The Kitchen Pantry Scientist

These days, kids and parents don’t have to look far for different forms of fun. From iPads and apps to LeapFrog tablets and computers, educational entertainment is everywhere.

But if the weather keeps you indoors or you just want the kids to put down the electronics for a bit, open up your kitchen pantry for hours of amusement, says Liz Heinecke.

Known to most as The Kitchen Pantry Scientist, Liz is an avid blogger, NASA Earth Ambassador, Bacteriologist, and former medical researcher. But to her three children (ages 6, 9 and 11), Liz is just Mom – an enthusiastic and curious parent who loves having fun as much as they do.

Below, we asked Liz to share her favorite at-home science projects for kids from her easy-to-make science kit.

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One of the joys of having kids is watching their faces light up when they encounter something new or unexpected.  As parents, we have an amazing opportunity to foster our children’s sense of wonder, fan their creative spark and feed their curiosity.

Science projects are a great way to help kids explore the world, and that can be as easy as baking cookies.  If you’ve stumbled across my website, you know that science doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or even explosive. But it is wonderfully fun.

With a quick trip to Target, you can put together a science kit that will turn any table into a kid-friendly science lab. Load up a plastic bin with a box of baking soda, vinegar, balloons, white coffee filters, cornstarch, marshmallows, food coloring, washable markers, straws, dish soap, rubber bands, Q-tips, and a notebook where kids can draw and tape pictures of experiments and record results.  Supplement with a few items from your kitchen (like milk and sugar), and you’ll be ready for hours of science fun.

I’ll show you how to do three of our favorite science projects: fizzy balloons, sugar-water density columns, and tie-dye milk.  But remember, with your kit, you can also do magic marker chromatography, make NASA straw rockets, and make cornstarch goo, a non-Newtonian liquid. Or, just let your kids experiment on their own, and see where their imagination takes them!

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Fizzy Balloons

Ingredients: balloon, empty 16 oz. soda bottle, white vinegar, and baking soda.

Recipe: Pour 1/4 to 1/2 cup vinegar into the soda bottle. Hold the mouth of a balloon open and use a spoon to pour a teaspoon or two of baking soda into the balloon (this may take two people). Shake the soda into the main part of the balloon. Then, stretch the mouth of the balloon over the mouth of the bottle, keeping the main part of the balloon off to the side, so the soda isn’t dumped into the bottle.  When you’re ready, shake the baking soda into the bottle. Hold the balloon on the mouth of the bottle as it inflates, so it won’t fly off.

Wearing safety glasses or sunglasses for this experiment is a good idea. We’ve had balloons shoot right off the bottle, and vinegar can sting your eyes!

What happens?  Baking soda is a chemical called sodium bicarbonate. Vinegar is also called acetic acid. These two chemicals react with each other to form new chemical compounds.  One of these is carbon dioxide gas, which inflates the balloon.

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Sugar-Water Density Columns

Ingredients: water, sugar, food coloring, an eye dropper or spoon, and a tall, thin glass or test tube

Recipe: Measure ½ cup of very hot tap water into four cups or jars. To the first cup, add 8 tbsp sugar and blue food coloring; to the second add 6 tbsp sugar and green food coloring; to the third add 4 tbsp sugar and yellow food coloring; and to the fourth add 2 tbsp sugar and red food coloring.  Stir until the sugar dissolves. If the sugar won’t dissolve, microwave for 30 seconds and stir again. Use caution with hot liquids.

 

When the solutions are cool, use a dropper or spoon to add them to the glass or test tube in layers (see photo.) Drizzle them gently down the side of the glass, in order, from those with the most sugar to those with the least sugar: blue, green, yellow, red.

What happens? Density is mass (how many atoms are in an object) divided by volume (how much space an object takes up). The more sugar atoms you add to a half of cup of water, the denser the solution will be. Less dense liquids float to the top of more dense liquids.

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Tie-Dye Milk

Ingredients: a shallow dish or plate, milk, dishwashing liquid, Q-tips and food coloring

Recipe: Pour enough milk to cover the bottom of the dish.   In a separate dish, mix together half a cup of water and a big squirt of dish soap.

Put several drops of food coloring into the milk. Dip a Q-tip into the dish soap mixture, and then touch the Q-tip to the milk.  Don’t stir!  The detergent will break the surface tension of the milk and the food coloring will swirl, as if by magic.

What happens?  The surface of milk is like the elastic skin on a balloon and the dish detergent is what breaks it, sort of like a pin popping a balloon.  Food coloring and more milk then escape from underneath the milk’s surface, swirling to the top. The scientific name for the way the “skin” of a liquid holds together is surface tension.

click through the gallery for step-by-step photos
and have fun!
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The Kitchen Pantry Scientist
Science Kit
Fizzy Balloons Step 1
Fizzy Balloons Step 2
Fizzy Balloons Step 3
Fizzy Balloons Step 4
Fizzy Balloons Step 5
Sugar-Water Density Columns
Density Columns Step 1
Density Columns Step 3
Density Columns Step 2
Density Columns Step 4
Tie-Dye Milk Step 1
Tie-Dye Milk Step 2
Tie-Dye Milk Step 3
Tie-Dye Milk Step 4
Tie-Dye Milk Step 5
Liz Heinecke

Photos by Pamela Diedrich of pd-photography.com

 

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