Dry Ice Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

We had a great time playing with dry ice on WCCO TV this morning. I showed viewers how to make spooky Halloween decorations (hot water, food coloring and dry ice), carbonate beverages, inflate a balloon, and even make a spoon “sing.”

Dry ice is literally really cool, which is why you have to wear gloves to handle it. It’s made from frozen carbon dioxide gas, and as it warms up, it goes from the solid to liquid state instantly, skipping being a liquid altogether in a process called sublimation. As it becomes a gas, it cools water molecules in the air around it, making fog. And if you add it to a liquid, it carbonates the liquid with bubbles.


To make dry ice, you have to get carbon dioxide gas really cold and put it under pressure so that it goes instantly from the gas phase to the solid phase in a process called deposition.  Here’s a video of a machine that makes dry ice pellets:

Foaming Alien Blood

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

If you’ve ever seen the X-Files, you know that foaming green alien blood is pretty scary.

It’s simple to use kitchen table chemistry to mix up your own batch of green alien blood with corn syrup, green food coloring, water and baking soda.

Just add vinegar (tell your friends it’s water) to make it foam.

Mix together:

2 Tbs corn syrup

1 tsp baking soda

green food coloring

1/2 tsp water

When you want to make your slime foam, add a few tsp of vinegar.

You could make the same thing with red food coloring and call it vampire blood!

The Science Behind the Fun: When you add baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) to vinegar (acetic acid), there’s a chemical reaction that creates carbon dioxide gas bubbles! 

Experiment created by Liz Heinecke at KitchenPantryScientist.com

Halloween Science: Non-Toxic Fake Blood

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Unlike the foaming green alien blood in the X-Files, the blood pulsing through our veins is red, thanks to iron-containing hemoglobin molecules loaded with life-giving oxygen.

edible fake blood

fake blood

To make fake blood that looks like real blood,  you’ll need to concoct a mixture of  liquid, thickeners and red pigment (tinted with blue and brown.) Kids will have a great time coming up with their own concoctions. Have a creative chemistry contest to see who can come up with the most realistic fake blood, or use it to make scary Halloween props.


Here’s a recipe to start with, but kids can work with smaller amounts and mix their blood in bowls, rather than a blender. Fake blood stains everything it touches, so be prepared for messy hands and wear old clothes! Naturally red plant pigments, like the ones in pomegranate juice and raspberry jam won’t stain fingers as much as food coloring and taste yummy. However, red food coloring will give you a more realistic color.

Blend together:

1/3 cup pomegranate juice (like POM) or fruit punch

2 Tbs corn starch 

1 Tbs chocolate syrup (or 1 Tbs cocoa powder)

1 Tbs red food coloring 

1 cup corn syrup

Tint with a tiny bit of blue food coloring. (optional)

Other ingredients to try: seedless raspberry jam, cocoa powder, Kool-Aid, Jell-O, flour, maple syrup

Here’s a fun TV segment where meteorologist Matt Brinkman was game enough to try out one of the blood capsules we made!

We made the edible blood capsules you see in the video by filling empty gelatin and vegetarian capsules with a mix of raspberry jelly, corn syrup and chocolate syrup.



Halloween Science: Oozing Monster Heads

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

IMG_4912Combine science and art in this awesome experiment!

You’ll need 8 oz water bottles, glue, Borax detergent, baking soda and vinegar.

First, decorate full 8 oz water bottles with tape, marbles and whatever else you can find.

Then, follow these directions to make foaming slime ooze out of their heads, using a simple chemical reaction! You’ll love it!

Marbling Science

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I’ve always wanted to try paper marbling and knew there must be some science involved. So, we gave it a go, and the results were stunning!

tempera paint marbling- kitchenpantryscientist.com

tempera paint marbling- photo by kitchenpantryscientist.com


paper marbled with the Innovation marbling kit (Boku-Undo Suminagashi) from DickBlick.com – photo by kitchenpantryscientist.com

We tried two methods: one with liquid starch (made from cornstarch) and tempera paint, and another with a marbling kit. Both worked well, but look very different.

The Science Behind the Fun:  Water molecules like to stick together, a property which scientists call surface tension. This property allows very thin layers of ink to float on water, mixing in beautiful patterns when you break the surface tension with detergent, a tool like a paintbrush, or movement. To marble paper, you have to use dye or paint that floats on the water where it can be easily transferred to paper. Alternately, you can make the liquid underneath more dense than the dye or paint, to help the dye float.

When transferring the ink or paint designs, it helps to use paper that’s been coated with a chemical called a mordant, that combines with substances (usually dyes) to make large molecules that stay in one place. (Iodine is another mordant, which is used to stain bacteria.)

Here’s a video of my 10YO making designs using the pre-made marbling kit…(More info at the bottom of this post.)

Since I like to do experiments using non-toxic, inexpensive ingredients most people have on hand, we first tried a method that uses cornstarch to thicken the bottom liquid layer and tempera paint as the dye. It requires pre-treatment of paper, like inexpensive watercolor paper from Target, with the mordant aluminum sulfate (alum), which you can find at your local coop or grocery store.

