Friday, September 18, 2020

Drop a Warhead in baking soda water, and bubbles erupt. Leave a Skittle in water, and the S floats to the surface. Melt a Starburst, and shiny oil spots form. You're doing candy experiments--science experiments with candy.

Melt Halloween candy. Dissolve Valentine hearts. Float Easter Peeps. Or let your kids create their own candy science experiments.

Candy experiments. All candy. All science. All fun.

As seen in Family Fun, Parents, Mothering Magazine, Highlights, the Chicago Tribune, ParentMap, Miami Family, and The Red Tricycle

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Science Fair Experiments

When I signed books at the King's English in Salt Lake City, parents from a homeschool group told me that they had a science fair coming up, and that their children were excited to try candy experiments for it. Their excitement reminded me that, since it's science fair time, lots of families are looking for science fair ideas. Here are some ideas for elementary school candy experiment science projects based on experiments from my website and from my new book. Enjoy, and let me know if you have ideas of your own--with 70 candy experiments in my new book, the possibilities are endless!

For each experiment, think of a question to answer, then do your own research to see what answers you get. Remember to control the variables in your experiment: for instance, if you try chromatography in different liquids, don't change anything else like the size of the filter paper or the temperature of the liquid. Some project guidelines might ask you to form a hypothesis at the beginning of your project, meaning a prediction as to how it will turn out.

Lifesaver Lights
Life Savers flash when you crush them because they contain sugar and wintergreen oil. Can you find other candies that make flashes of light? Which work the best?
What crushing method makes the best sparks for the Life Savers experiment? Chewing, crushing with pliers, smashing in a mortar and pestle, or something else?

The Incredible Growing Gummi Worm
Gummi candies that contains gelatin, such as gummi worms or most fruit snacks, swell up and absorb water. Which kind of gummi candy absorbs the most water? If you try this one, weigh each test piece of candy before you put it in water, then weigh it again after it has swelled to maximum size, about 2 days later. (Warning: by then the gummi candies are pretty fragile--you have to handle them carefully to make sure they don't break.)

The Mentos Geyser
As popularized by Steve Spangler, dropping Mentos into a bottle of Diet Coke produces a sky-high fountain of soda. But why?

Invite your at-home scientist to investigate which kind of candy makes the best soda fountain and why. First, examine each kind of candy and compare differences. Then drop each sample into a cup of Diet Coke and compare the bubbles. Children should soon be able to see that the surface of the candy makes a big difference in the amount of bubbles you get.
Test different kinds of soda to see which works best for the experiment. Have your children formulate a hypothesis about which soda will fountain the highest, then drop the same number of Mentos in each to test the hypothesis. Which sodas work the best? What ingredients do they have in common?

Acid Test
Sour candy contains acid. Which kind of candy is the most acidic? Make sure that you use the same method testing for all the candies: each sample should be dissolved in the same amount of water, such as 1/4 cup; the water should all be the same temperature (preferably warm); each sample should be tested after a set amount of time or allowed to dissolve completely.. If you use baking soda to see how much acid is in each candy, you'll have to use the same amount of baking soda for each test (1/4 tsp or less), and have a good way to measure which reaction is the biggest (you may want to video each test so you can compare the results again later). Ph test strips would be a more accurate way to measure the acidity.

To see how two dentists tested candy acidity, check out this article from the UAB School of Dentistry.

Color Separation (Chromatography)
Candy colors are formed by a mixture of dyes. So are the colors in many other things, including ballpoint pens and markers. Which kind of candy has the most dyes mixed together? If you test candies and markers that are the same color, do you get the same color separation? Do you get different results if you stand the chromatography paper in different liquids, such as salt water or alcohol?

Find Hidden Candy
You'll find "hidden candy," or sugar, in almost everything these days. Which kind of children's drink, or snack, or cereal, has the most or the least sugar? Does fruit juice or soda pop have more sugar? Does the cereal with the most sugar taste the best? (You'd have to ask volunteers to do taste-tests for that one.)

