Of all the activities and art projects, there’s one in particular that my kids always love and ask for repeatedly, baking soda and vinegar science experiments!
Full disclosure and fair warning, this activity is messy. But I have a few tips and tricks to
minimize embrace the disaster and have fun.
The great thing about baking soda and vinegar science experiments is there are many ways that you can modify the experiment to feel “new” while not having to do a lot of preparation.
The basic experiment is to combine baking soda with vinegar and food colors to create a fizzy, foaming, colorful experience. And you can do this experiment using basic kitchen ingredients and tools you already have on hand.
My kids’ favorite way to do a baking soda and vinegar science experiments is on a large baking sheet.
But we have also made fizzy eggs, potions, and cupcakes. And they are all a blast. And it’s a really pretty process too!
How to Minimize the Mess
The easiest way to set up this experiment is to get the ingredients and move outside where you won’t be worried about spills and splatters. Galoshes were my toddler’s recent genius idea.
Have a towel by the door and when the kids are finished playing, wipe them off, wash up, and change clothes (or pop the kids into the shower).
Makes a Great Rainy Day Activity
Although it’s easier to do baking soda and vinegar science experiments outside, they make an amazing indoor activity for a rainy day/sick day/too hot to go outside day as well.
When we do a baking soda and vinegar experiment inside, I set up in the kitchen, and have a couple of damp towels nearby. As the kids play, I wipe up anything that spills and enjoy the bicarb cleaning action on my dirty kitchen floor.
You can also put a large beach towel or something underneath the baking tray to catch spills. I’ve embraced more mess over time and don’t usually even bother.
When we’re finished, I toss the towels and dirty clothes in the laundry.
- Baking soda – I buy the huge bags from Costco
- White vinegar – Inexpensive at Target and Costco sells a 2 gallon pack for a bargain
- Food colors – Natural, food-based food colors don’t stain hands and clothes as easily, but we’ve used regular food colors too
- A large baking sheet (or muffin pan)
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Fork, paintbrush, droppers, popsicle sticks, or other kitchen items
Whenever we do this activity, the kids love helping set up almost as much as the fizzing action. It’s great to involve them from the beginning too so it extends the activity a bit longer.
- Have kids scoop baking soda onto the baking sheet with measuring spoons.
- Let them put a few drops of food colors around the baking sheet.
- Ask them to help pour vinegar into the measuring cups.
- Then explain that the vinegar will combine with the baking soda to create a fun and fizzy reaction. You can demonstrate or let them go for it.
I try to pour small amounts of vinegar into the measuring cups because it’s hard for kids to resist dumping it all at once.
Sometimes I offer droppers or other scooping tools, but my kids really love to pour the vinegar from cups.
Once the baking soda has mostly been dissolved, it’s fun to use a fork or paintbrush and swirl around the colors.
You can even dump out the vinegar (I dump it on the landscaping rocks in our backyard because the vinegar could kill the plants/grass) and then use the baking sheet as a drawing tray with a paintbrush or another tool.
If you make a paste with baking soda and water you can use it to form an egg shape around plastic toy animals. Put them in the freezer for a couple of hours. Then when you pour the vinegar on them they “hatch.”
You can even add a bit of dish soap for a bubbly potion effect.
If you have a muffin tin, it’s fun to create pretend cupcakes with baking soda and vinegar too.
My kids love helping set up this activity, but another idea for a variation is to create hidden colors in a muffin tin.
STEAM for toddlers and kids
One of the many things that I love about this activity is there are so many great STEAM lessons in all the fun and messy play.
- Collecting supplies
- Talking about measurements with kitchen tools
- Practicing fine motor skills
- Learning the steps of the experiment
- Observing the reaction between the baking soda and vinegar
- Color theory when the food colors mix
Each time we do the experiment, there’s a new idea to try or a discovery to make.
In my Outdoor Flower Tea Party post, I write about the benefits of repeating activities. This is one of those activities that never gets old, creates a creative muscle memory, and has tons of science and real-world applications.
Most recently, my toddler wanted to try making art on paper using her baking soda, vinegar, and food color sludge. It ended up being a fun process-art project!
While I have never had a problem with my kids getting baking soda or vinegar in their eyes, you should be aware that the ingredients can be very irritating. It’s a good idea to have water nearby in case you need to rinse eyes quickly. Kids safety goggles are another option if you are concerned.
Give it a Try
I highly recommend trying your own baking soda and vinegar science experiments. If you do, let us know what you think! And hope you enjoy embracing the messy fun!