Rainbow Fizzing Tray

Baking Soda and Vinegar are by far the BEST two ingredients you can have on stock for setting up some fun science explorations.  This Rainbow Fizzing Tray is EASY set up and clean-up and can keep your little ones busy for quite a while.  The tots in my classes kept wanting to do this one OVER and OVER!  And an added benefit: it makes beautiful designs!  Science and Art all in one!

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

  • Small tray/plate or cookie sheet
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Food coloring (We use liquid watercolors)
  • Droppers
  • 3-6 empty cups (or an ice cube tray)


Add enough baking soda to your tray to cover the bottom.


Pour vinegar in your cups and add food coloring to create your desired colors.  We used the six rainbow colors but even just the 3 primary colors will yield some beautiful results and can be a lesson on color mixing.  You can also use an ice cube tray.


Hand your child the tray and a dropper and let them add the colors to the tray and experience the fun rainbow fizzing and eruptions!


Drips and fizzing and bubbles and colors!

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Perfect for toddlers as well as preschoolers.

How pretty are some of the designs the tots created?

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The Science Behind the Activity:

I love activities like this because they are open ended and require no instructions for kids.  The baking soda and vinegar react in a classic acid/base reaction to release carbon dioxide gas which is responsible for the fun eruptions and bubbles.  Using droppers helps strengthen those little fingers in preparation for writing as well as developing fine motor skills.  Mixing different colors is a lesson in color mixing and experimentation.  Just SO MUCH learning to be had from a simple little tray.

For more fizzing science experiments, click on the links below:

Fireworks in a Jar

New Year’s Eve  is coming up and here’s an easy colorful way to get your holiday started with some science!  Just 3 ingredients from your pantry.

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

  • water
  • oil (we used vegetable oil)
  • food coloring
  • clear empty glass jar (we needed two because each of my older boys had to have their own)
  • clear small glass bowl
  • fork


First we filled the empty jar with water. We filled 2 jars because my older sons MUST have their own jars.


In the small bowl, we added about 1/3 cup of vegetable oil.  The actual amount doesn’t really matter.

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Add a few drops of food coloring to the oil.  We added a few drops of each color.


Notice that the food coloring doesn’t mix or dissolve but remains in droplets in the oil.  Use a fork to mix the droplets with the oil.  The color will not dissolve but the droplets will break into smaller droplets which is what you want.


Now the fun part!  Pour the oil into the jar with water.

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The oil will float at the top because oil and water do not mix and oil is less dense than water.

Be patient.  In less than a minute, you should see the colors drip from the oil and into the water, looking like fireworks in the water.

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The different colors will mix and form new ones.  It really is so fascinating to watch!


Even our littlest superhero came over to see what the fuss was all about.  He promptly shook the jar as toddlers usually do 🙂  Good thing I took pictures before he got to experimenting!


The Science behind the Activity:

Oil and water are known to be immiscible, meaning they do not mix or dissolve into each other.  Chemically this is because water is polar and oil is nonpolar.  Food coloring dissolves readily in water but does not dissolve in oil.  When the oil is poured into the water, the oil will float on top of the water for 2 reasons: 1. because water and oil don’t mix and 2. because oil is less dense than water.  As the drops of food coloring fall to the bottom of the oil layer, they meet the water and immediately mix and dissolve, creating the pretty swirls.

For more details and to see where I got this idea from visit this link:  http://www.exploratorium.edu/blogs/spectrum/fireworks-bottle



Purple Potion Reactions (Cabbage Juice Indicator)

I’ve been wanting to do this simple kitchen science experiment with my kids for awhile now as I used to do this with my middle school students once upon a long time ago…This one is fantastic for superheroes of ALL ages.   The younger ones can enjoy the colorful reactions and the older ones can learn a bit about acids and bases and how pH indicators work.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Red Cabbage (Why is it called red when it really looks purple??)
  • Large Pot
  • Strainer
  • Ice Cube Tray (or several small clear cups/jars)
  • Droppers (I save the ones we get from the pharmacist everytime one of my superheroes needs meds)
  • Coffee Filters (optional)
  • Household liquids to test (water, vinegar, lemon juice, fruit juice, milk, baking soda/water, soda, laundry detergent, liquid soap, ammonia, etc…)

To make the Purple Potion:

Coarsely chop up half a head of cabbage.


Place it into a large pot and add water.  I added about 5 cups of water to mine.

Bring the cabbage/water mixture to a boil and then let simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Make sure you have your exhaust fan on and your windows open.  This gets stinky 🙂


Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature so that it doesn’t burn your little ones.  Once cool, strain the mixture so that only the purple liquid is left.  Discard the cabbage.


I ended up with about 4 cups of Purple Potion.  Now we are ready to experiment!

