You have probably admired the “Ice Balloons” pictures that have been spreading on Pinterest and FaceBook during this cold season. The ice balloons look so nice and it’s been so very cold out lately that we decided to give this activity a try. Here are the 7 learning points that my kids were able to take away from the ice balloon experiment.
Have you tried the ice balloon experiment? If so, what did your kids learn from this fun activity? Leave us a comment so that we can learn together and motivate one another.
1) Presssure: Just pouring water into the balloon will not result in a big balloon. The pressure from the balloon material is much stronger than that of the water being poured in, so the balloon pressure wins and pushes the excess water out quite easily. However, a tight seal on the opening of the balloon on a faucet will help to create enough pressure to fill the balloon completely.
2) Below freezing temperature: It has to be really cold for water to freeze. We can measure temperature with a thermometer. Here’s a fun and educational interactive thermometer animation to help young children better understand what Farenheit or Celsius degrees really mean. Move the mercury levels up and down to see a different image showing what the temperature might actually look like at that point. If your child is more advanced, then you might want to try this fun thermometer game by NASA where you have to match various objects to a specific temperature. Pointing out to a child who is just learning how to count that the thermometer actually has numbers that are smaller than zero is quite interesting. My oldest child reacted with amazement and disbelief all at once.
3) Above freezing temperature: When the weather warms up above freezing temperature, the ice balloons will thaw out, and they will become water again. The ball will eventually lose its shape completely. The smaller ice balloons that we made earlier in the week started to melt and shrink in size. I asked my oldest child if that meant that the temperature outside was below or above freezing point. Since this was still a very new concept to him, he had to do some problem solving in his head before answering.
4) Water volume (as measured by size of the balloon from my kids’ perspective) impacts how long it will take for the ice balloons to freeze: The balloons with the least water in them will freeze completely before the balloons with more water. You can see in the photo below that our biggest ball was just barely frozen on the outside and that there was a fairly large pool of colored water in the center. It is pretty but it can get very messy if the outer coating is not frozen all around and a hole forms thus letting the colored water gush out. By the way, a bigger container to catch the liquid would have been much more helpful.
5) Terms ‘liquid’, ‘solid’, ‘gas’: As we observed the ice balloons, the terms ‘liquid’ and ‘solid’ were used frequently. When we shook the ice balloons with the liquid inside, we were even able to see bubbles and thus throw in the term and concept of ‘gas’.
6) Freezing of lakes: Since our bigger balloons did not freeze on the inside, this gave me a chance to explain that when it gets below freezing point, lakes start to freeze and they do so starting from the top. The frozen layer might be thin and become larger if the cold weather keeps up for a long time, but it will never freeze all the way down to the very bottom, so the fish will continue to live, although in a hibernated-like state.
7) Fish survival in frozen lakes: I inserted a toy fish in one of the balloons before I filled it with water. That was a really tough job, but I managed without pie
rcing the balloon. Unfortunately the toy fish ended up in the frozen layer and not the liquid layer. This caused a bit of contradiction to what I was trying to explain to them
, but I think they got the point overall. If you are curious, here is a kid-friendly article that explains how fish survive in a frozen lake. If I were the cold-weather type, I would have brought my kids ice fishing so that they could get the frozen lake experience first-hand. Maybe their grandfather can do that some day when they are older
What would we do differently next time?
- We would weight the balloons before and after freezing
- We would mix two primary colors in some of the ice balloons to see if the kids could guess what color they become once frozen
- We would use bigger containers to hold the ice balloons in case the liquid runs out unexpectedly
- We would add a greater variety of objects inside the ice balloons just because it was very interesting for the kids to see something inside the ice balloon
- We would add salt to one balloon to see the effects. I’m just not sure if the salt would damage the balloon itself during the freezing process. There’s just 1 way to find out.
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 about sciences in children. Therefore, concepts and terms may be greatly simplified and/or only discussed in part.