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: , , ,
New Year Science Noise Makers

Can you believe it is almost 2018? Are you looking for a way to help the kids ring in the New Year long before midnight? Why not raid your craft supplies, make your own noisemakers, and learn a bit of science in the process?

We made two different noise makers as twirling the “buzzing bee” required hand eye coordination that my 4 year old doesn’t have yet… but blowing on a harmonica was right up his alley!

The First Noise Maker: The “Buzzing Bee”

What you need: one index card, tape, one craft stick, a wide rubber band, a piece of sticky backed foam (I used a foam letter “I”), 36″ string, and New Year stickers.

How to do it:

The Second Noise Maker: The DIY Harmonica

What you need: two craft sticks, a rubber band, an index card, and a toothpick

How you do it: (Important note: The toothpick should be underneath the paper strip on one side of the craft stick and on top of the paper strip on the opposite end of the craft stick.)

What’s the science?

In each noise maker the sound is coming from a vibration.  For the “Buzzing Bee” noisemaker the sound is from the vibration of the rubber band as the air passes over it.  The DIY Harmonica sound comes from the paper strip vibrating as you blow air over it.

Now this is the kind of noise that I could get used to… the sounds of science! Happy 2018! I hope you and your family have a fun one together!

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments, how to videos Tags: ,
A Thankgiving Science Bucket List

Thanksgiving break is upon us and my kids will be out of school all week next week. In between trips to grandparents house, football games, turkey meals and being stuffed why not throw in a bit of fun science to entertain the family?

turkeybombHow many times have you said you’ve eaten so much turkey you are going to pop? This year pop a turkey instead! pineconepic

My kids will be playing outside a lot during this break. Have them collect a few pine cones and try out this experiment. Let them dry and paint them for a beautiful fall craft!

This one is just plain fun. Before you chunk the Halloween pumpkins to make room for Christmas decorations, make a hypothesis (an educated guess), then chunk that leftover pumpkin into some water to see if it will sink or float.  Did you guess right?

pumpkinpicmonkeyOnce you’ve seen if the pumpkins can float… try burying it in your garden. Chances are by the time the kids go back to school in a week a sprout will have formed. Who knew you could grow a pumpkin in a pumpkin?

Are you like my family and still have Halloween candy in the house?  Ok, truth be told by this time last year I had eaten all the left over candy… But this year why not try a bit of science?  Amaze the kids – then chunk the results!  Easy, entertaining, and future cavities averted…


Will you be waiting in restaurants with the kiddos during the break?  Bring along a string and pass the time by fishing for ice. Trust me… this one will entertain until the food comes out! 

(Photo Credit: Live Science)

And if you are still looking for interesting dinner table entertainment…Did you know turkey’s are related to T.Rex?! Who knew!  Check it out here on Live Science.

We have so much to be thankful for this year. I hope that you and your family enjoy Thanksgiving together because isn’t that what this time of year is all about?

Categories: 3 ingredient experiments, 5 minute experiments Tags: ,