Blizzard in a Bottle

If you’ve tried my Homemade Lava Lamps, then this activity will seem very familiar, but with a snowy twist, perfect for winter!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Empty water bottle (or any clear bottle)
  • baby oil
  • White paint
  • water
  • funnel
  • Alka Seltzer tablets
  • Glitter (optional, but why not?)img_0331

Add some white paint to some water so that it becomes cloudy.  Mix well.  Fill the bottle a little more than halfway with baby oil.

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Add white water to it until it’s about 2-3 inches from the top of the bottle.  Observe the layers.

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Add some glitter if you want.

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Break one of the Alka Seltzer tablets into 4-5 pieces.  Use caution with young children who might be tempted to put this in their mouths!  It is a cold medication and should not be ingested by children!  IMG_1984

Add one piece to the bottle and watch the magic begin!

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Once the Alka Seltzer tablet has completely dissolved, add another one and watch the colored bubbles rise and sink again!  Repeat as many times as you’d like!  You can even try adding some glitter for some extra fun!

This is a twist to my Homemade Lava Lamp activity which is definitely a favorite with my tots and my own kids!

Note: Different “flavors” of Alka Seltzer might create a colored “Blizzard”.  I accidentally used the orange flavored ones and our blizzard turned orange/peach!  The tots still loved it though!

Here are some more fun winter weather related science activities:

The Science behind the Activity:

Water and oil are insoluble, they do not mix.  Water is denser than oil and stays as a separate layer at the bottom of the bottle.  Food coloring is soluble in water so it colors the water but not the oil.  When the Alka Seltzer is added, it forms gas bubbles that rise to the top, “dragging” the colored water along with it.  As the water reaches the top and the gas bubbles pop near the surface of the oil, the denser water falls back down through the oil.  The process keeps repeating itself until the Alka Seltzer has completely dissolved an no longer forms any bubbles.

This activity can be done with adding salt instead of Alka Seltzer (for those of you who are concerned about using medication with kids) but the results are not as good and eventually the salt saturates the water and makes it cloudy.  Let me know if you try it with some other fizzy tablets such as Airborne.  Curious to see if those work just as well.

 

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Corn and Cranberry Investigation Tray

While getting ready for Thanksgiving and putting away Halloween stuff, my kids were asking about the Indian corn we use as decor at this time of year.  They wanted to see if it was different from the corn we use to make popcorn.  That got them interested in popcorn as well.  Since I was making cranberry sauce, my kids took some cranberries to study as well.  Hence, this Corn and Cranberry Investigation Tray was created.

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

  • Popcorn kernels
  • Popcorn
  • Indian Corn
  • Fresh cranberries
  • Dried Cranberries
  • Magnifying glasses
  • Glass of water

Set up the tray with all the materials.  I also added some cut cranberries for my little ones to see how the inside looks like.

The kids loved the Indian Corn and enjoyed examining the different colors and picking them off the cob!  My middle son is super crafty and used the kernels to make art projects.  I had kernels everywhere!

Next, we compared the popcorn kernel and the popcorn to each other.  We could see the bits of kernel in the popcorn.  Since we have an air popper at home, we talked about how kernels get heated up and turn into popcorn.

We compared the dried cranberries to the fresh cranberries and were also able to see the seeds inside both of them.

Kids love to add things to water so, of course, I brought out some water for them to test what floats and what sinks.  First we started with cranberries.  Here’s a whole cranberry.

Next we added dried cranberries and cut cranberries.

We discussed why the fresh cranberry floated and why the dried ones didn’t.  My older kids were able to figure out that the air pockets kept the fresh cranberry afloat.

Next we tested the popcorn and kernels.

We used similar reasoning for why the popcorn floated but the kernel sunk.

Lastly, they just started dumping everything into the cup because, well, it’s fun!

This was perfect for toddlers and preschoolers.  You don’t need much to keep the little ones entertained.  But my older sons (ages 6 and 8) were interested in it too.

Extension: If you have some carbonated beverages that are clear, such as Ginger Ale, Sprite, 7up, etc… you can test how the fresh cranberries, dried cranberries, popcorn and corn kernels behave with bubbles!  Visit my post Hopping Corn and Cranberries for the bubbly details!

Another idea, which I have not tried, might be to leave a fresh cranberry out and see how it shrivels up and compare it to a dried cranberry.  If you try this, let me know in the comments!

The Science Behind the Activity:

Investigating different textures and seeing changes in objects are a great way to discuss cause and effect with little ones.  Most of them have eaten dried cranberries and popcorn but have no idea where they come from.

