As much as kids love holidays, part of the puzzle is figuring out how to keep them occupied in a productive way. This is the perfect time to enjoy some good, clean, hands-on fun with a completely safe chemical reaction. Baking soda and vinegar create a reaction with which we are all familiar. But the beauty of these experiments is the many lessons of science and chemistry they contain.

So why do vinegar and baking soda react?

Vinegar is an acetic and baking soda is a bicarbonate. When an acetic and a bicarbonate come together, they react and form carbon dioxide gas. When it’s all done fizzing, the transformation is complete. What’s left behind is water and sodium acetate. Fun fact: Sodium acetate is used as salt and vinegar flavouring in potato chips, and has several other industrial uses.

Experiment #1: Volcanic flow

Of course, we wouldn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to incorporate a design that includes LEGO Bricks. Here’s a LEGO twist on the classic volcano science project, thanks to this experiment designed by Little Bins for Little Hands. What we like about this project is it offers plenty of opportunity for a budding engineer to play with the volcano design to better make that gush of foam flow and tumble over the LEGO “rocks.” It’s also fun and easy to modify the solution. What happens if you heat up or chill the vinegar? What happens when dish soap is added? How much food colouring do you need to make it look fiery orange?

Experiment #2: Passive inflation

Once you’re done playing with the flow, now it’s time to call attention to the carbon dioxide the reaction releases. Simply set up the reaction in an empty soda bottle and fit a balloon over the bottle’s mouth and watch it fill with air!

Experiment #3: Blast off!

Here’s a variation of the balloon experiment, except more kinetic, as a pop bottle rocket blasts off from the patio table! Seriously, take this outdoors. And be sure the person setting it up has fast hands and that everyone moves out of the way. When the reaction kicks in, the rocket has real lift-off! The blast helps kids see firsthand how a great amount of energy can be found and released from two seemingly inert substances coming together.

Experiment #4: Frosty response

On hot days, set up the kids with baking soda ice cubes that they can dissolve in small containers of vinegar. To make it more fun, add a few drops of food colouring to each cube mixture before freezing to play with colour transformation. (And who says coloured eggs are for Easter? Drop in some hard-boiled eggs and make your picnic more colourful.)

Take advantage of those long summer days and your child’s curiosity by creating some enticing and enriching projects.