Colorful baking soda and vinegar experiment for kids
This colorful baking soda and vinegar experiment for kids is a fun and safe way to introduce children to chemical reactions. It is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or STEAM (with Art added) activity for younger ones. Children love mixing baking soda and vinegar to create a reaction, and this is a way for them to create art that they can then ‘explode’. They may also use the colourful designs that result on the ground (like Rangoli designs).
Baking soda and vinegar reaction – A simple version of what happens
When you add vinegar to baking soda (bicarbonate of soda), a chemical reaction occurs. This means they break apart and form new and different substances. Vinegar and baking soda combine to create gas, sodium acetate and water. Sodium acetate is a salt that looks similar to baking soda. You can also try creating a reaction with citric acid. Citric Acid and baking soda combine to create gas, sodium citrate and water. The release of gas (Carbon Dioxide, CO2) is why they bubble when they are mixed. Vinegar and citric acid are acidic and baking soda is a mild base (alkaline), so they neutralize one another to create a salt and water. All the chemicals are safe to touch (though they will sting if you get them in your eyes). Once this reaction takes place, it can’t be undone. Sodium acetate and sodium citrate look similar to baking soda, but they don’t react (bubble) when combined with vinegar.
What you need
- Vinegar or Lemon juice (citric acid)
- Baking soda / bicarbonate of soda
- Food colouring
- Spray bottle or pipette
- Mixing bowls and spoons
- Soap (optional)
To make colorful baking soda, mix food colouring in with approximately 1 spoonful of water for every cupful of baking soda. The small amount of water will help the food coloring mix evenly into the baking soda. We had several different bowls and mixed up several colours so that we could make designs on the ground. We did a bit of a modern/scientific twist on Rangoli designs. This can also be a fun way for children to learn about Rangoli designs during Diwali or another time.
You could also potentially put food coloring into the vinegar before spraying or dropping it onto your designs.
Questions to ask
- What happens when vinegar is sprayed on the bicarbonate of soda / baking soda?
- What happens if you add vinegar with a pipette?
- What happens if you put more baking soda on top?
- What happens if you put food coloring in the vinegar?
- What happens when you add soap? What if you try different soaps?
- Is there anything you would like to try? Is there something you would like to test / experiment with?
What they get from it – Colorful baking soda and vinegar experiment for kids
This is a great early introduction to chemical reactions. Children may potentially see how two substances can create new substances.
Children can create pictures and patterns on the ground using colored baking soda. They could also learn about Rangoli designs and try using baking soda to make their own.
Research shows that people learn best (for long-term memory at least) when they learn through hands-on, practical experiences (Hearns, Miller & Nelson, 2009; Hillman, 2011; Ferri, B.H., Ferri, A.A., Majerich, D.M., Madden, A.G., 2016). It’s also an opportunity for inquiry-based learning which will encourage children’s curiosity and love of learning (Ambrose et al. 2010; Froyd 2008; Prince & Felder, 2007; Springer, Stanne & Donovan, 1999).
Take it further
You can add in soap to see how that affects the bubbles when the reaction occurs. Children may want to experiment and see if there is a difference if you use different types of soaps.
Children may also want to play around with baking soda and vinegar to see if they can answer their questions. They may try freezing baking soda or vinegar. Additionally, they may also try mixing baking soda with other acids (such as citric acid, Kool-Aid, lemon juice, etc.) to compare reactions. They may also try seeing if they can use the least amount of vinegar to react with all the baking soda (or vice versa).
You may also want to see my posts such as Baking Soda and Vinegar Painting Experiment for Kids (coming soon), Explosive Baking Soda and Vinegar Experiment for Kids, Color pH Baking Soda and Vinegar Science Experiment, Bicarbonate of Soda and Vinegar Experiment and Valentines STEM Art Projects for Toddlers and Kids.
Older children could test the pH of the baking soda and vinegar at the beginning of the experiment. Then they can test the substance at the end to see if it changes. This may help them start to understand how the substances change in a chemical reaction. I will have a post (coming soon) on natural pH indicators.
Ambrose, S. A., Bridges, M. W., DiPietro, M., Lovett, M. C., & Norman, M. K. (2010). How learning works: Seven research-based principles for smart teaching. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=6nGaDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR13&ots=Kg0QTZYsS2&sig=-MfNhVTJDIr4BjQvPyIs1_j2N0o#v=onepage&q&f=false. Accessed 19 February 2020.
Ferri, B.H., Ferri, A.A., Majerich, D.M., Madden, A.G. (2016). Effects of In-Class Hands-On Laboratories in a Large Enrollment, Multiple Section Blended Linear Circuits Course. Advances in Engineering Education, 5 (3). https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1121997.pdf . Accessed 19 February 2020.
Froyd, J. E. (2008). White paper on promising practices in undergraduate STEM education. Commissioned paper, Board on Science Education, National Academies. Retrieved from https://sites.nationalacademies.org/DBASSE/BOSE/DBASSE_080106#.UUoV5hngJ8g . Accessed 19 February 2020.
Hearns, M.K., Miller, B.K. and Nelson, D.L. (2009). Hands-On Learning versus Learning by Demonstration at Three Recall Points in University Students. OTJR: Occupation, Participation and Health, 30 (4), 169-171. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.3928/15394492-20090825-01. Accessed 19 February 2020.
Hillman, C.N. (2011). The effects of hands-on learning versus learning by demonstration on memory in community dwelling older adults (Doctoral dissertation, The University of Toledo). Retrieved from https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/6231/d55fc1c730ec086f012677c54141f466e18e.pdf Accessed 19 February 2020.
Prince, M., & Felder, R. (2007). The many facets of inductive teaching and learning. Journal of College Science Teaching, 36(5), 14–20. Retrieved from: https://s3.amazonaws.com/academia.edu.documents/31566398. Accessed 19 February 2020.
Springer, L., Stanne, M. E., & Donovan, S. (1999). Measuring the success of small-group learning in college-level SMET teaching: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 69, 21–51. http://archive.wceruw.org/cl1/CL/resource/scismet.pdf . Accessed 19 February 2020.