Fun with Science: Baking Soda and Vinegar

You have probably seen this experiment before but it is one of my favorites so I wanted to share.  If you can’t tell by the photograph, I do this activity often enough to warrant purchasing the big box of baking soda.  I think it has something to do with the fact that I feel like a “Mad Scientist” when I mix the baking soda and vinegar and I have to fight the urge to ruffle my hair until it stands up on end.

This is an excellent activity to teach children about cause and effect and also about predicting outcomes.  Before you do the actual activity, ask questions like, “What do you think will happen when we mix baking soda and vinegar?”  You can also mix it up and have different types of powder and liquid and ask for predictions for each.  Use flour and water, vinegar and flour, water and baking soda.

After that it is just a matter of testing the theories (cause and effect).  All you need is the ingredients you listed in your questions and a cookie sheet for the overspill.

What you will need:

  • a cup or water bottle
  • vinegar (usually about a cup is enough for the experiment)
  • baking soda (usually about one heaping tablespoon but you can add more or less depending on the size of the container)
  • food coloring (optional)

What to do:

  1. Pour the vinegar into the container.
  2. Let your child add the baking soda and watch it bubble up.
  3. Talk about what you just saw.

And that is it.  You can have your older child record your results so they start laying the foundation of documenting their research but it isn’t necessary.

*Alternate: place the baking soda into an empty balloon and fasten the balloon to the top of the water bottle already filled with vinegar.  Be careful when you do this so the baking soda does not fall into the vinegar.  Have your child tip the balloon up so the baking soda falls into the vinegar while you hold the mouth of the balloon to keep it from slipping off the bottle.  The balloon will fill with gas and inflate.*

I hope you enjoy this activity as much as I do.  I will post directions to making your own volcano and a volcano cheat sheet in the next few weeks but until then have fun.  Oh, if your child wants to know what the chemical reaction is, all you need to know is that vinegar and baking soda combined makes the gas, Carbon Dioxide.

-Sirena Van Schaik

(This was originally posted on May 2nd, 2008, and re-posted since it is a reader favorite.)

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