Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Stacking Sugar Cubes to Make Candy Canes: Absorption and Dissolving Experiment

Candy canes are delicious and we sure to enjoy eating and exploring them.  I challenged the girls to make a candy cane out of sugar cubes (after all both are pretty sugary!).  Although we did not get the traditional candy cane crook shape we did have fun building a tower of alternating red and white sugar cubes.  This was also a fun way to introduce the term "absorption" and "dissolving".    The girls will probably say that the best part was the taste test!

We started out with Little Bear and Bug each putting a few drops of food coloring in a plate and then pouring in less than a quarter cup of water.   We used red food coloring as the girls picked the traditional red and white candy canes to mimic for the experiment/challenge.

We started by exploring what would happen if we put a sugar cube into the red water.   WHOA!  The sugar cube turned red.  It was fast!!!  We were all surprised at the speed.  This was such a fun way to show the girls that the sugar cube absorbed the red water.  

After dropping a few more sugar cubes into the water and watching them turn red the girls were challenged to start the white stripe of the candy cane.  They put a white cube on top of the red one and well... it turned red too - even if it was not touching the water.  It absorbed the water but was a little slower.  We put a third cube on top and it absorbed the red water too - but much slower.

We also started noticing that some of cubes from earlier started to disappear. They were getting smaller and getting cracks in them.  You could see sugar granules in the water around them.  They were starting to be dissolved in the water.

So we added a few new cubes and then thought about what we could do to make the different color layers.  What if we put something very solid between them - something like a piece of tinfoil.   Eureka!  That worked.  The white cube on top did not turn red.   We had put a barrier that the water could not cross between them and that stopped the white cube from absorbing the water.  

If we put another red cube on top of our white cube without a barrier we saw that the white cube went red and the red cube became paler or more dilute.  

So now we knew we needed a barrier between each layer and could start to build our stacks of sugar cubes that alternated colors.  Unfortunately we had taken a while to think this through and our foundation cube had begun to dissolve so we did not build very high.   

After our tower fell over we just had a great time building with our cubes to see what kinds of towers and structures we could build before they dissolved.  Although the dissolved pieces sometimes gave us some interesting shapes to build with.

We did also look at what happens if we put the cubes next to each other.  We could see that the white cubes still absorbed the water just a little slower and from the side and bottom.   

This was a fun, quick and easy experiment that introduced some new terms: absorb, dissolve and dilute.   Furthermore, I think that the girls really enjoyed it, especially as it had a great wow factor in the beginning too!

  • Sugar Cubes
  • Food Coloring
  • Water (less than a quarter cup)
  • Plate
  • Aluminum foil

  1. Place a few drops of food coloring on a plate.
  2. Add a small amount of water - just enough to cover the bottom of the plate.
  3. Add a sugar cube to the colored water and watch what happens.
  4. Stack another cube on top of the first cube and see what happens.
  5. Place a new cube in the water.
  6. Tear a small piece of aluminum foil and place it on the new cube.
  7. Place the a new white cube on top of the foil.
  8. Alternate foil and cubes to create the candy cane stripes.
  9. Place and explore with the cubes in the colored water.


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Candy Cane Ornaments

The holidays are so much fun with all the parties, seasonal activities, and family fun!  And with all these events, candy canes are always given out.  The girls love candy canes, but I thought is would be fun to make candy cane ornaments to hang on their tree.

This experiment is pretty easy, but as you will see, we had a few problems.  Mostly because of timing. 

First, collect candy canes that you have been given, or go buy some, and take of the plastic wrapper.

Place the unwrapped candy canes on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place it in the oven.  Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean find it amazing to watch the candy canes melt and flatten out.

Our candy canes flattened out a little too much, but we are going to see what happens.

Huh, the candy canes keep breaking.  Jumping Bean is suggesting that the candy canes are too hard, and they snap once we try to bend the candy canes (I agree.  We waited too long, and they cooled too much.)

We revised our plan.  Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean broke the candy canes into smaller pieces.

Then, I sprayed cookie cutters with non-stick cooking spray.  Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean filled the cookie cutters in with the broken pieces of candy cane.

The cookie cutters and candy canes were placed back into the oven once again to melt.
Once cooled slightly, the girls popped out the candy cane shapes.
It took us a little too long again, and the candy cane shapes cooled before I could put a hole in them for the pipe cleaner to hang on the tree.  So, I put the cookie cutters back around the shapes (not pictured) and placed them in the oven for a bit.  Then, I quickly poked a hole through the top with a metal meat thermometer.

The candy cane ornaments look great on Jelly Bean and Jumping Beans Christmas tree!

Even though the experiment did not go as planned the first time, the girls got to learn about how heating something up can change it and make it easier to change its shape.  It was also a great introduction for them to learn how heat is used to melt something and when left out it will then cool and re-solidify.  
  • candy canes
  • cookie cutters
  • cookie sheet
  • parchment paper
  • non-stick cooking spray
  • pipe cleaner
  • metal rod (I used a meat thermometer)
  1. Break candy canes into small pieces.  You can also place them on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place them in the oven first at 250 degrees for 10 minutes to soften and flatten them.
  2. Spray cookie cutters with non-stick spray.
  3. Place broken pieces in the cookie cutters covering the bottom.
  4. Place in a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and with a metal rod, poke a hole in the top of the candy cane shape.
  6. Pop out the candy cane shape.
  7. Use a pipe cleaner to hang the candy cane ornament on the tree.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Grow your own Crystal Christmas Tree

It has been fun doing some holiday science experiments and when I saw this post to make your own Crystal Christmas tree at we-made-that I could not wait to try it!  How exciting to watch your 3-D tree "grow" at home.

