50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Play with Dry Ice

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

Task:

Play around with some super-cool, super-spooky dry ice.

Requires:

  • Dry Ice
  • Towel
  • Pie plate
  • Cup
  • Fork or tongs

Possible Hazards:

  • Burns

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:

Spooky Fog

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).

Screaming Spoon

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.

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

Bubbling Potions

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.

Looking for cool experiments to do with kids? Try these dry ice experiments inspired by the book “50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do)!” Science for kids.

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).

Share

50 Dangerous Things (You Should Let Your Children Do): Boil Water in a Paper Cup

boil water paper cup

Task: Boil water in paper and watch two seemingly incompatible elements – fire and water – coexist!

 

Requires:

  • Gas or electric stove (sadly and inductive cooktop won’t work)
  • Paper cup (must be unwaxed)
  • Water

Possible Hazards: 

  • Burns
  • Fire
  • Setting off the smoke alarm

How It All Went Down:

Boil water in a paper cup? Impossible, you say! I didn’t believe it either, but we had to try.

This was the first task we’ve encountered where I was legitimately worried that someone or something would get hurt! I had visions of flaming paper and torrents of boiling water spewing out at us. If you’re a little concerned as well, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place before starting. Make sure your cup is stable on your stove. If it’s tippy or doesn’t want to stand upright, wait to try until you’ve found a better cup. Have some tongs and a pan nearby in case you need to move the cup off the burner quickly.  Now on to the fun …

Fill the cup 3/4 full with water. Place it on the hottest part of the burner (over the flame or on the heating coil). Turn the burner on high and wait for the water to boil.

It takes longer than you think, and we were sure that our cup was going to burn or disintegrate before the water boiled. The bottom of the cup got very black … but it never caught on fire before the water boiled! How is this possible?

Water boils at 212°F … but paper doesn’t actually burn until close to 500°F. And while the water is (technically) very hot, compared to a flame it is much cooler.  Notice the spots on the cup that actually begin to burn – the very bottom edge and the top 1/4 of the cup – are the parts of the cup not directly touching the water.

50 dangerous things boil water
Once the water boils, you can either turn the heat off and VERY carefully lift the cup into a pan with tongs, or you can boil away the water until you’re just left with a charred, wet piece of paper. We quit while we were ahead (i.e. no flaming pyre or boiling water geysers) and turned off the flame. It was all over in a matter of minutes, but it’s something we won’t forget about for a long time!

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).

Share