3 Fun Edible Science Experiments to Do with Kids at Home
Have you ever thought of your kitchen as a science laboratory? For many parents, getting children involved in science at home presents a unique challenge. Parents can feel that they do not have the equipment or the knowledge to do science experiments at home. What they need to realize is that the kitchen is their very own home science laboratory!
Cooking and preparing food involves many chemical changes and examples of scientific processes. With a minor amount of mess and no major explosions, you can use food preparation to teach children about science. Many of these edible “science experiments” might just end up being delicious.
Here are three edible experiments that will teach your children important chemical and scientific concepts:
1. Dissolving and Recovering - Rock Candy
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- Measuring cup
- Small saucepan
- Wooden spoon
- Clear glass containers (like small jars)
- A small piece of string
Start warming up the water in the saucepan. When warm, add sugar to the water one spoonful at a time, while stirring the solution. Keep adding sugar until the sugar stops dissolving when you stir; the solution is now saturated.
Bring the solution to a boil and let it boil for about a minute. The solution should be thick and clear with no crystals. Pour the hot solution into the glass containers, and fix a weighted string so that it hangs into the solution.
As the solution cools it may become “cloudy”. If you examine it with a magnifying glass, you will see that small crystals are forming in this supersaturated solution.
Over several weeks, bigger crystals will start forming as the water evaporated. You need to make sure that the surface remains clear, so the water can keep evaporating. After the “rock candy” has formed on the string, you can examine the shape of these big crystals and compare them to the shape of smaller sugar crystals.
2. Liquids of Different Densities - Salad Dressing
- ⅓ cup vinegar
- ⅔ cup salad oil
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Jar with a tight cover
- Watch or clock with a second hand
- Magnifying glass
Add all the ingredients to the jar, and close the lid well. Have your child shake the jar vigorously for a few seconds. Set the jar on the table and watch the two liquids separate.
Use the magnifying glass to examine the size of the bubbles in the liquid. Shake the jar again, and then time how long it takes for the two liquids to separate.
3. Edible Slime
In general, we classify substances as solids, liquids, or gases, but there are some substances that do not quite fit into those categories. This experiment allows children to make a non-Newtonian fluid (which means a substance with characteristics of both solids and liquids) and test its characteristics.
This concoction is fun and while it is edible, kids should focus on playing with it and learning from it rather than just eating it.
- ¼ cup chia seeds
- 2 cups water
- 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum
- Food coloring (any color)
- 16 ounce box of cornstarch (plus a few additional tablespoons for thickening the mixture)
- Sealable container (large enough to mix and store all of the ingredients)
- Measuring cups and spoons
Mix the chia seeds and water together in a sealable container; store the container in the fridge for up to 24 hours, stirring the seeds at least once. When you check the container, the seeds should be gelatinous. Next, break apart any seed clumps, and then whisk the xanthan gum into the container. The mixture may not completely mix yet, and that is okay.
If desired, add a few drops of food coloring (any color will do, but we like green), and then add one 16 ounce box of cornstarch into the container and mix. Once the mixture thickens, continue mixing by hand. Add cornstarch one tablespoon at a time until the slime is no longer sticky. When you are able to remove the slime from the container as one giant “blob,” it is ready. If you add too much cornstarch and your slime becomes crumbly, add a teaspoon of water and mix well.
If you are unable to obtain chia seeds, the slime can be made with flax seeds or even without seeds (though the seeds give a better texture). The original version of the above recipe and alternate recipes can be found here.
Create several tests to determine if the slime acts more like a solid or a liquid. For example, does the slime bounce? Does it flow down an incline? Can it be cut with scissors?
Edible science experiments are a great way to engage children in science and teach them that science is relevant to everything in the world around us. For these and more recipes, check out Science Experiments You Can Eat by Vicki Cobb.
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