Chemical Reactions

Children test our patience. Not because they wish to irritate us, but because they are testing an equation to see if they get the same results each time. The equation might be something like: medium volume, whiney sound made by me six times + the presence of my parent = immediate adult attention including loud sounds coming out of my parent’s mouth. Testing equations is a part of learning that is honorable – something to encourage – but, perhaps with different variables?

Remember the baking soda and vinegar volcanos of the 80’s? I think the instructions were on the back of cereal boxes for a while. It was so satisfying to see the bubbles rise up predictably again and again. If you’re home with preschoolers or kindergarteners and you have these two ingredients then you have an opportunity to engage your small scientist in a new inquiry.

Tips for respecting resources:

  1. Use small vessels and tiny tools to keep experiments small scale
  2. Limit specific experiments to a certain quantity, and only offer it once or twice a day (if they choose to dump it all in at once and ask for more immediately they might not be ready for this activity but try again tomorrow)
  3. Use what you have! Do you have little lunch containers getting dusty in the cupboard? Extra baby spoons? They make great science tools! Did you find expired medicine with a pipette when you cleaned out the closet or use up a tincture? Clean it thoroughly and then it can become a liquids moving tool.

Tips for play-based learning:

  1. Teach your child how to use the tools and then let them take it from there.
  2. Before handing your child the tools ask them to predict what they think will happen and write it down for them (or ask them to draw or act out their prediction)
  3. Revisit the prediction. Record what actually happened: write down their words, and/or ask them to draw or act it out.
  4. Only introduce two variables at the beginning: just baking soda, vinegar, and same size, same shaped vessel. Over time (maybe next week or in a few days after the novelty wears off) you can change the variables, but only change one at a time. For example, switch baking soda for flour or salt. Make sure the ask for your child’s prediction and record it each time you change a variable. Make sure to use kid-safe materials 🙂
  5. This investigation of liquids and powders can last months if you take it slow and make record-keeping an essential part of the process.
  6. If you like to bake invite your children to join you. Now that they know a lot more about the properties of the ingredients you can start to explore the science of baking! Look for a recipe for Depression Cake which uses baking soda and vinegar to rise.

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