Learning with play has always been a crucial part of childhood development. Having experiments that encourage collaboration between parents and their kids is great for communication and understanding, while also providing some fun learning every day. My First Lab has several fun ideas for socially distanced, hands-on learning. Check out the different experiments below.
Rock Candy Crystallization
Sugar crystals that make rock candy are unstable, using a chemistry concept called Le Châtelier’s Principle. This states that systems that are unbalanced seek to restore equilibrium by doing the opposite of whatever is shifting them. As the sugar solution cools down, the sugar molecules will bond in order to gain energy and increase the temperature. This is what forms the sugary sweet growths of rock candy.
What You’ll Need:
- 2 cups of water
- 6 cups of sugar
- A cooking pot
- Wooden sticks/applicators
- Mason jars
- Any flavorings wanted (such as vanilla or mint)
- Bring the water to a boil, then add in the sugar.
- Take the mixture off heat and allow it to cool.
- While the mixture is cooling, prep the applicator sticks by wetting them and rolling them in granulated sugar. Wait for these sticks to dry before proceeding.
- Once the sugar solution is cooled, add in any fun colors for the crystal, or leave it clear. Pour the solution into mason jars.
- Take one sugar coated applicator stick per jar. Using the clothespins, make sure to prop the stick in the center of the jar. Cover each jar with a paper towel – poking a hole in the towel as needed.
- Place the crystal jars in a safe, quiet and dark place to allow them to grow. Too many disturbances can disrupt the crystal formation. The candy will grow in one to two weeks.
5 Minute Ice Cream
This experiment can teach kids about freezing points with a fun, sweet treat to follow. The ice cream is made in a bag, with a larger bag of ice and salt encasing it. Salt lowers the freezing point of pure water, and thus makes the inner ingredients harden into the ice cream. This is the same principle used when trucks spread salt over icy roads in order to create safer driving conditions. The ice will melt even when the temperature is below freezing. In this experiment, that cold is used for a fun interactive lesson in chemistry!
What You’ll Need:
- Measuring spoons
- Measuring cups
- 2 tablespoon of Sugar (one for each bag)
- 1 cup of Half and half, milk, or heavy whipping cream (half for each bag)
- ½ tablespoon Vanilla extract (¼ for each bag)
- Salt – table or rock salt should work, but may give different results
- Two small, sealable bags such as pint-size or sandwich-size Ziplocs
- Two gallon-size sealable bags
- Eight cups of ice cubes
- Oven mitts or a small towel
- Timer or clock
- Fill the two small sealable bags with ½ cup of cream, 1 tablespoon of sugar and ¼ tablespoon of vanilla extract. Seal the bags and keep them in the refrigerator until ready to proceed.
- In the two large gallon bags, pour four cups of ice cubes and ½ cup of salt.
- Then, place a sealed, small bag prepped earlier into each of the ice bags.
- Seal up the larger bag, then set the timer for five minutes.
- Using a towel or mitts to hold the bag, shake them for the duration of the timer, then examine how the ingredients look.
- The small bag’s contents should have hardened into ice cream. Add toppings to it or save the bag in the freezer for a later day.
For future experiments, try different salts and see how they affect the freezing point.
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