Baking Powder vs. Baking Soda

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Today Travis and I made potions!

The impetus for this little experiment came from Raddish Kid’s lesson plan attached to our Hot Cocoa Cupcakes. Kids can delve further into the world of leaveners and what makes baked goods rise. I knew some of the science was too advanced for Travis, but I culled out bits of the lesson that were appropriate to a preschooler.

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First, I set out a dish of baking soda and baking powder, and invited Travis to explore them. We ran through the five senses: touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound. Could we hear the powders? We giggled at that, then moved on to the others.

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He noticed that the baking soda was smoother and finer than the baking powder, although they felt similar. He declined the offer to taste, but in this case, it’s perfectly safe to do so!

A quick science lesson followed: baking soda is basically ground up rock, and it’s a base, which means it needs an acid to react.

Baking powder contains a base and two acids, and it will react in a recipe two times. Travis liked this idea, and that it means fluffier pancakes or cupcakes.

To start out experiment, I put out two test tubes of water. We added baking soda to one and baking powder to the other. Aha, only the baking powder reacted, so water was not an acid!

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Now we tested each in four other liquids: vinegar, liquid soap, rubbing alcohol, and juice. The baking soda only reacted in the vinegar and juice – we found our two acids!

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Baking powder, on the other hand, reacted in everything. That said, none of baking powder’s reactions were quite as spectacular as the classic baking soda/vinegar pairing.

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Travis’s favorite? Baking soda in the vinegar of course; we had to do that a few times. The juice was quite fun too, bubbling up wildly to the top of the test tube.

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In sum,this is a neat way for your kids to understand why baked goods are rising in the oven; you can really see that bubbling and rising action at work.

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Another oldie but goodie? Show your kids that you can blow up a balloon with yeast! This is something Travis and I did when exploring the letter Y, back when he was only 2 years old, but it never grows old!

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