Conducting science experiments with your children can be a fun way to spend time with them while enhancing their knowledge of basic chemical reactions. You do not need a fancy lab with specialised equipment. In fact, many chemical science experiments can be conducted in your own kitchen using common household items.
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Certain precautions should be taken when conducting science experiments at home. It is a good idea to lay down sheets of newspaper on your table or countertop to protect from any spills. You may also want to have your children wear aprons to protect their clothing from spills. When working with certain liquids, wear gloves and safety glasses. Follow any precautions that may be listed on the labels of the liquids you are working with. Always follow directions exactly as they are written, as certain liquids may have reactions to other liquids and solids that could result in an injury.
Chemistry with Pennies
Find a couple of dirty pennies and explain to your children that the grime is from a chemical reaction that occurred when the copper pennies reacted with oxygen; the grime, or copper oxide, built up on the penny. You children can recreate the reaction by sprinkling salt over the pennies, then pouring some vinegar on top of that. Have them rub the salt and vinegar liquid onto the pennies. Rinse only one of the pennies with water, then place both on a paper towel to dry. Have your children check on the pennies in about an hour. The rinsed penny will be shiny and new, whereas the other penny will have a new layer of blue-green copper oxide on it. The vinegar and salt speeds up the chemical reaction that causes the growth of copper oxide.
When liquid acetic acid, commonly referred to as vinegar, comes into contact with sodium bicarbonate, or baking soda, the resulting chemical reaction produces a gas which can be used to inflate a balloon. Using a funnel, have your child pour 1 teaspoon of baking soda into a deflated balloon. Then have him pour about 5 tablespoons of vinegar into an empty water bottle. Carefully have him place the balloon onto the top of the water bottle, making sure that the baking soda doesn't fall into the vinegar. Once the balloon is secure, have him lift the balloon, causing the baking soda to drop into the bottle. Be sure to hold the balloon onto the bottle top, as the chemical reaction causes the balloon to fill with air.
Cabbage Juice Chemistry
Chop a head of red cabbage, toss some into a blender that is half-filled with water and blend away. Strain the mixture, reserving the liquid, to teach your children about acids and bases. Pour some of the juice into three separate glass containers. Choose three household chemicals, such as vinegar, ammonia, detergent or salt, and add one to each glass of juice until a colour change is noted. The juice will turn green when mixed with something basic and will turn red when mixed with an acid. Use a pH level colour chart to get a more precise pH level count.
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