This simple experiment helps kids understand what fire needs to burn.
But more importantly it gives a very visual introduction to the idea of “gas” – it helps even pre-K kids understand that there is something in “thin air” even if we can’t see it.
The experiment builds on the “volcano” experiment that lots of kids will have done mixing vinegar and baking soda.
And shows them that the “volcano” actually produces a gas – carbon dioxide – that we can’t see but which puts out instantly a lighted match.
It can be a great introduction to gas based chemistry experiments and for talking about the role of oxygen and carbon dioxide within the plant cycle, pollution and global warming.
You can do this experiment with young kids but I recommend having 2 adults on duty!
BEFORE starting the experiment DO talk to your kids about the danger of fire and that they must never do experiments with fire without a grown up with them.
What You Need
- 11″ matches – I think these are a must to prevent burnt fingers & worse!
- 3 Pyrex beakers or jam jars
- Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda in the UK)
- White vinegar
What’s Going to Happen?
- Ask your kids what ways they know to put out a match or candle e.g blowing, water, putting a jar over the candle …
- Ask them if they think they can put out a match just by holding it over a jar
- Put a few tea spoons of baking soda in one of the jars
- Pour a few tablespoons of vinegar in the second jar
- Pour a few tablespoons of water in the third jar
- Light a match and hold the flame over the top of the water jar – nothing will happen
- Hold the match over vinegar jar and then baking soda jar – again nothing will happen
- Blow out your match
- Ask children to pour vinegar onto baking soda whilst you light another match – this is the bit where you really need 2 adults with small kids
- As the vinegar & baking soda froth hold your match over the top of the jar – it should instantly go out!
As your children may have already discovered from other experiments, fire needs air or rather oxygen to burn. Mixed together the acetic acid in the vinegar and the sodium bicarbonate in the baking soda produce the gas carbon dioxide in which the flame cannot burn.
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