Chia seeds are superfoods with a powerful combination of fiber and nutrients, but what makes them really special is their ability to absorb up to twelve times their own weight in water and produce a clear gel that makes an excellent thickener. With coconut milk, natural sweetner and chia seeds, kids can make a fun, delicious no-cook pudding. Add butterfly pea powder to the mix to turn the pudding blue, and then squeeze in some lemon juice to make it turn pink.
The Science Behind the Fun: Colorful pigments called anthocyanins give butterfly pea flower its blue color. When you mix it with an acids such as lemon juice, it turns purple or pink. The color change occurs because the acid changes their shape, causing them to reflect light differently.
- 5 tablespoons food-grade chia seeds
- 1 14-ounce can light coconut milk
- 2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Tiny pinch kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon butterfly pea flour
- fresh lemon juice
- Fresh fruit or jam to mix into the pudding (optional)
Mix the chia seeds, coconut milk, honey, vanilla, salt and pea flower together. Stir until the seeds are evenly distributed and refrigerate overnight, stirring occassionally.
To make the color change, stir in some lemon juice and add more honey to taste. Top with fresh fruit or jam.
Store in refrigerator for up to three days.
Note: If you don’t like the seeds, blend the mixture before refrigerating. To make chocolate pudding, leave out the butterfly pea powder and add 1/4 cup cocoa powder to the mixture.
It’s fun to create colorful, swirling marbled designs on eggs, and there’s science behind the fun! Here’s a brief description of each. Click on the blue titles for more instructions and science explanations.
Olive Oil Marbling: You’ll need hard boiled eggs, olive oil, vinegar, and food coloring. We used green, yellow and brown food coloring to make robin’s egg colors.
Natural Dyes: Experiment with fruit, coffee, tea, spices, veggies and even onion skins to create beautiful, natural egg dyes.
Nail Polish Marbling: This one is obviously inedible, but it’s a fun craft project! You’ll need eggs with the yolks and whites blown out, a container that can be thrown away, nail polish in two or more colors, and water. (Project from STEAM Lab for Kids-Quarry Books)
The science behind the marbling fun: Egg dyes and food coloring require an acidic environment to form bonds. That’s why you add vinegar (also called acetic acid) to water and dye when coloring eggs. Things that are less dense than water, like olive oil and nail polish, float on top of water, allowing you to create designs that can be transferred onto your eggs.
I’m really excited about my newest book, Ecology for Kids. It’s full of activities perfect for Earth Day, or any day when kids want to get their hands into some fun biology projects that teach them about Earth’s ecosystems. ( Ecology for Kids is available everywhere books are sold.)
Click here to watch a TV segment where I demonstrate how to make terrariums (rainforest ecosystems) and expanding cacti (desert ecosystems). I also illustrate ocean acidification using color-changing purple cabbage juice, baking soda, vinegar and carbonated water.
The book was illustrated by Kelly Anne Dalton and photographed by Amber Procaccini. Here’s a peek at a few images from the book, which contains biographies of 25 inspiring ecologists, paired with projects that help kids explore the work of those scientists.
This is a simple, fun, extremely noisy experiment that will teach you a little bit about sound. All you’ll need are a straw and some scissors!
First, make a straw into a reed-like instrument by flattening one end and cutting off either side near the tip so that it looks like an arrow, but leave a small, flat area between the angled cuts (see photos.)
Now, put your lips around the straw, past where the point is, and blow hard. Be careful not to completely flatten the straw or air can’t go through. As the ends of the straw vibrate, they cause the air inside the column-shaped straw to vibrate, creating sound waves. The longer the column, the lower the sound, since longer sound waves sound lower! The shorter the column, the higher the sound.
Your straw instrument should sound like something between a squeaky oboe and a duck call.
Try making different length straw instruments.
This fun activity will teach you a little bit about rockets. It is from one of NASA‘s educational websites and the great rocket template you’ll find below is provided by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology.
All you’ll need is a plastic soda straw, some paper, scissors and tape. For the body of your rocket, you can use this template or simply cut a strip of paper an inch or two wide. If using the template, wrap the rectangle of paper around a pencil and tape it into a tube. If you’re using a strip of paper, wind it around a pencil (as pictured above) so it forms a tube. Tape it well, so it holds its shape.
