Magic Potions and Fizzing Formulas- Getting Kids’ Attention With Chemistry!

Calling all mad scientists! 

 Here’s a formula for fun!  I have yet to see a child not get excited by this activity!  While it has many developmental objectives in and of itself, it is also a great attention-getter for a variety of other activities.  Let’s talk about the how-to first, and the when-to later.

First gather your supplies.  You’ll need liquid or powdered coloring, baking soda, vinegar, a baster, a cookie sheet or tray, and a few glass jars (I used 1 quart jars here, but other sizes work well too.  Just do a quick run-through with the ones you choose so that you can anticipate whether or not you’re going to have any overflow.  If you have access to test tubes and beakers that would be a great way to introduce chemistry tools and add more intrigue as well!)

Before your activity, place a drop of color into each jar.  I’ve used both the powder and liquid forms and they both work great!

Next, cover each color with about a half to one full teaspoon of baking soda.  Just make sure you’ve covered all of the coloring so that each jar looks the same.

Place all of your jars onto a cookie sheet or tray to catch any overflow.  Add the baster and a jar of vinegar, which I’ve sometimes referred to as my “highly potent acid” to make things more enticing.

Now it’s time for the magic!  Have the children gather vinegar with the baster and squirt it into the jars, and ………fizz, bubble, they reveal their hidden colors!

Now, as I mentioned, this activity fills a lot of objectives on its own.  Fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination are strengthened as the children use the baster to add the vinegar.  Additionally, it’s a great science activity as the children explore the reaction of the combined acid and base.  Color recognition is reinforced as the children identify which color each jar holds.  You could add a literacy aspect as well by including color name cards or labels to add to the corresponding jars.

This fun activity could also be included for a variety of other purposes as well! 

I’ve been asked to help out with teaching songs to the children at my church from time to time, and have used this activity for that as well.  I would use words or picture cues to teach the words to the song, each color coded, and then we would do this activity to reveal which clue would be removed as we continued to practice and memorize the song. 

Use it to choose activities like chores, exercises, or even which food to eat off the dinner plate by listing the tasks and color-coding them.  It’s amazing how much more excited the children are to finish their tasks when they know that once they’re finished they get to choose another with this method!

You could also use this as a dramatic play prop as children pretend to be scientists or magicians – just be sure you take necessary precautions to keep messes within acceptable bounds. 

You could also always place them in the sensory table!  Just be sure to prepare a lot of jars and pace yourself in bringing them out so that they aren’t all used up in the first two minutes.  You could arrange your table with the color jars, basters, vinegar, and a bowl of baking soda with spoons to allow for the children to do more experimenting in between new jars.  The children may even start combining the jars, introducing a little color mixing to the activity as well!

Let me know how you us this activity with the children you love and teach!

(Originally posted July 23, 2010.)



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