At-home Montessori kids science DIY project to create a foamy fun experiment with the Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste activity to advance STEM education and learn chemistry hands-on.
Create a foaming reaction and wow your little one with this classic science experiment! Besides, with just a few ingredients, this cool STEM activity will look like a toothpaste being squeezed from a tube! However, it is so big that the toothpaste must be for an elephant! And the day is always brighter with all the colors! So, turn your STEM into a Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste Montessori Kids Science Experiment!
- PREP TIME: 10 minutes
- TOTAL PROJECT TIME: 10 minutes
- KEY CONCEPTS: Chemical reactions
- AGE 5 YR+ ~ read safety precautions
YOU’LL NEED for Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste STEM
- large tub or tray to catch the foam, or outdoor location to do the experiment
- 6 small glasses (you can always do this experiment with just 1 container)
- 1/2 cup 20-volume hydrogen peroxide liquid (20-volume is a 6% solution)
- 1 tablespoon (one packet) of dry yeast
- 3 tablespoons of warm water
- liquid dishwashing soap
- food coloring
- safety goggles
At-Home Montessori Kids Science Prep Work
- Wear safety glasses to do this experiment, since hydrogen peroxide can irritate your eyes.
- The elephant toothpaste will bubble up out of the glasses and the foam will overflow. So, do the experiment in a washable tray or tub (or outside) so it is easy to clean up all the foam.
The higher the concentration of hydrogen peroxide, the more vigorous the foamy reaction will be.
Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste STEM INSTRUCTION
- Hydrogen peroxide can irritate skin and eyes, so put on safety goggles and pour about 2 tablespoons of peroxide into each glass.
- To make Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste, add 2 drops of color to each glass.
- Then, add 2 squirts of liquid dish soap into each glass.
- Mix the solution well.
- In a separate measuring cup, combine warm water and yeast together and mix for about 30 seconds.
- Lastly, pour the yeast water mixture into each glass and watch the foaminess begin!
If you want to make your foam a single color, use a single bottle and add a few drops of a food coloring of your choice into the hydrogen peroxide. Then, mix. Also, if you wish to give your foam stripes like some toothpaste, use a larger plastic bottle and pour the drops of food coloring along the inside rim of the bottle’s mouth. Let them drip down the inside of the bottle, but do not mix.
Watch the Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste reaction go! What happens? How long does the foaming last? This kids science STEM experiment also creates an exothermic reaction, which means it creates not only foam but also heat! (If you touch the glasses, you will notice they are warm. Not enough to burn though!)
Science Mystery Revealed
This Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste STEM chemical reaction creates a lot of bubbles and foam. Foam is cool since each tiny foam bubble is filled with oxygen. However, what made the foam appear? When the hydrogen peroxide comes into contact with the yeast, it starts breaking down into water and oxygen. That is the yeast acts as a catalyst (a helper) to remove the oxygen from the hydrogen peroxide. (Oxygen is a gas and therefore wants to escape the liquid.) However, the dish soap traps the oxygen gas bubbles, forming a foam. Moreover, since the escape happens fast, it created a lot of bubbles.
The reaction will continue as long as there is some hydrogen peroxide and yeast left. Once one of the ingredients runs out, it stops making new foam. If you try the experiment without dish soap, the reaction will still make bubbles, but not foam.
The foam produced is just water, soap, and oxygen, (and the divine lingering smell of yeast), so you can clean it up with a sponge and pour any extra liquid left down the drain.
Montessori Kids Science Experiment Science Digging Deeper
The chemical formula for hydrogen peroxide is H2O2 which can be found in various concentrations, usually 3%, that you can buy at a pharmacy. Hydrogen peroxide kills bacteria, and it has been used as an antiseptic for about 200 years. Since hydrogen peroxide is relatively unstable when exposed to light, it is usually stored in dark brown containers since light decomposes hydrogen peroxide into oxygen (O2) and water (H2O) while generating heat. Generally, this reaction happens very slowly but, certain compounds, called catalysts, can make the decomposition happen faster. For example, yeast or sodium iodide can catalyze the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide. In yeast, an enzyme called catalase functions as the catalyst.
Catalase in living cells prevents oxidative damage by breaking up hydrogen reroxide, which can be harmful to the body.
Catalase is a common enzyme present in almost all organisms that are exposed to oxygen. Oxidative damage to cells or molecules in the body is caused by oxidative compounds. Such damage is a natural result of reactions happening inside cells. However, it creates by-products like hydrogen peroxide, which can be harmful to the body. The purpose of catalase is to protect living cells from oxidative damage by helping break up hydrogen peroxide into harmless water and oxygen.
Thus, if you mix hydrogen peroxide with catalase, the latter will immediately start decomposing the H2O2 into safe oxygen and water. Since oxygen is a gas, it escapes the liquid as bubbles. In combination with dish soap, it creates the famous elephant toothpaste foam!
For Further Montessori Kids Science Experiment Exploration
- Try this STEM experiment with various-shaped containers. Would the result be different if you use a bottle with a narrow or wide neck?
- With adult supervision, you can do this experiment with higher concentrations of hydrogen peroxide. The higher the concentration, the more vigorous the foamy reaction will be. Try it with 12% hydrogen peroxide. 30% is available from specialty Home / Science websites.
Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste STEM FAILS: either using lower than 6% concentration hydrogen peroxide or using old/expired yeast.
Rainbow Elephant Toothpaste STEM Safety warning
Additional safety precautions and adult supervision are required when working with higher than 3% concentrations of hydrogen peroxide.
- It is not safe to get higher concentration hydrogen peroxide on your skin, so you will need protective gloves.
- Make sure you wear eye protection such as science googles.
- The foam might shoot up (with peroxide 12% and higher concentration) so you will need to conduct this experiment outdoors and make sure to swiftly step aside after pouring the yeast.
- The resulting foam may still contain some unreacted hydrogen peroxide so use gloves when touching it.
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