Now, remove your rocket from the pencil, fold one end over and tape it down. This will be the nose of your rocket. To the other end, you can make fins using the template, or design your own fins to tape on. Fins work best at right angles, or near right angles. Now you can decorate your creation.
Put your rocket over the end of a straw and use the force of your breath to launch it! How far does it go? Try making longer and shorter rockets. What happens if you change the shape or number of fins? Record your flight lengths.
What does this teach you? Paper rockets demonstrate how real rockets fly through the atmosphere and some of the forces working on them!
Drag is the force of air getting in the way of your rocket. Weight also drags your rocket down as gravity pulls on it. The lighter you make your rocket (less paper, less tape), and the less drag it has, the farther it will go!
Fins stabilize the rockets’ flight. The size and design of the fins affect how well it can be controlled.
Most clear hard candy has what scientists call a glass structure. It’s a disorganized jumble of three kinds of sugar: glucose, fructose and sucrose, which can’t assemble into organized crystals, so it remains transparent when you melt it and allow it to re-harden.
To make stained glass for our gingerbread house windows, I adapted the crushed stained glass candy project from my book “STEAM Lab for Kids.” The challenge was figuring out how to create perfect rectangles. After some trial and error, I discovered that scoring the candy when it was still warm and soft created weak points, which allowed me to snap the candy into clean shapes once it had hardened.
-Jolly Ranchers, Life Savers or another clear, hard candy
-a baking sheet (spray or grease the baking sheet, if not using a silicon liner)
-a silicon liner for the baking sheet, if you have one
-a metal spatula or dough scraper
Safety tip: Adult supervision recommended. Hot, melted candy can cause burns. Don’t touch it until it has cooled.
What to do:
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F.
- Unwrap the candy and arrange the pieces on a baking sheet so that they’re close together, but not touching.
- Bake the candy for 7 to 8 minutes, or until it has melted.
- Remove the candy from the oven. Tilt the baking sheet, if needed, to fill gaps.
- Use the spatula to score (make lines in) the candy, creating whatever shapes/sizes you need.
- When the candy has cooled, snap it carefully along the lines you made. (See photo at the top of this post.)
- Eat your creations, or use them to decorate some edible architecture.
- Try crushing the candy before you melt it for different visual effects. What else could you try?
It’s fun to bring a little science into the holidays! Here are three fun projects from my new book Sheet Pan Science. Click here to watch the segment and learn to make Ice Globe Volcanoes, Epsom Salt Crystal Ornaments and Gelatin Window Stickies.
For more detailed instructions, more science and more sheet pan science, click here to order the book ($19.99) from Amazon, here to order from other online retailers or grab a copy at your favorite brick and morter bookstore!
Turn your kitchen table into the coolest mad science lab in the neighborhood. Click on the project name for a link to instructions and to read about the “Science Behind the Fun.” Most of these projects can be found in my book “Kitchen Science Lab for Kids,” if you’re looking for the perfect gift for any young scientist!
1. Frankenworms– Bring gummy worms to “life” using baking soda and vinegar.
2. Alien Monster Eggs– Make creepy, squishy monster eggs.
3. Oozing Monster Heads– Combine science and art to create Halloween fun.
4. Bag of Blood– Amaze your friends with this magical science trick.
9. Magic Potion– Make a color-changing, foaming potion using red cabbage and water.
10. Halloween Soda Explosion– The classic Diet Coke and Mentos explosion is perfect for Halloween.
11. Foaming Alien Blood– Bring the X-Files to your kitchen with this creepy green fake blood
12. Mad Scientist’s Green Slime– Because everyone loves slime
13. Homemade Fake Blood– It’s simple to make non-toxic fake blood in your kitchen.
14. Fizzy Balloon Ghosts– Draw scary faces on balloons and inflate them using baking soda and vinegar.
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted, but I’ve been busy writing new books! My latest, Sheet Pan Science, comes out on Sept.13 and is available now everywhere books are sold.
My motto for Sheet Pan Science is “Contain the mess, not the fun!” and I invented “Ice Globe Volcanoes” just for this book. (You can see the volcanoes on the cover below!) Amazon ordering link here.
I’m thrilled that the third book of my Kitchen Pantry Scientist series will be released on Feb.8th and is available for order everywhere books are sold (link here.)
Yesterday, I went on Twin Cities Live to demonstrate some projects from the book and show some videos of whales, whale sharks, plankton and scorpions from a trip I just took to Baja Sur in Mexico. Watch the short segment here!