IMG_1476To Experiment:

I placed an ice cube tray in front of each of the Superheroes.  I placed a variety of liquids from the kitchen into several wells of the tray.  We used: water, milk, lemon juice, liquid soap, baking soda (dissolved in water), vinegar, apple juice, liquid soap and laundry detergent.

I had them color in what the liquids looked like before we started.


This is the observation sheet they used:


Each superhero got a small cup of Purple Potion in a cup and a dropper.


They added several drops of the purple potion to each well and observed the changes.


Whoa!  Look at all those colors!  Why is it doing that?


Here are the final results:

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I asked them what might happen if they start mixing some of the liquids together.  A whole new set of experiments to do!


My older son made a pink concoction and said it looked like “antibiotics”! (Can you tell how sick we’ve been this past winter! )


With my older son, I probed him on what the pink colored liquids had in common and what the blue colored liquids had in common.  I think this was a bit over the top for a 6 yr old and he really was a bit lost at what to say.  If you have older kids, definitely ask.  The goal is to see if they can come up with some common characteristics of acids and bases. (Even my middle school students used to struggle with this)


I decided to try to make my own indicator paper with some of the Purple Potion.  I placed 4 coffee filters in a container and added some Purple Potion to it.

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I soaked the filters overnight. Make sure to use an airtight container with a lid or your kitchen will stink in the morning!


Remove the paper from the liquid and let dry completely.  I left mine outside to dry in the sun.


Cut into strips and you’re all set!

Instead of using droppers to test the liquids, you can dip the indicator paper into the liquids and see the paper change colors.


And then they placed it on their observation sheet to compare with their previous results

IMG_1509Science Behind the Activity:

Cabbage juice acts as a pH indicator.  Without getting too deep into the chemistry of it all, substances that are acidic (pH between 0-7) will turn varying shades of pink/red when mixed with cabbage juice,  Substances that are basic (pH between 7-14) will turn varying shades of green-ish/blue when mixed with cabbage juice. There are several types of indicators that are used for different purposes. Litmus paper is specially treated paper that turns red in the presence of an acid and blue in the presence of a base.  By treating the filter paper with cabbage juice, you can create a simple version of indicator paper.  There are also several different types of indicator paper as well, many that can give you an approximate pH of the substance being tested so that you can tell just how acidic or how basic the substance is.


Milk Rainbows

Want to explore some fun with colors?  Here’s a great one and I’m sure you have the 3 ingredients needed for this one at home.  Little ones will love watching the colors swirl around.  Older kids can easily set this up as investigation comparing the effect of different types of milk.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Milk (We used 2% because that’s what we drink at home)
  • Dish soap
  • Food coloring
  • Pie pan or small baking dish (we used disposable aluminum pie pans)
  • Q-tips or toothpicks (optional but fun for little ones)


Add about 1/2  inch of milk to the pan/dish


Add 1 drop each of different colors of dye near the center of the dish but not in the middle.


Add a drop of dish soap in the center of the cluster of dye dots and watch the colors run away!


Sometimes you can add another drop of dish soap and get the colors to spread more.  Sometimes not.


Let the little ones use Q-tips or toothpicks to swirl and mix the colors around in pretty patterns.

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The Science behind the Activity:

Milk is made up of fat and protein molecules. Dish soap has the unique properties of attracting fat molecules and water molecules (It is both hydophyllic-water loving, and hydrophobic-water fearing). When the soap is added to the milk, it breaks up the fat and water molecules in the milk. As the fat molecules move around, they disrupt the food coloring causing the colors to move, swirl and mix.

Extension: Try this experiment comparing the behavior of different types of milk: whole, 2% and skim.  Why would the fat content affect or not affect this experiment?

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and a much more technical explanation about the experiment: http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/milk-color-explosion

Marker Chromatography

Chromatography is a BIG word for young superheroes but this is a super simple experiment that allows for tons of variations and extensions.  All you need are some markers (no sharpies or permanent ones), coffee filters and water!  So coffee addicts, can you spare some of your precious filters for an experiment?  If I can, YOU can!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Some jars (clear cups will work too)
  • water
  • Markers in rainbow colors, be sure to include brown and black!
  • Spray bottles and eye droppers (optional)IMG_1939

Cut the filters in half and have the kids make dots with the various markers about 1/2-3/4 inch from the bottom.  We made 4 dots per filter, spacing them out so the colors don’t run into each other.

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We also did one coffee filter with just a black line across the bottom.


Add about 1/2 inch of water to the jars.  Then carefully place the coffee filter in the jar, wrapping it around the side.  Once it gets wet, it will immediately stick to the side of the jar which makes it easier to see.