By adding the objects to water, they can learn to make predictions about which objects float and sink in water.  For older children, they can investigate how air pockets in cranberries (and other fruits) allow them to float even though they “feel heavy”.  For even older kids, you can bring up the concept of density.

Dancing Candy Hearts

Around Valentine’s Day, my kids get lots of those candy conversation hearts.  I remember as a kid, I loved reading the messages on them.  The messages are a bit different these days (“Text me”?)  Save a few of those hearts to do this quick 5 minute science experiment.  Use up some candy, do a little science, watch a little dance.

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

  • Candy Conversation Hearts
  • Tall clear glass (we used a tall glass and a test tube)
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Measuring spoon

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Add 1 cup of water to a clear tall glass or tall test tube.  You can color yours purple or red for Valentine’s Day but that is totally optional.

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Add in 2 teaspoons of baking soda and mix well.

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Add a few candy hearts to the glass.

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We used one of each color.img_0620Watch the hearts sink to the bottom of the glass.
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Add about 1/4 cup of vinegar to the glass slowly (or else it will will overflow!)

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Watch the candy hearts dance… or in our case, only the pink and orange hearts danced.  The rest stayed happily at the bottom of the glass.img_0627

It really looked so cool watching the hearts float up and then sink down.

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We will definitely be trying this again by testing the different colored hearts separately, testing different brands and testing different fizzy liquids to see if any of those change how the hearts behave.

For more Valentine’s Science Activities, try these:

For more floating and sinking activities, try these:

The Science Behind the Activity:

This is a great experiment demonstrating sinking and floating.  The hearts are denser than the liquid so they initially sink when you put them in.  When the vinegar is added, the reaction creates carbon dioxide gas.  As the carbon dioxide gas bubbles attach to the surface of the hearts, they decrease the density of the hearts and the hearts float to the top.  At the surface of the liquid, the gas bubbles pop and the hearts sink back down.  The process keeps repeating until there isn’t enough carbon dioxide left to raise the hearts.

To see where I got the idea from and more details, follow the link below:

http://inspirationlaboratories.com/valentine-candy-science-dancing-hearts/

 

Hopping Corn and Cranberries

Just in time for Thanksgiving, I’ve got a fun quickie experiment to do with your cranberries and some popcorn kernels.  If you’ve tried my Dancing Raisins experiment, then this will be familiar.

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

  • Dried Cranberries
  • Popcorn kernels
  • Soda water, Ginger Ale, Sprite, Club Soda, sparkling water or whatever clear bubbly (kid-friendly!) you have at home
  • clear jars or cups

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I asked the tots to touch the dried cranberries and the popcorn kernels and describe how each felt.

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For younger tots, I prompted them with simple questions such as:

  • Is it soft or hard?
  • Is it smooth or bumpy?
  • Is it sticky or slimy?

Fill one cup with water and one cup with soda (we used diet Ginger Ale because that’s what we have at home), but any clear bubbly soda should work fine.

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We also compared the difference between the soda and the water.  They immediately noted the difference in color and the presence of bubbles in the soda.

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Next, I asked them what they thought would happen if the cranberries were added to the water? They all thought they would sink to the bottom.  After making their predictions, they added the cranberries to test their theories.

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Yes, the cranberries sunk to the bottom.

I then asked them what they thought would happen if the cranberries were put in the soda.  They again thought that they would sink.

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So they did sink… at first.  But then they “hopped” to the surface… and then dropped again… and rose again.

We repeated the same steps with the popcorn kernels.  When we added the popcorn kernels to the water, they sank as well.

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Then we added them to the Ginger Ale.  And discovered that the popcorn kernels did the same thing!

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It was mesmerizing to watch them “hop” up and down.

We will definitely be trying this again with several other sodas and sparkling water!  You can also make a bubbly solution with vinegar and baking soda as well.

Another extension/variation of this experiment is to try out different items, other than cranberries that might behave in a similar way, such as raisins, dried macaroni, etc…  Search your pantry.  The options are endless.  Happy Hopping!

Also, try my Dancing Raisins experiment for a different twist to a similar activity!

The Science behind the Activity:

This is a great experiment demonstrating sinking and floating.  Cranberries are denser than the liquid so they initially sink when you put them in.  As the carbon dioxide gas bubbles attach to the surface of the cranberries, they decrease the density of the cranberry and the cranberry floats to the top (dances and shimmies its way to the top!) At the surface of the liquid, the gas bubbles pop and the cranberry sinks back down.  The process keeps repeating until there isn’t enough carbon dioxide left to raise the cranberries.  The same holds true for the popcorn kernels.

 

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

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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?

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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.

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

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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.

