Frozen Cup Rivalry

It has been an unusual winter season for us here in Texas.  We have now officially had 3 Houston snow events and well, that’s unheard of! I’m not so sure it doesn’t have something to do with the incredible hurricane event we had here last summer.

We decided to do a bit of science on this white stuff that we never see when school was closed. (Oh, it turns out that snow is actually not white… go figure!) Little did I know that doing this experiment was going to turn into a sibling rivalry with whose cup will freeze first.

What you need: two plastic or paper cups, water, salt

What you do: 

  • Fill both cups with plain tap water
  • Stir in a tablespoon of salt in one cup
  • Place outside for a few hours in below 32°F weather (or place in a freezer)
  • Guess which one will freeze first

Here are our results. The red cup is plain water. The orange cup is salt water:

What is the science?

Salt lowers the freezing point of the water that it is mixed in. So if it takes water to freeze at 32°F and below then salt water takes much colder temperatures than that to freeze. This is why the ocean doesn’t completely freeze and also why we add salt on bridges and overpasses to help prevent ice from forming.

Andrew was most upset that his orange cup didn’t “win” the frozen contest. I thought he would think his cup was the most interesting. Turns out he didn’t think it was so cool…. (get it!? cool…but I digress.)

We hope you enjoy this easy winter activity!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments Tags: , ,
A Tiny Genie in a Bottle

It has been an unusually cold winter season as most of you know.  I’m proud to say along with our snow from the “North Pole” that we have Texas snow with a (bit of mud and grass in it) in our freezer.

I’ll admit I struggled with science I could do with the kids when it was so cold outside because, well, we rarely see snow! But I always love turning to one of my favorite scientists Janice VanCleave for inspiration. Here is a simple chemistry experiment you can do either on a cold winter day or in your kitchen to create a tiny genie in a bottle!

What you need: glass bottle, quarter, water

What you do:

  • Put an empty glass bottle (without a cap) in the freezer for at least 10 minutes
  • Remove the glass bottle and place a wet quarter over the opening so there are no spaces which traps air in the bottle
  • Observe what the quarter does if you leave it alone. Observe what the quarter does if you place your hands around the neck of the bottle
  • Don’t blink … the tiny genie is quick! Check it out and make sure the sound is on.

What’s the science: Of course this is not a tiny genie… it’s science! But what a fun trick to play on our kids or friends! We can touch the bottle and know it’s cold but the air inside the bottle is the same temperature. The quarter over the opening traps this cold air inside the bottle and when the air warms up it expands and wants to escape. We thought our genie sounded like he was burping! The genie is really just the air returning to the temperature of it’s surroundings!

Isn’t science magical?! Enjoy!

Categories: lovely conversations Tags: , , ,
Elf on the Shelf Science

Our elf just raided my science supplies and came up with some fun easy experiments to show the kids during Christmas! I hope it inspires your elf too!

Elf in Slime

As it turns out, elves can’t resist playing with slime! Our elf found our slime stash from Halloween and decorated the container with a cute elf belt! Here is a great slime recipe here.

A fizzy Christmas countdown

Elves are just as excited as we are to help the kids countdown to Christmas. She left a balloon filled with baking soda and a bottle of vinegar so when the kids come downstairs in the morning they can blow up the balloon to see the magical message appear!  Here’s how our elf prepared this experiment!

Elfish States of Matter

Elves know that Texas kids don’t get to see much snow. So ours brought some from the North Pole! The only trick is we have to keep it frozen! What a great lesson on states of matter!

Elf Magnetism

Imagine all of the science and engineering that goes on in Santa’s workshop. On this day our elf taught us that jingle bells are made of metal which a magnet is attracted to. One of my favorite things my kids said this day was, “Wow, I didn’t know jingle bells would stick to magnets!” It gave us a reason to explore what else magnets can stick to!

Elf 3D Model

Elves must have a lot of spatial skills to build all of the toys for Santa. Here is our elf showing us how to build 3D shapes with marshmallows and toothpicks! After we found our elf we promptly started trying to build the same structure shown here.

We have loved having our elf show us so many neat science experiments this Christmas! We hope your elf will bring a little easy science to show your kiddos too! It really is the most wonderful time of the year!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments, lovely conversations Tags: ,
Unique Gift Idea: An easy terrarium science ornament 

I have unintentionally started a new tradition at our house by making science related ornaments for the past three years. The kids have enjoyed making Borax crystal ornaments because they have an ‘overnight’ transformation that is really quite amazing. See our past ornaments here and here.

This year I was looking for an easy unique gift to give to science loving teachers, family, and friends. I ran across these mini terrarium bulbs and some Christmas-y succulents and voila! we have our easy science ornament for this year!

Here’s what you need:

  • These mini terrarium ornaments found here
  • small succulents
  • cactus, palm, & citrus potting mix
  • glass vase filler
  • small squirt bottle for watering
  • twine or ribbon

Here’s what you do:

  • Place a few glass vase fillers at bottom of ornament
  • Fill ornament with potting soil enough for succulents roots
  • Place succulent in potting soil
  • Add stones around the succulent for decoration
  • Spray with water once a day or as indicated by the succulent’s instructions
  • Add twine or ribbon to top of ornament

The best part of making terrariums is that they can be enjoyed long after Christmas is over. And my favorite part of this terrarium project was Allie said, “I can’t believe we made that!”

We hope you have a very Merry Christmas this year and enjoy this science ornament all year long!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments Tags: , ,