Bubble Experiments: The Science Behind the Magic
Show me a kid who doesn’t like bubbles and I will show you a tiny little alien imposter. Okay, maybe that’s a bit drastic, but most kiddos will at least display a passing interest in tiny, translucent balls drifting through the air.
There’s certainly something magical about bubbles, but there’s a great deal of science behind the opalescent orbs as well. The fragile floaters provide a multitude of teaching opportunities. You can use bubbles to introduce numerous science concepts to your child, such as chemistry, elasticity, light and surface tension. Kids can make observations, experiment and investigate, determining their very own scientific discoveries, all with something so delicate and temporary.
The following five science experiments are fun DIY projects you can do at home to explore the science behind bubbles. Try them out over the course of a couple of days or save and dole out when the mom-I’m-boreds hit.
Giant Reusable Bubbles
Even small children quickly learn one of the main properties of bubbles: they always pop! But do they know why? And is it possible to make bubbles that you could enjoy again and again?
Stephanie at Twodaloo shared this bubble experiments for kids that might remind you of a plaything from your own childhood. She made a big, sparkling batch of gooey Gak, which is a fun science project on its own, but then she took it one step further. Grabbing a glob of the goo and pinching it onto the end of a hard plastic straw, she blew up big balloon-like bubbles that are much more pop resistant.
This project teaches kids the scientific concept of viscosity, which is a property that describes a material’s thickness and resistance to pouring. You can also discuss evaporation; while traditional bubbles are soaked up by the dry air until they evaporate and pop, these thicker bubbles will keep for longer.
Bubbles can be teeny-tiny, like those in a carbonated beverage, or they can be ginormous (dip a hula-hoop into a kiddie pool filled with bubble solution to make a kid-size bubble!), but otherwise, they all look the same. Bubbles are always round.
Former teacher turned homeschooler Karyn Tripp at Teach Beside Me uses pipe cleaners and straws to make a bubble frame in this bubble science experiment. Dipping the frame into sudsy water creates a cube-shaped bubble, which can teach kids about cause and effect, variation and volume. See if you can come up with other shapes, as well.
Bubbles float on air currents. Sometimes they distort in the breeze. Other times, they land on something and rest for a few moments before they pop. Bouncing, however, is not typically in a bubble’s repertoire.
Ashley Kagan of Play At Home Mom shares a recipe for super sturdy bubbles that kiddos can bounce on their palms, provided they wear soft cotton gloves or even socks on their hands. This solution contains glycerin, which gives it extra strength. The gloves protect the bubbles from oil and dirt on your hands, which would otherwise draw the soap in the bubble and cause it to collapse.
We typically think of bubble blowing as a spring or summertime activity, but if you live in a climate that gets cold during the winter, you can experiment with bubbles out in the frosty air.
Melissa Lennig at Fireflies and Mudpies and her two sons experimented with bubbles in the cold weather to see what would happen. First, they put bubble solutions in bowls, placed them on the ground and blew heaps of bubbles with straws that spilled out onto the cold sidewalk. Next, they used traditional bubble wands. The results included bubbles that shattered when touched as though they were made of thin glass. Kiddos learn about states of matter and crystallization with this icy project.
A Bubble inside a Bubble inside a Bubble
My little sister was a bubble gum expert when we were kids. She could blow what we called a “double bubble,” which was a bubble inside of a bubble.
Science teacher, author and television personality Steve Spangler shows you how to accomplish a similar feat in this bubble science experiment. After you whip up some homemade bubble solution, you will blow a bubble hemisphere onto a table or other flat surface. Then you will insert the wand into the bubble to blow another one inside of it. See how many bubbles in bubbles you can make while you learn about concepts including surface tension and volume.
These bubble experiments for kids are perfect for a low-key summer day outdoors, a rainy day indoors or even a themed birthday party. Pass out some chewing gum, pour some cups of sparkling water and have a super bubbly sort of day!
What are some of your kids’ favorite bubbly science projects? Share with us!
Cover image via Fireflies + MudpiesTags : education science experiments activities