Play around with some super-cool, super-spooky dry ice.
- Dry Ice
- Pie plate
- Fork or tongs
How It All Went Down:
The kids have been begging to play with dry ice since the day we first got the 50 Dangerous Things book. The only thing that’s kept me from doing it was not having any dry ice, nor really knowing where to get some.
Lesson #1: I’ve come to learn that some grocery stores do sell dry ice. Just ask. If not, you can search for local ice distributors and they should be able to sell you some.
One day I got a delivery of perishables packed in dry ice and I did a little happy dance. We could finally do it! And then I put it in my chest freezer and waited a few days for a good time.
Lesson #2: Dry ice is frozen carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide doesn’t freeze until -109 °F. Unlike frozen water, dry ice doesn’t melt in the traditional sense. It goes through a process known as sublimation, which means it goes directly from a solid to a gas. Which also means that when you leave it in your freezer for a few days, hype it up to the kids, and go to retrieve it? You’ll be left with nothing but an empty container and sad children.
One evening, my neighbor knocked on the door. She’d just gotten some dry ice in her Peapod delivery, and knowing me well, thought I’d want some. I did another happy dance, but this time got right to the business of playing with the dry ice.
You can turn to Google or search Pinterest for all kinds of cools ways to experiment with and play with dry ice. Given that we had some in our hands at the moment and I didn’t have advanced notice to gather extra materials, I just let the kids play with it.
Lesson #3: As fun as dry ice is, you have to take some safety precautions. It is extremely cold, and touching it with your skin can cause frostbite. Always use some kind of protection when handling it, such as a towel, an oven mitt, or tongs.
Our dry ice was already broken into chunks, but if you’re dealing with a solid block you’ll want to break yours up. Wrap it in a towel and use a hammer. Be sure to wear safety goggles while you’re whacking away at it. Here are a few things we did with our dry ice:
Fill a pie plate halfway to the top with water. Using a fork or tongs, drop small pieces of the dry ice onto the surface of the water. You’ll observe the cool “fog” that makes for a spooky effect. This occurs when sublimation happens in water. Tiny, very cold carbon dioxide bubbles are formed. When these bubbles mix with the air, they cause the temperature of the air to drop. The moisture in the air near the bubbles forms the fog (this fog is perfectly safe, by the way).
Dip a spoon (or your fork or the tongs) in hot water. Press the warm utensil against the dry ice and listen to it “scream.” What makes it do this? Well, the warm utensil speeds up the sublimation process. As the carbon dioxide gas is released against the utensil, the oscillations in pressure produce rapid sound waves that make the screaming noise.
Fill a cup 1/4 full of water and add a drop or two of dishwashing soap. Drop in the dry ice and watch your potion “boil” and bubble. The soap in the water traps the carbon dioxide gas and forms bubbles. Instead of a soapy, wet mess, once the bubbles burst they simply disappear! Add some food coloring or drop in a glow stick for colored or glowing bubbles.
For even more inspiration, check out Steve Spangler Science.
You can read about the rest of our experiences with 50 Dangerous Things. Inspired by Gever Tulley’s book 50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do).