Color Mixing Explosion Sensory Play
For Ada’s science themed birthday party I wanted to include fun sensory activities that fit the science theme but was a blast for kids aged one to four. Baking soda and vinegar explosions seemed a great idea, so I took it to the next level by mixing food dye with the vinegar for the science and art of color mixing.
Set up ahead of time
After deciding, and confirming with Ada, I went online and bought clear plastic graduated cylinders through DEPEPE on Amazon. I grabbed some wooden popsicle sticks and small pipettes I had on hand to let the kids mix the vinegar and baking soda. I had saved old laundry detergent jugs so I made sure I still had three with lids to hold the vinegar. I later added a large bin to catch the vinegar, a plastic bowl from the kitchen for the baking soda, and then made sure I bought enough vinegar and baking soda to not run out the day of the party.
A couple days before the birthday party I set up the laundry detergent jugs by adding labels so the kids would know which color of vinegar was in each jug. I took a piece of white paper, scribbled a rectangle with the correct color, cut them out, and then used packing tape to attach them to their jugs.
I also took more white paper and created a sign for the station to confirm what you can do. Ada wanted me to include “go friends go!
The Night Before
The night before the birthday party I wanted to get as much ready as possible. For each jug I dropped some of the corresponding food dye inside before filling the rest of the jug up with vinegar. I figured if I added the dye first the addition of the vinegar would mix the color evenly throughout the jug. Before the vinegar completely filled the jug I checked to make sure the color was strong enough in case I needed to add more food dye.
For the food dye itself I just used the normal water based dye you can get in your grocery store… though I’ve since bought large bottles of the McCormick dye on Amazon so I wouldn’t have to worry about running out or always going through the same colors in the smaller four-pack. I used this in my previous playdough creation post too. I found the vinegar was cheapest if I bought the larger two-pack from Costco but I didn’t shop around too much so you might find it cheaper elsewhere.
For the last year or so every time I filled these jugs with water and/or soap Ada would cut to the chase and unscrew the lid to dump it all out at once instead of using the nozzle at the bottom. I had visions of dyed vinegar being dumped so decided to add packing tape to the lid to better seal it and make it harder to unscrew. I started by putting a piece of tape around the groove to seal the lid itself. I then took a wider piece of packing tape and laid it over the lid and down either side. I then repeated this wider tape with it turned 90 degrees turned and then used my hand to press it all down to make they were fully sealed. Even then one of my colors ended up leaking a bit the next morning but I had the bin to catch the leaks and didn’t have to worry about it being stealthily opened.
I then laid the jugs just right outside the patio door along with the other equipemt so they’d be ready to set up the next day.
The morning of the birthday party I went outside to do the final setup. I taped up the sign above where the station was located, put the jugs of colored vinegar on our raised garden ledge, and placed a plastic storage bin under the jugs to catch the vinegar. I took a plastic bowl from our kitchen and dumped the baking soda into it with a spoon for dishing. I laid out the graduated cylinders, beakers, extra plastic test tubes, wooden popsicle sticks, and plastic pipettes so the kids would have something to concoct their mixtures in.
And then the birthday party started and the fun was had. The younger kids needed help getting the vinegar out of the jugs but overall much fun was had.
After the Party
And after the birthday party we went back out for more fun… and to use any remaining baking soda and vinegar. When it’s just the two kids and you’re tired you don’t care if they go in the vinegar mixture or bring dinosaurs to get ‘washed’ in the vinegar.
The next day, to help with the cleanup, I brought out a bin of soapy water. I tried to throw all the science equipment I could find on the deck into the soapy water right away so it could soak in the water. Since the dinosaurs and vehicles had also had fun they were carried over to wash. At first Ada was excited about washing especially when I showed her the graduated cylinder brush but she quickly got distracted while Zoey had more fun cleaning small swatches of the cement with a handheld broom.
Even though they were focused on their own thing I still liked how we cleaned together even though we had different focuses. That also meant at Zoey’s nap time later Ada and I could fully enjoy doing our own thing instead of worrying about the deck.
Overall the party was a blast and I’m so glad I included this station. I could see the baking soda and vinegar being fun on it’s own if you didn’t want to include food dye though, especially for older kids, I could see mixing your perfect color in the graduated cylinder and then pouring it over a beaker of baking soda. If you want to set up smaller stations and/or it’s too cold to do it outside you could set it up inside at the table with bowls, spoons, and pipettes. If you’re doing this with just your kids and you’re worried about the mess you can set up in the bathtub with play clothing you don’t mind getting dirty.
My only con about this was the smell of vinegar especially after a day or two. I ended up dumping the excess vinegar into our play garden (no plants other than weeds) instead of trying to cart it through the apartment without spilling the dye to dump out.
I hope this helps you. I’d love to hear if you set up this station, how you changed it to make it your own, and what you’d change next time. I love how this can be easily simplified or made more complicated based on the age of the party-goings and the party theme. Feel free to share in the comments below, on my Facebook page, or through Instagram. Hope you have a great time creating!