Our favorite way to learn during the summer is with STEM activities for kids. We’ve tried hundreds of projects, had a lot of fun, and learned a lot along the way.
This year, we wanted to try more patriotic activities for kids, which is how we came up for the idea to make patriotic paint bombs.
Patriotic Paint Bombs: A STEM Investigation
You can make this activity a STEM activity by adding variables! Calculate how long it takes a certain amount of baking soda to make the bag explode. If you don’t put enough in, the bag never explodes!
If you put too much in, the bag will expand too quickly and you won’t be able to close it in time either.
It’s a bit tricky, but it can be done and turns out to be lots of colorful red, white, and blue fun!
The Science Behind Patriotic Paint Bombs
Vinegar and baking soda create a chemical reaction when mixed. When acetic acid and sodium bicarbonate mix, it creates CO2, or carbon dioxide.
This expands the bags, which eventually explode, spraying paint everywhere.
This simple science experiment becomes a STEM investigation when you create variables (differing amounts of baking soda and vinegar) and ask questions (will adding paint make the bags less likely to explode?).
Visit Steve Spangler Science for detailed information on the chemistry of the explosion.
We found that you had to add more baking soda to get the bags to explode when paint was added to the vinegar.
In fact, our first attempt didn’t produce enough carbon dioxide to make the bags explode and we had to try again.
Follow the directions to create your own patriotic paint bombs!
- Zip lock baggies
- Baking soda (we purchased a huge container for this experiment)
- Washable paint in red, white, and blue
- Butcher paper
- Muffin liners
Pour about 1 cup of vinegar into three quart-sized zip baggies. Add about 2 tablespoons of paint to each bag and zip close.
Fill each muffin liner with baking soda. It takes about 2 tablespoons to fill up a muffin liner. Set the liners to the side.
Go outside and spread out some butcher paper onto the yard. The spray can go pretty far, so make sure you have a large area covered in paper.
Place the bags on the center of the paper. Open them slightly and place the muffin liner inside each bag.
We thought they would start to expand and explode immoderately, but there was plenty of time to set the muffin liners inside each bag and close it before major expansion began.
Give the bags a little shake to mix in the baking soda.
Step back and wait for the bags to explode. It took about a minute for our paint bombs to go off. The kids were fascinated by how messy this activity was and loved watching the paint splatter everywhere.