This Jello and vinegar experiment is one of my favorite messy science experiments. It’s an absolute blast to do with the kids! AND it can be done with just a few simple household items.
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We have been doing some form of this Jell-O science for . . . about 10 years now! Wow!
My son has long been a fan of “colorful explosions” as he used to call them. He even chose this science activity for his kindergarten “Scientist of the Week” experiment.
In fact, it was this kindergarten project that led to the creation of our Jello and vinegar experiment. Mostly because my son REALLY wanted to bring food coloring to school so his science eruptions were colorful.
I wasn’t too keen on this idea, fearing that there would be a food coloring disaster of some sort. As an alternative, I suggested using Jell-O to add both color and scent. And off we went . . .
Take a look at it in action here:
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Jello and Vinegar Experiment
We ended up trying this experiment at home a few times before his presentation at school. And I cannot even count how many times we’ve done this since then.
Here are some ideas if you’d like to set up your own Jell-O science fun.
The very first time we tried this at home, my son and I used all of the Jell-O powders we had on-hand. Since then, I’ve come to love making a rainbow of colors with the kids. You can definitely use whichever Jell-O flavors you prefer.
Here’s the full list of materials we used (I may get commissions for purchases made through links in this post):
Jello Experiment Directions
The children can definitely help you with every step of this colorful science activity!
Place small cups or containers inside a large dish or bin. The large bin will help with any overflow your enthusiastic scientists create throughout the jello and vinegar experiment.
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Then add a few tablespoons of baking soda into each small container. We rarely use specific measurements for this experiment, but you can settle on a definite amounts if that’s easier. Either way, encourage the children to count each tablespoon added.
Next, it’s time to add the Jell-powder! We liked using about 3 or 4 tablespoons of it per container. I’d suggest at least equal to the amount of baking soda, but add more if you can.
After that, mix the baking soda and Jell-O powder together in each of the small cups. This is a great chance for the children to practice mixing gently.
Then comes the super fun part! It’s time to bring on the bubbles.
Add vinegar to simple plastic squeeze bottles. And let the kids squeeze the vinegar into the baking soda and Jell-O mixtures.
You can join in, or you can sit back and watch as the jello and vinegar experiment plays out.
Give the children access to more baking soda, Jell-O powder, and vinegar so they can extend the activity. Let the kids add more to the containers, mixing more concoctions and creating more bubbles to their hearts’ content.
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Once everything has been mixed and bubbled out, encourage the children to explore what’s left with their hands, spoons, cups, and spoons.
Learning with Jell-O Science
An amazing amount of early learning takes place with this oh-so simple jello and vinegar experiment!
The children explore volume and measurement as they add tablespoons of baking soda to the dishes.
Color identification is practiced as the kids make observations about the colors they see throughout the experiment. Color theory is touched on when the different mixtures combine, creating new colors.
Chemical reactions are thoroughly delved into as the children see how baking soda and vinegar react together.
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The children use their senses throughout the activity. They see the colors and reactions, they hear the fizzing sounds, and they feel the textures of baking soda and Jell-O. Some enterprising kids might even attempt to taste the science, although it won’t be too appetizing.
The biggest sensory aspect is in regards to the sense of smell. When the baking soda and vinegar react, the escaping carbon dioxide disperses the Jell-O’s scent into the air. The more Jell-O powder used, the more pervasive the scent is.
Here are some of my son’s observations from the first time around:
- “If we don’t use enough Jell-O, the color isn’t so bright.”
- “The more Jell-O we put in, the better the color is.”
- “It doesn’t smell like vinegar! It smells kind of like berries!”
- “Even though it smells like berries, it REALLY doesn’t taste like berries. Yuck!”
- “When I add more of that baking stuff [baking soda] and stir it all up, the explosion starts again!”
I have to tell you, every single time I’ve tried this activity (whether at home or in the classroom), the kids have gotten so much out of it!
Be sure to leave me a comment if you try this jello and vinegar experiment!
Originally published in March 2013. Updated to add video and more pictures.
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