Hands-on Experiments to Teach Kids about Chemical Reactions

What are chemical reactions?

Chemical reactions refer to a process in which one or more chemical substances are changed into one or more other chemical substances which have unique physical and chemical properties of their own. It is important to note that chemical reactions cause changes in the physical and chemical characteristics of the substances involved. Our experiments will focus on illustrating four main types of chemical reactions, that is; synthesis, decomposition, single replacement and double replacement chemical reactions.

How Is This Even Possible?

You might be wondering whether it is possible for kids to learn chemical reactions and still have fun while at it. Well, everything is quite possible under the sun. It is possible to involve kids in hands-on fun activities that will get them thinking deeply about basic chemistry principals regarding chemical reactions. In order for this to be done successfully, it is highly recommended all activities should be done under the supervision of an adult and that all safety precautions must be in place before carrying out any experiments.

What Is The Cost of Carrying Out the Experiments?

The beauty of these experiments is that most of their ingredients are readily available in most of the households. In addition to that, these experiments don’t require you to necessarily have special equipment or a specialization in chemistry to make them work.

What Else Do I Need To Know?

Observation is key in these experiments. Learners should be encouraged to draw conclusions from what they observe and note them down. Some of the observable signs that a chemical reaction has occurred include: appearance of metallic deposits, changes in temperature, light emission, odor changes, formation of bubbles, color changes and formation of a precipitate.

Synthesis Chemical Reaction Experiment

This experiment shows how two or more simple substances combine to form a more complex substance. Two or more substances will react to form one end product.

Materials needed:

  • Warm water
  • 2 teaspoons of borax
  • 1 cup of glue
  • A large bowl
  • 1 cup
  • 1 spoon

How It’s Done:

Step 1: Have the kids partner up in twos

Step 2: Place a ½ cup of warm water into the cup and stir in the 2 tsp of borax to make a borax             solution.

Step 3: Instruct the kids to pour ¾ of warm water and the glue into the bowl and stir them                      together.

Step 4: Have one kid stir the bowl mixture while the other slowly pours in the borax solution.

Step 5: Let them keep stirring until a solid forms.

Step 6: Ask for their observations and draw conclusions.

Decomposition Chemical Reaction Experiment

In this experiment, you will be seeking to illustrate how a more complex substance breaks down into its more simple parts. That is to say, one substance is broken into two or more substances.

Materials Needed:

  • ½ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution
  • A packet of active yeast
  • An empty plastic bottle
  • ¼ cup liquid soap
  • ¼ cup of warm water
  • Food coloring (optional)

How it’s Done:

Step 1: Pour ½ cup of 3% hydrogen peroxide solution, ¼ cup of liquid soap into the bottle and                  swirl it to mix (it is optional to add a few drops of food coloring into the mixture to              make it more exiting)

Step 2: In the cup, have the kids mix the water with a packet of active yeast for about five                       minutes.

Step 3: Have them pour the yeast mixture into the bottle and then stand back to see what                       happens.

Step 4: Ask for their observations and draw conclusions.

Single Replacement Chemical Reaction Experiment

This experiment will try to illustrate how a single uncombined element replaces another in a compound.

Materials needed:

  • Dilute hydrochloric acid, 1 M.
  • Dilute sulphuric acid, 0.5 M.
  • Granules, coarse filings, or foil pieces of zinc, magnesium and iron.
  • Six test-tubes.
  • Test-tube rack.
  • Wood splint.
  • Label stickers.

How it’s Done:

Step 1: Place six test-tubes on the test-tube rack.

Step 2: Add about 3cm depth of dilute hydrochloric acid to the first three tubes, and an equal                 depth of dilute sulphuric acid to the remaining three tubes.

Step 3: Label the test-tubes with each of the metal names appearing on the tubes with                            hydrochloric acid and those with sulphuric acid.

Step 4: Ask the kids to gradually add a piece of a different metal to each of the tubes with                       hydrochloric acid and then do the same to each of the tubes with sulphuric acid in them.

Step 5: Let them set the wood splint on fire and hold it over the opening of the test-tubes each               time a metal is added to the test-tube.

Step 6: Ask for their observations and draw conclusions.

Double Replacement Chemical Reaction Experiment

This experiment will seek to show how the anions and cations of two compounds switch places and form two entirely different compounds.

Materials needed:

  • 4 Tablespoons of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
  • Vinegar  
  • Washing detergent
  • Plain baking flour
  • Hot tap water
  • 2 tablespoons cooking oil
  • A big dish
  • An empty plastic bottle
  • A  3 inch high cardboard box
  • Food coloring

How it’s done:

Step 1: Ask the kids to mix together one part of plain flour to two parts of water, and 2                           tablespoons of cooking oil on the bowl to make dough. The size of the dough will                          depend on the size of the bottle. If you like, you can add a few drops of food coloring to                     the dough to give it a            volcano feel

Step 2: Let them fill ¾ of the empty drink bottle with hot tap water.

Step 3: Have the kids add a squirt of dishwashing detergent and 4 tablespoons of baking soda. If                        desired, you can add a few drops of food coloring.

Step 4: Ask the kids to place your plastic bottle in the centre of your cardboard box.

Step 5: instruct the kids to press the dough around the bottle and shape it to look like a volcano             and leave the       bottle   opening open.

Step 6: Let them pour some vinegar into the bottle to trigger the reaction as many times as                   possible.

Step 7: Ask for their observations and draw conclusions.