For more guidelines to good science fair projects, check out these websites:
-Successful Science Fair Projects by Lynn Bleeker
-Science Buddies project guide This website also has ideas and instructions for a variety of projects.
-"What Makes a Good Science Project?" by Bill Robertson

Monday, March 9, 2015

The other way to open Fizzy Soda Candy

When you're trying to experiment with A WHOLE LOT of Fizzy Soda Candy, and you don't want to have to shake every single piece out of the tiny opening in the lid, you have to be creative. I attacked the plastic container with scissors, clippers, a screwdriver, a hammer, and nearly mangling my fingers, and finally learned to just pop off the bottom of the can. Piece of cake--or candy!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

School Library Journal Review!

Candy Experiments 2 got reviewed in the School Library Journal, with some very positive feedback! To quote:

"With more than 60 experiments, this sweet sequel to 2013’s highly entertaining and educational Candy Experiments (Andrew McMeel) is packed with sugar-coated activities that introduce young scientists to the chemistry behind some of their favorite confections....There’s little question that readers will be engaged; the colorful and appealing design and layout, as well as the close-up shots of candy shards, are definite eye-candy." (Jan 2015)

The reviewer did notice one minor detail: in my experiment Instant Crystallization, the units switch from standard to metric. Actually, there was a good reason for us to use metric system here. For that experiment, my husband calculated the amount of xylitol and water we would need to make a supersaturated solution, one so saturated that the xylitol started crystalizing instantly when the solution was disturbed. The optimal ratio--22 grams of xylitol stirred into 4 grams of water--was more precise than I could explain with teaspoons and tablespoons, so I used grams as the main measurement. Good catch, reviewer Audrey Sumser!

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Chocolate Covered Strawberries

Last week my husband brought me a fun surprise: hand-dipped chocolate strawberries. Yum! Now two favorite blogs have posted recipes. One fun reminder from Biting the Hand that Feeds you: since you eat the strawberries so quickly, it doesn't matter if the chocolate blooms! That means you don't need to worry so much about the tricky tempering process--just melt the chocolate and dip.

CHOCOLATE-COVERED STRAWBERRIES at Pacific Science Center Wellbody Blog

Happy Chocolate-Dipped Valentine's Day with Driscolls! at Biting the Hand that Feeds You

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Foaming Snowman

We don't have much snow up on the mountains yet here in Washington (my daughter's ski school has cancelled 4 times in a row). So it's a great time to build snowmen with Asia Citro's Foaming Dough recipe, from her blog Fun at Home with Kids, and from her book 150+ Screen-Free Activities for Kids. Made with baking soda, this dough dissolves in vinegar for a great acid-base reaction demonstration.

Here's our snowman:

And here's his sad demise!

You can find the full recipe for the dough at the Magic Foaming Snowman blog post
on Fun at Home with Kids. Enjoy!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Be a (Candy) Changemaker

I've known author Laurie Thompson for years, and I'm happy to say that her new book for teens, Be a Changemaker: How to Start Something That Matters has a candy game! Here's how you can use candy for a get-to-know-you team event*:

1) Use any item that has lots of pieces and is inexpensive, like candies, chocolate chips, or pennies. Pass it around the group.
2) Tell your team members only "Take as much as you think you will need." Don't tell them what it's for!
3) After the participants have taken their items, tell them that for each piece they took, they must share something about themselves with the team.
If you wish, you can assign categories for different colored items: yellow might mean people have to share something personal about themselves, red might mean they share why they joined the team; green might mean they share something they're good at.

I thought this book would be very useful for a teen wanting to make a difference in the world, whether it's through fundraising, forming an organization to teach Ultimate Frisbee to kids in the Phillipines, doing outreach, raising awareness of an issue like domestic violence, or something else. Laurie includes the basic steps for any effort, including forming a group, finding mentors, creating a mission statement and focusing on a plan, writing and following a budget, making money, doing PR, and more. These kinds of things are also useful for grownups wanting to start a business or try a new venture. As a mom writing about science and trying to raise awareness of nutritional issues, I found a lot of good information that I'll be able to use myself.

*Paraphrased from Be a Changemaker by Laurie Thompson, pg 72