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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: http://www.playdoughtoplato.com/orange-buoyancy-science-experiment/ 

 

Simplified Ocean Zones in a Bottle (3 Zones)

If you’ve ever tried the liquid layers in a jar, here is a great twist for showing your superheroes the layers in the ocean.  This is the simplified version of Ocean Zones in a Jar but has only the top 3 ocean zones (layers) where much of the well-known marine life exists.  It is also easier for the youngest superheroes to do.

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

  • Light Karo syrup (corn syrup) – tinted black or dark purple OR Dark Karo Syrup (no tinting needed)
  • Water tinted light blue
  • Vegetable oil – tinted blue-green (if possible)
  • Dropper
  • Funnel
  • food color (or liquid watercolors)
  • empty water bottle

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First add about 2-3 inches of corn syrup to the bottle.  Add some black/dark purple color to it and mix well.  (For my Tiny Tot class, I tried the dark Karo syrup and it worked great since we didn’t have to tint it black) This represents the deep ocean zone known as the Midnight Zone

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Carefully add the blue water on top (don’t tint it too dark) until you have about the same thickness as the corn syrup.  You should see the 2 distinct layers.  This represents the Twilight Zone of the Ocean.

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The top layer is the oil.  Food color and watercolor will not dissolve in oil since they are water based and oil and water don’t mix.

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

Regular food color will NOT mix with oil

For this layer, you have 2 options: leave it yellow OR if you have candy food color (oil-based food color) then you can use that to tint the oil.

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Either way, you will definitely get a distinct layer on top of the water.  I used the candy color to get a greenish-bluish color.

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

Oil-based candy color WILL mix with oil

This layer represents the Sunlight Zone, the part of the ocean where most marine life exist.

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All done!  You can also add labels to the outside of the jar to show your superheroes the layers.

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Visually you can see how the layers (ocean zones) get darker as you go deeper.   You can discuss with your little ones what effect this might have on the marine life that lives in each layer.

Extension: This activity goes really well with my Exploring Life in the Ocean Zones activity.

Extension for older kids: For older kids with a bit more hand control (and less likely to shake the bottle!) try the full version of Ocean Zones in a Jar  with all 5 layers of the Ocean.

The Science behind the Activity:

There’s all sorts of awesome science in this activity!  This is a great visual representation of how the layers of the ocean have varying amounts of light reaching them.  This can open up an entire discussion of why there are so many more organisms in the Sunlight Zone and the Twilight Zone versus the Midnight Zone.  You can even research what types of organisms exist in each layer.

In reality, there are 2 more zones below the Midnight Zone: the Abyss and the Trench.  For obvious reasons, there aren’t many known organisms that live there.  And the ones that do are unfamiliar to young children.  But for older children, it would be great to show them how deep the ocean really goes.

The other awesome science in this activity has to do with the different densities of various liquids.  Liquids that are more dense (more mass per volume) will sink and liquids will lower densities will float on top of denser ones.  If you have ever tried to mix oil and water, well, you know why that won’t work because oil is less dense than water.  This is why you have to shake your favorite salad dressings before pouring.

Here’s where I got my original idea from and then I shortened it to make it easier for toddlers and preschoolers: http://www.icanteachmychild.com/make-ocean-zones-jar/

 

 

Apple Float or Sink?

Fall is a fun time to play with apples and go apple picking.   If you have a few extra apples laying around, here’s a great investigation for the tiny tots in your home to investigate whether apples sink or float when placed in water.

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • apples of different varieties (we used, Fuji, Granny Smith and Red Delicious)
  • Bin with water
  • Knife (to cut apples, for adult use only)

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Have your superheroes hold the apples in their hands and predict what will happen when it is placed in water.  We tried 3 different types of apples, making a hypothesis (prediction) before placing each one in the water.

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First the Granny Smith apple

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Then the Red Delicious and Fuji apples

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All three apples floated.  There was no difference between the 3 varieties.  But why did they float?  Apples have a lot of small air pockets inside that cause them to float in water.

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But what about the individual apple parts?  Do all the apple parts float? We decided to find out by cutting an apple open and testing each part in a cup of water.

What we noticed was the apple pieces and the peel still floated in water.

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But, the stem and the seeds did not float.

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This was a great investigation on floating and sinking using apples!  And while you have a bunch of apple parts lying around, try exploring your 5 senses using apples.  Or let the little ones “bob” for apples!

For more Apple Science Activities, try:

The Science behind the Activity:

Apples contain quite a bit of air inside them which causes the overall density of the apple to be less than that of water, so it floats.  By testing the individual parts, we can see that not all parts of the apple float in water but when all the parts are put together they do.