Color Mixing Explosion Sensory Play

There was a lot of color mixing in the bin.

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.

Experiment with cause and effect with explosions! Keep it safe by using vinegar and baking soda. Bring in color mixing by dying the vinegar first. So much fun!

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.

Bought plastic graduated cylinders and beakers online through Amazon.
Bought plastic graduated cylinders and beakers online through Amazon.

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 took a piece of paper and created all three primary colors across the paper.
I took a piece of paper and created all three primary colors across the paper.
I cut each color strip out.
I cut each color strip out.
Then taped over the front.
Then taped over the front.
Then taped it across the emptied laundry detergent jug right above the spout.
Then taped it across the emptied laundry detergent jug right above the spout.
Then taped the next two colors too so I had one for each primary color.
Then taped the next two colors too so I had one for each primary color.

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!

Created a sign with Ada's input to help describe the station. Ada wanted me to include "go friends go".
Created a sign with Ada’s input to help describe the station. 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.

I dropped food dye in the jug before adding vinegar to fill up the jug before adding the lid on.
I dropped food dye in the jug before adding vinegar to fill up the jug before adding the lid on.

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 was worried the kids would open the jugs so I taped along the edge.
I was worried the kids would open the jugs so I taped along the edge.
And then taped over the top and the sides.
And then taped over the top and the sides.
Before pressing the tape down so it was tight.
Before pressing the tape down so it was tight.
Taped nicely down and hopefully secure enough for tomorrow.
Taped nicely down and hopefully secure enough for tomorrow.

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.


Morning Of

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.

Before the birthday party I moved the jugs over to their spot and taped up the sign above it.
Before the birthday party I moved the jugs over to their spot and taped up the sign above it.
And then laid out a bin to catch the vinegar with baking soda on one side and all the plastic mixing supplies on the other side.
And then laid out a bin to catch the vinegar with baking soda on one side and all the plastic mixing supplies on the other side.
Of course the red jug started leaking so I dropped some baking soda on top to make sure it worked.
Of course the red jug started leaking so I dropped some baking soda on top to make sure it worked.

Party Time

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.

There was a lot of color mixing in the bin.
There was a lot of color mixing in the bin.
Surprisingly not as much mixing in the bowl as I half expected.
Surprisingly not as much mixing in the bowl as I half expected.

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.

Rubber boots make for good protection when you want up close access to the dye pool.
Rubber boots make for good protection when you want up close access to the dye pool.
Dinosaurs and bowls joined the mix.
Dinosaurs and bowls joined the mix.
You can test how acidic the mixture is by sprinkling more baking soda in too.
You can test how acidic the mixture is by sprinkling more baking soda in too.
Though from the front you can see all the excess baking soda at the bottom.
Though from the front you can see all the excess baking soda at the bottom.
Just a heads up it may dye your feet until bath time or two if you go into the dye with bare feet. Though I didn't notice any obvious dyed clothing but they did wear darker clothing looking back,
Just a heads up it may dye your feet until bath time or two if you go into the dye with bare feet. Though I didn’t notice any obvious dyed clothing but they did wear darker clothing looking back,

Clean up

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.

Brought out a bin of soapy water for the kids to start the cleanup.
Brought out a bin of soapy water for the kids to start the cleanup.
Though Ada got distracted by the test tube brush.
Though Ada got distracted by the test tube brush.
And Zoey was happier washing the cleaner part of the concrete.
And Zoey was happier washing the cleaner part of the concrete.

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!

Kyra

My name is Kyra and I’m a computer programmer that decided to stay at home with my two beautiful daughters: Ada and Zoey. I created this website to share with you anything I come across in my day to day life that I think you may enjoy.

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2 Responses

  1. March 27, 2019

    […] the party some of the vinegar mixture from our explosions station made it’s way over but the oobleck was still easy to use. I noticed that even sitting in the […]

  2. May 8, 2019

    […] would extend our science color-mixing theme from the party. During the party they had been able to mix colored vinegar and baking soda to make explosions and checked out frozen oobleck and attempted to mix colors there too so this was a natural […]

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