The kids will have a blast learning how to make RAINBOW dancing popcorn! This science activity is great paired with your Thanksgiving activities for preschoolers and kindergartners.
I also think the hopping corn experiment would be a wonderful addition to a harvest theme, a vegetable unit, a farm theme, or when you’re teaching the kids about nutritious foods. Of course, you can use it any time of the year when discussing chemical reactions, too.
Adding rainbow popcorn kernels to the classic dancing corn experiment makes the science even more engaging for the kids. There’s even a free printable recording sheet so your budding scientists can keep track of their predictions and observations!
Related: Free Preschool Printables
Over the years, we’ve had such a blast using rainbow corn in a wide variety of activities – from sensory play to art to science. There’s just something about all of the colors, paired with the texture and sound of corn kernels, that keeps the kids engaged.
That is definitely the case with this dancing corn science! The colorful kernels “dancing” around is definitely going to entertain your young scientists.
You may have heard of (or even tried) the classic dancing raisin science activity. The dancing corn science experiment is pretty much along the same lines. And then when you add colorful corn kernels, it turns into the rainbow dancing popcorn experiment!
Related: Fall Activities for Preschoolers
Read below for how to make the rainbow corn dance. And be sure to get your copy of the recording sheet at the very bottom of this post, too.
How to Prep for the Jumping Popcorn Science
Start things off by gathering the materials you’ll need for the dancing popcorn fun. Here’s what we used (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
- Colored popcorn kernels (click that link to learn how to dye corn kernels)
- Mason jars (you can use another type of clear glass or cup)
- Baking soda
- Recording sheet (get at the bottom of this post)
Of course, you can use regular corn kernels as well! And I highly recommend doing this activity on a tray or in a shallow bin to contain the possible mess.
If you plan to use the recording sheet, print out as many copies as you need. If you want the sheets to be reusable, laminate them or place them in dry erase pockets. Otherwise, you can leave the pages as-is.
Next, it’s time to set things out for the hopping corn experiment. Arrange the jars as you see fit on a tray or in a bin. Then fill the jars up about halfway with water. Set your other materials nearby and you’re ready to go!
How Do You Make Dancing Popcorn?
Now it’s time for your dancing popcorn experiment! First, ask your students what they think will happen when the corn is placed in water with baking soda and vinegar. If you’re using the recording sheets, have the kids draw and/or write their thoughts.
Next, have the children help you with the following steps as you see fit:
- First, add about 2 tablespoons of baking soda to each jar of water and mix very well. The goal is to have the baking soda dissolved into the water.
- Next, measure out about 1/4 cup of corn for each Mason jar. You can definitely use less corn, but this amount really shows off the dancing!
- Then slowly pour vinegar into each jar. You want just enough to cause a reaction, but not enough to overflow the jars and cloud the reaction. Of course, if that happens that’s okay too!
- Stir the corn a little to extend the reaction if desired.
- Finally, ooh and aah over the dancing popcorn!
Encourage your children to think about what’s happened and why it’s happened. Have the kids draw and/or write their observations on the recording sheet (or you can do so). Take some pictures or videos along the way if possible.
You’ll notice that we did this two different ways. The first was with each color in its own Mason jar, and he second was with a mix of all the colors. You can decide which you prefer. Or you can be like us and do both!
Dancing Popcorn Experiment Explained
Corn is denser than water, so it sinks to the bottom of the jars at first. When vinegar is added to the baking soda and water mixture, it reacts with the baking soda. The reaction between the vinegar and the baking soda releases carbon dioxide gas. Because it’s taking place in water, this results in bubbles of carbon dioxide.
The carbon dioxide bubbles attach themselves to the corn. And because carbon dioxide gas is less dense than water, this causes the corn to rise with the bubbles. Once the bubbles hit the surface of the liquid, they pop and release the gas into the air. Without the carbon dioxide gas making it float, the corn kernels fall back down to the bottom of the jar again.
This cycle repeats over and over until the reaction is complete and there are no more carbon dioxide bubbles. You can add more vinegar to the baking soda water mixture to extend things a little bit. But eventually, there won’t be any more left to react with.
Ways to Extend the Hopping Corn Experiment
You and your students might absolutely adore all of the dancing popcorn science and want to do even more of it. I completely understand! We’ve done this over and over as well. So, you can follow the same steps outlined above as much as you’d like or until you run out of supplies.
You can also make some tweaks to the science activity and turn it into a new experiment. To do this, change up some of the variables. You and the kids might want to find out:
- Does the amount of baking soda in the water affect how long the corn dances?
- If less or more corn is used, does that make a difference?
- How long, exactly, does the original chemical reaction last?
- What happens if we use different liquids in place of the water?
- Would other materials work to make the corn dance?
- Can we make something other than corn dance using water, baking soda, and vinegar?
If your students seriously love this, I highly recommend taking more time to try additional experiments with the materials. Your little scientists will learn even more about the scientific method along the way. Plus, it’s just plain fun!
You can try to make dancing popcorn with other materials, too. For example:
- Seltzer water
- Effervescent calcium carbonate tabs
- Citric acid and vinegar
We’ve had the best luck using the “recipe” of water, baking soda, and vinegar. But you can definitely help the kids determine which materials make the best reaction in their opinions!
Even More Popcorn Activities for Kids
If your students enjoyed the rainbow dancing popcorn, they might get a kick out of these corn activities too:
- Corn Mosaic Art
- Tweezing Corn Fine Motor Activity
- Contact Paper Christmas Tree (sensory art with popcorn, etc.)
- Calico Corn STEAM Project
- Popcorn Number Cards
- Calico Corn Sensory Bin
- Corn Color Sorting Mats
Do you and the kids have any favorites?
Thanksgiving Lesson Plans
Let Preschool Teacher 101 save you a TON of time with hundreds of done-for-you early childhood resources. We have lesson plans, circle time songs, STEM challenges, math and literacy resources, and so much more. We also have The Pack from Preschool Teacher 101, a membership site for teachers like you. Members get access to our materials (and members-only exclusives) for a steep discount.
Click on the image below to get our Thanksgiving lesson plans in the shop:
Here are a few more resources you might find handy this fall:
You can also find us on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Get the Dancing Popcorn Recording Sheet
The recording sheet is available to members of Fun-A-Day’s free email community. If that’s you, please enter your email in the form below to have the download link sent to your inbox. If you’re not a member yet, you can use the form to join! You’ll get the popcorn science recording printable as a welcome gift.
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