We played around with some simple ingredients to learn more about physical and chemical changes. This invitation to experiment gives kids the opportunity to explore basic science concepts with some icy, fizzy fun.

Cool Science - Exploring Reactions

There are times when we do more structured experiments. We form hypotheses and write down observations. But just like anything else, we need a balance of structure and un-structure to help us understand our world. Both kids participated in this activity, which is always a plus.

I mixed vinegar and water in these paper bowls and then added some food coloring, glitter and plastic gems. You could definitely have the kids do this step, but I just happened to do this after they had gone to bed. The next day, I popped them out of the bowls and set them out on baking trays.

Ice blocks of vinegar water food coloring and some sparkle

The bright colors and sparkles got a lot of ooohs and ahhhs. I let them just fiddle with the blocks of ice for a few minutes. They commented on the coldness and watched the slowly melting colors swirl together. Then I set out a bowl of salt and a bowl of baking soda. I didn’t give them directions.

Cool Science for Young Learners - Explore Reactions

It was interesting to see that R (2.5) was much more daring in her experimentation. She was often the first one to try things and then he would follow. Once he got started, he was really into it. And as the ice melted, he was thrilled to discover the hidden treasures. He ran to get his tools–a magnifying glass, light, and scissor–to help excavate the plastic gems.

Using tools

My role was to ask questions (and take photos!) I asked “What’s happening?” and “How is it changing?” He remembered that salt would melt the ice from his previous experiment and we talked about how the salt changed the ice from solid to liquid.

Salt helps the melting process

The baking soda reaction was definitely fun. The more vinegar you have in your mixture, the bigger the reaction will be. It might be cool to experiment with that, too.

Fizz - Chemical Reaction

Touching the byproduct of the reaction, he commented about how it was different than it was before. This opened up the door to talk about the idea that sometimes things change in a different way.

I might have dropped the words “physical” and “chemical” change, but I didn’t make a big deal out of it. I like to expose him to concepts and words even if he don’t get it completely. The reason I do this is to break down the barrier that terminology the have on understanding science. I think back to my elementary school science and it was basically reading about abstract concepts, answering questions straight from the text, and writing vocabulary words. But science isn’t about a list of words. I want my kids to be excited and challenged by the possibility that science has. I guess that’s why our school looks like this.

My favorite part of this experiment was what happened after. Z decided he wanted to set up his own experiment. He carefully mixed vinegar, water and food coloring in a Deviled Egg tray. He was very serious about it.

Inspired to design their own experiments

There are so many simple science activities you can do with your kids. Do you have a favorite? You can check out my Pinterest for some inspiration.

Use simple and engaging items to teach physical and chemical change

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