Preschool STEAM (for children ages 2-6) is all about having fun with science, math and art!  There is no right or wrong way for children to experiment – the fun and learning comes from the doing!  Early childhood research shows us that little hands and minds learn best when at play.  For our January STEAM adventure, we focused on chemistry.

The Question

What happens when you combine baking soda, vinegar and liquid watercolors?  We wondered…would there be a chemical reaction?  Read further to find out!


Credit:  Happy Hooligans

Baking Soda


Liquid watercolors

Plastic droppers

Dixie Cups

Aluminum trays 

Plastic spray bottle

The Process

  • We began by passing out aluminum trays layered with baking soda to each child.
  • We then poured liquid watercolors into 5 Dixie cups (5 different colors – one color per Dixie cup) and placed plastic droppers on each table.
  • Each family received a tray with the five different watercolors and a plastic spray bottle pre-filled with vinegar.

Then the fun began!


We instructed everyone to fill their plastic droppers with the liquid watercolors and squeeze drops of color onto the layer of baking soda.  Once everyone had their color dots they sprayed them to see what would happen and VOILA!  There was a chemical reaction!  The dots bubbled and fizzed creating a reaction you could see and hear!

The Science

What happens when you mix vinegar with baking soda? There’s a lot of bubbling and foaming! The bubbles and foam you see are filled with carbon dioxide gas (co2) that’s being released by an acid/base reaction. Vinegar is acetic acid dissolved in water and baking soda is a base called sodium bicarbonate. Initially, the reaction makes carbonic acid which is unstable. It quickly breaks down into CO2 and water. The gas then rapidly leaves the water creating foam & bubbles.

Credit:  Steve Spangler Science

After creating some chemical reactions, the children explored the materials in different ways.  Some realized that spraying too much vinegar into the baking soda/liquid watercolor mixture created a watery mess.  By adding more baking soda to this watery mixture, the children watched it become thicker and more like dough.  Some experimented with creating an art piece with the colors as they watched patterns and textures change when they added more water or baking soda or both.  Some were content to explore how everything felt – one boy put his feet into his watery experiment, another was fascinated with the dough-like consistency of his creation and even asked for more baking soda to create a crumbly mixture he could squeeze between his fingers.


Another byproduct of our chemistry experiment?  Great art!

Budding Scientists at Work

Join us for our next Preschool STEAM program on February 26 from 10:30-11:30 a.m.  Location:  Studio on 4th @ Central Library.