You’ll need:

-watercolor paper (cheap stuff from Target works just fine)

-two large, flat trays, like 9×13 pans

-2 tps. Alum (aluminum sulfate crystals)

-a sponge brush

-2 Tbs. corn starch

-eye dropper

-tempura paint (the more colors, the merrier)


  1. Dissolve 2 tsp alum in 3/4 cup water. Avoid inhaling powder.
  2. Mark one side of your watercolor paper with an A and use a sponge brush to apply  alum solution evenly to that side of the paper.IMG_1480[1]
  3. Let the paper dry overnight, or speed drying with a blow dryer.
  4. Make a double recipe of liquid starch by dissolving 4 Tbs. corn starch in 1/2 cup cold water. Bring 6 cups water to a boil in a sauce pan. Add the cornstarch solution to the water, stir well and boil for 1 minute. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Pour 3 cups of the hot liquid starch into one 9×13 pan and let cool.
  6. Pour 3 cups of cold water into the other pan.
  7. Prepare paint by mixing tempura paint with water until it has the consistency of half-and-half or whole milk.
  8. When starch is cool, drip paint onto the surface of the starch using an eyedropper, or something similar. Rinse dropper between colors.IMG_1503[1]
  9. Swirl paint, or use toothpicks to drag out patterns.IMG_1521[1]
  10. Carefully place your paper on the paint, alum side-down. Let it sit for a minute or two.IMG_1527[1]
  11. Carefully peel the paper off of the paint and gently place it, face up, in the water pan.  IMG_1532[1]Let it sink and move it back an forth gently to rinse off excess paint.
  12. Set the paper on a piece of newspaper to dry.IMG_1582[1]
  13. Make more marble paper in the same paint pan. When you’re ready, repeat using the rest of the cornstarch.

The Innovation marbling kit (Boku-Undo Suminagashi) from DickBlick.com pictured below includes pre-made low density dyes that you drip onto a tiny floating disc of paper in a tray of water. It’s tons of fun and yields beautiful results. I got the kit at Blick art supplies, and used the paper they recommended, which may have been pre-treated with a mordant.


Have fun!


Homemade Pigmented Clay Paint

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

I learned how to make this fun, clay-based paint at the Minnesota State Fair’s Eco Experience Progress Center. It’s colored with natural pigments(pigments are molecules that give things color) and doesn’t give off the same chemical fumes as some of the paints you might find in a hardware store. I love the earthy colors you can mix up with elemental pigments like iron oxide, zinc oxide and black iron oxide. It’s fun to mix up a little blue too, using Ultramarine Blue dried pigments.

To make this paint, you’ll need:

cold water
hot water
EPK powdered clay (also called EPK Kaolin) -Can be ordered online. We got ours at continentalclay.com.
dried pigments, like the ones I mention above. -We got ours at dickblick.com

Safety tips: Check the warnings on dried pigments before you purchase them. Some are toxic and must be handled carefully. Avoid inhaling pigments.

To make your paint:
1. In a bowl, stir together 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup cold water. Mix well.
2. Add 1/4 cup hot water and mix well.
3. Add 1/4 cup EPK powdered clay and stir until smooth.
4. Continue adding flour and water until the paint has the consistency you want.

5. Divide the paint into several containers and mix in pigment for color.

6. Use paint on paper or canvas.
7. Paint may be stored in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Time Lapse of Monarch Butterfly Emerging from Chrysalis

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Our eight Monarch caterpillars were in chrysalises when we returned from our vacation, and yesterday the first of them emerged! We were lucky enough to catch it on our iPhone time-lapse, which makes everything look faster than it actually happens. You’ll be amazed at how the butterfly pumps fluid from its body to expand its beautiful orange and black wings.

Caterpillar Cam

 - by KitchenPantryScientist

Our neighbor brought us some Monarch Caterpillars the other day, and we found a tiny one in our garden. They’re now happily munching away on milkweed on our screened-in porch, safe from birds!

Here’s a short video on how to find and raise caterpillars, via my new book, Outdoor Science Lab for Kids.



 - by KitchenPantryScientist

One of the best things about doing science in the summer is that you can take the mess outdoors, and clean it up with a hose. So what are you waiting for? Grab the baking soda, vinegar, food coloring, cornstarch and balloons and head outside for some instant off-screen fun. Share photos of your experiments on Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #ScienceMess!

Here are some ideas to get you started, but you can find lots more on this website and in my new book Outdoor Science Lab for Kids!

Sidewalk Frescoes with Cornstarch Goo

Driveway Frescoes from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

Driveway Frescoes from Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)


















Paper Bag (or coffee filter) Volcanoes

Paper Bag Volcanoes From Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

Paper Bag Volcanoes From Kitchen Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)













Solar Heat Beam

From Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)

From Outdoor Science Lab for Kids (Quarry Books)















Have fun experimenting! And don’t forget to clean up your mess!


Photo by AmberProcaccini.com