coloring, we are able to trap the oxygen in foamy bubbles and see a product that would usually be invisible. The yeast speeds up the reaction to the point where it produces enough heat that the foam feels warm.


STOPPER POPPER

Materials

1 empty 32-ounce bottle or flask with a narrow opening

A stopper for the bottle

3 tablespoons vinegar

1 tablespoon baking soda

Instructions

1. Add vinegar and baking soda to the bottle. Mix it up and put a stopper in the top. Watch the pressure build up inside until the stopper pops out.

What does this project teach? The Stopper Popper project helps kids to learn about the properties of chemical reactions by focusing on acid-base interactions. Kids learn that when an acid (vinegar) and a base (baking soda) react, they form water and often gas bubbles. Closing the system with a stopper before the reaction occurs causes the top to pop off — a fun demonstration that the gas has been produced.

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