The time between Christmas and New Years can be filled with wonderful family memories - or it can be a time of kids sitting alone with their cell phone playing video games.
If you’re looking for something to do with your children, why not try these experiments with CO2? It can be both fun and a learning experience they will remember long after the holidays are over.
Diet Coke and Mentos
The eruption of bubbles caused by dropping Mentos candy into Diet Coke is twenty years old, but still fun for kids. What you may not know is that the gas released to create the geyser of soda bubbles is carbon dioxide. The secret of the reaction is the CO2 in the soda and the rough surface of the Mentos. Here’s an explanation.
Don’t have Mentos around? Try adding half a cup of baking soda to a liter bottle of diet or regular Coke and stand back! Make sure the Coke is room temperature for maximum effect, and make sure you do this outside to minimize the mess.
Make CO2 at home
You can make CO2 at home by adding 1 tablespoon of white vinegar and 1 heaping teaspoon of baking soda in a glass. This safe chemical reaction creates water and CO2.
In the video, the interesting effect is to “pour” CO2 gas and put out a candle. This shows that CO2 is heavier than air.
As an alternative, combine the white vinegar and baking soda into a clear “zip lock” freezer bag and seal it quickly. As they combine, the bag will grow as it fills with CO2 gas. Once the bag is full you can open a corner of the bag and “squeeze” the gas into a glass, then poor it over a candle for the same effect.
Experiment with a CO2 Meter
If you have a CO2 meter like this one, you can easily show your children how important plants are to human life. Humans breathe in oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide. Plants take in CO2 and give off oxygen. Both are invisible, odorless gases that are in the air. You can show this in 2 parts:
- Take your CO2 meter in a car (without the engine running), or create a tent in your house with a heavy blanket completely covering you and your child. In a few minutes you'll see the CO2 level on the meter rise. It is recording the amount of CO2 you are exhaling. In a hurry? Let them blow on it.
- Place one or more houseplants inside a see-through container or clear plastic bag (use the one from the dry cleaners) with your CO2 meter and put it in a place where it can get light but not too hot. The tighter the seal, the better this will work. Record the CO2 level immediately and throughout the day. The CO2 level inside the container will drop slowly during the daylight hours as the plants convert CO2 into oxygen. This can lead to a discussion about the importance of plants and trees to a healthy earth.