Fun, Freaky Kitchen Experiments Perfect for Vacation Days
Banish youthful boredom (and even help 'em learn) with ET eggs, yeastie toys, and a splash of spritz.
Sure, we all look forward to spring break, Christmas break, and summer vacation. Somewhere in the middle of all those well-deserved furloughs from school, though, inevitably the day arrives when your kids complain of boredom. We’ve got you covered! These three food-science activities will keep little ones entertained, while teaching them all about the properties of everyday kitchen ingredients.
Use the magic of acid to make eggshells vanish and create rubbery ovoid oddities.
You will need:
3 raw eggs
3 small jars
Food coloring (optional)
STEP 1. Add 1 raw egg to each of the small jars. Cover the eggs with distilled white vinegar. (Optional: Add about 10 drops of food coloring to each of the jars.)
STEP 2. Cover the jars and refrigerate for 24 hours.
STEP 3. The next day, drain the jars and remove the eggs.
What happened? Eggshells are made of the elements calcium and carbon, bound together in a tight crystal pattern—this is why eggshells are hard. Vinegar, an acid, breaks apart these crystals, slowly dissolving the egg shells and releasing carbon dioxide gas—which is why you see some bubbles on the eggs as they soak in the vinegar.
Inside the eggshell, a membrane holds the egg white and yolk. Water can pass through this membrane, which is why your eggs grew in size as they soaked in vinegar. Afterward, the membrane is even strong enough to let you (gently) bounce the eggs on a table. Try it!
Learning how food works is part of the joy of cooking. This easy activity gives kids a close-up look at the mysterious ingredient that makes bread rise.
You will need:
4 squeeze bottles and labels
2 packets active dry yeast
2 tablespoons white (granulated) sugar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
STEP 1. Add half a packet of yeast to each squeeze bottle.
STEP 2. Add 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of warm water (about 100°) to one of the bottles. Label this bottle “white sugar + warm water.” Add 1 tablespoon of white sugar and 1 tablespoon of cold water to another bottle and label it “white sugar + cold water.” Add the brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of warm water to the third bottle and label it “brown sugar + warm water.” Add the honey and 1 tablespoon of warm water to the third bottle and label it “honey + warm water.”
STEP 3. Screw the tops on the bottles, cover the caps with your finger, and shake each bottle a few times to mix the ingredients.
STEP 4. Place a water balloon over each spout and tape it into place (so it won’t pop off).
STEP 5. Set the bottles aside and wait about 30 minutes. What happened? Do you see bubbles in any of the bottles? Have any balloons started to inflate?
STEP 6. Set the bottles in a sink or bathtub (in case of explosions!) and wait a few more hours.
What happened? Yeast are tiny organisms (actually distant cousins of mushrooms) that eat sugar and burp out carbon dioxide gas. That process gives a baguette its signature light, airy texture. But in this case, these tiny creatures also blow up balloons! This experiment will teach you how different ingredients and temperatures affect yeast. Have any of the balloons completely inflated? Which sugar and temperature does the yeast seem to like best?
This activity is a part of our monthly themed kids cooking kit “It’s Alive!” Check out our subscription options!
Combine the classic flavor of lemonade with the fizzy texture of soda—and all you need is a bit of baking soda.
To make two glasses, you will need:
Water (and ice, if you’d like)
Sugar (or another sweetener)
2 teaspoons baking soda, divided
STEP 1. In each of a pair of tall glasses, mix the juice of one lemon, water to fill, and sugar to taste. Just before serving, stir a teaspoon of baking soda into each glass, and watch chemistry take over. (The lemonade could overflow, so keep an eye on it immediately after stirring, and serve immediately!)
STEP 2. If you remember making vinegar volcanoes as a kid, you’ll probably recall that altering the proportion of baking soda to vinegar can change just how explosive the lava is. Same goes here: Kids can experiment with stirring in more (or less) baking soda (or increasing and decreasing the amount of lemon juice) to see how results fluctuate.
What happened? Your newly concocted drinks are, indeed, much like those science-fair volcanoes of yore. When lemon juice hits the alkaline baking soda, an acid-base reaction kicks off, producing a fizz of CO2 bubbles—the same gas that carbonates everything from seltzer to soda to beer. The fizz is made differently in this lemonade than force-carbonated sodas or fermented beverages like beer or sparkling wine (or even kombucha). But you can see that there are various ways to get to a similar endpoint: a cold, fizzy drink.