Of Bottles, Balloons, & Sunny Afternoons: fun with science

My kids had a case of the grumps the other day.  They needed a serious redirection. 

I sucked Br (4 y/o) in with “Want to help me with a science experiment?”, & Bl (20 mo) was sucked in by the sight of a funnel and the possibility we might be heading outside shortly…

Luckily, as with all good on-the-fly activities, most of us probably have these materials on hand.


  • bottle (we used an empty plastic soda bottle- 16oz size?)
  • balloon (we used a 12″ balloon, which I think is standard kids party size)
  • baking soda
  • vinegar
  • funnel (if you don’t have one, you can make a “temporary” one by twisting paper in to a cone shape)
  • optional: scoop (we have a giant bag of baking soda, as I use it for cleaning, etc., so we had to scoop the baking soda into the funnel)


We used a funnel to fill the bottle about half full of vinegar.  I had Br hold the bottle steady with both hands as I poured.  While this decreased the likelihood of a vinegar mess, it also helped Br get engaged and excited about what crazy thing Mommy may be doing…

Funnel in the balloon, to fill the balloon with baking soda
Funnel in the balloon, to fill the balloon with baking soda


Next, we filled a balloon most of the way full of baking soda. For us it took about 2 “scoops”- the scoop said it was 47cc (which is equal to 47 ml, or about 1 1/2 oz).  I found I needed to “help” the baking soda go down the funnel, so we poked carefully through the funnel (we used a cake tester, but any skinny thing long enough to go through the funnel should work) to help breaks up clumps & displace air so the baking soda goes down.

The vinegar-filled-bottle and baking-soda-filled balloon were escorted out to the driveway, as I figured there was a decent chance of a big mess. 

While we were heading out, I discussed with Br what he thought might happen. (Great opportunity to reinforce the ideas of “hypothesis”/scientific testing).  I’ve had Br watch sometimes when I use baking soda & vinegar to clean a slow drain, so I reminded Br of that.

I asked Br: “what happened when the vinegar mixed with the baking soda in the sink?”

Br: “(pause)… Bubbles!”

Me: “so what do you think might happen when I dump the baking soda in our balloon into the bottle full of vinegar?”

Br: “(pause)… Bubbles!”

Let’s see!

It was pretty funny.  We were all surprised by how quickly the balloon blew up. I thought it might explode, and the kids instinctively ran up the driveway to safety! (My husband did remind me when he got home that I should probably invest in kid-sized safety goggles if I am gong to keep trying science experiments at home…)

Once we had assured ourselves the balloon was gong to hold, we re-approached. The kids were totally redirected now!!!

I explained to Br the balloon blew up because all of those bubbles couldn’t escape out to the air (vaguely alluding to the conservation of matter…).  We also observed a bunch of the vinegar ended up in the balloon, and it was pretty cold too ( I barely resisted talking about exothermic/endothermic reactions- but might be a good topic for older/more experienced “experimenters”)! We lifted the balloon up to dump it back into the bottle, which gave us a bit more fizzing. 

I popped the balloon of, which sent it whizzing through the air & got the kids dodging back up the driveway.

Then they asked to do it again.

Awesome!!! (And just to reinforce the scientific method, I asked Br what he thought was going to happen THIS time when we put the baking soda in…)

Have you tried this? What did you think? We’d love to hear!

And do you know of any good resources to get kid-sized safety goggles? :)




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An AWOL apology

I haven’t managed to keep up with blogging the last couple weeks (obviously).  :)  Our family is in one of those times where life is feeling a bit more overwhelming. 

You know, no one horrible thing to us, but just more than you can handle…

For Halloween, the boys chosen costumes required I make them from scratch.  I have previously admitted I have crafty ambitions that exceed both my time & abilities.  While I think the costumes turned out pretty well, it was a crazy few weeks getting them done.

Halloween 2011 family picture

Halloween 2011 family picture- Br was a woodpecker (pileated woodpecker, per his specification) & hubby was a tree. Bl was a vacuum (with working lights!) & I was a "dust bunny".


