Since I left OMSI over the summer, a number of parents have reached out asking for science experiments that they can do with toddlers. Children 18 months – 3 years are at the perfect age for introducing science experiments, because toddlers are naturally curious, enjoy exploring with their senses, and are usually delighted to discover new and surprising things.
One easy science activity that you can do with ingredients that you probably already have on hand is exploring chemical reactions with baking soda and vinegar.
When you mix a base (baking soda) with an acid (like vinegar or lemon juice), a chemical reaction takes place and bubbles are formed as a result.
What you will need:
– Food-safe acids: white vinegar, apple cider vinegar, lemon, lime, pickle juice
– 1 large box of baking soda
– Containers for pouring (small plastic cup or bowls)
– A contained space for mess play (a cookie sheet, plastic tub, or kitchen sink)
– Spoons, pipettes, turkey baster
– Food coloring or liquid watercolor (optional)
What to do:
1. Sprinkle some baking soda into the bottom of the tray or sink and let your child explore it with their hands. For young toddlers, you can describe the texture for them and encourage them to use describing words. For example, ‘Oh, it’s so soft and smooth!’.
2. Let your child smell or even taste the vinegar. Ask them to make a prediction about what they think will happen when you mix two ingredients together. You don’t need to go into great detail about the chemical reaction or explain what will happen. Simply “what do you think will happen when we mix these together?” is a great place to start.
3. Let your child mix the ingredients and watch what happens! To make the activity last longer, I try to dole out the vinegar in small amounts, because BB has a tendency to dump everything together and create the largest ‘volcano’ that he can … which means we run out of ingredients quickly.
4. After you’ve explored with vinegar, try lemons or limes. Remember to ask your child first, ‘what do you think will happen when these mix together?’
Cleaning up this activity is very easy if you do it in the kitchen sink – just rinse hands and you’re done!