To begin you need to cutout your frame for your tree from some cardboard (we used the cardboard from the back of a notebook).   While most directions for the trees suggest a zigzag pattern for the outside of the tree I wanted the girls to be able to contribute to the creation of the tree so we traced a Christmas tree shaped cookie cutter.  Each girl had half of the back of the notebook cardboard and had to fit two tree shapes on it.  This was a bit of a spatial reasoning task.   The tracing proved to be a little tricky as they kept on lifting the cookie cutter to see how they were doing.  Mommy definitely ended up tracing Bear's for her.

Once it was all traced I cut out the trees (helping Bug's trees a little in the process so that they would be a little bit more symmetrical than her tracing produced).  We then cut a slit in the top of one tree and the bottom of the other.  Little Bear was quite upset that I had "ruined" her tree until she saw it all together as a 3D tree!

We then took the trees apart and "painted" on green food coloring.  We only had gel food coloring and the girls did not want to get their hands messy so we spread the food coloring using a basting brush.   This lead to food coloring painted over more of the tree instead of just on the tips of the tree.  {No pictures as mommy's fingers were pretty messy}

The girls then measured and added water and salt to two containers that already had the required bluing and ammonia mixture.

Finally we put our now very green trees together and put them into our crystal solution.

We had started this just before bed and watched for a while as the water made the cardboard wet.   We then went to bed and woke up to a surprise the next day!  Our trees had started to grow!

We had a lot of fun watching them over the next couple of days.

By day 3 we had some pretty full trees.   Then the crystals started to fall off the tree as they got too big.

The girls really enjoyed this activity and we hope you enjoy growing your tree too!


  • Cardboard (back of a notebook)
  • Christmas tree cookie cutter
  • Marker
  • Scissors
  • Dish (low sides would be best to see the tree grow)
  • 3 Tbs Water
  • 3 Tbs Salt
  • 1.5 Tbs Ammonia (the one without soap)
  • 3 Tbs Bluing (amazon associate link for convenience as we could not find it in our local grocery store)
  • Green food coloring


  1. Cut the cardboard off the back of a notebook and cut in half.
  2. Trace the Christmas tree cookie cutter twice onto 1 piece of cardboard.
  3. Cut out the trees.
  4. Cut a vertical cut from the top down on one of the trees and from the bottom up on the other.  The cuts should be about 2/3 of the way along the tree so that the trees will slide into each other.
  5. Apply green food coloring to the edges of the tree.
  6. In the dish mix together the water, ammonia, salt and bluing.
  7. Make your 3D tree and place it in the mixture.
  8. Put the dish somewhere that it can be left undisturbed for a few days and watch your tree grow!


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Science: Milk and Cookies

The holiday season is upon us and Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean are extremely excited!  When we talk about the Christmas season and what it means to them, their immediate response is Santa (like most 4 year olds).   Jumping Bean also mentioned milk and cookies, which brings us to our yummy science activity.  We wanted to know which cookie will absorb, or soak up, the most milk?  This is the cookie we will want to set out for Santa.  Our Christmas science experiment is a lot of fun!  Not only is it yummy, but we use some of our five senses, we make predictions, measure, weigh, and observe.  There is a lot of learning in this one little experiment!

We started by using other senses besides eyesight to tell us what we were going to test.  The girls were excited to use their blindfolds to guess what was in our snowman bag.  It did not take long for them to figure it out once they smelled inside the bag.  There were cookies inside!

Next, the girls measured the diameter of each cookie.
Weighing each cookie was next.
This was mommy's favorite part.  The gallon of milk is pretty full, and Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean thought they would be able to pour the milk into our measuring cup.  It was a bit harder than they anticipated.

After pouring 1/4 cup of milk into the bottom of each bowl, the cookies were set in the milk.  The first thing the girls noticed, is that all the cookies float.

We counted to 30, and then took the cookies out of the milk.

Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean measured the diameter and weighed each cookie again to see which one absorbed the most milk.  The diameter, did not change (expect for the Chips Ahoy fell apart), but the weight did.

               Our results- Oreos absorb the most milk!
                                     Oreos initial weight was 12g and final weight was 17g.
                                     Chips Ahoys initial weight was 10g and final weight was 14g.
                                     Fudge Stripes initial weight was 14g and final weight was 15g.

The math was advanced for Jelly Bean and Jumping Bean, but we were able to use a number line to figure out the subtraction.

And the best part- taste testing!

We now know which cookie Santa will get Christmas Eve.  What cookie will you set out?


  • 3 different types of cookies (we used oreo, chips ahoy, and fudge stripe)
  • milk- 1/4 cup per bowl
  • 3 bowls
  • paper towels
  • ruler
  • scale
  • blindfold (optional)
  • 3 bags to hide cookies in
  1. Place one cookie in each of the bags.
  2. Cover eyes with blindfold.
  3. Using you 4 of your senses (not sight), predict what is in each bag.
  4. Look inside to see what it is.
  5. Using the ruler, measure the diameter of each cookie.
  6. Using the scale, weigh each cookie.
  7. Pour 1/4 cup milk into each bowl.
  8. Place one cookie in each bowl and count to 30.
  9. Take cookies out and place on a paper towel.
  10. Measure the diameter of the cookie again.
  11. Weight the cookie again.
  12. Compare the beginning diameter and weight to the diameter and weight after it has been soaking in the milk.
  13. Discuss that the cookie with the largest weight gain absorbed the most milk.