Chemistry for Kids

chemistry for kids

Kids love to mix things up and make something new happen, and chemistry for kids lets them do just that.

There is almost nothing kids like better than wielding a little power...except possibly eating, and they get to do some of that here, too.

Dirty Pennies

Needed: dirty pennies (see tip below), salt, vinegar, liquid soap, 3 bowls, paper and pen, old toothbrush or scrubbing pad, measuring cups and spoons

Prep: With your child, prepare three bowls. Put soapy water in the first, vinegar in the second, and a combination of 1/2 cup vinegar with 1 teaspoon salt in the last bowl. You can put small signs next to each that say what is in each bowl.

Challenge Question: What solution will get pennies the cleanest?

cleaning pennies

Do It: Set out a pile of dirty pennies. Have kids predict which solution will get the pennies cleanest: the soap and water, the vinegar, or the vinegar and salt mixture.

Let kids experiment with trying to clean the pennies. Which solution got the pennies the cleanest?

Tip: If your pennies are not very dirty to start with, discreetly soak them in vinegar for about an hour. They'll be disgusting in no time.

Rising Raisins

Needed: baking soda, vinegar, water, small drinking glass, a few raisins, spoon

Challenge Question: Can raisins float in water?

Do It: Tell kids that they are going to see if they can get raisins to float in a glass of water. Fill the glass about half full of water. Put about three raisins in it and see what happens.

Have your child stir two spoonfuls of baking soda into a half glass of water, then drop in a few raisins. Slowly add vinegar and watch to see if the raisins begin to dance or float. Continue adding baking soda until the raisins float to the top.

What made the raisins float? What did you see in the water when this happened? Air is inside the bubbles you saw. We use baking soda to make bread rise up. How do you think baking soda makes bread rise up?

Tip: When doing chemistry for kids, don't worry too much about whether their theories are correct. What is important is that they are coming up with theories and testing them.

Baking Cookies

I'll bet you never knew that baking cookies could be used to teach chemistry for kids. Heat is great for producing chemical changes. Cookies go from soft to hard, from small to large, and even the taste changes when they are cooked. Take cookie baking to a new level with this yummy chemistry experiment.

Needed: cookie ingredients, mixing bowl, measuring cups and spoons, your favorite cookie recipe (here's mine)

Challenge Question: What changes happen to a cookie when you bake it?

cookie chemistry

Do It: Make cookies together, following your favorite recipe. Let kids be involved in the measuring, stirring, and other preparations. The science part of it begins when the raw cookies have been set out on the cookie sheet, before going in the oven.

Taste a little of the raw batter. Is it thick or thin? Soft or hard? What does it taste like? Do you think the finished cookie will taste like this?

Look at the cookies on the cookie sheet. Are they flat or rounded? How big are they? Do you think the shape will change when they bake? Will they get bigger, smaller, or stay the same?

Bake the cookies. Compare them when they come out of the oven. How did they change? Do they taste different? How about after the cookies have cooled?

Making Butter

Needed: 2/3 cup heavy cream, salt, clean marbles, measuring cup, crackers or bread, small jar with tight lid (like a baby food jar)

Challenge Question: What happens to cream when you shake it up?

Do It: Let kids measure 2/3 cup heavy cream into the jar. Add a large pinch of salt and stir it up. What does it taste like?

Put on the lid, tightly. What does the cream inside feel like? Is it more like milk, yogurt, or butter?

Have kids start shaking the jar. Can they feel the cream sloshing around? As they keep shaking it, the feel of the cream will change. Point out when the consistency gets a bit more like yogurt, and begins to become firmer. It will start to make a ball that will shake around inside the jar. When this happens, usually after about 10 minutes, it has turned into butter and is ready to eat.

Open the jar. What is different now? Why did it change? Does it taste the same?

Tip: If you have several kids, have them share the work. All that shaking can get tiring.

Chemistry for kids is a lot of fun. At this age, they don't really get the idea of how chemicals form or interact, and that's fine. The goal of chemistry, for kids in first grade or thereabouts, should be to teach that chemistry always brings some sort of change, and to give them opportunities to compare the before to the after.

If you enjoyed doing chemistry for kids, don't miss out on the water experiments, nature experiments, and other great science topics. You can find all these and more on our science experiments for kids main page.


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“Education is not preparation for life. Education is life itself. ”
~John Dewey