On the same day we found out some news (not ready to share yet) that will drastically effect our little family.

We are still going through the steps to see if Br “needs more”.  He has his audiology appointment (hearing test) last week, and he did great.  So great the audiologist specifically commented on the contrast between how he did and the many autistic & sensory integration disorder patients she has seen.  So I guess that is a good sign. :) 

I also may have incidentally “cursed” all the people who have recently come in contact with me:

  • my 2 year old niece was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis this week
  • my uncle’s (the main reason we keep heading down to San Diego) terminal cancer symptoms suddenly worsened, so he cancelled his visit that was timed for my birthday
  • my mother’s “back pain” may have morphed into kidney stones
  • even the awesome lady I get diaper stuff from- she threw out her back hours after I contacted her about meeting up to get an emergency re-supply of diaper cream (for a nasty rash Bl developed)

 I feel oddly guilty, even though I couldn’t have any direct relation to any of those things…

Maybe I’m just melancholy because I’m getting old: my birthday was Saturday. 

(…okay, Nosy Nellie: I turned 34!). 

Ever wonder what you would tell your 10 year younger self? And what your life might be like if you actually listened? I had a semi-serious discussion with a co-worker who is 10 years younger the other day, which made me reflect a bit on different “life seasons” and their opportunities. 

Sorry this post isn’t about much of anything.  I will try to get back to blogging regularly.  We’ve tried some nice things I’d love to share!

I’m sending you all thoughts for some peace & comfort, and hope you will bounce a little of that energy back at us.


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Over the rainbow, or at least San Diego- a DIY color sorting activity

Once again I briefly abandoned blogging for a family trip.  We actually headed back down to the San Diego area, but this time for a wedding reception.

As we flew, and I prefer to NOT be hated by the other passengers, I had to come up with some things for the boys to play with en route as well as while we were there, because I also prefer my extended family not to hate me. :)

Ideally, these things would be at least vaguely educational, light & small (i.e. packing friendly).  I saw this idea over at a cute little Etsy shop.  I found the wooden pieces over at Michael’s craft store (Don’t forget to check Michaels.com for coupons!!!).


  • 1 package “Candle Cup[s]” (7/8 inch hole, 6 pieces in package)
  • 3 packages “Man/ Game Piece” (2 3/8 inch, 2 per package)
  • water-color paints (I used Crayola)
  • paint brushes
  • cup of water

 Bonus item: Package of round wooden balls. I’ll try to remember to update this with the size.

I don’t have any actions shots of making or playing with these, as they were used for critical travelling-child-entertainment, which is not very photography-friendly. I’ll try to update with some action shots later too…

But here is a picture I took of them after getting kids to bed so I could write this post!:

Rainbow cups, "men", & balls

 These were simple to make:

Paint the objects with your selected water-colors.  A lot (multiple coats).

I let Br (4 years) paint the cups, which was a nice fine-motor/art activity (as long as he was interested), and appropriate for the minimal supervision/guidance of when we were trying to do it.  If I’d been less rushed, it might have been nice to let him paint all of them himself. 

Voice of Experience: Probably a better idea to paint these BEFORE you let the kids play with them in a restaurant. :) Greasy fingerprints interfered with the “absorption” of the water colors in spots.  The other option might have been to lightly sand them before painting them, which may have helped it get a more even coloring.  But, …I didn’t pack any sand paper…

The Etsy shop mentioned sealing with beeswax, which I haven’t tried yet.

What do you think? Do I need a few more coats of water colors before I try to coat it with beeswax? Any other suggestions for getting a more even color saturation?

And here is a gratuitous picture of the fam, including my (long-divorced, and friendly) parents:

The family outside the San Diego Zoo Safari Park
Closing out the San Diego Zoo Safari Park

For you observant types: yes, they are my genetic parents. I don’t know why I am so short either. 

Hey, great news! There is an awesome giveaway going on over at Montessori Living Now: free awesome ebook “Montessori At Home”  (where our beloved plumbing activity came from), PLUS a bundle of materials from Montessori Print Shop!

But hurry over- the giveaway ends October 25th!

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