Winter Weather Fun: Cold Air Balloon Kids' Experiment

Seeking a snow day activity? Blow up balloons in the snow, with help from a few pantry items, and teach your kids about the reactions.
By Liz Heinecke
Dec 29, 2017

Ages

3-13


Dec 29, 2017

You’ll love watching your child’s face light up when she inflates a balloon by combining baking soda and vinegar. She’ll also learn something about chemical reactions by testing whether balloons blow up faster or more slowly using ice-cold vinegar.

What You’ll Need

  • 2 Empty plastic water bottles (identical)
  • 2 Medium-sized balloons (identical)
  • 1/3 Cup (80ml) vinegar
  • 3 Tsp (14g) baking soda
  • Spoon or paper funnel
  • Snow or a freezer

Safety Tips and Hints

  • You’ll need two people to do this experiment, so you can start the chemical reactions at the same time.
  • Wear safety goggles or sunglasses when you blow up the balloons. Vinegar is a mild acid that can sting your eyes.
  • Small children will need assistance filling balloons with baking soda.

What to Do

Step 1: Stretch the mouth of a balloon open and ask your child to measure 3 level teaspoons (14g) of baking soda into the balloon. Repeat with a second balloon. (Alternatively, you can use a paper funnel to make this step easier.)

Step 2: Have your young scientist shake the baking soda to the bottom of the balloons.

Step 3: Remove labels from the plastic water bottles. Help your child label one bottle “warm” and the other bottle “cold.”

Step 4: Have her measure exactly 1/3 cup vinegar and add it to the empty plastic bottle labeled “cold.” Set the bottle in the snow, outside in the cold, or in the freezer for 30 minutes in order to chill the vinegar.

Step 5: After the “cold” bottle has chilled for 30 minutes, heat 1/3 cup vinegar in the microwave for about 20 seconds or until it's warm but not hot. Test the temperature to make sure that it’s safe, and help your child add it to the other bottle, labeled “warm.”


Step 6: Take both bottles outside, along with your baking soda-filled balloons. Stretch the mouth of a balloon over each bottle, but be careful not to spill baking soda into the bottles.

Step 7: Put on your safety goggles or sunglasses. With one person at each bottle of vinegar, start the chemical reactions at the very same time by counting to three and shaking all of the baking soda from the balloons into the vinegar in both bottles, simultaneously. Hold the balloon on the mouth of each bottle as it inflates with carbon dioxide gas.


Step 8. Observe which balloon inflates faster.

Creative Enrichment

  • Ask your child to draw a picture of the experiment that illustrates what happened.
  • Ask your child why she thinks it’s important to use the same size bottles and the same amount of vinegar and baking soda when comparing how fast the balloons inflate. 

The Science Behind the Fun

Mixing two different chemicals together to make something new is called a “chemical reaction.” When you mix baking soda and vinegar, one of the new things you make is carbon dioxide gas. If this gas is trapped in a bottle, it can create enough pressure to blow up a balloon.

Temperature is important to chemical reactions because everything in our universe is made of tiny particles. In warm liquids, these particles move around faster and bump into each other more often (and with more energy) than they do in cold liquids. When particles bump into each other more often, chemical reactions happen faster.

That’s why adding warm vinegar to baking soda blows up balloons more quickly than ice-cold vinegar.  

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You can find more experiments like this one at kitchenpantryscientist.com, and in my books Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books), and my upcoming book STEAM Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Projects Exploring Science, Technology, Art and Math (Quarry Books, summer 2018).

© Quarry Books, 2016/Outdoor Science Lab for Kids
Featured Photos Credit: © Quarry Books

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