Friday, April 1, 2011

Mount Saint Children's

I always considered a homemade volcano to be a big kid project. But, after making one with my pipsqueaks, I've decided it's actually a perfect pre-school project. If you haven't tried this already with your kids--whatever their ages--go make one today!

When we set out to make ours, we first watched a kid-friendly video about volcanoes since my kids didn't really know too much about them. (It turns out a homemade volcano actually has very little to do with a real volcano; it's really about the chemical reaction between baking soda and vinegar. So you could just as easily skip this step and just say, "Hey kids, we're going to make liquid ooze out of this random container, okay?")

Next, we made a volcano. All of the kids' play-dough had been mixed to mauve anyway, so it seemed like a good excuse to use it all up and introduce new colors to play-dough time. I cut the bottom out of a large plastic soup container and flipped it upside down. I then put an empty jelly jar inside. This was smart on my part. It was very easy to peel away some play-dough to remove the jar in order to clean it out for future eruptions.

Once the volcano was crafted, I found a lava recipe I was comfortable with and then had the kids help me measure out baking soda and vinegar, plus some dish detergent and food coloring. Our first eruption was red and bubbly. With subsequent eruptions, we decreased the amount of dish detergent, until finally omitting it entirely. The last eruption was blue, a little less frothy, and what I considered our best one.

This is a great activity for pre-schoolers because it introduces them to chemical reactions. It also shows them that if you repeat the same experiment, you will get the same results. And if you change the experiment--say, by diminishing the amount of detergent you add--your results will be different. It also gets them measuring, pouring and constructing. Oh, and it's pretty darn cool to watch. All in all, a pretty fun way to spend a rainy afternoon!

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