Kitchen Chemistry

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Believe it or not, a very ordinary ingredient (red cabbage!) can actually serve as a litmus indicator, just like the fancy litmus paper in a school chemistry class. Today, Travis made a batch of this purple indicator solution and we tested a few liquids around the house.

To make the indicator, rip a head of red cabbage into shreds then cover with hot water in a bowl. Let stand for about 30 minutes. Strain through a sieve over a second bowl or measuring cup and you’ll have a bright purple liquid!

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We started out with two separate solutions: the first was about a teaspoon of citric acid in 1/4 cup water, and the second was a teaspoon of baking soda in 1/4 cup water. Imagine Travis’s surprise when an eye dropper of the purple indicator solution turned the citric acid pink and the baking soda blue!

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He immediately wanted to test other liquids. We tried water next, and he discovered that the indicator stayed exactly the same purple. I pointed out to him why this is so on the pH scale, with water “neutral” in the middle.

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Vinegar turned his indicator very pink and soy milk turned it bluish, although this was a bit hard to see.

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As a final test, he wanted to try apple juice, which turned a deep pinkish orange as well.

Note: We later learned that you can repeat this experiment with other fruits and vegetables, including onion, blueberries, cherries, and beets.

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Unfortunately, despite soaking these four foods in hot water just like the cabbage, we weren’t able to change the color of vinegar. Your kids can have fun testing this out, and please share any fun findings in the comments!

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DVD Case Towers

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I had an hour long Zoom this morning and needed a quick way to occupy Veronika. That meant I also needed a material that wouldn’t make a mess. Looking quickly around the room, I pulled out all our old DVD cases!

I had forgotten how much my son loved to play with these cases as a toddler, but we almost never think of them anymore (thanks, streaming TV). There are lots of ways toddlers can play with them! Opening and closing the cases is great for fine motor skills, and no doubt the shiny discs inside will capture attention.

But Veronika’s favorite way to play was to build towers. First I showed her that if she opened up the cases, they stood up on a more stable base and she could build the tower quite tall.

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This was admittedly tricky for her though, and she mostly loved knocking down the towers. The higher I made them, the bigger her delight!

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Much easier for her was stacking them lying one atop another. She delighted in seeing how tall she could make this stack grow by herself.

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Probably it would have reached her shoulders, but inevitably the temptation to push the stack over was too strong.

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Then she turned the DVD cases into slides for her toys!

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How does your toddler play with DVD cases (or other old media equipment)? Please share in the comments!

Valentine’s Day Soapy Sensory Foam

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Soapy sensory foam is an idea we first found at Hands on As We Grow when Travis was a toddler, and it’s one of those easy activities you can return to over and over. You can switch it up for just about any holiday simply by adding that season’s colors with food coloring. To wit, today Veronika and I turned the foam pink!

I added about 2 tablespoons of water and a squirt of dish soap to a blender, along with a few drops of red food coloring. Run the blender for just a moment and you’ll get a thick foam that’s ready for play!

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I spooned the mixture onto a tray for Veronika and set out kitchen utensils such as a whisk, spoon, and a few measuring cups. Let the soapy, foamy bakery begin!

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Veronika told me that she was adding cups of “flour” very seriously as she scooped the foam into a loaf pan.

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She also loved using one measuring cup to fill another.

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The whisk was great for stirring it around!

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This activity kept her busy for quite a while. And while it looks like messy play, don’t forget that you literally just have soap in all those containers. It rinses off in a moment and everything is sparkly clean.