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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Travel on Sand (or Snow)

My son asked me for money to buy a book at the school book fair.  I assumed he would purchase a Star Wars or Superhero type book.  I was correct.  BUT, it was a Star Wars Science Fair Book so I was pretty impressed at his choice.  We are slowly trying out some of the classic experiments in the book with a Star Wars twist but seriously they can be done without the Star Wars connection.

This particular investigation explores how to travel in the desert/snowy environments of the planets that the Star Wars characters live on.  We added some of our own extensions to this as well.  Super easy to get this set up!

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Here’s what you need to get started:

  • box or container (we use the plastic shoeboxes from the dollar store)
  • enough sand to fill the container about 1/2 full
  • cardboard (we used leftover cardboard from our multiple Amazon deliveries)
  • scissors
  • jar lid
  • dime or penny
  • pencil

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Before starting this activity, I asked my son how it feels to walk on the sand at the beach.  Is it hard to walk?  What happens to your feet as you step in the sand?  I then had him take the pencil and press gently into the box of sand and obviously, the pencil immediately sank in.

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Next we used the jar lid and coin to draw 2 circles of different sizes.

IMG_2665I helped him cut the circles out of the cardboard since it was so thick and difficult for him to do on his own.

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Next, he placed the small cardboard circle on the sand and used the pencil eraser to apply some pressure as before.  We repeated with the larger circle.

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The smaller circle did eventually begin to sink into sand but not like the pencil did.  The large circle did not sink at all.  I asked my son why he thought that was.  I asked him if it hurts more to poke him with a sharp pencil or with my flat palm.  I asked him some probing questions and then it led us to talking about skis and snowboards and why they don’t sink in the snow.  So guess what?  We cut out skis and snowboards out of the cardboard to test out his theory.

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The snowboard did pretty well under pressure.
IMG_2675The skis buckled a bit (more due to the cardboard bending than the shape/surface area) but still didn’t sink.

We tried out snowshoe shapes as well (my son thought they looked more like tennis rackets…sigh).  Those held up pretty well, too.

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This simple experiment was really so easy but led to some fantastic discussion and experimentation with my son and I.  I thought it was going to take us 5 minutes but by the time we tested all our shapes and discussed his theories and the science behind it all, it was 45 minutes!  Wow!  Time flies when learning is FUN!

And lastly, the Lego Star Wars Minifigures went into the box for some playtime:)

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The Science behind the activity:

In physics, students are taught that a force applied over a given area results in pressure or P=F/A.  The greater the force applied, the greater the pressure.  BUT, if you increase the area over which the force is applied, you can REDUCE the pressure.  This is why it hurts more when someone steps on you with the tip of a high heel versus a flat shoe.  Or why it hurts more if your little brother pokes you with a toy sword versus a toy shield (I am not promoting violence but I do live with three little boys…)  It’s why you don’t sink in the snow with skis or on a snowboard but leave deep shoe prints while walking with just your boots.  It depends on how your body weight is being distributed over a small or large area.

Extension: Have your child make large cardboard or wooden versions of these that they can put on their feet and test it on in a sandbox.  Do you get the same results?

For more details and to see where I got this idea from check out this fantastic book we got from the book fair Star Wars Science Fair Book by Samantha Margles and sold by Scholastic Books.

Homemade “Fake” Snow

Out here in California, we don’t get any snow in the winter, unless you drive up to the mountains.  But what kid doesn’t love playing with snow?  Since going to Tahoe is not an everyday option, we whipped up some “fake” snow to play with in the meantime.  Only TWO ingredients!  Seriously, you have these at home so you can make your snowman today!

Here’s what you need to get started:

  • Baking soda
  • Shaving Cream
  • Large bin to play in
  • Glitter/Food coloring (optional)

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First, we emptied one box of baking soda into the bin.  If using a large bin, you might want to get several boxes of baking soda.

I had the boys touch the baking soda and describe how it felt using their senses.  I even let them take a taste.

Next we added some shaving cream to the bin and then the fun began!

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The boys used their hands to squish and mix and this way definitely the favorite part of the activity.  Add enough shaving cream until you have the consistency of fresh, powdery snow!  IMG_0739

Add more shaving cream if you want your snow to be a bit more moldable (so you can make a snowman, of course!) Below is a snowman made by one of the Tiny Tots.  Isn’t it cute?

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The boys decided the snow was “boring” without any color so of course, we added some liquid water color.  We ended up with purple snow.

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My superheroes tried their hand at making a purple snowman.  Now there’s something you don’t see everyday!

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The tiny tots in my class added some silver glitter to white snow.  Isn’t it lovely?

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Even my littlest superhero enjoyed exploring the “snow”.

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The Science behind the activity:

This is a great sensory activity to add to any weather or winter unit you might be working on.  It’s also another opportunity to observe changes in materials when they are mixed.  Or for us Californians, this might be the closest we get to snow this winter 😦