Apple Volcano

This was our first full week of fall and it’s been HOT and sweltering over here.  Finally today, it feels like Fall and it’s a perfect day to celebrate apple season.  Aside from eating and baking apples, why not use some over-ripe apples to play with? Here’s an easy twist on the classic “volcano” experiment, just in time for Apple season.  So, while you are picking out your apples, get a few extra and let your little ones have some explosive fun!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Apples (any variety will do)
  • Baking soda
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring/liquid water colors (optional – but everything is so much more fun with colors!)
  • Knife and metal spoon to hollow it out (Adult use only)
  • droppers and spoons
  • cups
  • Tray to contain the mess


First cut the top off the apple and scoop out the insides and the seeds to form a “bowl”.  I found it easiest to cut a circle off the top and then use a metal tablespoon to scoop it out.


This kept the top of the apple intact to use as a lid.  We saved the seeds and stem for our Exploring the Five Senses with Apples activity.


I set up a tray with the hollowed apple, dropper, cup of baking soda, spoon and cup of vinegar (I colored ours red for fun)


Then I invited the superheroes to play.  These little ones KNOW exactly what to do with baking soda and vinegar!


Repeat as many times as your superheroes want to do it.  We went through a box of baking soda between the two older ones!


The Science behind the activity:

This is a classic acid-base reaction.  Baking soda is a base and vinegar is an acid.  When they combine, they create a chemical reaction where the baking soda neutralizes the vinegar.  A by-product of the reaction is carbon dioxide.  That is what the bubbles are.  As the carbon dioxide is formed and bubbles out, it carries some liquid up with it, hence the “eruption”.


There are a million ways to do this experiment.  I can pretty much adapt this to any theme.  Another great Halloween theme application of this is the Pumpkin Volcano, which we also did.

For my Tiny Tot class, I ended the class by reading “Ten Apples On Top” by Dr. Seuss.

For more Apple Science Activities, try the following:



Elephant Toothpaste

Have you ever made elephant toothpaste?  It is super fun to watch and and play with.  I can’t believe as a chemistry teacher I have never done this experiment before… until now.  It’s pretty easy to do, though the materials may not already be in your home, they are easy to acquire.

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • A large dish or foil pan
  • Dry Active Yeast packet
  • Warm water
  • Tall vase, carafe or long neck bottle
  • Measuring cup and measuring spoon
  • Dish soap
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Hydrogen Peroxide (at least 6% available for about $3 at a Beauty Supply Store)


I had the tots first touch the yeast.  It looked like sand to them.  They also noticed that it had a strong odor.

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Next, we measured 1 Tbsp of dry active yeast and added it to about 3Tbsp of warm water.

IMG_7266We mixed it and put it aside for a few minutes.  This does not have to be exact.

Next we used a tall clear glass bottle (a clear wine bottle or carafe is actually perfect!) and added about 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide.  Add some food coloring if you want to.

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I recommend using glass as the reaction can get quite warm.  Add a few good squirts of dish soap.


Be sure not to use one with the antibacterial beads.  The beads will interfere with the reaction.  Give it a good swirl.

Place the bottle in the large dish pan.   I added the yeast to the bottle and watched the magic unfold!


In class, I then had the tots sit away a bit and put their safety glasses on. There was plenty of oohing and aahing!  The kids thought it was great, especially after our discussion of whether elephants need toothpaste:)


After the reaction ended, I invited the children to touch the foam.

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It was warm and bubbly and soft.  We also touched the bottle and it was very warm as well.  (Just make sure you touch the foam and the bottle first to make sure it isn’t too hot for the kiddos).

The Science Behind the Activity:

When the yeast mixture is added to the hydrogen peroxide, it helps to facilitate a decomposition reaction (a reaction that breaks a chemical compound down).  In this case, hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is being broken into water (H2O) and oxygen gas (O2).   The yeast acts as a catalyst (kind of like a chemical “helper”) to make the reaction go faster.  Because of the addition of dish soap, the oxygen gas gets trapped in the soap as bubbles and creates the foam that you see.  This reaction also releases heat which makes it an example of an exothermic reaction.  So much chemistry in this fun little demonstration.


  • Test out different concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.  How does concentration affect the rate of the reaction?
  • Test whether the yeast needs to be mixed with water first or if it can be added directly
  • Test whether the amount of yeast added affects the reaction
  • What happens if the yeast is added to cold water?  Does temperature matter?

For more details and where I got my idea from, please visit:

Eating Parts of a Plant

Getting your kids to eat their vegetables can often be a chore.  Sometimes presenting it in a fun activity can make it more inviting.  Sometimes not.  Either way, this is an easy way to show children the connection between plants that they see and the vegetables that we eat.  No prep required and no weird ingredients to purchase.  You probably have these at home!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Baby Carrots (I steamed them for the tiniest tots in my class)
  • Broccoli Florets
  • Celery (Cut thin for the little ones)
  • Sunflower seeds (I’ve used both shelled and unshelled)
  • Fresh Spinach (or other leafy green)
  • Tomatoes (I used halved grape tomatoes because they are sweeter)
  • Plate
  • Dip (optional)IMG_7278

I cut up the vegetables and steamed the broccoli and baby carrots.  Since I have many 2 year olds in my classes, I wanted to make sure the veggies were soft and safe for them to chew.  I sliced the celery thin since the youngest ones still struggle with the fibers.

