Motivating Moms to become science teachers to their children

When I asked my son what he wanted to do to celebrate his last day in JK, he said he wanted to do the volcano experiment.  So last night, that’s exactly what we did.  This is the experiment where you mix baking soda (a base) with vinegar (an acid), and once combined the liquid bubbles over like lava from a volcano.

Kid-friendly facts about volcanoes:

  • A volcano typically looks like a mountain that has an opening on the top.
  • Underneath the volcano, there is something called “magma”.  It is very hot.
  • Sometimes the volcano is quiet, and nothing comes out of it.  Some volcanoes stay quiet for a very long time.
  • When the volcano ‘wakes up’ and erupts, all sorts of things shoot out of it;  lava, rocks and gas.
  • An erupting volcano is very hot and it is dangerous to be nearby.

The experiment:

Materials:

Baking sheet to collect the mess, a plastic cup to act as the mountain, playdough to form the mountain around the plastic cup, vinegar and baking soda (NOT baking powder), red food coloring

Steps:

  • The kids formed the playdough around the cup.  We should have used twice as much playdough to form a nice mountain base.  But the kids were happy and excited, so we decided to move on.
  • I poured the vinegar inside the cup and added a few drops of red food coloring for extra effect.
  • My boys each took a turn pouring in baking soda.
  • Watch the fizz.
  • We added more baking soda but the reaction was much less intense, so we decided to just wash and start over (minus the playdough for the 2nd time around)

I did my best to explain the chemistry behind this experiment in a kid-friendly method.  You’ll see below the discussion points that I used.  What you see in parenthesis is there for your information.  I did not use these terms with the kids.  Maybe next time!

  • Vinegar is a type of acid.  Sodium bicarbonate is a type of base.
  • When you mix the two together, it becomes a different acid (carbonic acid).
  • This new acid (carbonic acid) doesn’t like to “stick together” (it is unstable).
  • So it breaks down into water and a gas called carbon dioxide.
  • It’s this gas that makes the bubbles that looks like the volcano’s lava.

After the experiment, we checked out a few pictures of real volcanoes from National Geographic online.

This is a popular experiment.  I’ve seen it done simply as well as very fancy with decorations around the playdough.  You may have already done this experiment with your kids in the past.  It might be worth redoing and perhaps going into more details.  If you haven’t done it, you should.  It’s a lot of fun, quick to set up, and not very costly.  Please share any tips or comments you may have regarding this experiment and ways to do it or explain it to young kids.

DISCLAIMER:  I am not a scientist.  I am not a teacher.  I am a resourceful Mom with a science background who is passionate about teaching sciences to her kids.  Although this blog does its best to use scientifically accurate terms and concepts, the main focus is to initiate a curiosity and an interest in sciences in children.  Therefore, concepts and terms may be greatly simplified and/or only discussed in part.

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Comments on: "Volcano experiment for kids with kid-friendly explanation" (3)

  1. We’ve done this a few times at home although not in such a fancy way :) BTW, it’s also a good way to clean drains!

    • Nat Bourre said:

      Good tip! Thanks. And we will redo this experiment as well, but we won’t bother with the playdough again. I don’t think my boys really cared for how the structure looked, they just liked seeing the fizz. And frankly, it was setting up the playdough that took the most time.

  2. [...] you want to add some multimedia education to your child’s volcano experiment, then you might want to take a look at these sites as a starting [...]

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