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Kitchen Chemistry, Part 1

This is the first in a series of articles on kitchen activities for kids.

The easiest way to introduce science concepts to children is to answer their questions with “let’s find out” instead of giving them the information they are seeking. Children are naturally curious, with lots of questions about what is happening in the world around them.

Most home kitchens hold the tools to dozens of fun experiments to expand the imagination of the children in your life. Here are three fun experiments to try at home!

Vinegar Volcanoes

Supplies Required: Baking soda, vinegar and a container

Directions: Place baking soda in a dish, small cup or other container. Add vinegar and watch what happens! Be sure to have a larger “catch” 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 immediately breaks down into water and carbon dioxide. The escaping carbon dioxide is what creates all the fizzing as the solution breaks apart. You can take this a step further by adding food coloring to the vinegar for a realistic red lava flow, or a space age blue creation. Play dough or molding clay can be used to make a very “real” volcano!

Pretty Pennies

Supplies Required: Dirty pennies, vinegar, salt, container (glass or plastic, not metal)

Directions: Pour a ¼ cup of vinegar into a small glass or plastic container and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir until salt dissolves. Add the dirty pennies. Wait for 5 minutes. Remove, rinse and enjoy your pretty pennies! Try cleaning with other common kitchen items. Will dish soap work? (no) What about ketchup? (yes) Why does ketchup work and not dish soap?

What’s happening? Pennies are made of copper and they 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.

Carrie Shrier is an Extension Educator in the Children and Youth Institute. She has worked with MSU   Extension for seven years, currently providing programming in the area of Early Childhood Education. She has experience working with young children in many areas, as a former preschool teacher and center director and also as the mother of four young children. Carrie holds a Bachelors Degree in Child Development from Michigan State University.

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