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4 FANTASTIC Reaction Experiments You Can Do at Home

We all remember making baking soda and vinegar volcanos when we were younger, and unless you grew up to be a science teacher, that is probably the first thing your mind turns to when you think of home science experiments.


kid scientist with chemistry set


Homemade volcanoes are tried and true and really, really fun to watch . . . once. If you want to inspire a love of science in your kids, there are much more visually stunning experiments you can conduct with everyday household items.

Here are four of our favorites that demonstrate the power of SCIENCE and leave your kids absolutely gobsmacked at the same time. 

Some of these use materials that can be dangerous—always wear eye and skin protection and follow the safety rules!

#1 Elephant Toothpaste


Hydrogen peroxide (H2O2) is a colorless chemical compound that is commonly used as a disinfectant and it be found in most medicine cabinets. It is also very unstable. When mixed with a catalyst, the hydrogen peroxide loses an oxygen molecule and breaks down rapidly into water (H2O) and oxygen in an exothermic reaction, a reaction that produces heat. Keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide is an irritant, and should be handled by an adult.

To get the full effect, simply mix 3 percent hydrogen peroxide, liquid soap, and food coloring in a tall glass or bottle, then quickly add a packet of dry yeast that has been dissolved in some warm water. The yeast is the catalyst, and when it releases the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide, colorful soap bubbles will fountain up out of the container! 


#2 Hot Ice


Have you ever shaken up a hot pack to warm your hands on a cold winter day? That's another exothermic reaction, and one that you can replicate at home. All you need is baking soda and vinegar—that's right, the same ingredients you would use to make a volcano! When you mix baking soda with vinegar, you create sodium acetate and carbon dioxide. (The carbon dioxide is what makes the volcano effect, but because we don't want to make a mess this time, you will want to add the baking soda slowly so it doesn't overflow.)

To make hot ice, you need to first make supercooled, liquid sodium acetate. A supercooled liquid is any liquid that is colder than its freezing point. Sodium acetate freezes, or crystallizes, quite quickly and when it does, it produces a little heat! The resulting "hot ice" is warm to the touch and totally non-toxic.

To start, heat a mixture of baking soda and vinegar over medium heat until most of the liquid has evaporated. As always, an adult should help using the stove. Pop the liquid in the fridge to cool completely, then put a pinch of baking soda or some leftover sodium acetate crystals on a plate and slowly pour the liquid on top. Boom! Hot ice. Check out this article from Thoughtco.com for more detailed instructions.


#3 Instant Ice


The principles of supercooling can also be used to produce "instant ice" from purified water. The effect is similar to the hot ice experiment, only cold! It is also a much easier, and doesn't smell as bad. All you need is a bottle of purified water (popped in the freezer to chill) and some crushed ice. If you cool the purified water to about 17 degrees Fahrenheit, then pour it over the crushed ice, the water will freeze into a slushy tower. Or you can simply shock the bottle with enough force to cause it to freeze on impact. Just don't let the water get TOO cold, or you will just have a block of ice. If you want detailed instructions, check out this great article from BBC Science.


#4 Color-shifting Cranberry Juice


Want a project that takes minimal preparation but is really fun to watch? Cranberries contain a certain chemical that changes color in response to acidity. Try stirring some baking soda into a glass of cranberry juice and see what happens! Any guess why baking soda reduces the acidity of cranberry juice? (The previous experiments should give you a clue.) Now stir some lemon juice or vinegar into the same glass of cranberry juice! The folks over at Kiwico.com have a great video to demonstrate this activity, along with a step by step guide.


 cartoon of kid with science beakers

 For even more inspiration, head over to the projects page on the Nomad Press website, where you can find all sorts of fantastic STEM-related projects and ideas.


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