Kitchen chemistry: science fun for young children

Experimenting in the kitchen is an easy, inexpensive way to get kids excited about science. Here are three fun activities to try at home!

The easiest way to introduce kids to science is to answer their questions with “Let’s find out,” rather than giving them the information they’re looking for. Children are naturally curious and have many questions about what is going on in the world around them.

Most household kitchens contain the tools for dozens of fun experiments to expand the imagination of the kids in your life. Here are three fun experiments to try at home.

Vinegar volcano

Supplies needed: baking soda, vinegar and a container

Instructions: Put baking soda in a bowl, small cup, or other container. Add vinegar and watch what happens. Make sure there is a larger collection container underneath. This can get messy!

What’s happening? Baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) is a base, vinegar (acetic acid) is an acid. When combined, they form carbonic acid, which is unstable and instantly breaks down into water and carbon dioxide. The escaping carbon dioxide causes the hissing sound as the solution breaks apart. You can go a step further by adding food coloring to the vinegar for a realistic red lava flow or blue space age creation. A very “real” volcano can be created with play dough or clay!

Pretty pennies

Supplies Needed: Dirty pennies, vinegar, salt, and a container (glass or plastic, not metal)

Instructions: Pour a quarter cup of vinegar into a small glass or plastic container and add a teaspoon of salt. Stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the dirty pennies and wait five minutes. Remove, rinse and enjoy your pretty pennies! Try cleaning with other common kitchen items. Does detergent work? – no What about ketchup? – Yes. Why does ketchup work and not dish soap?

What’s happening? Pennies are made of copper and tarnish over time as the copper reacts with the air to form copper oxide. Copper metal itself is bright and shiny, but the copper oxide is dull and greenish. The salt and vinegar solution dissolves the copper oxide, leaving behind a bright and shiny penny! Check out PBS Kids Go! Zoom Science page for a slightly different take on this fun project.

Plant a seed

Materials Required: Beans, Paper Towel, Plastic Zippered Bag, Water

Instructions: Place a damp paper towel in a zippered plastic bag and add beans along the side. Close the zipper and tape it to a window in a sunny spot to watch.

What’s happening? Sprout the Beans – The sealed bag acts as a terrarium, causing condensation to form and keeping the paper towel moist. Lima beans grow the fastest, and soaking them overnight will speed them up. Seeds don’t need additional nutrients to germinate (sprout) because what they need is in their shell. Try planting other types of beans the same way and see which grows the fastest. Do they grow faster than a shady window in a sunny location? What if you left the pocket open? This is a great activity for reading books like The Tiny Seed by Eric Carle or The Carrot Seed by Ruth Krauss.’s Story Stretcher Database provides an excellent Story Stretcher on The Carrot Seed with other ideas to expand your children’s learning.

Exploring science with children can seem very daunting. However, with just the tools in your eat-in kitchen, there is an easy way to create fun experiments and give kids a chance to learn and explore. Take the time to expand your science activities by linking it to children’s books. Search the internet for answers you don’t know or ideas for further science experimentation. The Michigan State University extension provides resources for educators, 4-H clubs, and families, plus science workshops and hands-on science opportunities in a variety of locations throughout the year.

While it can be difficult to find that extra time to stop and explore some of the many questions kids ask, this is a great opportunity to develop their critical thinking skills and learn more about science! The next time you hear: “Why …?” Take the time to say, “Let’s find out!”

Did you find this article helpful?

Please tell us why


Comments are closed.