I used shelled sunflower seeds the first time I did this. The second time I used the ones in the shells and showed the tots the outside of the seed.  Then we broke them open and investigated the edible seed inside.

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I arranged the sample of vegetables on a plate and invited the tots to taste them on a plate.


The children were invited to taste the real plant parts and then guess whether they were flowers, leaves, stems, seeds, fruit or roots.  We talked about the fibrous and strong celery stem and how juicy and watery it was inside. We also investigated the seeds inside of the tomatoes.  We broke open the shells of the sunflower seeds and tasted the seed inside.

I also had a pile of paper cutouts of the plant parts for the older tots.


They could glue the real or paper versions on their worksheets.



This activity goes well with my Flower Sorting Discovery Tray.  I had the tots first sort through the parts of the flowers, showing them the roots, stems, leaves, flowers and pollen.  Then we connected it to this activity of plant parts we can eat.

The Science behind the Activity:

Children get excited about food when they take an active role in either preparing food, selecting food or interacting with food.  By comparing vegetables to parts of a plant, it piques a child’s interest in the food, thus making them more likely to try it.  Maybe.  (A mom can hope, right?)  This activity also links parts of plants to what we eat.  Eating plant leaves or plant stems or flowers seems so much more fun than eating broccoli or celery or spinach.

To see where I got this simple but fantastic idea from, please visit:


A rite of passage of childhood is definitely making some GAK!  Easy to make at home and the kids love squishing and stretching it around!  For those who are unfamiliar, GAK is a little different in consistency than slime and is made with Borax instead of starch.  Liquid starch is hard to find in the regular stores around here so GAK it is!  And it’s fun!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Container for mixing (we used an old yogurt container)
  • Borax
  • Food coloring (We use liquid watercolors instead)
  • 4 oz Glue bottle (I’ve used Elmer’s and the one from the dollar store.  They all work!)
  • Warm water (not hot!)
  • Measuring cup
  • Measuring spoon
  • Spoon for mixingIMG_7452

Empty the entire bottle of glue into your container.

IMG_7383Fill the glue bottle with water.  Place the cap on and shake it up a bit to mix.  Then empty it into the container with the glue.IMG_7384

Add some food color if you want.

Add 1/2 teaspoon of borax to 1/4 cup of warm water.  Mix well and add to the glue mixture.


You will see that the mixture will start to blob up.  Mix it up and you will start seeing the GAK firm up.  It may look watery at first.  That’s ok.  The more you work with it, the more firm it gets.

If there is any liquid left, just pour it out (in the garbage, not the sink!)


See how stretchy it is!


The tots enjoyed playing with it!


They made hand prints with it too!  So much fun!


We placed the GAK into a baggie to take home.  I actually have my son’s GAK from 6 months ago and it’s still good!

The Science behind the Activity:

Here’s my simplistic explanation: Glue is made of a polymer which is a long chain of the same molecules all linked up together.  When you add the borax, it links up with the molecules to form a more solid substance, hence the GAK.  A common analogy is if you have a chain with repeating metal links, that can be considered as the polymer.  When you add a bunch of magnets (borax) they all clump up together like the GAK or Silly Putty.

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the science behind the experiment:



Orange Float or Sink?

Here’s a simple snack time experiment!  All you need is water, a glass and a Clementine (or Cuties, as my kiddos call them).  Takes only a few minutes.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • small oranges like mandarins or clementines
  • Tall glass with water


Ask your kids to predict what they think will happen when you place the orange in the water.

Add the orange to the water and observe.  Were their predictions correct?


Peel the orange.  Now predict what will happen when you place the unpeeled orange into the water.

Add the unpeeled orange to the water and observe.  Were their predictions correct?  Ask them why the orange behaved differently with and without the peel.


From these results, the boys wanted to know if it was just the peel that floated, so we tested that as well.


The peels floated at the top as well.  What’s going on? We discussed the differences between the peel and the orange.  Is there air inside the orange?  What is special about the peel that it floats and also causes the entire orange to float?  Since the boys and I have done several floating and sinking experiments together, they immediately suggested that air and density had something to do with our observations.


This was a great investigation on floating and sinking using oranges and a great snack time “quickie” science experiment!

The Science behind the Activity:

Oranges contain quite a bit of air inside them which causes the overall density of the orange to be less than that of water, so it floats.  Also, the peel keeps the water from getting inside the orange.  Once the peel is removed, water can enter through the membranes of the orange slices and will cause the orange to increase in density and sink.