Observe the different colors, patterns from the different markers.  Ask your superheroes why they think that is happening.  I was pleasantly surprised that my 5 year old was able to deduce that the green marker separated into yellow and blue because yellow + blue = green.

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After about 5 minutes, I carefully took the filters out and placed them on a paper towel to dry so we could observe them a little bit better. Notice the primary colors didn’t separate into different colors but the brown is showing green and pink.  The orange shows yellow and some pink, the green shows yellow and blue, the purple shows blue, purple and pink.

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The black line below allowed us to see all the different colors, orange, yellow, green, blue and pink


While they were drying, my superheroes decided they wanted to draw pictures on a new filter and then spray them water. You can use spray bottles or even eye droppers.  So, of course, we did.  (I think they did something similar at school for an art project and that might be where he got the idea from).  The picture below was drawn with black brown and green and ended up showing brown, orange, green, blue, pink


And below is my older superhero’s design


So easy and it only took us about 10 minutes from start to finish.  See, there is ALWAYS time to fit in a bit of science!

The Science behind the Activity:

The coffee filter allows the water-soluble components (those that dissolve in water) of the marker to separate.  When the water in the jar hits the filter, the water molecules travel up the filter through the process of capillary action.  When the water reaches the color, the molecules of pigment in the marker dissolve in water and are carried up the filter with the water.  Depending on the pigments, some will travel faster than others, allowing us to see the the different pigments separately.


This experiment can be done in many different ways.  You can attach the filter to a stick and dip the bottom into water and watch the pigments separate.  You can test different brands of markers to see if there are any differences.  Trying different solvents besides water to see if that affects the separation (rubbing alcohol is a good one to try).  One variation I will try around Halloween is to see how the pigments in colored candy coatings separate!

For older superheroes, set up the experiment in parallel with them but don’t let them see which colors you are using.  Compare your unknown results to those they ran and see if they can guess which colors you used!

Once the pigments separate and the filters are dry, use the pretty filters to make an infinite number of art projects!

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment: http://theexplorationstation.wordpress.com/2009/04/14/coffee-filter-chromatography/

Traveling Water

Ever notice how water seems to “travel” quickly through a paper towel?  Here’s a great activity for your superheroes to watch water “travel”.  And the best part? You probably already have everything in your kitchen right now!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Paper towel, twisted to resemble a “rope” or folded like an accordian
  • 3 empty cups or glasses that are clear
  • Water
  • Some food coloring (we used blue and yellow)



Fill 2 of the glasses halfway with water and add a few drops of food coloring to each.  Place the empty glass in between the glasses with the food coloring.  At this point, I ask my superheroes to guess what they think will happen when we add the paper towels to the glasses.  The superheroes drew their “before” observations.


Next, we added the paper towels to each glass of colored water and had them both meet in the empty glass.

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We checked on the jars periodically over the next hour and this is what we saw after 2hours.IMG_1442 IMG_1441

Notice that all the glasses have the same amount of water in them.  As the water “traveled” to the empty jar, the colors mixed to form green and that was pretty cool for my superheroes to watch.  We repeated the experiment with red and blue and red and yellow to form new secondary colors.

The Science behind the Activity:

This is an example of ‘capillary action’, where the water “travels” through the holes in the paper towel.  The water molecules pull each other through the force of adhesion through the paper towel.  The same process occurs in plants to pull water from the roots up to the rest of the plant.

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment: http://www.sciencekids.co.nz/experiments/escapingwater.html

Rainbow Celery

Ever wonder how plants “drink” water if they have no mouth?  This simple colorful experiment demonstrates how celery “drink” water and explores the concept of “capillary motion” (without the long scientific term of course)

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • 6 Celery stalks with the leaves
  • 6 clear jars or cups
  • Water
  • Some food coloring (we used red, yellow and blue to create 6 rainbow colors)IMG_1416

Fill all of the glasses halfway with water and add a few drops of food coloring to each to get the following 6 colors: red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple.  Add one celery to each different glass.


At this point, I ask my superheroes to guess what they think will happen over time.  This is a good time for them to draw/color in their observations.


We checked on the jars 2 days later and this is what we saw:


The darker colored water showed the most dramatic changes in the color of the leaves.  The superheroes thought the colors of the celery leaves were very cool.  They also noticed that the yellow appeared to have no changes in leaf color.  We talked about why this might be the case.

For more Plant Science activities, try the following:

The Science behind the Activity:

This is an example of ‘capillary motion’, the process by which plants pull water from their roots and bring it up against the force of gravity.    I have also seen this done with white carnations and daisies where the flower petals turn different colors.  Pretty neat, huh?

Follow this link to see where I got the idea from and more details about the experiment: http://www.coffeecupsandcrayons.com/celery-science-experiment-kids/