Who says the dark, cold days of winter have to be boring? Let’s face it, Parents, we have become experts at homeschooling and remote learning. If someone else provides the content, we help our children do the assignments.
However, your confidence might wane if someone mentions a “science experiment”. But science does not have to be complicated. Science should be both fun and educational. So, interactive science experiments are exactly what your child needs to survive the winter.
So, let’s get ready to turn your kitchen into a mini science lab to entertain children of all ages, but especially those between ages four and six. And they just might learn something, too!
All kids like balloons and understand that they need air to inflate. But do they actually need air? Let’s see what happens when we use some everyday ingredients and supplies to inflate balloons without using air.
Ingredients and supplies.
- Small bottle or jar with an opening small enough that a balloon can stretch across it
- Lemon juice
- Baking soda (one tablespoon)
You can also include a funnel if you have one, but this can also be done without one by using a small measuring spoon.
Gather the ingredients above. As with any experiment, you need to protect surfaces with newspaper or some other type of covering material.
Stretch your balloon a couple of times just as you would if you would normally blow it up. This stretching makes it easier to inflate.
Next, fill the container about a third full of lemon juice. Insert the small tip of the funnel into the balloon. Put the baking soda into the funnel’s wide top, so it goes down into the balloon.
Stretch the opening of the balloon over the top of the bottle but be careful not to let the baking soda drip in just yet! Then, raise the balloon, so the baking soda drops into the lemon juice. The chemical reaction between the baking soda and the lemon juice will inflate the balloon.
When you are finished, though, be careful when taking the balloon off the water bottle. Lemon juice in the eye is never fun!
What causes the balloon to inflate?
You can see the reaction when the baking soda hits the lemon juice. So, let’s think about why this happens.
When the lemon juice and baking soda react, they form carbon dioxide, the same “air” that we expel if we blow up the balloon the traditional way. The carbon dioxide rises into the balloon and causes it to inflate.
The reaction that produces carbon dioxide results from an acid (lemon juice) and a base (baking soda) reacting and chemically rearranging the atoms into something new, like carbon dioxide.
Extending the lesson.
You can extend the learning by gathering other safe, household, acidic substances, like lime juice and vinegar, and repeating the process. Ask questions like:
- Do all of the bottles inflate at the same rate?
- What makes them inflate faster or slower?
- What other products could be created when atoms rearrange?
- Which states of matter are being observed and how do they change throughout the reaction?
- What would happen if the balloon weren’t there?
Study the balloons and bottles over some time and ask these questions:
- How long do the balloons continue to inflate?
- What happens after they stop getting bigger?
Watch and see how long they stay inflated:
- What makes them eventually deflate?
Make a comparison between these balloons and ones you would blow up the traditional way:
- What makes traditional balloons deflate eventually as well?
For older kids, think about asking them more advanced questions, like:
- What would a model of the reactants and products look like?
- How does pH of the reactants affect the product?
Making Science Fun
To keep children curious about science and how things work in general, we need to get creative. And if that means turning your kitchen into a science lab on a dreary winter afternoon – so be it!
There are other ways to make science fun and create an authentic experience for your children. Scrounge up some science gear like safety glasses, gloves, and protective smocks—which can be made out of anything, like old, adult-size shirts—bonus points for long sleeves! All of these items can probably be found somewhere in your home. If not, hit a thrift store or dollar store. Having this special gear makes these experiments more fun and authentic for children and teaches them safety is essential.
Make Time for Science
We are all busy, but there are some things we just have to make time for. Adding simple experiments like this one to your day doesn’t take long, but the impression can last a lifetime.
Spending just a few minutes here and there on science can send your child down a path of discovery and keep their curious mind asking, wondering, and solving. Don’t you think it’s about time to experience science hands-on with your kids?