Luisa Smallwood from @tinyn3erds is quite frankly a genius at making science accessible and fun for her littles! Her Instagram account is full of engaging STEAM activities that combine her Chemistry PhD knowledge with her passion for Motherhood. We are super excited that she is sharing her expertise with us. So get your lab coats and goggles on, and get ready to be wowed!!
Who is ready to get down and dirty with POTIONS?!? The most important thing to remember when it comes to potions is that there is no right or wrong way to do them. It’s all about the sensory exploration!
Did you know that making potions helps build a good foundation in scientific thinking? It does, and you can help facilitate scientific thinking by asking probing questions like, “what do you think will happen” (also known as a hypothesis), or “can you close your eyes and describe what you hear, smell, and feel” (developing cognitive thinking skills). As a parent if you just take a step back and observe, you will see your child’s scientific thinking and curiosity blossom as they mix ingredients and ask questions.
Some Top Tips to Contain the Mess:
Before we get started, here are a few tips to help contain the mess:
- Tip #1: Find yourself a nice large plastic tray. We love the SMULA tray from IKEA for $1.99.
- Tip #2: Have 2-3 well absorbing towels next to the setup in case you need them, and I’m not talking about those pretty embroidered towels from Anthropology. You need something with heft, like a microfiber towel. They aren’t the prettiest things but they get the job done.
- Tip #3: Make sure the entire setup fits on the tray with plenty of room for your kids to explore.
Chemical and Ingredient List:
- Baking soda
- Powdered Koolaid (available in most grocery stores)
- Mr. Bubbles Magic Bath Crackle (cheaper option) or Pop Rocks (edible option)
- Loose lavender
- Loose tea (we used Mother's Bouquet from Harney and Sons, but you can use any type)
- Plastic droppers or dropper bottles (Hobby Lobby)
- Mortar and pestle (IKEA)
- Egg carton
- Confetti Eggs - 'cascarones' are confetti filled eggs that are a traditional part of Mexican Easter celebrations
- Test tubes to hold ingredients (Teacher Created Resources)
- Magnifying glass (Learning Resources)
Chemicals and Supplies:
When it comes to potion supplies, don’t let our list of supplies deter or limit your potions; use what you have. I do, however, recommend your potions include some sort of acid/base reaction. The simplest way to accomplish this is with baking soda (sodium bicarbonate, base) and vinegar (acetic acid).
If you’re like me and can’t stand the smell of vinegar, you can mix baking soda and Koolaid powder (which has citric acid). Once you add water to this mixture, your acid/base reaction will take place. If you can’t find powdered Koolaid, you can use any powdered drink mix that contains citric acid. I prefer the use of Koolaid to vinegar because in addition to not smelling the pungent vinegar, you get to smell some lovely fruity smells and can easily add in some color mixing exploration using two different colors of Koolaid. The possibilities are endless!
Poke a hole in the confetti eggs and add glitter. Mix one Koolaid pack with approximately 1/3 cup baking soda and add to each egg. We used a total of one cup baking soda and 3 packs of Koolaid to fill all twelve eggs.
The kids added water to the eggs causing the citric acid from the koolaid to react with the baking soda (our base in the reaction). They watched as it bubbled and fizzed.
The kids then chose which ingredients to combine to make various potions in the eggs. They used the magnifying glass to get a closer look at the ingredients and the reactions. One of my favorite parts is getting to watch their reactions to all of the new sensory experiences they are exploring.
When they added the crackle pieces, they listened to the carbon dioxide bubbles popping as the solid pieces began to dissolve, thereby releasing the trapped gas.
They used their sense of smell and touch to explore the eggs and potions, and since my youngest doesn’t know any better she also tasted the potions. There was a lot of cause and effect exploration among all the kiddos.
Droppers are such a great tool for fine motor practice and can be used in a variety of ways. In addition to using them to transfer water, the kids used them to mix ingredients. The mortar and pestle is one of my kids’ favorite gross motor tools, probably because they are allowed to crush and destroy the things they put in there.
As for the scientific, critical thinking, and curiosity stimulation that happens, well you’ll just have to give potions a try and see for yourself!
Well we don't know about you but we cannot wait to try this Easter STEAM sensation out with our kiddos! Activities like this which encourage kids to explore science with a hands on approach are so educational....... and incredibly fun! Thanks Luisa, what a fantastic idea!!
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