For a more complicated explanation involving buoyancy and Archimedes’ Principle (a concept that is more challenging for most toddlers and preschoolers to understand) please visit the link where I got my idea from: 


Flower Sorting Discovery Tray

Spring is in full swing and there a re beautiful flowers blooming everywhere!  Taking apart flowers and plants are a great way to explore the different parts that make up plants.  Set up this EASY Flower Sorting Discovery tray with either store bought flowers, flowers/plants from the yard, or flowers/plants from a nature walk.  Add a magnifying glass and some tweezers for some extra fun!

Here’s what you’ll need to get started:

  • assortment of flowers, whole and broken into parts (sunflowers are great!)
  • seeds, roots, stems, leaves, flowers
  • magnifying glasses (optional but so fun for the kids!)
  • trays or plates to contain the mess


Set up a tray with the following labels: roots, stems, leaves, and petals, along with a magnifying glass.  I placed a sunflower on each tray to get the kids started.


Invite them to sort through the plant parts and ask them why they sorted them the way they did.  Kids often interchange sticks and stems. Discuss how there are different shapes and sizes of leaves.  Have them tell you the colors of the petals.  Count the petals on the flowers or the leaves on the stem for a math extension.  This activity is great for the youngest toddlers and the older preschoolers and kindergarteners.

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Science behind the activity:

Kids love to sort and there is something exceptionally fun about being able to take something apart that you are not usually allowed to do.  It also gives them a chance to freely explore, make their own connections with the plants and sort all the parts.  Young children LOVE to sort.  Older ones love counting.  It’s also a great sensory activity where they can touch and smell the plants.


Take your tots out for a nature walk and have them collect parts of plants.  Especially after a good rain, it was fun for my boys to pull weeds from the yard and see the roots.  Then sort the treasures collected on the nature walk.  When the kids are done dissecting and sorting the plant/flower parts, use the petals and leaves and sticks to create your own art project by making a Nature Suncatcher or just an art activity.

Here’s an easy suncatcher we made with plants and flowers pressed in between 2 sheets of contact paper:


Click on the link for more details and to see where I got my idea from:

Magnetic Basket of Eggs

I’ve been wanting to incorporate magnets into my rotation of activities but wasn’t quite sure how to do it.  Then I stumbled upon this idea with plastic easter eggs and I tested it with my littlest one and he LOVED it!  The tots in the class enjoyed it as well and so now, it’s time to share it with everyone!  And it’s a great use for all those plastic eggs you have leftover after the egg hunts!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Plastic Eggs (I used 8/child in my class)
  • Magnetic wands (I got mine from Lakeshore Learning, a local school supply store) OR a strong magnet from your fridge
  • Magnetic objects that fit in the eggs (I used: nuts and washers, paperclips, magnetic chips and metal jingle bells)
  • Non-magnetic objects that fit in the eggs (I used: uncooked macaroni, rocks, pennies and beads)
  • Easter basket
  • Ice cube tray or muffin tin for sorting objectsIMG_5667

To set up:

I placed a few objects in each egg so that they made a fun noise when shaken.  To keep myself organized, I placed all the pennies in pink eggs, all the pasta in the yellow eggs and so on to ensure all the students had eggs with all the different objects in them.

Add the eggs to a small Easter basket.  Provide a magnetic wand and a sorting tray, either an ice cube tray or muffin tin works great! (If you don’t have a fancy magnetic wand like mine, grab a strong magnet from the fridge!  I know you have those letter magnets on your fridge!)


To play/investigate:

I just left the basket of eggs with the wand and the tray and allowed the tots to investigate on their own.  All sorts of amazing investigations happened when they were left to make up their own “rules”.


Some opened the eggs up right away and dumped it all out.IMG_5532

Others shook the eggs and put them back in the basket.

Some mixed the eggs in the basket with the wand like a soup.


Once the tots realized some eggs “stuck” to the wand, the others got curious and started “sticking” eggs to their wands.IMG_5566

As the contents of the eggs were emptied out, the objects started to “stick” to the wand too!  Wow!


Some objects did not stick to the wand, no matter how much they tried.

Some sorted by “sticky” objects.IMG_5553

Others sorted by the type of object.

IMG_5565Other didn’t sort at all but counted instead!

SO MANY different ways to play and experiment and lots of learning going on with no directions from adults!

My littlest one spent many hours testing out different ways to play before I set this up for my class.  That’s how I knew to be prepared for everything to get all mixed up at the end.

NOTE: If setting up for a class, I recommend pre-filling ALL the eggs and placing in a separate bag for each child.  I also provided 2 dump bins: one for empty eggs and one for the contents.

Science Behind the Activity:

There is so much learning to be had in this activity!  Just the discovery that the eggs are magnetic (“sticky”) is huge!  By shaking the eggs, they can make predictions about what is inside.  By sorting, they can discover which items are magnetic and which are not.  For older kids, they might notice that the “sticky” items are all metal items.  Sorting and counting are fantastic for young kids to order and organize their thoughts and discoveries.

Here’s where I got my magnetic idea from: