Experiment Day – Indoor Adventures with Pa

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When there is only a short bit of time to “play” or the weather is preventing outside explorations, indoor experiments and adventures come in handy. Here are three short activities we tried and the thumbs up-down rating by grandsons, Isai
ah and Jeremiah.


Lava Lamp

So, on experiment day we started with making two Lava Lamps. Here’s how: using an approximate ratio of 1:3 of water-to-oil, the boys measured out ¼ cup of water and placed it into clear glass jars. They then added some food coloring (a few drops will do but in the boys’ exuberance to add drops they squeezed a small stream of food coloring into the containers). Next add the oil, in our case ¾ cup. Now comes the interesting part.

Breaking an Alka-Seltzer tablet into pieces, the boys dropped a piece into the jar. The tablet sank to the water level and soon colored “lava” floated up to the top and the CO2 was released in the water causing colored bubbles to rise through the oil level. This can be done with several pieces of the tablet simultaneously dropped or one at a time. In any case, the boys were fascinated by this neat little project.

  • Needed: clear glass jars or water glasses, water, oil, Alka-Seltzer (there are other, non-Alka-Seltzer ways to do this – just search the internet)
  • Things to know: The water-to-oil ratio is 1:3 but it does not have to be exact and more of either can be used: using more oil allows the “lava” to take more time to rise. A flat bottom container works best: concave or convex bottoms cause the tablet pieces to slide to the middle or the outside of the container and affect the outcome. Clear oil would allow the colors to be seen better than the slightly yellow vege oil we used.
  • Boys rating: thumbs up

Invisible Ink

We then moved on to invisible ink. Using lemon juice and a little bit of water, the boys “wrote” on white paper with cotton swabs dipped in the lemon-water mixture. Letting it dry then exposing it to a heat source (light bulb) should cause the lemon juice to oxidize and the message become clear. In our case, this didn’t happen.

  • Needed: white paper, cotton swabs, lemon juice, a few drops of water
  • Things to know: Try this out yourself first to make sure it works – nothing like disappointed (aka bored) kids when it doesn’t work though this is also a lesson for them. The use of lemon juice from a real lemon versus a squeeze lemon juice container may have allowed this to work better as well as less water. We’ll have to try again later but for now this is shelved…too much time between doing and seeing results for the boys to get something out of it.
  • Boys rating: thumbs down (imagine yawning boys waiting for the paper to dry)


I then thought of an impromptu experiment to show the boys: volcano making. We placed a few teaspoons of baking soda into the bottom of a glass container, added a few drops of food coloring (we had it out anyway), then pouring a few drops of vinegar into the container allowed for the reaction to take place…red bubbles! When the reaction stopped, I added more vinegar and again we had bubbles frothing up. Cool…the best experiment, as far as the boys were concerned.

  • Needed: baking soda, vinegar, and a container (food coloring is optional)
  • Things to know: not much to add here…except make sure to only add a little bit of vinegar at a time. Adding too much made for a very memorable and messy experiment (visualize red bubbles exceeding the containers capacity, spilling onto the table and frantic clean-up).
  • Boys rating: thumbs up especially when Pa added too much vinegar

That’s it for now! Hope you have an Adventurous day!!

Here are three short activities we tried and the thumbs up-down rating by grandsons: Lava Lamp, Invisible Ink and Volcano.  Only two received a thumbs up rating by the boys...