It’s simple to assemble a science fair-worthy volcano in five minutes or so, using things you have around the house. Kids love playing with this safe, bubbly chemical reaction. Better yet, it’s a great way to get your kids outside, and they can clean up the mess with a garden hose.
To make your own paper bag volcano, you'll need:
- a brown paper bag about the size of a lunch bag or a large cone coffee filter
- an empty 8 or 16 oz plastic bottle
- baking soda
- food coloring
*Safety tip: Vinegar can sting eyes, so supervise toddlers and small children when doing this experiment.
Directions for making the volcano:
1. Remove the lid from the bottle, invert the brown bag over it, and tear open the bottom of the bag. Have your child help you loosely tape the paper sack so that it fits around the mouth of the bottle, creating a volcano-like cone. Don't tape it to the bottle. If you’re using a coffee filter, tear off the small end and put it over your bottle to make a volcano cone.
2. Pull the paper volcano cone off the bottle. If your child likes art, they can decorate the bag or coffee filter with markers or paint and squash the bottom of the bag to make it look more mountain-like.
3. Fill the bottle 3/4 of the way to the top with vinegar and ...
... let your child add several drops of food coloring to the "lava." Place the decorated bag or coffee filter over the bottle.
4. Take your volcano outside or place it on a tray or cookie sheet to contain overflow. You're ready to create an eruption!
5. Have your child measure out 1/4 cup of baking soda. Using a folded piece of paper, or a small paper cup, help them quickly dump the baking soda into the bottle volcano. The volcano will “erupt” as the baking soda combines with the vinegar to produce carbon dioxide gas.
Encourage your child to try the experiment again, adding more baking soda and vinegar to the bottle to see what happens when you add different amounts of each ingredient. Creativity is born from experimentation!
The Science Behind the Fun:
A chemical reaction occurs when you combine two or more things together to create something new.
When you combine two common kitchen chemicals: baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and vinegar (acetic acid), one new thing you create is carbon dioxide gas. The bubbles you see coming out of your volcano contain this gas.
We find carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere, we exhale it when we breathe out, and it is produced when we burn fossil fuels. It is also one of the gases spewed by real volcanoes.
© Quarry Books, 2016/Kitchen Science Lab for Kids
Featured Photos Credit: © Amber Procaccini